CCNet 112/2002 - 27 September 2002

"To boldly go, the timeless and optimistic Space Age theme, looks to
have been reclaimed from a NASA lost-and-found drawer as long-range
planners prepare to reveal next month a new roadmap for robotic and
human missions to deep space. The 21st Century, science-driven agenda is
designed to propel exploration beyond the International Space Station and
involves a new habitation complex that would be built between Earth and the
Moon, serving as a portal to Mars and other solar system targets. Somewhat
secretive, this behind-the- scenes stratagem has been years in the
--Leonard David,, 26 September 2002

"How did all these flaws pass peer review? Why was this study
accepted as gospel before it was replicated? Why did so few people go
back and read the original papers before passing the story on?
Clearly, there was a lot at stake. The idea that the fittest survive became
more than just a scientific theory -- it had huge social implications as
well. Many of the experts whose duty it was to cast a critical eye
over the work seemed to want so badly for it to be true that they
overlooked its glaring deficiencies."
--Alison Motluk,, 19 September 2002


    Andrew Yee <>

(3) MUSES-C LAUNCH DELAYED, 26 September 2002

    Alex Storrs  <>



>From, 26 September 2002

NASA Reveals New Plan for the Moon, Mars & Outward
By Leonard David

To boldly go, the timeless and optimistic Space Age theme, looks to have
been reclaimed from a NASA lost-and-found drawer as long-range planners
prepare to reveal next month a new roadmap for robotic and human missions to
deep space, has learned.

The 21st Century, science-driven agenda is designed to propel exploration
beyond the International Space Station and involves a new habitation complex
that would be built between Earth and the Moon, serving as a portal to Mars
and other solar system targets. 
Somewhat secretive, this behind-the-scenes stratagem has been years in the

A NASA Exploration Team (NExT) is prepared to showcase their springboard
vision for returning to the Moon, visiting asteroids, and trekking on to
Mars and beyond. At the upcoming World Space Congress to be held Oct. 10-19,
an expected throng of some 13,000 officials from various nations will
descend on Houston, Texas. This once-a-decade gathering provides a status
report on global space prowess.

Part of NASA's message at the meeting will be portraying "what next" for
exploration beyond low Earth orbit. In exclusive interviews with,
key members of NExT detailed the plan.

Step 1: New space hotel

"We've been putting together a multi-disciplinary, long-term strategy ... a
road map, along with defining the necessary strategic investments in key
technologies," said Gary Martin, leader of NExT and assistant associate
administrator for the Office of Space Flight at NASA Headquarters. "We're
looking at a stair-step of capability. Our first stair step is Earth's

This approach will be discovery-driven and technology-enabled, with
exploration involving the staging of future missions at the Earth-Moon
Lagrange point, L1 -- a literal Gateway to the future of space exploration.

A Lagrangian point -- also called a libration point in space -- is a spot at
which a small body, under the gravitational influence of two large bodies,
will remain somewhat at rest relative to them. In each system of two heavy
bodies -- say the Sun and Jupiter, or Earth and the Moon -- there exist five
theoretical Lagrangian points.

The Earth-Moon L1 Lagrange point is at a distance of some 200,000 miles
(323,110 kilometers) from the Earth, or 84 percent of the way to the Moon.

NASA's Martin said the L1 Gateway, replete with a habitat for crew
occupancy, is a good spot to support a locus of activity. Both humans and
their robotic partners can transform this zone into a bustling hub for
testing hardware, supporting science operations, and as astronaut training
ground to prep crews for long-haul sojourns into deep space.

Beyond L1

Sites on the Moon, for instance, can be easily accessed from an L1 Gateway.
The same goes with travel to Mars or asteroid targets. Also, assembly,
repair, and maintenance of a "telescope farm" of orbiting instruments can be
done on site, then nudged over to the Earth-Sun L2 location.

"The L-points have become unique locations where you can do a lot of
things," Martin said. "We found the more we look at them, the more nice
things we find."

Harley Thronson, director of technology and senior science lead for NExT,
said the semi-stable L1 Gateway offers a number of attractive capabilities.
For one, returning back to Earth in a hurry due to an emergency is possible.
But it can also be the first step on the way to putting people elsewhere and
sending them to even more distant places, he said.

Many tasks would be automated.

"Science facilities could be deployed, rescued, upgraded and checked out
there by humans and telerobotic systems...or sent into deep space to other
libration points throughout the solar system," Thronson said.

Thronson stressed that NExT is not solely dedicated to dispatching human
crews outward. Their work is geared to improve robotic capabilities, as well
as enhance human attributes, particularly through improved space suits.
Studies are also underway to investigate ways to bring human and machine
strengths together.

Sights on Mars

NExT has a strong track record for steering NASA to embrace several new
initiatives. An in-space propulsion program is underway. A nuclear systems
initiative is being pursued. Starting next year, a radiation program is
scheduled to begin, said Lisa Guerra, Special Assistant to the Associate
Administrator in the Office of Biological and Physical Research.

Some of this work is essential in preparing for crewed missions to Mars.

"It would be a combination of looking at radiation health issues with the
crew and a program tied to the space station," Guerra said. "Ground research
will also assess potential alternatives to active or passive shielding for
future missions."

Shoving off to places like Mars in speedier fashion -- through nuclear
propulsion, as example -- can cut down crew exposure time to radiation. In
addition, taking a fast route to the red planet also minimizes prolonged
human exposure to the debilitating effects of microgravity.

On the other hand, NExT is supporting research into artificial gravity.

"A lot of the data we're getting on our space station increments will help
determine performance of the crew in a six-month microgravity environment.
If we could limit our missions to six months, with fast transit, then maybe
you don't need artificial gravity," Guerra explained.

NExT is nonetheless looking at a vehicle design using artificial gravity. As
medical information matures, whether or not an artificial gravity initiative
is required is a future decision, she said.

An illustration of the artificial gravity spacecraft and other artist
renderings of the new space vision were provided to and are
included in an image gallery.

ISS: Technological teething

The International Space Station is a workhorse for furthering NExT goals,
Martin said.

"It's a very necessary platform," he said. "The station is going to lay the
groundwork not only on ways to protect against radiation, but also bone
loss. We actually have a list of 55 critical roadmap items for humans to
work safely and productively in orbit."

The ISS serves as a technological teething place, where astronauts learn how
to construct and maintain large scientific platforms with the help of
robots. How to evolve to advanced "closed life support" systems becomes
feasible too, Martin said. "We can't go to the next steps without the
station," he added.

What celestial port-of-call deserves first billing, the Moon or Mars?

"NExT is science-driven. We will go where the science says it makes sense
that we go," Martin said. "Mars is one of the most important scientific
destinations where it looks like humans and robots will actually be helpful
to the science research ... over time. But this doesn't end with Mars."

NExT planning calls for "sustainable space capabilities."

"We're not looking at planting flags, not being able to go back for 100
years," Martin said. "The systems we see would take humans to Mars, or to
the asteroids. They are reusable systems that might be nuclear in nature,
lasting upwards of 10 years and maybe used for three missions or more to
Mars or to the asteroids at this point."

Can NASA do it?

The blueprint for the years and decades to come is one of incremental

There are decision points on how fast, and how far, space exploration can
proceed. That enables testing of technologies to achieve greater reliability
and understanding of costs for the next steps in exploration.

Yet there is one omnipresent issue that NASA must deal with: Does the space
agency even have the talent and tools to pull off a grand plan to move
onward and outward?

Martin admits the aging of NASA has taken a toll.

"As plans become crisper and things become more near term, we're looking at
skills needed, the core capabilities we need to protect, and what facilities
are required. It's a part of the overall strategy that we're building,"
Martin said.

"Probably the highest priority product of NExT has been the identification
of technology priorities that we felt the agency had to invest in," Thronson
said. "If we had one goal, it's delivering the tools to understand the
technology and the options." That will permit managers and politicians to
decide what NASA should do scientifically, robotically, and with humans in

"And when they are ready to make the decision, we want to be there with the
capabilities, the hardware, the understanding, the scientific goals ... so
they can make those decisions with confidence," Thronson said.

Not your father's space agency

But just how bold and strident should NASA become in scripting a new master
plan for space exploration? After all, there have been fumbles in past

And given the turmoil that creeps through every squeaky joint of the
International Space Station (ISS) project, well, this isn't your father's
NASA anymore. Nor is it the Camelot space program fielded by U.S. President
John F. Kennedy in the early 1960s.

Howard McCurdy, space scholar and chair of American University's Department
of Public Administration in Washington, D.C., suggests a reason behind NASA
taking a step-by-step approach to deep-diving space exploration.

Just as the space station was viewed as the "next logical step" beyond the
space shuttle, McCurdy told, a return to deep space activities is
also viewed as the next logical step beyond the ISS.
"This incremental, step-at-a-time approach was adopted by space advocates
after President Richard Nixon in 1970 denied the request for a comprehensive
long-range plan," McCurdy said. "NASA leaders have always viewed their
mission as the extension of human presence into space. They have chosen to
pursue this goal incrementally because they were told not to divert their
attention beyond the space station until that project neared completion. Not
only are they ready to undertake missions beyond, they have been waiting to
do so since the agency was born."

Although the NExT plan is far from being a done deal, the long-range look
has been okayed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) -- a
tight-fisted handler of money. OMB's primary mission is to assist the
President in overseeing the preparation of the federal budget and to
supervise its administration in Executive Branch agencies.

The NExT budget is $4 million a year, Martin said.

Spending more money and taking the stepping stone approach as identified by
NExT is contingent on approval by the U.S. Congress.

NASA on the rebound

NASA is undergoing an important change, said John Logsdon, director of the
Space Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
There is recent encouragement from top NASA officials that the agency's
space planners should become "open and explicit" about the wherewithal for
going beyond Earth orbit, he said.

"NASA seems to me to be coming out of a low point, after the months of
uncertainty about the future of the ISS and the shuttle," Logsdon said.

Logsdon said the space agency's chief, Sean O'Keefe, has put in place at
NASA Headquarters a combination of people new to NASA and veterans of human
space flight. "They are painting a quite different and more optimistic
future for humans in space than has been the case for the past few years,"
Logsdon noted. 
Some space veterans urge NASA to wean itself off of the glory days of
Project Apollo -- the lunar landing effort. Paul Spudis, a space scientist
formerly with the Lunar and Planetary Institute, is one of them. Spudis will
soon start work at a facility that contracts to build and manage NASA
missions, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel,

"NASA has a problem," Spudis says. "It's trying to come up with some
rationale that will recreate Apollo ... and that's not going to happen."

Apollo was not about exploring the Moon. In fact, it was not about space at
all, Spudis said during a recent gathering of lunar scientists.

"It was basically a battle in the Cold War," a super-charged competition
between the former Soviet Union and the United States, Spudis said.

NASA's current mantra -- to seek and understand life in the universe and to
send life out there -- is not a mission, Spudis contends. "That's a
catechism...a catechism of the true believer. The problem with catechisms is
that they are not embraced by the non-believers."

Spudis considers a human return to the Moon within 5 years a doable
proposition. Also, it's a politically viable time horizon. Besides, such a
program builds up national economic infrastructure and national security.

"A Mars mission doesn't do either of these things, but a Moon mission does
both," Spudis said.

Utilizing existing space-launch capability, the ISS, and the L1 Gateway as a
jumping off point, reaching for the Moon can be within reach once again,
Spudis figures. Once there, learning how to use the precious resources that
exist on the Moon for civilian government, private sector, and military
purposes is on top of the to-do list.

Meanwhile, one outcome of such a program would be a cultivated region of
space between low Earth orbit and the Moon.

Discipline and competence

Stirring up political will in Congress to plow money into space and ease up
on entitlement spending will be necessary if NASA is to sustain a more
vibrant program. So argues Harrison Schmitt, an Apollo 17 moonwalker and
former U.S. Senator from New Mexico.

Schmitt senses that NASA must revisit its roots. That is, mimic its
predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). Before
being turned into NASA in 1958, NACA spurred the aeronautical industry into
existence, as well as created the tone for private sector investment in air
transportation. That needs to happen for space, he said.

Looking back at Apollo, Schmitt adds a cautionary note.

"Deep space is still a very difficult place to work. A highly competent,
highly disciplined management structure is going to be essential," the
former astronaut said. "That was what made Apollo work, in addition to the
motivation and enthusiasm of people in their twenties, those that were
actually carrying the spear," he said.

"We can work in low Earth orbit now, with a less than competent management
structure," Schmitt says. "We're proving it every day." But deep space
exploration requires the discipline and competence that drove the Apollo
successes, he said.

"Some day we will extend beyond the Moon," Schmitt says. "But it's not there

Copyright 2002,


>From Andrew Yee <>

Public Affairs Office
Naval Research Laboratory
Washington, D.C.

September 23, 2002

NRL Press Release 50-02r

NRL's LASCO achieves milestone in finding comets

The Naval Research Laboratory's (NRL's) Large Angle Spectrometric
Coronagraph (LASCO), which is flying aboard the Solar and Heliospheric
Observatory (SOHO), has been credited with discovering its 500th comet. This
achievement makes LASCO the most productive comet finder ever. Most of the
comets that LASCO has discovered are in the family of Kreutz sun-grazers,
which are thought to derive from a single massive comet that had fragmented
into many pieces, because they all have very similar orbits. The original
comet was probably last seen about 12,000 years ago.

LASCO is a wide-field white light and spectrometric coronagraph developed
for flight aboard ESA-NASA's SOHO mission. The launch took place on December
2, 1995. The mission began routine observations in May 1996 upon completion
of commissioning activities after arriving in an orbit about the L1
Lagrangian point. In this orbit one million miles from Earth toward the sun,
the spacecraft is always in sunlight and able to continuously view the sun.
LASCO detected its 500th comet on August 12, 2002. Before the development of
space-borne coronagraphs in the 1960s, only about ten sun-grazers had ever
been detected. The NRL white light coronagraph, SOLWIND aboard the USAF
Space Test Program P78-1 satellite, recorded images of another member of the
Kreutz group in August, 1979. This was the first comet ever discovered using
satellite instrumentation. SOLWIND and the coronagraph on the Solar Maximum
Mission discovered a total of 16 comets from 1979-1989. The increased
sensitivity of LASCO detects about one comet a week, compared to the earlier
rate of about one comet every 8 months, explains Dr. Russell Howard, head of
NRL's Solar Physics Branch.

LASCO views the space around the sun, looking for outbursts of solar
activity by blocking out the solar disk to create an artificial eclipse.
This artificial eclipse allows the Sun's very faint outer atmosphere -- the
corona -- to be studied. LASCO is able to detect comets that would normally
be lost in the glare of the sun. Most of these sun-grazers are eventually
vaporized in the solar atmosphere. Other non-sungrazing comets have been
observed such as in the spring of 1996, when LASCO recorded unprecedented
images of the bright Comet Hyakutake making its close approach to the sun.

LASCO was not built for the purpose of detecting comets. Its main job is to
detect and even anticipate the origin of coronal mass ejections (CMEs), the
solar sources of space weather. CMEs, which were first discovered by NRL in
1971, can reach velocities ten times higher than solar wind, and when
directed toward Earth, can have a serious impact on the earth's magnetic
field and upper atmosphere. CMEs can cause aurorae and geomagnetic storms,
disrupt communications and military systems, and even damage electrical
power grids.

LASCO is a set of three coronal telescopes, using nested, concentric fields
of view at the center of which a dark occulting disk blocks out direct light
from the sun's brilliant photosphere; thus simulating a continuous total
eclipse of the sun. The instrument observes the inner, the intermediate, and
the outermost regions of the sun's corona over an unprecedented range of
distances. LASCO was the first instrument to record coronal features from
just above the solar limb, where the coronal glow is about one million times
fainter than the solar disk, all the way out to nearly 30 solar radii
(nearly 13 million miles) above the surface, where the ever-fainter corona
blends into and becomes the solar wind.

High-resolution charged-coupled-device cameras in each telescope have
provided detailed images in near-real time to the world-wide-web, with
exceptional dynamic range, while large digital memories and high-speed
microprocessors have supported extensive onboard image processing and image
data compression that allow transmission of up to 10 full coronal images per

Amateur astronomers in Europe have discovered the great majority of the
LASCO comets. They download the LASCO real-time images that are put onto the
web and analyze them for transient features. Many false detections have
occurred because the CCD detectors are also sensitive to energetic particles
such as cosmic rays. The tracks caused by energetic particles look like
comet tracks, but occur randomly from image to image. Thus they don't appear
to be in an orbit toward the sun.


>From, 26 September 2002

The launch of Japan's MUSES-C asteroid mission has been delayed from late
this year until May because of a spacecraft problem, Space News reported
Wednesday. The spacecraft's attitude control system failed a test in April,
and it took engineers until August to correct the problem, which was
eventually traced to faulty O-rings in a helium regulator. Those repairs
delayed other preparations for launch, forcing the Japanese space agency
ISAS to delay the launch from late November or December until May of 2003.
the spacecraft is still scheduled to arrive at asteroid 1998 SF36 in October
2005, returning with a small sample of the asteroid in June 2007. The launch
delay will also push back the launch of the Lunar-A moon mission from
mid-2003 to 2004.

Copyright 2002,



>From  Alex Storrs  <>


E.P. Grondine asks about blast waves from the impact of comet
D/Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter. The subject has been covered in various
papers in the 3 March 1995 issue of "Science" (vol. 267 pp. 1237-1392). The
curious may want to search for more recent publications by these authors.
But it is unlikely that any matter from the impacts would escape Jupiter's
gravity or magnetosphere, to be observed among the asteroids or Earth's
atmosphere. Indeed, some of the prominent impact features are due to the
blast plume falling back onto the upper layers of Jupiter's atmosphere.

Hope this helps,

Alex Storrs
Department of Physics, Astronomy, and Geosciences
Towson University
8000 York Road
Towson, MD 21252-0001
Tel. 410-704-3003
FAX 410-704-3511


>From, 19 September 2002

"Of Moths and Men" by Judith Hooper

It was a world-famous example of evolution in action, and it was rigged. How
the case of the peppered moth proved that "scientific fact" sometimes isn't

By Alison Motluk

Sept. 18, 2002  | Almost everyone is familiar with the magnificent story of
the peppered moth. In the second half of the 19th century, lepidopterists in
Britain began noticing that a dark version of a well-known pale speckled
moth, Biston betularia, started appearing in great numbers in the
industrialized regions. The more polluted the area, the more they seemed to
thrive. Soon, they outnumbered their pale cousins, and Darwinists, eager for
a real-life example of evolution at work, suggested the color change might
be due to "natural selection."

Darwin was already in the grave by the time someone first made the
connection in 1896. The great man himself had never witnessed a clear-cut
case of natural selection and had not expected to. But those who carried the
flame were beside themselves with excitement.
The coloring on the typical form of the moth looked a lot like lichen, so on
trees in rural areas they could be camouflaged from their predators. But in
industrialized areas -- so polluted that the lichen died off -- this
coloring was no longer an asset. Here, where tree trunks were dark with
soot, mutant darker forms of the moth had the upper hand, and they survived
and multiplied. So the argument went.

But a hypothesis is one thing and real evidence is another. It wasn't until
1953 that Bernard Kettlewell, an amateur lepidopterist (and erstwhile
medical doctor) hired by the Oxford School of Ecological Genetics, set off
to test that idea in the field. For a few successive summers, he camped out
near industrialized Birmingham or in pastoral Dorset. By releasing marked
moths -- both dark and light -- then counting how many live ones he could
lure back, he aimed to show that the dark moths fared better in polluted
areas and light ones in pristine areas and that the reason was selective

This is indeed what he "found." He reported that twice as many darks as
lights survived near Birmingham and three times as many lights as darks
survived in Dorset. It was marvelous news for evolutionists. The findings
were hailed as "Darwin's missing evidence," evolution's "prize horse" and
"evolution in action." The story of the peppered moth became a staple in
biology texts and science museums everywhere.

It was almost too good to be true -- and, well, it was, as Judith Hooper
explores in her new book, "Of Moths and Men: The Untold Story of Science and
the Peppered Moth." She isn't the first to conclude this, as she readily
admits. The first attack on Kettlewell's methods dates back to 1969, she
says, when Ted Sargent at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst pointed
out that moths don't actually choose to rest on colors that match their own.
Other exposÚs appeared everywhere from the New Scientist (1987) to Whole
Earth magazine (1999). An entire book on the peppered moth research and its
shortcomings, by evolutionary biologist Michael Majerus, came out in 1998.
This all does rather raise the question of why a new book was needed, and
certainly makes the words "untold story" in the title a tad disingenuous.

Hooper does try to delve into the nitty-gritty of how it all went wrong. She
interviewed extensively for the book, read the correspondence between the
major players, even did some independent sleuthing. For instance, during
Kettlewell's first summer testing of the peppered moth hypothesis, he wrote
to his boss, the formidable professor E.B "Henry" Ford, bemoaning his low
recapture rates. Ford replied, innocuously enough, "I do not doubt that the
results will be very well worth while." Oddly, the very next day they
suddenly were. After six days of catching only two or three moths per day,
Kettlewell suddenly started netting 23 and 34. After asking pointed
questions about what could have accounted for this dramatic reversal of
fortune -- and checking for herself that no significant weather changes
happened during that time -- Hooper speculates that he might have fudged the

Hooper is a competent writer, and occasionally she has a nice bite. She
enjoys taking the piss out of Darwinists like Ronald Fisher, a
mathematician, whose "severe myopia doomed him to lenses the thickness of
coke-bottles ... It didn't seem to have occurred to him that in the state of
nature, lacking optometrists, he might not have been the fittest of the
lot." Sadly, though, most of the book's pithy comments come straight from
the mouths or pens of others, and are nestled cautiously inside quotation
marks, undigested by the author.

Her decision to tell the story chronologically also has some pitfalls. She
wants to keep her readers in suspense, so she describes the experiments
without pointing out where they were going awry. Consequently, important
details often aren't adequately underscored. For instance, in Dorset,
Kettlewell rejigged his procedure partway through and ignored a few days'
data, a big scientific no-no. All decent scientists will immediately see the
problems with his work, and wonder why Hooper doesn't comment on them, while
lay readers only find out about the mistakes many pages after they learned
the salient details of the experiments in question.

In fact, the list of Kettlewell's scientific shortcomings is fairly long,
and it's almost all left until Part 3, which doesn't start until Page 241.
For example, he wasn't "blind" to what he was measuring; that is, he alone
decided how dark to score a moth while at the same time knowing the result
he wanted to get. Also, he placed many more moths per tree than would be the
case in the wild, leading his critics to charge that he simply constructed a
bird feeder; in other words, he failed to prove that birds were selectively
eating the most visible moths. Somehow the most egregious of all was that
photo -- impressed on the memories of all young biology students -- with two
moths side by side on a tree, one nearly invisible because of crypsis, and
the other totally obvious. Well, it was a setup. Worse, peppered moths don't
even rest openly on tree trunks that way.

Hooper tells the story right from the beginning -- from Darwin's voyage on
the HMS Beagle to present-day critics of Kettlewell's science. And it is a
story well worth reading. But she fails to critically examine many of the
important issues this sorry saga brings to light. How did all these flaws
pass peer review? Why was this study accepted as gospel before it was
replicated? Why did so few people go back and read the original papers
before passing the story on?

Clearly, there was a lot at stake. The idea that the fittest survive became
more than just a scientific theory -- it had huge social implications as
well. Many of the experts whose duty it was to cast a critical eye over the
work seemed to want so badly for it to be true that they overlooked its
glaring deficiencies. But in the case of the moths, only ideology was at
stake. What happens when big money enters the picture, and billions of
dollars hang on a result? The brave new fields of biotechnology and genomics
rush to mind. Hooper quotes researchers saying this sort of thing couldn't
happen today. But reading this cautionary tale makes you wonder not whether
it will, but where and when.

Copyright 2002,

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