Date Time: April 18, 2015 0930-1745hrs
Weather: Sunny, clear, 28C and no wind.
Attendance: Hundreds of people.
Highlights: In the talks the main theme seemed to be that the new human lift spacecraft, Orion, is undergoing its final testing and will be ready soon to launch humans into space. This is huge news because as of right now the US has no way to send humans to space. The US and Canada rely on the Russian Soyuz program to send our astronauts up to the International Space Station four times per year.
An interesting side note...the Orion rocket system has an escape option for the astronauts, where the Shuttles did not. It also has much more powerful rockets which will allow it to escape Earths gravity and they have just recently, successfully tested its new heat shields.
Dr Ken Kremer gave a very interesting talk on Orion and answered many interesting questions from the public. William Gerstenmaier, NASA associate Administrator for Human Space flight gave a very informative and entertaining speech titled, "The Need for Human Exploration".
NASA plans to first test Orion, unmanned in Earth orbit, then send it around the Moon unmanned. After that its going to send humans around the Moon, then NASA is going to set its sights Mars. Gerstenmaier said that even though there are serious concerns that need to be addressed, there is nothing stopping us from sending humans to Mars. One of the biggest concerns is for peoples health without gravity...bone density decreases. The only medicine known at this time is excersise. Also, space radiation is also a concern, but can be addressed with proper shielding.
NASAs' Asteroid Redirect Mission is the most exciting thing in the works right now, in my opinion. The plan is to send robotic spacecraft to an asteroid and either capture an entire asteroid, or, touch down on a very large one and remove a huge boulder. Then the spacecraft will return the object to a Moon orbit where it will stay. There the Orion shuttle will send astronauts to land on, collect samples then return to Earth for further study.
One ongoing theme amongst the people giving talks was their admiration for amature astronomers and the desire to have them work closer with professionals. Also, Gerstenmaier and Dr Kremer both said that they hope amateur astronomers can help promote NASA so it can gain enough support to help pay for more exploration type missions.
Matt Penn, Associate Astronomer from National Solar Observatory at Kitt Peak gave a great talk about the upcoming solar eclipse that will traverse across the continental US on Aug 21, 2017. There is a citizen science project called The Citizen CATE Experiment which seeks 61 amature astronomers on the eclipse path on eclipse day to image this event with the exact same equipment. If successful, this will yield some never before seen data of the Sun's corona!
Christopher Go, 'Renowned Astro Imager', who discovered Jupiters' "Red Spot Jr." in Feb of 2006 gave a very informative talk on astroimaging.
J. Kelly Beatty, Senior Editor for Sky & Telescope Magazine gave a very informative update on the New Horizons mission, which included a new color photo from the spacecraft. It showed that Pluto has a kind of orange-reddish hue with its largest moon Charon, being a different, darker shade. In other words, it appears that these two worlds are different colors! Stay tuned! We will see much more in the next few months coming up to the fly-by in July!
|First color image of Pluto and Charon taken from New Horizons website|
|One hour per inch diameter ginding plus one hour per inch diameter polishing. So, sixteen hours to finish an eight inch mirror.|
|Discovery Plate for Pluto.|
|Clyde W. Tombaugh, discovered Pluto on Feb 8, 1930.|
|Image of the Northern Lights as seen from the International Space Station,|