Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer
Title: Travelers in the Night Eps. 65 & 66: Your Shield & Opportunity Celebrates 10 Years on Mars
Organization: Travelers in The Night
Organization: Travelers in The Night
Description: Today’s 2 topics:
Bio: Dr. Al Grauer is currently an observing member of the Catalina Sky Survey Team at the University of Arizona. This group has discovered nearly half of the Earth approaching objects known to exist. He received a PhD in Physics in 1971 and has been an observational Astronomer for 43 years. He retired as a University Professor after 39 years of interacting with students. He has conducted research projects using telescopes in Arizona, Chile, Australia, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Georgia with funding from NSF and NASA.
He is noted as Co-discoverer of comet P/2010 TO20 Linear-Grauer, Discoverer of comet C/2009 U5 Grauer and has asteroid 18871 Grauer named for him.
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51E – 65 – Your Shield
The NEOShield project is an international group of scientists and engineers from space faring nations. They are doing the detailed analysis and planning required to provide an effective means of dealing with an asteroid which is on a collision course with planet Earth. They are also studying the ways to protect us from falling man made space debris since it is a greater danger than asteroids.
NEOShield has a detailed plan to send a spacecraft to intercept and deflect a threatening asteroid. The mission will first deploy an orbiter which will carefully study the asteroid for several months. A second impacting spacecraft will then transfer momentum to the asteroid in such a way as to cause it to miss planet Earth. This mission will be effective for smaller solid asteroids.
To deflect the largest asteroids which threaten our planet an explosive device must be used to expel material from the asteroid creating a rocket type thrust. Burying the Nuclear or Chemical explosives on the asteroid before detonating them may be the most effective technique.
A third method of asteroid deflection is to use the tiny gravitational force between an asteroid and a spacecraft to change a threatening asteroids trajectory. This approach may be used for fine tuning the effects of the impactor or blast techniques.
Human piloted spacecraft may be able to enhance the chances of success of any of these mitigation techniques. The jury is still out on this one.
Implicit in the mitigation planning is the early detection of dangerous objects which is provided by the NASA Near Earth Object Program.
52E – 66 – Opportunity Celebrates 10 Years On Mars
More than ten years ago my wife Annie and I saw the JPL Engineers testing a model of the Spirit and Opportunity Mars Rovers. The model was in what looked like a large sand box in Pasadena, CA.
The Opportunity Mars Rover landed on January 24, 2004 for a 3 month mission. In the next 10 years it traveled 24 miles from where it landed, to the edge of a 14 mile diameter, 1000 foot deep crater named Endeavour. During its journey this rover traveled across bed rock made of minerals which indicate that Mars had a wet environment billions of years ago. When the Opportunity Rover arrived at the edge of the Endeavor Crater’s rim, it discovered a vein of the mineral gypsum sticking out of the soil. This layer contains calcium, sulfur, and water. It is likely to have been formed by water coming out through a crack. This discovery proves that in the past Mars had an environment which would allow micro bacterial life to exist.
It is impossible to do justice to this fascinating mission in 2 minutes, 2 days, or even 2 weeks. Take the time to visit the NASA Opportunity website. You will personally experience the first time in history that humans have explored the surface of another planet.
The Opportunity Rover has been joined by, a car sized robot, named Curiosity. So far it has found that ancient Mars could have supported living microbes.
You can follow its journey on the NASA Curiosity website. What will it find next?
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
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