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Selected Articles from the
December 1998 Odyssey

Editor: Norm Cook

Science Fiction to Science Fact: OASIS Brings Real Space to LOSCON Convention

By Steve Bartlett

Mars exploration, space stations, planetary colonization, exotic rocket engines, and luxury liners in space: these are common elements in science fiction books, films, and television shows. But the public has seldom been exposed to the reality of these elements in modern spaceflight. OASIS members spent a large part of Thanksgiving weekend working to change this situation at the LOSCON science fiction convention in Burbank.

The local NSS chapter arranged for numerous speakers to provide the science track of the convention, with panels discussing reusable launch vehicles, asteroid mining, spacecraft anomalies, psychological and physiological effects of space travel, the Deep Space 1 and Galileo missions, the current status of Mars exploration, the International Space Station program, space tourism, and the effects of politics on space commercialization. OASIS was able to provide speakers from numerous organizations, including representatives from Lockheed-Martin Skunk Works, Boeing Space Systems, the Rotary Rocket Company, the Space Tourism Society, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Microcosm Inc., Hughes Electronics, and elsewhere. Throughout the weekend, conventiongoers commented on the wide variety of space-related topics and speakers.

One of the highlights of the convention was the hands-on "How Would You Build A Space Ship?" panel, where audience members assembled versions of their own ships of wonder out of common craft materials. While audience teams built their creations, real spacecraft designers and engineers provided helpful commentary on hardware placement and operation. OASIS members and several helpers provided assistance in operating the glue guns and hot wire cutters used to fabricate the parts. Several children took part in the activity and proudly held out their works at the end of the panel for all to see. Convention members later arranged for a special display table to show off the teams' projects.

Throughout the convention OASIS members staffed the NSS booth, providing LOSCON attendees with up-to-the-minute information on space topics, the Society in general, OASIS activities, websites, and related subjects. The popular booth featured an hourly raffle of space-related items, including posters, books, T-shirts, John Glenn launch photos, and other memorabilia. As with earlier conventions, the OASIS booth drew numerous chocolate-loving attendees with its "Take a Piece of Mars" candy giveaway. The following people generously donated their time to staff the booth: Diane Rhodes, Bob Gounley, Pam Hoffman, Catherine Hoffman, and Don Dowdy.

Long-time member David Bliss kindly provided his hotel room for the OASIS room party on Friday night. Conventioneers enjoyed music, games, raffles, and refreshments while learning how they could become involved with real space activities.

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NASA Announces Contest to Name Deep Space 2's Two Microprobes

NASA has announced the start of a contest to name its Deep Space 2 mission's two microprobes, scheduled to be launched next month on journey to Mars.

"Just as Mars Pathfinder's Sojourner rover received its name through a contest, we invite the public to become involved in helping to name Deep Space 2's twin probes," said Project Manager Sarah Gavit of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "What better way to involve school children and parents alike in this exciting, one-of-a-kind mission?"

Deep Space 2, launching with the Mars Polar Lander on January 3, will send its two microprobes to impact and penetrate the surface of Mars in December 1999. Each of its two entry systems consists of a basketball-sized aeroshell with a softball-sized probe inside. Released from the cruise stage of the Mars Polar Lander, the probes will dive toward the surface of Mars. Upon impact, the forebody of each probe will bury itself up to about one meter (three feet) underground, while the aftbody remains on the surface to transmit data through the orbiting Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft back to Earth.

Unlike any spacecraft before, the Deep Space 2 probes will smash into the planet at speeds of up to 200 meters per second (400 miles per hour). The mission's main purpose is to flight-test new technologies to enable future science missions--demonstrating innovative approaches to entering a planet's atmosphere, surviving a crash-impact, and penetrating below a planet's surface. As a secondary goal, the probes will search for water ice under Mars's surface.

Participants in the probe naming contest can choose either two people from history, mythology, or fiction (not living), two places or things that are in some way associated with each other, or a combination. Their choices should be accompanied by a written composition of up to 100 words explaining why their entries would make good names for the miniature probes.

"The names should symbolize our exploration of the universe, embodying the spirit of risk-taking pioneers breaking barriers," explained Gavit. Complete details, along with on-line entry forms and further information about Deep Space 2, are available at

The deadline is April 30, 1999, and winners will be announced the following November. Finalists will receive one copy each of a Deep Space 2 poster signed by the project team.

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