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Selected Articles from the
March 2000 Odyssey

Editor: Craig E. Ward

Annual Activity Report

By Steve Bartlett

During 1999, OASIS promoted space development through several avenues: science and science fiction conventions, involvement in the California Space Development Council, communications, group activities, and amateur rocketry work.

Our convention activities spanned the year, beginning with the Gallifrey convention in February and running through the Planetfest gathering in December. At the Gallifrey convention, OASIS members served as guest speakers on space-related topics and staffed an information table.

The Agamemcon convention in June provided us an opportunity to show attendees the wide range of space activities in the Greater Los Angeles area. OASIS arranged for a full slate of space-related programming for the run of the convention, including dozens of panels and over twenty guest speakers from NASA, local space companies, and elsewhere. These programs covered the gamut of space development: reusable and expendable launch vehicles, commercial satellites, the search for extra-solar planets and extra-terrestrial intelligence, space education, space art, solar power satellites, Mars missions, robotic probes, and many others.
ISS Discussion Panel Photo
ISS Disucssion Panel (l-r): Steve Bartlett, Norm Cook,
Dr. Jim Busby, Bruce Boxleitner.
Photograph courtesy Karen Savage.

The highlight of the convention was the talk on the International Space Station, featuring NSS Board of Governors member Bruce Boxleitner. This panel talk drew an enthusiastic standing room-only crowd and included speakers from OASIS and the Orange County Space Society.

Besides space programming and table staffing, OASIS provided space modeling activities for adults and children. The Orange County Space Society also had a table at this convention.

We continued our convention work in November at the LOSCON gathering. OASIS provided multiple speakers on space topics and staffed an information booth at this convention. Two weeks later, we helped to organize and staff a large NSS booth at the Planetfest gathering. This conference drew thousands of attendees from around the world and the booth gave OASIS and the other California NSS chapters an excellent opportunity to spread the word about human space development. NSS and the California Space Development Council, a coalition of space groups in the Golden State, sponsored this booth.

OASIS members were heavily involved in CSDC throughout the year. This involvement included helping to manage CSDC activities, organizing gatherings, helping to publish the group’s newsletter, and coordinating with other CSDC members to promote space activities within the state.

The Greater Los Angeles chapter continued its long-standing history of communications excellence through several outlets. Our monthly newsletter, The Odyssey, provided chapter members and others with a local perspective on human and robotic space development. For a wider audience, the OASIS website showed the world who we are, what we do, and the benefits of membership. Besides our own website, OASIS members researched and published an extensive list of space-related websites around the globe. Our telephone hotline continued to provide the latest information on upcoming space activities in the
local area.

OASIS also had two successful membership drives in 1999, taking its membership to over 100. Several of these members attended a screening of the film “October Sky” early in the year, while others were extensively involved in amateur rocketry and attempts to loft small payloads high into the California

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Illustration courtesy NASA/JHUAPL.

The NASA satellite conducting the first-ever close-up study of an asteroid will be renamed to honor Dr. Eugene M. Shoemaker, a legendary geologist who influenced decades of research on the role of asteroids and comets in shaping the planets. The Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft, currently orbiting asteroid 433 Eros more than 145 million miles from Earth, will now be known as NEAR Shoemaker.

“Gene Shoemaker was an inspirational, charismatic pioneer in the field of interplanetary science,” said Dr. Carl B. Pilcher, Director of Solar System Exploration at NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC. Pilcher announced the new name today during the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston. “It is a fitting tribute that we place his name on the spacecraft whose mission will expand on all he taught us about asteroids, comets and the origins of our solar system.” Drawing of NEAR spacecraft (NASA/JHU APL))

Shoemaker died in a 1997 car accident in the Australian outback while on an annual study of asteroid impact craters. With his wife and research partner, Carolyn, Shoemaker was part of the leading comet discovery team of the past century, perhaps most famous for finding the comet (Shoemaker-Levy 9) that broke up and collided with Jupiter in 1994.

He was an expert on craters and the impacts that caused them. Shoemaker's work on the nature and origin of Meteor Crater in Arizona in the 1960s laid the foundation for research on craters throughout the solar system. He also established the lunar geological time scale that allowed researchers to date the features on the moon's surface.

Though he never realized his dream of tapping a rock hammer on the moon, Shoemaker taught Apollo astronauts about craters and lunar geology before they left Earth. Last year, when NASA's Lunar Prospector spacecraft crashed on the Moon in an experiment at the end of its mission, a small vial of Shoemaker's ashes, carried aboard the spacecraft, was scattered on the lunar surface.

Shoemaker was a key member of the 1985 working group that first studied the NEAR mission, defining its science objectives and designing a conceptual payload. Many of the group's recommended instruments were included in the actual spacecraft, which only a month into its yearlong orbit of Eros is already returning fascinating data on the asteroid's surface and geology.

The first in NASA's Discovery Program of low-cost planetary missions, NEAR launched from Cape Canaveral Air Station, FL, on Feb. 17, 1996. After a four-year journey that included flybys of Earth (Jan. 1998) and asteroids Mathilde (June 1997) and Eros (Dec. 1998), NEAR began orbiting Eros on Feb. 14, 2000. The car-sized spacecraft will observe the asteroid from various distances -- coming within several miles of the surface -- before the mission ends in February 2001. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, MD, designed and built the NEAR spacecraft and manages the mission for NASA's Office of Space Science.


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