Friday, 23 Feb 96 Washington, DC
1. NASA: TWO LAUNCHES IN SIX DAYS CONTRAST THE NEW WITH THE OLD!
The NEAR (Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous) spacecraft left Friday to study
asteroid 433 Eros. Only 1800 pounds, NEAR is the first of the Discovery series
of interplanetary probes; it carries with it the hopes for Dan Goldin's better,
faster, cheaper NASA (WN 16 Feb 96). Two years
ago, Clementine, a low-weight, low-cost SDI spacecraft, attempted to visit the
asteroid Geographos after its successful lunar mapping mission (
WN 13 May 94). It failed when a thruster valve
stuck. An earlier NASA asteroid flyby was killed to feed the space station. At
the dumber, slower, costlier end of the spectrum, NASA launched the shuttle
Columbia yesterday to repeat a tethered satellite experiment that failed four
years ago when the 18 km tether stuck at 256 m (
WN 11 Mar 94). NASA still insists the idea is to
study the feasibility of generating power as the tether cuts through the
Earth's magnetic field. But it's not free. If power is extracted, reverse emf
will create drag; to maintain orbit, a spacecraft would have to fire its
2. THE GOLDIN AGE: NASA CHIEF CHASTISES U.S. ROCKET DEVELOPERS.
"Everyone in American space industry should hang their head in shame," Daniel
Goldin told the Space Transportation Association. "It has become a fundamental
law of physics that in the United States it costs $10,000 a pound to put a
payload in orbit." His remarks to launch vehicle manufacturers came just two
days before his speech to the annual American Association for the Advancement
of Science meeting, in which he charged space station contractors with
"stealing from the American public" (
WN 16 Feb 96). Goldin's emphasis on science and
robotics delights scientists. But he is sticking his neck out and needs the
public support of scientists.
3. MORE GOULASH: NATIONAL EXAMINER DECIDES TO USE ITS OWN RECIPE.
In an article that raises the important question of what happens to the soul
when a person is teleported, the supermarket tabloid quotes "IBM's top genius,
Charles Bennett" as saying, "Mankind is at the dawn of a new era, solid matter will be teleported through space and time and reassembled." Bennett, of course, said nothing of the sort. He told the Examiner, "teleportation of macroscopic objects would be impossible for the foreseeable future." If an
IBM ad can't get it right (
WN 2 Feb 96), why should the Examiner?
4. SO WHAT'S IT GONNA BE DION? POWER LINE FIELDS OR RADON? BOTH!
My neighbor, who keeps his bedroom window open to dissipate the radon seeping
up from the basement, worries because he then needs an electric blanket to stay
warm. A physicist at the University of Bristol says the real problem may be
that electrostatic fields around power lines and appliances concentrate
aerosols containing radon daughter nuclei. But a spokesperson for the
Radiological Protection Board scoffs. The fields, he says, cause particles to
stick to surfaces, with the result that they can't be inhaled.