September 2013 29th Year of Publication


September 10 Mark your calendar for the GRAA Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Reservations are required, so either contact Alberta Moran on her cell phone at 301-910-0177 or via e-mail at no later than noon on Friday, September 6th. Our featured speaker will be Dr. Carey Lisse, Senior Research Scientist at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Although the scientific jury is out as to whether Comet ISON will live up to its label and propensity to become ‘Comet of the Century,’ Dr. Lisse will offer attendees the latest results of research on the possibility of Comet ISON providing a spectacular display when its orbit approaches to within 730,000 miles or so from the Sun in late November.
October 8 Mark your calendar for the GRAA Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Center Director Christopher Scolese will bring attendees up-to-date about ongoing and new missions as well as the general health of the Center.
November 12 Mark your calendar for the GRAA Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. William Wrobel, Director of the Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) and Suborbital and Special Orbital Projects Directorate, will provide an overview of the many new and exciting missions that have been taken on at WFF during recent years.

COMMENTS FROM RON BROWNING, GRAA PRESIDENT: As a change of pace, Arthur Drea provided attendees at the August Luncheon with a synopsis of European history. A noted author, historian and lecturer, Mr. Drea described how he got into teaching European history at Baltimore International College (now Stratford University of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management). As part of his research, he explored why the Soviet Union collapsed in seven years during the regimes of Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, which resulted in writing his book, “20th Century Europe, A Concise History.” The book summarizes events leading to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the fall of Communism in Europe. Significant events began with the death of Leonid Brezhnev in 1982, followed by two old and short-lived premiers, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko. In 1985 the Politburo decided a younger premier was needed and selected Mikhail Gorbachev, who spoke English, was better educated, and younger. Gorbachev, although a dedicated Communist intent on keeping the USSR intact, understood worldwide economics and implemented glasnost, which opened the eyes of USSR citizens to the real world. He also reached out to foreign leaders, including President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, to discuss nuclear disarmament. Old Communist leaders were disenchanted with the results of Gorbachev’s glasnost and placed him under house arrest at his dacha. He escaped and returned to Moscow where the military surrounded the Kremlin with tanks, but refused to fire. Yeltsin took command and the other European allies (Poland, Hungary and East Germany) declared their independence. In a matter of a few weeks, USSR and European Communism was gone. Unfortunately for Russia, Yeltsin was not a good leader, making 1991 to 1995 some of Russia’s worst years. Mr. Drea’s book, which provides many more details of his concise, yet compelling historical treatise, may be purchased on the website ( in both paperback and Kindle versions.

RATIFICATION OF NEW GRAA CONSTITUTION AND BY-LAWS: Assembled members attending the GRAA Luncheon in August unanimously ratified the revised GRAA Constitution and By-Laws after a review of the changes recommended by a committee formed by President Browning late last year. President Browning thanks Charlie Boyle, Tony Comberiate, Barbara Hamilton, and Alberta Moran for the time and energy they expended in bringing these documents up to new millennium standards.

TREASURER’S REPORT: Treasurer Bob Wigand reports he received donations from the following members: David L. Bertsch, Edward A. Bielecki, Joyce L. Corley, S. Kenneth Dolan, Marcie Johnson (in memory of Thomas S. Johnson), William E. McGunigal, Carl O. Roberts (in memory of Mary Ellen Shoe), Richard I. Weiss, Arthur F. White, Jr., and Richard M. Windsor.

RECENT RETIREES: Sheri T. Brown, Theodore F. Hammer, Michael H. Lee, Gary F. Moffatt, and Michael A. Richter, III.

THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH: The easiest way to find something that is lost in your house is to purchase a replacement.


•  Thomas L. Aggson, of Las Cruces, NM, passed away on July 29th. Dr. Aggson was a Physicist at Goddard whose scientific research spanned more than 30 years. He especially enjoyed field work, often traveling to rocket launches in such locales as Canada, Norway, Peru, and Kenya. Among his varied assignments during his Goddard career was Principal Scientist for the Applications Technology Satellite series (ATS-1, -2, and -3), Principal Investigator for the Orbiting Geophysical Observatory satellite series (OGO-5 and -6), and Principal Investigator on the Interplanetary Monitoring Platform I (aka: Explorer 43). He was passionate about physics and pursued the study of cosmology into his retirement.

•  Robert W. Bryant, of Shepherdstown, WV, passed away on May 15th as a result of a two-year battle with cancer and Parkinson’s disease. He was employed at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC, working on underwater sound, and later transferred to Goddard with the Vanguard Group, where he worked as a Mathematician in the Theoretical Division analyzing data recovered from satellites.

•  Kenneth J. Frost, of Annapolis, MD, passed away on August 5th from complications of a fall from scaffolding while repairing the roof of a shed at his home. He was a Physicist at Goddard who held numerous assignments during his career. Early on he worked on the Orbiting Solar Observatory (OSO) series of spacecraft and in the Solar Plasmas Branch, and later was Head of the Solar Activity Branch, Project Scientist for the Solar Maximum Mission, Associate Director for Space Station working on early designs, and rounded out his career as Deputy Director of the Space Sciences Directorate until he retired in 1997.

•  Thomas S. Johnson, of Bowie, MD, passed away on May 23rd. He was an Aerospace Technologist at Goddard and most of his assignments involved the lasertracking of satellites from the early 1960’s to the mid-1980’s

•  Hasso B. Neimann, of Columbia, MD, passed away on July 11th after a brief battle with cancer. An Astrophysicist at Goddard, Dr. Neimann devoted his career to the development of mass spectrometer technology and harnessing its capabilities to measure the composition of unknown planetary atmospheres. He was first a Researcher and later Head of the Atmospheric Experiment Branch and Chief of the Laboratory for Atmospheres. He worked on many projects, including the Pioneer Venus Mission, and was a Principal Investigator on the Galileo Probe to Jupiter and the Huygens Probe on the Cassini spacecraft to Saturn.

FROM THE GODDARD ARCHIVES - IT HAPPENED IN SEPTEMBER: On September 29, 1971, a Delta N rocket launched the OSO- 7 spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, FL. Although larger, but not unlike the previous six OSO satellites, OSO-7 was primarily a solar observatory designed to point a battery of ultraviolet and X-ray instruments at the Sun from a platform mounted on a cylindrical wheel. The satellite was nearly lost at launch due to a failure in the control system of the second stage of the Delta rocket. The nominal plan was for the spacecraft to be separated from the second stage so the solar “sail” could be oriented to the Sun, allowing the batteries to be fully charged on orbit. As it turned out, the orbit was slightly eccentric instead of circular, and the orientation of the spacecraft was virtually unknown. On launch the batteries were fully charged, giving about 12 hours for the controllers, led by GRAA Member John Thole, to recover before the spacecraft lost power and command ability. Several hours passed as engineers attempted to interpret the signal strength from the tumbling spacecraft in terms of its transmitting antenna pattern. An hour or two before battery time would run out, John decided to abandon caution and “start slewing,” and by luck and skill control was regained. Because the resulting orbit was out of sync with the nominal circular orbit, several times a day OSO-7 passed fairly deeply into the Van Allen radiation belts, with the bombardment making it somewhat radioactive. The activity then decayed slowly during other times of the day and the varying instrument internal radioactivity complicated the analysis of data from the sensitive X-ray and gamma-ray instruments on board. The mission went well for twenty months until the failure of the second spacecraft tape recorder on May, 18, 1973. The spacecraft reentered the Earth’s atmosphere and was destroyed in July 1974. Due to Ken Frost’s recent passing, we dedicate this archival record of OSO-7 in remembrance of his passionate and dedicated work on most, if not all, of the entire series of OSO missions.