P.O. Box 1184, Greenbelt, MD 20768-1184


November 2015 31st Year of Publication


November 10 Mark your calendar for the GRAA Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. at Greenbelt American Legion Post #136 at 6900 Greenbelt Road. Reservations are required due to our new venue, so please contact Alberta Moran either on her cell phone at 301-910-0177 or via email at no later than noon on Friday, November 6th. Our speaker will be NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who we expect will provide an overview of NASA’s current status and perhaps comment about what programs and projects might be developed or considered for development in the foreseeable future.
December There will be no GRAA Luncheon due to the many scheduled holiday-related events during December. Monthly luncheons will resume on Tuesday, January 12, 2016.
January 12 Mark your calendar for the first GRAA Luncheon in the New Year. Dr. Michelle Thaller, Assistant Director for Science Communication and Higher Education of Goddard’s Science and Exploration Directorate, will be our featured speaker.

COMMENTS FROM VICE PRESIDENT TONY COMBERIATE, GRAA VICE PRESIDENT: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science at NASA Headquarters, described recent findings and theory updates based on the New Horizons satellite flyby of Pluto on July 14th and DAWN satellite observations of the Vesta asteroid in March of this year. He started with Pluto and Ceres (a dwarf planet) and how accretion of collapsing clouds of dust particles under gravitational forces can form planets. Pluto has five moons and a nitrogen atmosphere and methane, carbon monoxide and nitrogen snow. Its mountains are ice and there are nitrogen glaciers. Ceres has an icy crust and lots of craters. Within our solar system, Uranus and Neptune are ice giants and contain more complex molecules such as ammonia. Jupiter and Saturn are giant gas planets. The Kuiper belt contains many Pluto-sized (one half the size of our moon) objects. There may be as many as 300,000 objects in the Asteroid belt that are trying to become planets, but Jupiter stops them. Some 850 million years ago Jupiter pushed planets out and the Kuiper belt came in. Our solar system was rearranged 4.65 billion years ago. Dr. Green showed very recent results from the DAWN satellite. It used ion engines to creep up to Vesta where it was captured and orbits Vesta. A meteorite found on Antarctica had been confirmed to originate from Vesta. These missions are so far from Earth that it will take nine months to capture New Horizons data from Pluto back to Earth.

FROM THE GODDARD ARCHIVES - IT HAPPENED IN NOVEMBER: On November 6, 1965, a Delta-E rocket launched the Geodetic Earth Observing Satellite-A (also known as GEOS-A and Explorer 29) from Cape Canaveral, FL, and was the first successful active spacecraft of the National Geodetic Satellite Program. Instrumentation included: (1) four optical beacons; (2) laser reflectors; (3) a radio range transponder; (4) Doppler beacons; and (5) a range and range/rate transponder. These instruments were designed to operate simultaneously to fulfill the objectives of locating observation points (geodetic control stations) in a three-dimensional Earth center-of-mass coordinate system, of defining the structure of the Earth’s irregular gravitational field and refining the locations and magnitudes of the large gravity anomalies, and of comparing results of the various systems onboard the spacecraft to determine the most accurate and reliable system. Acquisition and the recording of data were the responsibility of Goddard’s Space Tracking and Data Acquisitions Network (STADAN).

TREASURER’S REPORT: Treasurer Jackie Gasch received tax-deductible contributions from the following: Elaine Bobbitt (in memory of Carl Wagenfuehrer), Sandra Brown (in memory of Paul Villone), McLean Grant, Peter Hui (in memory of Henry Price), William Mack, Steven Smith, Mary Trainor (in memory of Les Meredith), Robert R. Wilson, and William Witt.

RECENT RETIREES: Joleen A. Bottalico, John F. Burris, Steven E. Coyle, Patricia M. Dombrowski, Donna L. Garnett, Dorothy K. Hall, Reginald D. Hayes, Anne L. Kinney, Jon D. Knox, Richard J. Luquette, Michael J. Maher, James M. Mannion, Janet E. Manuel, Mary K. Shifflett, H. Robert Spiess, and Ann Wagner.

THOUGHT FOR NOVEMBER: When we make a phone call with questions about billing issues or help in solving a computer problem, why are we told we have to press “1” for English when we’re just going to be transferred to someone we can’t understand anyway?


MARATHON VALLEY ON MARS INCLUDES TRIBUTE TO DR. NOEL HINNERS : The name Marathon Valley refers to the distance the Opportunity rover drove from its 2004 landing site on Mars to its arrival at the location on August 24, 2015. The summit above the valley has now been given the informal name of “Hinners Point” as a tribute to Dr. Noel Hinners. For NASA’s Apollo program, he played important roles in the selection of landing sites on the moon and scientific training of astronauts. He then served as NASA Associate Administrator for Space Science, Director of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Director of Goddard Flight Center, NASA Chief Scientist, and Associate Deputy Administrator of NASA. Subsequent to responsibility for the Viking Mars missions while at NASA, he spent the latter part of his career as Vice President for Flight Systems at Lockheed Martin, where he had responsibility for the company’s roles in development and operation of NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey, Phoenix Mars Lander, and the Stardust and Genesis missions.

TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATIONS TO GRAA ENCOURAGED: Only two months remain in the year for you to consider sending in a donation to help GRAA remain financially-sustainable and deduct it from your federal income tax for 2015. Please keep in mind that we will be printing and distributing the 2016 Membership Directory next spring at substantial costs for printing and mailing. Donations should be addressed to GRAA, P.O. Box 1184, Greenbelt, MD 20768-1184.

GODDARD-RELATED LAUNCHES TENTATIVELY SCHEDULED FOR 2016: Early this summer, Goddard’s Flight Projects Directorate announced anticipated dates for the following Goddard-related launches during the first five months of 2016: January - Astro-H Soft X-ray Spectrometer (SXS); February - Raven; March - Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES-R); and May – Space Environment Testbed (SET-1)

[UPDATE: As of October 19th, due to unspecified issues, the anticipated launch of GOES-R has suffered another setback and the launch will be delayed until October 2016.]