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


April 2016 32nd Year of Publication


April 12 Mark your calendar for the GRAA Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. at the 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, April 8th. Our featured speaker will be Dr. John Mather, Senior Astrophysicist in the Observational Cosmology Laboratory of Goddard’s Science & Exploration Directorate and Chair of the Science Working Group in the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Project Office. Along with an update on the status of the JWST, the topic of his presentation will be “The History of the Universe: Where Did We Come From and How Far Can We Go?”
May 10 Mark your calendar for the GRAA Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Our speaker will be Dr. Herbert Frey, Chief of the Planetary Geodynamics Laboratory of Goddard’s Sciences & Exploration Directorate. The topic of his presentation will be “Recent Excitement in Solar System Exploration.”

COMMENTS FROM RON BROWNING, GRAA PRESIDENT: Our March speaker was Dr. Neil Gehrels, Chief of Goddard’s Astroparticle Physics Laboratory. His presentation, titled “Swift Observations of Explosions in Space,” was based on gamma-ray bursts observed by the Swift mission since its launch in November 2004. Gamma-ray bursts were first observed in 1973 accidentally by a military satellite named Vela, the mission of which was to monitor for nuclear explosions following the test ban treaty. Such bursts occur outside our galaxy when a star explodes, suddenly causing a supernova leading to a black hole and thus resulting in gravitational waves. Bursts are 0.1 to 100 seconds in duration. Supernovae cause long bursts and short bursts that are the result of two neutron stars collapsing to form a black hole. Explosions have been seen dating to 13.1 billion years ago. Ground-based telescopes are used to conduct follow-up observations of gamma-ray bursts. The Swift spacecraft has one US and two European instruments measuring in optical, ultra-violet, and X-ray bands. The mission, designed for two years of operational life, is still providing useful information after 11+ years. Dr. Gehrels also discussed gravitational waves recently discovered by the National Science Foundation’s ground-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory telescope. These gravitational waves were caused by massive black holes (29 and 36 solar mass in size) merging 1.3 billion years ago. He noted that the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, a three-satellite constellation, will be the first mission designed to focus on gravitational waves, but is currently not scheduled to be launched until 2034.

TREASURER’S REPORT: Treasurer Jackie Gasch received tax-deductible contributions from the following members: Robert Adams, Arthur Jackson, Fred Kallmeyer, Patricia Mackey, Anthony Maione, Llewellyn Nicholson, Thomas Underwood, Richard Weiss, and Charles Woodyard.

RECENT NEW RETIREES: Michael R. Clark, G. James Collatz, Janice G. Gelder, Melvyn L. Goldstein, John A. Haberman, Thomas M. Hartmann, Richard K. Kiang, Betty J. Pyles-Harris, Jose M. Rodriguez, Nancy S, Schweiss, and Peter K. Shu.

54th ROBERT H. GODDARD MEMORIAL SYMPOSIUM: This year’s symposium, hosted by the American Astronautical Society, was quite upbeat. NASA science and engineering results for the year were described, as well as commercial space activity for resupply of the International Space Station, crew launch and expandable laboratories. Technology is focused toward having humans on Mars in the mid 2030s. The symposium presentations were videotaped and are available for viewing online at (just click for the recorded webcast under the memorial symposium banner at the top of the homepage, then select from the videos marked as RHGMS54 listed on the right of the next screen that pops up). Mike Calabrese, GRAA member, will publish a synopsis of the symposium which we will make available to interested parties.

GRAA BOARD OF DIRECTORS ELECTION: The election of the seven-member Board of Directors (BOD) is scheduled to occur at the GRAA luncheon on April 12th in advance of distribution of the 2016 Membership Directory in May. Most members of the current BOD are opting to run again for another two-year term; however, other interested members living within commuting distance of the Greenbelt Campus may contact Newsletter Editor Dave Moulton to self-nominate themselves for a spot on the ballot. Pass your name along to Dave by calling him at 301-249-1783 or emailing him at no later than April 8th .


FROM THE GODDARD ARCHIVES – IT HAPPENED IN APRIL: The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES-8 and known as GOES-I before becoming operational and also GOES-East during the period 1995 – 2003) was launched from Cape Canaveral, FL, by an Atlas I rocket on April, 13, 1994. What was then termed the “new generation” of GOES satellites, of which GOES-8 was the first launched, have instruments that measure Earth-emitted and reflected radiation from which atmospheric temperature, winds, moisture and cloud cover can be derived. GOES-8 is now in a parking orbit and currently drifting about 4 degrees west daily. It was decommissioned on April 1, 2003, and deactivated on May 5, 2004, after failure of its propulsion system.

THOUGHT FOR APRIL: News anchors begin the evening news with ‘Good Evening,’ then proceed to tell us why it isn’t.