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


June 2017 33rd Year of Publication


June 13 Mark your calendar for the GRAA Luncheon that now starts at 11:15 a.m. vice 11:30 a.m. at the Greenbelt American Legion Post #136 at 6900 Greenbelt Road. Reservations are required for our venue, so please contact Alberta Moran on her cell phone at 301-910-0177 or via her new email address at not later than noon on Friday, June 9th. Our featured speaker will be Dr. Paul Mahaffy, Director of the Solar System Exploration Division in the Sciences and Exploration Directorate. His presentation topic will be “Exploring the Habitability of Mars with the Curiosity Rover.”
July 11 Mark your calendar for the GRAA Luncheon now starting at 11:15 a.m. Our featured speaker will be Dr. Michael Mumma, Senior Scientist in the Solar System Exploration Division. His presentation topic will be “Methane on Mars.”

COMMENTS FROM TONY COMBERIATE, GRAA PRESIDENT: Our May speaker was Dr. Steven Pawson, Chief of Goddard’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO). His presentation, entitled “From Fire to Rain: Using NASA’s Observations in Complex Computer Models,” described some of the GMAO’s unique capabilities in the areas of high-resolution global modeling, reanalysis, and air pollution forecasting and focused on the use of NASA’s satellite observations to help bound physical processes in the Earth System Modeling Framework. The Goddard Earth Observing System Model, Version-5 (GEOS-5) combines an Atmospheric General Circulation Model with an Ocean Circulation Model and satellite Earth observations to increase our understanding of Earth processes and enhance predictive capabilities, thus providing useful information for a broad range of users. GMAO uses sea surface temperature, wave height differences, and wind speed measurement data from all the current Earth observation satellites to build a 3-dimensional picture of the state of the atmosphere and oceans. Dr. Pawson’s high-resolution modeling effort focuses on fitting satellite observations into models that make predictions as much as nine months into the future. Predicting things like El Nino events, the availability of shipping routes, droughts, floods, and agricultural impacts can provide economic returns in the billions of dollars. Global circulation modeling, which has been typically done on a scale of 10 to 100’s kilometers, is now able to use billions of data points and have a resolution as fine as about 1 kilometer regionally, yielding improved weather forecasts. Reanalysis is an emerging field that assimilates historic satellite data into modern day models to set the baseline for climate change analysis. In addition to weather forecasts, the model traces emissions released by fires, dust from deserts, and sea salt from oceans that are spread by winds around the world. Air pollution is also traced by the GEOS Model by including nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide from fossil fuel burning and volcanoes (which gets converted into sulfate aerosols). Data on the vertical structure of ozone in the stratosphere from SBUV/2 and MLS are used to calculate how much ozone reaches the Earth’s surface through transport from the stratosphere. Dr. Pawson closed by providing us a glimpse of future models that will be able to generate a global health quality index. For more information and some exciting videos go to: and/or

TREASURER’S REPORT: Treasurer Jackie Gasch received tax-deductible donations from the following: James Heaney (in memory of Al Toft), Ellen Herring, Mary Mowatt, Jan Owings, Ray Saxton, and Thomas Underwood.

RECENT RETIREES: David L. Amason, Rosemarie Christensen, Herbert V. Frey, Paul G. Haney, Armando Morell, Janet M. Osterman, and Bruce E. Thoman.

FROM THE GODDARD ARCHIVES – IT HAPPENED IN JUNE: On June 18, 2009, an Atlas V rocket launched the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) from Cape Canaveral, FL. It is a robotic spacecraft currently orbiting the Moon in an eccentric polar mapping orbit. Data collected by LRO has been described as essential for planning NASA’s future human and robotic missions to the Moon. Its detailed mapping program is identifying safe landing sites, locating potential resources on the Moon, characterizing the radiation environment, and demonstrating new technologies. It was launched in conjunction with the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) as the vanguard of NASA’s Lunar Precursor Robotic Program. LRO’s mission duration was planned to be one year, but has since been extended numerous times. LRO has provided some of the first images and precise locations and equipment from previous American and Russian lunar missions, including the Apollo sites. It carries a complement of six instruments and a technology demonstration.

DRONE RUNWAY OPENED AT WALLOPS FLIGHT FACILITY (WFF): On May 18th, Terry McAuliffe, Governor of Virginia, took an 11-minute flight on a Diamond DA-42 plane and opened a new $5.8 million runway built specifically for drones. NASA and the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority collaborated on the project and hope it will bring more business to WFF. The runway is 3,000 feet long and 75 feet wide on Wallops Island. Governor McAuliffe served as the pilot, pressing buttons on a laptop to relay commands to a robot, which actually carried out the functions of a pilot inside the plane (a fully-licensed pilot was seated next to him, but her services proved unnecessary).

THOUGHT FOR JUNE: As senior citizens, the term “getting lucky” means walking into a room and recalling why we went in there.