Tragedy Seen From Orbit...

...Tribute in the Heavens...

...Triumph in Deep Space

Write of Passage


Tragedy Seen From Orbit . . .
From the serene perspective of space, the eyes of astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and the electronic eyes of orbiting satellites bore witness to the heinous terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on 11 September. Images of thick smoke billowing from New York and Washington were beamed to Earth soon after the attacks that may have left 6,000 innocent people dead. Mission commander Frank Culbertson and his Russian crewmates, Vladimir Dezhurov and Mikhail Tyurin, were informed of the mass murder shortly after the first World Trade Center tower collapsed. It would have been impossible to hide the carnage on the ground. Fifteen minutes after learning of the atrocity, the ISS crew passed over New York City — about the time the second tower collapsed — and captured video of the thick plume rising from the Manhattan pyre. “It was something to see and very heartbreaking,” said Culbertson, a retired Navy captain. Added Dezhurov, a Russian air force officer: “It was a very difficult time, I think, for everybody and it was for us also.” Echoing the sentiments of all civilized people Culbertson proclaimed, “I hope the people responsible are caught and brought to justice as soon as possible . . . our prayers and condolences to all involved.”

Grim bird’s-eye views of the attack’s aftermath were provided by several satellites, such as NASA’s Terra spacecraft and a French Space Agency environmental satellite. Remarkable 1-meter resolution views of the devastation taken by Space Imaging’s Ikonos satellite aided relief and recovery efforts. Among those requesting Ikonos images was New York’s emergency response team. “It’s a very tragic event, and we would prefer that we were taking an image of one of the seven wonders of the world for a positive purpose rather than having to respond this way,” said John Copple, Space Imaging’s chairman and CEO. “But we’re glad we can help.”

In the days following the attacks, more subtle evidence of tragedy also stretched across the land. Culbertson noticed the absence of jet vapor trails crisscrossing the continent. “Normally when we go over the U.S., the sky is like a spider web of contrails and now the sky is just about completely empty,” Culbertson remarked. Only later did those thin tendrils of normalcy once more weave across the scene below. From a more tranquil place, where cooperation, not conflict, reigns, Culbertson and crew offered words of hope. “I know it’s very difficult for everybody in America right now,” he said. “But the country still looks good and for New Yorkers: Your city still looks great from up here.”

. . . Tribute in the Heavens . . .
A permanent memorial in space to those murdered and missing following the terrorist attacks in the U.S. may be in the offing. The international organization responsible for asteroid monikers plans to name three space rocks in memory of the victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the United Airlines flight 93 hijacking. The plan would select names that officials hope will resonate with a world still stunned by the unprecedented slaughter. “We’re trying to be positive, use names that would be positive, in what is after all a terribly negative situation,” said Brian Marsden, an asteroid researcher and secretary of the International Astronomical Union’s Committee for Small Body Nomenclature. The Committee hopes to finalize the proposal soon.

. . . Triumph in Deep Space

Like a slugger piling up extra home runs at the end of his career, the venerable NASA spacecraft Deep Space 1 successfully passed within 2,200 kilometers of the comet Borrelly on 22 September and survived the risky encounter. “The images and other data we collected from comet Borrelly so far will help scientists learn a great deal about these intriguing members of the solar system family,” said Marc Rayman, project manager of Deep Space 1 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “It’s very exciting to be among the first humans to glimpse the secrets that this comet has held since before the planets were formed.”

The aging spacecraft snapped its first black-and-white image of Borrelly half an hour before closest approach. Deep Space 1 also trained a suite of instruments on the cosmic snowball as it closed in. An hour and a half before the closest approach, the probe’s infrared spectrometer collected data on the overall composition of the surface of the comet’s nucleus. And two minutes before closest approach, ion and electron monitors scanned dust and gas near the nucleus. Signals confirming the successful encounter were radioed to Earth a few hours after the flyby. Scientists will use the comet chaser’s measurements to learn more about the nature of Borrelly’s surface and to measure and identify the gases emanating from the surface and interior. Data from the plucky probe will also be used to measure the interaction of solar wind with the comet, a process that leads to formation of the delicate gossamer tail. Images of the comet were scheduled to be released a few days after the encounter.

“It has been a tremendously rewarding effort for the small Deep Space 1 team to keep this aged and wounded bird aloft,” said Rayman. “Its mission to test new technologies is already highly successful and any science we get at the comet will be a terrific bonus.” By the time of the flyby, Deep Space had exceeded by three times its intended lifetime in space and its primary mission to test ion propulsion and eleven other high-risk, advanced technologies. NASA extended the mission, taking advantage of the ion propulsion and other systems to target the risky but exciting encounter with Borrelly.


Write of Passage

“Let every nation know, whether
it wishes us well or ill, that we
shall pay any price, bear any
burden, meet any hardship,
support any friend, oppose any
foe to assure the survival and
the success of liberty.”
“Only in winter can you tell
which trees are truly green.
Only when the winds of
adversity blow can you tell
whether an individual or a
country has steadfastness.”
— John F. Kennedy

“Never, never, never give up!!!”
— Winston S. Churchill

“We will not tire, we will not
falter, and we will not fail . . .”
— George W. Bush


What’s Up By Astro-USU
Name Date Launch Launch Period Inc Apogee Perigee
2001 Vehicle Site (min) (º) (km) (km)
Artemis 7/12 Ariane 5 Kourou 318.5 2.9 17545 594
BSAT-2B 7/12 Ariane 5 Kourou 317.3 2.9 17472 592
Atlantis 7/12 Shuttle KSC 91.3 51.6 385 288
Minuteman II 7/15 Vandenberg Not Available
Molniya 1-92 7/20 Molniya Plesetsk 735.8 62.9 40831 409
GOES 12 7/23 Atlas 2A Cape Canaveral 758.6 20.6 41951 244
Koronas-F 7/31 Tsiklon-3 Plesetsk 94.8 92.5 350 486
DSP 21 8/6 Titan 4B Cape Canaveral No Orbital Data Issued
Genesis 8/8 Delta II Cape Canaveral No Orbital Data Issued
Discovery 8/10 Shuttle KSC 92.3 51.6 402 373
Simplesat 8/20 Discovery LEO 92.4 51.6 403 385
Progress-M-45 8/21 Soyuz-U Baikonur 92.3 51.6 401 390
Kosmos-2379 8/24 Proton-k Baikonur 1436.1 2.3 35804 35768
VEP-2 8/29 H-2A Tanegashima 640.8 28.1 36205 282
LRE 8/29 H-2A Tanegashima 640.8 28.1 36205 282
INTELSAT 8/30 Ariane 44L Kourou 1436.1 0.1 36026 35546