The View from Space: 'Facing' the facts?
By John Holliman
April 15, 1998
Web posted at: 5:20 PM EDT (1720 GMT)
interest in the face on Mars has generated more e-mail (300 pieces this
week) than I have time to answer personally, so I'm going to try to
tell you what I know here. I talked to NASA administrator Daniel Goldin
last Thursday and he tells me the Mars Global Surveyor will continue
to take pictures of the Cydonia region, where the face is located, until
everyone is satisfied.
Many of you are writing telling me of a NASA conspiracy to hide information
about the face, and I asked Goldin to provide all the information possible
about the region where the "face" is located. He says he will, and I
believe him. Let's see what happens as Surveyor continues its mission.
I'm sorry that I'm not going to be able to respond to all your e-mails
personally but I hope this will suffice for the present. I really appreciate
the fact that so many of you are interested in space exploration, my
thoughts on the topic, and the face in particular. I'll keep you posted.
A menagerie in orbit
shuttle is going up this week for one of the longest missions ever.
Columbia will be in orbit for at least 16 days, and perhaps 17. There
are 120 rats on board along with four fish, and various other animals.
Dr. Arnold Nicogosian of NASA's science office points out that there
are 26 major experiments that will be conducted on the Spacelab module
in Columbia's cargo bay. The brain, he says, is the most complex and
least understood parts of the human body and studying the way it works
in weightlessness will be the focus for the entire mission. The idea
is to find out how the brain works in weightlessness and how we can
use that knowledge to help people on with various neurological problems.
The shuttle will go up in the 2 p.m. EDT hour on Thursday and you
can watch it on CNN or here on the Net.
An interesting event for all of us will happen Sunday night at 6 p.m.
EDT, I'll be talking with Rick Linehan, a veterinarian astronaut who
will be taking care of all the critters aboard Columbia. He and six
others make up Columbia's crew. Joining us will be Jean-Michel Costeau,
who continues the work of his father Jacques in exploring the world.
We'll be talking about the world's oceans, a topic of research for both
Costeau and Linehan. I talked to both of them in advance of the flight
and everybody's excited about our TV chat.
Two Mir residents will join CNN on Thursday. Dr. Dave Wolf who has
been home from Mir for about two months will be with us in the early
morning, followed at 11 a.m. EDT by Mir's current astronaut, Andy Thomas.
It should be interesting for the two astronauts to compare notes with
our viewers about life on the Russian space station.
Commercial aerospace update
I promised to update you on the future of space work by commercial
contractors, the military and NASA this week. I came back from the U.S.
Space symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with 60 pages of notes.
I'll try to hit the highlights now and give you more of what I learned
in weeks to come.
First, there are new rocket launchers coming to market. The Lockheed-Martin
Co. announced a much bigger Atlas 3 rocket to put 10,000-pound payloads
into orbit. It has the ability to lift twice as much into orbit as the
older Atlas 2. The first flight of Atlas 3 will probably be in December
from Cape Canaveral. This rocket could reduce the cost of putting a
pound of satellite into orbit to about $10,000. That's good news if
you're trying to launch a new communications satellite.
Also, I listened to a panel discussion by the various companies competing
to improve the way we talk to each other using space. The Iridium company
has already launched scores of communications satellites into low earth
orbit, and by this summer, there will be more than 70 small satellites
in orbit to allow you to make a phone call with a cell phone-sized transmitter
from any spot on the globe. Another contractor is planning to compete
with Iridium and have phones capable of sending computer messages as
well as voice calls to and from any spot on the planet. It should be
ready by next year.
CNN wants to bring you better satellite pictures from space. There
are about a half dozen major companies offering pictures from about
200 miles away to bring news events to you almost as they happen. I
think you'll see the results of this commercial use of space in the
near future here.
Glenn runs the gauntlet
Glenn got another two weeks of shuttle training under his belt this
week. He had to take time out for a VIP tour by President Clinton and
for a talk with CNN. The senator likes the shrimp cocktail better than
any of the other space food items in his kit for the October shuttle
launch. I watched as he was hoisted more than 15 feet in the air in
Houston and then allowed to drop into the swimming pool used for astronaut
training. He seemed fine. It was a test of emergency bail out of the
shuttle over water. He also says he's having as much fun as possible
getting ready for his second space flight. The senator says his physical
conditioning, which is excellent, will help him get though the mission.
Things to look for in the next couple of weeks: NASA will probably
announce that the current shuttle mission, Neurolab, will get to fly
again to conduct additional experiments. If the decision is made to
do this, mid-August would be the most likely launch date. The decision
on doing this will probably be announced before Columbia comes home
the first of next month.
The other big thing to look for is the rescheduling of the construction
of the international space station. The U.S. space station team will
be leaving for Russia next week to find out just how far behind the
Russians are in constructing their pieces of the station. As we've reported
earlier, it's become obvious that station construction won't start this
summer. The first space station shuttle flight will almost certainly
not happen until fall. A decision on when the various station assembly
flights will actually be conducted will be coming in the next few weeks
See you on TV launch day and here next week.