September 11-17, 2017 / Vol 36, No 37 / Hawai`i Island, USA

Cassini and New Horizons Dive into Next Mission Phases

The sensational Cassini spacecraft is set for its grand finale plunge into Saturn starting 04:37 EDT September 15 with final communication and craft disintegration expected 1,510 km above Saturn cloud tops at 07:54. Cassini data will continue to provide revolutionary insight into Saturn, its complex rings, magnetic environment, giant storms, Solar System evolution and moons Enceladus with its icy jets and Titan liquid ethane and methane lakes and seas. Launched together October 15, 1997 the Huygens probe provides first close up images of Titan and is the only landing accomplished in outer Solar System. Joint effort of NASA, ESA and the Italian Space Agency, development of Cassini began in 1980s; thousands of people have contributed to Cassini, many dedicating most of their careers to the significant mission including (TL-R) Program Secretary Karen Chan, Project Scientist Linda Spilker, Program Manager Earl Maize, and Propulsion Engineer Todd Barber. As Cassini is winding down, New Horizons is waking up Sep 11 for tests and instrument checks prior to Kuiper Belt Object 2017 MU69 encounter at 12,500 km or closer Jan 1, 2019. Recent observations indicate the KBO, discovered June 2014 about 44 AU from Sun, could be a primordial 4-billion year old binary object with two lobes of diameters 20 and 18 km. New Horizons has the potential to observe ~20 other KBOs if the mission is extended further. Principal Investigator Alan Stern (BL) states ‘new exploration awaits us and promises a scientific bonanza for the flyby.’ (Image Credit: NASA, JPL, Caltech, ESA,  ASI,JHUAPL, SwRI, A. Parker)


Sep 11 — ISS, 330-435-km LEO: Expedition 53 to become 6-member crew, new arrivals Hei, Acaba and Misurkin to undergo ISS orientation, finalizing Progress MS-05 for its Earth atmospheric disintegration with waste, working with mini exercise device and DNA in space experiment.

 Sep 11 — NewSpace: Virgin Orbit in final stages of testing LauncherOne 2-stage expendable rocket; New Generation Small Rocket Development Planning company looking to build rocket-launching facilities in Japan.

Sep 11 — Solar System: China Chang’e-3 operating on Moon is now in Lunar Day 47; Akatsuki observing winds at Venus equator at speeds of 286 km/h; Mars Curiosity discovers boron at Murray Buttes in Gale Crater & more evidence of past liquid water.

 Sep 11 — Galaxy: First detection of intermediate black hole (100,000x more massive than Sun) made in molecular cloud 200 LY from Milky Way center; Gaia data suggest Star encounters at ~150 trillion km or closer could fling comets from Oort cloud toward inner Solar System.

Sep 11 — Global: China advances Long March 7 sea launching and Mars simulation base plans; new Australia stamp highlights 50th anniversary of Australia first satellite; ISRO determining cause of recent PSLV heat shield failure, satellite expected to reenter atmosphere 40-60 days.

Sep 11 — USA: Jim Bridenstine nominated for NASA administrator, will go through Senate confirmation process – many hope for USA Return to Moon; Peggy Whitson celebrated for most cumulative time in space for any NASA Astronaut at 665 days, other spaceflight records.

Sep 11 — Hawai`i: HI-SEAS (Hawai‘i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) Mission V member Brian Ramos to present ‘What It’s Like to Live on Mars’; Hawaii Community College & PISCES offering new high-tech, credit-based internships.

Sep 11 — Cassini, Saturn Orbit: Last flyby of Titan scheduled at 84,000-km altitude.

Sep 11 — New Horizons, KBO 2014 MU69 Trajectory: Spacecraft to awaken from hibernation today for testing / check ins to prepare for KBO encounter Jan 1, 2019.

= All times

for terrestrial events in local time unless noted.

= All times for international terrestrial events in local time unless noted.

= All times for space events, and…

= All times for international space / astro events in Hawaii Standard Time unless noted. Add 10 hours to obtain UT (‘Universal Time;’ Greenwich, England).

Weekly Planet Watch – Evening Planets: Jupiter (WSW), Saturn (SW), Uranus (E), Neptune (SE); Morning Planets: Mercury (E), Mars (E), Venus (E).

AIAA Space Forum 2017 in Orlando and Florida Space Coast Stand Down

Forum Cancelled due to Hurricane Irma; Upcoming AIAA activities with IAC in Adelaide September 24-29

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics hosts the AIAA Space Forum September 12-14 at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, Florida. The extensive program combines technical conference aspects and insights of recognized leaders to provide a integrated platform for navigating important challenges and opportunities in global space policy, capabilities, planning, research and development. Organizing Committee General Chair is Ray Lugo of Florida Space Institute who will also serve as Moderator for the Forum 360 panel discussion on Transformation of the Space Coast. Other 360 sessions include US Launch Vehicles in the 2020s, Commercial Crew Program Update, Global Partnerships and Space Exploration and Innovation, and On-Orbit Servicing, Robotic Assembly, and Manufacturing. An Invited Keynote from James Wertz titled ‘Making $100 billion/year Living and Working on the Moon’ is a feature of the Reinventing Space session on Tuesday. AIAA is the largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession. It claims more than 30,000 individual members from 88 countries, and 95 corporate members. Leadership includes President-elect John Langford and Executive Director Sandra Magnus. (Image Credit: AIAA, Florida Space Institute)

Sep 11 — International Launch Services, Launch Proton / Amazonas 5, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan: ILS to launch Proton with Breeze M upper stage to deploy Amazonas 5 communications satellite.

 Sep 11 — Keck Institute for Space Studies, Pasadena CA: Lecture: NASA’s Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt; Dawn Mission Director & Chief Engineer Marc Rayman, 17:00.

Sep 11-15 — Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Peking University, Beijing, China: Conference: Stellar Populations and the Distance Scale.

Sep 11-15 — Space Research Institute, IKI, Moscow, Russia: Conference: High-Energy Phenomena in Relativistic Outflows VI.

Sep 11 — Moon: 9.3° SSE of Pleiades, 10:00.

Sep 11 — Jupiter: 3.1° NNE of Spica, 15:00.

Sep 11 — Aten Asteroid 2017 QK18: Near-Earth Flyby (0.038 AU).

Sep 11 — Apollo Asteroid 2014 RC: Near-Earth Flyby (0.039 AU).

Sep 11 — Amor Asteroid 2017 QM35: Near-Earth Flyby (0.084 AU).

Continued from…

Aug 27 – Sep 17 — Aspen Center for Physics, Aspen CO: Workshop: Vorticity in the Universe – From Superfluids to Weather and Climate, to the Universe; Workshop: Developing New Tools for Dark Matter Searches.

Sep 9-14 — European Institute for Sciences and their Applications (EISA) Laboratory of Annecy-le-Vieux for Theoretical Physics (LAPTh), CERN, Corfu, Greece: Workshop on Particle Physics and Cosmology TOOLS.

Sep 6-19 — University of Evora, European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN), Evora, Portugal: 2017 European School of High-Energy Physics.


Sep 12 — OSIRIS-REx Earth Targeting Maneuver: Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) minor Earth targeting maneuver planned for today before Earth flyby Sept 22, Asteroid 101955 Bennu (1999 RQ36) arrival in October.

Sep 12 — Roscosmos State Corporation, Launch Soyuz MS-06 / ISS 52S, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan: Expedition 53/54 members Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA and Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos to launch to ISS.

Sep 12 — 55th Observation John F. Kennedy Moon Speech & 25th Observation 1st African-American Woman in Space, USA / Worldwide: As the World looks forward to the First Woman on the Moon and a Human Return to Moon, observations made today for 55th anniversary of Kennedy Moon speech (1962) and to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Astronaut Mae Jemison becoming first African-American Woman in Space (1992).

Sep 12 — Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, university of Arizona, Tucson AZ: Colloquium: Planetesimal Collisions in the Early Solar System – What Can Meteorites Tell Us? by Fred Ciesla, Professor at U. of Chicago.

Sep 12-14 — AIAA, Orlando FL: AIAA SPACE and Astronautics Forum and Exposition (AIAA SPACE 2017); Canceled due to Hurricane Irma.

Sep 12-14 — City of Toronto, TechToronto, MaRS Discovery District, MoveTheDial, OneEleven, Cossette Communications, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: 2017 Elevate Toronto.

Sep 12 — Moon: 0.44° N of Aldebaran, 02:00; at last quarter, 20:26.


Sep 13 — Sally Ride Science, UCSD, City of San Diego, San Diego CA: Sally Ride Science STEAM Series: Virtual Reality in the Classroom.

Sep 13 — PBS Broadcasting, WGBH Boston, Broadcast / Boston MA: Nova: Death Dive to Saturn to premier 21:00 EDT.

Sep 13-14 — The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Irvine CA: Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science Meeting.

Sep 13-14 — Wuerzburg University, International Academy of Astronautics, bavAIRia e.V., Unisec-Europe, Wurzburg, Germany: 10th Pico- and Nano-Satellite Workshop: Technologies for Small Satellite Research.

Sep 13-14 — McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Meeting: Canadian Radio Astronomy – Surveying the Present and Shaping the Future.

Sep 13-15 — NASA, Pasadena CA / Online: Cassini End-of-Mission activities and media events; final downlink of images expected to begin streaming online at 17:00.

Sep 13-16 — International Max Planck Research School for Solar System Science, Gottingen, Germany: Conference: Rocks’n’Stars II conference.

Sep 13 — Moon: Moon at perigee (distance 369,856 km), 06:11; 0.73° N of asteroid 8 Flora, 15:00; 5.0° S of M35 cluster, 16:00.


Sep 14 — United Launch Alliance, Launch Atlas 5 / NROL-42, Vandenberg AFB CA: ULA Atlas 5 rocket, designated AV-072, to launch classified spacecraft payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.

Sep 14-15 — International Max Planck Research School for Solar System Science, Heidelberg, Germany: Workshop on Neutrino, Dark Matter and Beyond the Standard Model Physics (LAUNCH 17).

Sep 14 — Mercury: 10.9° ESE of Venus, 02:00.

Sep 14 — Apollo Asteroid 310560 (2001 QL142): Near-Earth Flyby (0.058 AU).


Sep 15 — Cassini, Saturn Orbit: Projected date for end of Cassini-Huygens extended mission with controlled fall into Saturn atmosphere on orbit 293; flyby of Pandora scheduled at 86,000 km, Pan at 91,000 km, Epimetheus at 92,000 km, Janus 111,000 km.

Sep 15 — `Imiloa Astronomy Center, University of Hawai`i – Hilo, Hilo HI: Mauna Kea Skies Talk; astronomers from Mauna Kea observatories speak about recent discoveries; this session features Keck Observatory; 19:00 HST, US$8-10.

Sep 15-16 — OECT Organizing Committee, Tokyo University of Technology, Osaka University, Beijing, China: 2017 International Conference on Optics, Electronics and Communications Technology (OECT2017).

Sep 15-17 — Calgary Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Starland, Alberta, Canada: 31st Alberta Star Party.

Sep 15 — Moon: 13.0° S of Castor, 01:00; 9.3° S of Pollux, 05:00; 2.8° S of Beehive Cluster, 05:00.

Sep 15 — Mercury: At perihelion (distance 0.3075 AU from the Sun), 02:00.


Sep 16-17 — Unique Conferences Canada, International Center for Research & Development, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: 6th International Conference on Climate Change Adaptation.

Sep 16 — Mercury: 0.06° NNE of Mar, 09:00.

Sep 16 — Aten Asteroid 2014 RX22: Near-Earth Flyby (0.080 AU).


Sep 17-21 — Center for Fundamental Physics at Zewail City of Science and Technology, Hurghada, Egypt: Conference: Beyond Standard Model – From Theory To Experiment (BSM2017).

Sep 17-22 — European Planetary Science Congress, Aberystwyth University, INAF – IAPS, Riga, Latvia: European Planetary Science Congress 2017.

Sep 17 — Moon: 0.53° SSW of Venus, 15:00; 0.14° NW of Regulus, 19:00; with Venus and Regulus within circle of diameter 2.36° and 26° W of Sun, 19:00.