Astronomy Club to host show June 16

Thaddeus Mast

Saturday, June 16, the Ames Area Amateur Astronomers will be holding part two of their Robots in Space show at the Story County Conservation Center in McFarland Park.

The outreach coordinator for Amateur Astronomers, Evan Zerby, who is also one of two speakers at the lecture, explained what part one entailed, as well as a few major points in Saturday’s lecture.

“What we covered last year was Sputnik [up to] current times,” Zerby said.  “What this month’s lecture is about is current space missions, the replacement of the Hubble Space Telescope, and Robonaut, the first humanoid robot.”

In addition to the future missions being discussed, the failures of spacecraft will be examined.

“All in all we’ve had hundreds of missions fail,” Zerby said. “Twelve of the missions to Mars have failed.”

One example of the many Mars failures is the Mars Climate Orbiter. The satellite was disintegrated in the atmosphere after it made calculations sending it too close to Mars’ surface.

The problems were caused by simple human error: The Orbiter was set to work with the metric system, while human operators on Earth were imputing data in imperial measurements.

Another topic of focus is the New Frontier missions, specifically the New Horizons mission, which is sending a spacecraft to Pluto. Although it was launched in 2006, it still has three more years to travel before flying by the dwarf planet.

“It wasn’t till very recently that we learned that Pluto has four moons, and possibly even a ring,” Zerby said, explaining that Pluto still has many unknowns for this mission to discover.

The Hubble Telescope’s predecessor, the James Webb Space Telescope, will be explained to the audience.

“It is the largest spacecraft ever built by about three times,” Zerby said. “You could put a CyRide bus in widthwise on the Webb Telescope and still have 3.5 feet of free space.”

Finally, the speakers will focus on the future of space industry within the private sector.

Asteroid mining is becoming a large focus, with the first probe to be sent in two years. They will also have the money to do this, as the private market will have over 100 times the funding of NASA.

If any of these missions of failures seems intriguing, go to the lecture beginning at 7:30 Saturday evening.