Colloquium Lectures 2005

Technical Challenges for Space Exploration Missions

by John C. Mankins

January 11, 2005, 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


Achieving a sustainable and affordable program that spans decades, not years, is a central theme of the 2004 Vision for Space Exploration. Diverse novel systems concepts and innovative technological solutions must be pursued in order to achieve sustainability and affordability in future space exploration. The Exploration Systems Research and Technology (ESR&T) program is pursuing an aggressive agenda of technology innovation, focused on the challenges of affordability, reliability/safety, effectiveness and flexibility. In addition, ESR&T is dedicated to assuring ongoing success in NASA’s innovative partnership efforts and technology transfer by using non-NASA technologies in NASA’s programs and transferring the best of NASA-developed technologies to benefit the U.S. Economy. This lecture will present an overview of the strategic technical challenges we seek to overcome and of the various projects within the ESR&T program.


John C. Mankins is the Manager, Exploration Systems Research and Technology, in the Office of Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C. He has responsibility for analyses, planning, technology development and maturation in support of future human and robotic space exploration. He has also served as Assistant Associate Administrator for Advanced Systems (acting) in the Office of Space Flight and as the Chief Technologist for the Human Exploration and Development of Space (HEDS) Enterprise. He was also manager of advanced concept studies for HEDS; including studies of space solar power, highly reusable space transportation and affordable human exploration approaches. He served as the Technology Team Lead for the NASA Exploration Team (NEXT). Before coming to NASA, he held a variety of positions at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Mr. Mankins holds undergraduate (Harvey Mudd College) and graduate (UCLA) degrees in Physics and an MBA in Public Policy Analysis (Claremont Graduate School)..

Spectacular Visualization of Planet Earth

by Dr. Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler

February 1, 2005, 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


US and International global satellite images have improved to the point that they provide amazing new capabilities. The spectacular images from NASA/NOAA remote sensing missions allow us to view our planet from any vantage point and animate changes in the atmosphere, oceans and earth. High Definition Television (HDTV) technology is revolutionizing science communication/analysis and public outreach. A NASA/NOAA Electronic Theatre has been developed that presents Earth science observations and visualizations from space in a historical perspective. The Electronic Theatre will be presented using the latest HDTV and video projection technology on a large screen. It will show visualizations of severe weather events such as hurricanes, thunderstorms, dust storms, and fires. This program will also show carbon monoxide exhaust from global burning, the annual blooming of land masses and oceans and much more.


Dr. Hasler, has studied at the Universities of Wisconsin and Munich earning a B. S. in Applied Math & Engineering Physics, as well as MS and Ph.D. degrees in Meteorology. He has spent most of his 40-year professional career at NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. His research has involved estimation of winds using satellite imagery. In recent years, Hasler has been primarily involved in visualization for scientific analysis and public outreach and production of HDTV movies. Dr. Hasler is famous for his visualization of severe weather events that have appeared in scientific and popular literature and on television programs. He developed the NASA/NOAA Earth Science Electronic Theater and has taken it on tour across the world. Dr. Hasler has received numerous honors and awards.

The Man Who Hated Loose Ends: Einstein’s Legacy

by Professor Hans Christian von Baeyer

March 1, 2005, 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


This year has been designated the “World Year of Physics 2005” in commemoration of Albert Einstein’s miracle year of 1905. What, exactly, did Einstein achieve back then? How did his contributions influence the course of 20th century physics? Are they still relevant today? Will they continue to be important in the future? Do they have any effect on our everyday lives? Such are the questions addressed in this lecture, which will be accessible to the broad public.


Hans Christian von Baeyer graduated from Columbia University in New York and earned his Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee in theoretical particle physics. He has taught at the College of William and Mary for 36 years, where he is the Chancellor Professor of Physics. His research interests are in classical relativistic mechanics and public understanding of physical science. In recognition of his contributions to mathematical physics he was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society. He has served as Chairman of the William and Mary Physics Department and as director of the Virginia Associated Research Campus, which he helped to transform into the Jefferson Lab. Mr. von Baeyer won William and Mary’s Jefferson Award and Jefferson Teaching Award and in 1990 was selected as one of the outstanding faculty members of the Commonwealth of Virginia. In recent years he has increasingly turned his attention to science writing for the public and has written about a hundred technical and popular articles. His essays have appeared in journals and popular magazines and have won him the 1991 National Magazine Award in the category “Essays and Criticism.” He also wrote the script for a one hour film entitled “The Quantum Universe” which aired on the Public Broadcasting Network.

Hans Christian von Baeyer was recently named recipient of Virginia’s 2005 Beverly Orndorff Award for Exceptional Service to Public Understanding of Science by Governor Mark R. Warner and Science Museum of Virginia Director Dr. Walter R.T. Witschey.

Investigation into the Crash of American Airlines Flight 587

by John W. DeLisi

Thursday, April 7, 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


On November 12, 2001, American Airlines flight 587, an Airbus A300, crashed into a residential area of Belle Harbor, New York, shortly after takeoff from Kennedy International Airport. All 260 people aboard the plane died, as did 5 on the ground. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) immediately launched a go-team to investigate the accident. The team found that the airplane’s vertical stabilizer had broken off in flight. This structural breakup was unprecedented in commercial aviation history. Over the past three years, investigators examined the wreckage, analyzed the flight data and cockpit voice recorders, created structural models of the vertical stabilizer and examined the design of the A300 flight control system. This presentation will discuss the Board’s determination of the probable cause of the accident and the evidence, which included research conducted at NASA Langley, upon which this determination was made.


Mr. John W. DeLisi is the Chief of the National Transportation Safety Board’s Aviation Engineering Division, which provides the structures, systems and powerplant investigators on major accident investigations. He holds an Aerospace Engineering degree from the University of Michigan and has done graduate work in Engineering Management at Washington University in St. Louis. He spent 10 years as a Flight Test Engineer with McDonnell Douglas, where he was involved in flight test programs on the F-15 and F/A-18. Mr. DeLisi joined the NTSB in 1992 as an aircraft systems engineer/investigator. He has been involved in more than 20 major airline accident investigations and has authored safety recommendation letters that have led to improvements on numerous air carrier airplanes. He has twice been nominated for the NTSB’s Dr. John Lauber award for technical excellence in accident investigation and is the 2004 winner of the Managing Director’s Award for management excellence.

Challenges of Building a Human Outpost on Mars

by Professor Robert L. Ash

Thursday, May 5, 2005 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


Human missions to Mars will be much more difficult than missions to the moon. Just like Lewis and Clark, round trip human missions to Mars will require about two years to complete, compared with the eight-day Apollo missions to the moon. Humans will likely stay on Mars for much longer than they did on the moon. This will require the development of the infrastructure required for a scientific outpost that can sustain humans for long periods of time. Professor Ash and his colleagues have devised approaches to use extra terrestrial resources to support sample returns and human missions to Mars. This talk will discuss the challenges of sustaining a 25 to 30 year exploration program that includes human missions to Mars. Professor Ash will also discuss our current state of knowledge related to utilizing local planetary resources and describe a strategy for establishing and sustaining a human outpost on Mars.


Dr. Robert L. Ash is a professor of Aerospace Engineering at Old Dominion University, where he has been on the faculty since 1967. He served as Department Chairman, Acting Dean of Engineering and Chief Research Officer. He was designated an Eminent Scholar in 1987 and received the Pletta Medal as Outstanding Engineering Faculty Member in Virginia in 1993. From 1996 to 1999, Dr. Ash was a member of the National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Microgravity Research and currently serves on an NRC panel that is reviewing elements of NASA’s Exploration Roadmap. He served as an advisor to the NASA Center for the Utilization of Local Planetary Resources from 1988 to 1994. He has authored or co-authored more than two dozen publications on the utilization of extraterrestrial resources.

Solar Sails: Propellantless In-Space Propulsion

by Billy Derbes

Thursday, June 2, 2005 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


Light does not have mass but it does have momentum. Therefore, light from the sun will impart a usable acceleration when reflecting off a large enough, light enough sailcraft. Unlike current expendable in-space rockets, a solar sail could transfer from one part of the solar system to the other and never run out of propellant. It could also ‘hover’ between the earth and the sun to provide early warning of geomagnetic storms or act as a communications satellite for Antarctica. This talk will discuss the practical challenges of designing and building a very large yet ultra lightweight structure and sail suspension to optimize acceleration for a given sail size; packaging big enough structures into small enough payload envelopes to justify the launch costs; escaping Earth orbit; deploying both sail and beams reliably and robustly; designing an attitude control system for a flexible structure immersed at attitude in this unique flow field; and modeling the system for input to deployment, control and trajectory analyses.


Billy Derbes first worked on solar sails at L’Garde for the ambitious Columbus 500 Space Sail Cup in the early 1990’s. He was project engineer for the Space Technology 5 solar sail design effort, as well as for the Team Encounter commercial development of solar sails. Currently, he works for L’Garde on the hardware testing and trajectory simulation software for NASA’s In-Space Propulsion Solar Sail. He is involved with structural design, fabrication, packaging and deployment control, system engineering and trajectory propagation, and attitude stabilization and control. He received his Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering at Cal State Long Beach and has authored several papers on inflatable structures and solar sails.

Understanding the Mechanics of Tsunamis

by Dr. Ronald E. Johnson

Thursday, July 7, 2005 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


Tsunamis are large tidal waves caused by movements of the earth’s crust. They occur infrequently but can cause severe loss of life and extensive destruction. This talk will discuss the causes and effects of tsunamis. It will discuss changes in the interior of the Earth that leads to movements of the Earth’s crust that sets up the seismic sea waves (tsunamis). It will also discuss the 1964 earthquake and its effects in the Pacific Ocean area and the 2004 earthquake and its impact on the Indian Ocean area.


Ronald E. Johnson has BS and MS degrees in Civil Engineering and a PhD in Physical Oceanography from Oregon State University. He helped start the Oceanography Program at Old Dominion University where he is now the Chief Departmental Advisor for the undergraduate degree program. Dr. Johnson’s research interests have been in intermediate and deep ocean circulation and waves and tides. He has published eight refereed journal articles and thirty one abstracts and technical reports. He is a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and is currently the North East Region Vice President and on the Board of Directors. Dr. Johnson was selected as an outstanding teacher at Old Dominion in 2000, receiving the honor of University Professor status.

Challenges of the Mars Exploration Rover Mission

by Dr. Prasun N. Desai

Thursday, August 4, 2005 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration answers fundamental questions such as “Could life have developed on Mars?” Toward this end, the Mars Exploration Rover mission successfully landed two rovers, “Spirit” and “Opportunity”, on Mars in January 2004. The spacecraft were targeted to sites on opposite sides of Mars that appear to have been affected by liquid water in the past. The primary scientific objective of this on-going mission is to search for and characterize a wide range of rocks and soils that hold clues to past water activity on Mars. This talk will focus on the engineering challenges the mission faced from the development phase through the subsequent launch and landings. An overview will be provided of NASA Langley’s significant contributions to the entry, descent and landing system for the mission. Flight operations issues encountered just days prior to both landings will be highlighted. The results from post-landing reconstruction analyses that revealed some off-nominal hypersonic flight performance will also be presented.


Prasun N. Desai has been working at the NASA Langley Research Center since 1990 where he is an expert on orbital mechanics and atmospheric flight dynamics. He has performed entry, descent and landing analyses of probes at Mars and Earth on many NASA exploration missions including Stardust, Genesis, the 2003 Mars Exploration Rovers and currently the 2007 Mars Phoenix Lander. He received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Rutgers University, a M.S. in Astronautics from the George Washington University and a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Illinois. He has authored or co-authored more than 50 technical publications. He is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and has received numerous awards from NASA.

The Engineer of 2020 Project

by Dr. Gary S. May

Thursday, September 1, 2005 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


The Engineer of 2020 Project is an effort by the National Academy of Engineering to envision the future and use this knowledge to predict the roles engineers will play and position engineering education in the United States for what lies ahead. The project consists of two phases. The first involves the development of a vision for engineering and the work of the engineer in 2020. The second phase examines engineering education in its broadest context and asks what needs to be done to enrich the education of engineers who will practice in 2020. The principal focus of the project is on the future of undergraduate engineering education in the U.S., although it is understood that engineering practice and engineering education must be considered within a global context. This seminar describes the Engineer of 2020 Project and explores its implications for future challenges in engineering education.


Dr. Gary S. May is the Steve W. Chaddick School Chair of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. His field of research is computer-aided manufacturing of integrated circuits. He has authored over 200 technical publications and contributed to 14 books on that topic. Dr. May created the highly successful Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering/Science program, which hosts minority students to perform research at Georgia Tech in the hopes that they will pursue a graduate degree. He is the also creator/director of the Facilitating Academic Careers in Engineering and Science program through which 138 minority students have received Ph.D. degrees in science or engineering at Georgia Tech – the most in such fields in the nation. Dr. May is a member of the National Advisory Board of the National Society of Black Engineers. He has been honored by Georgia Tech with several alumni and faculty awards. He received his B.S from Georgia Tech and his M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.

Cassini at Saturn: An Evolving Planetary System

by Professor Robert E. Johnson

Thursday, October 6, 2005 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


In July 2004, the Cassini Spacecraft was inserted into an orbit around Saturn beginning a four-year study of this evolving planetary system. On its first pass through this system of moons and rings it made what will be its closest encounter with the main rings, detecting an extensive oxygen atmosphere over the rings. On subsequent orbits of Saturn it passed through and characterized the upper atmosphere of the moon Titan in preparation for the Huygens Probe, which successfully reached Titan’s surface on January 14, 2005. More recently, on a close pass of Enceladus it observed that this small icy moon is active, emitting gases into Saturn’s magnetosphere. The goals of this mission and the spacecraft instruments will be described along with recent observations related to the evolution and origins of the main rings, the icy satellites and Titan.


Robert E. Johnson’s research focuses on ion, electron, and photon interactions with surfaces and gases. Of particular interest is the study of low-temperature condensed-gas solids, which are important in atmospheric science and planetary science, and the biomolecular solids, which are of interest in studies of protein interactions and structure. The principal process studied is the ejection of molecules from the surface, called desorption or sputtering. The solid-state applications are to surfaces of objects in the outer solar system or the interstellar medium, in order to understand the ambient gas or plasma observed by astronomers, and to samples of condensed biomolecules, in order to produce a source of gas-phase biomolecules for molecular biologists. In addition, he researches the interactions of ions, electrons and photons with atmospheric gases. These studies are directed toward understanding the long-term evolution of atmospheres.

Nature, Fireworks and Multifunctional Aerospace Materials

by Professor Kathryn V. Logan

Thursday, November 3, 2005 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


Design engineers are presently limited in the availability of reliable, low cost, high performance materials for aerospace applications. Materials that are designed on a systems basis offer numerous possibilities for the development of lighter, stronger, and higher performance materials as compared with commercially available materials. Additional functionality can also be designed into new materials. As an example, a material designed to be a structural member can simultaneously provide electrical conductivity, thermal resistance, radiation shielding and resistance to impact performance characteristics. Unique, multifunctional materials are being designed from the micro to macro scales by mimicking structural formations created by nature and the application of advanced synthesis methods similar to those methods used in manufacturing fireworks. Potential aerospace applications of the unique materials are in radiation shielding for space suits, meteoroid shielding, landing brakes, high temperature sensors, leading edge materials and pressure sensors.


Professor Kathryn V. Logan was named the Virginia Tech Langley Professor in August 2004 and holds a simultaneous faculty position as Professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at Virginia Tech. Professor Logan is also Principal Research Engineer Emerita in the School of Materials Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and presently a member of the Clemson University Department of Materials Science and Engineering External Advisory Board. Dr. Logan’s research focuses on the design of multi-functional materials using advanced synthesis, processing, predictive modeling and characterization technologies. Eighteen patents have issued worldwide based on her research. She is a fellow of the American Ceramic Society and the National Institute of Ceramic Engineers and a member of the International Academy of Ceramics. Dr. Logan received her Bachelor in Ceramic Engineering, MS in Ceramic Engineering and PhD in Civil Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology.

First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong

by Professor James R. Hansen

Thursday, December 1, 2005 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


On July 20, 1969, the world stood still to watch thirty-eight-year-old American astronaut Neil A. Armstrong become the first person ever to step on the surface of another heavenly body. Perhaps no words in human history became better known than those few he uttered at that historic moment. James R. Hansen reveals in this First Man The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, an authorized biography, a candid look at Armstrong’s accomplishments as an engineer, a test pilot, and an astronaut but also an in-depth analysis of an elusive American celebrity still renowned the world over. Dr. Hansen addresses the complex legacy of the First Man, as an astronaut and as an individual. In First Man, the personal, technological, epic, and iconic blend to form the portrait of a great but reluctant hero who will forever be known as history’s most famous space traveler.


Dr. James R. Hansen the author of Engineer in Charge, specializes in the history of science and technology and the impact of science and technology on society. He currently has seven books in press, including a six-volume series on the history of aerodynamics and a monograph devoted to an analysis of the technological design of the airplane in America. Dr. Hansen is Professor of History at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. From 1992 to 1996 he served as chairman of the history and teaches courses on the history of flight, the history of science, space history, the history of technological failure. Hansen earned a B.A. degree, with High Honors from Indiana University (1974) and an M.A. (1976) and Ph.D. (1981) from The Ohio State University. He served as historian for NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, from 1981 to 1993.