PART 1: Thursday's "Pre-Flight Briefing" program
PART 2: Sending email questions to the Kuiper team
PART 3: Star Census: collect and share data with other classes
PART 4: Follow the activities in Spanish
PART 5: Results of last Thursday's flight: first it's broken, then it's fixed
PART 6: Trip to the top of Mauna Kea


There is a lot of activity at the NASA Ames Research Center (home
to the KAO) these days in preparation for Thursday's live broadcast.
The program promises to be exciting and we hope that you are able
to view the show live or on tape delay or via videotape (from CORE).

The program will air live from noon-1:00pm Eastern on October 5th.
Check local listings to see if your local PBS station will be carrying
the program and at what time. Or the program will be available from
the PBS satellite.

The schedule for NASA TV remains in flux due to the delayed launch of
Space Shuttle mission STS-73. If the mission launches at 8:40 CDT,
10/5 as presently planned, Live From the Stratosphere is in turn
scheduled for a 7pm Eastern playback. Changes in the Shuttle launch may
effect this schedule. Check online for the latest information.

See the archive on Quest for details about how to view the program.

The program will focus on the Kuiper aircraft and its special
equipment which turn it into the world's only flying astronomical
observatory. By the end of the program, you will have a much better
feeling for how the different people and systems work together to
produce extraordinary infrared astronomy.

During the program, questions will be accepted via email. A few
particularly relevant questions will be read aloud during the
broadcast. To have your question considered, send a message 
DURING THE PROGRAM (NOT BEFORE) to onair-lfs@quest.arc.nasa.gov


Questions which are not answered "on the air" can be still be answered. 
A process for answering every question from classrooms will be 
available from October 5th through November 17. In order to have your
questions addressed, a specific procedure will need to be followed. 
Explicit directions for this process will be emailed by noon (Pacific time)
on October 5.

Questions which are not answered during the broadcast via the 
onair-lfs@quest address will need to be resubmitted through this
process in order to be answered.

Past experience has shown that students really enjoy sending messages
to NASA and getting answers. Hopefully you can use this tool to motivate
students for focused learning.


Shortly you will receive a special message which details a star counting
activity. The number of visible stars in the sky at your location is
determined by local light pollution, intensity of moonlight, weather and
other factors. We would like to begin an activity in which many classrooms
record their observations and share data. We hope to be able to show some
preliminary results during the October 13 program. So please stand by for
more detailed instructions on how to participate in this hands-on data
gathering and collaboration activity.


For Spanish language bilingual educators or ESL teachers, a new
maillist is now available. It is a place where some Field Journals written
in Spanish will be shared. In addition, the maillist will support a
discussion between those interested in connecting Spanish speakers
with the activities of the KAO group. To participate in this activity,
start by sending a mail message to 
In the message body, write these words: subscribe espanol-lfs


[Editor's note: Bob Loewenstein flew last week on board the KAO (as
described in LFS#12.  This Field Journal provides information on the results
of those flights.  Dr. Loewenstein will also be involved in the televised
flights on Oct 12 and 13.]

Thursday 9-28-95

I'm sitting on the KAO, taxiing down the runway, waiting for takeoff. So
during this moment while I'm strapped into my seat and unable to do any
more work, I'll add to this journal.

We flew last night and consequently I didn't get much sleep in order to
get ready for tonight's flight. I also spent more time today working on
some software for the remote control of the telescope and video switching
from the ground.

A few nights ago, an interesting thing happened during observing. The
motors that drive the telescope and hold it steady require it to be
accurately balanced.  Suddenly, the telescope went out of balance and we
could no longer control it. We could not determine what had happened, but
very definitely it was out of balance. After several minutes of trying to
make it work by doing various things, we finally decided to just try to
re balance it. The only thing we could find was someone's briefcase, which
weighed about 7 pounds. So we placed the briefcase onto the telescope and
we were back in business and began taking data again.


We're in flight now. We have another problem with the telescope and have
been working on it for the last hour. Rick Doll, the telescope operator is
now on his hands and knees under the console trying to check all the
electronic components. While he does this, I have a chance to write some

The telescope drive system is malfunctioning and can't hold the telescope
still. That means that we have not been taking data and are probably going
to have to abort the flight and head back home early. This is the LAST
data flight of the airplane, with the 3 remaining flights dedicated to the
Live from the Stratosphere educational project. Our other flights of this
series have been really smooth, with very minor problems....

I hear through my intercom that the problem may have been found. If this
is the case, we can pick up the flight plan and continue to take data, having
missed only one object plus some time on Saturn. .......YESSSS. It's fixed! 

The problem turned out to be some bug in the tracker computer. For
some reason, the tracker was trying to control the telescope even though
it had been told not to. Looks like we go back to taking data and I'll
stop writing now.


The flight is over now. I'm flying back to Yerkes Observatory where I
live. The remainder of the flight went very well. We lost only one object
(however an important one for Jackie Davidson) and some time on one of our
calibrators, Saturn. The flight, being the last data flight, did strike
some emotions for many of the people on the flight. It's hard to let go of
twenty years of flying on the world's only airborne observatory, but the
gains from SOFIA, the replacement plane in about six years will really be
a major advance. This plane will have almost twice as many flights per year
and stay up longer per flight; the telescope will collect six times as
much light as the KAO's. Much more science can be done on SOFIA than on
the KAO. We are all looking forward to a brief six years until SOFIA is
ready to fly.


[Editor's note: This continues a Field Journal started in LFS#11; that first
half described observing aboard the Kuiper.  Here it is contrasted with
observing at Mauna Kea in Hawaii]

RNASA 714 Heavy Jack, you are cleared for take-off on runway 8 southS
by Steve Kliewer

Phase II: Mauna Kea
Tuesday, August 8, 1995
After taking Monday to sightsee, Judy & I flew to the Big Island. It 
was a beautiful day to fly and Molokai, Maui, & Lanai were beautiful. 
However, as we landed at Keahole Airport near Kailua-Kona, I was 
fascinated yet disappointed by the desolate moonscape appearance. 
This area was covered by a'a lava flows. Nothing green, no lush 
plants, or flowers were to be seen. I wanted to see volcanoes but not
everywhere, all the time. As we drove south into Kailua it started to
become more lush. It turned out that farther south and on the east side of
the island, especially near the current active volcanic vents it is an
extremely lush rain forest, at least where the lava hasn't covered it yet.
We checked into the Royal Kona Resort, a beautiful hotel right on the 
beach-- correction: rocky shoreline. I set up the Compact Cosmic Ray
Telescope (CCRT) and took baseline readings in the hotel. The readings
were somewhat low. I wonder if that could be due to shielding from the
floors above me? I will research that later. 

Tomorrow: Mauna Kea
Wednesday, August 9, 1995
First thing, I rented a 4-wheel drive Isuzu Trooper from Harper's, a 
company that advertises as "The only way to the top." Apparently 
this is due to the fact that all other rental companies specifically 
prohibit driving on the "Saddle Road" which is the "only way to the top."

The Big Island of Hawaii is the top portion of an immense shield 
volcano. This means that it doesn't have steep sides but that it rises 
at a gradual but steady rate up to two separate peaks. Mauna Loa, the 
lower (13,677 ft) and southernmost of the two, is currently inactive 
but expected to erupt again soon. Low on its southern flank is the 
currently active vent named Pu'u O'o near the immense caldera of 
Kilauea. Mauna Kea, the highest peak at 13,796 ft, is considered 
extinct and is the site of a collection of the world's premier 
observatories. The Keck I and II are the world's largest optical 
telescopes. The United Kingdom Infra-red Telescope (UKIRT) is housed
here and tonight we are scheduled to observe with John Davies, an
astronomer from England during the first part of his observing run. 

I loaded the equipment in the rear cargo area of the vehicle and 
strapped it down so that I could readily access it from the tail gate 
without having to reset it each time. We began driving inland up highway
180. It rose rapidly though lush vegetation, into the clouds and a light
misting rain. Thirty-five miles later we turned onto the saddle road and
have risen to an altitude of 2800 ft. We stopped and took measurements
for about 30 minutes and enjoyed the peaceful, rolling, green, & grassy
countryside. We drove another 19 miles to an elevation of 6600 ft and
stopped in the middle of an immense dark reddish-brown a'a lava flow
that was overlain in places by a grayish pahoehoe lava flow. Both,
obviously had originated from Mauna Loa far to the south. 
We were now above the clouds, the rain had stopped but it was quite 
windy. Again we took about 30 minutes of data, enjoyed the wide 
view, and then continued. 

Soon we turned left onto "Burns Way" and after driving 9 miles we
arrived at Hale Pahaku at an elevation of 9500 ft. Hale Pahaku is the
astronomer's mid level base camp. It is like a hotel, except that the
guests sleep during the day instead of at night. All astronomers using
telescopes on top of Mauna Kea are required to spend one full day at Hale
Pahaku, acclimating to the extreme altitude, before doing an all-night
tour of duty at the top. In our case we would only spend part of the night
at the top and were required to acclimate at Hale Pahaku for at least one
hour. We took another half hour of data, met John Davies, our host for the
evening, made plans to continue to the top in order to see the summit 
while it was still sunlit, return to Hale Pahaku to meet with John 
again and then return to the summit at sunset.

Immediately above Hale Pahaku, the good highway that we had 
followed so far suddenly becomes a dusty, unpaved, windy, extremely 
steep route up the face of the mountain. I quickly had to put the 
vehicle into 4WD-Lo in order to negotiate this road. At this elevation
there is little or no vegetation anywhere to be seen. The landscape is
steep and desolate; a uniform reddish-brown, jagged moonscape. Six
miles of this and we reach an intermediate level where the road changes
to a superhighway and proceeds another 4 miles to the very top of the
mountain where sparkling observatory domes ring the crater.
We drove directly to the Keck observatory. At this point I was so 
excited that I forgot I was on top of MK. I jumped out of the 4WD and 
started to run over to see if the visitor center was open. I quickly 
realized that was not a good idea as I began to feel lightheaded and 
decided to stop and take time to just breath. The view was superb. 
We were literally "on top of the world." 

After quickly touring the Keck gallery, and slowly walking around 
taking pictures I moved the 4WD into the sun and began taking data 
again. The temperature at this elevation at 4 pm was near zero 
Celsius. We both were having second thoughts about tonight's 
observing run. Time quickly ran out and we laboriously returned down the
road, back to Hale Pahaku. It turned out that through a misunderstanding
we had missed John and he had already left for the top. We turned around
and arrived at the top again near sunset. John gave us a quick tour of the
telescope and the control room. Apparently a ritual, everyone steps
outside just as the sun sets to watch the outstanding show and hopefully
to catch sight of the "Green Flash". It was a beautiful sunset, but just a
hint of green was visible this time. While waiting for the sun to set, I
looked the opposite direction and saw Mauna Kea's strangely triangular
shadow stretched across the world below with a full moon boldly shining
above Mauna Loa in the distance. It was a marvelous sight!

We quickly returned to the warm control room as the evening wind 
picked up and began this night's observations. Normally, John shares 
the dome with but one other person: the telescope operator, who's job 
is to aim the telescope and make sure it is pointing at the correct 
object and that it tracks that object smoothly. Initially, there is a 
flurry of activity as the team hurries to test the system on a few 
known objects for calibration and verification and then to start the 
observation of their first new object. Initially the incoming data must be
compared to what is expected, tested, and parameters changed in order
to be sure that the data is real, and relevant. After this period of
confidence building, the astronomer settles into a routine, letting the
equipment collect ample data before changing filters or moving on to a
new object. Although the pace slows, the astronomer is constantly
watching the data, and rechecking to make sure that the data is still
good. The night passes quickly.

Judy & I have a long drive ahead of us and by 10:00 pm we excuse 
ourselves and start down the mountain. We are cautioned to use 
parking lights only until we are out of sight over the edge of the 
crater. It is a beautiful moonlit evening. The stars are so sharp and 
close and it is frigid! We don't tarry long.

Thursday thru Saturday, August 10-12, 1995
The next three days we explore the island. We take a "Circle Island 
Deluxe", 1-hour helicopter tour. This is in a 6 passenger ASTAR 
touring helicopter. The tour is superb, originating at Keahole airport, 
flying over the northern slope of Mauna Loa (at 10,000 ft) dropping 
down for extraordinary views of Kilauea caldera and then the 
currently active Pu'u O'o vent. We saw a "skylight" where the roof of 
the main lava tube had collapsed allowing us to see the red-hot lava 
flowing beneath the expanse of recently cooled lava crust on its way 
to the ocean. Farther down the slope we could see the surface flow 
slowly but inexorably overrunning the rainforest. Individual trees 
being bulldozed down and burning as they are slowly covered. While 
circling for a better view, I saw a brilliantly colored rainbow corona 
formed tightly about our shadow in a cloud beneath us.
The tour continued, flying north along the lush eastern coast, over 
Hilo, and along the gorgeous Hamakua coast. Near the northern tip of 
the Island, we crossed the primitive Waipio valley and then explored 
an even more remote valley called Waimanu valley. This is a steeply-
sided flat-bottomed valley carved into the abruptly cliff-edged side 
of the island. Several streams make sheer drops of 300 to 400 ft 
into this valley. We flew alongside one of these majestic waterfalls. 
We then proceeded up the Waipio valley over Waimea and back to 
Keahole airport. We were speechless! This was the best!

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