PART 1: A tip for Star Census: dark adapt before counting
PART 2: CU-SeeMe activities for this evening's "Night Flight to the Stars"
PART 3: Laura Smith becomes the first student to fly on the KAO
PART 4: Student Jodi Sawyer also has a big adventure
PART 5: Wendy says "these LFS flights are like no other done"


Harry Shipman, a professor of Science, Physics, and Astronomy at the
University of Delaware wrote in with the following suggestion for
improving your Star Census results:
   Instead of immediately counting stars as soon as you step
   outside from a well lit area (inside), consider first getting used
   to the light level by "dark adapting"  The process is gradual.  After
   about 10 minutes, unless the sky is **really** dark, you're pretty
   well dark-adapted.  In places where the sky is really dark, you still
   see some improvement after that.  

For the Star Census collaboration project, consider looking at the effects
of dark adapting.  You might do this by making a star count right after
going into the dark, and then after 3, 6 and 10 minutes outside.  Report
these results in your Star Census report to be shared with other


For this evening's "Night Flight to the Stars", two CU-SeeMe reflectors
will be operating to connect LFSers.  The sites providing this opportunity
are Rice University ( and The Houston Museum of Natural
Science (  

The Museum plans to have ground-base images from the 36"
telescope at our George Observatory on their reflector. This telescope is
the same size as the one on the KAO.

Deborah Maraziti of Williams College will lead students at the Hopkins
Observatory; they will be watching the LFS broadcast and observing the
same 5 regions of the sky simultaneously at optical wavelengths with
their 24" telescope. Deborah writes:
   We will sign onto the Rice reflector with our CU-SeeMe camera,
   occasionally pointing it at our telescope so people can see what it
   looks like, but most of the time aiming the camera at the students
   doing the observing. They will print out the images they take, and
   show them to the camera so everyone else can compare optical to
   IR, too.  The difference should be especially striking for W51,
   where we expect to see nothing in optical!

If you have this technology and can join the network-video crowd, please
visit them.


Field Journal by Laura E. Smith
Student, Los Altos High School

September 28, 1995
Guess what I've been doing all day. Sleeping!  Right now my 
brain feels so dysfunctional. My body clock won't get back to normal for 
another 24 hours. I was so tired last night. I tried keeping my eyes 
open and telling myself I wasn't tired, but it didn't work. I decided to 
close my eyes at about 3 AM and didn't wake up again until 5:30, when 
it was almost time to land.

Let me back up to the beginning of the flight. Take off was so 
much fun! Jodi Sawyer and I were having a great time! We were all 
smiles and high-fives when the plane took off. When the last wheels left 
the runway we finally believed we were the first students to ever go up
in the Kuiper. After they turned the seat belt signs off (yes, just like in 
the airlines) we got up and moved around. Maybe they should have kept 
the signs on longer because we hit some turbulence and had a few
moments of negative G's. We didn't float around the cabin, though, but I
wish we had.  

I liked flying the Kuiper because I felt in control. It wasn't 
like I was  passive passenger like I normally am on a commercial flight.  
I could get up and walk around and make myself a cup of coffee. I didn't 
have to wait for a stewardess to come around with soda and peanuts.
Also, everyone had a copy of the flight plan, so I could track our 
progress myself instead of having no clue where we were going. Halfway 
through the flight, one of the scientists, Jackie Davidson, showed me how 
the telescope worked. It's cool to think the telescope really isn't 
attached to the plane. The telescope is just isolated in its 
gyroscopically stable world. The most impressive part was how they
moved the telescope. There are no moving parts in the telescope engine,
just these huge magnets. My refrigerator magnets are wimps compared to
those magnets.  

Something else that was cool happened when our flight plan took 
us up to Montana, where I saw my first aurora. Down in the San Francisco 
area (where I live), we never see any northern lights. The one I saw was
green and  white and it hung in the sky for a long time. Remember how I
fell asleep  for some of the flight?  I fell asleep with my headset on, and
woke up  when I heard people talking about the cockpit and landing. Jodi
and I were supposed to sit in the cockpit with the pilots when we landed.
I think we sleepwalked up to the cockpit. I didn't see very many lights on 
the ground, so I thought we were about ten miles off the coast. I was 
wrong.  Suddenly, we flew over the edge of a bank of clouds and I could 
see the lights of the Bay Area for miles around. I tried to find my 
house but it was too dark. After we landed I stumbled out of the plane, 
got a ride home, and fell asleep. I had fun and I learned that getting 
enough sleep is as important as the veterans of Kuiper flights tell you 
it is.


By Jodi Sawyer

After going though a selection process, I was chosen to fly on the Kuiper 
Airborne Observatory (KAO) aircraft, a converted C-141 military cargo 
plane.  What a privilege and a thrill!  To prepare me for the October 
13th "Live From the Stratosphere" flight, a crew of 18, including myself, 
flew the last scientific mission aboard the KAO from NASA Ames on 
September 27th. Following a pre-flight briefing and making sure we had 
our oxygen masks ready, we boarded the KAO.

The inside of this aircraft is nothing like a commercial airliner.  There 
is a large 36" telescope in the front of the plane behind the cockpit.
This is used to measure the infrared radiation from stars and other 
planets. It's like pointing a thermometer into the sky to take the 
temperature of a distant star. There are many computer terminals 
throughout the body of the aircraft where scientists measure their 
findings while operating the telescope. Each one has a specific job and 
position on board. You need to be real careful walking around because 
there are cords and wires everywhere!

The temperature in the KAO is quite cold except for the very rear of the 
aircraft where the temperature rises due to the compressors.  
Fortunately, I was given a flight suit to wear so I didn't have to 
"bundle up." To show you just how cold it was, if you place a can of 
coke on the floor in the corner, it would soon freeze and if you put your 
hand on a part of the plane that is not insulated, it will stick! So 
watch out!

Our observation flight took off from NASA Ames at approximately 10:00 
p.m. and we flew until 6:00 a.m. the following morning. After leaving 
Idaho, Montana and somewhere off the coast of California. The Mission 
Director, Carl Gillespie, kept a detailed log of the entire flight.  

During my observations I was amazed to see just how still the telescope 
stays even when the aircraft experiences some vibration, not to mention 
traveling at 3/4 the speed of sound. I was told that gyroscopes and a 
video tracking system is what stabilizes the huge telescope. All the 
viewing of various stars is seen on a computer screen and not directly 
into the heavens. Once the scientists locate the star they are wanting 
to measure, the computer screen will show a whole bunch of small, bright,
fuzzy dots. At this point the scientists focus on the particular star 
they want to study and take their measurements. When the plane turns 
onto another course, the computer screen will show what appears to be 
"tadpole-like" objects which is the telescope moving quickly past the 
stars. At one point low on the Northern horizon I saw a very pretty 
bright aurora. It appeared white and green.

During the flight one of the engineers noticed a crack in the rear 
emergency exit window. At this point the cabin altitude was raised to 
reduce the pressure differential across the window. We were now flying 
at 40,993 feet. Within a short period of time, we reached our highest 
altitude of 41,001 feet where things for me started getting a little hazy.

I began to feel sick to my stomach and eventually threw up (fortunately 
into a plastic bag). The crew gave me emergency first aid treatment by 
putting on my oxygen mask and lying me on the seat. Later I was to learn 
that I suffered from altitude sickness. There just wasn't enough oxygen 
at that high of an altitude for my system. The next 2 or 2 1/2 hours are 
pretty foggy. I had my alternate on board with me, Laura Smith, just in 
case I couldn't make the actual flight in October. Since I am now 
"grounded" to the NASA hanger, she will be flying in my place this Friday.

When the "Live From the Stratosphere" flight takes place, there will be a 
two-way audio and Internet connection from the KAO to various locations 
in the United States. On this flight, however, we did not communicate 
with anyone on ground. I am looking forward to receiving messages from 
the crew and Laura at 41,000 feet, live from the Stratosphere, on Friday.

The next time you gaze into the heavens in silence, look for new wonders 
and new knowledge...


Field Journal from:
Wendy Whiting, KAO Mission Director
October 11, 1995

After all these months of preparation, we are finally ready
to go fly the "Live From the Stratosphere" flights. Last 
week's program, "The Preflight Briefing" went very well, much
to the relief of a lot of folks here. That program was also
a good practice for the upcoming flights, especially for
the people who will be flying on board for LFS. We have to 
get used to cameras (and cameramen), extra headsets and
cables everywhere. All of that in addition to the normal
equipment on board the KAO! 

I think the LFS flights are going to be an interesting
adventure for all of us. For most of us on board, LFS 
is our first experience with live television. It sure
is exciting! We have the director's cues in one ear... 
"move to the left"... "look into camera 1"... "ok, finish
up now, time's almost up"...  And in the meantime we are
speaking to you on the program. It certainly is different
What I'm doing today is making final preparations for the
flights. I'm gathering up all the materials I need to
take with me: flight plans, maps, program rundowns, phone
numbers, schedules and operations plans for the stopover
in Houston.  Later today, I'll pick up my travel orders
and pack my clothes, etc. 

This afternoon on the KAO, we will do the final technical
checkouts for the telescope, satellite link, audio and
video systems. This will all be done during a "line op",
where the KAO will be parked just outside the hangar.        
Assuming all goes well, we will be all ready for takeoff
tomorrow morning.  

See you in the Stratosphere!

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