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NASA Astronaut John Grunsfeld and Noted SETI Institute Scientists to Make Public Appearances on September 13 & 14


September 2 , 2009

As part of its 2009 annual meeting program, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) will feature Hubble Space Telescope repair mission astronaut, Dr. John M. Grunsfeld, NASA, and noted SETI Institute scientists, Drs. Frank Drake, Seth Shostak, Margaret Race, and Douglas Caldwell, in public presentations at the Westin San Francisco Airport Hotel, 1 Old Bayshore Highway in Millbrae, California. Astronaut John Grunsfeld will speak about his experiences on the recent Hubble Space Telescope repair mission in a presentation entitled, "Rescuing Hubble: An Astronaut's Adventures in Space," on Monday, September 14, at 7:30 pm in the Westin's Sequoia Ballroom. On "SETI Sunday," September 13, from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm, also in the Westin's Sequoia Ballroom, SETI scientists, Douglas Caldwell, Frank Drake, Seth Shostak, and Margaret Race will discuss their intriguing work on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and extrasolar planets in a series of four presentations.

All of the astronaut and SETI presentations are open to the public. Conference registration is not required for attendance. Admission for "Rescuing Hubble: An Astronaut's Adventures in Space" is free, though tickets are required. Admission for the SETI program is $10 general public, and free for TeamSETI and ASP members. Tickets (including free tickets) for all presentations will be available at the ASP conference registration area in the Westin Hotel lobby from Saturday through Monday, September 12-14, and prior to the talks. Seating is limited, and is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Public Talk by Dr. John M. Grunsfeld, NASA
"Rescuing Hubble: An Astronaut's Adventures in Space"
Monday, September 14, 7:30 pm, Sequoia Ballroom

In May, 2009, NASA astronaut John Grunsfeld made his fifth space shuttle flight and third visit to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) as part of the STS-125 mission aboard shuttle Atlantis. During the mission, Dr. Grunsfeld performed three of the mission's five space walks that installed two new instruments, repaired two others, and outfitted the HST with new batteries, gyroscopes, fine guidance sensors and thermal blankets. Dr. Grunsfeld will share his and his crewmates' adventures in this final mission to the HST, offering his insights on the challenges and successes of the mission and what it means for the HST and our continued explorations of the universe.

Dr. John Grunsfeld received his bachelor of science degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his master of science and PhD. degrees in physics from the University of Chicago. Specializing in x-ray and gamma ray astronomy research, high–energy cosmic ray studies, and the development of new detectors and instrumentation, he held several academic positions including Senior Research Fellow at the California Institute of Technology prior to his selection as astronaut in 1992. Between 1995 and 2009, Dr. Grunsfeld flew five shuttle missions, including a 16-day mission of ultraviolet observations with the Astro observatory, the fifth mission to the Russian Mir space station, and three servicing missions to the Hubble Space Telescope, including the final servicing mission in 2009. He also served as NASA Chief Scientist in 2003/04. Dr. Grunsfeld has logged more than 58 days in space, and 58 hours and 30 minutes of extravehicular activity in eight space walks.

SETI Sunday Presentations

Sunday afternoon, September 13, is reserved for a SETI speaker series featuring scientists and researchers from the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. Speakers include Drs. Frank Drake, Seth Shostak, Margaret Race, and John Jenkins. These presentations will feature current and mind-expanding discussions on the Drake Equation at 50 years old, what aliens might look like and why it's useful to speculate about them, initial results and data from the Kepler Mission to see if we're finding their home worlds yet, and what on Earth we do if we start to find them.

Dr. Douglas Caldwell
Kepler Mission Instrument Scientist
"Finding a Home for ET: The Kepler Mission"
Sunday, September 13, 1:00 pm

A decade ago, astronomers could only speculate about whether planets were a happy commonplace in the universe, or distressingly rare. The discovery of hundreds of worlds around other stars has shown that planets orbit at least 5 to 10 percent of all stars. But how many of these planets are Earth-size, and possibly Earth-like? Physicist Doug Caldwell is an expert on one of the most promising schemes for finding small worlds far beyond our solar system: looking for the slight dimming of a star caused when a planet crosses between it and us. Doug is also the Instrument Scientist for NASA's Kepler Mission, an ambitious, space borne telescope that will examine one hundred thousand stars for evidence of orbiting worlds. If Earth-size planets are common, Doug Caldwell will be among the first to know.

Dr. Seth Shostak
Senior Astronomer, SETI Institute
"The Real ET"
Sunday September 13, 1:55 pm

Seth is the Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute, in Mountain View, California. He has an undergraduate degree in physics from Princeton University, and a doctorate in astronomy from the California Institute of Technology. For much of his career, Seth conducted radio astronomy research on galaxies, and has published approximately sixty papers in professional journals. He has written several hundred popular magazine and Web articles on various topics in astronomy, technology, film and television. He lectures on astronomy and other subjects at Stanford and other venues in the Bay Area, and for the last six years, has been a Distinquished Speaker for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He is also Chair of the International Academy of Astronautics' SETI Permanent Study Group. Every week he hosts the SETI Institute's science radio show, "Are We Alone?"

Seth has edited and contributed to a half dozen books. He has also been the principal author of four: "Sharing the Universe: Perspectives on Extraterrestrial Life," "Life in the Universe" (textbook with Jeff Bennett), "Cosmic Company" (with Alex Barnett), and "Confessions of an Alien Hunter."

Dr. Margaret Race
Principal Investigator, Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe
"Discovering ET: What's Next?"
Sunday September 13, 3:00 pm

Margaret Race is concerned with protecting the planets. Actually, protecting all the planets: but especially Earth and Mars. Her work focuses on the scientific, technical, legal and societal issues of ensuring that missions to the Red Planet and other solar system bodies do not either inadvertently bring terrestrial microbes along, which would complicate our search for indigenous extraterrestrial life, or return any uncontained microbes to Earth. Recently, she's done a research study on the environmental impact reviews and public communication associated with high-containment biosafety labs -- the type that will eventually be used for the quarantine of returned samples from Mars. Her interest in extraterrestrial organisms is linked closely to her long term ecological research on exotic and invasive species. She's also actively involved in education and public outreach about astrobiology. Since her early work with the Environmental Protection Agency as a Public Information Specialist, and her tenure at San Francisco television station KQED, Margaret has had a strong interest in the communication of science via the mass20media. She especially likes to work with journalists and 16 Science Education and Outreach: Forging a Path to the Future Meeting Program educators as they develop materials about complex, controversial issues in space exploration and environmental protection. Her enthusiasm is infectious, and her work ensures that our spacecraft won't be.

Dr. Frank Drake
Director of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe
"Reflections on the Drake Equation"
Sunday September 13, 3:55 pm

Frank Drake, who conducted the first modern SETI experiment in 1960, continues his life-long interest in the detection of extraterrestrial sentient life. He participates in an on-going search for optical signals of intelligent origin, carried out with colleagues from Lick Observatory and the University of California at Berkeley. Drake also continues to investigate radio telescope designs that optimize the chances of success for SETI (he proposed the plan used in the design of the Allen Telescope Array, based on some of his work of more than forty years ago.) He is also interested in the possibility that the very numerous red dwarf stars, stars that are much less bright than the Sun, might host habitable planets. In this regard, he has noted that the behavior of various objects in our own solar system -- in particular the resonances between their rotation and orbital periods -- when applied to some of the newly discovered extrasolar planets, strongly suggests that most planets orbiting red dwarfs will not keep one face towards their star, and thus are more likely to be habitable. If this is proven correct, it will increase by almost ten times the probable number of habitable planets in the Milky Way.


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