Edwards to ferry NASA scientists around world in 8 days to study Leonoids by Ray Johnson Edwards AFB, Calif. After   a   weak   celestial   show   in   1998,   NASA's   Peter   Jenniskens   dreamed   of   chasing   Leonid meteor   storms   once   again   in   1999.   "This   will   be   our   last   shot   at   it   for   a   century,"   he   said   after   last year's   effort.   "The   mission   we   have   in   mind   would   circle   the   world,   and   do   that   in   just   a   few days." He's   getting   his   wish   with   two   Edwards   airplanes:   a   modified   KC-135   tanker   called   the   Flying Infrared   Signature   Technology   Aircraft,   or   FISTA,   and   an   EC-18   that   normally   serves   as   an Advanced   Range   Instrumentation   Aircraft,   or   ARIA.   Both   aircraft,   which   belong   to   the   452nd Flight   Test   Squadron,   and   25   airmen   will   ferry   50   scientists   on   an   eight-day,   18,000-mile   journey that    will    take    them    from    the    Mojave    Desert    to    Europe    to    the    Middle    East    and    back.   The researchers' intent: to gather data during a natural fireworks show called Leonid. Capt.   Jamie   McKeon,   left,   Capt.   Jon   Hasser,   Capt.   Jeff   Lampe   and   Maj.   Tracy   Phelps   plan   the 452nd   Flight   Test   Squadron's   eight-day   mission   for   the   Leonid   meteor   shower.   The   Edwards   Air Force   Base,   Calif.,   unit   is   flying   NASA   scientists   overseas   to   study   the   Leonid   meteor   storm   in modified EC-18 and KC-135 aircraft. A   Leonid   meteor   shower   occurs   every   November   when   Earth   passes   close   to   the   orbit   of   comet Tempel-Tuttle.   Usually   not   much   happens,   according   to   NASA   officials.   Earth   plows   through   a diffuse   cloud   of   old   comet   dust   that   shares   Tempel-Tuttle's   orbit,   and   debris   burns   up   harmlessly in   the   atmosphere. Typical   Leonid   meteor   events   consist   of   only   10   to   20   shooting   stars   per   hour. But   every   33   years,   that   meek   shower   surges   into   a   full-fledged   storm,   when   thousands   of shooting stars rain down from the sky hourly. That's   what   Jenniskens   and   his   crew   hope   to   witness   on   this   trip.   The   two-ship   formation   leaves here   Nov.   13   with   the   first   stop   being   a   "gas   and   go"   at   McGuire Air   Force   Base,   N.J.,   said   Capt. Jeff   Lampe,   aircraft   commander   for   FISTA.   From   there   it's   on   to   Royal   Air   Force   Mildenhall, England,   where   they'll   launch   late   Nov.   16   for   a   seven-hour   mission   to   Tel Aviv,   Israel,   hoping   to capture a streaking light display in clear, dark skies. The   next   night   they   will   leave   on   their   main   flight,   an   eight-hour   mission   to   Lajes   Field,   the Azores,   a   small   island   several   hundred   miles   off   the   coast   of   Portugal.   It's   there   scientists   believe they   will   follow   a   trail   of   thousands   to   tens   of   thousands   of   meteors   per   hour.   On   this   route,   the two   Edwards   planes   will   fly   100   miles   parallel   to   each   other,   giving   researchers   "an   almost stereoscopic   (three-dimensional)   viewing,"   said   Maj.   Tracy   Phelps,   commander   of   the   EC-18. Finally,   the   team   will   fly   another   seven-hour   mission   from   Lajes   to   Patrick AFB,   Fla.,   Nov   18-19, and then return home Nov. 20. With   powerful   telescopes   scattered   throughout   the   world,   some   people   might   wonder   why   take such   a   time-consuming   trip.   The   answer:   Only   an   airborne   mission   can   bring   scientists   to   the right   place   at   the   right   time   to   view   Leonid,   and   guarantee   clear   weather.   Moreover,   using   both the   FISTA   and   C-18   allows   scientists   to   measure   meteor   trajectories   and   orbits   in   space   along with    triangulating    data.    Indeed,    this    mission    centers    on    two    Edwards    aircraft    serving    as observation   platforms   for   cameras   and   investigative   instruments.   Therefore,   both   planes   have undergone   modifications   for   the   journey,   including   installation   of   optical   windows,   special   camera gear    and    antenna    mounts.   And    besides    helping    collect    data    for    NASA,    the    C-18    also    will downlink real-time video for Air Force Space Command. Capt.   Jon   Haser   participated   in   last   year's   Leonid   event   and   will   be   going   again   this   year.   He said   the   crews   didn't   get   the   expected   meteor   storm.   "It   was   sporadic,   but   they   were   some persistent   trails   that   lasted   five   seconds   or   so.   Hopefully,   the   sky's   alive   this   time."   Maybe   he   will get   to   witness   what   James   Young   of   the   Joint   Propulsion   Laboratory's   California   Table   Mountain Observatory   did   in   1966,   when   the   last   great   Leonid   storm   occurred.   He   remembers   a   heaven "absolutely full" of meteors. Young called it a "sight never imagined ... and never seen since." Source: Edwards Air Force Base
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Edwards to ferry NASA scientists around world in 8 days to study Leonoids by Ray Johnson Edwards AFB, Calif. After    a    weak    celestial    show    in    1998,    NASA's    Peter Jenniskens   dreamed   of   chasing   Leonid   meteor   storms once   again   in   1999.   "This   will   be   our   last   shot   at   it   for   a century,"   he   said   after   last   year's   effort.   "The   mission we   have   in   mind   would   circle   the   world,   and   do   that   in just a few days." He's   getting   his   wish   with   two   Edwards   airplanes:   a modified    KC-135    tanker    called    the    Flying    Infrared Signature   Technology Aircraft,   or   FISTA,   and   an   EC-18 that     normally     serves     as     an     Advanced     Range Instrumentation   Aircraft,   or   ARIA.   Both   aircraft,   which belong    to    the    452nd    Flight    Test    Squadron,    and    25 airmen   will   ferry   50   scientists   on   an   eight-day,   18,000- mile   journey   that   will   take   them   from   the   Mojave   Desert to     Europe     to     the     Middle     East     and     back.     The researchers'    intent:    to    gather    data    during    a    natural fireworks show called Leonid. Capt.   Jamie   McKeon,   left,   Capt.   Jon   Hasser,   Capt.   Jeff Lampe   and   Maj.   Tracy   Phelps   plan   the   452nd   Flight Test    Squadron's    eight-day    mission    for    the    Leonid meteor   shower.   The   Edwards   Air   Force   Base,   Calif., unit   is   flying   NASA   scientists   overseas   to   study   the Leonid   meteor   storm   in   modified   EC-18   and   KC-135 aircraft. A   Leonid   meteor   shower   occurs   every   November   when Earth   passes   close   to   the   orbit   of   comet   Tempel-Tuttle. Usually     not     much     happens,     according     to     NASA officials.    Earth    plows    through    a    diffuse    cloud    of    old comet   dust   that   shares Tempel-Tuttle's   orbit,   and   debris burns   up   harmlessly   in   the   atmosphere.   Typical   Leonid meteor   events   consist   of   only   10   to   20   shooting   stars per   hour.   But   every   33   years,   that   meek   shower   surges into   a   full-fledged   storm,   when   thousands   of   shooting stars rain down from the sky hourly. That's   what   Jenniskens   and   his   crew   hope   to   witness on   this   trip. The   two-ship   formation   leaves   here   Nov.   13 with   the   first   stop   being   a   "gas   and   go"   at   McGuire   Air Force    Base,    N.J.,    said    Capt.    Jeff    Lampe,    aircraft commander   for   FISTA.   From   there   it's   on   to   Royal   Air Force    Mildenhall,    England,    where    they'll    launch    late Nov.   16   for   a   seven-hour   mission   to   Tel   Aviv,   Israel, hoping   to   capture   a   streaking   light   display   in   clear,   dark skies. The   next   night   they   will   leave   on   their   main   flight,   an eight-hour   mission   to   Lajes   Field,   the   Azores,   a   small island   several   hundred   miles   off   the   coast   of   Portugal. It's   there   scientists   believe   they   will   follow   a   trail   of thousands   to   tens   of   thousands   of   meteors   per   hour. On   this   route,   the   two   Edwards   planes   will   fly   100   miles parallel   to   each   other,   giving   researchers   "an   almost stereoscopic    (three-dimensional)    viewing,"    said    Maj. Tracy   Phelps,   commander   of   the   EC-18.   Finally,   the team   will   fly   another   seven-hour   mission   from   Lajes   to Patrick   AFB,   Fla.,   Nov   18-19,   and   then   return   home Nov. 20. With    powerful    telescopes    scattered    throughout    the world,   some   people   might   wonder   why   take   such   a time-consuming    trip.    The    answer:    Only    an    airborne mission   can   bring   scientists   to   the   right   place   at   the right   time   to   view   Leonid,   and   guarantee   clear   weather. Moreover,    using    both    the    FISTA    and    C-18    allows scientists   to   measure   meteor   trajectories   and   orbits   in space     along     with     triangulating     data.     Indeed,     this mission    centers    on    two    Edwards    aircraft    serving    as observation    platforms    for    cameras    and    investigative instruments.   Therefore,   both   planes   have   undergone modifications   for   the   journey,   including   installation   of optical    windows,    special    camera    gear    and    antenna mounts. And   besides   helping   collect   data   for   NASA,   the C-18   also   will   downlink   real-time   video   for   Air   Force Space Command. Capt.   Jon   Haser   participated   in   last   year's   Leonid   event and   will   be   going   again   this   year.   He   said   the   crews didn't   get   the   expected   meteor   storm.   "It   was   sporadic, but   they   were   some   persistent   trails   that   lasted   five seconds    or    so.    Hopefully,    the    sky's    alive    this    time." Maybe   he   will   get   to   witness   what   James   Young   of   the Joint   Propulsion   Laboratory's   California   Table   Mountain Observatory   did   in   1966,   when   the   last   great   Leonid storm   occurred.   He   remembers   a   heaven   "absolutely full"   of   meteors.   Young   called   it   a   "sight   never   imagined ... and never seen since." Source: Edwards Air Force Base