Loscon 2010 Science Programming

Loscon 37 is fortunate to have an incredible community of space exploration professionals and enthusiasts on the program. This year’s speakers include some connected with Boeing, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), OASIS, the Los Angeles chapter of the National Space Society, and XCOR Aerospace.

There will be presentations about unmanned missions already on the way to investigate the Moon, asteroids and the planet Saturn. Panelists actually working on private and government space initiatives will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. And there will be lighter panels about science related to the entertainment industry.  

Bob Gounley, a project systems engineer at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, recipient of NASA’s Exceptional Service and Exceptional Achievement Awards, and past president of OASIS, will update fans on the Dawn and GRAIL missions.

Dawn Mission – Encounter with Vesta
Friday – 1:30 p.m.

Exploring a new frontier, the Dawn mission will journey back in time over 4.5 billion years to the beginning of our Solar System. How is this “time travel” possible? Many thousands of small bodies orbit the Sun in the asteroid belt—a large region between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. They formed at the same time and in similar environments as the bodies that grew to be the rocky planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars). Scientists theorize that the asteroids were budding planets and never given the opportunity to grow, due to gravitational stirring by massive Jupiter.

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is fast approaching its rendezvous with Asteroid Vesta in July 2011.  Over the next year, controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory will use Dawn to make the first detailed survey of a Main-Belt asteroid before sending it to Asteroid Ceres.  There, in February 2015, Dawn will become the first interplanetary mission to orbit two different bodies. Come see hear about Dawn’s journey and preview its explorations ahead.

GRAIL Explores the Moon – A Mission of Gravity
Saturday 11:30 a.m.

Launching September 2011, NASA’s twin GRAIL spacecraft will make a detailed map of the Moon’s gravity.  Orbiting above the lunar surface, the relative motion of the two satellites will reveal aspect of lunar geology, for example remnants of ancient asteroids, from crust to core.   These imprints of the Moon’s formation could tell us much about the early history of the solar system.  Come hear the latest news about this mission from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Bridget Landry returns with more news of the Cassini Mission to Saturn. Educated as a chemist and planetary scientist and trained as an engineer, Bridget has worked on the Hubble Space Telescope, the joint US-French oceanographic Earth orbiter Topex, the (wildly successful!) Mars Pathfinder project, on the Cassini Mission to Saturn and is currently a team member of the Dawn mission to the asteroids Vesta and Ceres.  She is also deeply interested in, and committed to helping with the retention of girls in science and math, from middle school onwards.  In her technical hat, she has been on science panels at WorldCons, local, and regional conventions.

Cassini’s Extended Mission
Sunday 11:30 a.m.

Come see the amazing new pictures from the two-year extension of the Cassini Mission to Saturn.  The Saturnian Equinox occurred last year, turning the ring system edge-on to the sun and resulting in some awesome images and adding to Cassini’s impressive store of data.

Seth Potter and Dean Davis will tell about the benefits to space exploration that might be made possible by orbital power beaming technology.

Seth Potter is an Associate Technical Fellow at The Boeing Company in El Segundo, California, where he has worked on space exploration missions, space solar power, on-orbit satellite servicing, and navigation and communications satellites. He is a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Space Society, the Board of Directors of the OASIS-Los Angeles Chapter of NSS, and the Space Colonization Technical Committee of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Dean Davis is a Senior Principal Scientist/Engineer Analysis Senior Study Leader for the Boeing Phantom Works. Over the last three decades, he has contributed to many scientific, commercial, military, and intelligence aircraft and spacecraft. Most of the projects on his resume are well known to fans, beginning with 52 Space Shuttle Missions and the International Space Station.

Orbital Power Beaming for Extraterrestrial Exploration
Friday 4:30

Collecting solar energy in space for use on Earth has been considered for many years, but has been held back for cost reasons. However, there may be nearer-term uses for this technology in exploring the Moon, Mars, and other bodies in space. By collecting energy in space and beaming to assets on the surface of a planet, the mass needed to be landed on the planet’s surface for power generation/collection may be decreased. Lunar exploration may benefit through the ability to receive power on a solar array during the two-week-long lunar night.  Mars polar exploration may benefit through the ability to receive power during the long Martian winter, when the sun is not visible. The availability of beamed power at laser wavelengths can facilitate base operations as well as propellant production from in situ resources.

Doug Jones designs and tests rockets for XCOR Aerospace. He has over a hundred skydives, and has flown aboard a rocket plane as flight test engineer half a dozen times. He knows that space diving is the obvious next step: 

Space Diving: from Dream to Reality
Saturday 10:00 a.m.

A former skydiver and current rocket designer shows how a space diver will leap from above the atmosphere to re-enter supersonically and land safely. The ultimate E ticket… 

Robert Cesarone of JPL, Aleta Jackson from XCOR Aerospace, science expert and Ph.D. in Theoretical Chemistry Genny Dazzo, spaceship designer and SF broadcast personality Warren James, and physicist Todd Brun of USC will tackle the issue of private vs. government-backed space exploration.

Getting to Space: Can Uncle Sam or Delos Harriman Do It Better?
Saturday 2:30 p.m.

One of the biggest decisions in the space community today is between having the government do it vs. letting private companies do it.  

Todd Brun is a quantum physicist and a professor at the University of Southern California, where he does research on quantum computers and writes the occasional paper on time machines.  

Robert Cesarone has been at JPL for 33 years, working in trajectory and maneuver design, telecommunications and Voyager navigation.  He is a recipient of the NASA Exceptional Service Medal. 

Genevieve Dazzo holds a Ph.D. in Theoretical Chemistry and is well versed in many different scientific disciplines.  She is currently a computer consultant working on a computer game to be used to train members of the US armed forces. 

Warren W. James, has been the host, and now also web master, of Mike Hodel’s Hour 25 since the early-90’s.  He also has a more than full time job as an engineer at a major aerospace firm in Southern California where he does trajectory design/orbital mechanics and systems engineering

Aleta Jackson, along with Jeff Greason, Dan DeLong and Doug Jones, is one of the founders of XCOR Aerospace in Mojave, CA. XCOR has designed, built and flown the EZ-Rocket and the X-Racer – which she has ridden in. Ask her about how much fun it was. XCOR is now working on the Lynx, a manned suborbital space vehicle.

The lighter, more speculative panels begin with one about a science topic I saw on David Brin’s blog.

Friday 3:00 p.m.

Neurocinematics is the study of how the brain responds (on MRI scans) to imagery in movies and ads. Will allow directors to see how engaged the viewer is during action shots or emotional scenes. Will allow advertisers to identify what sets off a pattern of brain activity that says “I want to buy this.” Movie trailers tweaked to reliably give you a rush…the science of manipulation advances.

Two panelists will kick this idea around — Phil Osborn who is into radical politics and its connections to information theory, and has a physics degree and done post-grad work in psychology and computer-based decision theory, and Buzz Dixon s a writer/editor/publisher-packager with a career spanning from the animation classics of the 1970s and 80s (Thundarr the Barbarian, G.I. Joe, Transformers, Batman, Tiny Toons) to comics (Tales of Terror, She-Hulk) to feature films (Dark Planet, Terror in Paradise, G.I. Joe: The Movie) to video games (Terminator III).  Most currently he is the creator and packager of a line of Christian manga graphic novels for the Young Adult market (Serenity and the upcoming Hits & Misses). 

And there are several more programs that will appeal to fans of science as well as science fiction:

Earth As Predictor
Sunday 11:30 a.m.

Real people are stranger than SF aliens. Using what we already know about humanity as the starting point for thinking about alien societies.
Daryl Frazetti, Richard Foss, Harry Turtledove, Louise Hitchcock, Shauna Roberts

The Science of Battlestar Galactica
Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Kevin Grazier, author of The Science of Battlestar Galactica, will talk about the BSG universe and the new “Blood and Chrome” series he’s working on.

Favorite Science Authors
Sunday 1:00

Forget the fiction, these authors write the real thing in a meaningful and interesting way.
David Bratman, Bill Patterson, Karen Anderson, Todd Brun

Hollywood Science: Ow, My Brain
Sunday 2:30 p.m.

Jordan Brown, Buzz Dixon, James Glass, Bridget Landry

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3 thoughts on “Loscon 2010 Science Programming

  1. I’d go to any and all of those, if I weren’t otherwise occupied — and was attending the con. Good stuff; well done.

    (I’m a tough grader on convention programing, I assure you.)

    Wait, how much does it cost to get between the Bay Area and LA? Hmm.

  2. Possibly it might be a good idea for the Loscon Web page to mention who the Guests of Honor are at the top of the page, or somewhere less obscure than in small print at the bottom of the page?

    Also possibly useful might links under their names to any information at all as to who those indivduals are, beyond their the names could be useful to those not familiar, and who might not choose to either Google search site:http://www.loscon37.org/ or the internet, to find out. and who aren’t going to notice that the misnamed “blogroll” elsewhere links to an entry on FF about Emma, which is of limited helpfulness, and only useful, at best, as regards one of the GOHs, whom you still wouldn’t know is a GOH without searching the site, and finding the previous listing in small print on the bottom of the page.

    This would only matter now, to be sure, if want to encourage people taking a sudden interest in the last week before the con, who know less than I do about how to find such information and care to bother.

    Merely un-asked for thoughts, offered as nothing else, not meaning any offense.

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