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Log, May 23, 2001

Marcie and I attended the dedication of "Spaceport Rhode Island" at the site of the November 18, 1999 launching of the first rocket from New England into space. The event was called Project Comet Chaser and had over 5000 people including 3800 school children watch as a payload they had created went into space to try to catch dust from Comet Temple-Tuttle.

Many of you will remember that on this date a Loki/Viper rocket provided by and launched under the auspices of NASA from a spot less than 110 yards from the Frosty Drew Observatory Dome. In fact the rocket passed over the Observatory grounds as it whooshed into space at a maximum of over 100 Gs. The rocket was assumed to have been totally lost when a Coast Guard ship assigned to retrieve it was called away at the last minute to rescue some drunken yahoos who got themselves in trouble. Earlier this month, the spent lower stage was dragged up in the nets of a local fisherman. He had seen the posters asking for help retrieving the rocket and it some made its way to Dr. Kathleen Melander's home.

This was not the payload section, but its discovery has considerably narrowed the search area giving renewed hope that the payload will be found. It is water tight and vacumn sealed so the dust collector may be intact. Even if it is not found a large number of pits and scratches on the lower section may be from dust particles from the tail. A team from Brown University is studying the lower stage.

While I was woolgathering, Marcie's ears perked up when she heard that the rocket was seeking an appropriate home. She soon had roped me into the discussion. It was decided that the Observatory was an excellent spot to hold the rocket, a large model and some display materials. We told the other attendees that if and when our Sky Theater became a reality that it would be an ideal home for the materials. A group of six attendees went down to the Dome and stored the rocket. I showed the group the simulations we presented to the Project Comet Chaser students a year ago last November. Using some sophisticated planetarium software, we simulated a ride on the tip of Temple-Tuttle through its last pass into the inner solar system as well as simulating the encounter event. This was a very popular display until someone shouted "They are ready to launch". Not only the students but the folks at FDO ran to get a good view.

Thanks Marcie for keeping yours ears open!! FDO now has a very interesting souvenir of "Project Comet Chaser" to display.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Author:
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
May 23, 2001
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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