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Tom Logsdon

Tom Logsdon

University of California, USA

Title: Solving a half-dozen Sherlock Holmes-style mysteries in space


Biography: Tom Logsdon


I love everything about Orbital Mechanics. Maybe it’s because almost every powered-flight maneuver that takes place up there along the space frontier turns out to be counterintuitive. Suppose you and your spaceship are tracing out a simple circular orbit 100 miles above the earth. Now mash on the accelerator and you will slow down. Put on the brakes and you will speed up. Toss a banana peel out the window and 45 minutes later it will come back through that same window and slap you in the face! If your car behaved in a similar manner you would think it was really weird! Early in this presentation, you will be introduced to a remarkably intelligent earthling who figured out another baffling mystery: Why doesn’t our big, lumbering moon fall from the sky? We will tackle a more recent mystery, too. Why was a $240-million communication satellite doomed shortly after lift-off? Two of my young students at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory studied one of my color charts for a moment, then figured out what caused its untimely destruction. We will also discuss another elusive mystery: How to eliminate space debris using only ground-based equipment. My presentation will reach its climax with one final mystery: How might a novel space-age approach to the Indian Rope Trick, someday, reduce the cost of launching satellites into orbit by an order of magnitude? Or more? I love everything about Orbital Mechanics. I love good mysteries. I hope you do, too!