|Seven Years to Saturn |
Pasadena December 10, 2001 (NASA/JPL) - As if going to Saturn wasn't hard enough, deciding what science to collect once in orbit around the giant planet is a logistic maze.
Launched in 1997, the international mission Cassini-Huygens will take almost seven years to reach the planet famed for those amazing rings that puzzled generations of astronomers. To save fuel and to travel the huge distance, more than 3 billion kilometers so far, the spacecraft used a technique called gravity assist. It looped around Venus twice, then flew past Earth and finally around Jupiter. The slingshot boost from these passes will deliver the Cassini orbiter and its probe, Huygens, to Saturn in July 2004. The probe will later descend to Titan, the biggest of some 30 known moons orbiting Saturn.
The Huygens probe will provide information on Titan, which has an atmosphere that extends about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from the surface. Because of its distance from the Sun, its surface is frozen and its temperatures are extremely low. Compared to Earth, Titan receives only one percent of the Sun's light.
Choosing what data to collect with the spacecraft's many instruments once at Saturn is keeping scientists busy these days, as they are planning a minute-by-minute timetable for the four-year mission. The challenge is caused by the abundance of interesting science targets along the planned 74 orbits around Saturn, and the wealth of instruments onboard the spacecraft.
"There is a lot of intriguing science with Titan, the most Earth-like world out there, and we want to know a lot more about Saturn," says Dr. Kevin Baines, a planetary scientist at JPL involved with the science timetable. "The rings are sitting there, shining away. They are mysterious and we are going to look at those and also the icy satellites."
Logistic issues complicate the planning task.
One matter is downloading the information collected by the data recorder on board. Once it is full, the spacecraft must turn toward Earth and begin downloading the data. Because of the great distance, the signal takes about an hour and 15 minutes to reach the Deep Space Network's antennas. Downloading the data takes up to 9 hours. When Cassini is collecting data, scientists have to make hard choices on which instrument to use. In order to save money, Cassini's instruments are all fastened in fixed positions and cannot be pointed independently of another.
"We have all these mutually exclusive desires," explains Baines. "We have different targets and when we get to a particular target there are a lot of different things we want to do. All the scientists involved must collaborate with each other."
Eager to decode the many mysteries of Saturn and its moons, scientists are painstakingly examining each of the 74 planned orbits around the planet, trying to include as many unique and relevant observations as possible, without compromising each other's instruments and goals.
The complicating factor is that of the 265 scientists involved with the mission, only 125 live in the U.S. This translates in teleconferences across 12 time zones, with scientists in Hawaii getting up early while their colleagues in Europe are putting their kids to bed. Through tons of emails, web charts and conference calls, scientists from 16 countries have 30 months to come up with an integrated time chart that will provide the best plan to gather as much information as possible about the sixth planet from the Sun, the second largest in our solar system.
Mission to Pluto Edges Closer to 2006 Liftoff
By Peter N. Spotts
EARTH December 10, 2001 (Christian Science Monitor) - Alan Stern hunts for ancient relics.
No picks, shovels, or dusting brushes fill his tool kit, however. His lost city of Troy is Pluto - the only planet in the solar system that a spacecraft has yet to visit.
Little wonder then that when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration recently hired his team to help flesh out its concept for a mission to Pluto, Dr. Stern was delighted.
"It's the dream of a lifetime," says Stern, lead scientist for the Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission, which he describes as "the first mission to the solar system's last planet."
Since its discovery in 1930, Pluto has been "an enigmatic spit of an ice ball" in the solar system's planetary line-up, says Stern, director of the space-science program at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. But Pluto's importance rose dramatically after 1992, with the discovery of a belt of planet wannabes beyond Neptune called the Kuiper Belt.
Pluto and its moon, Charon, are the largest objects in the Kuiper Belt region, which scientists believe served as the nursery for fledgling planets. In this area, planets still in the formation stages sometimes smashed together in spectacular collisions, halting their "normal" path of development. Indeed, says Stern, Pluto and Charon are viewed as chunks of a larger planet whose growth ended when it collided with another large body.
In Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, Stern says, "we have this equivalent of an archaeological dig into the history of the solar system." It's the "only place we have," he adds, that can give scientists a window on that period of time.
Beyond Pluto's role as a planetary pot shard, its scientific allure stems from the fact that so little is known about its basic physical characteristics compared with the rest of the solar system's major bodies. Charon was discovered only in 1978, allowing researchers to get a better handle on the mass and density of the Pluto-Charon system.
Seen from Earth, Charon and Pluto appear to sometimes hide each other as they orbit. By carefully tracking these disappearances and reappearances, or occultation, astronomers have been able to map rough differences in brightness across the faces of both bodies.
Using the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories, "we're starting to get enough information to point to a particular place on the surface and detect differences," says Marc Buie, an astronomer at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., where Pluto was discovered. For example, observations have pinpointed a spot on the surface unusually rich in carbon-monoxide ice.
This could be a carbon-monoxide deposit bared by an impact crater, he says, or the result of cryovulcanism - the frosty equivalent of volcanic activity on Earth.
"What the heck is going on at the surface? There's no way of knowing without a mission to the planet," he says.
As currently envisioned, the Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission would launch in 2006 and fly by Pluto and Charon before 2020. Timing is important, because planetary alignments will be most favorable during this period for using Jupiter's gravity to sling the spacecraft toward Pluto.
The timing also is urgent because Pluto is heading for the solar system's outskirts. The planet's orbit traces an oval around the sun, and Pluto has just finished its closest approach. Astronomers estimate that by 2020, much of the planet's atmosphere will have frozen and fallen to the surface, preventing scientists from getting a handle on Pluto's tenuous envelope of gas and how it interacts with the solar wind, a stream of charged particles constantly flowing from the sun.
"This is a very ambitious mission," acknowledges Colleen Hartman, director of NASA's solar-system exploration division.
For all the scientific interest, the mission's finances may be as ephemeral as Pluto's atmosphere. The project is funded only through the end of the current $30 million mission-design study, a condition that Dr. Hartman says "is very unusual for a planetary mission."
Until November 2000, CalTech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena spearheaded the project. But cost estimates ballooned to nearly $1 billion, threatening to become one of the Battlestar Galacticas that former NASA administrator Daniel Goldin fought to ground in favor of smaller, more frequent missions.
Last fall, NASA directed JPL to stop work on the project. When President Bush submitted his fiscal 2002 budget, a mission to Pluto was nowhere to be found.
But a trip to Pluto quickly became the people's mission. When the project was canceled, Stern says, "a 19-year-old space buff set up a website and triggered an avalanche of 10,000 letters to Congress in two weeks flat."
Groups such as the Planetary Society, headquartered in Pasadena, threw their weight behind a Pluto mission. When the smoke of budget battle cleared, Congress had added $30 million to NASA's budget to keep a Pluto mission alive.
But it's a one-year reprieve. The project's progress beyond blueprints hinges on a favorable review of the design, regulatory approval to use plutonium-driven generators for electrical power, and availability of money.
If planners must go back to Capitol Hill, Stern says, they will be armed. This week, a NASA planetary science advisory committee said that a Pluto mission should be given the highest priority in NASA's planetary exploration program.
"The space program been lacking the kind of first-time exploration that was popular with Apollo, Voyager, and Viking," Stern says, adding that the Pluto mission can fill that void.
|The world of Pluto |
- One trip around the sun takes Pluto 248 years; a season lasts 62 years.
- Pluto is half the size of the second-smallest planet, Mercury. Pluto's moon, Charon, is half the size of the planet.
- Pluto's composition is unknown, but its density indicates that it is probably a mixture of 70 percent rock and 30 percent water ice.
- Pluto and Mercury are the only planets that have elliptical, not circular, orbits.
- In Roman mythology, Pluto is the god of the underworld. The planet got its name - after suggestions such as Atlas, Cronus, Minerva, Artemis, Vulcan, and Perseus - perhaps because it's so far from the sun that it is in perpetual darkness.
- At Pluto's farthest point from the sun, sunlight takes seven hours to travel the 4.6 billion miles. Sunlight reaches Earth in eight minutes.
- Scientists estimate surface temperatures on Pluto can reach minus 400 degrees F.
Io: Power and Noise But No Magnetic Field
Pasadena December 10, 2001 (NASA/JPL) - A great roar of acoustic waves near the north and south poles of Jupiter's moon Io shouts about the power of the volcanic moon.
The wave data, new pictures and other information collected recently by NASA's Galileo spacecraft provide insight into what happens above Io's surface, at its colorful volcanoes and inside its hot belly. Scientists presented the findings Monday at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.
Galileo, managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has been orbiting Jupiter for six years. As it flew near Io's poles in August and October, the density of charged particles it was passing through suddenly increased about tenfold when the spacecraft crossed the path of a magnetic-field connection between Io and Jupiter, reported Dr. Donald Gurnett of the University of Iowa, Iowa City. The waves, indicating the density, travel in a plasma of charged particles, and would be silent to the ear, but Iowa researchers converted them to sound waves to make the patterns audible.
"You hear a whistling sound from Jupiter's radio emissions, then, just when you go over the pole, you hear a tremendous roar that starts abruptly, then stops abruptly," Gurnett said. "It's like the noise from a huge electrical power generator." Io actually generates as much wattage as about 1,000 nuclear power plants.
The region of increased density is where electrons and ions come up from Io's tenuous atmosphere and follow a "flux tube" where field lines from Jupiter's strong magnetic field intersect Io. In a 1999 flyby of Io, Galileo had provided some indication of the higher density over the moon's poles. This year's two Io flybys were the first to show that those denser areas coincide with the magnetic-field flux tube, Gurnett said.
Recent magnetic-field measurements tell us something new about the plumes erupting from Io's volcanoes and about the moon's molten core, said Dr. Margaret Kivelson of the University of California, Los Angeles.
Galileo detected electrical currents flowing along magnetic field lines above two areas of volcanic activity on Io, Kivelson said. Material shot high from eruptions is apparently affecting conductivity more than 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) above the surface.
"If this is the mechanism that's producing the currents, it may help us in the search for active plumes," she said.
Galileo's routes near Io's north pole in August and near its south pole in October were chosen for gaining measurements to determine whether Io generates an intrinsic magnetic field of its own within the greater magnetic field generated by Jupiter.
"There's no intrinsic field," Kivelson said. "We can put that question to rest." That means Io's molten iron core does not have the same type of convective overturning by which Earth's molten core generates Earth's magnetic field. Lack of that overturning fits a model of Io's core being heated from the outside, by tidal flexing of the layers around it, rather than being heated from the center.
The heat generated inside Io by the tidal tug of Jupiter makes this moon the most volcanically active world in the solar system. A new color picture of one large volcanic crater, Tupan Patera, shows various red, green, yellow and black surface materials laid down by volcanic interactions of molten rock and sulfur compounds, said Dr. Elizabeth Turtle of the University of Arizona, Tucson. Tupan, named for a Brazilian god of thunder, is one of Io's most persistent volcanoes. Another new image reveals roofed-over portions of a long lava channel, indicating that insulation provided by the cover helped lengthen a large lava flow.
New infrared imagery from Galileo shows that darker areas at Tupan correspond to hotter surface materials, said Dr. Rosaly Lopes of JPL. The infrared data also confirm sulfur- dioxide deposits near the source of a tall plume seen in August above a previously inactive volcano.
VR Emergency Medical for Manned Mars Mission
By Patricia Reaney
LONDON December 9, 2001 (Reuters) - If astronauts ever make it to Mars, chances are that before they blast off on their epic journey they will be trained on a virtual reality simulator to mend broken bones.
The first manned mission to the Red Planet isn't expected until about 2020, but Swiss surgeons and NASA scientists have already cemented a deal to make sure if limbs are smashed on the way there or during a walkabout they will be able to fix them.
With little room for outer space operating rooms in the cramped confines of the interplanetary express, it will be a case of heal thyself, or each other, for astronauts expected to make the round trip journey that could take two years or more.
So NASA and the Swiss-based Association for the Study of Internal Fixation (AO-ASIF) are developing a computer-based surgical simulator to train surgeons on Earth and astronauts with tickets to Mars in the fine art of trauma surgery.
A prototype for various operations will be available in around 2005.
"If we have simulators, not only orthopedic surgeons can be trained, but NASA could use the simulators to train astronauts, because a journey to Mars will be at least six months. So if they have any injuries another person will have to help their colleague,'' said Dr. Andy Weymann, of the AO foundation, who is working with NASA on the project.
The foundation, a non-profit organization of surgeons, pioneered internal fixation -- using internal stainless steel or titanium plates, nuts and bolts -- instead of plaster casts to heal fractures 40 years ago.
NASA is at the cutting edge of virtual reality technology, so the match seemed a natural one.
"We are pretty sure that within the next three or four years we will have a good simulator to train (surgeons and astronauts) with the procedure,'' Weymann told Reuters in an interview.
Unlike casts, which immobilize broken bones and joints for many weeks and can cause swelling, pain and redness, internal fixation prevents stiffness of joints, ligaments and tendons and offers the possibility of pain-free mobilization quickly after surgery.
Weymann said the operations, which can take from one to four hours depending on the place and type of fracture, are cheaper and offer a quicker recovery time than casts.
The plates and bolts can also be placed on the outside of the limb in a procedure called external fixation.
Since the AO developed the method, it has trained more than 300,000 surgeons worldwide in the technique, which is used to treat up to 80 percent of fractures in some countries.
"It is not a cast. The bones are fixed with pins and these pins are connected by bars,'' explained Dr. Christian Rys, the head of surgery at Davos Hospital in Switzerland.
In addition to fixing limbs, the technique can also be used for osteoporosis patients and in facial surgery.
"I don't believe they (NASA) will be able to take an operating room into space, so they must use several procedures which can be performed in a normal room, like an external fixation which is minimally invasive,'' said Rys.
First Pix of Dark Matter
EARTH December 6, 2001 (NASA/ESA) - Astronomers have observed a Dark Matter object directly for the first time. Images and spectra of a MACHO microlens - a nearby dwarf star that gravitationally focuses light from a star in another galaxy - were taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope. The result is a strong confirmation of the theory that a large fraction of Dark Matter exists as small, faint stars in galaxies such as our Milky Way.
The nature of Dark Matter is one of the fundamental puzzles in astrophysics today. Observations of clusters of galaxies and the large scale structure of individual galaxies tell us that no more than a quarter of the total amount of matter in the Universe consists of normal atoms and molecules that make up the familiar world around us. Of this normal matter, no more than a quarter emits the radiation we see from stars and hot gas. So, a large fraction of the matter in our Universe is dark and of unknown composition.
For the past ten years, active search projects have been underway for possible candidate objects for Dark Matter. One of many possibilities is that the Dark Matter consists of weakly interacting, massive sub- atomic sized particles known as WIMPs. Alternatively Dark Matter may consist of massive compact objects (MACHOs), such as dead or dying stars (neutron stars and cool dwarf stars), black holes of various sizes or planet-sized collections of rocks and ice.
In 1986, Bohdan Paczynski from Princeton University realised that if some of the Dark Matter were in the form of MACHOs, its presence could be detected by the gravitational influence MACHOs have on light from distant stars. If a MACHO object in the Milky Way passes in front of a background star in a nearby galaxy, such as the Large Magellanic Cloud, then the gravitational field of the MACHO will bend the light from the distant star and focus it into our telescopes. The MACHO is acting as a gravitational lens, increasing the brightness of the background star for the short time it takes for the MACHO to pass by. Depending on the mass of the MACHO and its distance from Earth, this period of brightening can last days, weeks or months. The form and duration of the brightening caused by the MACHO - the microlensing light curve - can be predicted by theory and searched for as a clear signal of the presence of MACHO Dark Matter. MACHOs are described as `microlenses' since they are much smaller than other known cases of gravitational lensing, such as those observed around clusters of galaxies.
Astronomers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Center for Particle Astrophysics in the United States and the Australian National University joined forces to form the MACHO Project in 1991. This team used a dedicated telescope at the Mount Stromlo Observatory in Australia to monitor the brightness of more than 10 million stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud over a period of eight years. The team discovered their first gravitational lensing event in 1993 and have now published approximately twenty instances of microlenses in the direction of the Magellanic Clouds. These results demonstrate that there is a population of MACHO objects in and around the Milky Way galaxy that could comprise as much as one half of the Milky Way total (baryonic/normal-matter) Dark Matter content.
In order to learn more about each microlensing event, the MACHO team has used Hubble to take high-resolution images of the lensed stars. One of these images showed a faint red object within a small fraction of an arc-second from a blue, main sequence background star in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The image was taken by Hubble 6 years after the original microlensing event, which had lasted approximately 100 days. The brightness of the faint red star and its direction and separation from the star in the Large Magellanic Cloud are completely consistent with the values indicated 6 years earlier from the MACHO light curve data alone. This Hubble observation further reveals that the MACHO is a small faint, dwarf star at a distance of 600 light-years with a mass between 5% and 10% of the mass of the Sun.
To further confirm its findings, members of the MACHO team sent in a special application for observing time on the FORS instrument on the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT)) to make spectra of the object. ESO responded swiftly and positively to the request. Although it was not possible to separate the spectra of the MACHO and background star, the combined spectrum showed the unmistakable signs of the deep absorption lines of a dwarf M star superimposed on the spectrum of the blue main sequence star in the Large Magellanic Cloud.
The combination of the microlensing light curve from the MACHO project, the high-resolution images from Hubble and the spectroscopy from the VLT has established the first direct detection of a MACHO object, to be published in the international science journal Nature on 6 December. The astronomers now have a complete picture of the MACHO: its mass, distance and velocity. The result greatly strengthens the argument that a large fraction of the `normal' Dark Matter in and around our Galaxy exists in the form of MACHOs and that this Dark Matter is not as dark as previously believed!
Future searches for MACHO-like objects will have the potential to map out this form of Dark Matter and reach a greater understanding of the role that Dark Matter plays in the formation of galaxies. These efforts will further strengthen the drive to reveal the secrets of Dark Matter and take a large step towards closing the books on the mass budget of the Universe.
Mars Probe Sees Possible Mars Climate Change
MARS December 7, 2001 (NASA) - The planet Mars we know today is a cold, dry, desert world, but suppose the Martian climate is changing even now, year to year and decade to decade?
New observations by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft are expanding our understanding of the Martian climate and may indicate the climate is changing significantly even today. This suggests even larger climate changes have occurred during the planet's recent history and may again in its future. The observations were made during a full Martian year, 687 Earth days.
If this is so, Mars might someday become warmer and wetter, as some scientists suggest it was during its early history. Papers detailing these observations are published in the Dec. 7, 2001, issue of Science magazine.
"If the environment of Mars has really changed by as much and over as short a time-scale as our observation implies, there should be attributes of Mars reflecting these changes that may be measurable by landers," said Dr. Michael Malin, principal investigator for Global Surveyor's camera system at Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. "If Mars had a higher atmospheric pressure in the not-too-distant past, it is more likely that water was present as a liquid near the surface."
Liquid water is required to support known forms of life, and the presence of liquid water on Mars would make it more likely life may once have existed there.
"Detecting evidence of climate change and variability on Mars using Mars Global Surveyor data is an important aspect of telling us where to go on the surface this decade," said Dr. James Garvin, lead scientist for Mars exploration, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. "Clearly, the polar regions are a good place where we would like to look for hydrothermal vents to see if they exist on Mars."
Images from Global Surveyor's camera system show that pits -- often referred to as the "Swiss cheese" terrain -- at the southern polar ice cap of Mars have dramatically increased in diameter, indicating the material has evaporated rapidly compared to last year.
"The amount of change is much larger than any previous change we've seen on Mars, and it is much larger than can be explained by the evaporation of water ice. We have calculated the only material that could have changed this much is carbon dioxide ice, what we know as dry ice," said Malin. "This means the Mars environment we see today may not be what it was a few hundred years ago, and may not be what will exist a few hundred years in the future."
A separate observation is providing more detail about the behavior of carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a "greenhouse gas" believed to warm climates when its atmospheric concentration increases. The spacecraft's laser altimeter and radio tracking system have made precise measurements of the amount and density of carbon dioxide snow in both polar regions. This information gives scientists the first global measurement of the seasonal exchange of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and surface.
Due to the tilt of the planet, Mars has seasons just like Earth. Scientists have long known the most important seasonal change on Mars is the autumn and winter "freezing out" of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the form of dry-ice frost and snow. The evaporation of the surface frost in spring and summer returns carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Over the course of a Martian year, as much as a quarter of the atmosphere freezes out, but until now scientists didn't know precisely where and how much dry-ice frost and snow would pile up on the surface.
"We have measured how deep the dry-ice snow got on Mars over the course of a year. We have also measured the corresponding tiny change in the gravity field due to carbon dioxide being transported from one pole to the other with the seasons," said Dr. Maria Zuber, deputy principal investigator of the laser altimeter, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
"Snow on Mars is denser than snow on Earth and is really more like ice than snow. Understanding the present carbon dioxide cycle is an essential step towards understanding past Martian climates," Zuber said.
X Prize Space Race Heats Up
ST. LOUIS December 4, 2001 (PR Newswire) - X PRIZE competitor Steven Bennett of Cheshire, UK recently completed an unmanned launch of his Nova spacecraft, becoming the fourth X PRIZE entrant to successfully fly a spacecraft prototype that eventually will take citizens to space. Bennett is planning a piloted launch in Spring 2002, the next step in his quest to capture the $10 million X PRIZE.
The St. Louis-based X PRIZE Foundation is awarding $10 million to the first privately funded person or team to fly a three-person spacecraft to 100km on two flights within two weeks. The first space-based incentive prize of its kind, the X PRIZE is modeled after the Orteig Prize, won by Charles Lindbergh in 1927 for his historic transatlantic flight in the Spirit of St. Louis. Bennett is one of 21 registered competitors from five countries vying for the X PRIZE.
"The goal of the X PRIZE is to open space to tourism. Steve Bennett's successful test flight puts our dream of getting to space one step closer," said Peter H. Diamandis, founder and chairman, X PRIZE Foundation. "His flight demonstrates the ability of small, entrepreneurial teams from the private sector to successfully build technology which was previously only possible by large governments."
"Following our success with Nova we will push ahead with a full-scale test launch of our X PRIZE vehicle, Thunderbird, next year with the goal of making an assault on the X PRIZE within 18 months," said Bennett. "We intend to win the X PRIZE and open space for everyone."
For more information, visit http://www.xprize.org
India Considers Unmanned Mission to the Moon
NEW DELHI, India December 12, 2001 (Reuters) - India's state-run space program has begun a feasibility study for an unmanned mission to the moon, the government said on Wednesday.
The four-decade-old Indian space program has been successful in making communication and earth imaging satellites and launch vehicles for them, but no exploratory missions into space have ever been launched.
"The trip to (the) moon will be entirely based on the conclusions of the (feasibility) study," the government said in a statement.
No time-frame was given for the feasibility study.
The statement said the scientists of the Indian Space Research Organization wanted to conduct experiments aimed at understanding the lunar surface.
"India is embarking on the program in the backdrop of self reliance achieved in the design, development and commissioning of communication as well as launch vehicles and rockets," the statement said.
ISRO scientists have in the past said it could take them five to six years to launch the mission, once the government gave the go-ahead.
By Sara Steindorf
Christian Science Monitor Staff Writer
Washington December 6, 2001 (Christian Science Monitor) - Prejudice against American Indians in the early 1960s kept his father from ever mentioning - even to his family - what tribe they were from. But when James Fortier's own son was born in 1993, he vowed it was time to break the silence. So the San Francisco filmmaker not only searched out his Ojibway relatives, but became a member of the tribe - and in 2000 identified himself for the first time on the United States Census as part American Indian.
Stories like Mr. Fortier's were repeated again and again in the 2000 Census, which for the first time allowed people to mark down more than one race.
Some 4.1 million Americans said they were at least part American Indian, more than double the 1990 figure, and 2.5 million identified themselves only as American Indian, a 26 percent increase. Both alone and in combination with another race, American Indian figures "are rising beyond anything that can be explained by birthrate," says Gabrielle Tayac, a sociologist at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian.
Experts and tribal officials cite several reasons for the jump: Soaring casino revenues and benefits from affirmative action and minority status, enticing more tribal enrollees; a growing interest in genealogy, spurred largely by the Internet; and an erosion of the American Indian stigma.
"It's cool to be an American Indian now," says Cherokee spokesman Mike Miller, who has watched his tribe more than double to 230,000 members over the past decade, rivaling the Navajos as the country's largest tribe.
"Wanting to identify with our heritage, people have gone back to their roots to find some kind of Cherokee ancestry to qualify for membership," he says, adding wryly that his tribe has no casinos.
There's no official figure available, however, for the increase in membership of all 561 federally recognized tribes, leaving the census as the most accurate count. And while a person's bloodline may be too thin for tribal enrollment, it is no barrier to self-identification.
"It's the increase since the 1990 count that is so striking," says Dr. Tayac.
For decades, it was embarrassing and shameful to be considered American Indian, says Joely De La Torre, a professor of American Indian studies at San Francisco State University. American Indians avoided US Census forms, largely because of their historical mistrust of federal officials who expropriated their land. But in the late 1960s and early 1970s, civil rights and Indian pride movements prompted many to embrace their roots for the first time, she says.
More recently, sociologists refer to the effect of Indians portrayed in a nobler light by popular culture. Movies such as "Dances With Wolves," with Kevin Costner (1990), and Disney's "Pocahontas" (1995) cause more people to acknowledge their ancestry, the theory goes.
And Indians have "received more respect from society as they become more professionally and economically developed," says Dr. De La Torre, who is writing a book titled "American Indians: Political Power in the New Millennium."
Fortier, for example, produced a movie on American Indians that aired this year at the Sundance Film Festival, and he is working on another six-part documentary for PBS. "I'm hoping to better educate the public so that people can make their own informed decisions about the history of US treatment toward American Indians," he says.
Last year, American Indians had more than 90 representatives at the Democratic National Convention - the first time ever for any representation at a presidential convention, De La Torre says.
This year, the Grammy Awards added a category for traditional native American music. In 2004, the National Museum of the American Indian is to move into new quarters in on the National Mall in Washington.
But what has fueled American Indians economically has also earned them much criticism. Since 1988 - the year the US government allowed casino gambling on reservations - 309 gaming operations have popped up. Gaming revenue has soared from $212 million in 1988 to nearly $10 billion in 2000.
Many Americans disapprove strongly, but American Indians counter that casino revenues have allowed them to accumulate capital for the first time, enabling them to fund better schools, hospitals, and other enterprises. The new revenue also entices those of Indian blood to enroll in the tribe - and receive a share of casino stipends - and encourages members to move back to reservations for the jobs and community.
The latest census also highlights the "millions of Americans who can trace at least one root of their family tree to an American Indian," says Matthew Snipp, a sociology professor at Stanford University and member of the Census Bureau's advisory committee on American Indians. In the past, those with any hint of Indian ancestry often identified themselves as of another race to escape discrimination. "Now, there is less discrimination, and Americans can choose more than one race to mark down," says Dr. Snipp.
But the new choice also raises questions about who has the right to claim Indian status. There are those like Ten-nia Thomas, a full-blood Seneca, who feels that being an American Indian has everything to do with blood and lineage, even for those who know nothing of their traditional culture.
Others, such as Amber Arrow, who traces her roots to several tribes, point to the vast numbers of American Indian children adopted out, or to lost paperwork that could have verified a lineage.
"It's just one big mish-mosh now, but as long as you have it in your heart and follow what your elders taught you, you're an Indian," she says.
In coming years, federal and state agencies will also have to wrestle with the daunting question of how to count mixed-race American Indians for purposes of distributing federal money and enforcing minority rights, from voting to the workplace.
Writing a fair funding formula based on the new census data will be difficult, says Jay Mosa, research director at the Minnesota Department of Economic Security.
He admits there's some frustration among his colleagues. But for the most part, experts and tribal officials say the new census options are an improvement, because they allow Americans to acknowledge a fuller, multiracial heritage. Speaking for many, Fortier says: "Once I discovered my American Indian family, I couldn't let go of it. Now it's a real important part of my life."
Head To Play Who
London December 11, 2001 (SciFi) - Anthony Stewart Head, who played Giles on UPN's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, will voice Doctor Who in three segments of the BBC's radio series, coming in February, Big Finish Productions announced. Head has already recorded his performance for the segments of the Excelis series of Doctor Who radio plays.
In the episodes, the Time Lord will face the wrath of the Warlord Grayvorn, who, after meeting the fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) and Iris Wildthyme (Katy Manning) in Excelis Dawns, is touched by an alien artifact known as the Relic and becomes immortal. In the subsequent two Excelis adventures, Grayvorn has to adopt alternate identities in his quest for power over both the city of Excelis and the planet Artaris itself.
Head joins Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy for the three stories. Head recently moved back to his native England and has downscaled his role in UPN's Buffy to a recurring character from a regular.
Joss Whedon Considers Iron Man
By FRANK KURTZ
Hollywood December 11, 2001 (CINESCAPE) - Joss Whedon has a number of projects on his plate right now, one of which looks to see him making his feature film directing debut with a certain armored Avenger.
While talking to CINESCAPE magazine, Whedon addressed what projects he's currently looking at, saying, "IRON MAN is a definite possibility, but you know we are talking about a major motion picture, so it won't be any time soon."
He adds, "I'll probably end up doing another series before I do a feature just because of the time a feature will take and my deal with Fox. I'm looking to do a hard science fiction show. I am looking to do some spaceship action. Something very different from what's gone before, but ultimately it will exactly be the same as everything I do - women posing with fisticuffs."
To read what else Whedon had to say about BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and the program's DVD release, check out the upcoming 57th issue of CINESCAPE, on sale on January 8th.
Rings Premieres to Deafening Screams
HOLLYWOOD December 11, 2001 (Zap2it.com) – An estimated 2,000 fans greeted the cast of "The Lord of the Rings" in London at the world premiere Monday night.
The enthusiasm for this first live-action adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic novel overwhelmed even the usually jaded cast, who were deafened by the shouts and screams of fans at Leicester Square.
Liv Tyler, 24, who plays the role of the elf-maiden Arwen in all three of the upcoming films, told the Associated Press she was amazed by the thunderous reception.
"I've seen nothing like this ever before," she said.
And co-star Christopher Lee, 79, who plays the 8,000-year-old wizard Saruman told the AP, "No one has ever seen anything like it."
In an interview with Zap2it.com last year at the International Press Academy awards, Lee said, "I wasn't aware that playing a role like this would be so important, and as I got into the research and found out more about the lore, I realized that this may be my signature role, and not the horror films I'm now noted for."
Lee and Tyler were joined by Ian McKellen, who plays the wizard Gandalf, and Elijah Wood, who plays the hobbit Frodo Baggins, at the premiere of the first of the three movies titled, "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.'' The Tolkein novels have all been filmed and will be released over the next few years, each at Christmas time. The 50-year-old trilogy of books has sold more than 100 million copies and has been translated to more than 40 languages.
"Heavenly Creatures" director Peter Jackson is responsible for bringing the three books to life. The reported $300 million project was shot in New Zealand and will be released by New Line.
Although crowds were bigger for the recent Warner Bros. release "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," it's possible this latest book adaptation could give the boy wizard a run for his money at the box office.
"The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring'' opens Dec. 19 worldwide.
Warner Bros Lands Rights to Terminator 3
By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES December 11, 2001 (Reuters) - Warner Bros. Pictures has clinched U.S. distribution rights to "Terminator 3," with Arnold Schwarzenegger returning to his best-known role, capping a bidding war among some of Hollywood's biggest studios, producers of the film said on Tuesday.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the production and financing team behind the project reportedly had set its asking price at $50 million plus half the gross receipts generated by the film.
For his part, Schwarzenegger, 54, will receive a record $30 million to reprise his signature role as the lead-slinging, leather-clad cyborg from the future in "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," a source close to the production has told Reuters.
That would mark the highest up-front fee ever paid to a Hollywood star and would exceed the $25 million Schwarzenegger reportedly made for playing Mr. Freeze in "Batman and Robin."
"T3" is planned for summer 2003 release, giving Warner Bros. a huge "tentpole" film to drive its business during one of the busiest moviegoing seasons of the year.
The deal comes at a time when Warner Bros., a unit of AOL Time Warner Inc., is dominating the U.S. box office with its all-star heist film "Ocean's Eleven" and another key franchise property, the record-smashing fantasy "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." They were the two highest-grossing films over the weekend.
MOSTOW HELMED SUB FLICK
Production on "T3" is set to begin in April with Jonathan Mostow, who directed the submarine war movie "U-571," succeeding James Cameron behind the camera of the latest "Terminator." Entertainment trade paper Daily Variety has put Mostow's fee at $5 million.
According to Variety, producers have placed the overall cost of bringing "T3" to the big screen at $165 million to $180 million, easily eclipsing the record $135 million it reportedly took to make "Pearl Harbor."
Several major studios, including Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures and the Walt Disney Co., were said to have been vying for rights to the third installment of one of Hollywood's most potent franchises.
Interest was keen, given that "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" grossed more than $500 million worldwide after its 1991 release. Experts say a film franchise with such proven commercial clout normally has a studio home by the time it gets to its third outing.
"It's very uncommon that a major franchise like this would be available to the highest bidder," one knowledgeable industry source said.
"Usually, a major franchise is developed by a studio," he said, citing the "Star Trek" movies at Paramount Pictures and the James Bond films at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. "To be able to buy into an established franchise at any point is very rare."
MORE SEQUELS TO FOLLOW
Indeed, a joint statement issued late on Monday by the producers and studio said "T3" would "set the stage for future 'Terminator' sequels."
A Warner Bros. spokeswoman said the rights acquired by the studio included all forms of domestic distribution, including television, video and DVD release.
While plot details of "T3" have remained a closely guarded secret, the story is reportedly set 10 years after "T2," with a 20something John Connor and his T-800 cyborg pal, Schwarzenegger, battling a female Terminatrix whose powers and morphing abilities exceed that of their previous nemesis.
The film was sold to Warner by the production company C-2 Pictures, whose principals, Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna, produced "T2," and its financing partner, Intermedia Films. Two other Intermedia-backed films opened at No. 1 earlier this year -- "The Wedding Planner" and "K-PAX."
C-2 and Intermedia expect to close their major overseas distribution deals for "Terminator 3" by year's end.
Ironically, announcement of the Warner Bros. deal came as it was reported that Schwarzenegger broke several ribs in a motorcycle accident over the weekend in Santa Monica, California. But the Austrian-born star's publicist promised, "He'll be back."
Paramount Pictures is a unit of Viacom Inc. . Universal Pictures is a unit of Vivendi Universal.
Schwarzenegger Breaks Ribs in Motorcycle Crash
LOS ANGELES December 10, 2001 (Reuters) - Action star Arnold Schwarzenegger broke some ribs in a weekend motorcycle wreck, but like the leather-clad cyborg he plays in the "Terminator" movies, he'll be back, his publicist said on Monday.
The actor, 54, took a spill from his motorcycle in a "minor" accident Sunday and was treated at a nearby hospital for several fractured ribs, according to spokeswoman Jill Eisenstadt, who added she had no further details.
"He's a very seasoned rider, and very safe rider, but accidents do happen, and unfortunately he did have one yesterday," she said. "He's resting comfortably and plans on coming home today."
Eisenstadt described Schwarzenegger as in "good spirits" and said he planned to go ahead with plans to join his family for a skiing vacation in Sun Valley, Idaho, over the Christmas holiday.
"So as only Arnold could say, he'll be back," the publicist added, referring to Schwarzenegger's most famous line from the original "Terminator" movie.
The Austrian-born actor is said to have recently clinched a record $30 million salary to reprise his role as the unstoppable man-machine from the future for "Terminator 3."