Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

June 17, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

ASU and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

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  • Today NASA plans to launch the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter marking the first mission in its plans to return man to the moon. We’ll take a look at Arizona State University’s important role in the project.
Guests:
  • Mark Robinson - ASU professor


View Transcript
Ted Simons: NASA is planning to build a manned outpost on the surface of the moon, but first it wants to find the best location. That mission is set to start tomorrow with the launch of a rocket that will carry the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter into space. The L.R.O. will go into a low polar orbit about 31 miles above the moon, on board are six instruments that will gather a variety of information, they include a wide angle camera that can identify the mineral composition of the lunar surface and narrow angle cameras that will help identify potential landing sites. Together they're called L-Roc, the lunar reconnaissance orbiter camera. The team in charge of the cameras and pictures they take located right here at A.S.U.

Ernest Bowman-Cisneros: We're in what's called the science operation center for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter camera. This is where we actually generate the commands for the camera to take an observation. We look at the upcoming orbit tracks, figure out what features on the lunar surface we're going to be flying over and decide which of those we want to take pictures of. Build that command file and send that to Goddard space flight center which eventually uplinks it to the spacecraft. Right now the baseline plan is we get turned on July 2nd. That's when what's called first flight, we'll actually turn on the camera and can take our first picture. The excitement for us is that we are the first mission in the return to the moon and eventual astronauts on the surface of Mars. So we're looking to find the resources that we can utilize to build a base on the lunar surface so we're going to figure out where those resources are and then help NASA determine where our good potential landing sites for lunar sortie missions for robotic spacecraft and eventual manned spacecraft landing on the surface and then eventual lunar bases. Building on that then going to Mars.

Ted Simons: A.S.U. professor Mark Robinson is the project's principal investigator. He'll be leading the scientific analysis of data collected by cameras aboard L.R.O. I had a chance to speak with him before he left for Florida for tomorrow's scheduled launch. Mark, thanks for joining us on "Horizon."

Mark Robinson: My pleasure.

Ted Simons: Describe the mission and the implications of this particular mission.

Mark Robinson: Well, the over-arching goals of the mission, are to support a human return to the moon sometime around 2020 time frame.

Ted Simons: So basically the first steps toward going back to the moon here?

Mark Robinson: I would say yes, the first steps on this attempt to return to the moon. There have been a couple of missed steps in the past in the early '90s going back to the moon, but there was a new direction announced for NASA by President Bush in January of 2004 I believe it was, yeah, I think it was 2004. And so we're well along the path right now and that includes L.R.O. as the first robotic mission to help scout out places on the moon where we'd like to go back and to explore and also in parallel there have been development of a launch system to replace the space shuttle. The first system to replace the shuttle, the I believe is now scheduled for a test launch sometime next fall, it’s not a full final spacecraft but it's well along the way. Back to L.R.O., the main goals are right now doing polar science, because that appears to be where we'd like to put the first human outposts on the moon, at the poles, for a couple of reasons, one is the poles have a very benign thermal environment. And in the sense that on the moon a day lasts two earth weeks and a night is two weeks long, so look up to the moon and the cycle of the moon is a month. So if you're at the equator night lasts for two weeks and gets very, very cold. There's a huge temperature range on the surface and during the day it gets very, very hot. Whereas at the pole, the changes are much smaller and in fact there are places near the poles where the peaks stick up into the light so they're illuminated for much longer stretches of time and maybe only get dark for three or four earth days and so that might be a really good place to go and put a first outpost because you have nearly continuous solar power. And so L.R.O. has several instruments that are specifically designed to investigate the poles because not only is there an interesting thermal environment there, there may be volatiles trapped in permanent shadow craters.

Ted Simons: So basically A.S.U.'s part in this mission, we're talking cameras here, describe the cameras and how close are these things going to wind up get together lunar surface?

Mark Robinson: Well, the spacecraft itself scissor bit 50 kilometers circular, so only 50 kilometers above the surface, which is about 30 miles, so it's a very low orbit and there are actually three cameras that A.S.U. are providing to the mission. Two of them are very high resolution black and white cameras called the narrow angle cameras and there is another camera which is the wide angle camera which images in the U.V. and invisible colors. And its role is to map out color differences on the surface that can relate back to compositional differences. Narrow angle cameras are black and white and they can see a piece of ground about this big in terms of each pixel. So the resolution is 50 centimeters.

Ted Simons: In general what are we going to learn from this mission and how are these cameras going to help us?

Mark Robinson: Well, in terms of the human return, there's -- there are many within almost any large project that you do, but the very high resolution black and white cameras are going to take several different kinds of images, you know, there's just the normal looking straight down taking a picture and then we can come back later in the same area and tilt the spacecraft over and get a stereo image, so then we can combine those and make a very high resolution topographic map. And then we will also take pictures of these areas when the sun is low on the horizon, shadows are cast and it really enhances the topography, so let's say if you were standing on the surface, we wouldn't be able to tell that it was a person, but we would be able to see that there was something there, because you'd be casting this long shadow, right. We'll also take pictures when the sun is right overhead at nearly noon time because that enhances albito differences, a fancy word for how much light does something reflect. That piece of paper says very white so it's high albito and your jacket is dark, so it has a low albito. It tells us about the composition of the surface in a very fundamental invasive way and the lower resolution color helps us also to determine compensation on the surface. But we're looking for places to go and land, safe and scientifically engaging and we have a general idea of many different places and in fact NASA, has this list of their 50 top places that we're going to investigate on the moon and to help narrow them down, we'll be taking images over the course of the 14 months nominal mission of all these areas both in data looking and off data for stereo and combined with data.

Ted Simons: Sounds fascinating. Last question here, A.S.U. involved obviously this project, future projects for A.S.U.? What do you see out there?

Mark Robinson: Well, A.S.U. as you know has a long involvement with space missions, if you go right down the street here there's the Mars space facility and there's been I can't even remember how many missions, at least three in the recent past where A.S.U.'s been involved. I'd really like to see us involved in future lunar exploration. The whole lunar program right now is very hazy and we have a new president and he's reevaluating NASA's course right now in terms of human space flight and exploration of the moon and there's this Augustine commission that's starting up right now and they're supposed to report back at the end of the summer, is the course we're on where NASA should be going, in terms of human space flight, and the robotic program follows along with that to a large degree. So I would say let's hold that question until the Augustine commission sends their report back early fall.

Ted Simons: All right.

Mark Robinson: But I'd love to be involved and A.S.U. will be involved in some way, whatever course we take.

Facing Foreclosure

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  • Phoenix attorney Diane Drain, an expert in foreclosure and bankruptcy law, explains why people who are facing foreclosure need to know their rights, options, and the legal consequences of their actions.
Guests:
  • Diane Drain - Phoenix attorney
Category: Mortgage Crisis

View Transcript
Ted Simons: For more information about the lunar reconnaissance orbiter camera visit A.S.U.'s l-Roc website at l-roc.sese.asu.edu. People who are facing foreclosure should know their rights, options, and the legal consequences of their actions. Here to explain all that is Phoenix attorney Diane Drain, an expert in foreclosure and bankruptcy law. Good to have you on, thanks for joining us.

Diane Drain: Thank you for inviting me.

Ted Simons: The number of foreclosures overall?

Diane Drain: Well, compare '06 January Maricopa county 722, January '09, more than 10,000. So we've got a problem. And it's not going to go away anytime soon.

Ted Simons: How about from January to now, do you think it's starting to -- is your gut tell us it's stabilizing a little bit?

Diane Drain:I have a feeling it might be slowing down a wee bit. Whether that's a function of what the lenders are doing and really doesn't reflect the true defaults, I don't know.

Ted Simons: I know that we can go really far back on this to find out who to blame, why are we here, how did we get here, two aspects of it. Predatory lending practices, how much a factor?

Diane Drain: Huge factor. And even in the predatory lending let's include the borrower who knew they shouldn't have been signing that paperwork, but all the other experts involved who led the borrower in assuring them that they could refinance within the next year or two, and they all made money off the top. They never had to wait for the loan to actually perform in order to make money.

Ted Simons: And again predatory borrowing practices a factor there as well.

Diane Drain: Very definitely.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about foreclosure and how it affects your ability once you go through the process, once it hits you, how long before you can go buy a home again?

Diane Drain: Well, if you're willing to pay a high interest rate with a low budget type of lender, probably fairly quickly after foreclosure, but F.H.A. will loan at this current time five years after a foreclosure or five years after a bankruptcy. That's the stats today though. They were three years about 2 1/2 years ago, then changed to two years and went back to three years then four years, now it's five years. By the end of this year I expect they'll start coming down just because of the amount of homes that F.H.A.'s sitting on.

Ted Simons: Bankruptcy, how does that affect the ability to buy another home.


Diane Drain: Well, bankruptcy seems to actually make it easier to buy a home because you've discharged or forgiven so much of your debt and so when it comes to your debt versus your income ratios, you have a lot less debt than you had prior to bankruptcy. Now, is it a hit on your credit, very definitely, again F.H.A. five years after a bankruptcy, but I think for the most part that people should not consider avoiding bankruptcy or avoiding foreclosure just because they're thinking that they can't buy a house anytime in the future, certainly they can.

Ted Simons: Refinancing options are out there as well. Relatively briefly here, who qualifies?

Diane Drain: Under refinancing, well, the problem is getting a hold of the right entity at the lender's office in order to figure out whether you qualify or not. I recommend that everybody use a H.U.D. counselor. They shouldn't be paying these people $5,000 to have them pick up the phone and call their lender. So use a H.U.D. counselor, get your advice early on. Who can qualify? We have many programs that are slowly coming out hope for homeowners act one of them, and what they're looking at there is whether or not the individual voluntarily defaulted, did they have a loan that was one they could not pay on, and really looking at ways to help people stay in their homes. But the problem is sheer numbers, when you've got the kind of foreclosures we have nationwide and you have the lenders that are so overwhelmed, just getting a hold of the right people in the departments is a nightmare for these poor homeowners who are really losing their homes today.

Ted Simons: Alternatives to foreclosure, a short sale, how is life after a short sale?

Diane Drain: Well, you want to remember with a short sale you no longer own the house. Depending on what you did when you signed the short sale you might have still a debt you're legally responsible for. So you want to make sure you read the documents closely. If you don't have a debt you're responsible for you may have taxes you're responsible for, so you need to see a certified tax specialist to know that ahead of time.

Ted Simons: Some other aspects here, assumption by another party, what are we talking about here?

Diane Drain: Well, occasionally folks, outsiders will come in and try to pick up these properties. They would not pick them up as what's called a quitclaim deed where the owner of the property deeds their house directly to a third party, because the owner would be deeding all the respective debt with that. So instead the investor or the third party who wants to buy the house is going to go through the short sale process. Is that what you're looking for there?

Ted Simons: I think, yeah. How does that compare to deed in lieu?


Diane Drain: Ok. What a deed in lieu of foreclosure is a simple concept. It's I the borrower hereby deed to you the lender the title to my house. You the lender forgive my entire debt and that's exactly how the document should look. Now, because we lawyers draft them, that means they're 10 pages long or more. But that's as simple as it should be, I give you title, you forgive my entire debt. Now, there's some nuances on that though, I'm seeing some deeds in lieu that have actually have
leftover obligations for the borrowers and it shouldn't. That's not what a deed in lieu is. A deed in lieu should be quick, it should be cheap for the lender, and the consequences to the borrower, they're still going to have a foreclosure, as I said it's a deed in lieu of foreclosure so there's still a foreclosure. Tax consequences, not supposed to be any. So I always recommend when counseling folks about different options, a deed in lieu if they're giving up their house, a deed in lieu is the best option. But again the lenders are so overwhelmed they don't have time to work these borrowers through these options.

Ted Simons: So a lot of alternatives are out there. The best advice, and we're going to have a special program coming up after tonight's show, regarding asking mortgage experts about situations, personal situations and folks will be standing by, but from where you sit, the best advice for someone watching right now who's saying I just don't know if I'm going to be able to make it.

Diane Drain: Don't procrastinate. Don't borrow from your 401k without understanding what the consequences will be. Time after time I met with people who literally robbed themselves of every retirement account they had and paying into the black hole called their mortgage. They're now at a point of saying that's it, I had enough, I'm going to leave my house. Do get competent advice, both tax advice and legal advice about the consequences of signing these legal documents, don't pay people money for doing this. I mean, if you do, make sure that they're competent, they have good references, but don't pay them more than a couple of hundred dollars. Do use a H.U.D. counselor.

Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Diane, thanks for joining us, we appreciate it.

Diane Drain: You're welcome, sir, thank you.

Legislative Update

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  • Arizona Capitol Times reporter Jim Small has the latest news from the state capitol.
Guests:
  • Jim Small - Arizona Capitol Times
Category: Legislature

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening, welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Plenty of drama at the state capitol this week, most of it related the to the state budget. Yesterday the governor took the battle with lawmakers to the Arizona supreme court. Here with the latest is Jim Small from the Arizona Capitol Times, a lot has happened since Wednesday. Any developments today on all this stuff?

Jim Small: The only real development today is that the governor's staff and legislative staff kept the meeting on the budget and the house speaker and senate president were scheduled to meet with the governor this afternoon. Just to kind of get, excuse me, get an update and figure out where, you know, what staff had talked about and what agreements had been reached.

Ted Simons: Ok, so we've got the governor basically taking this legal action. Is this -- how's this playing down at the capitol? Is she changing any minds with this at all?

Jim Small: I don't think she is at all, if anything it's making republican lawmakers rank and file lawmakers stand even firmer behind their leadership in this issue. I mean, they supported the budget that is a question here, and they support their leadership in not sending those bills to the governor, and instead using it to negotiate, you know, some kind of a compromise agreement with her. So, you know, it hasn't really done much. I think if anything though it has probably has maybe, you know, solidified some opposition to the way she's approached this issue.

Ted Simons: Now, how about her idea of a concession of sorts regarding the sales tax increase, not for 2010, get the vote in there and use it for 2011. A bit of a concession there by the governor, again, changing any minds at all?

Jim Small: Well, you know, that's something actually I think we talked about last week, you know, and it was the thing that leaked out last week when senate president Bob Burns said we have a tentative agreement on part of the budget. That's what this was all about, and really what happened this week was governor B
Brewer kind of confirmed that that was something that they'd talked about and that was a concession that they'd reached and house speaker Kirk Adams talked about it yesterday and acknowledged that, you know, they had talked about this idea of not including a sales tax, any revenue from a sales tax in the upcoming year and 2010, but putting something possibly on the ballot in the fall and using any money you collect from that to then fund the upcoming year in 2011. So it's something that I think is still being kind of shopped around within republican circles and they're trying to figure out a way, you know, for some of the republicans to save face by putting something on the ballot that raises taxes which is an issue most have diametrically opposed too.

Ted Simons: Within the governor’s circle, how is it justified ok, we can wait another year for the one cent sales tax increase, this billion dollar revenue, how does that justify, when you still have got a billion dollars difference, according to the governor's office, between her numbers and their numbers?

Jim Small: It's important to note the billion dollar difference is a $4 billion deficit in the governor's plan versus a $3 billion deficit in the republican legislative plan. A lot of that depends on where you start, it’s kind of an apples and oranges comparison. The governor doesn't include any of the cuts made in January. The republican budget includes those in the baseline so you add the cuts back in and you add som of the caseload the differences together and realistically they come to the same place, anticipating close to the same amount of revenue and expenditures are both in the same ballpark. So, you know, even though there's this talk about a difference of a billion dollars it's really kind of an accounting mechanism more than anything. But as far as how the governor would propose to make up this billion dollars not from no sales tax in the 2010 fiscal year, I think that's really part of the negotiation and part of what we've seen happening between the two sides here and obviously what's happened has been that there's been some kind of agreement regarding, you know, how can we make up this extra money, you know, the republican plan doesn't include any extra taxes, so they believe that they can certainly go out and pass a budget that doesn't have to include additional revenue, so my guess is that they reached a compromise on some of those issues and decided to move forward.

Ted Simons: Interesting, all right. The concept of a government shutdown. How serious is this talk around the capitol?

Jim Small: It's something that I think every day on the calendar ticks by it's becoming a little bit more serious, people are certainly looking at it, the governor's brought the issue up with reporters, mentioned it to reporters and mentioned it to other lawmakers, the Democrat lawmakers, and she's even directed the department of administration to start doing some of the legwork to figure out exactly what would happen if government shut down and what services would be affected, what would be mandated to stay operational and kind of how the entire procedure would work.

Ted Simons: Continuing resolutions likely to keep things going, month to month or by week? I mean, for however long it got?

Jim Small: That could be an option. I know the governor's office and house and senate are all independently examining their potential options should it come down to June 30th and there isn't a budget in place so my guess is that, you know, if another week goes by and we haven't seen any meaningful progress on this budget between the budget negotiation that we'll start to hear some of the actual procedural ways this will be implemented.

Ted Simons: But the talk is there are agency heads looking at this and at least initial preparations are under way.

Jim Small: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, frankly they probably have to be. We only have two weeks left. You can't put off some of the early plannings. You can't do this all in a span of 12 hours once you get down to right at the very end, so they're doing some of the preliminary work and then trying to get ready and hopefully it won't be necessary and everyone involved says they don't expect it to be necessary. They expect to have a deal done in place but there is a contingency.

Ted Simons: Democrats in all of this, obviously on the sidelines, they don't want to be on the sidelines, but they are. Is there a chance, it sounds like the governor's ignoring them, legislative leaders are ignoring them, are they just waiting for someone to come and say we want you to play, or are they just going to be on the sidelines for the whole thing?

Jim Small: I think they're waiting for someone to say come play but I talked to the house majority leader David Lujan today and he said it's clear they're not getting an invitation. They only have two weeks left and the governor already told them she doesn't plan on inviting them to the table and republican lawmakers have yet toreally invite them seriously to any kind of talks so I think there's a little bit of a resignation that ok, well, this is the way it's going to work. They're just going for republican votes and we'll be here when and if they need something, but in order for that to happen they need to make some concessions to meet our needs and meet the priorities of the democratic caucus.

Ted Simons: Sounds like both sides between the republican legislature and republican governor figure that they're going to get what they need without democratic help, huh?

Jim Small: That's certainly seems to be the strategy so far, and I mean, has been up to this point. I don't think it's changed.

Ted Simon: We have a court date what, next Tuesday, to figure out the supreme court's even going to look at this thing?

Jim Small: Yeah, for the lawsuit over whether the legislature needs to send those budget bills they passed on June 4th up to her. Supreme court's going to hear arguments and decide whether it's worth -- whether it's their role I guess step in and really rule on the issue.

Ted Simon: And until then with all this going on, they're still meeting, aren't they?

Jim Small: They are still meeting. In fact when governor brewer held her press conference to announce negotiations had broken down, staff was meeting at that point. You know when she went and filed the lawsuit yesterday, staff was meeting. So it's been kind of odd to see these things happening on the surface but then underneath you still have, you know, the normal negotiations going on.

Ted Simons: All right. Good stuff, Jim, thanks for joining us, we appreciate it.

Jim Small: Thank you.

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