Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, November 22, 2014

MVNews this week:  Page B:2



Mountain Views-News Saturday, November 22, 2014 


With the Philae lander’s mission complete, Rosetta 
will now continue its own extraordinary exploration, 
orbiting Comet 67P/Churymov–Gerasimenko 
during the coming year as the enigmatic body arcs 
ever closer to our Sun.

 Last week, ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft delivered 
its Philae lander to the surface of the comet for a 
dramatic touchdown. The lander’s planned mission 
ended after about 64 hours when its batteries ran 
out, but not before it delivered a full set of results 
that are now being analyzed by scientists across 

 Rosetta’s own mission is far from over and the 
spacecraft remains in excellent condition, with 
all of its systems and instruments performing as 

 “With lander delivery complete, Rosetta will 
resume routine science observations and we will 
transition to the ‘comet escort phase’,” says Flight 
Director Andrea Accomazzo. “This science-
gathering phase will take us into next year as we go 
with the comet towards the Sun, passing perihelion, 
or closest approach, on 13 August, at 186 million 
kilometres from our star.”

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will come out of 
hibernation for the last time on Dec. 6. Between 
now and then, while the Pluto-bound probe enjoys 
three more weeks of electronic slumber, work on 
Earth is well under way to prepare the spacecraft for 
a six-month encounter with the dwarf planet that 
begins in January.

 “New Horizons is healthy and cruising quietly 
through deep space—nearly three billion miles 
from home—but its rest is nearly over,” says Alice 
Bowman, New Horizons mission operations 
manager at the Johns Hopkins University Applied 
Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md. “It’s time 
for New Horizons to wake up, get to work, and start 
making history.”

 Since launching in January 2006, New Horizons 
has spent 1,873 days in hibernation—about two-
thirds of its flight time—spread over 18 separate 
hibernation periods from mid-2007 to late 2014 that 
ranged from 36 days to 202 days long.

 In hibernation mode much of the spacecraft is 
unpowered; the onboard flight computer monitors 
system health and broadcasts a weekly beacon-
status tone back to Earth. On average, operators 
woke New Horizons just over twice each year to 
check out critical systems, calibrate instruments, 
gather science data, rehearse Pluto-encounter 
activities and perform course corrections when 

 New Horizons pioneered routine cruise-flight 
hibernation for NASA. Not only has hibernation 
reduced wear and tear on the spacecraft’s electronics, 
it lowered operations costs and freed up NASA 
Deep Space Network tracking and communication 
resources for other missions.

 Tops on the mission’s science list are 
characterizing the global geology and topography 
of Pluto and its large moon Charon, mapping their 
surface compositions and temperatures, examining 
Pluto’s atmospheric composition and structure, 
studying Pluto’s smaller moons and searching for 
new moons and rings.

 New Horizons’ seven-instrument science payload 
includes advanced imaging infrared and ultraviolet 
spectrometers, a compact multicolor camera, a 
high-resolution telescopic camera, two powerful 
particle spectrometers, a space-dust detector 
(designed and built by students at the University of 
Colorado) and two radio-science experiments. The 
entire spacecraft, drawing electricity from a single 
radioisotope thermoelectric generator, operates on 
less power than a pair of 100-watt light bulbs.

 Distant observations of the Pluto system begin 
Jan. 15 and will continue until late July 2015; closest 
approach to Pluto is July 14.

 You can contact Bob Eklund at: b.eklund@


has always 
been my 
holiday of the 
year. Even 
moreso than 
Christmas. It 
is our uniquely 
holiday where 
the family 
gathers, where 
we remember 
our roots, we share a meal, and we give thanks. 

 But look how quickly such simple and 
profound holidays get perverted. Today, we 
hardly know what “giving thanks” even means, 
and so the act of giving thanks is lost on most 
of us. Newscasters talk about “turkey day,” as 
if all there was to the day was eating turkey. 
Interestingly, most folks would not know 
whether or not they were eating turkey, or 
eating crow, and most of the time we’re doing 
the latter, figuratively speaking. Then, when 
we have barely taken the time to consider the 
notion of “giving thanks,” we get up early on 
the following “black Friday” to rush around 
with the mobs “looking for a good deal” to help 
us celebrate the consumer-driven commercial 
craze into which we’ve morphed “Christmas.” 

 Wow! How did we get here? What can we 
do about it? Let’s take a moment to look at the 
roots of Thanksgiving. 

 In the history of North America, we are told 
that the first historic Thanksgiving Day was in 
October of 1621. After a successful harvest that 
year at the Plymouth colony, there was about 
a week of celebrations. The local Indians and 
the colonists joined together, with the Indians 
generally showing the colonists (mostly city 
folks) how to hunt for the meal which consisted 
of fowl, deer, duck, goose, and fish. Corn bread, 
wild greens, plums, leeks, and many other 
vegetables (wild and domestic) were shared 
in this celebration. Interestingly, there is no 
evidence that wild turkey or wild cranberries 
(totally unpalatable without cooking and 
adding sweeteners) were part of the menu. 

 In fact, some historians question whether or 
not there were any religious overtones at all on 
this “first Thanksgiving,” citing such evidence 
as the archery and firearms games, and the 
running and jumping competitions, which they 
say would never be done at religious ceremonies 
by the Puritans. 

 Some say that the “first Thanksgiving” was 
just another Harvest Festival. 

 What then is it, if anything, that sets the 
American (and the Canadian) Thanksgiving 
celebration apart from any of the other myriad 
of Harvest Festivals? 

 The pilgrims experienced a severe drought 
in the summer of 1623. That season, they were 
totally dependent on wild game and wild plants, 
and owed their survival largely to the English-
speaking Indian Squanto. In their lack, they 
refocussed upon their real purpose for coming 
to this new land. They sought to establish a time 
to give thanks for their spiritual bounty, in spite 
of the fact that they had no material bounty that 

 A harvest festival implies revelry and fun 
because of the material bounty; by contrast, 
a day of thanks is intended to remind us that 
there is more to life than the physical bodies 
and material food. The day of thanks is set apart 
so that we do not lose sight of our spiritual 
heritage, which is the real bounty. 

 Both Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July are 
the times that Americans have traditionally set 
aside to reflect upon the concepts of “freedom” 
and “giving thanks.” The purpose of such 
special times of reflection is to see how well we 
have done during the past year, and determine 
what corrections we should make if we find that 
we are veering away from our chosen path. It 
should not be a time of merely “having fun.” 

 As long as we confuse “giving thanks” with 
“eating a lot of really good food,” the practical 
effect is that Thanksgiving today is little more 
than a Harvest Festival. “Giving Thanks” is a 
particular attitude which accompanies specific 
actions. Perhaps sharing our bounty with the 
needy would be a better Thanksgiving activity 
than eating large volumes of food. More to the 
point, perhaps we should use Thanksgiving to 
give thanks where it is due -- to the American 
Indians who have become the “forgotten 
minorities.” Rather than “eat a lot,” perhaps we 
could send blankets, food, or money to any of 
the American Indian families or nations who 
today live in Third World conditions. 

To me, the essence of Thanksgiving was the 
coming together of two cultures, trying to work 
together under trying circumstances. Yes, they 
shared a meal. Food sustains us. But it was not 
about food, per se. They practiced with their 
bows and guns, a sign of mutual preparedness. 
And in their own ways, they “prayed to God,” in 
the ways that were appropriate to each culture. 

By the way, much has been said about the 
term “Indian,” supposedly because Columbus 
thought he was in India when in fact he never 
got beyond the Carribean islands. But not 
everyone agrees with that linguistic conclusion. 
For one, India was not called “Indian” in the 
late 1400s. Some have suggested that it was the 
phrase “en Dios” (with God) that Columbus 
used to describe how the native, who lived 
simply and were perceived to be “close to God,” 
was the actual root of the term “Indians.” It is 
still debated. 

 There is much to be thankful for on 
Thanksgiving, whether we give thanks to 
friends and family, thanks to God, and thanks 
for our relative bounty. 

 But we really should not forget our national 
roots. Don’t just give lip-service thanks to the 
Native Americans whose land was taken. Rather, 
find those organizations that are actually 
providing real assistance to Native Americans 
in poverty, such as many of those living in the 
third world conditions so prevalent on today’s 
reservations. (IF you have trouble locating such 
organizations, contact me and I will make some 


Looking for a more “traditional” way to 
celebrate Thanksgiving? Check out the event in 
Highland Park, where they will show some of 
the skills such as fire-making, wild food uses, 
weaving, and trap-making that the Indians 
taught the pioneers. For details, call Prudence 
at 323 520-4720, or check the Schedule at www.

[Nyerges is the author of “How to Survive 
Anywhere,” “Foraging California,” “Self-
Sufficient Home” and other books. He leads 
courses in the native uses of plants. He can be 
reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or]