November 2008

Minutes from the Sunday Supper Club, Nov. 9th, 2008

Happy Birthday to Us!!

“What a difference four years makes.”  Our “moderator in chief” David Roos began our meeting with a brief overview of the last four years of the SSC.  The SSC was formed in 2004 out of frustration over the election results of 2004.  We are grateful to Linda and Neil Swanson, David Roos and Huel Meadows (whom we remember with great love) for their efforts in creating and sustaining this group.

As David pointed out, the SSC has become a destination – the place to come to be informed.

(Scribe’s interjection) In the past year alone we’ve been privileged to have as our guest speakers:

• Lawrie Parker and Liliana Anaya-  Restorative Justice
• Claire Gastanaga – Immigration issues
• Pablo Elliott and Harvey and Ellen Ussery – Local Sustainable Agriculture
• Judy Feder and Mike Turner- Fauquier County’s only candidate’s forum
• Dr. Jonathan Lewis- superintendent of the Fauquier County Public Schools
• Lynn Broaddus- Future of Fresh Water
• Mike McCoy- Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining
• Mark Hackley- Blue Ridge Area Food Bank
• State Senator Jill Vogel- Impressions From Her First Year/ Important Issues Before the Legislature.

As a group we do not endorse candidates or causes and therefore we’ve been pleased to welcome candidates in virtually all recent elections including, to name just a few: Harris Miller, Judy Feder, Mike Turner, Bill Day, Creigh Deeds, Karen Schultz, Jill Vogel, Holder Trumbo, Peter Schwartz, and Terry Nyhous.

Five Minute Flash Reports:

Treasurer’s Report-  Lisa Richard reported that after paying our website and domain name expenses our balance stands at $62.65.

Save a tree this Christmas- Linda Swanson suggested making simple gift bags for holiday wrapping.  These are easy to put together and are good for the planet.  For those who are “sewing challenged” this can be done simply by wrapping gifts in fabric and tying them with string.

Posting Recipes- Linda made the suggestion that since we have so many wonderful cooks in the SSC (personally I eat better on meeting days than I do any other time of the month) we should post the recipes on our website.  If you have recipes you would be willing to share, please send them to Linda at

Fielding Candidates- Karen Schultz joined us straight from a meeting held at her house of 23 women brainstorming how to get Democratic women to run for office.  We need to encourage and assist qualified candidates in campaigning for office and stepping up and filling appointments.  This led to David Roos’ encouragement for people to run for Board of Supervisors and the School Board.  Georgia Herbert, former BOS Chair added that her service on the board was hard work but extremely rewarding and truly a wonderful experience.   We must all step up and run for these offices or we won’t have a local government.

For the Good of the Community

Sorenson Institute:  If you are interested in learning more about the process of government service, David pointed us to the Sorenson Institute: “a non-partisan organization dedicated to improving political leadership in Virginia thereby strengthening the quality of governance at all levels of government.”  For more information visit:

Fauquier Business and Professional Women’s Craft/Trade Fair- Sat. Nov. 15th.  For details please visit and look under “Upcoming Events.”

Help for reducing energy use and costs:  Michael Rainger is seeking (Fauquier) churches who want to reduce their winter heating bills. He is already working with congregations in Front Royal and Luray who are significantly over-budget for 2008 due to the recent 18% increase in electric utility bills. The services are free.

• Michael was a recent exhibitor at the 9th Annual Green Expo in Roanoke
( ) where over 4000 visitors (double 2007) learned about reducing finite energy costs while becoming more sustainable in their daily living habits from about 100 Virginia-based exhibitors. These hard-working entrepreneurs typify new technologies by providing new jobs, increasing exports, and helping our country to become more energy independent while also reducing CO2 emissions – a win-win-win-win for all of us.  For more details visit:
• Michael can be reached at 540 219 0445 and

Inauguration Plans:  David is exploring organizing car pools or even renting a van/bus for transportation into DC on January 20th for the inauguration festivities.

Planning Committee Meeting: All our encouraged to join us at the next SSC planning committee meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 2nd at 6:30 at Panera Bread in Warrenton.  Brainstorm with us about speakers for the SSC’s exciting fifth year!

Guest Speaker

We welcomed Dr. Ellen Stofan, NASA scientist and SSC “member” to speak with us about “NASA after 50 years: What’s Next?”

(Scribes disclaimer:  I was an English major and, as you may soon see, science is not my forte and consequently I am afraid I will not do Dr. Stofan’s wonderful remarks justice.  I encourage you to visit all reference sites and to explore her new book, Planetology, for “the rest of the story.”)

What is NASA? Budget. What are they doing?

• NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, was founded in 1958 under the National Space Act.  NASA grew out of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics which had been researching flight technology for more than 40 years.
• The organization is part of the executive branch and therefore everything NASA does has to be in line with the policies of the administration.
• NASA is split up into ten centers, each of which has a general area of expertise.
• The budget in 2007 dollars:  In the 1960’s the budget was up to 35 billion dollars and accounted for 5% of the federal budget.  For the last 15 years the budget has been app. 16 billion dollars.
• Well over half of the budget goes to aeronautics and other science activities including the space shuttle, the international space station, crew exploration, human/robotic technology and exploration missions.
• The plans for the Saturn 5 and Apollo missions were lost necessitating the redevelopment of technology to put humans on the moon.  The plan is to pay for this by phasing out the space shuttle which is broadly felt not to be the best launch vehicle.
• In 1989 President George H.W. Bush launched the Space Exploration Initiative calling for construction of the Space Station Freedom, sending humans back to the moon and ultimately sending astronauts to Mars.  He did not, however, increase NASA’s budget, making this initiative an unfunded mandate.
• In 2017 the space station will be phased out.  The space station is a great test facility but it is expensive and NASA cannot do other things without cutting expenses somewhere.  Although other countries have contributed both funding and personnel to the space station, the United States is responsible for its operation and provides the bulk of the funding.

Cost of NASA Missions:
• The total national budget is 2.784 trillion dollars.
• NASA’s 16 billion dollar budget accounts for 0.58% of the total budget (for reference, the defense budget, not including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is 481 billion dollars)
• In the 1960’s, during NASA’s heyday, the NASA budget made up 5% of the federal budget.
• 2007 budget funding for Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, Social Security and Agriculture and Labor equals 1.581 trillion dollars.  For every dollar which goes to NASA, $98 go to social programs.
• Specific NASA mission costs: Cassini  (which involved 14+ yrs., 17 nations and hundreds of people) – 4 billion, Messenger Mercury- $ 185 million.  Again, for comparison, 1 B2 bomber costs 2 billion dollars, Cleopatra (supposedly the most expensive movie ever made) cost $290 million.
• A percentage of the NASA budget is redirected to projects such as planetariums, museums and research.

NASA mission statement:  Prior to 2006 the mission statement read: “To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers…”
In 2006 the mission statement was changed to: “To pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research …”
Notice the omission of “protecting our planet.”

Current and future NASA Missions
• At present, 21 missions study planet Earth, monitoring ice cover, atmosphere, oceans and vegetation cover.
• 17 missions focus on the sun, monitoring its effects on the earth as well as the influence of coronal ejections (“explosive and violent eruptions of charged, magnetic field-inducing particles and gas from the Sun’s outer coronal layer”  )
• 12 missions focus on astrophysics.
• 15 planetary missions, including 5 on Mars.  The Mars Rovers, “Spirit” and “Opportunity” are five years past their expected “death date”.
• The Hubble telescope is also suffering from old age.  Some of the instruments need replacement and the computer system is quite old.
• The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope is expected to occur within the next 5 years.  NASA is developing techniques that will allow us to image smaller size planets. Currently we can only detect planets the size of Jupiter or larger.
• 2018 marks the target year for returning humans to the moon.  The goal is to establish a lunar base which would allow a launch spot for future space missions.  The hope is that we will be able to tap into the pools of water believed to be under the moons surface and then to use the elements of water (hydrogen and oxygen) to create rocket fuel.

Why Do We Explore Other Planets?
• Studying differing conditions on the different planets allows scientists to come back and better understand Earth.
• For example, studies on Venus have helped with the study of climate change as Venus also has a green house atmosphere.
• Scientists have been able to use other planets to study the effect of clouds and the interaction between oceans and atmosphere.  This is often easier to examine on other planets where you don’t have Earth’s vegetation.
• Additionally the lack of water, vegetation and erosion on other planets creates useful environments for the study of igneous processes.
• Earth is a very active planet.  Plate tectonics (surfaces in motion) has not been found on other planets – Mars is too cold, Venus lacks water.
• Wind, volcanoes and glaciers* exist on other planets and studying their creation and effects elsewhere is analogous to Earth. (* FYI: a glacier and an ice sheet are similar except that glaciers move and ice sheets don’t).
• Studying volcanoes elsewhere will not give humans the ability to stop an eruption but may allow us to develop better predictive technologies.

Life on Earth and Elsewhere
• The planets were formed at the same time approximately 4.6 billion years ago.
• 4 billion years ago there was a lot of stuff in the atmosphere which flew around at great speeds, crashing into the planets and creating “impact craters.”  Scientists first identified these craters on other planets and have now discovered more than 50 of these on the surface of Earth.  Dr. Stofan recommended a visit to the Beringer Crater in Arizona.  (Science facts AND travel tips!)
• One fact that sets Earth apart from the other planets is the incredible diversity of life.
• Life on Earth developed quite slowly with single celled organisms emerging approximately 3.5 billion years ago and then evolving into mammals only 1 billion years ago.
• On Earth we find bacteria in every condition: extreme heat, cold, acidic environments, even in nuclear waste.
• As scientists go into the solar system to look for life they search for the elements necessary for life: water, food, an energy source.
• Mars is believed to afford the greatest prospect for life.  Titan (a moon of Saturn,  only slightly smaller than Earth) is also a possibility though it is thought to be too cold.
• We have approached the search for life in an “Earth centric” fashion: “the assumption is that because it works that way here it will work that way elsewhere.”

Thank you Dr. Stofan for such a wonderful introduction to the important work of NASA!!

For more information I highly encourage a visit to the NASA website:
Additionally, Planetology: Unlocking the Secrets of the Solar System, coauthored by Tom Jones and Ellen Stofan is being released on Nov. 18th.

Save the Dates
You won’t want to miss the interesting meetings we have planned!

Dec. 14th- We’ll show the excellent Frontline video “Sick Around the World: Other Rich Countries Have Universal Health Care.  Why Don’t We?” and discuss the issues raised.

January 11th, 2009- We’ll welcome in the New Year with SSC member Georgia Herbert addressing the issue of uranium mining in Virginia.

Feb. 8th, 2009-  David Lambert addresses the topic of “You and World Hunger.”


Respectfully submitted,

Andrea Martens