Professor Brian O’Brien FTSE is Adjunct Professor of Physics at the University of Western
Australia since 2009 and CEO of his Small Business environmental and strategic analysis consultancy Brian J. O'Brien & Associates Pty Ltd since 1978. He has published over 400 scientific papers, many reports from consultancies, and several monographs and books. Several remain directly relevant in 2018 to cost-effectiveness of Australian industries including space and to social impacts and cultures. His inventions range from two types semiconductor refrigerators to rocket and satellite payload designs - including Injun 1, the first satellite to use digital telemetry, and to 5 highly successful innovative experiments in two different sciences on the Moon. A firm advocate of synergies of science and engineering, he was elected (FTSE) Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering in 1993. His professional culture emphases Total Systems Analyses. Thus when he considered his Apollo Charged Particle Lunar Environment Experiment (CPLEE) as likely at risk from dust, he invented and promoted despite many obstacles the Apollo Dust Detector Experiment (DDE), because otherwise the Apollo 11 EASEP was incomplete. The Apollo 11 dust measurements proved such innovation essential. The DDE proved dust to be the cause of overheating and failure of the total EASEP.
At 23,he was the first PhD from Harry Messel’s School of Physics at Sydney University, became Deputy Chief Physicist, Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions, and later Assistant then Associate Professor at the State University of Iowa. His small team there built the first satellite to use digital telemetry, Injun 1,launched on 29 June 1961, Injun 2 (rocket exploded) and Injun 3. Among many discoveries were the only before-and-after radiation measurements caused by thermonuclear device Starfish whose radiation severely damaged solar cells of 8 satellites leading to their failures.
With Injun 1 in a circular orbit at 1000km altitude and his similar experiments on NASA Explorer 12, orbiting out to 120,000 Km, O'Brien proved that accepted intensities of naturally-occurring fluxes in the outer radiation zone were three orders of magnitude too large. He then developed a paradigm change in relation of auroral particles with geomagnetically-trapped radiation, changing the latter from its previous role as a cause ("Leaky Bucket") to becoming an effect ("Splash Catcher") of powerful solar-driven energising processes in the outer magnetosphere .
In 1963 he became Prof. of Space Science at Rice University, Houston, building a new space science laboratory, launching 9 auroral rockets and satellite Aurora 1.
In 1965 his radiation experiment CPLEE was selected by NASA as 1 of the 7 original experiments for Apollo astronauts to deploy as long-term observatories of the environment of and from the Moon. On 11 and 12 January 1966 in Los Angeles NASA MSC and two aerospace bidders to build Apollo ALSEPs ruled that CPLEE and the two other radiation experiments must each have a removable dust cover. They insisted no dust detector was possible because of constraints on time of Buzz Aldrin and payload weight. Before dinner on 12 January on his flight from LA home to Houston Brian invented an 8th experiment, the innovative Apollo Dust Detector Experiment (DDE) which needed no astronaut time and weighed 270grams with space-proven components. He proposed the DDE to NASA MSC later in January, 1966, and briefed groups about DDEs as part of his reports on CPLEE.
A DDE was deployed and successful on Apollo 11, 12, (13), 14 and 15, making 14 peer-reviewed discoveries to date about movements of fine lunar dust. His invention was made before either the Soviet Lunar 9 or the US Surveyor 1 had taken the first photos of lunar soil. The Apollo 12 DDE set Moon records for long-lived continuous successful operations until all active Apollo experiments were switched off by NASA in September 1977. The Apollo 12 DDE set Moon records for long-lived continuous successful operations until all active Apollo experiments were switched off by NASA in September 1977. Dust became the Number 1 environmental problem for cost-effective and safe Apollo astronauts and equipment on the Moon. It remains the inescapable greatest challenge for future lunar expeditions and settlements, Moon Villages. At September 30, 20018, the Apollo DDEs remain the only published and analysed measurements of movements of fine dust on the lunar surface.
O'Brien invented the DDE primarily as a risk-management device for his CPLEE. However, he regarded a DDE as an essential tool to measure dust effects which might affect any Apollo experiment. Consequently, in 1966 he decided that the DDE could be sampled at 54-second intervals, so that measurements from all six sensors could be included in the Housekeeping and Engineering Sub-commutated Word 33 of each ALSEP telemetry. In this way, each Principal Investigator (PI) of each mission shared all dust and temperature measurements of a DDE, automatically included in each special 7-track computer data tapes the MSC prepared and sent individually to each PI.
He is the only Principal Investigator with Apollo experiments in two different disciplines, Radiation (CPLEE) and Movements of Dust (DDE). He was the first Australian awarded the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement.
In 1968 Brian returned with his family to Sydney, becoming Visiting Scientist at University of Sydney and commuting to Rice University for Apollo 12, 13 and 14 for preliminary analyses of his experiments. The W.A. Government appointed him as the first Director and Chairman of Environmental Protection in WA (1971-77).
In 1978, Brian and his wife, Dr Avril, began a small business of strategic and environmental consultancy on a very wide range of issues and clients. His culture of Total Systems Analyses, applied to satellites, rocket payloads and Apollo experiments proved surprising to many but a very successful and sustainable, cost-effective innovation in resolving many complexities of environmental governance as components of Spaceship Earth.
In late 2006, after learning that the space community was unaware of his Apollo Dust Detector Experiments (DDEs), Brian re-entered the space community. He focussed on his unique measurements of movements of fine, sticky dust, the Number 1 environmental problem for Apollo astronauts and many deployed instruments.
In 2009 Brian published the first peer-reviewed comparison of contrasting dust impacts of the first two rocket launches from the Moon, Apollo 11 and 12 Lunar Modules returning the astronauts safely to Earth as President John F. Kennedy promised on May 25, 1961. In December, 2010 at his second 21st century conference, he activated interest in the basic cohesive forces of fine lunar dust photographed by the Apollo TDS experiment in 1971, then forgotten unreferenced, as were the DDEs, for over 40 years.
In 2011, he re-interpreted the raw data from the Apollo 17 LEAM experiment, believed for over 30 years to be caused by levitated fine dust. Brian developed a credible interpretation that LEAM raw data were caused by electronic noise in its circuitry. Two years before the $280million LADEE lunar orbiter was launched, O'Brien gave his two findings above as two independent reasons to doubt the existence of hypothetical fine dust levitated to 3 to 250km above the Moon, the main pre-launch objective of LADEE, to solve a 50-year-old mystery. In 2015 Szalay and Horanyi reported that LADEE dust detector had measured no evidence of the existence of the hypothetical fine dust between these altitudes. In 2015 O'Brien ended the puzzles by combining measurements by the East-facing solar cell of the Apollo 12 DDE with measurements by its horizontal cell, both 100cm above the surface. The East-facing cell measured variations in brightness of the dawn horizon and the Eastern moonscape, which he interpreted as caused by dust levitated between the DDE and the Sun. The Horizontal cell, measured each lunar noon, accumulated dust over the first 3 lunar days dust (after the first 3 sunrises) amounting to a third of what it accumulated over the following 6 years. He concluded that, if the cohesive force -which had made the pre-landing lunar site smooth- had been disrupted by hypersonic rocket exhausts, dust particles would have been freed. Consequently, photoelectric effects from the blast of sunrise - which must have charged such freed dust and the surface positively - would have triggered mutual Coulomb repulsion which caused transport or mobilisation of the freed dust, at least to the height of 100cm where the horizontal cell measured them. He thus explained the 50-year-old mystery as well as why lunar surfaces are smooth despite impact cratering. Various other important effects follow, keys to mining on the Moon.
O'Brien has made 14 peer-reviewed discoveries to date about movements of fine dust on the Moon, the only such measurements of the inescapable Number 1 environmental problem on the Moon for Apollo astronauts and equipment, and for future experiments to the Moon and large airless asteroids. He was invited by CAST, designers of Chang'e-3 and -4 and their lunar rovers, to assist them in Beijing to analyse the dust measurements by Chang'e-3 whose two manuscripts had been rejected. His latest dust publication on Apollo movements of dust went on-line in February 2018.
In September 2018 O'Brien is active in two contrasting fields with NASA. First, he is negotiating with the Australian Government to donate unique EASEP set of original Apollo 11 computer data 7-track tapes to the US Government, for care and display as celebration of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. Second, he has renewed requests and given examples of the necessity of correcting significant errors in the NASA NSSDCA Websites for Apollo Dust Detector Experiments. Otherwise (i) future expeditions would be unnecessarily misinformed about inescapable risks and (ii) some of the errors in NSSDC Websites for Apollo 11 dust detectors would show inconsistencies with the very possibility of such a donation. This might regrettably open a possible renewal of public scepticism about the reality of Apollo landings, a scepticism that took so much media air and lessened community delight in global community celebrations in 1969-70s. Brian has received senior-level advice from NASA that the server to the flawed NASA NSSDC website was down as of 30 September 2018 and that some changes will be made. As of 4 November 2018 the NSSDC server is still down. This website does not purport to be a substitute, but is measurement-based. not only for DDEs but for the Apollo 14 TDS and the Apollo 17 LEAM dust experiments.