Yes, we moved up in class quite a bit.  The Main Dining Room had one table for ten, and the other tables were all for six – and every seat was filled!  It was a great program, and a really memorable meeting.  PDG ANDY ANDERSON started us off with the Pledge, followed by that well-known duo of JACK HARRIS and PP JIM DOWNIE, with God Bless America.  LEO TSENG provided the Invocation.  “This week America lost a great leader, and the world lost a good and decent man.  His legacy brings us the best of hope, not the worst of fear.”  We joined in a moment of silence in his honor.  Thank you LEO,

for an excellent tribute.


There were a lot of guests.  TONY MARRONE brought his wife, Veniece, and Bob Wilson.  Program Chair SALLY BRANT had Susan Rasich, President of the World Affairs Council.  RALPH WOODWARD came with his wife, Bettye.  LILLIAN KLIEWER brought along her daughter, Christy, who just graduated from the 8th grade – which got some applause, of course.  Pres. PETER was joined by his wife, Shirley.  PP JIM COLLINS came with his neighbor, Bob Greer.  And our Speaker, Dennis Tito, brought his wife, Elizabeth.  We had a Visiting Rotarian, Mike Leider, from Pasadena – who tells us that his club brought in FORTY FIVE new members this year!


Pres. PETER reported briefly on his ten days with other Flying Rotarians in Hawaii.  There were 32 in his group, in six planes plus a charter, and they landed on five islands. 

PETER suggested we all consider one of the many Rotary Fellowships that might be of interest.  It’s a very wide range of programs – and of course, PP RON LYSTER, as the founder of the Motorcycling Fellowship, can give you more information.  This brought up the question of use of our Club website, and a survey, based on hands being raised, was undertaken.  Quite a few of the members do check the site frequently. 


The new 75th Anniversary Group Picture was passed around, and we were asked to mark the sheets on each table if you would like a copy.  In the ensuing program, I’m not sure if those sheets got picked up – but we do need to know of your interest, as you can understand. This in turn led to a seven minute interval, just for fellowship. 


SALLY BRANT introduced our Speaker, Dennis Tito.  He has a BS in Astronautics from NYU, and an MS from Rensselaer Polytechnic in Engineering Science.  His first job was at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, when he was just 23.  His basic assignment was the design of the trajectories for the Mariner spacecraft missions to Mars and Venus.  In 1972, he changed careers, founding Wilshire Associates, which applies mathematical formulas to advise a wide variety of institutional and high net worth investors worldwide.

His team of 250 professionals advises on about one trillion dollars in assets, directly manages about ten billion, and provides analytical tools to some 350 institutions. 


Dennis began by ‘confessing’ that he is passionate about space travel (surprise!).  He gives a lot of talks about his space journey, and it can pay off – when he spoke to the Stanford Alumni of WLA a little over a year ago, that’s where he met his wife, Elizabeth!

His interest in Space began when the Soviets launched Sputnik – some 45 years ago – and he has sought a way to actually travel in space for years.  His job at JPL paid $670 a month – but there weren’t very many individuals around at that time who understood and could provide the analytical methodology required in space science.  So he left JPL after five years - but his quest to travel in space continued.  Meanwhile he enrolled in the PhD program at UCLA, studying finance, which enabled him to found Wilshire Associates...     While he devoted the great majority of his time to developing his investment firm for the next three decades, his space ‘hobby’ continued to interest him. During his continuing quest to achieve space travel, he learned that the Russian Space Program was short of funds.  He began talking to them several years ago, and finally, in June of 2000, they agreed to let him participate in a trip to their Mir space station.  The price was twenty million dollars, which as he pointed out, was after-tax dollars!


He thus began an eight month regimen of training, and he reminded us that boot camp when you are young may be OK, but at his older age, it wasn’t much fun.  He was living in a two-room flat – somewhat different from his comfortable residence in Pacific Palisades.  And being told what to do by sergeant-types didn’t go down too well, either. However, he stuck to it, training for eight months in Russia – and then the Mir space station was abruptly decommissioned!  But because the Russians had made a commitment to Dennis, they were able to switch him over to the International Space Station. NASA, of course, pretty much felt they owned the Space Station – which was true – and they weren’t enthusiastic about any civilian being involved with it.  This was particularly true of an American civilian, since the Challenger disaster had caused the death of another U.S. citizen. 


However, the Russians were determined to have him fly in their Soyuz craft, and NASA finally relented.  On April 28th, 2001, he and two Russians were launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan atop the same type of Russian ICBM that started the space race in 1957.  He showed footage of his actual liftoff, and it took just 8 minutes and 50 seconds to achieve orbit. He was aware that earlier astronauts had peaked heart rates of 130 to 140 beats per minute, and when he asked the Russians what his own heart had done, his rate stayed at 72.  His theory was that his heart was just too old to get excited…He then showed some videos he took on his Sony inside the capsule, to show how modern everything was, including the Posits on the control panel!  At this point, he was orbiting 240 miles above earth.


The views from the Soyuz were spectacular, and he also showed some slides from his Nikon S Five, which provided better resolution – but the real point here is that you can see many things on earth from space.  They made 32 orbits – each one lasting about an hour and a half, over the next two days – and they then approached the International Space Station.  This was shown on a B&W monitor – they later did get a color instrument, but it again indicates how basic their equipment was.  Their speed in space was 18,000 mph, and they approached the ISS at a rate of inches per second.  After docking, he showed more videos, noting they were traveling five miles per second, or three hundred miles per minute. This would translate into an eight minute trip from LA to NY.


Aboard the ISS, he offered videos of the sleeping area.  He showed his sleeping bag, and was holding the camera with one hand while propelling himself along with the other hand – this the result of weightlessness, of course. His six days aboard were almost entirely in the Russian section, since he wasn’t welcome in the US section, somehow. One of his most entertaining videos showed a young Russian crew member, somersaulting and flipping about in the compartment – and he commented that you can’t really do these things, once you get older. Dennis took along thirty hours of Opera CDs, and spent a lot of time just playing them, and looking at the earth. This was possible for him, of course, since while the crew was working, his time was entirely free.


Q&A – DON NELSON, What did you eat.  They had all kinds of food aboard, but he was so tired of Russian food that he tried everything else.  I asked how hard they hit the ground upon reentry.  Your capsule comes down, slowed by a parachute, and with reverse thrusters at work, so he didn’t think it was a very hard landing.  Someone asked about sleeping, and he said you zip yourself into your bag, and sleep very well.  LILLIAN KLIEWER wanted to know about his introduction to weightlessness. They first take you up in an airplane, and on a falling parabola, there is about 25 seconds of zero gravity.  He was also in a centrifuge, which produced eight times his normal weight.  He liked the cramped space capsule. PP STEVE SCHERER, Why was the U.S. wary about your trip.  “Only God Knows”, but some guesses include the lingering fear of a repeat of the Challenger tragedy, his age might have been a factor – and after all, here he was, an ordinary guy in SPACE!  DENNIS CORNWELL, upon learning the Tito and his wife would be returning to Russia soon, inquired if by chance they needed a Travel Agent.


Great Stuff  -  we all loved it (and those fancy digs aren’t bad either).


YOE, Ernie Wolfe