Back before the Apollo program was truncated and the last three missions to the moon were cancelled, NASA planners contemplated sending a mission to Crater Tycho, which had some of the most challenging terrain on the lunar surface.
Friday, July 31, 2015
When Mitt Romney, the failed presidential candidate in the 2012 presidential election, pointed a scolding finger at Ted Cruz, the journal senator from Texas and current presidential candidate thought he must have died and gone to heaven. Romney is respected as a good man who might have made a pretty decent president had he not be such a bad politician. The main rap against Romney from the conservative base was that he was too gentlemanly and too timid, especially in the third debate, to have prevailed in an election that was very winnable. The National Journal reported on Friday that Cruz, keeping that in mind, unloaded on Romney with gusto.
Yahoo Travel reported on Wednesday that three women in Chechnya took ISIS for $3,300 before getting caught. They are now under investigation for Internet fraud, which seems to be illegal even when committed against the most fearsome terrorist army in modern times. The scam seems to be a combination of the Nigerian Prince con, in which a mark is fooled into giving the con artist large sums of money and catfishing, in which the mark strikes up an online romance with someone he thinks is an attractive woman (or man depending on the gender and preference of the mark.)
Dr. Walter Palmer is probably the most hated person in the world, with the possible exception of members of ISIS, the baby organ traffickers at Planned Parenthood and, of course, Lois Lerner and the rest of the IRS. He is on the run now because he flew to Zimbabwe and paid $50,000 to shoot a lion named Cecil for the sheer fun of blowing away a predator cat. However, as Wes Siler, a nature blogger suggested on Wednesday, Dr. Palmer may have contributed more to the conservation of endangered species than all of the animal rights activists combined who now what to kill him.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
Alan Stern, the chief investigator for the New Horizons flyby mission of Pluto, has always believed that it should be a planet. In the heady afterglow of the images and data that have flowed from the edge of the solar system, Stern has grown even blunter in his opinion, according to a Thursday story in Business Insider. He declared Pluto’s status as a “dwarf planet” to be “Bull s---.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a candidate for president, suggested that by concluding the nuclear deal with Iran, President Obama had become “the leading financier of terror.” The theory is that the deal would involve an influx of over $100 billion to Iran, once sanctions are listed, which the Islamic Republic would use to finance terror throughout the world. Cruz endured a number of attacks for his accusation, not the least from the president himself. Gateway Pundit noted on Thursday that Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee in 2012, has weighed in on the matter and has come down firmly on the side of President Obama and against Cruz.
Proof positive that Marsmania is about to strike comes with the Wednesday announcement that the National Geographic Channel is to broadcast a miniseries called “Red Planet” in 171 countries and 44 languages in 2016. The miniseries will be produced by Imagine Entertainment, with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, along with Radical Media. The show will depict the colonization of Mars from a unique perspective, mixing interviews and documentary footage from the present day with a dramatization set in the year 2032. Howard and Imagine Entertainment have been involved in such space related projects as the smash hit movie "Apollo 13" and the HBO miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon."
As Hillary Clinton continues what appears to be by many to be a death spiral in what many once considered to be a march to a coronation for the presidency, Democrats are scrambling to find an alternative. Clearly the self-confessed socialist Bernie Sanders is unacceptable. He is a formula for a landslide victory by whomever the Republicans nominate. So, as the National Journal suggested on Tuesday, weary eyes are turning toward Vice President Joe Biden, described as a “happy warrior.” Of course the last pol to be called that was then Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who got beat by Richard Nixon in 1968.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
“Bombs Away,” the aptly named latest alternate history novel by Harry Turtledove, follows the writer’s now well-used formula. The novel takes a point of departure in wartime and recounts a different narrative using multiple viewpoint characters, most of whom are ordinary people caught up in the conflict. What makes “Bombs Away” interesting is that it depicts a nuclear war during which civilization stays functioning, more or less.
Aerospace Technology reported on Monday that NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System has passed the critical design review, which must take place prior to the fabrication of the first model, due to be launched in 2018. The CDR is fortunate for the monster rocket that the space agency is counting on to send humans to Mars. The planetary science community is increasingly looking at the SLS to power the next generation of robotic space probes to the outer planets, among other destinations. This desire was discussed at a Tuesday hearing before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on the subject of planetary exploration in the wake of the wildly successful New Horizons flyby of Pluto.
According to a Wednesday story in the Washington Times, Judicial Watch, the public interest law firm, has found what amounts to a smoking gun email that proves that the IRS was trying to cover up the harassment of conservative and tea party groups by slow walking their application for nonprofit status. In a 2011 exchange between Lois Lerner, the IRS official at the heart of the scandal and Cindy Thomas, a program manager at the tax agency’s Cincinnati office, Ms. Thomas admitted to sending further demands for information to a group to distract it from complaining to Congress. She expressed the fear that a judge would find out and force the IRS to deal with the backlog of applications it had deliberately created.
Donald Trump, the businessman and media personality, continues to defy gravity by remaining at the top of the Republican polls, despite various missteps and revelations that would have sunk a lesser candidate. According to a Tuesday story in the Hill, Trump, during an interview on a radio show called “The Palin Update,” suggested that the former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate would be a good fit for a cabinet secretary in his hypothetical administration. “She really is somebody who knows what’s happening, and she’s a special person,” Trump said.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
ZME Science offered a report on Tuesday on a new strain of GMO rice that is likely to cause cognitive dissonance in the environmental movement. The rice, which just ended a three year trial in Chinese rice paddies, emits one percent of the methane that ordinary, organic rice does. As a bonus, the GMO rice creates greater crop yields.
One thing that can be said about Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is that he does not shrink from a fight. Nor is he afraid of taking on anyone whom he feels is leading the country down the path to disaster. Days after calling out Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader as a liar and then getting slapped down on the Senate floor for his pains. Cruz challenged President Barack Obama to a mano a mano debate on the Iranian nuclear deal, according to a Tuesday story on RealClearPolitics.
Jon Stewart is preparing to leave his perch at “The Daily Show” and many would think this is a good thing. The Federalist recently noted that pernicious influence that the left leaning funny man has had on public discourse, with his mix of humor and liberal commentary. His audience tends to be made up of low information voters who do not get their news from any conventional source, thus representing a bloc ill-equipped to understand and react to political issues. Recently, a former African American writer for “The Daily Show” revealed that Stewart has an angry dark side. However, as Politico reported on Tuesday, Stewart served as an unofficial media adviser to President Barack Obama, making two secret visits to the White House that is known of.
Monday, July 27, 2015
It began when Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas and current presidential candidate, accused President Obama of “marching Israelis to the doors of the oven” with his Iranian nuclear deal, as Breitbart reported on Saturday. That statement went one step beyond the often used Neville Chamberlain analogy. The statement, based on Iran’s often stated desire to replicate the Nazi Holocaust, has caused a great deal of outrage and consternation.
Hacked Magazine reported on Monday that a group of German scientists believe that they have confirmed that the EM Drive, the propulsion device that uses microwaves rather than rocket fuel, provides thrust. The experimental results are being presented at the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics' Propulsion and Energy Forum in Orlando by Martin Tajmar, a professor and chair for Space Systems at the Dresden University of Technology. Tajmar has an interest in exotic propulsion methods, including one concept using “negative matter.”
The one permanent fact about museums is that they are in constant need of money. Now, as the Smithsonian recently found out, a new source of revenue is available in the form of crowdfunding. The Smithsonian recently started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $500,000 to persevere, digitalize, and display the moon suit that Neil Armstrong wore when he made that iconic first footstep on the lunar surface. USA Today reported on Saturday that the campaign raised that money and more in about a week, with 23 or so days to go. The campaign is now in its stretch goal to raise a further $200,000 to perform the same service for the space suit Alan Shepard wore during his first Mercury space flight.
The Conservatives4Palin blog noted on Sunday that former Alaska governor and presidential candidate Sarah Palin has arranged for SarahPac to provide funding to the reelection campaigns of Republican House members who opposed re-electing John Boehner as House Speaker. As the New York Times reported at the time, Boehner suffered the embarrassment of having 25 members of his caucus vote to deny him a new term as speaker. The Republican majority in the House was large enough to have Boehner reelected by a comfortable margin in any case.
Sweet Freedom: A Devotional by Sarah Palin
Think of it as the Empire strikes back. Two days after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas took to the floor of the Senate and called Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar, Republican senators, apparently on the behest of the Republican leader, refused to second a motion to back a Cruz amendment to the highway bill to make the lifting of sanctions against Iran contingent on that country recognizing Israel’s right to exist and freeing four American hostages. As the Washington Examiner reported on Sunday, the lesson was struck home by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah when he delivered a soliloquy about decorum in the Senate, obviously directed against Cruz.
Sunday, July 26, 2015
According to a Sunday story in Business Insider, the European Space Agency has committed $384 million to the huge aerospace firm Airbus Defense and Space to get started on the "JUpiter ICy moons Explorer” or “JUICE” mission. Due to be launched in 2022 and arrive at the Jovian system in 2030, JUICE will fly by the icy moons of Jupiter, Europa, Callisto, and Ganymede, before settling into orbit around that latter moon for eight months.
CNN reported on Sunday that Hillary Clinton, former senator and secretary of state and current presidential candidate, is in full damage control mode concerning her private server and the transmission of classified emails. She is denying that any classified emails were sent through the private server, despite the fact that State Department Inspectors General say they were and are calling for a Justice Department investigation. Now, Michael Goodwin suggests that the leak of the recommendation came from the highest levels in the White House.
The Washingtonian reported on Friday about a man named Jeffrey Imm, who is picketing a production of the theatrical musical version of “The Producers.” The play, based on a 1968 film by Mel Brooks, depicts how a pair of crooked Broadway producers attempt to make a lot of money by putting on the most offensive musical in history, called “Springtime for Hitler.” Imm apparently does not get the joke. He is offended by the play within the play that makes light of Adolf Hitler and, in his view, all the evil he wrought.
Saturday, July 25, 2015
Friday, Breitbart published a delightful satirical piece in which a fictional feminist academic laid into Buzz Aldrin for walking on the moon. Using phrases like “cissexist white male privilege” and “neocolonial triumphalism” and even “cosmic man spreading” the fictional Linda Thump lays into the space program as only a women’s study professor could. She even suggested rewriting Neil Armstrong’s first words, substituting them with, “This is an accidental and undeserved moment in time for a lucky entitled manbaby, one giant leap for oppressive neoliberal hegemonic capitalist heteropatriarchy. F--- the lot of you.” But surely Linda Thump is too outrageous actually to have a real world counterpart.
Proving that satire is dead, Linda Billings, “a science communications researcher based in Washington, D.C.” offers a piece in Scientific America called “The Inexcusable Jingoism of American Spaceflight Rhetoric.” The verbiage in the piece is less lurid than that of the fictional Linda Thump, but the sentiments are about the same.
With the presidential election season drawing nigh, space advocates are firing up their computers and are starting to offer unsolicited advice to the presidential candidates about how to fix the space program. Stephen Smith, a frequent critic of NASA, was first out of the gate Friday with a long, rambling blog post on why space exploration should be entirely commercial, by which he means “commercial” funded largely by the American taxpayer. He begins his dissertation by, in essence, trashing the Apollo program, perhaps the greatest engineering and scientific achievement in human history.
As the first debate between the Republican presidential candidates draws nigh, criticism of how the networks are handling the unwieldy 16 person Republican field is intensifying, as the Washington Examiner noted on Saturday. The system now is to have the top ten candidates according to an average of the last five polls participate in the main debate while the bottom six participate in a consolation prize “round table” discussion. This system has made almost no one happy, certainly not the six who were hoping that a good debate performance would catapult them to the top tier.
Friday, July 24, 2015
If any doubt existed that the people of Texas sent a young lion to prowl the halls of the Senate, it ended in the past two days. The day after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a candidate for president of the United States, confronted Code Pink protestors on the issue of the Iranian nuclear deal, Cruz took to the floor of the Senate and said that the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told a “flat out lie” concerning the reauthorization of the Export Import Bank. As Politico noted on Friday, conservatives like Cruz are keen to end the depression era relic that they view as corporate welfare. McConnell, however, maneuvered to make certain that the bank continue.
NASA released the latest data and images to come from the New Horizons space probe on Friday, which recently flew closely by Pluto. The findings reveal an active planet where hydrocarbons fall as snow or sleet and glaciers made of nitrogen ice flow. Pluto may still be officially designated as a “dwarf planet” but it is turning out to be a world that is stranger and more complex than scientists were able to imagine before the passage of New Horizons.
The bad news for Hillary Clinton is that two inspectors general of the State Department have requested that the Justice Department open a criminal investigation in the use of her private email server to transmit classified information, the New York Times noted on Friday. The good news, such as it is, is that any such investigation will likely to slow walked, Hot Air adds. The Obama administration has been quite flagrant in shielding its allies from criminal prosecution that many of them so richly deserve.
The study that suggested that American astronauts could return to the moon by 2021 for $10 billion has caused rare excitement in the media though perhaps a little bemusement as well. Officially, due to a presidential mandate, NASA has eschewed a return to the moon. Of course, presidencies and thus space policy mandates change. In any event, Paul Spudis, a lunar geologist who frequently writes about space policy and is an advocate of a return to the moon, provided a reality check for the proposal Thursday.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
Just to prove that he is a multifaceted character, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas sat down for an interview for the New York Times Magazine on Thursday and opened his mind, not on matters of high policy, but on comic books and science fiction. As a lad, he liked Spiderman and Han Solo. But it is in the realm of “Star Trek” that the presidential candidate may have created some controversy for himself. He very much prefers Captain James Kirk to Captain Jean-Luc Picard. There are Star Trek fans who will argue passionately for either Enterprise skipper. But then again, some Trek fans will fight over what angle Spock’s ears protrude from his temples.
NASA announced on Thursday that the Kepler Space Telescope has discovered an Earth-like planet orbiting in the so-called “Goldilocks Zone) around a star much like the sun. The new planet is designated Kepler-452b. It has a radius about 60 percent greater than Earth. Its mass and composition has yet to be determined. It orbits its star every 385 days, making its year slightly larger than Earth’s.
It’s the middle of summer, which means that it’s time for another Sharknado movie to blow up social media. “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” premiered in the SyFy Channel Wednesday night. The movie, which was not overly burdened with plot, character development, or common sense, started with the destruction of Washington D.C. and ended with a mission to low Earth orbit on board the space shuttle, using a top secret military model that was conveniently not retired and was ready for launch from the Kennedy Space Center.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
According to a Monday story in the Moscow Times, Russia appears to be contemplating forcing American astronauts training for trips on the Soyuz to the International Space Station to use facilities in the Crimea. The problem is the Russia recently forcibly annexed the Crimea from the Ukraine, something that the United States does not recognize. If the United States does not like Russia forcing it to recognize tacitly said occupation, it can find another ride to the ISS.
President Obama sat down with the departing Jon Stewart one last time for a pre-taped interview on “The Daily Show.” As the Washington Examiner reported on Wednesday, Obama lied to Stewart’s face about one of the more awful scandals that have marred his presidency. According to POTUS, the IRS targeting scandal never happened. Instead, what many victims of the campaign to harass conservative and tea party groups perceived as a violation of their civil rights, was just the result of a poor implementation of a vaguely worded law passed by Congress.
Thus far, the NASA-funded study that suggests that American moon boots could be on the lunar surface by 2021 for $10 billion, which was rolled out Monday, not coincidentally the 46th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, has not gotten any reaction from politicians. But, Newt Gingrich, former House Speaker and former presidential candidate, must be feeling a kind of bittersweet vindication. When he ran for president in 2012, he proposed building a commercial moon base and ran into a withering barrage of ridicule that sank his candidacy.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Tuesday, NASA released enhanced colored images of two of Pluto’s moons, Nix and Hydra. While Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, has been getting most of the attention of scientists, the two smaller moons turn out to have some intriguing features of their own. The two small moons were discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2005.
Buzzfeed reported on Monday that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a candidate for president of the United States, invoked his inner Churchill and gave a stark warning about what the likely result of the Obama Iran nuclear deal will be. “I think it is likely the next president will be advised in January ‘17, you have two and only two choices. Either you acquiesce to Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon or direct military action must be used to take it out. I think that’s unfortunate but that’s what President Obama is forcing.” In effect, the senator and the would-be future president is saying that President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry has assured a war between the United States and Iran.
According to a Monday story in Gizmodo, SpaceX’s Elon Musk revealed the preliminary results into the investigation into the cause of the Falcon 9 explosion that took place during a launch on June 28. The initial evaluation points to a weak strut holding a helium tank in the Falcon 9 second stage snapped, causing a cascade of events that destroyed the rocket before anything could be done. The part was provided by a SpaceX supplier.
Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska and former vice presidential candidate, is in a quandary. Two men whom she considers friends are in a public knock down drag out. Of course, the men in question are John McCain, current senator and former presidential candidate, and Donald Trump, businessman, media personality, and current presidential candidate. So, Monday. CNN’s Jake Tapper put the question to Palin, apparently in an attempt to see which side she came down on. Artfully, she refused to take sides.