As the International Business Times reported on Wednesday, the Teamsters Union has decided to withhold its endorsement of Hillary Clinton. The Teamsters leaders are irate at Ms. Clinton’s opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and her unwillingness to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Teamsters’ representatives will be meeting with other candidates, including it is rumored Donald Trump, who has dealt with trade unions in the course of his various business enterprises.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
The current NASA thinking concerning the Journey to Mars program envisions a visit to the Martian moon Phobos in the early 2030s before attempting a landing on the Martian surface in the late 2030s, as Popular Mechanics noted on Wednesday. The idea of a practice run that takes astronauts almost but not quite to Mars is similar to what the space agency did during the 1960s Apollo program. Apollo 8 and Apollo 10 each orbited the moon but did not land on it before the Apollo 11 mission went all the way to the lunar surface, fulfilling President John. F. Kennedy’s challenge.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, a presidential candidate, lashed out at his fellow senator and rival for the presidency, Sen Ted Cruz, R-Texas on Tuesday, according to Roll Call. Paul suggested that Cruz is “pretty much done for in the Senate” due to his often fiery rhetoric calling into question the honor of Senate Republican leaders such as Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky. Cruz has not been happy with what he sees as nefarious behavior by McConnell and others over spending bills and other issues.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Monday, when Rush Limbaugh mused about the discovery of flowing water on the surface of Mars he as he is want to do, attempted to tie it in with an Earthly political issue, in this case, climate change. Limbaugh suggested that someone would attempt to make a relationship between water on Mars and the idea that global warming is threatening the Earth. Naturally, some parts of the media leaped upon what Rush said with both feet, despite the fact that the conservative radio talking tried to clarify his position on Tuesday.
Thus far, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has been based on his boasts about his ability to get things done better than other politicians as well as vicious attacks on some of his opponents and members of the media. However, with a view to attempt to flesh out what a Trump Administration would actually do, he released his tax reform plan on Monday. Like most plans coming from the conservative side of the spectrum, it cuts personal income tax rates in exchange for eliminating a great many deductions. The plan has received qualified praise from Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and harsh criticism from the left-leaning Citizens for Tax Justice.
Monday, September 28, 2015
NASA announced on Monday that it has uncovered evidence of recent flowing water on the Martian surface. The evidence of hydrated salt left behind by the flowing water was discovered by the high-resolution camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The deposits were manifested by what scientists call “recurrent slope linae”, or R.S.L.s. The RSLs are dark streaks that have been noted along the slopes of craters, canyons, and mountains. The streaks lengthened during the summer and contracted during the winter on the Red Planet.
One of the curious aspects of Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United States is how his views on global warming have made him some good friends on the American secular left. The Huffington Post reported Saturday that Bill Maher, the host of HBO’s Real Time and a militant atheist stated, "I think it's just awesome that this pope took on this issue." The Nation noted that Pope Francis has some training in chemistry and is being advised by “top scientists.” However, Politico suggested on Monday that the Pope’s views on climate change are not based on actual science.
Sunday, September 27, 2015
As the Hillary Clinton campaign struggles to keep its candidate on the path to the White House and not on the road to federal prison, it seems to be heeding the calls from some quarters to give Bill Clinton an active role. The New York Times reported on Saturday that the former president sat down for an interview on CNN. The interviewer posed the question, why is Ms. Clinton having so much trouble with the email server controversy? The answer, not surprisingly, was not, “because she is a sneaky, prevaricating woman who thought that the law did not apply to her.”
Friday, the Houston Chronicle’s Eric Berger published a piece that touched on one of the most vexing issues surrounding NASA’s “road to Mars,” that being that of cost. How does one design a deep space exploration program that “the nation can afford,” to coin a phrase uttered by the old NASA hand interviewed for the article? The phrase is somewhat misleading since one of the truisms of federal budgeting is that the nation can afford quite a bit. A more accurate phrase might be, “that the nation is willing to spend.”
Saturday, September 26, 2015
When the first NASA astronauts depart on the voyage to Mars, currently scheduled for the 2030s, they will need a place to live while exploring the Red Planet. NASA planning currently imagines that the Mars habitat would be brought all the way from Earth and landed on Mars in advance of the astronauts. However, according to a Friday story in Wired UK, a design firm called Foster + Partners has a better idea, involving 3D printing using local materials and inflatables. The firm’s plan for a manufactured Mars base is similar to the study it performed for the European Space Agency for the “lunar village” concept.
The Daily Beast reported on Friday that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a candidate for president of the United States, threatened to have the Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, killed if he does not end that country’s nuclear weapons program. While some might be shocked at this approval of tyrannicide, it should be pointed out that the self-same cleric has led chants by Iranian mobs of “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” Khamenei has suggested that the former, implying the obliteration of 310 million human beings, is not to be taken literally. The latter, on the other hand, is the very point of Iran’s having a nuclear bomb program.
Friday, September 25, 2015
NASASpaceFlight.com published on Thursday the results of current NASA thinking concerning what needs to be launched and when to support a crewed mission to Phobos and two crewed missions to the Martian surface between 2033 and 2043. The result is a mind-numbingly complex operation involving dozens of launches to cis-lunar space and Mars using the heavy lift Space Launch System. The architecture includes a collection of habitation modules, Mars landers, propulsion units (both chemical rockets and solar electric propulsion) and other parts of a Mars ship.
Friday, the WMUR/CNN Poll released the results of a new survey that shows Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont an incredible 16 points ahead of Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire primaries. Sanders has 46 percent and Clinton 30 percent support of Granite State Democrats. Results like these, plus the persistent email server scandal, plus Clinton’s dismal performance on the campaign trail have the candidate’s supporters in full-bore panic mode. The Hill reports that some Hillary supporters are demanding that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, take a larger role in the campaign in order to save it from calamity.
My Life by Bill Clinton
While New Horizons, having flown past Pluto, and to a certain extent Dawn, operating Ceres, have gotten the lion’s share of the glory in space, the European Space Agency probe Rosetta is still orbiting Comet Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, returning data. The ESA announced on Wednesday that Rosetta has discovered that the comet has a “hydrological cycle” of a sort.
Thursday, September 24, 2015
Thursday, NASA released yet another set of images from Pluto, taken when the New Horizons space probe voyaged past in the middle of July. The most intriguing and perplexing landscape consists of a series of textured ridges in a region known informally as Tartarus Dorsa. The ridges, which are seen just on the terminator between day and night, are blue gray with reddish material laying between them. What has caused them is something that scientists have yet to figure out. Tectonic forces could be in play, but also the movement of ice sparked by the faint sunlight hitting Pluto could also have had an effect. The effect has been described as being like “dragon scales” or “snake skin.”
Popular Science reported on Wednesday on a bill called the Space Act of 2015 that has passed the House and may soon pass the Senate that will allow private companies to own the natural resources that they mine in space. The idea would seem to be a no-brainer. However, the bill is causing some heartburn among some space law experts, especially in other countries. Fabio Tronchetti, a lawyer at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China, argues that the law would violate the Outer Space Treaty. He seems to be on thin ice in that assessment, however.
Donald Trump must feel put upon from a number of quarters. Hours after announcing that he would no longer appear on the Fox News Network, National Review editor Rich Lowry used some rather colorful language to describe what Carly Fiorina did to Trump during the most recent debate, involving an act of emasculation. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the Donald wants the FCC to fine Lowry and that he be ejected from the air. That was nothing compared to what the episode of South Park did to Trump about an hour later.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
While NASA is planning its road to Mars, a number of commercial interests and place policy experts are discussing what happens after the International Space Station ends its operational life, according to Space Policy Online. Currently, the international partners have committed to operating ISS through 2024. Some have suggested that the space station, conceived by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, could last as long as 2028. But, after that, there will still be a need for a space station of some sort, either in low Earth orbit, or at one of the Lagrange points where the gravity of the moon and Earth cancel one another out.
As CNN reported on Wednesday, Pope Francis took the opportunity to expound on his views concerning both global warming and religious liberty at a White House welcoming ceremony. However, the biggest political controversy the pontiff may have stepped in involves his desire to canonize a 18th Century Franciscan Friar named Junipero Serra. According to NBC News, the intent to make Friar Serra a saint is rubbing Native Americans the wrong way.
NASASpaceFlight.com reported Tuesday that NASA’s so-called “Road to Mars” is starting to take shape. The deep space program that would conclude with human astronauts departing for the Red Planet in 2039 would require just over 40 launches of the heavy-lift Space Launch System, including an uncrewed flight in 2018 and one flight a year to cis-lunar space starting in 2021 lasting until 2027. A flight in 2028 would launch something called the Pathfinder Entry Descent Landing Craft to Mars as a precursor for a human landing. Then the Mars program begins in earnest with a mission to Phobos in 2033 and missions to the Martian surface in 2039 and 2043.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
As CNN reported on Tuesday, Pope Francis, perhaps the most left-wing pontiff in the history of the Catholic Church, has touched down in Washington for his first trip to the United States. His arrival comes on the heels of a visit to Cuba, a communist country that has oppressed people of faith for decades. The pope will not only be greeted by President Obama and large, adoring crowds but criticism by conservatives for his attacks on capitalism and even modern technology, such as air conditioning.
When Elon Musk suggested that a quick way to terraform Mars would be to nuke the poles, a lot of eyebrows got raised. He walked the statement back just a little bit, but he did raise the issue. How does one take a barren, almost airless planet and turn it into something resembling Earth? Using nukes is a bad idea, because of radiation hazards. Slowly putting greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere might take centuries. Business Insider on Monday, pointing at NASA research, suggested a third way. Take a large asteroid, redirect it, and smash it into one of the Martian poles. Better yet, get two asteroids and hit both poles at once.
During the recent Republican debate, none of the questions concerned the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas took the opportunity of his closing remarks to reiterate his promise to repeal every word of the still unpopular health care reform law. Interestingly, Politico has a story published Tuesday about how he or any other like-minded Republican president could at least start that ball rolling without having to go through Congress. The instrument of Obamacare’s execution is within the law itself. All President Cruz would need is the cooperation of enough Republican governors.
Monday, September 21, 2015
Vice President Joe Biden is contemplating a third run for the presidency and riding in like a white knight to save the Democratic Party from having to make a choice between Hillary Clinton, a potential felon, and Bernie Sanders, a wild-eyed socialist. However, his ultimate decision may hinge on whether he is prepared to deal with the political equivalent of a nuclear strike by the Hillary Clinton campaign. Politico reported on Monday that Biden may be called to account for his alleged behavior as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the infamous Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings.
The push back against settling space, taken up by Jess Zimmerman in the UK Guardian, has continued in the pages of the New York Times. In a Monday Oped, a writer named Ed Regis begs, “Let’s Not Move to Mars.” The article is both a projection of the author’s personal distaste for what he thinks are the difficulties of traveling to and setting on Mars and a straw man that he leaves for the very end.
Ever since President Obama foreswore interest in returning to the moon in his April 2010 speech at the Kennedy Space Center, lunar exploration has been on the back burner at NASA. According to a Monday story at Space News, that may change starting around 2020 thanks to a project called RP15, the letters standing for “Resource Prospector,” a rover designed to drill into the lunar regolith and collect samples for analysis. The rover, originating at NASA Ames Research Center, was recently tested on a simulated lunar surface at the Johnson Spaceflight Center south of Houston.
Carly Fiorina is surging in the polls though she has not quite yet knocked Donald Trump out as Republican front-runner, as the Washington Post noted. However, Bloomberg reported on Sunday that Fiorina is starting to get front runner levels of scrutiny from the media. Questions are being raised in the media about her tenure at Hewlett-Packard, the same sort of questions that sank her bid to replace Barbara Boxer as a senator from the state of California. This scrutiny is taking place despite the fact that Fiorina is touting her private-sector experience as her main strength.
Sunday, September 20, 2015
One of the more precious resources that asteroid miners are going after is water, something that is in abundance on Earth and, oddly enough, in space as well but not as easily gotten at. Iron, nickel and platinum group metals will certainly be valuable, but future space travelers will need water, not only for drinking, bathing, and agriculture but for rocket fuel. A Friday story in Space.com reports on a new asteroid mining technique being funded by NASA that would use sunlight, concentrated by mirrors, to extract water out of excavated asteroids. The process is called "optical mining."
The Hill newspaper reported on Saturday that Democrats are increasingly concerned that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont is unelectable. Sanders, noting that he is rising in the polls, beating Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire and within the margin of errors in Iowa, begs to disagree. Sanders believes that his message of class warfare and wealth redistribution is resonating with voters. The critics who think he is unelectable do not disagree about that. They believe that the problem is in the messenger and not the message.
Saturday, September 19, 2015
As SpaceRef reported on Saturday, NASA is getting on the “#IstandwithAhmed” bandwagon in a big way. Ahmed Mohamed is a Texas high school student who took what he said that a clock he invented to school to impress his teachers. For his initiative, he found himself in handcuffs, under interrogation from a group of police officers, and a three-day suspension. Accusations of profiling were levied.
On Friday, two days after her virtuoso performance at the Republican presidential debate that was broadcast on CNN, Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewitt Packard, got some more good news. According to the Hill Newspaper, Fiorina has taken the lead in New Hampshire in the Morning Consult Poll. She has 22 percent of the vote as opposed to Donald Trump’s 18 percent. Ben Carson rounds out third place with 10 percent.
Friday, September 18, 2015
As USA Today reported on Thursday, Pope Francis, perhaps the most left-leaning, reformist pontiff in the history of the Catholic Church, is preparing to make his first visit to the United States. He will have numerous stops in Washington D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia before jetting back to Rome. As the Wall Street Journal notes, the Obama administration has already committed a diplomatic crisis with the Vatican even before the pope arrives.
NASA’s New Horizons space probe continues to excite and awe with the images it is beaming back from Pluto billions of miles away. Thursday, NASA released a new picture of Pluto that was taken while it was backlit by the sun. The image shows the so-called dwarf planet’s mountains of packed water ice and its plains strewn with nitrogen glaciers in stunning detail. The whole is shrouded in a haze of nitrogen gas that extends in layers from near the ground to 60 miles high.
Space.com had an excellent rundown Wednesday on how commercial companies are transforming the space industry. Companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX are building their own spacecraft, some on the government dime, some with their own capital. Other companies, like Moon Express and Planetary Resources, propose to mine the moon and the asteroids respectively for their riches, making potentially trillions of dollars. Blue Origin recently announced a new commercial space operation to take place in Florida. SpaceX is building a crewed spacecraft, the Dragon, to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
Thursday, September 17, 2015
Thursday, the Houston Chronicle’s Eric Berger noted that the possible delay of the first crewed flight of the Orion from late 2021 to early 2023 has heated up the war between NASA and Congress over space priorities. Congress is very keen to see deep space exploration get off the ground as soon as possible. NASA is just as anxious to have the commercial crew vehicles, financed by the space agency, but operated by private companies, to start taking astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit, the sooner the better to get out from under the thumb of Russia. For some reason, the two priorities are being treated as incompatible.
As the Washington Examiner noted, Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate at the Reagan Library was a raucous affair, with Donald Trump taking most of the slings and arrows from some of the other candidates. But in the end, as Hot Air’s Mary Katherine Ham suggested, Carly Fiorina came out on top, with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida coming in a close second. Several other contenders, including Sen Ted Cruz, R-Texas turned in solid performances.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Business Insider reported on Wednesday that some scientists at the NASA Ames Research Center has come up with an idea for a mission to Mars using a version of the SpaceX Dragon. The idea would involve using the vehicle, called by some the Red Dragon, to land on Mars sometime after the Mars 2020 mission. The Red Dragon would retrieve rock and soil samples collected by the Mars 2020 rover. Then the samples would be carried back to Earth on board a Mars Ascent Vehicle and would be retrieved in Earth orbit by an Orion mission to be taken to an Earth laboratory.
The Verge reported on Wednesday that NASA has delayed the first crewed flight of the Orion spacecraft from August 2021 to April 2023. Part of the reason is said to be based on a design review conducted in the wake of the first Orion prototype’s flight in 2014. However, the decisive reason for the delay appears to be budgetary. The Obama administration is simply unwilling to provide enough funding to meet the 2021 date.
The Verge reported Wednesday on a bizarre story coming out of Irving Texas concerning a 14 year old eighth grader named Ahmed Mohamed who brought a clock he had built himself to school in order to impress his teachers. In short order, he found himself detained, being interrogated by five police officers and placed in handcuffs. The “reason” if it can be called that is that one of Ahmed’s teachers thought that the clock was a bomb, despite the fact that Ahmed told everyone that it was a clock, and even a casual examination of the device showed that there were no explosives in it.