Sunday, Eric Berger at Ars Technica pondered the question, why did the Apollo moon program, which landed men on the moon almost fifty years ago, not result in an age of space exploration that led to lunar bases and voyages to Mars in the 20th Century? It is the same question this writer asked in“Why is it So Hard to Go Back to the Moon?” Berger comes to a similar conclusion, something that was not anticipated by many when Neil Armstrong made that first step, followed by over a billion people on a planet that then contained three and a half billion inhabitants.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Planetary Resources, a company founded to mine asteroids for their bountiful resources, recently entered the Earth observation business. That entry has borne its first fruit with a memorandum of understanding between the company and the Bayer Company. Bayer has announced its intention of buying agricultural data from the Earth observation satellites that Planetary Resources will garner and sell them to its customer base.
Rep Alan Grayson, D-Florida, is considered colorful by his friends and insane by his enemies, which include most Republicans and many Democrats, including President Barack Obama and most of the party establishment. Nevertheless, Grayson is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio. In a strange twist, according to a Tuesday story in Politico, Grayson has married a woman who is seeking to replace him in the House, the former Dena Minning, now, Dena Grayson. The effect would be to give the aspiring member of Congress to have the same last name as the man who is vacating the seat, giving her an advantage in the upcoming August primary.
According to Variety, film director, Roman Polanski faces yet another possibility of extradition to the United States, this time from Poland, due to his 1977 conviction on unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl. Polanski fled the United States rather than face a jail sentence, and his lived mainly in France, where he has dual citizenship along with Poland and therefore has immunity from extradition.
Monday, May 30, 2016
The Libertarian Party had a chance to achieve some measure of respectability. The Democrats and Republicans are about to nominate their most problematic candidates, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump respectively. The Libertarians have nominated candidates for president and vice president that, albeit former Republicans, have some executive experience. Gary Johnson was once governor of New Mexico and William Weld was governor of Massachusetts, so they have actually run something. To be sure, being libertarians, they have some problematic views, but so do Donald and Hillary.
According to a Sunday story in Time Magazine, China’s next moon mission will not be the previously announced Chang’e 4 landing on the far side of the moon, to take place in 2018, but a sample return mission to either the lunar South Pole or North Pole, designated as Chang’e 5, to take place in late 2017. The last Chinese lunar mission was the Chang’3 that landing on the lunar surface in late 2013.
“Saving Private Ryan,” which first came out in 1998, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks and Matt Damon, among others, is the ultimate Memorial Day movie in the sense that it illustrates the cost of war, not only on the human body but the human soul. The film is remarkable in that it was made during that brief period of relative peace between the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the War on Terror.
Sunday, May 29, 2016
The last couple of days have proven to be ones of accomplishment for private space companies. Friday, SpaceX launched the Thaicom 8 satellite into a super-synchronous transfer orbit, with a high orbit of 91,000km. The company managed to land the first stage of the Falcon 9, for the third time in a row, on the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You.” Saturday. NASA managed to fully inflate the Bigelow Aerospace BEAM module attached to the International Space Station after a failed attempt on the previous day. Both events have implications for the future of space travel.
The AFP reports that the Iranian Islamic regime has arrested eight people in Tehran for making what it considers “obscene” music videos. The videos were broadcast into the Islamic Republic from an outside satellite channel. The incident was similar to one that happened a couple of years ago to a group of young Iranians who produced a tribute video for the Pharrell Williams song “Happy.” The arrests were part of a crackdown by the allegedly “moderate” theocratic government of President Hassan Rouhani. The Tehran police are recruiting up to 7,000 plainclothes officers to combat examples of “immoral” culture.
Saturday, May 28, 2016
If Bernie Sanders ever became a serious candidate for president, either as a Democrat if Hillary Clinton gets indicted or as a standard-bearer of the Green Party if she does not, he will have to explain Venezuela. Venezuela constitutes the end game of socialism, where government control of the economy has destroyed the country as thoroughly as if it had been invaded by a foreign power. According to a piece in Time Magazine, shortages exist for 80 percent of consumer goods, including food. Electricity blackouts are now a regular occurrence. Long lines at stores, which were once a feature of the old Soviet Union, are now common. Hyperinflation on the scale of Weimer Germany has set in.
Rep Louis Gohmert, R-Texas has caused a minor kerfuffle when he suggested that a future space colony ought to consist solely of heterosexual couples, especially if the idea is to restart the human race after a world-wide disaster, such as an asteroid strike. The Houston Chronicle took the conservative congressman to task Thursday with the implication of homophobia. NASA Watch has also taken up the hue and cry. However, both Gohmert and his critics are missing the point.
Recently, Shane Black, the writer of “Lethal Weapon,” suggested that Mel Gibson, the star of that film, has been “blacklisted” in Hollywood due to an incident ten years ago during which the actor/director made an anti-Semitic rant during a DUI stop. Gibson subsequently did the apology tour and went into rehab. However, he has only been in six obscure films since and has not directed anything since 2006’s “Apocalypto.” The once A-list actor and director of such films as “Braveheart” has fallen on hard times. But, Gibson may be about to rehabilitate himself with the first movie he directed in ten years, “Hacksaw Ridge.
Friday, May 27, 2016
The idea of Bernie Sanders going head to head in a debate with Donald Trump may excite political junkies and have certain advantages for both candidates, but Sanders’ fellow senators on the Democratic side are taking a dim view of the prospect. As far as they are concerned, Sanders should have dropped out of the race months ago, leaving the field to the presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton. But Sanders refuses to give up and instead has chosen to give Clinton, and her supporters fits. The venerable socialist from Vermont has no chance of winning the nomination, unless Clinton is indicted due to the email server scandal. But he has every intention of embarrassing the Democratic frontrunner. His next opportunity will be in the California Primary, where Sanders is neck and neck with Clinton.
In the weeks following the departure of Uber and Lyft from Austin, the commuter chaos that has been left in the wake of the ride share companies continues, according to a Thursday story on NPR. Riders and drivers alike have been left stranded, though the city government is trying to fix a mess of its own making by fostering a non-profit ridesharing company called RideAustin, being developed by a number of tech businesses in the city. A number of other, smaller startups are also trying to fill in the gap.
Sen Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, the venerable socialist who is currently giving Hillary Clinton, the presumed Democratic nominee for president, fits by persisting in running, opened his mind Wednesday on a variety of subjects, most notably NASA and space exploration. Sanders’ answer was interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which because it was at variance with previously stated positions. Has the candidate executed a flip-flop (or “evolved” as some might charitably say)? Or is he pandering to technology oriented California? Perhaps the explanation is that, being a man of advanced years, Sanders may have forgotten what his previous position was.
As the New York Times notes, FX has announced that its hit series “The Americans” will end after two more seasons. That means that the series will have a six-season run. The decision is said to be a creative one, meaning that the show runners have some sort of idea how they want the series to end and that six seasons will suffice.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Planetary Resources, a company devoted to prospecting asteroids and mining them for their mineral wealth, is getting into the Earth observation business, the company announced. The company has developed a new Earth observation satellite it called the Ceres, based on technology being prepared for the Arkyd spacecraft designed to prospect asteroids. Planetary Resources has raised $21.1 million in series A funding to start testing the technology and deploying the satellites.
The firestorm surrounding the deceptive editing of an anti-gun documentary called “Under the Gun,” executive produced and narrated by Katie Couric, continues apace. Conservatives such as Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh have pounced, pointing out that the editing, which substituted nine seconds of a “B-roll” for four minutes of answers to a question on background checks for gun purchases, was meant to make pro-gun advocates look stupid.
Peter Weber, writing for The Week, posit an interesting theory that Sen Ted Cruz, R-Texas actually won in the long run by being denied the Republican nomination by Donald Trump. The idea is that Cruz will not be tainted by being defeated by Hillary Clinton in the November election, but will win reelection to his Senate seat easily in 2018 and will be well positioned to come roaring back in 2020 for another presidential run.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, the venerable socialist from Vermont, is not likely to be the Democratic nominee for president, but according to a Thursday story in Politico, he is already parlaying his quixotic national campaign to raise his profile in the Senate. He is using his status as a national figure, with millions of admirers and Twitter followers, opposing both the Puerto Rico bailout bill and the Toxic Substances Control Act, the first landmark environmental legislation in a number of years. His opposition to these bills may be of no consequence, except to provide publicity for Sanders and irritate his fellow senators, however.
Last year, movie audiences thrilled to the story of an astronaut played by Matt Damon trying to survive after being stranded on Mars in “The Martian.” Now, in the upcoming film, “The Space Between Us,” Hollywood is going back to the Red Planet with another story, this time about a real-life Martian.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
As USA Today noted, the feud between Donald Trump and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, has flared anew. The renewed outbreak of hostilities started when Warren railed against Trump for profiting during the subprime housing crisis that led to the 2008 economic meltdown. Then, during a speech in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Trump mocked Warren, calling her “Pocahontas,” a reference to the senator’s hotly disputed claim of being part Native American. Trump followed up with a tweet that referenced the fact that Warren and her family made a tidy profit by flipping foreclosed homes, suggesting that she was a hypocrite. Warren has defended her business effort by claiming she just wanted to help her family and unemployed construction workers.
As ZME Science reminded us on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 is the 55th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s address on “urgent national needs” before a joint session of Congress in which he committed the United States to “achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” A little more than eight years later, the dream was given form when Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface in an event followed in real time by a billion people on a planet that contained just 3.5 billion inhabitants.
According to a Tuesday story carried by the Voice of America, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden called on the United States Congress to change the law that prohibits the space agency from cooperating with China. Bolden cited the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, which involved a joint mission of an American Apollo spacecraft and a Soviet Soyuz in 1975. The example might not be a good case for a similar mission with China, however. In any case, against the backdrop of a possible shooting war with China in the South China Sea, such a change as urged by Bolden is unlikely to occur.
The AP reports that Bill Cosby, a decades-long icon of both the small and big screen, has been ordered to stand trial on a 23-year case in which he is accused of drugging a woman and then having sex with her. The incident, involving a Temple University employee named Andrea Constand, is just one of dozens of alleged encounters in which the actor and comedian is accused of drugging women to have sex with them. If Cosby is convicted in this case, he could serve ten years in prison. He is 78 and not in the best of health.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Rich Lowry recently opined that Hillary Clinton cannot explain to anyone why she should be president. Actually, the case is that she could offer such an explanation, but it would not be one that many people would find attractive.
People who think that elections should be about the issues are tearing their hair about the way Donald Trump is going after Hillary and Bill Clinton. First, Team Trump rolled out the Internet ad that featured various women complaining about how Bill savaged them while Hillary cackles over a grainy black and white image of the former president with a cigar in his mouth. Then, Trump himself pronounced the death of Vince Foster to be “fishy.”
It turns out that the mandate for NASA to return astronauts to the moon is not the most exciting part of the space agency’s funding bill now moving through the House. The same bill suggests that NASA start to research propulsion technologies that would be used to send the first probe to Alpha Centauri, according to a Monday story in Science. The idea is that the first expedition to the nearest star to our solar system would depart in 2069, the 100th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The language seems to have been included in the bill by Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, the chair of the appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA.
The trailer for an upcoming Civil War drama, entitled “The Free State of Jones,” has been released, according to Coming Soon. The movie, which stars Mathew McConaughey, tells the story of Newton Night, a deserter from the Confederate Army, who rebelled against the Confederacy and established his own independent country in Jones County, Mississippi. “The Free State of Jones” is written and directed by Gary Ross, who created such films as “The Hunger Games” and “Seabiscuit.” The movie is scheduled to be released on June 24.
Monday, May 23, 2016
Al Gore, the former vice-president and presidential candidate, appeared on “The Today Show” on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his documentary movie “An Inconvenient Truth.” Understandably, the conversation drifted to contemporary politics. Gore takes a dim view of Donald Trump and his quest for the presidency. Climate change is at issue. Trump is a climate change skeptic, and his energy policy is being developed by people who are sympathetic to fossil fuels. Gore has become famous for warning the world about the alleged dangers of human-caused global warming.
Ars Technica reported on Monday that House version of the NASA funding bill for the next fiscal year will contain a complete change in the space agency’s space exploration strategy. The bill will defund NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission, which proposes to snatch a boulder from an asteroid and deploy in in lunar orbit to be visited later by astronauts. Instead, the bill will mandate that the space agency begin plans to return to the lunar surface in advance of the Journey to Mars.
In the spirit of "I love it when a plan starts to come together."
National Review is reporting that Newt Gingrich has become Donald Trump’s most high profile policy advisor and the top of the short list for vice presidential running mate. On the latter, the selection of the former House Speaker and 2012 presidential candidate would defy conventional presidential wisdom. Most pundits suggest that a better fit for a Trump ticket would be much younger, preferably ethnic, perhaps a woman, and certain someone who brings with him or her an important swing state. Gingrich has none of these advantages. He does bring one of the most brilliant and outside the box minds in modern politics. That quality is both an advantage and a liability.
Donald Trump is, by all appearances, unifying the Republican Party behind his unlikely candidacy for president of the United States. That success is providing dividends, as the polls are beginning to show Trump neck and neck with, and even ahead of in some matches, Hillary Clinton. But, as CBS News reported Sunday, Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump’s defeated rival, remains the fly in the ointment and the monkey in the wrench where it comes to the drive by the mercurial real estate tycoon and reality show star to become president. Washington State Republicans held their state convention and awarded 40 out of 41 delegates to Cruz.
A heroic biop of President Lyndon Johnson is a tricky proposition. Those who were alive when the man was president remember him mainly as the man who devised two of the greatest disasters in American history, Vietnam and the Great Society. Jay Roach, well experienced in doing historical dramas that do violence to history, succeeds in making LBJ a heroic figure in the HBO film version of “All the Way,” a stage play that takes a slice of Johnson’s life, beginning with the searing tragedy of the Kennedy assassination and ending with the triumph of the 1964 election. In the middle, the film depicts the struggle to enact the Civil Rights Act, a world-changing piece of legislation that helped to end the noxious institution of racial discrimination in the South known as Jim Crow.
Sunday, May 22, 2016
The latest Chinese space station, the Tiangong 2, is slated to be launched later in 2016 and will be visited by Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou spacecraft. But, according to Spaceflight Insider, the Chinese are already looking ahead to their permanent low Earth orbit space facility, the Tiangong 3, slated to begin construction in 2018.
The Bernie Sanders insurrection continues apace, but now with a new target. To be sure, the venerable socialist is still contesting Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, going to far as to declare that she is “jumping the gun” in declaring that she is the nominee. But now Sanders is targeting Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, the chairperson of the Democratic National Committee and a member of Congress. The New York Times noted on Saturday that Sanders is supporting Wasserman-Shultz’s primary opponent, a radical law professor named Tim Canova.
...a version of the classic love story being performed at Los Angeles’ Theatricum Botanicum is causing accusations of the Bard’s genius being perverted into an Israel-bashing screed. Responding to complaints by parents whose children were exposed to the version of the play, set in contemporary Jerusalem, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has denounced the production.
Saturday, May 21, 2016
Friday, May 20, 2016
Thursday, May 19, 2016
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Monday, May 16, 2016
Sunday, May 15, 2016
Saturday, May 14, 2016
For example, is it finally time to talk about that revival of "Firefly?'
Friday, May 13, 2016
Thursday, May 12, 2016
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Monday, May 09, 2016
The day after the voters of Austin decided to drive Uber and Lyft, the ridesharing companies, out of the Texas state capital, the Houston Chronicle reported on Sunday that Republican lawmakers in the Texas legislature have decided to ride to the rescue. The lawmakers will introduce a bill in the 2017 legislative session to establish a state-wide regulatory regime for ridesharing companies. The proposed legislation will be far more business-friendly than the draconian measures favored by Austin and which now exist in Houston.
Sunday, May 08, 2016
Saturday, Austin declined to pass a proposition that would have lifted requirements for a stringent background check for drivers who work for ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft. The requirements include fingerprinting and other measures that Uber and Lyft maintain are overly burdensome and unnecessary. Opponents of the deregulation proposition are engaged in a considerable amount of chest thumping that Austin will not compromise on public safety. The ridesharing companies, true to their word, are preparing to cease operations in the Texas capital.
Saturday, May 07, 2016
The nagging argument of what a Donald Trump presidency might mean for NASA and its plans for space exploration was joined Friday by US News and World Report, which focused what may have been lost when Sen. Ted Cruz. R-Texas dropped out of the race after losing the Indiana Primary. The piece was a curious departure from the trope often made in the media that Cruz is somehow “anti-science” based on his skepticism about climate change. The article is also in stark contrast to the recent CNET piece that suggested that Trump would be good for NASA’s Journey to Mars as he would give it a commercial flavor.
Friday, May 06, 2016
Shortly after midnight on Friday, a SpaceX Falcon 9 lifted off from Cape Canaveral carrying a Japanese communications satellite, the JCSAT-14 to a geostationary transfer orbit. A few minutes later, for the second time in a row, the first stage of the launch vehicle landed on a drone ship, dubbed the “Of Course I Still Love You,” waiting in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX employees at the company’s headquarters erupted into chants of “USA! USA! USA!” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted a celebratory, “WooHoo!!”
Thursday, May 05, 2016
In the ordinary course of events, the nomination of a man with as many character flaws as Donald Trump as Republican nominee would mean certain doom for the GOP in the general election. However, Trump’s probable opponent is Hillary Clinton, a candidate with her own set of flaws. The Hill Newspaper reminded one and all on Wednesday that even if a criminal indictment over the affairs of the email server is not forthcoming, because the Justice Department sits on it, the problem is still going to fester. In the case of Judicial Watch v. the State Department. Judge Emmet Sullivan suggested that Ms. Clinton may need to be deposed. That means that the likely Democratic nominee for president will be required to answer questions, under oath, about her creation and use of an unsecured email server for official State Department business.
Wednesday, May 04, 2016
Decades ago, the automobile had become not only a way to get around but a place to get it on. One would park somewhere with a date in an out of the way place and have sex in the back seat or the passenger seat. Yahoo Tech reported Tuesday that Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence (CAVCOE) has concluded that when self-driving cars become common, people are going to while away those long auto trips or even a commute to work by having sex.
As Donald Trump, incredibly, became the presumptive Republican nominee, a great deal of angst is arising over how he might handle NASA as president. Space Policy Online noted on Tuesday that Trump has dodged the question of how much the space agency will be funded during his potential presidency. Noting previous statements on the Journey to Mars, Ars Technica speculates that NASA will be in for a downsizing under a Trump presidency.
Tuesday, May 03, 2016
Aviation Week reported Monday that China has suggested that its first crewed moon landing will take place in the 2031-36 timeframe. The schedule is somewhat later than the previous estimate, which placed a Chinese moon landing sometime in the 2020s. But, the announcement represents a long term strategy for the Chinese space program and its integration into larger political, military, and economic development. China has also announced goals to land more robotic probes on the lunar surface, a mission to Mars in 2020, and the building of a space station later this decade. The next crewed flight will take place later in 2016 and will involve tests of a prototype space station module called the Tiangong-2.
Monday, May 02, 2016
The dirty secret of the Donald Trump campaign is how the candidate is in almost as much legal jeopardy as is Hillary Clinton, in his own way. The American Thinker noted on Sunday that a suit has been brought against Trump concerning Trump University in which the real estate tycoon is accused of defrauding thousands of students out of tens of thousands of dollars in the false hope of benefiting from his business skills. Also, the tabloids are reporting that another lawsuit is alleging that Trump raped an underage girl at one of Jeffrey Epstein’s notorious sex parties.
Sunday, May 01, 2016
One of the many boasts being made by Donald Trump as he continues his run for the presidency is that he has been endorsed by former boxing star Mike Tyson. The theory is that Tyson’s reputation as a “tough guy” should rub off on Trump. However, as Fox News noted on Saturday, Tyson is also infamous for having been convicted of rape in 1991. Team Cruz is not only pointing out this fact, but also reminding voters that Trump led the effort to keep Iron Mike out of prison, suggesting that Tyson’s victim, a teenage beauty queen, bore some responsibility for leading the boxing champion on by dancing with him and going to his hotel room.