Just when you think that the social justice crowd has run out of things to be outraged about, here comes news, thanks to our friends from Hot Air, that a group at Quartz have put some of those digital #Assistants that many people have on their smart phones to a test. The object of the exercise was to find out how Siri. Alexa, Cortena, and the rest of those helpful voices, all female, react to sexual harassment. The researchers were shocked to learn that instead of “fighting back” the digital assistants reacted to the rudeness with passivity.
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
One of the dirty little secrets of the American government is that it pays the #Palestinian Authority $300 million a year on the theory that the payments makes it more agreeable to making peace with Israel. Congress and now the Trump administration have come to notice that the Palestinian government is corrupt and a sponsor of terrorism. With those facts in mind, Congress is getting ready to cut the PA off, according to the Free Beacon. #President Trump has signaled that he will sign the bill when it reaches his desk.
A few years ago a movie called “Taken” was released in which Liam Neeson proved that middle-aged guys could be just as formidable action heroes as men in their 20s. Neeson played a retired spy named Bryan Mills whose teenage daughter, while on a trip to Paris, is kidnapped by sex traffickers. Mills warned the kidnappers that he had a “particular set of skills” that made him a nightmare for people like them. When the criminals did not listen, Mills flew to France and killed a bunch of people before finally freeing his little girl from the clutches of an oil sheik whose tastes ran to young women who had been made docile with drugs. The franchise was stretched to two sequels and now a TV series.
The news that both #NASA and SpaceX are contemplating sending crews on trips around the moon has sparked considerable excitement. The assumption among many people posting on social media is that the nimble, flexible #SpaceX is bound to beat NASA back to the moon. Indeed, perhaps the space agency should not even try and just accept that the future consists of outsourcing everything to the commercial sector. On the other hand, no one is asking the question of what happens if NASA wins the presumed race back to the moon.
With #NASA considering putting astronauts on the first Orion spacecraft to be lobbed around the moon by a heavy lift #space launch system and Elon Musk claiming that he has two customers willing to pay for the thrill of going around the moon on board a Dragon launched by a Falcon Heavy, a potential new lunar race may have developed. Ars Technica is pretty sure that Musk’s announcement is a direct shot across the bows of the space agency. The theory is that if SpaceX can do a lunar mission cheaper than NASA can, why not scrap the Orion and Space Launch System entirely and outsource a return to the moon.
Wendy’s, the famous hamburger fast food chain, has rolled out an answer to rising #Labor Costs brought on by demands to increase the #minimum wage to $15 an hour. According to Business Insider, #Wendy’s has started installing self-ordering kiosks at a thousand of its stores across the United States. No longer will someone wanting a burger have to deal with a live human being. All one has to do is to key in one’s order, pay with a credit card, and then wait for lunch to appear on the counter.
“Hidden Figures” depicts the trials and triumphs of three #African American women who overcame racial prejudice to help put the first American into orbit in the early 1960s. The movie has been universally acclaimed, if not by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and has attracted wide audiences. But the women in the movie were not the only hidden figures from the early space program. One other such was Major Robert Lawrence who, but for a tragic accident, might have been the first African American to walk on the moon. Had he done so, he would have changed history as well as the attitudes of a wide segment of the American population about the race to the moon.
One of the most bizarre interviews in television history took place on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show when #bill nye the Science Guy appeared to proclaim that the science was settled on the subject of climate change and that anyone who disagreed was suffering from cognitive dissonance. Nye did not elaborate why the science is settled but instead tried to explain why Carlson and anyone else who question human-caused #Climate Change has a mental disorder. Nye did not repeat his proposal that climate change “deniers” should be jailed.
Monday, February 27, 2017
#Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, has announced that two paying customers have arranged to be launched on a trip around the moon aboard a crewed version of the Dragon spacecraft to be launched on the Falcon Heavy. He declined to name the two private space explorers except to hint they know one another and were able to pay a hefty sum for the first private mission beyond low Earth orbit. Musk expects the flight to take place in 2018 or 2019. The flight will not involve an attempt to land, but will likely consist of a free return, similar to the one used by Apollo 13, a loop around the moon and then back to Earth. The flight will take place once commercial service begins to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
“Hidden Figures” did not win an Oscar for Best Picture, which is not surprising. It celebrates individual achievement as a cure for racism and the early space program as a source of opportunity for people of all races and genders, contrary to the Hollywood narrative.
Rep. Bill Posey, R-Florida seriously wants Americans to go back to the moon. He offered a bill mandating a lunar return several times during the Obama years, only to see it fail. President Obama was not interested in going back to the moon and was certainly not agreeable to listening to congressmen trying to persuade him otherwise. But Mashable reports that Posey has introduced his bill again. The difference this time is that #President Donald Trump is president now and has indicated that he has great interest in returning to the moon, the sooner the better.Why is it So Hard to Go Back to the Moon?
A number of contentious congressional townhall meetings in which people, identifying themselves as constituents, yell and protest against the Republican congressman or senator holding the gathering about Obamacare have been depicted in the media as spontaneous uprisings. The media has made the comparison to the early #Tea Party, in which constituents yelled at Democratic members of Congress about Obamacare, but from the opposite perspective. However, the Daily Caller reports that a local radio station in Louisiana has obtained a tape of a meeting held by a group that planned how to disrupt a townhall being held by Sen. Bill Cassidy in the community of Breaux Bridge.
The most recent episode of “#The Walking Dead.” “Hostiles and Calamity,” featured the return of someone who is a little of both, Negan, along with his best friend, the barbed bat named Lucille. The story begins with #Eugene, the nebbish, dishonest, and utterly cowardly genius, arriving at the Saviors’ compound for what he thinks is a grisly death at the end of the bat. His sin had been helping to find a way for the Alexandria community to fabricate bullets.
Apparently casting about for more opportunities to destroy itself, California is apparently considering going to a full bore, government-#Run single payer system as adheres in countries such as Canada and Great Britain as Obamacare collapses. Several problems exist for this scheme, not the least of which is the fact that the state will need $40 billion more a year to even pretend to make it work. That fact is the case even after a hefty tax increase and an effort to pool everyone into a single system.
For the most part, the Oscar Ceremony was the usual orgy of self-regard, bloviating, and overlong musical numbers, heavily leavened with Trump hatred, But then, at the very end, came a blunder to enormous in its scope that it will be celebrated for the next hundred years. Presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced that “#La La Land,” a fluffy musical about a jazz musician and a would-be actress had won the Oscar for Best #Picture. As the producers of the movie were thanking one and all, the announcement came that, no, full stop, never mind, that actual best picture was “Moonlight,” a little-seen, depressing film about a young African American growing up on the mean streets of Miami. The real best picture for 2016, “Hidden Figures,” was snubbed and shut out.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
#Bill Paxton has probably been in at least one of your favorite movies. We first noticed him in as the “Punk Leader” in the group from who Arnold Schwarzenegger demanded clothing. He also had a bit role in another Arnold movie, “Commando” with a similar body count.
The final episode of “Mythbusters: The Search” has aired. The next generation of Mythbusters are Brian Louden and Jon Juhan Lung. The Science Channel has not offered any word as to when the regular seasons of what the new “Mythbusters” will air.
The Washington Times reported that hundreds of scientists had written a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to withdraw from the United Nations #Climate Change agency. The group of scientists, including atmospheric scientists, meteorologists, physicists, professors and others, conclude that efforts to stem the emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere will have little or no benefit to the environment but will have a devastating effect on worldwide poverty. The fact that so many scientists are urging something contrary to the climate change dogma should cause people to take notice.
Saturday, February 25, 2017
The good news, from the perspective of the #Democratic Party, is that it avoided having Keith Ellison, who has ties to the Nation of Islam, as the chair of the Democratic National Committee. The bad news, from the perspective of everyone else, especially people who write about politics, is that the Democrats have one less reason to become unglued. #tom perez, the man who got the unenviable job, was President Obama’s labor secretary and is considered establishment, as much as such could describe any Democratic official.
NASA organized a telephone press conference with #NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate Bill Gerstenmaier and NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development Bill Hill to discuss the study for a mission to send astronauts around the moon in 2019. The media questions and some of the answers proved to be very illuminating.
A women’s march occurred in the wake of President Trump’s accession to the Oval Office. Some people are planning a March for Science occurring on Earth Day for some reason. Anti-Trumpers are calling for a mass revolt in the street if counter what they claim is a slide toward fascism. Now, according to the Washington Examiner, Trump has suggested that the mother of all protests happen, the “#make america great March.”
Friday, February 24, 2017
It is remarkable how much a difference an election and a change of administration can make. When Barack Obama was still in the Oval Office, the #Dakota Access Pipeline was mired in government red tape, court challenges, and a horde of often violent environmental protestors. This situation suited the previous administration owing to its hostility to fossil fuels.
It seems that the so-called March for Science has become an actual thing and not just musings on social media. The plan appears to be for folks in the white coats to storm out of their labs and take to the streets. They intend to do this on Earth Day, April 22, which is an incredibly #Bad Idea for two reasons. The first is that the date will associate the march not with science but with climate change, a tendentious political issue where science if being perverted into dogma and is being used as a weapon to beat people into submission. The other reason is the creator of Earth Day, Ira Einhorn.
When a political party gets hammered at the polls so thoroughly as have the Democrats, the inevitable answer has been to turn to a celebrity to run for president. The Democratic Party has such a thin bench thanks to being destroyed in down ballot races during the Obama years, it may not have much choice. Pajamas Media has tried to weigh in by offering a list of candidates. Oddly, not one is a businessperson in the model of #Donald Trump. The possible saviors of the Democratic Party are LeBron James, Sandra Bullock, Jimmy Kimmel, Tom Hanks, and George Clooney.
The tendency of Twitter to make someone tweet something alarming and offensive has entangled #Chris Cuomo, a #Talking Head on #CNN. Weighing in on the transgender bathroom wars. Cuomo, the son of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo and brother of the current Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was asked the following question on Twitter, “What do you tell a 12-year-old girl who doesn't want to see a penis in the locker room?"
The ‘resistance” to #President #Donald Trump has come in many strange forms, including women going out in public wearing clothing made up of lady parts and people pretending to be characters from ”Star Wars.” Now some members from the Wiccan community, a group of people who follow a kind of pagan religion that believes in witchcraft, have decided to weigh in. Shortly they intend to #Cast A Spell against Trump and his supporters. Most who will admit to making this claim that they are doing something called a “binding spell” that will prevent the president and his people from doing harm to himself and to others. This approach is fortunate because in some Wiccan traditions the attempt to use magic as an aggressive act will blow back on the user three-fold.
One of the strangest controversies to arise in modern culture played out across the pond in the United Kingdom when a store felt obliged to pull a t-shirt that depicted the infamous bat Negan wields from “The Walking Dead” and a rhyme he repeats when he is swinging that same barbed bat “Lucille” and picking out the next victim whose head he is going to break open.
Thursday, February 23, 2017
One of the unspoken opportunities that the idea of sending a crew of astronauts around the moon resides in international diplomacy. Truth to tell, large space projects have been international since the space shuttle program started flying non-American astronauts. President Ronald Reagan specifically invited the Europeans, Japan, and Canada as partners for what eventually become the International Space Stations. So it will be only natural if the Trump administration choses to fly one or more non-Americans on the Orion voyage around the moon. But from which countries?
The Trump administration has rescinded a rule handed down by the Obama White House that mandated that public schools allow students to use the bathroom of the gender they identified with and not the one that biology assigned them to. While the media is screaming that this decision is an atrocity on the scale of repealing the Civil Rights Act, it merely returns things to the way they were before President #Obama decided to indulge in some overreaching social engineering.
Alan Colmes was the quintessential Fox News liberal, which is to say that he was excellent in the cut and thrust of on-air arguments. Like Wellington’s soldier, he was able to defend the indefensible, albeit with zest and more than a little snark. Colmes was one of the people, like Bob Beckel, who provided the #Balance in fair and balanced with an arresting style. He was able to keep his conservative opponents sharp and, when he was on the screen, things were never dull.
It looks like that the Republican strategy of making Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass is starting to have an effect. For one thing, as Hot Air noted, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warned that the gambit would not work. Translated, the Democratic leadership knows that the fiery liberal is toxic for mainstream American voters and that she could be a millstone for the party’s hope for something of a comeback in 2018.
With the Trump Administration contemplating sending astronauts around the moon as early as 2019, the Russians have taken pains to remind the world that it too is planning such a voyage, taking two paying customers beyond low Earth orbit. The current date for that flight is 2022.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
NASA has announced that the Spitzer Space Telescope has confirmed the presence of seven #Earth-sized planets orbiting a star called TRAPPIST-1 named for The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile. Last year TRAPPIST confirmed the presence of three Earth sized planets. Spitzer has upped that number, placing three of them in the star’s #Habitable Zone.
While discussions are ongoing about the future direction of NASA, whether to continue on the Journey to Mars or go on a Sprint to the Moon, former #NASA official Wayne Hale suggests that the agency itself needs to change if it is going to be able to do anything. Hale points to three main problems that are stymying NASA ability to do any long term space exploration projects.
One of the conspiracy theories oozing from the fever swamps of American politics is that the recent presidential election was somehow “fixed” by the crack cyberwar unit of the Russian FSB. Indeed, some have suggested that President Donald Trump is somehow a “Manchurian candidate” under the control of Vladimir Putin. One can just imagine the scene of Melania, in her silky sweet East European accent, saying, “Donald, why don’t you pass the time by playing a little solitaire.” Such fantasies are what is driving, among other things, the drive to have #California secede from the Union and become its own country.
Liberals who still find themselves unable to accept the reality of #President Donald Trump have been casting about for bizarre ways to reject that reality and to substitute their own. Solutions include everything from a mass uprising in the streets to a military coup. Provisions that are actually parts of the Constitution, such as impeachment and removal, are outside the realm of possibility in the universe we happen to occupy. Nevertheless, as Hot Air indicates, some Democrats are fixing on the #25Th Amendment as a way to remove the Orange Haired Overlord.
The latest NASA authorization bill, which just passed the Senate and is soon to be taken up by the House, calls for a study on the possibility of using an #Orion spacecraft, launched on a rocket other than the Space Launch System, to take crews to and from the #international space station. The provision is likely to enrage commercial space advocates, but the notion represents a return to a provision of the old Constellation program that reserved the Orion as a “public option” if commercial space companies were unable to develop their own spacecraft. When President Obama canceled Constellation, he poured money into the commercial crew program. Ultimately, SpaceX and Boeing developed spacecraft that are slated to start taking crews to and from the ISS in a year or two.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Marine Le Pen, the National Front candidate for president of the French Republic, is not expected to win the upcoming election. Of course, considering recent history with Donald Trump, one should be careful about pronouncing what can or cannot ever happen in politics. In any case, Le Pen was recently in #Lebanon, a former French colony, burnishing her foreign policy street cred. She was invited to meet with that country’s #Grand Mufti when she was informed she would be required to wear a head scarf. Her reaction was, along the lines, of thanks but no thanks, according to Hot Air.
The #Fall of #milo yiannopoulos was not like the gradual sinking of a great ship, but rather like the sudden dropping of an airliner from the sky that makes a smoking crater on the ground. A week ago, he was on top of the world. Having achieved worldwide fame for having a gang of thugs try to burn down the University of California at Berkeley campus to stop him from speaking, Milo was basking in the glow of a lucrative book deal, lots of media appearances, and a speaking slot at CPAC. A couple of days later, all of that and more were taken away from him. The last straw had Milo being obliged to resign his position at Breitbart, according to the Washington Post.
The Atlantic recently ran a story of how a #NASA aerospace engineer who works at JPL named Tracy Van Houten has decided to give up working on the Mars 2020 rover in order to run for Congress. The reason she is abandoning rocket science for the seamier world of politics is that she is mad at Donald Trump. Considering the circumstances of the decision, one has to scratch one’s head and wonder why.
“Timeless,” one of the most original series on television for a long time, has ended its first season with its 16th episode that tied up some storylines and set up a possible second #season. However, as Deadline suggests, a second season for the time traveling series is by no means assured. Fortunately it is not out of the question.
The good news is that Venezuela has solved the obesity problem and could, conceivably, cite that feat as a triumph of socialism over free market capitalism. The #Bad News is that the once prosperous country has done so in the same manner as Dachau and Andersonville Prison, but starving their people close to death. According to the Blaze, a new study suggests that 75 percent of the population have lost an average 19 pounds over the past year. That is what happens when literally no food is available to eat.
There are #Fake News Sites and there are really fake news sites. HillaryBeatTrump.org allows people who are still traumatized by the results of the election in the real world to read news stories from the alternate universe where #Hillary Rodham Clinton is president. Unfortunately, none of the stories mention the reset button with ISIS, blaming a terrorist outrage in Santa Monica on a YouTube video, or the latest rape outrage perpetrated by First Dude Bill Clinton.
Grumpy Cat, also known as Tardar Sauce to her owner, has graced a million t-shirts and social media posts because of a face that suggests a dour attitude toward just about everything. She has even appeared in a Lifetime movie called “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever” that unfortunately did not do very well in the ratings. Now, according to Entertainment Weekly, Grumpy Cat is going to meet an even more famous feline, one #Garfield, star of comic strips and the big and small screen. They will team up in a comic book to be published in the summer of 2017.
The Times of #India is reporting that Sivathanu Pillai, a distinguished professor at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has suggested that #Helium 3, mined from the #moon, could meet all of India’s energy needs by the 2030s. The statement indicates an overall rationale for India’s space program, which has focused on the moon to a certain extent. India is not alone in looking at the isotope as a killer app that would justify a return to the moon.
The #NASA Watch web site is a fascinating source of rumors from often unnamed space policy sources as well as the latest resentments from its author. A couple of tidbits, quoting recent Tweets, may provide a fascinating window into how the future direction of the space program is developing behind the scenes at the Trump administration.
Monday, February 20, 2017
John Bolton and his mustache are not going to be #national security Advisor to President Donald Trump after all, though he will apparently serve in some as yet unnamed capacity. Instead, the president has named Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, a real soldier/scholar who is steeped in counter-insurgency strategy. McMaster is quite willing to tell the bureaucracy and his political masters no if he feels that it is warranted, an excellent quality for someone who will sit at the right hand of the president.
The latest #episode of “#The Walking Dead,” entitled “New Best Friends,” is the second in a row in which no human being died, which must be some kind of record, though it is a near #Run thing in two instances. It was also the second episode in a row where Negan, the noxious leader of the Saviors, did not appear.
Gizmodo recently asked an interesting question. “Why Mine Asteroids When We Can Mine the Seas?” The question is not frivolous. The #ocean floors are much more accessible than even Earth-approaching asteroids where it comes to sending out mining robots and bringing back #Raw Material. Mind, the very question has within it the either/or fallacy. If we mine asteroids, we can’t mine the sea and visa versa.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. Milo Yiannopoulos, the gay right-wing provocateur, has made a good living for himself driving the left insane, which some might think is a short trip for many. The most extreme example took place on the Berkeley campus where a mob showed up and tried to burn the university down rather than allow Milo to speak. This incident instead made Milo even stronger, upping orders of his new book, and causing President Trump to suggest that universities that don’t respect free speech might lose their federal funding. So, it seemed only natural that the Conservative Political Action Committee should invite Milo to its annual convention. The theory was the attendees would hear him speak, engage in at the most polite debate, and show how tolerant the right is as opposed to the left.
Bringing in #Matt Damon to be the big American star in the Zhang Yimou-directed fantasy historical epic “#The Great Wall” seemed like a good idea at the time. Despite grousing by some social justice warriors that a white character had no business being in a movie set in medieval China, Damon is one of the hottest stars in Hollywood, thanks to his appearing in hit films like “The Martian.” But it looks like “The Great Wall” is a bust in #North America. It is a hit in China, which means that the movie will still make money.
The presidency of Donald Trump is but a month old, but already some people in the Democratic Party have already started to think about how to get rid of him long before election 2020. Indeed, they have been dreaming of that even before Trump was sworn into office. The #impeachment talk has gotten people in the #Democratic leadership, such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer worried, according to Politico. The idea is, at best, premature and at worst madness.
Sunday, February 19, 2017
The Washington Free Beacon is reporting that the consensus among top Trump advisers for a replacement for Michael Flynn as #national security adviser has fallen on John Bolton, that great mustache attached to a man was once George W. Bush’s controversial UN ambassador and is a fixture on Fox News. Bolton seems to be a favorite among Flynn supporters who have remained behind and are still smarting because of his abrupt firing.
The news that NASA is considering a scheme to send a crew of astronauts on board an Orion spacecraft, launched by a heavy lift #Space Launch System, in a trip around the moon has caused a range of reaction from people who follow space issues. The reactions include deep skepticism and even scorn from some to thoughtful acknowledgments that the thing is likely technically feasible, albeit risky and likely expensive. But, an unofficial poll by this writer of people who do not follow space from day to day elicited a universally enthusiastic reaction.
Do not be surprised if, in the near future, you start seeing people walking around with eyewear that looks remarkably like Star Trek’s #Geordie Laforge’s Visor. A company called eSight has developed a device that, in many ways, act just like a visor for low vision people.
Sen. #John McCain, R-Arizona seems to have recovered his respect from the #media that he lost when he dared to run for president in 2008, as Hot Air notes. He decided to lay into President Trump for his yelling at the media, comparing the president’s bloviating to what dictators do. McCain is in full maverick mode, something not seen since the second Bush administration when he was a thorn in the side of the man who thrashed him in 2000.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Some authors and publishers have started to hire “sensitivity readers” who will scan a manuscript and flag parts of it that might be deemed “offensive,” according to the Chicago Tribune. Material that might be considered “offensive” might include politically incorrect portrayals of “marginalized groups” such as transgendered, Muslims, or people with terminal illnesses. Some of the readers are flagging “cultural appropriation,” a new term that has been coined by some among the #social justice warrior crowd defined as the depiction by a white author of characters and the culture of another ethnic group. J.K. Rowling recently got into trouble for her depiction of Native American magic because she is a white, European woman.
Friday, February 17, 2017
If, as many expect, President Donald Trump calls on NASA to return to the moon, with a lunar orbital mission as early as 2019, he will have the rare enthusiastic support of #Congress, according to a story in Wired. Disagreements between the executive and legislative branch have bedeviled previous attempts to send astronauts beyond low Earth orbit. President George H. W. Bush’s #space exploration Initiative died a quick, miserable death in a hostile Congress. Even President George W. Bush had to issue a veto threat to make sure that Congress would serve the Vision for Space Exploration the same way.
The reaction to one of the longest, most raucous presidential press conferences in history depended largely on where one was at. For the mainstream #media and the never trumpers, President Trump had become completely unhinged, acting like Captain Queeg demanding where the strawberries had gone to. For Trump’s many supporters, the spectacle was the president giving the media the thrashing they have richly deserved. For most people, the reaction consisted of, “I was at work. Anything happen?”
The House Science Committee had one of its periodic hearings discussing the future of human space flight. The panel included three older men whose experience dates back from the #Apollo era, including Apollo 17 moonwalker Harrison Schmitt, and one woman who was an employee of NASA under the Obama era whose role seemed to be to defend Earth science funding. The hearings got a lot of media criticism because of the age of the participants and the lack of commercial space people on the panel. However, Schmitt’s vision for a return to the moon, with an eye on going to Mars, had some interesting insights from the Apollo era while at the same time looking forward to commercial partnerships.The Last Moonwalker and Other Stories
Thursday, February 16, 2017
If the evidence is needed to lend support for the idea that making Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass the face of the Democratic Party is a brilliant move, the Hill reports that a Politico/Morning Consult Poll has President #trump at 42 percent to Warren’s 36 percent in a 2020 matchup. Trump loses to an unnamed Democrat, however. The poll was taken just after the Senate vote for Warren to be silent after she broke the rules by slandering Jeff Sessions, then still a senator and now the Attorney General.
According to Forbes, Rocket Lab has rolled out the first of its high tech Electron Rockets to its launch pad at Mahia Peninsula on the North Island of New Zealand’s east coast. The rocked, dubbed “It’s a Test,” will be launched shortly in the first of three test flights the company intends to make before conducting commercial space flights. Rocket Lab’s most high profile customer is Moon Express, which hopes to ride the #Electron rocket to the moon in its quest to win the Google Lunar XPrize.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
One of the criticisms of the modern #NASA is that the space agency is a little too timid and risk adverse, which has had the effect of making human space flight more expensive. According to Ars Technica, that stance may be about to change. A group of high-level NASA managers is considering an option to make the first flight of the #Orion on top of a heavy lift #space launch system a crewed mission. Such a decision would cause the flight to slip from 2018 to 2019, which it may anyway, a serendipitous event as it would make the first flight of humans beyond low Earth orbit in more than a generation occur on the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.Why is it So Hard to Go Back to the Moon?
A sure sign of the seismic shift that is taking place in American Middle East policy was indicated in a Washington Post story in which a Trump official will not insist on a “two-state solution” to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, at least at this time. This change in policy will come as a relief to Israeli Prime Minister #Benjamin Netanyahu when he visits President #Donald Trump on February 15.
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
A social media war has broken out between J.K. Rowling, the author of the much beloved #harry potter books, and #Piers Morgan, currently the U.S. editor at large for the Mail Online and a former host on CNN. The argument, oddly for two citizens of the United Kingdom, is over American politics. Rowling is a sworn foe of President Donald Trump, and Morgan is his warmest defender from across the pond.
Keith Ellison, a Democratic congressman from Minnesota, is a front-runner to become the next head of the Democratic National Committee. Nevertheless, Ellison has been dogged by his ties to both the #nation of islam and the Muslim Brotherhood, the latter widely considered to be a terrorist group. Now he has a new headache stemming from the most unlikely of endorsements. #David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan and former member of the American Nazi Party according to the Washington Times. Duke has been a perennial candidate for a variety of offices in Louisiana and is, to put the matter mildly, a controversial figure.
A proposal for a new Hubble repair mission has surfaced in a number of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal and Astronomy Magazine. The idea is that a crewed version of a miniature space shuttle being developed by #sierra nevada called the #dream chaser, The vehicle would dock with the Hubble space telescope and astronauts would spacewalk to provide upgrades and repairs to extend the life of the venerable and wildly successful instrument for a few more years.
Monday, February 13, 2017
##national security advisor #Michael Flynn resigned his position in the Trump administration as stories surrounding an unauthorized conversation he had as a private citizen with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislya in which, among other things, sanctions against Russia may have been discussed. According to CNN, Flynn compounded his folly by at first denying that the conversation took place and then, when proof came to light that it did happen, denying that it involved the sanctions. Flynn finally was reduced to claiming that he did not recall whether sanctions came up or not when his position eventually became too untenable to survive at his post. He almost certainly misled both the president and Vice President Mike Pence.
As Ars Technica notes, #India is calling for a hefty boost in the budget of the ISRO of 22 percent, from $1.1 billion to $1.4 billion. If NASA had a budget increase on the same percentage basis, it would rise from $19.3 billion to about $23,5 billion in s single year, more than enough to go back to the moon and go to Mars.
The rumors that Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska and vice presidential candidate is being considered for the post of ambassador to Canada, not so far denied by the Trump White House, as elicited reactions ranging from eye rolling to red faced outrage. The rumors may be typical trolling from the Trump administration or, remarkably, the idea may be serious.
America, at least that part that cared about such things, braced itself for the political content, especially of the anti-Trump kind, in the acceptance speeches at the Grammys. However, #joy villa, a singer and songwriter of some moderate fame, stole everyone’s thunder by appearing on the red carpet in a blue and white designer dress that read on the front “#make america great Again” and on the back “Trump.” Consternation and outrage ensued in a music industry where people who will admit to supporting the president could be counted on one hand with fingers to spare.
Sunday, February 12, 2017
McClatchy is reporting that like President Obama before him, President Donald Trump is interested in building high-speed rail lines across the United States. The idea is that 200 miles per hour trains would whisk passengers and cargo between destinations, substantially cutting down travel times. However, an emerging technology called the #hyperloop may already be about to make the high-speed train obsolete.
The New York Daily News trumpeted a beguiling scenario of a #Chelsea Clinton vs. #caroline kennedy race for the United States Senate seat now held by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand should she decide to run for president in 2020. The idea of two great Democratic dynasties battling it out for a place on the greasy pole of politics is something that fascinates political pundits as well as some Democratic activists. Despite #Hillary Clinton’s spectacular defeat last year, the Clinton name still has some reverence in liberal circles. And the name of Kennedy is pure magic, eliciting as it does the lost glories of Camelot and a wistful regard for what might have been had Oswald missed. But a couple of problems occupy the path between now and this battle of the Democratic princesses.
Saturday, February 11, 2017
If it was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s purpose to make Sen. #Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass the outraged face of the #modern #Democratic Party by telling her, in effect, to stop slandering Jeff Sessions and to sit down and shut up, he has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. President Donald Trump even took up the meme, according to CNN, by declaring that, “Pocahontas is now the face of your party.” He was referring to instances in which Warren lied about being part Native American, appropriating another peoples’ heritage for financial and political gain.
Hollywood, when a movie becomes as unexpected a success as “Hidden Figures” has, inevitably seeks out similar projects in an attempt to find the next new hit. So, it is not surprising that #jessica chastain, best known for her roles in “Zero Dark 30,” “The Martian,” and “Miss Sloane,” is developing and may star in “#mercury 13” about a group of women who went through the same tests that qualified the male astronauts in the early 1960s but were eventually denied a chance to fly in space. Not everyone is happy about the project, though.
Friday, February 10, 2017
Ever since Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas mandated that #NASA should mount a robotic expedition to Europa, a moon of Jupiter, to search for life, the space agency has been diligently working on the mission. The #europa clipper, which will orbit Jupiter, flying by the ice-bound moon many times, is part of that mission. Now, NASA has rolled out a concept for a Europa Lander that will touch down on the icy surface and start looking for life.
The news offered by Movie Pilot that the Fox Network is open to a revival, sequel series, or reboot of “#FIrefly” is certainly something to get the blood stirring. However, understandably, series creator #joss whedon has to be the one to handle the new series. The article goes on to state that the schedule of Whedon and the various actors from the original series, such as Nathan Fillion, may preclude a new series anytime soon. But the real reason that a new “Firefly” may never happen or that it is likely to be a disappointment is the Whedon, like much of Hollywood, has become totally unhinged by the election of #Donald Trump as president.
In any otherwise caustic review in “The Weekly Standard” by John Podhoretz of “#Hidden Figures” which snarks about how fictional elements were used to make it a feel-good flick, a fascinating insight arose. The secret to its popularity is that both sides of the warring political provide found things to appreciate in the movie.
Thursday, February 09, 2017
With stories proliferating in the media that the Trump administration is prepared to send NASA on a course correction back to the moon, with a lunar orbital mission as early as 2020, the question arises, how to announce the new initiative? There is an art for rolling out new presidential initiatives, as this writer relates in his book “Why is it so Hard to Go Back to the #moon.” A look back at history would be of some use.
In a charming peek into an alternate universe of what a political debate should be like, Sen. Ted Cruz. R-Texas and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont discussing the future of Obamacare live on CNN recently. The debate made one earnestly wish that the two men, who ran for president last year, had been the nominees of the Republican and Democratic parties respectively. The senators approached the subject of health care reform with great seriousness and with frequent expressions of mutual respect for one another. They upheld their positions with great vigor and zest.
Spaceflight Insider is reporting that Rep. Bill Posey, R-Florida has introduced a bill that would “To direct the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to plan to return to the #moon and develop a sustained human presence on the Moon.” The bill, which is also cosponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and Rep Brian Babin, R-Texas has been referred to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. The committee is also considering a #NASA authorization bill that directs the space agency toward Mars, reaffirming the Obama-era Journey to Mars program.Why is it So Hard to Go Back to the Moon?
Wednesday, February 08, 2017
The #google lunar x Prize has announced the 2017 Moonbots Challenge, aimed at students between the ages of eight and 17 around the world. The competition is divided into two parts.
Fresh from failing to stop Betsy Devos from being confirmed as Secretary of Education, Senate Democrats proceeded to conduct another futile attempt to stop Sen. Jeff Sessions from becoming Attorney General. As Hot Air relates, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the firebrand liberal from Massachusetts, was on the Senate floor, using a letter from Coretta Scott King to attack Sessions’ character, by suggesting that the former Alabama Attorney General had used his office to suppress the black vote.
In further evidence that a grand bargain is being made between #commercial space advocates and supporters of #NASA’s Orion spacecraft and the heavy lift #space launch system, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, chaired by Dr. Alan Stern, has announced support for the two projects. Stern signaled the support during a recent conference. Later that day, William Gerstenmaier. In charge of NASA’s exploration programs, suggested that the space agency is already working to reduce the SLS’s $1 billion a launch cost. He also expressed the willingness to have comparable commercial rockets compete if and when they become available. SpaceX us currently developing the Falcon Heavy and Blue Origin the New Glenn and then the even more powerful New Armstrong rockets.
Tuesday, February 07, 2017
Ordinarily, “#apb,” which recently premiered in the Fox timeslot after “24: Legacy” would be just another cop show, not to be distinguished from the hundreds of others that have appeared on TV over the years. But the twist here is that a high-tech billionaire named Gideon Reeves (think of him as a small screen version of Tony Stark or #Elon Musk) finds himself in charge of the most crime-ridden police district on the south side of Chicago as a result of a series of improbable circumstances. He is using this position to showcase the latest in crime fighting #technology.
If the United States #navy had engaged in a battle that put two-thirds of its strike aircraft out of action, it would be considered the greatest #military disaster in the history of the American republic. Yet, according to the Washington Free Beacon, eight years of neglect and funding cutbacks under now former President #Barack Obama have had that result for the Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornets, a report released by Defense News concluded. Moreover, getting that Navy’s fleet of fighter jets operational will be the work of several years.
Trump derangement syndrome has taken many forms since the unlikely ascension of the mercurial businessman and former reality TV star to the presidency. For Lena Dunham, the actress, producer of the semi-pornographic HBO show “#Girls,” and a bad writer, TDS has had an oddly beneficial result. The “soul crushing pain” of Trump’s election has given her the motivation to finally overcome her weight problem. She has been able to cut back on her intake of food and thus reduce to a healthy weight.
Monday, February 06, 2017
Proving that Uber is serious about developing the first commercially viable flying car, the ride sharing company has hired away Mark Moore, an expert in electric aircraft, from NASA to head up its personal commuter aircraft development project called Uber Elevate. Moore has walked away from a generous pension and health care retirement package to get in on what many think may be the next big thing in transportation, according to Bloomberg.
Not too instances of irony on the scale of the protest camp near the Dakota Access Pipeline route occur, but when they do, they need commenting on. The protestors left such a mountain of #garbage in their wake, while agitating against the pipeline as a threat to the local environment, that authorities are being obliged to send in bulldozers to clean it up. Deposit it in huge dumpsters, to be hauled away to a local landfill in Bismarck. North Dakota. The local Native Americans have urged the protestors to leave for month, but their pleading fell on deaf ears. Only the cold weather and the prospect of spring flood have caused the hordes to leave. The Army Corps of Engineers have ordered the camp closed by February 22, 2017 for public safety and to avoid environmental catastrophe when the floods start. The garbage has to be picked up before the flood least it be swept into the local streams and rivers that the protestors are claiming to protect.
As if President Trump’s attempt at playing moral equivalence between the United States and Russia was not enough to cause controversy, NBC News is reporting that the Russian government is demanding an apology, not from Trump, but from Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. Somehow Moscow is affronted by O’Reilly calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a killer. Thousands of people in the Ukraine and Syria, not to mention numerous of Putin’s political opponents, were not available for comment.
“24: Legacy,” the revival of the classic war on terror TV series aired after the Super Bowl. The new series, which does not have the two main characters of super operative Jack Bauer or the quirky but sharp computer expert Chloe O’Brien, is already being accused of racism and Islamophobia by news organizations like the New York Times. The series depicts a group of Islamic #terrorists killing people in a spree across the United States and a reference to Islamic terrorist sleeper cells ready to rise up to wreck death and mayhem. If this attitude seems overwrought considering what Al Qaeda and ISIS has done for the past 15 or so years, the gentle reader is not alone.
The Wall Street Journal has run a story describing the back scene maneuvering happening to formulate space policy at the Trump Administration. As advocates of #commercial space and champions of the old, #NASA-centric way of doing things argue the future direction of the space program, President Donald Trump has yet to name a NASA Administrator, though Rep Jim Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma remains the front-runner for the job. Meanwhile, a prominent member of the NASA “beachhead team,” Charles Miller, now embedded at the space agency headquarters, has envisioned the idea of an internal race between NASA and one or more of the commercial space companies to put a crew of astronauts into #lunar orbit by 2020.Why is it So Hard to Go Back to the Moon?
Sunday, February 05, 2017
The UK Daily Mail is reporting that a scandal that many are already calling #climategate 2 is brewing at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency. A whistleblower named Dr. John Bates, described at a top #NOAA scientists, has revealed evidence that a paper that the agency presented that claimed that the so-called Global Warming Pause that started did not exist was based on faulty data. Indeed, Bates argued that NOAA breached its own data verification protocols to have the maximum effect at the Paris Climate Summit. Bates further claims that the lead author of the paper, head of the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) which produced climate data, insisted on, “decisions and scientific choices that maximized warming and minimized documentation… in an effort to discredit the notion of a global warming pause, rushed so that he could time publication to influence national and international deliberations on climate policy.”
“#life,” a new movie coming on March 24, 2017, is the first feature film to be set entirely on the #international space station. The premise of the movie, starring Rebecca Ferguson, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Ryan Reynolds is that the ISS is being used as a Mars Receiving Lab, tasked with handling a geological sample returned from a space probe from the Martian surface. The astronauts soon discover that the sample contains a single cell organism, the first instance of life beyond Earth. Of course, as almost every movie since “The Andromeda Strain” has taught us, this discovery inevitably starts to go sideways as the organism begins to – evolve.
President Donald #trump’s propensity to say alarming things was on full display during an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly to be broadcast just before the Super Bowl. The conversation turned toward Trump’s desire for what is in effect détente with Vladimir Putin’s Russia when he made a shocking claim of #moral equivalence between that country and the #United States.
Saturday, February 04, 2017
My wife and I went up to Discovery Green in downtown Houston to visit #super bowl live, a part theme park, part exhibit area, part concert venue, and part #food truck park the day before the big game. It is not that either of us is interested in football, but #NASA, in a coup for which we hope that whomever at the space agency’s public affairs office got a raise, secured quite a bit of space to display its latest hardware.
Is there an ethical aspect to mining the moon? A recent article in the International Business Times UK seems to think there is. It quotes Tony Milligan, who teaches ethics at King's College London as stating, in an argument against #lunar mining, “"The main argument against is that some sort of damage will be done, and that we either have a responsibility to protect the integrity of the Moon or we have worries about justice and entitlements. We maybe destroying something of cultural significance. It is the common heritage of mankind that should be there for future generations."The Last Moonwalker and Other Stories
Friday, February 03, 2017
What a difference an administration makes. President Donald Trump does not suffer from the delusion that he can do for #Iran what Nixon did for China, bring it back into the community of nations with quiet diplomacy. Thus when Iran violated United Nations resolutions by conducting ballistic missile tests, the #trump administration was ready with targeted sanctions against certain individuals and organizations involved in the development of those weapons delivery systems. The White House is also taking a dim view of Tehran’s continued support for terrorism and is acting accordingly.
Mel Gibson seemed to have gotten back into the good graces, ten years after he all but destroyed his career with a drunken anti-Semitic rant. His movie, “Hacksaw Ridge,” about the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor, has gotten a bit of popular and critical acclaim along with some Oscar buzz. However, Gibson has picked up some more controversy thanks to his next movie, “Dragged Across Concrete,” in which he co-stars with #vince vaughn as a pair of rogue cops who get suspended because a video of their roughing up a suspect surfaces. So the two enter the criminal underworld to get their revenge.
Back at the beginning of the now defunct Obama administration, #norm augustine, the former CEO and chairman of Lockheed Martin, was asked to head a presidential commission (the second he had been in charge of) to offer recommendations for the future of the American space program. After months of deliberation and study the commission offered two options, called Moon First, which is self-explanatory, and Flexible Path, which would have sent astronauts to everywhere but the moon. The Commission correctly ruled out going directly to #Mars.The Man from Mars: The Asteroid Mining Caper
Thursday, February 02, 2017
#sarah silverman must be a lousy comedian. Her obvious joke tweet that read: “WAKE UP & JOIN THE RESISTANCE. ONCE THE MILITARY IS W US FASCISTS GET OVERTHROWN. MAD KING & HIS HANDLERS GO BYE BYE” is being taken as a serious call for a #military coup to overthrow #President Donald Trump and establish a junta in his place. Calls for having Silverman tried for treason and sedition, and worse are blowing up social media. The tweet was offered around the time that anarchists sought to burn down the UC Berkeley campus because a gay conservative was scheduled to speak there.
When a mosque in the town of Victoria, Texas, a community 30 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico within two hour’s drive of Houston, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, and Austin, burned to the ground in a mysterious fire the reaction on social media was fast and furious. Of course, some Trump supporters must have fire bombed the place. After all, this is Texas, a place only inhabited by bigoted red necks. However, the reaction of the community did not quite align with the stereotypes that the social justice warriors have of the Lone Star State.
Recently a hundreds of rioters on the campus of UC Berkley attacked police, hurled rocks, broke windows and set fires in an effort to shut down a talk by Breitbart editor and Internet provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. The rioters succeeded in forcing Yiannopoulos to be evacuated from the campus which was then put on lockdown by law enforcement. The incident has attracted the attention of President Donald Trump, who tweeted, “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow #free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”
It is clear that the Trump Administration is decidedly hostile to the idea of “#sanctuary cities,” in which individual communities shield #illegal aliens from federal authorities charged with enforcing #Immigration laws. However, if a Colorado State named Rep. Dave Williams has his way, supporting the policy would entail a personal, financial cost for politicians. Williams is offering a bill in the Colorado House that would allow American citizens who are victims of crimes perpetrated by illegal aliens in sanctuary cities to sue the politicians who enacted the policy. The bill is likely to die in the Colorado House, dominated by Democrats, but may have a better chance in the state Senate, according to Fox News. A similar bill is being advanced in the Virginia state Senate by state Sen. Richard H. Black.
Wednesday, February 01, 2017
Senate Democrats hit upon what they thought was a clever idea to slow down President Donald Trump cabinet picks. Senate rules state that for committee votes to proceed at least one senator from the opposing party must be present. With that is mind, senate Democrats boycotted meetings of the Senate Finance Committee to prevent confirmation votes for Rep. Tom #price for Health and Human Services secretary and Steven Mnuchin for Treasury secretary. Led by committee chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, the Republicans on the Finance Committee voted to suspend the quorum rule and voted to recommend Price and Mnuchin for confirmation anyway. Both are expected to be approved by the full Senate.
While #china is currently focused on the moon, with a sample return mission scheduled for 2017 and a landing on the lunar farside for 2018, the country is already looking ahead for more ambitious planetary missions. China’s first expedition to Mars will take place in 2020 with a sample return mission sometime in the indefinite future, according to #Space Daily. Also on tap is a program of asteroid exploration and a flyby mission to Jupiter.
The reason many people held their noses and voted for Donald Trump boiled down to the #Supreme Court. The idea was that Hillary Clinton would nominate horrible justices to the court who would roll back constitutional liberties while Trump would pick conservatives would follow the law and the Constitution. Trump has promised to choose conservatives, even going so far as to release a list of names from which he would select justices.