California's Franchise Tax board announced last summer that it would be slapping a tax on space launch companies operating in the Golden State, to be calculated by a complicated formula taking into account miles traveled through space and frequency of launch.
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
President Donald #trump, in the middle of his first State of the Union Address, announced that he had signed an order to keep the military prison at #Guantanamo Bay, Cuba open. The order continues the prison as a counterterrorism tool and available for more terrorist prisoners. At its peak, the prison contained over 600 enemy combatants, terrorists taken on the battlefield and in commando raids. President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama between them released or transferred over 500, leaving just 41. Trump has suggested during the campaign that he would ship more terrorists to the prison for safe keeping and interrogation.
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Bill Nye, the so-called “science guy,” is not a stranger to controversy. On one occasion he called for the jailing of so-called climate change “deniers,” the 21st Century version of religious heretics. Some off-putting skits on Nye’s Netflix series have also raised some eyebrows.
That governments have failed at healthcare reform is axiomatic. The disasters attended with the Obamacare law, also known as the Affordable Care Act, have been well documented. The kind of government-run healthcare system beloved by Bernie Sanders that exists in Canada and Great Britain features months-long waits for procedures and even documented cases where patients were allowed to die rather than be treated. The Charlie Gard tragedy comes to mind.
Monday, January 29, 2018
Sen. Bill Nelson likes to cast himself as a champion of NASA and the American space program. Nelson has often spoken eloquently about his desire to see Americans on Mars. However, recent actions taken by the senior senator from Florida suggest that he has become, whether he recognizes it or not, the William Proxmire of the 21st century. Proxmire, a long-serving senator from Wisconsin, waged a relentless war against NASA, even going so far as to offer legislation to cut funding for the Apollo program as early as 1963, shortly before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Proxmire was later instrumental in achieving the premature end of the Apollo program and led fights against the space shuttle and space station programs.
Alternate title: Bill Nelson's War on Trump's space program
In the pages of Ars Technica, the incomparable Eric Berger tracked down former NASA administrator Charles Bolden and asked him about the current situation at NASA, including the impasse over the nomination of #Jim Bridenstine for space agency head. Bolden’s answer was not very interesting, except to prove that he is an even bigger politician than Bridenstine has been accused of being. The real meat of the article is a tidbit about the real motives for Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida [VIDEO] to try to block the gentleman from Oklahoma’s ascension to NASA administrator.
Sunday, January 28, 2018
With the success of the hold down firing of the Falcon Heavy’s 27 rocket engines, SpaceX’s Elon Musk had an exciting announcement that may or may not change the world.
Saturday, January 27, 2018
The #trump administration’s plan to withdraw NASA funding [VIDEO]from the International Space Station has gotten a number of interesting reactions. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida [VIDEO]has declared that he will fight, which seems to be a default setting for the senator on every issue ranging from offshore drilling to the appointment of Jim Bridenstine as NASA administrator. However, one space entrepreneur who stands to benefit from the policy move, Robert Bigelow of Bigelow Aerospace, had a more nuanced and positive reaction.
Friday, January 26, 2018
The UK Daily Mail, apparently as a science experiment, screened some old James Bond films for #Millennials for the first time. The young people were shocked and appalled. The movies, even the later ones, are sexist and even racist. Indeed, Sean Connery’s Bond is basically a rapist. The problem is that Bond’s problematic relationships with women have been well known and commented on for decades. Just like every generation since human beings first descended from the trees, the 18 to 30-year-old crowd thinks that they have discovered the truth for the first time.
If one wants to ascertain the reason why so many people doubt that human-caused #Global warming is a pressing problem, it is the fact that those who advocate it are often scolds who want people to be denied things they like. If it is not taking away air conditioning and automobiles, the climate change movement now wants to take away #food we like to eat. Food causes global warming and other horrible things.
Thursday, January 25, 2018
The details of President #trump’s plan to return Americans to the moon have started to leak out. The campaign will include the systematic extension of American infrastructure to cis-lunar space, which will consist of lunar landings beginning in the early 2020s [VIDEO]. However, likely the most controversial aspect of the plan would be the ending of direct #NASA support for the International #Space Station, replacing it with some sort of commercial arrangement, by 2025. More questions than answers have arisen with the revelations.
All is proceeding as I have foreseen.
Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Sen. #Bill Nelson, D-Florida seems to have stepped in it twice during the #government shutdown farce. By voting for the government shutdown on Friday (Jan. 19), he angered NASA employees around the Kennedy Space Center who had been furloughed as a result. He also helped to disrupt FEMA efforts to help Florida recover from the aftereffects of Hurricane Irma. When Nelson voted to reopen the government without a deal of DACA, he angered immigration activists who are demanding amnesty for the 800,000 or so so-called Dreamers, illegal immigrants who were brought across the border by their parents as children.
Proceeding almost beyond the notice of the media, the #Construction of SpaceX’s launch facility at Boca Chica, Texas, near Brownsville, continues apace. The spaceport was delayed for two years after it was discovered that the ground was too soft and unstable to handle rocket launches. SpaceX had to truck in tons of dirt to strengthen the ground, which had to be allowed to settle in. The latest news involves the power system that will provide electricity to the spaceport and the most recent news when rocket tests, followed by launches will take place.
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
“#Wonder Woman” was one of the best films of 2017. The origin story of the iconic superhero was inspiring and well crafted. The fact that the movie had the gloriously beautiful and capable Gal Gadot in the title role was not bad either. The film featured a woman who, among other things, proved that the term “no man’s land” did not apply to her.
CNBC has announced that the #Google Lunar Xprize to be over, without a winner. The XPrize Foundation has announced that it will not extend the deadline for completing the terms of the competition, to land on the moon and perform specific tasks, past March 31. However, even if no private group lands on the #Lunar Surface by the end of March, the Google Lunar XPrize has accomplished its mission. Some team will be the first on the moon, if not this year then the next. More importantly, the concept of a commercial lunar sector has passed from science fiction to reality.
Monday, January 22, 2018
The NASA program to create commercially built and operated spacecraft has been ongoing since President George W. Bush started the Commercial Orbital Transportation System program. The approach of commercializing #space travel was doubled down on by President Barack Obama. In the future, SpaceX and Boeing will be shuttling astronauts to and from the International Space Station on commercial spacecraft.
The script was a familiar one. Some controversy causes a continuing resolution spending bill not to pass because of a Senate filibuster. The Republicans are blamed for shutting down the #Government because they didn’t get their way. Eventually, Senate Republicans are forced to cave and vote to reopen the government without having whatever their concerns were addressed.
Sunday, January 21, 2018
On its second attempt this year, #Rocket Lab successfully launched three satellites into low #Earth Orbit on its Electron rocket from its New Zealand launch facility. The satellites were an Earth observation satellite from a company called Planet and two other satellites from a company called Spire. Rocket Lab had launched an Electron last May, which failed to reach orbit.
Saturday, January 20, 2018
Arthur C. Clarke once opined that “If an elderly but distinguished scientist says that something is possible, he is almost certainly right; but if he says that it is impossible, he is very probably wrong.” Your humble correspondent never thought to be the subject of a manifestation of this maxim. However, Noel de Nevers, who is described as a “professor emeritus of chemical engineering at the University of Utah,” has denounced an article I wrote, referring me by name, in print, with a piece of his own that title of which should be self-explanatory.
For reference, the piece that Professor de Nevers is referring to is:
The exchange should be a teachable moment, since the good professor’s piece is rife with a number of errors. I am distributing this message by email and across social media to a number of people, some of whom are experts in the field, so that they might be free to comment. I may do so myself. In any case, enjoy.
Mark R. Whittington
Rep. #Jim Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma is still awaiting a final full Senate vote on his confirmation as administrator of NASA [VIDEO]. The Senate Commerce Committee voted in favor of his appointment on a 14 to 13 party-line vote. In the meanwhile, the gentleman from Oklahoma has scored something of a political coup by inviting none other than Bill Nye the Science Guy, the CEO of the #Planetary Society, as his personal guest at the upcoming State of the Union Address. Nye has graciously accepted the invitation.
Friday, January 19, 2018
Israel’s bid to land a robotic probe on the lunar surface as part of the Google Lunar XPrize was reported in peril of failing before it gets off the launch pad, according to a recent story in Haaretz. SpaceIL, as the project is called, needed $30 million to complete the lunar probe and get it on the way to the moon. The need for the funding was a matter of some urgency. The rules of the competition state that the winner has to be on the moon and had to have performed a number of tasks by the end of the first quarter of 2018.
President Donald #trump has a problem that is not being discussed in the midst of the din regarding the impending "Schumer Shutdown," fights over immigration, and passing a spending bill. Senate Democrats are obstructing a number of his nominees, in particular, Rep. Jim Bridenstine for the post of NASA administrator [VIDEO]. The choice of a permanent chief for the space agency is crucial for the execution of Trump’s "Back to the Moon" policy. As it stands right now, thanks to the opposition led by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida and backed by the Democratic Senate leadership, and the fact that Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida and Sen John McCain, R-Arizona are on the fence, Bridenstine’s nomination is on the edge of the knife.
The aerospace industry newspaper Space News is reporting that Russian officials and even Chinese social media users are mocking President Trump’s back to the moon initiative [VIDEO]. The Russians note that the #United States is dependent on not only rides on the Soyuz to access the #international space station but Russian built rocket engines, the R-180, for the Atlas 5. The Russians are playing with fire out of a flagrant ignorance of history and of American political culture. Both of those situations being cited by the Russians are due to change in the next few years, with devastating results to that country’s aerospace sector.
Thursday, January 18, 2018
When the #Tax Reform Bill passed last year, #democrats such as Nancy Pelosi were loud in their denunciations. The tax bill was a tax cut for the rich. It would hurt middle-class and working-class Americans. Then, as companies such as Walmart and AT&T started handing out bonuses, the Democrats sneered that “crumbs” were coming the way of ordinary Americans. Then Apple made a remarkable move, and the economic effects of the tax bill are already starting to have political consequences.
#Space Junk, debris left over by dead satellites, is a problem that space experts have been discussing for decades but have not yet managed to implement a solution to. Junk ranging from tiny particles to intact satellites hurtled about as fast as 22,000 an hour, creating a hazard to space navigation and placing functioning space assets at risk.
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and twice failed #Presidential Candidate, is likely running for the United States Senate from the state of Utah. One issue that may rise to haunt him concerns an exchange he had with former Speaker Newt Gingrich concerning the latter’s proposal to build a #Moon Base by the year 2020, six years ago, during the 2012 Republican primaries. Utah has a vibrant aerospace and defense sector that will benefit from President Trump’s plan to return to the moon. Romney’s current view regarding returning to the moon should be considered by Utah, rather than the negative position he took back in 2012.
One thin reed of hope that President #Donald Trump’s many enemies in the media and elsewhere were leaning on was that some physical or mental deficit would render the excuse to remove him from office under the 25th Amendment. Dr. Ronny Jackson, who has been personal physician to three presidents, dashed those hopes with a nearly hour-long press conference after a thorough #Medical Examination in which he gave the president a clean bill of health. The examination included a cognitive test, which POTUS aced.
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
The following is a departure for me in my professional writing in that it is not an analytical or advocacy piece such as I’ve published in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and other places. The piece is a straight biographical history of one of the most remarkable men whom I never met but wished I had.
The story of Major Robert Henry Lawrence is both inspirational and tragic at the same time. Lawrence was an African American born in the south side of Chicago and, due to intellect and drive, became an Air Force astronaut barely past the age of 30. His life was cut short due to a flying accident 50 years ago last December. Had he lived, I think that he would not only have flown the shuttle, as I state in the article, but might have walked on the moon. Those who may remember what race relations were like in the late 1960s can just imagine the effect of that happening.
Those of you who have read Children of Apollo may remember Desmond Thomas, the African American astronaut who saves the crew of Apollo 23. Thomas was loosely based on Lawrence. With the movie “Hidden Figures” having revealed the role of young African American women in the early space program, I think Lawrence’s story would make a great film.
In the meantime, enjoy, pass it around to your friends. Maybe if the article gets enough page views, the magazine will want me to write more for them. Mark R. Whittington
2018, among other things, is the 50th anniversary of 1968, a year from Hell that made some people think that the end of civilization was nigh. It started with the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, proceeded with riots that convulsed American cities, including the famous battle at the Democratic National Convention, and the assassinations of two iconic leaders, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. Around the world, a leftist uprising in Paris occurred, and the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia, crushing a government that had gotten too independent from Moscow. For you Millennials who think the last two years have been stressful, you should be thankful that you were not alive 50 years ago.
Yet, 1968 ended with something so sublime and beautiful that the heart is full just thinking about it.
Has the #MeToo movement started to go off the rails, failing to distinguish awkward or even caddish behavior from the kind of violent #sexual assault as was allegedly perpetrated by #Harvey Weinstein and others over decades? Has anyone who advocates a little moderation when dealing with male-female relations become beyond the pale? A couple of stories that have percolated in the media would suggest that this is so.
Monday, January 15, 2018
With the false nuclear alert [VIDEO] that occurred in Hawaii quickly still fresh in the minds of Hawaiians, the feeling of nuclear anxiety has been introduced to a new generation, with a 21st Century twist that it comes from rogue states such as North Korea and Iran possessing atomic weapons. Back during the #cold war, the #Balance Of Terror was based on the idea that each side in the bilateral world, the United States, and the Soviet Union, was too rational to launch a first strike knowing that it would elicit an overwhelming response. This, on the part of National Security and military strategy, was called the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction(MAD).
The sound and fury over what President #Donald Trump is alleged to have said [VIDEO]during a meeting with congressional leaders over immigration over the nature of certain developing world countries continue unabated. The media narrative has shifted somewhat due to disputes over what the president actually said and about which countries he said it. Trump, by the way, has changed into denial mode and is threatening to tape every meeting for now on so that there can be no disputing what words were used. Then, Sen. #Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, had some interesting perspective on Trump’s real attitude toward people in some of the not so nice parts of the world.
Sunday, January 14, 2018
The week that started with speculations about President Oprah continued with a storm about s---hole countries and ended with a false (thank God!) nuclear missile alert in Honolulu. The warning, which went out over cell phones, television, and even old-fashion sirens that a missile was incoming seems to have been human error. Someone is alleged to have pressed the wrong button, though one would not be surprised if computer hacking is involved. In any case, for about 38 or so minutes, over a million Americans got the scare of their lives.
Saturday, January 13, 2018
Courtesy of the Salt Lake Tribune I suggest Romney should open his mind to space exploration
Romney is likely going to run for Orrin Hatch's Senate seat, so I am naturally reminding people of the following incident on the 2012 campaign trail in Florida:
Of course a lot of other businessmen, including Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, more successful than Romney was, disagrees with him. If Romney and his people want to learn more, they can read the following:
Postscript: It looks like Romney has the perfect opportunity to address this issue if he cares to Mitt Romney to speak next week at Utah Silicon Slopes Tech Summit. Failing that. maybe a reporter could put the question to him.<>/P>
Rep. Martha McSally. R-Arizona is the third person to run for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake [VIDEO]. Her opponents are former State Sen. Kelli Ward, who failed to unseat Sen. #John McCain, and former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a man in his 80s whose career as a law enforcement officer was, mildly speaking, controversial. So far the race is neck and neck, though McSally represents the best hope Republicans have of retaining the Senate seat and avoiding another Alabama-style debacle.
Friday, January 12, 2018
We all know what was allegedly said. According to numerous press accounts, when a group from Congress presented President Donald Trump [VIDEO]with an immigration package that had next to no funding for border security and what amounted to amnesty for hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens, plus chain migration, he exploded with a very blunt question, “Why are we having all these people from s---hole countries come here?” Much of the media and the political class are acting like Victorian ladies who saw someone expose a little ankle.
The SETI Institute and the Mars Institute, using images acquired by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, has discovered possible entrances to #Lava Tubes on the northeastern floor of Philolaus Crater near the #North Pole of the moon. Since scientists believe that permanently shadowed craters at the lunar poles contain ample deposits of #Water Ice, the discovery has enormous implications for future lunar colonies and economic development.
Thursday, January 11, 2018
#Islam has suffered from a severe press in recent years, mainly from actions of some of the religion’s more fringe adherents. Terrorist attacks by organizations such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS have imparted one of the great world religions with violence. Countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, which practice a strict adherence to forms of sharia law, which are oppressive to women, religious minorities, and gay people, have further stoked anxiety around the world. It should be noted that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, thought to be the next king of Saudi Arabia, is moving to enact reforms in Saudi society [VIDEO].
#Michael Wolff, the author of the book “Fire and Fury,” which might have been subtitled “signifying nothing,” [VIDEO]has been having an easy time of it. Wolff’s progress on the media tour has been a love-fest despite the fact that his book has been demonstrated to be a fictionalized account of the first months of the Trump administration. It has catered to the biases of the never-Trumpers, even to the point of printing gossip, half-truths, and even lies as truth.
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Of course, all the world knows how #Donald Trump made the great leap from #Real Estate Tycoon and reality show star to the President of the United States. Recently, because of a speech she made at the Golden Globes [VIDEO], and because she is universally beloved, #Oprah Winfrey is being touted as the next celebrity to become president, supplanting the one who is already in the Oval Office. The prospect of a Trump vs. Oprah 2020 presidential death match causes us to go back 30 years ago when a young Donald Trump sat with Oprah and talked about the idea of his running for president.
Age-related frailty, directly speaking, is how we physically start to decline as we get older. We become weaker, more susceptible to physical injury and disease, and more prone to stress brought on by environmental factors such as extreme heat and extreme cold. Eventually, time catches up with us, and we die.
Tuesday, January 09, 2018
Air conditioning, as anyone who lives in more tropical climes, is not so much a luxury as it is a necessity. Without the ability to keep homes and other enclosed spaces during the summer months cool, people are not only uncomfortable and sweaty but are often in grave danger of dying of heat stroke.
One of the vexing problems in the agricultural sector is how to predict future food prices. Agricultural commodities ranging from corn to pork bellies are traded on futures exchanges where investors try to ascertain what the prices of such products will be. Predict accurately, and one can make a killing. Information on the supply of products versus demand is key to keeping such in balance and thus preventing price spikes or supply gluts.
Monday, January 08, 2018
Golden Globe Awards must be thanking a beneficent God for #Oprah Winfrey. Instead of talking about all of the annoying movies and TV shows that got ill-deserved awards or the rancid spectacle of Hollywood celebrities denouncing sexual harassment while dressed in funereal black, the media is talking about that speech and the dizzying prospect of Oprah running for president in 2020. Who else to save us from a celebrity president like Donald Trump [VIDEO]than another one — albeit one that is universally beloved and admired?
Most of the early polls show Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas [VIDEO] running comfortably ahead of his likely Democratic opponent, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, 57 percent to 43 percent in a recent matchup. O’Rourke is struggling to achieve some measure of name recognition, though many Democrats hope that he will be able to be the first Democratic senator from Texas in decades. O’Rourke is attempting to remedy that situation by offering a bill that will bring back the draft but with a twist.
Sunday, January 07, 2018
“Fire and Fury,” the new book by Michael Wolff that has taken cable news by storm, is rightly being excoriated as a collection of gossip, half-truths, and downright lies [VIDEO]designed to slake the hunger of the never Trump crowd for dirt on the president they love to hate. However, according to Business Insider, one revelation about #Elon Musk and the colonizing of space. The story may serve as part of an explanation as to why the Trump of the campaign, who twice expressed skepticism about the Journey to Mars, has ordered NASA to send astronauts back to the moon.
Saturday, January 06, 2018
NASA has just announced that #John Young, Naval Aviator, and astronaut, has passed away at the age of 87. His career spanned much of the early space program as he flew two Gemini missions, two Apollo missions, including one to the lunar surface, and commanded two initial flights of the #Space Shuttle. He was the first astronaut to fly six times in space on three different kinds of spacecraft.
Michael Wolff has created the perfect White House tell-all book [VIDEO]for the Trump age. By his own account, according to the Washington Times, Wolff wrote down a lot of gossip and quoted it verbatim in "#Fire And Fury." He has admitted that he is not entirely sure that what is in the book is, strictly speaking, true. In fact, he acknowledges that what is in the book conflicts with some known facts.
Friday, January 05, 2018
According to the Houston Chronicle, the #trump administration has proposed to open vast swaths of the continental shelf to oil exploration and eventual production, including areas off the west and east coasts that have been off-limits for decades. However, a number of factors may delay development of potential offshore oil reserves for years. Even so, the policy change is a reversal of Obama-era restrictions on oil and gas development.
Thursday, January 04, 2018
While President #trump’s directive to NASA to #return astronauts to the #moon has received a great deal of praise, it has not come without some doubters raising objections. Writing in Forbes, astrophysicist Ethan Siegel flatly states that America is not going back to the moon. In a dialogue on Market Place, Molly Wood and Kimberly Adams also cast doubt on whether the third time is a charm for a return of America to the lunar surface. The common theme seems to be a question of how to pay for it. [VIDEO]
“#The X Files” has returned with the first episode of Season 11 and, without revealing too much, it seems that most of Season 10 was nothing more than a fever dream being experienced by Scully and her son William. That means that the world still has a chance. However, that fact was not the only big reveal from the show.
Wednesday, January 03, 2018
The juiciest revelation from an upcoming book about the Trump candidacy and the first months of his presidency is not the claim by Steve Bannon that a meeting between #Donald Trump Jr. and some Russians at the #Trump Tower during the transition was “treasonous.” The claim can be easily dismissed as the ravings of a disgruntled former hanger-on who is seeking relevance now that his adventure in the recent special Senate election in Alabama turned sideways. The real gold, an excerpt in New York Magazine from “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” by Michael Wolff is that Trump expected to lose his race for the presidency and was as shocked as anyone when he won.
Hours after North Korean dictator #Kim Jong-un claimed that he had a nuclear button at his desk and that his country’s nuclear arsenal was a reality that the world would have to deal with, President Donald Trump [VIDEO] had a message of his own, sent via Twitter. Social media was consumed by a firestorm of nuclear proportions.
Tuesday, January 02, 2018
To be sure, the betting is that the current uprising in Iran [VIDEO] is more likely to end in a Tiananmen Square moment than the end of the Islamic Republic and the rise of a free #Iran. The regime is quite capable of unleashing tanks and machine guns on their own people and start killing them until no more uprising exists. The Chinese communists slaughtered 10,000 people in Beijing to keep their grip on power. The mullahs, who, after all, believe that they are following the will of Allah, are capable of killing as many to keep calling the shots.
2018 is going to be the Year of the Moon for a number of reasons, not the least of which the number of missions to the #Lunar Surface that are being planned. Besides the Google Lunar XPrize missions that have to finish by the end of March, #India And China are planning flights to the moon, constituting an #Asian Race to the lunar surface. Both will be follow-ups to highly successful lunar missions undertaken by both countries.
Monday, January 01, 2018
The uprising in Iran [VIDEO] is in its fourth day, as of this writing, and rumors abound of armed clashes, regime officials fleeing, and demonstrators being shot in the streets. However, even the most horrific events are not without their comedy element, in this case how former Obama officials are reacting to the events taking place in the Islamic Republic. Remember that the Obama administration pursued a relentless policy of appeasement toward the Tehran regime, which including ignoring people when they protested in 2009-10.