pictures and video from spaaaace!

Backdropped by the blackness of space and the thin line of Earth’s atmosphere, the International Space Station is seen from Space Shuttle Discovery as the two spacecraft begin their relative separation.

By way of NASA Watch, here’s the shuttle flying around the ISS:

Jane Poynter and husband Taber MacCallum, Paragon CEO, are well known experts in the closed biological systems communities, and were themselves experimental subjects within a sealed ecosystem as resident scientists in the famous Biosphere 2 project of the early 90′s. Spending two years living with six others in a 3.2 acre greenhouse type structure in Oracle, Arizona, the largest closed system ever built, they emerged as a couple with a newly created company.

Growing the first plant on another world has enormous symbolic importance as well as important scientific research value for creating self contained lunar outposts and eventual settlements. “Plants have been grown in essentially zero gravity and of course in Earth gravity, but never in fractions of gravity,” said Dr. Volker Kern, Paragon’s Director of NASA Human Spaceflight Programs who conducted plant growth experiments in space on the US Space Shuttle. “Scientifically it will be very interesting to understand the effects of the Moon and one sixth gravity on plant growth.”

No pictures for this one, and all the better, really:

space roundup

Here’s a week’s worth of news from space:

Population in Space at Historic High: 13

Here’s the baker’s dozen breakdown of the three spaceships in orbit today [last Thursday, in fact- jfb]:

* Soyuz TMA-14: Three people aboard, including space tourist Charles Simonyi and the new Expedition 19 crew for the station which numbers two, a Russian and an American. Launched Thursday and will arrive at the station Saturday morning.
* Space Shuttle Discovery: Seven people aboard, returning from the space station after delivering the last pair of U.S. solar wings to the orbiting laboratory, boosting it to full power during their STS-119 mission. The shuttle is due to land Saturday in Florida to end a 13-day spaceflight.
* International Space Station: Currently home to three astronauts, one each from the United States, Russia and Japan. Two will return home April 7 with Simonyi to end their Expedition 18 mission.

Half an hour after Prometheus tore into this region of Saturn’s F ring, the Cassini spacecraft snapped this image just as the moon was creating a new streamer in the ring.The dark pattern shaped like an upside down check mark in the lower left of the image is Prometheus and its shadow. The potato shaped moon can just be seen coming back out of the ring.

so much trouble in the world

It’s been a bad week for Obama, and so air bases in Kyrgyzstan may not seem like the most pressing matter. But this may be his most significant defeat:

We could very well end up using the base under some new arrangement, but this makes clear it will be an arrangement with Russia, not KZ. So this means that we have to accept Russia reclaiming its sphere of influence, if not its old borders, in Central Asia. It also threatens our supply lines to Afghanistan, which are already threatened from the other side as well:

It was not immediately clear whether supply convoys could reach Afghanistan through alternative, smaller routes in the region. Another official in the area, Fazal Mahmood, said repair work had begun on the bridge.

Up to 75 percent of the fuel and supplies destined for U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan travel through Pakistan after being unloaded at the port of Karachi. Most are driven along the Khyber Pass.

Meanwhile, the news from space…. Iran managed to launch a satellite this week, but it remains to be seen if it’s a big move or just a propaganda ploy:

“The rocket is not that sophisticated,” David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington think tank, told The Washington Times. “That Sputnik technology, a little metal ball that goes ‘beep beep beep,’ is not the same as a nuclear warhead or a telecommunications satellite. It’s harder to send heavier objects and more sophisticated objects into space or across a continent.”

And assorted bumps along the way:

Back on Earth, the stimulus bill may turn into more life support for Detroit. A generation’s worth of debt to prop up a failing industry:

The word on the street is that after some small victories in the House ($3B added to capital funding for transit) there will be another fight in the Senate where various amendments are being proposed to strip transit funds and move them to highways, or to simply add $50B to highways.

This could be interesting- it’s a civil disobedience action that’s actually part of a larger strategy, well-targeted and hopefully well-organized. DC is famously a black hole for media events, but this one might cut through all the crap.

As Congress continues to sputter on solutions for the climate crisis, a national coalition of more than 40 environmental, public health, labor, social justice, faith-based and other advocacy groups have announced plans to engage in civil disobedience at the Capitol Power Plant in Washington D.C. on the afternoon of March 2, 2009.

The event, known as the Capitol Climate Action (CCA), will be the largest mass mobilization on global warming in the country’s history. The event reflects the growing public demand for bold action to address the climate and energy crises. It means no more waiting, no more excuses, and no more coal.

A couple more along those lines:

I’ve been saving up some Sea Shepherd stories for you. Soon come.

space, somalia and the genius of cops

I’m inclined to think that military force will follow humans wherever we go. That doesn’t mean working towards limits on it is a bad idea, though.

“There’s still a lot of wiggle room” in the administration’s statement on military space, said analyst Victoria Samson with the private Center for Defense Information. “But just the sheer fact that they are discussing it represents a real shift from the Bush administration.”

This might actually be good news for the law and order crowd, although supporters of human rights won’t be so happy:

The usual post-soviet geekery:

And finally, you know I can’t resist a good crime story, especially when it makes the police look like idiots:

The boy, who has been charged as a juvenile for impersonating an officer, walked into the Grand Crossing District station, 7040 S. Cottage Grove Ave., dressed in a Chicago police uniform, police spokeswoman Monique Bond said. The boy, who reported for duty about 1:30 p.m., partnered with another police officer for about five hours.

The boy identified himself as an officer from another district but was detailed for the day to Grand Crossing and also was savvy enough to sign out a police radio and a ticket book, according to a source. The source also said the boy went on traffic stops with the officer he went on the street with.

bits of news

Just a few stories before I close all these tabs.

Both Somali pirates and the actual owner of the vessel are being quoted as saying a deal has been reached to release MV Faina, the Ukrainian ship hijacked September 25 carrying a cargo that includes 33 T-72 tanks.

The Mumbai attackers used the same mothership tactic the Somali pirates have been favoring, landing in small boats that had been launched from a larger ship. It’s a logical confluence- assymetric warfare is the order of the day. But it doesn’t mean the two have gotten together in any way. They just face similar conditions.


“Once I started paying attention, I couldn’t find any acorns anywhere. Not from white oaks, red oaks or black oaks, and this was supposed to be their big year,” said Greg Zell, a naturalist at Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington. “We’re talking zero. Not a single acorn. It’s really bizarre.”

pirates and space – a quickie

Still no pirates in space yet, sad to say.

And your space roundup today is all hands-on. No pretty pictures from Hubble or exciting new discoveries, just the work of making it all happen. Or not, as the case may be.

And as long as I’m here:

holy crap

I wish I could embed this video for you- it’s a giant shark taking a dump. No, really.
Shark-cam captures ocean motion

It is as thick as your arm, gungy and smells disgusting – and it has just been caught on camera for what is thought to be the first time.

Whalers slip out of Japanese port

Lunar Images From Chandrayaan-1
Controllers Cheer as Data Arrive from NASA’s Spirit Rover
What to Get Space Station on 10th Anniversary — a Name
Physicist admits sending US space know-how to China

Pirates capture Saudi oil tanker
Somali pirates release cargo ship
US Admiral ‘stunned’ by pirates’ reach

Georgia: Russian drone explodes, killing 2 soldiers and wounding 8 near S. Ossetian border
South Ossetian gunmen withdraw from disputed village: Sarkozy
Macedonia Takes Greece to World Court
Protests against UN, EU in Kosovo planned

Ancient Greeks pre-empted Dead Parrot sketch

“I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it. It’s dead, that’s what’s wrong with it.”

For those who believe the ancient Greeks thought of everything first, proof has been found in a 4th century AD joke book featuring an ancestor of Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch where a man returns a parrot to a shop, complaining it is dead.

The 1,600-year-old work entitled “Philogelos: The Laugh Addict,” one of the world’s oldest joke books, features a joke in which a man complains that a slave he has just bought has died, its publisher said Friday.

“By the gods,” answers the slave’s seller, “when he was with me, he never did any such thing!”

news keeps on happening

Once again, I wish I had a tag called “awesome.”

The Alternate History Theme Park Where Dinosaurs Fought in the Civil War

Hubble snaps planet orbiting distant star: First visible-light image of gravitationally-bound world

The Hubble space telescope has captured the first visible-light image of an exoplanet orbiting a star – a body no greater than three Jupiter masses, gravitationally-bound to Fomalhaut in the constellation Piscis Australis.

Mission Accomplished: India fifth in world to reach moon
High-Performance Ares Rocket Engine Passes Review
Shuttle Endeavour links with space station

Policeman Killed Near Abkhazia
EU monitors in Georgia ‘come under fire near Abkhazia’
U.S. studies another path for Georgia to join NATO

Explosive charge thrown at EU mission in Kosovo
EU’s Kosovo Mission In Doubt After Rejection Of UN Proposal
Aiming to partition Kosovo, Tadic reveals his Janus-like face

Putin holds talks on Transdniester

sea, space and stupid

Starting of course with the stupid. The one redeeming factor here? At least it wasn’t the Amurricans this time.

Students in ‘Weird Science’ Halloween party arrested under anti-terror laws

OK, on to the srs b. I’ve never posted anything like an ad before, but this is something I want to see. If I find a torrent, I’m going to make all my friends watch it. Unless it sucks. It is TV, after all.

Sea Shepherd Heads for Antarctic Battle With Japanese Whalers
Greenpeace lays off Japan
Greenpeace won’t chase whalers

Guarded shipping corridor limiting Somali piracy
European Union approves anti-piracy patrols off Somali coast

Icy Profile

The Cassini spacecraft looks toward Rhea’s cratered, icy landscape with the dark line of Saturn’s ringplane and the planet’s murky atmosphere as a background.

Chandrayaan-1 Successfully Enters Moon’s Orbit
Astronauts head for extreme home makeover in space
Mars Phoenix Lander completes its mission

According to NASA, the space agency is no longer receiving communications from Phoenix, its Mars lander, after more than five months of operation. The not unexpected event came after the lander moved into an area, NASA said in a release Monday, where “seasonal decline in sunshine at the robot’s arctic landing site is not providing enough sunlight for the solar arrays to collect the power necessary to charge batteries that operate the lander’s instruments.”

RIP, Phoenix. You almost convinced me to take the Twitter pill. Almost.

headlines- martian sunrise and other things

NASA Mars Phoenix Mission: Ice Cold Sunrise on Mars
Ice Clouds in Martian Arctic

NASA Phoenix Mission Conducting Extended Activities on Mars
NASA Considers Keeping Space Shuttles in Flight Past 2010
Shutting down the shuttle
ISS Dodges Space Junk For First Time In Five Years
China to launch third manned space flight in September: report

Glenn Greenwald has been covering the crackdown outside the RNC pretty regularly:
Scenes from St. Paul — Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman arrested
RNC Welcoming Committee
Twin Cities Indymedia
I’ve got to say, I’m less concerned about Amy Goodman, who’s been arrested by worse than these goons, than I am about the state of our nation and how jaded I am about it. I shrugged my shoulders when I heard about all this, figuring we knew it was going to happen. But c’mon, let’s pay some attention:

Beginning last night, St. Paul was the most militarized I have ever seen an American city be, even more so than Manhattan in the week of 9/11 — with troops of federal, state and local law enforcement agents marching around with riot gear, machine guns, and tear gas cannisters, shouting military chants and marching in military formations. Humvees and law enforcement officers with rifles were posted on various buildings and balconies. Numerous protesters and observers were tear gassed and injured.

Georgia seems to have stabilized a bit since I last posted. You can expect a wrap-up in the next few days, but here’s a quick look at the region:
Russia says US may have sent weapons to Georgia
Ukraine defense faces dilemma after Georgia crisis
EU involves Ukraine into sanitary cordon off Russia
Turkish, Russian admirals meet on Black Sea
Russia will respond ‘calmly’ in Black Sea: Putin

Arctic Island: More Evidence of Melting, Scientists Say

Priest’s potty gift from God

A Bulgarian priest is to go under police surveillance – because of a field of cannabis he claims is a gift from God. Father Cyril Papudov has been arrested seven times but police have never caught him actually cultivating the crop. He claims the cannabis seeded by itself and is part of God’s gift of nature and nothing to do with him.

And I haven’t had a chance to digest this story yet, so consider this all raw data, but you can expect to be hearing more. I spent my hippiest treehugging days defending roadless areas in Idaho. If anything gets me out of my armchair, it could well be this. Stay tuned.
Two Roads Diverged in a Wood, and I … I Couldn’t Believe I Was in a Roadless Area: Deal to shrink roadless areas in Idaho approved by Bush admin
Truce Is Reached in Battle Over Idaho Forest Land
Idaho’s roadless deal may be final soon
I’m glad the Times and the Statesman are so impressed with “compromise.” Here’s a better compromise: you don’t mess with the forest, we don’t mess with you. Sounds fair, huh?

Damn, I haven’t dissed the Statesman in a decade. Hi, guys.