NASA news

NASA still doesn’t have a director. I read a rumor somewhere that Obama was waiting for Bill Richardson to be cleared in whatever investigation he’s under, but that was unsourced and unverified. Meanwhile…

It’s always worth posting the NASA Watch entry instead of whatever article it links to:

“Apparently, the view of NASA’s acting Administrator is that the Moon is a box to be checked-off on the way to Mars. Hence, we don’t really need to establish an outpost because we’re just satisfying a political requirement in implementing policy, not conducting a technical experiment to use the Moon to prepare for journeys beyond.”

And today’s news:

NASA trouble

This first story is a week old, but still totaly accurate:

NASA is facing a critical deadline on whether to retire the space shuttle fleet, however, it still lacks an agency chief to make the $230 billion decision.

According to one presidential expert, NASA is so far off the White House radar, it might as well be on Pluto.

“As each day goes by, the need for these decisions becomes greater and greater, and the absence of an administrator becomes more and more an issue,” said John Logsdon, a member of the NASA Advisory Council and former Obama campaign advisor.

And more problems ahead:

So let’s look at some of the decisions that are (or aren’t) being made in  this climate:

“It is time to reconsider whether we want to go ahead with the Constellation program to place a base on the moon. Many of us in the space community would be eager to recreate the thrill of Apollo. However, from the public’s standpoint, going back to the moon in 2020 would not invoke the same sense of awe and inspiration it did 51 years earlier when it was a seemingly impossible task.”

The old men who run NASA are still stuck in the Apollo mentality. We’ve already gone to the moon out of hubris once, and after planting a flag and hitting a golf ball around, we couldn’t remember any good reason to stay there. Now they propose skipping the moon in favor of thrills and out-of-touch notions of inspiration.

Building a spacefaring civilization takes more than thrills and flag-planting. It takes the hard work of learning how to live and work in space. We’re not getting anywhere else for any useful purpose if we don’t use the moon as a stepping-stone.

Fortunately, we don’t have to rely on NASA alone.

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:

NASA Day of Remembrance

The arrival of a new year reminds us that life is a journey, one that takes us on many unexpected paths. NASA’s role is to pioneer journeys into the unknown for the benefit of humanity. Along the way, we sometimes experience tragedy instead of triumph.

Today, we pause to reflect on those moments in exploration when things did not go as expected and we lost brave pioneers. But what sets us apart as Americans is our willingness to get up again and push the frontiers even further with an even stronger commitment and sense of purpose.

On this Day of Remembrance, we remember the sacrifices of those who dared to dream and gave everything for the cause of exploration. We honor them with our ongoing commitment to excellence and an unwavering determination to continue the journey on the path to the future.

President Barack Obama

(Trevor will be pleased Obama found no need to mention god.)

This list courtesy of the director of the Johnson Space Center:

-Apollo 1 (January 27, 1967): Astronauts Roger B. Chaffee, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, and Edward H. White, Jr.

-Challenger (January 28, 1986): Astronauts Francis R. “Dick” Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka, Gregory B. Jarvis, and S. Christa McAuliffe.

-Columbia (February 1, 2003): Astronauts Rick D. Husband, William C. McCool, Michael P. Anderson, David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel B. Clark, and Ilan Ramon.

And let’s not forget the four cosmonauts acknowledged to have died in spaceflight (as well as an unknown number of other hypothetical cosmonaut deaths), training accidents, ground crew and bystander fatalities, and two search and rescue deaths in the aftermath of the Challenger explosion:

Fallen Astronaut and plaque
Paul Van Hoeydonck, 1971
aluminium, height 8.5 cm, 3 in
Hadley Rille, Moon

more news from the science-based community

And NASA Watch has got the right angle on that:

The Obama administration is just now naming interim leadership at NASA, after a whole lot of drama from the outgoing boss. The new boss, whenever they arrive, will have to lead NASA through a lot of important decisions: do they proceed with developing the Ares rocket or modify an existing model? What’s the balance between science and exploration? Between human and robotic missions? Between the moon, Mars and other places? NASA needs to get it together in the next 4-8 years, or else get out of the way.

And to bring it back down to Earth:

My analysis of news articles published in national and regional newspapers, wire services, and newsmagazines between December 2007 and June 2008 suggests that for most reporters covering this story, the default role was that of stenographer — presenting a nominally balanced view of the debate without questioning the validity of the arguments, sometimes even ignoring evidence that one side was twisting truth. Database searches yielded a sample of 40 published news and analysis stories that explored the cost debate in some de-tail (see appendix). Of these, seven stories were one-sided. Twenty-four stories were works of journalistic stenography. And nine stories attempted, with varying degrees of success, to move past the binary debate, weigh the arguments, and reach conclusions about this thorny issue.

And finally, I’ve failed now in three efforts to grow an indoor moss garden. The lack of humidity is always the problem, and growing it in a closed container just seems to promote the growth of mold that quickly chokes it the moss. I’ve thought about keeping it in the bathroom, but space has always been an issue. Here’s a solution that never occurred to me:

They also grow it on foam instead of soil, which probably helps a lot with the mold. Still, I’d rather try it in a dish than on the floor.

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.

return of the headlines

Trying to get back in the swing of things here….

There’s been a lot of buzz about this story lately:

But this article provides some context that’s missing everywhere else:

The report appeared in November 2008, and was intended for use in “long range planning guidance.” It was not meant to predict anything. Media sensationalists latched on to the comments about “rapid collapse” scenarios in the JFCOM speculative study and totally missed the point that this was a “what if?” scenario for planning purposes, not a prediction. JFCOM’s long-range planners thought Pakistan and Mexico were “worst cases” of rapid collapse. Okay, this is fodder for wargaming and long-range planning excursions. No doubt a Mexican collapse would have huge effects on the US. However, the direct comparison to Pakistan was a huge stretch.

Read the report yourself, if you want. The Mexican collapse scenario appears in exactly one paragraph out of 56 pages:

Been a long time since we visited the former Soviet periphery. Here’s a quick look around:

I’m sure this is nothing to worry about:

If there’s any water on the moon, this is the place to look. Too bad we have to hitch a ride from India to find out.

Here’s some early evidence that Obama won’t do what you want without you making a stink about it (and maybe not even then- time will tell.) This is a draft of a plan that has lots of process ahead of it, but he didn’t have to move it forward at all:

And finally, here’s what you’ve been waiting for: PIRATES!


The MV Steve Irwin is on its way to Antarctica:

As long as Sea Shepherd is out there making itself useful, let’s take a quick look at what PETA’s been up to:

Well. Anyway…

India, Japan and China are now circling the moon with their respective spacecraft – to be joined next year by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Then there’s the Google Lunar X Prize, a $30 million competition for the first privately funded team to send a robot to the moon, travel some 1,640 feet (500 meters) and transmit video, images and data back to Earth.

The legal profession sees a brief in the making.

The United States on Wednesday circulated a draft United Nations Security Council resolution on the issue. It proposes that all nations and regional groups cooperating with Somalia’s government in the fight against piracy and armed robbery “may take all necessary measures ashore in Somalia.”

It proposes that for a year, nations “may take all necessary measures ashore in Somalia, including in its airspace, to interdict those who are using Somali territory to plan, facilitate or undertake acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea and to otherwise prevent those activities.”

The US isn’t volunteering any more ships, though. We may spare some resources from Iraq or Afghanistan here and there, definitely throw down some intel and a few cruise missiles, but I think we’re counting on the Europeans doing most of the dirty work.  Seems like another program a Clinton State Department could get behind.

earth and space and rock n roll

As Taboos Ease, Saudi Girl Group Dares to Rock
myspace: The AccoLade

When I visited their myspace this morning, they had 14 friends. Now they’re up to 584 after being in the NY Times all day. 585, actually, now that I friended them. I’ll be curious to see if some myspace exposure offers them any protection. There should be an Amnesty International campaign devoted to defending the right to rock in oppressive countries.

Such new initiatives should include dramatically amplifying our capability to monitor the changing Earth in every form, from climate change to land use to the mitigation of natural disasters. Such an effort should also accelerate much needed innovation in aircraft and airspace system technologies that would save fuel, save travelers time, and regain American leadership in the commercial aerospace sector. And it should take greater responsibility for mitigating the potential hazards associated with solar storms and asteroid impacts.

So, too, a more relevant NASA should be charged to ignite the entrepreneurial human suborbital and orbital spaceflight industry. This nascent commercial enterprise promises to revolutionize how humans use spaceflight and how spaceflight benefits the private sector economy as fundamentally as the advent of satellites affected the communications industry.

With the pick of Bill Richardson for Secretary of Commerce, this article suddenly becomes very relevant. Commerce has a lot to say about the development of a non-governmental space industry.

And rounding it out with a fresh assortment of enviro stories:

Obama said that will “start” with a federal cap and trade system to reduce global warming pollution, an approach that could create millions of jobs in the U.S.

If you’re wondering what those jobs are, how will they be created, and who will get them, check out a just-released report from Duke University that for the first time pinpoints the direct link between climate change solutions and U.S. workers.

There are plenty of criticisms of emission trading, by the way, but I plan to read up on it before I start pontificating. Half the criticisms I can think of are ideological in nature, and therefore suspect. Most of the rest are practical, meaning they may be answered empirically.

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!”