Space Archives

Links for Friday, 24 February 2012

NASA thinking about an Earth-Moon-Libration Point 2
Well it’s not quite Space 1999, but pretty cool nonetheless,

NASA is pressing forward on assessing the value of a “human-tended waypoint” near the far side of the moon — one that would embrace international partnerships as well as commercial and academic participation, has learned.

According to a Feb. 3 memo from William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, a team is being formed to develop a cohesive plan for exploring a spot in space known as the Earth-moon libration point 2 (EML-2).


Do you know what a Mainframe is? Well, NASA just shut down their last one


Even more Geek News:  Photos of Mars Landers from Mars orbit


Abe Lincoln (on a penny) to be used as a quick size comparison indicator on the next Mars Rover


NASA taking stock of Eart’s melting land ice
From the 2003-2010 observations,

The total global ice mass lost from Greenland, Antarctica and Earth’s glaciers and ice caps during the study period was about 4.3 trillion tons (1,000 cubic miles), adding about 0.5 inches (12 millimeters) to global sea level. That’s enough ice to cover the United States 1.5 feet (0.5 meters) deep.

Yikes! That’s very unsettling news.

Yet, another report headlines us to the news that Earth’s Polar Ice Melting Less Than Thought. An excerpt (emphasis added),

Nearly 230 billion tons of ice is melting into the ocean from glaciers, ice caps, and mountaintops annually—which is actually less than previous estimates, according to new research by scientists at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Further in the US News report researcher John Wahr states (wisely, in my opinion),

“Even with an eight-year estimate, it’s not clear how far into the future you can project,” he says. “A lot of people want to predict into the end of the century, but I think it’s too dangerous to do that … We don’t have enough info to know what’ll happen. There’s some ebb and flow to these things.”

Indeed, if anyone ever wants to sell you something now based on a prediction of what will happen 100 years from now, you’d better grab hold of your wallet (I think Michael Crichton said that). From the NASA news release, after they’ve admitted the same as the US News report, it reads,

One unexpected study result from GRACE was that the estimated ice loss from high Asian mountain ranges like the Himalaya, the Pamir and the Tien Shan was only about 4 billion tons of ice annually. Some previous ground-based estimates of ice loss in these high Asian mountains have ranged up to 50 billion tons annually.


Imagine if you had some remodeling work done on your home and the contractor estimated it would cost $50,000 but the final bill came in at only $4,000? Well, of course you’d be ecstatic, but wouldn’t you also be wondering why the contractor was so inept? Or what if a stockbroker claimed an investment would return $50,000 but it only came back with $4,000?

Yet we’re supposed to based governmental subsidies, regulations, etc., all on long-range “scientific” esitmates that, quite frankly, are “dangerous” to do.

Rusty Nails (SCO v. 43)

He said what?
Richard Dawkins said “Jesus would have been an atheist had he known what we know today.” Wow. I know that Christian apologists have been clamoring for a debate between William Lane Craig and Dawkins, but if he makes such an ignorantly absurd statement like this, then…?


Only 1 in 4 want to ban handguns
An all-time low (26%) and this spells bad news for liberal democrats. From Gallup,

A record-low 26% of Americans favor a legal ban on the possession of handguns in the United States other than by police and other authorized people. When Gallup first asked Americans this question in 1959, 60% favored banning handguns. But since 1975, the majority of Americans have opposed such a measure, with opposition around 70% in recent years.


Evangelical Capitalism statement of the day:
“I’ve never seen an empty seat make a decision for Christ.” – Andy Stanley

While this notion is sincere, it usually degrades to nothing more than a “numbers game” approach, and the logical conclusion of this methodology is to do just about anything to entice people through the door (and onto a… seat) where they can then be swayed to “make a decision.” And I wonder just what priority is given, if any,, to that of making a disciple of Christ (what the Bible actually states).

“Christians Need To Stop Making Converts” – Read it again, for the first time.


Geek News # 1
Checking out footprints of the Apollo moonwalkers.


Geek News # 2
Searching for Snoopy… Apollo 10’s Snoopy (aka the Lunar Module)


A Homeschooling convert?
So in the middle of realizing that school is really just a babysitting service, I became militant. I realized that public school is like Social Security. There is no money to do what we are pretending we are aiming to do. We should just grow up and admit that we cannot have effective public schools for everyone. Just like we cannot have Social Security for everyone.

Space Shuttles, Manned Space Flight, and Concrete Boats

The Space Shuttle ended a 30 year run of launches, today, with its final launch at Cape Canaveral. Is this the effective end of government sponsored manned space exploration? Despite the euphoria of the 1960s, what with the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions geared to get us to the Moon before the Soviet Union, and along with it an implausibly fictional dream of exploring the universe, we are left with the potential prospect of sending robotic rovers to boldly go where no man has gone before. In 1967 we were dreamers: dreaming of Pan Am passenger shuttles, transporting people to operational Lunar Bases by 2001, or of moving past the speed of light to meet up with Vulcans in the 23rd century. Yet the laws of physics (and economics) are unmoving reality checks, and it appears that where no man will ever get to where no man has gone before.

Yet, despite the silliness of some of our predictions, hopes, and dreams over the past 50 years of manned space travel, I think it’s interesting to note the changes that have occurred between the first and last Shuttle launches. Consider that at the first launch of the Shuttle, in 1981, there were no laptops carried by the astronauts, indeed, there were no laptops at all! The digital cameras they now use to record images and video were also nonexistent. If an astronaut desired to carry a portable music device onboard in 1981, it would have been a Sony Walkman and it would have played cassette tapes. Of course, now an astronaut can slip an iPod in his pocket and carry thousands upon thousands of songs. Or consider the changes in video conferencing, e-mail, cell technology, as well as the computer processing power needed for virtually all of these advancements.

Still, there is a sense of loss as we bid farewell to this part of our history – a decidedly 20th century aspect of history. Will the future of manned space travel move from government funding to that of private enterprise? If so, what are we to make of such a transition? It might end up that such a venture will be an example of how, save for political or national security issues, government is best left out of areas which private enterprise is fully capable of handling.

I leave you with a song, penned by Kate Campbell, comparing the building of a concrete canoe with the first end of the space program…

Bud’s Sea-Mint Boat
by Kate Campbell

He lived his life
A civil service man
Designing toilets
For the space program
He believed
If we could go to the moon
There’s nothing on Earth
A man can’t do

So he ordered a ton
Of sand and clay
In his front yard
He built a frame
Most folks said
It’ll never float
Still they came to see
Bud’s cement boat

A dream is anything
That you want it to be
For some it’s fame and fortune
But for others concrete
Sometimes you just
Gotta follow your heart
No matter where it leads

He gave up fishing
And most of his friends
Worked all night
And every weekend
But he didn’t mind
The sacrifice
Cause he’d build a boat
That’s one of a kind

Well the neighbors thought
It was a real eyesore
They’d say hey Bud
What are ya building that for
And knowing they would
Never understand
He’d just smile and say
Because I can

Well he got laid off
In seventy-four
And they don’t go
To the moon anymore
But down around
The Alabama coast
She still floats
Bud’s Sea-Mint boat

Rusty Nails (SCO v. 37)

Of course there are .22 caliber shotguns! The internet told me so.
A couple of years ago I overheard a recent college grad, at work, exclaim to a colleague, “What did they do before there was Google?” It seems they were searching for some elusive answer to an inquiry they had. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I use the internet for a variety of searches, typically those involving how to get a piece of software/hardware to do what it is supposed to do. However, a good dose of incredulity is in order whenever one reads a search result on the internet. Especially from an “ehow” type site.

Case in point is the article Do You Need a Gun License for a .22 Caliber?, over at said eHow. From the article, in response to the question “What is a .22 caliber”?,

There are many types of guns that use this size ammunition; these guns include revolvers, rifles, pistols and shotguns.

Hmmm. While I suppose it is possible to build a .22 shotgun, it seems to be pretty much a one-off.


To own a .22 caliber, it is necessary to complete a Federal Firearms License application.

Well… you purchase a firearm (regardless of whether it’s a .22) through an FFL dealer.


You must submit this form to the AFT (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.)

C’mon. AFT? Try ATF (which kind of corresponds to Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms).


Them Homeschoolers are always kept at home… except when they’re winning stuff


Amazing Milky Way Timelapse

Plains Milky Way from Randy Halverson on Vimeo.


Rep. King Calls Out TSA on Security Breach
Of course, this now means that TSA will step-up pat-downs of 5 year-old girls, 90 year-olds in walkers, armed forces personnel, and nuns.


Facebook Tip for Parents
Did you know you can submit an underage report for your kid if they’ve signed up to FB and are under age 13?

Rusty Nails (SCO v. 34)

NASA’s Spirit has completed its mission
After operating for over 6 years, for what was supposed to be a 3 month mission, NASA has ceased attempting to communicate with the Mars Rover Spirit. Quite an accomplishment for the space agency.


Billboard of a man holding a cut-out of a baby deemed “controversial”
Heaven forbid we should actually imply that an unborn child is, in fact, a human being.


Yet, is the pro-abortion crowd on the run?

The abortion debate will not go away. The fundamental issue at stake is not reproductive freedom but the desire to extend human rights to all — even the smallest and most vulnerable human beings among us. Those who continue to ignore or deny the humanity of the unborn are increasingly on the defensive because new technologies are opening the window into the womb. What we find there are not tissues to be discarded, but human lives worth protecting.


A good deed, punished


Words, and their meaning(s)
While the title of the article states, Immigrant drivers licenses will be on table for special session, the body clarifies,

The battle to stop illegal immigrants from receiving drivers licenses will continue this year.

Sleight of hand, or editor’s oversight?


Do we have the Facebook revolution to thank for this?


Little girls, playgrounds, and thongs… yes, those kind of thongs.

Friday Link Wrap-up, (Really) Late Edition

In addition to the doctor shortage the US is going to have when us Baby-Boomers hit retirement, Obamacare is going to make the problem even worse, based on current trends, how socialized medicine "works" elsewhere, and the government’s own numbers.

In 2005, when the press was enamored with Cindy Sheehan, Chris Matthews suggested she run for Congress. Yeah, how about now? Cue the crickets chirping.

Seal Team Six was an evil, secret, assassination squad manipulated by Dick Cheney. At least, that’s what it was when a Republican was President. Today, under a Democrat, they’re heroes, and not associated with Obama or Biden in the slightest. What a difference a "D" makes.

And speaking of contrasts, we have Nancy Pelosi on bin Laden, then and now.

Michael Barone notes that, to get bin Laden, Obama relied on policies he decried.

You know that kids that had George W. Bush in their classroom on 9/11? This is a good TIME magazine article on what they were thinking at the time when Bush was given the news, and what their reaction is now.

Over half of the country pays no income tax. But "the rich" still don’t pay "their fair share", eh?

While the bin Laden story stole the front page, the Conservatives in Canada won historic victories. Later, the Liberal Democrats in England suffered their worst losses in 30 years.

The conventional wisdom on salt intake may not be right after all.

Civility Watch: "So when does Seal Unit 6, or whatever it’s called, drop in on George Bush?"

"Democrats blame Bush for high gas prices"? No, not now; back in 2006. And in 2008, Nancy Pelosi blamed the "oil men" in the White House. They’re much quieter now.

A reform to watch: Indiana lawmakers OK broadest voucher plan in US.

It’s so very sci-fi-sounding, but some physicists believe that something from emanating from the sun is now causing radioactive decay to occur faster.

Worst of all, if the decay rates of matter are being mutated then all matter on Earth is being affected including the matter that makes up life.

The mutation may go so far as to change the underlying reality of the quantum universe—and by extrapolation-the nature of life, the principles of physics, perhaps even the uniform flow of time.

In fact, some evidence of time dilation has been gleaned from close observation of the decay rate. If particles interacting with the matter are not the cause—and matter is being affected by a new force of nature-then time itself may be speeding up and there’s no way to stop it.

And finally, a history lesson from Tom McMahon. (Click for the blog entry.)

Rusty Nails (SCO v. 27)

Where “cutting back” = “sticking our hands deeper into your pockets”
Ain’t it just like the government, when faced with a budget crisis, to look at more ways to tax the people? From E-Commerce,

With the state and local revenue shortfalls, I suspect we will see more state governments demanding Internet sales taxes. Since the original Ban on Internet sales taxes was to foster the growth of the Internet, that mission seems to be completed.

That may mean that we, as consumers, will eventually find everything more costly on the Internet, as Internet sales taxes are permitted and sought on more and more transactions.


Man kills 4 – uses a high capacity knife
Maybe we should ban public access to kitchen knives? Don’t laugh.


Got an iPhone? Watch this video
Password bypassed and into the phone in 6 minutes. Moral of the story: besides wiping your data, if your phone is stolen, have recovery backup systems built into your information-rich cyber accounts.


Geek News of the Week
NASA releases images of man-made crater on comet.


PSP-playing is dangerous to your health
At least when you’re in a subway station. Lucky for the reality-distracted gamer that a reality-based hero was around.


On calling evil good
California SB48 – an excerpt (bold emphasis added),

51204.5.  Instruction in social sciences shall include the early
history of California and a study of the role and contributions of
both men and women,  black Americans, American Indians,
Mexicans, Asians, Pacific Island people, and other ethnic groups
  Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans,
Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender Americans, and members of other ethnic and cultural
groups,  to the economic, political, and social development of
California and the United States of America, with particular emphasis
on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society.

Rusty Nails, SCO (v. 11)

Oops From the setting yourself up department, a lesson in election politics in the New Mexico governor’s race.


Geek News of the week Amateur astronomers capture images of objects (comets or asteroids) impacting Jupiter. Beyond the geek-factor, however, Hugh Ross argues that Jupiter’s size and location, within our solar system, are no accident. Ross, president and founder of Reasons to Believe, notes that Jupiter’s gravitational tug is strong enough to result in errant bodies (e.g., comets and asteroids) slamming into its surface, reducing the chance of such bodies impacting the Earth while, at the same time, not being so strong as to corrupt Earth’s orbit, thereby making advanced life impossible. Is such precision in timing, size, location, etc., the result of chance or design?


Acrobat Security Hole This is why I use PDF Xchange or FoxIt.


Oops 2 The purpose of a gun holster is not to simply have a place to hold your gun. Holsters prevent you from placing your trigger finger directly onto the trigger when removing the gun from the holster. This is important because any time your finger is ON the trigger it is very likely that a bullet will exit the barrel. For those that choose to keep a gun in a pocket, the need for a pocket holster is even more significant. Or… you could be like the guy in the link.


Oops 3 While guns and holsters mix, guns and alcohol do not. However, I’ve got to admit the idea of using a finicky computer server as a target has a certain appeal.


Illegally in the U.S., and enrolled in college How broken is the immigration system when a person is allowed to be in the U.S. illegally, for over 15 years, not have a Social Security number, yet allowed to enroll in college?

Rusty Nails (SCO v. 9)

So… where’s the oil now? Either Obama really is the Messiah he was portrayed as, and it was his mere presence alone that healed our earth; or, maybe, we aren’t quite up to predicting global effects of non-globally sized events? A couple of months ago, it wasn’t difficult to find commentaries declaring that we were were on the brink of planetary destruction, that the Gulf of Mexico would never recover, that oil spill was a foretaste of the effects of Global Warming Climate Change, that God was allowing this disaster as punishment for our sins on Mother Earth. Yet now we see that Obama really has the power to heal the Earth – scratch that – Yet now we see how inadequate we might be in our attempts at extrapolating data, on a global scale, over extended time periods – well – even short time periods. Common sense should tell us that our efforts would be better served by addressing known issues that we currently face, as opposed to potential issues we might face. (also see Joe Carter’s post)


Illegal aliens allowed to get a New Mexico drivers license… so, why not allow them to purchase firearms as well (why should that “right” be infringed upon?). The argument for giving illegal aliens drivers licenses is that it provides for better enforcement of insurance, etc. If that were so, then why not allow illegal aliens to purchase firearms, thereby giving them direct access to the right of self defense?


Well, at least they weren’t burning the books (but a pragmatist would have donated them to a local library). Or have a used-book sale or something to recoup some money?


When in doubt, ask someone who has actually followed the rules. Gabriella, a naturalized U.S. citizen, educates a Tucson City Council member on why the City of Tucson should not sue the State of Arizona over SB1070.


Two exo-solar planets transiting the same star… geekfest time.j


The Ghosts of World War II. Have not confirmed the validity of these images but, if true, an interesting use of Photoshop linking the past with the present.

We choose the moon

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, mankind’s first trip to the moon.

At, you can follow a virtual recreation of the entire mission, beginning at approximately 6 a.m. Eastern, 16 July.

Also, check NASA’s web page dedicated to the anniversary.

There’s No Place Like Home

Used to be that scientists thought that our solar system was pretty normal, and that there were plenty just like it out there.  TV shows like Star Trek and Stargate:SG1, among many others, traded on that to create unlimited worlds to explore.

On top of that, the idea that man is special in the universe, as suggested by the Bible, was taken down a few notches by that assertion.  If there are so many systems that would support life as we know it, the idea that God created just us seems a quaint anachronism. 

Well, as it turns out, our solar system is "pretty special", according to the headline in ScienceDaily last week.  Remember the old analogy of monkey’s typing on a jillion typewriters just waiting for a Shakespeare sonnet to come out, and its parallel to evolutionist theory about random chemicals banging together to create life?  Well, time to add a few jillion barrels of monkeys to the mix.  Apparently, coming up with a solar system like ours ain’t that easy.

Prevailing theoretical models attempting to explain the formation of the solar system have assumed it to be average in every way. Now a new study by Northwestern University astronomers, using recent data from the 300 exoplanets discovered orbiting other stars, turns that view on its head.

The solar system, it turns out, is pretty special indeed. The study illustrates that if early conditions had been just slightly different, very unpleasant things could have happened — like planets being thrown into the sun or jettisoned into deep space.

So what did they find out?

Before the discovery in the early 1990s of the first planets outside the solar system, our system’s nine (now eight) planets were the only ones known to us. This limited the planetary formation models, and astronomers had no reason to think the solar system unusual.

"But we now know that these other planetary systems don’t look like the solar system at all," said Frederic A. Rasio, a theoretical astrophysicist and professor of physics and astronomy in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. He is senior author of the Science paper.

"The shapes of the exoplanets’ orbits are elongated, not nice and circular. Planets are not where we expect them to be. Many giant planets similar to Jupiter, known as ‘hot Jupiters,’ are so close to the star they have orbits of mere days. Clearly we needed to start fresh in explaining planetary formation and this greater variety of planets we now see."

The more we find out, the more we see that we really got "lucky" (in scientific parlance) to have such a nice place to call home.

[tags]solar system,planetary formation,Frederic A. Rasio,Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences[/tags]

Missing: Bold Leadership

This week I’ve had the privilege to preview a new series that will debut on the Discovery Channel on Sunday, June 8th entitled When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions (click here to read my review). The six part series traces the first fifty years of NASA’s missions to explore outer space.

While watching the series I was struck by how we no longer consider the exploration of space as something that is important for our country to invest in. It does not seem to hold the same interest for us as a nation as it did when I was a kid growing up in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Perhaps that is because we don’t have bold leadership any longer in Washington.

On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space by piloting his Mercury spacecraft on a twenty minute sub-orbital flight. A little less than three weeks later, President John F. Kennedy declares before a joint session of Congress that the United States will land a man on the moon before the end of the decade. At the time, many in the space program thought Kennedy was crazy to make such a suggestion. But as audacious as his boast may have been, he inspired thousands of individuals associated with the program to work harder to ensure that his goal was met.

President Kennedy said it best in another famous speech that he made about why we must explore space:

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

We need a leader who is willing to challenge us to do hard things.

The Hydrocarbon Mother Lode

Scientists have discovered a hydrocarbon reserve larger than all of our current oil and gas reserves. Hydrocarbons, as you know, are those dregs of ancient dinosaurs and plants that we mine for energy. So then, where is this incredible field?

Oh, about 750 million miles away.

Before we get too excited here, let’s remember. There’s still an energy problem. Global warming, too. Nobody’s going to be importing oil substitutes from Titan anytime soon.

That said, data from the Cassini probe orbiting Saturn has shown that the ringed planet’s moon has “hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth,” according to research reported in the Geophysical Research Letters. The stuff is literally falling from the sky.

Lakes are scattered across the moon, with each of several dozen holding more hydrocarbon liquid – largely in the form of methane and ethane — than all of Earth’s oil and gas reserves.

OK, so it’s technically not the “mother lode” since it’s not physically connected to the oil and gas here. And it’s technically not biological in nature, since (and we’re pretty sure about this) dinosaurs and plants have never existed on Titan.

Which begs the question: Where did it come from, and are the same processes happening here on Earth? If so, perhaps oil isn’t from dead dinos. Worth looking into.

[tags]abiotic oil,Saturn,Titan,hydrocarbons,methane,ethane,energy,space,Cassini probe[/tags]