Posts tagged NASA
For good or ill, much of the western half of the United States was settled by European colonists because of incentives such as the California Gold Rush and the Oklahoma Land Rush and the Texas Oil Boom. Economic interests encouraged an almost manic tidal wave of migration and city-building. Often, such waves of investment and population movement happen with governmental assistance and encouragement. They always happen because businesses and individuals see an opportunity for growth and profit.
Over the next few decades, we will witness another such tidal wave of migration and investment. The seeds are being planted now, and President Obama’s 2014 budget includes a request for a $105 million down payment on the new land rush.
The amount of real estate available dwarfs anything we’ve seen before in our history. Trillions of dollars’ worth of vital resources await development. We need only the courage and vision to take the necessary steps.
To get this treasure, we’ll be in over our heads. Way over our heads. (more…)
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world That has such people in’t!
We may be on the verge of a revolution in the way we view ourselves, our world, and our place in the Universe. There may be radical change in the air for our politics, our religion, and our society.
I don’t think I can overstate this. As momentous as the discovery of the New World was to Europe (not to mention to Native Americans), as enormous as was the Industrial Revolution, as huge a change to society as was the personal computer, even as great as were various political and religious events in the Middle East a couple of millennia ago — all that is mere prelude to discoveries on our horizon.
Amazingly, few of us are even aware of what’s been happening. (more…)
The event of President Obama’s State of the Union address, coupled with the Republican response, served to remind me of the importance of scientific research. How, you might ask? Well, first because the President referred to it, but also because of Bobby Jindal’s (in)famous reference to “something called volcano monitoring” in his response to President Obama’s first major speech after being inaugurated in 2009.
This is already a big year for science news. Here are some highlights and why they are important.
This week saw the 104th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. Setting aside evolution’s central importance to virtually all of modern medicine, genetics, farming, and biology, it is worth remembering this man’s achievements, lest we allow science education in America to become little more than an exercise in how far we’ll allow religious interests to control our government. (more…)
There is so much interesting news this week, its hard to pick just one thing to write about. Hiring is up, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up…but, paradoxically, so is unemployment. Since early 2010, the economy has added over five million private-sector jobs, which have been partially offset by a loss of over 660,000 public sector jobs, for a net gain of about 4.5 million. The Federal Reserve is keeping interest rates low, which is causing some conservative economists to continue fearing inflation (for which there is, so far, no evidence).
Mitt Romney returned from his whirlwind tour, which received mixed reviews. He returned in time for terrible reactions to his tax plan. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center called it “mathematically impossible,” which is really not quite what we expected from a financial genius like Romney. Perhaps this is why he doesn’t want to release his tax returns: maybe he can’t add.
Speaking of confused signals, The Dark Knight Rises continues to do well at theaters, despite the tragedy in Colorado. Talk has died down about whether there was any intentional connection between Bane and Bain.
But for me, perhaps the most important of current events is about to happen late tonight. NASA’s latest Mars rover, named Curiosity, is scheduled to land on the Red Planet about 1:30 AM Monday morning, Eastern time. (more…)
Physics is like sex: sure, it may give some practical results, but that’s not why we do it.
Feynman could have been saying that about any of the sciences.
I have a personal obsession to study science in general, and space science in particular. This madness has been with me for as long as I can remember. I already felt it on September 12th, 1962, when, at the age of six, I saw President Kennedy on television, speaking as if directly to me. That was the day he committed America to literally reach for the Moon. I’ve never been the same. Neither has the rest of the world.
Logarchism is a political blog. What has my obsession with space to do with politics? I’ve written about this before. Politics, like science, sometimes gives practical results, but that’s not why we do it. Sure, practicality is the reason we give ourselves. Honestly though, how much of the rhetoric associated with politics, how much of the game playing and the issues that drive people to the polls, has actual practical value? Some, yes, but birth certificates? Seeing Russia? Really?
Many of these things serve other purposes. The real value of space science is not practical, unless learning about yourself, about reality, about how the universe actually works, is practical. (more…)
Write down this date. The human adventure off the Earth has begun in earnest.
In a triumph of free enterprise, a private corporation has successfully sent a supply ship to the International Space Station.
We knew this day would come. In his 1968 motion picture, 2001: A Space Odyssey, visionary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick showed us a Pan-Am flight to an orbital space station. For those too young to remember, back in the 1960s, Pan American Airways was a major commercial air line. Pan-Am ceased operations in 1991. But before that, following the release of Kubrick’s movie, they had been accepting reservations for flights to the Moon.
The reality so far is much less grand, but the longest journeys begin with a single step. Since 2009, newly-appointed NASA director Charles F. Bolden Jr. has advocated encouraging commercial enterprise to replace the canceled U.S. space shuttle program. Without a shuttle, America and the world are dependent upon Russian Soyuz spacecraft to carry personnel to the space station, and uncrewed Progress rockets for supplies. Russia had an exclusive lock on flights to ISS. No more. On May 25, 2012, at 12:02 p.m. Eastern Time, a private spacecraft funded by PayPal billionaire Elon Musk docked with the International Space Station, carrying a shipment of supplies. The new Dragon spaceship from SpaceX can now supplement Progress supply flights, and, within three or four years, is expected to carry up to seven crewmembers at a time.
This is not the first commercial spaceflight. On October 4, 2004, the 47th anniversary of the first Sputnik launch, the Ansari X Prize was won by a privately-designed and constructed manned spaceship. The X Prize offered ten million dollars to the first non-governmental organization that could send a manned reuseable craft to the edge of space, defined as an altitude of 100 kilometers or 60 miles — and then do it again, within the space of a few days. The winning craft, SpaceShipOne, was designed by legendary aircraft developer Burt Rutan, and funded by eccentric billionaire Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group. Branson and Rutan have gone on to create Virgin Galactic, a company that will soon be providing joyrides into space for a mere $100,000 or so per ticket.
We are about to step off the shores of our little world into an enormous ocean. Are we ready for it? (more…)