December 3, 2012 at 10:46 PM
The big news is out. Today the eagerly awaited press conference at the American Geophysical Society meeting in San Francisco on the recent results from the Mars rover Curiosity was finally held. The announced results had been hyped like crazy when rumors began to spread a few weeks ago that Curiosity had discovered something truly spectacular.
Well, here are some of the headlines heralding the results.
December 3, 2012 at 9:45 AM
NOAA’S latest monthly update of the Sun’s ongoing ramp up to solar maximum has just been published and, as I do every month, I have posted the latest graph, with annotation, below the fold.
As the Sun had been somewhat active in November, I had expected the graph line to rise. It has, but not by very much.
November 27, 2012 at 11:09 AM
In response to my condemnation of the insane requirement by Obamacare that restaurants and take-out pizza delivery services publicly post on their menus the calorie count for every item, including a calorie count for each of the literally thousands of topping variations for pizzas, regular reader Patrick Ritchie asked me, “What level of super market labeling would you support?”
I replied, “I think the federal government has no business requiring any labeling at all. This is a state matter, pure and simple, both for practical and Constitutional reasons.”
He responded, “Which practical reasons? I’m genuinely curious. What makes a state regulation inherently better than a federal one?”
My response to this last question was quite long, and after reading it Patrick suggested I elevate the comment into a full headlined post. I have decided to do so. Here is what I wrote, edited slightly for clarity:
November 23, 2012 at 9:26 AM
As a replacement for its discontinued ATV cargo freighter — which paid its share of ISS — Europe has decided to build a service module for the Orion capsule.
This decision occurred at the same time ESA decided to upgrade Ariane 5 rather than replace it. Both decisions, to my mind, were serious mistakes.
November 13, 2012 at 12:39 PM
On March 8, 1979, as Voyager 1 was speeding away from Jupiter after its historic flyby of the gas giant three days earlier, it looked back at the planet and took some navigational images. Lisa Morabito, one of the engineers in charge of using these navigational images to make sure the spacecraft was on its planned course, took one look at the image on the right, an overexposed image of the moon Io, and decided that it had captured something very unusual. On the limb of the moon was this strange shape that at first glance looked like another moon partly hidden behind Io. She and her fellow engineers immediately realized that this was not possible, and that the object was probably a plume coming up from the surface of Io. To their glee, they had taken the first image of an eruption of active volcano on another world!
Today, on the astro-ph preprint website, Morabito has published a minute-by-minute account of that discovery. It makes for fascinating reading, partly because the discovery was so exciting and unique, partly because it illustrated starkly the human nature of science research, and partly because of the amazing circumstances of that discovery. Only one week before, scientists has predicted active volcanism on Io in a paper published in the journal Science. To quote her abstract:
November 9, 2012 at 1:14 PM
Scientists have released a spectacular panorama taken by the now dead rover, Spirit, from its perch at its 2006 winter haven. I have posted a cropped section of that panorama below the fold, with some analysis.
November 6, 2012 at 10:20 PM
It appears that Barack Obama has won another four years in office. Despite what many consider to be one of the weakest and most incompetent presidencies in history, the American people have decided to stick with this man. Even worse, the Democrats look like they will gain seats in the Senate, even though it was the Democratic majority in that Senate that has refused to pass a budget — as required by law — for the last three years. For that dereliction of duty, the American people have decided to reward them with more power.
Overall, it appears that the polls that favored Democrats in their sampling were actually capturing the tone of the country. The public wants big government and a restriction in freedom. 2010 was a fluke, not a trend. I was wrong.
We are stuck with Obamacare. We are stuck with trillion dollar deficits. We are stuck with bankruptcy. I have little hope now for the near future. It will probably take fifty years or more to fix the problems that the past four years and the next four years will create.
This is not even a conservative perspective. No policy can survive, even good leftwing policy, when the government is bankrupt. And with trillion dollar deficits the new normal, we are guaranteed that the government will go bankrupt. And it will take everything else down with it.
Even worse, this willingness of the American public and its intellectual class to ignore this reality, to make believe that trillion dollar deficits don’t matter, suggests an intellectual bankruptcy that is even more appalling. For you can’t fix a problem if you refuse to face it.
November 5, 2012 at 11:59 AM
The latest monthly update the ongoing sunspot cycle of the Sun has been published today by NOAA. Once again, the trend suggests that the Sun’s ability to produce sunspots is fading, and fading fast.
I have posted this latest graph, covering the month of October, below the fold, with additional analysis.
October 16, 2012 at 5:13 PM
More exoplanet news: The problems of Kepler.
The article outlines the status — both good and bad — of Kepler in its hunt for Earthlike exoplanets.
I have already reported on Kepler’s failed reaction wheel. It no longer has a backup and needs every reaction wheel it has to keep it pointed in so precise a manner. Thus, the loss of one more wheel will shut the telescope down.
However, I had not been aware that the scientists now need more than twice as much time, eight years instead of three, to do their work, because they have discovered that sunlike stars are far more variable than expected. To quote the article,
October 14, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Today one mainstream newspaper finally caught up with the global warming skeptic community and recognized that a recent release of data from the United Kingdom’s Met Office shows that since 1996 the temperature of the climate has stalled. For the past sixteen years there has been no global warming, at all.
Three takeaways from this story.
October 12, 2012 at 12:56 PM
I am thrilled to announce that the new ebook edition of my first book, Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, is now officially available for sale for only $5.99 from Mountain Lake Press. The direct link to Mountain Lake Press’s sales page is here and on the right. Within two weeks the book will also be available at all retailers, but if you buy it direct from Mountain Lake Press, I will make a little extra money, which would be very much appreciated.
In creating this ebook edition I made sure that all the graphics from the original but out-of-print hardback were included. Valerie Anders, the wife of astronaut Bill Anders, added her own thoughts in a new foreword. I also added a new introduction discussing how the history of space exploration has evolved since the book’s initial publication in 1998. As I noted,
October 11, 2012 at 11:27 PM
Two stories were published on Thursday about two very different future space telescopes. Both are worthwhile, but the differences between them illustrate how the industry of space astronomy — like manned space — is evolving from Big Science and government to small, efficient, and privately built.
First there is this story describing how the nonprofit B612 Foundation’s project to launch an infrared telescope by 2017 had passed its first technical review.
October 10, 2012 at 10:22 AM
The anthropologist who led the research into the Kennewick Man skeleton found in the Columbia Valley presented his research to Indian tribal leaders yesterday.
First the science:
October 8, 2012 at 5:17 PM
As it does every month, NOAA today posted its monthly update of the ongoing sunspot cycle of the Sun. This latest graph, covering the month of September, is posted below the fold.
Not only is the Sun’s sunspot production continuing to fizzle, it is fizzling even more than before.
October 2, 2012 at 2:00 PM
The scientist famous for identifying drowning polar bears in the Arctic has been reprimanded for leaking emails and following “inappropriate” procurement procedures at his job at the Department of Interior.
The investigation also criticized the scientist, Charles Monnett, for fudging his data in reporting the death of the polar bears, a report that the global warming movement used extensively to falsely prove that global warming was causing the destruction of the polar bear population.
The Nature story above tries to make light of Monnett’s misconduct, especially in connection with his polar bear report as well as his work in awarding contracts. The report itself [pdf] is far more harsh.
In connection with Monnett’s contract work, it appears he actually helped one contractor write his proposal, then sat on the board that awarded the contract to that contractor.
September 27, 2012 at 6:54 PM
Two days ago Ralph Kayser, head of the Tucson Tea Party, sent out an email announcing that the Republican Congressional candidate for my district, Jonathan Paton (pictured on the right), was going to hold a luncheon fundraiser today. Ralph wanted to know if anyone was interested in attending.
Normally, I detest giving money to politicians, from either party. I consider them to be the worst form of bloodsuckers. They don’t produce any wealth, cannot create jobs no matter how hard they try, add restrictions to our lives that squelch freedom, and generally only serve to squeeze tax dollars from us all for wasteful government projects, money that we would better left in our own hands to use as we each saw fit. And then they go on the campaign trail, begging for more money so that they can beat the other guy.
Like I say, bloodsuckers.
Nonetheless, to me this election is different, in the same way the 2010 election was different.
September 24, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Amateur astronomer Jason Lewis sent me an email today describing how the amateur astronomy community is abuzz with the discovery of a new comet, presently dubbed C/2012 S1, that is due to make its dive around the Sun in late November 2013 and pass closest to the Earth in January 2014 at a distance of about 37 million miles. Based on the preliminary numbers, this comet might be one of the brightest in years, almost certainly a naked eye object and visible to everyone from both the northern and southern hemispheres.
To quote the comments from one astronomy forum:
September 22, 2012 at 5:58 PM
Boeing has indicated that it might shelve its CST-100 manned capsule, despite their recent almost half a billion dollar contract award from NASA.
This possibility illustrates why Boeing is losing market share, not only in space, but in the aviation industry. The article suggests that the NASA contract might not be enough to pay for CST-100, and that Boeing is unsure there is enough private market to make up the difference.
“That’s just for the ISS. That’s kind of the basement,” adds Elbon. More flights than those to the ISS are required he says, and Boeing is cautious about over-committing itself while future revenue streams are unclear.
I say bull hockey.
September 20, 2012 at 6:10 PM
Six Congressmen have introduced a bill that would have the NASA administrator serve a ten year term, and put the running of the space agency in the hands of an unelected board of directors.
September 15, 2012 at 11:08 AM
For the past three days there has been a very lively debate by readers of Behind the Black, attempting to figure out the actual cost of launching payload to low Earth orbit by various rockets, including SpaceX, the space shuttle, and the NASA-built Space Launch System.
Three stories published today add some new information to this debate.
September 14, 2012 at 3:47 PM
The journal Science today published this detailed look at the cuts that would occur in all the federal government’s various science programs should the automatic budget cuts outlined in the sequestration legislation occur on January 2, 2013.
Not surprising, the article includes a great deal of moaning and groaning about the terrible harm the cuts would have on science research should they occur. From the Obama administration:
September 12, 2012 at 5:01 AM
Fifty years ago today, John Kennedy gave a speech at Rice University in Texas, outlining his reasoning behind his proposal that the United States send a man to the Moon before the end of the decade. The key phrase:
But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?
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.
Video below the fold. The full text can be found here. (Interesting sidebar: When I posted Monday’s evening pause that quoted this speech I hadn’t realized the 50th anniversary of the speech was this week!)
This speech is worth watching, in full, if only to see the passion of both Kennedy and the audience for what he says. It also reveals a somewhat higher level of sophistication coming from a politician than one would see nowadays. Kennedy not only understood the deeper philosophical reasons for exploration, his thoughts were grounded in history as well as recent events, all of which he referenced repeatedly.
September 6, 2012 at 1:33 PM
The uncertainty of science: The solar scientists at the Marshall Spaceflight Center today revised upward their prediction for the upcoming peak of the solar maximum, from a sunspot number of 60 to 76, while simultaneously delaying the arrival of their predicted peak from the spring to the fall of 2013.
Since Marshall does not archive its predictions, I am required to keep track of the revisions they make and note them here. Previously I had outlined the changes in this prediction since January 2011. Here is an updated listing:
September 5, 2012 at 9:46 AM
A website, ScienceDebate.org, submitted a wide range of questions to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney about their plans for science and technology, and the answers, shown in a side-by-side comparison, are interesting, though in general they demonstrate the ability of politicians to speak for a long time without saying much.
This ability to blather is especially apparent to their answers to the question 12: “What should America’s space exploration and utilization goals be in the 21st century and what steps should the government take to help achieve them?” Neither candidate adds much to what was said in the Republican and Democratic party platforms, making it obvious that neither really cares or knows that much about this subject.
Overall, however, the answers do reveal the basic and fundamental differences between the two candidates, which can be seen in their answers to the very first question about encouraging innovation:
September 3, 2012 at 11:50 AM
NOAA today posted its monthly update of the ongoing sunspot cycle of the Sun. This latest graph, covering the month of August, is posted below the fold.
The Sun continues to fizzle.
August 30, 2012 at 9:57 AM
If you depend on the conservative commentary about Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech yesterday at the Republican convention to find out how he did, you would have no doubt that this was the greatest and most effective speech since Genesis. To quote just one report:
Paul Ryan’s speech, in two words? Nailed it. Everything that I like (and surmise that others will like as he becomes more and more familiar to them) about Paul Ryan was on perfect display during his half hour-ish on stage. He was intelligent without being intimidating; he was stern and serious but still optimistic and even funny; and he hinted at his wonkiness without getting into jargon and maintained his approachability. But the most beautiful thing about Paul Ryan as the potential vice president of the United States is his uncanny knack for breaking through populist myths and shrill leftist attacks and instead communicating the merits of free-market economics and small government, all without being shrill or polarizing.
Because I’m not spending a lot of time watching these conventions, mostly because they really are nothing more than public relations events staged by both parties, I didn’t see the speech live. After reading reports like the one above, however, I decided late last night to go to youtube and dig up Ryan’s speech and see this amazing performance for myself.
August 29, 2012 at 3:47 PM
The Republican Party, as part of their national convention taking place in Florida this week, yesterday released their party platform for the upcoming election campaign.
Normally, I don’t waste my time with party platforms. No one really reads it, and no president ever follows it. Granted, it can give you a general sense of where a party and candidate is headed philosophically, but this is politics. If you think philosophy is their number one priority then I have a bridge in Brooklyn I want to sell you.
However, this document is helpful to us, at least when it comes to the nation’s space effort, as it actually devotes one entire (though short) section on the subject. Considering how vague Mitt Romney has been on what he will do with NASA and space, and how schizophrenic the Republicans in Congress have been, any hint on how they might approach this particular program should they win the election is helpful.
Here is the entire statement of the Republican party platform on the subject of space exploration:
August 29, 2012 at 9:05 AM
The possibility that NASA might finally agree with Russia’s repeated request to fly a year-long mission to ISS grew stronger this morning with two stories:
The first, by James Oberg, digs into the underworld of NASA politics to find that plans might very well be more advanced than NASA is letting on: