Watching the Deep Impact flyby of Hartley 2

Watch the Deep Impact flyby of Hartley 2 this instant (11:06 AM eastern)! The images are incredible. Update: The fly-by is over, but the live stream is still available (as of 11:30 am Eastern), showing some of the images taken. The comet itself is a peanut-shaped object about two miles long, with a jet of water coming out one end.

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Space and the election results

Yesterday’s elections will clearly force changes again to NASA’s future. Below are a few links from some other space experts expressing their thoughts on the matter. I will follow with my own essay sometime next week, after the election results have some time to shake out.

From SpacePolicyOnline, an overview of the results in relation to space policy.

From Rand Simberg: Great election news for space.

From Space Politics: Brooks wins, Giffords with a narrow lead.

See also this Space.com article: Election Brings New Leadership to NASA Oversight Committees.

Overall, the defeat of Congressmen like Oberstar and Grayson, both of whom loved to regulate, can only be good for the future of private space.

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The updated monthly sunspot graph, as of November 2, 2010

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center today published its monthly update of the Sun’s developing sunspot cycle, showing the slow rise in sunspots in comparison with the consensis prediction made by the solar science community in May 2009.

November 2, 2010 sunspot graph

Unlike October graph, which showed a clear jump in sunspot activity, this November update shows that the rise in sunspot numbers has once again slowed down. As I’ve noted repeatedly, these numbers suggest that we are heading for the weakest solar maximum in two hundred years, far below predictions. And when that last happened, around 1810, it was called the Dalton minimum and the Earth experienced one of its coldest periods in many many decades.

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Overhaul of NASA’s Deep Space communication system completed

NASA has completed a significant upgrade of its Deep Space communication system. These unheralded antennas and the engineers who maintain them make it possible for scientists to communicate with the far flung planetary probes in orbit around Venus, Mars, and Saturn, as well as the spacecraft visiting comets or traveling beyond the edge of the solar system.

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Anti-American propaganda from the National Endowment for the Humanities

Anti-American propaganda from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Key quote:

In my thirty years as a professor in upper education, I have never witnessed nor participated in a more extremist, agenda-driven, revisionist conference, nearly devoid of rhetorical balance and historical context for the arguments presented.

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Poll numbers suggest largest Republican victory in generations

Gallup poll numbers suggest tomorrow’s Republican victory could be the largest in generations, and could exceed all predictions. Key quote:

It should be noted, however, that this year’s 15-point gap in favor of the Republican candidates among likely voters is unprecedented in Gallup polling and could result in the largest Republican margin in House voting in several generations. This means that seat projections have moved into uncharted territory, in which past relationships between the national two-party vote and the number of seats won may not be maintained. [emphasis mine]

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UN conference passes broad ban on “geoengineering”

A UN conference in Japan today approved the extremely broad language that I had noted earlier this week, banning all “climate-related geoengineering activities that may affect biodiversity . . . until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities.” You can read some reactions here. Key quote from the ETC group, a Canadian non-profit organization which supports the language:

The agreement, reached during the ministerial portion of the two-week meeting which included 110 environment ministers, asks governments to ensure that no geoengineering activities take place until risks to the environment and biodiversity and associated social, cultural and economic impacts have been appropriately considered. The CBD secretariat was also instructed to report back on various geoengineering proposals and potential intergovernmental regulatory measures.

If the broad language of this policy is accepted by the United States government, it will effectively shut down almost all new construction and development, as practically anything people do “may affect biodiversity.”

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