Sunday, April 18, 2010

Potpourri CXXIX

Off we go, into the wild inky yonder...

Time Magazine has a surprisingly good piece on Obama's new space policy. I say surprisingly because mainstream (i.e. non-aerospace-focused) publications usually get things very wrong when it comes to space matters. That doesn't make the policy any better, but it's nice to know some people outside the space geek community are finally getting it.

A site created by my buddy Veronica: Astronauts for Hire.

From my ESL student: a site offering advice on revising a novel.

People like to complain about "all that money we're wasting on space when we could be spending it on more important things here on Earth." Okay, try this site by Fox News: it's a calculator that shows how much you, personally, have paid for the Constellation Program based on your gross income. Might make you stop complaining, or marvel that you get so much cool stuff for so little money.

It is a bad sign when the legions start getting explicitly involved in the workings of domestic politics.

NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate has a new web site to explain the new policy.

The Cassini spacecraft has detected lightning on the planet Saturn. Boy oh boy, I'm sure glad all those anti-nuclear protesters fought so hard against flying plutonium into space...gosh knows what sorts of stuff we might be ignorant about otherwise. It's not just religious conservatives who can be anti-science.

The threat from nuclear terrorism is increasing…

Oh, and if a nuclear attack did happen in your area, don't expect a fast response from Obama's federal government...not to be confused by Bush's government in response to Hurricane Katrina, of course.

Obama’s disregard for the press must be bad—they’re even reporting on it!

Speaking of nukes, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) is reporting that Iran could have enough nuclear material for a bomb within a year

One sign your space policy is not being received well? When the First Man on the Frickin' Moon criticizes it...and he doesn't say boo about anything. It's also a bad sign when one of the potential beneficiaries is doubtful as is Burt Rutan, a known maverick and major critic of NASA. Nice job, guy.

The bill regarding trials for terrorists also includes NASA funding. Guess which one will get more attention.

A new method has been found for photographing Earth-like planets. Cool! Also, Earth-like planets might be more common than previously thought.

The Houston Chronicle has a poll on whether to demolish the Astrodome…another relic from the early Space Age at risk.

Obama is changing the U.S. nuclear weapons policy. Time will tell how bright this is.

Random: CNN had an online poll asking “Do you attend church regularly?” Results of this unscientific poll: 32% said yes, 68% said no.

Joss Whedon, creator of Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (among other things) has been tapped to direct the “Avengers” movie. Heck yeah!

More random: a culinary review of the KFC Double Down “sandwich.” And here's a review of the best hot dogs in the nation...allegedly.

Speaking of food reviews, I need to get cracking on combining my part of a review of a space cookbook with my foodie friend Michelle's parts I and II! My part is written, I just have to do editing. 'Twas an interesting experiment in leveraging my Facebook this case, a friend from WAY back in my Lincoln Elementary School days who has since become a serious at-home amateur chef. A publisher wanted me to review a space cookbook, but I knew jack about creative cooking; Michelle knows food, so--synergy! Thanks, Michelle!

Is depression contagious?

Had a brief discussion with someone about my Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality profile. For years I've tested out as an INTJ, but this person suggested that I might in fact be an INFJ. Here's an article that clarifies the difference between the two.

Here's one way to make music from random interplanetary phenomena. This actually sounded like some of the Buddhist chanting my pal D2 listens to, so I forwarded it to her. She seemed to like it; I guess it's an acquired taste.

I'll be in Chicago next month for ISDC, and plan to hang out with family and friends at some point. Am looking seriously at this place my sister recommended. What the heck, any pizza from Chicagoland is going to be better than what I get in the South...

How's this for a fun workplace?

Popular Mechanics has a very friendly interview with Lori Garver. I say friendly because not everyone in the space biz is so keen on said policy.  That said, I found most of the arguments reasonable, and wish we'd heard more of them when the policy was rolled out.

This was a good way to end last week: I’ve been nominated for a NASA Spaceflight Awareness Team Award for my part in the Ares I-X outreach team.

From Facebook buddy Sarah: a poem that caught my eye.

From Hu: the dorkiest complaints about the accuracy of the Apollo 13 movie.

From Dar: an article on engaging the public on nanotechnology.

From Doc:
  • A Sherlock Holmes story by noted SF/fantasy writer Neil Gaiman.
  • "Your career captured in still photography." Hard to argue with.
Speaking of Obama's space policy, which he discussed at Kennedy Space Center last week, here's my current take on it, as I explained it to Darlene the Science Cheerleader:

This is more or less in line with the OSTP statement I posted a couple days ago. There WILL be Americans going up to the International Space Station after Shuttle. First via Russian rockets, then by commercial transport, once they get those nailed down. The rest of the NASA budget will be dedicated to space science (robots, telescopes), environmental monitoring, aeronautics, and exploration TECHNOLOGIES. This last item means they'll be developing components that would be needed for future human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO), like new rocket engines, in-orbit fuel depots, and high-efficiency life support systems. However, the program to build complete rockets and spacecraft to take human beings beyond LEO--the Constellation Program--would end.

Oh, one slight difference: there will be a down-scaled Orion spacecraft, which will be used as a crew return/rescue vehicle for the Station. The vehicle would be upgradable, eventually, to become what it was intended to be: an EXPLORATION vehicle. Space geeks get particular about that word because exploration is going where we've never gone before... See More. LEO is not new territory anymore.

There will probably also have to be some test flights of the various exploration and heavy-lift technologies...what they'll fly on is beyond me, but what do I know? I'm not a politician.

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