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Why Are Astronauts Dating Each Other? February 7, 2007

Posted by Dan in Main, News, Science, Space.
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Astronaut Lisa Nowak attempted to murder a colleague, Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman, when it was discovered that another astronaut, Navy Commander Bill Oefelein, was having relationships with both women. As a result, NASA has agreed to revamp its psychological screening process. But, the question that many are asking is, why were astronauts allowed to date each other in the first place?

The answer actually has more to do with the speed of light, than any corporate convention. Science currently believes the speed at which light travels, 299,792,458 meters per second or 670,616,629 miles per hour. Yet, even at that extreme speed, the Universe is so large that a journey outside of our solar system to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, would still take 4 and half years. At more realistic speeds, the trip could take hundreds. The problem because obvious… either we need to keep people alive for hundreds of years, or entire generations will live out their lives traveling between the stars. In response, NASA has gently been encouraging its astronauts to develop relationships between one another, to study that aspect of human interaction in space.

While NASA is reassessing its psych screening procedures for astronauts, perhaps they should also address the conduct between them. On the other hand, I believe NASA has just learned a very valuable lesson about relationships in space: They’re exactly like relationships on Earth.

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Iran’s Space Program Built on North Korean Tech January 28, 2007

Posted by Dan in Middle East, Must Read, News, Space, Technology, Video, War.
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The Iranians have recently stepped up their space program, with the aim of launching their first satellite into orbit atop a modified ballistic missile. While the exact launch vehicle is unknown, it is believed to be a derivation of the liquid-fueled 800-1,000 mi range Shahab-3 called the IRSL-X-2 or the IRIS. The missile version, equipped with a nuclear warhead, could reach Israel, Saudi Arabia, the entire Persian Gulf and as far west as Turkey. However, the “space aimed” upgraded model could represent the beginnings of an Iranian Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) with a range of approximately 2,500 mi. Such a weapon could place a nuclear warhead as far as Central Europe, or well into Russia, China or India.

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency has told Congress that Iran may be capable of developing a 3,000 mi range ICBM by 2015 making it able to hit as far away as London. What’s worse is that there is evidence to suggest that the recent Iranian launch vehicle is a copy of North Korea’s Taepodong-2C/3 ICBM that failed in a launch attempt last July 4th. In fact, cooperation between the two governments has been going on for quite some time now, [GlobalSecurity.org] which would shed some light on how Iran could’ve released this tech so quickly. The implication of this conglomerate is devastation on a global scale. While North Korea maintains its weapons serve a deterrent purpose, their blind hatred towards the west leaves that to be seen.

With the recent test of a Chinese anti-satellite weapon, the White House must be in a frenzy. Bush has made space a priority of his, but actual funding has been scant. We can not afford to loose our hold on space exploration and technology. And yet, all of this has the stale scent of Cold War about it. Once again, the Communist world, partnering with Islamic factions in the middle east, is building up nuclear weapons and ICBMs with their sights set firmly on Western Democracy.

Someone needs to defuse this situation, and quickly. I don’t see any of this ending well.

Because I know this is pretty heavy stuff: Jay Leno on Iran’s space program…

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China Carries Out Space Weapons Test – First in 20 Years – Video January 20, 2007

Posted by Dan in Must Read, News, Politics, Science, Space, Technology, War.

The United States is demanding answers after Beijing reportedly carried out a weapons test in space last week. The weapon, however, was not “space based.” It is thought the Chinese used a ground-based, medium-range ballistic missile to destroy a defunct Feng yun 1C Polar Orbit weather satellite. If confirmed, the test represents the first known satellite intercept in more than 20 years.

The US, though officially opposed to placing weapons in space, has been reportedly researching such devices, particularly in the last several years. Space based weapons, or devices that orbit the Earth with the sole purpose of providing attack capability to their controllers, have generally been frowned upon by the global community.

You may remember Reagan’s Star Wars Missile Defense System, a planned space based weapons array capable of eliminating ballistic missiles in flight by heating them with lasers. Such “defensive” platforms, aimed at ground based weapons, have traditionally garnered modicums of support, while weapons designed to specifically target objects in space have largely been scorned.

However, I deeply hope that we are developing such weapons in secret. No one country should be allowed possession of such large scale destructive forces. Weapons aimed at eliminating satellites would provide our now or future enemies with the capabilities to cripple the world’s telecommunications systems, amongst others like GPS, Satellite TV, and even XM radio. The effects on the globe would be devastating and widespread.

Unfortunately, if the cold war has taught us anything, it is that the theory of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), whereby if you launch, I launch, has successfully kept the world from all out nuclear war, despite some very close calls. In other words, it may not be perfect, but it worked. Looking for further proof? Despite the some odd 20,000 nuclear weapons in the possession of both the United States and Russia, none has ever been used maliciously since the 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki proved so completely horrific.

The bottom line is this: If other countries are developing new weapons capable of destruction on the global scale, we must follow suit.

CNN’s reports on the consequences of China’s Space Weapons:

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Scientist: NASA Found Life on Mars – And Killed It! – Plus, Water Flows January 7, 2007

Posted by Dan in News, Space.
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This is an interesting theory, and if true, means that the red planet may already house life! Scientists recently released photos proving that water still occasionally flows on the surface. You can see the difference between the two photos taken a few years apart. The second photo shows where water has flowed and weathered the surface of Mars. Here are those pictures:

 Files 2007 01 Data-Images-Ns-Cms-Dn10740-Dn10740-1-627-1

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two NASA space probes that visited Mars 30 years ago may have found alien microbes on the Red Planet and inadvertently killed them, a scientist is theorizing.

The Viking space probes of 1976-77 were looking for the wrong kind of life, so they didn’t recognize it, a geology professor at Washington State University said.

Dirk Schulze-Makuch presented his theory in a paper delivered at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Washington.

The paper was released Sunday.

Based on a more expansive view of where life can take root, the paper’s findings may prompt NASA to look for a different type of Martian life when its next spacecraft to visit Mars is launched later this year, one of the space agency’s top scientists said.

Last month, scientists excitedly reported that new photographs of Mars showed geologic changes that suggest water occasionally flows there — the most tantalizing sign that Mars is hospitable to life.

In the 1970s, the Viking mission found no signs of life.

But it was looking for Earth-like life, in which salt water is the internal liquid of living cells.

Given the cold dry conditions of Mars, life could have evolved on Mars with the key internal fluid consisting of a mix of water and hydrogen peroxide, said Schulze-Makuch.

That’s because a water-hydrogen peroxide mix stays liquid at very low temperatures, or -68 degrees Fahrenheit, and doesn’t destroy cells when it freezes. It can suck water vapor out of the air.

The Viking experiments of the 1970s wouldn’t have noticed hydrogen peroxide-based life and, in fact, would have killed it by drowning and overheating the microbes, said Schulze-Makuch.

One Viking experiment seeking life on Mars poured water on soil. That would have essentially drowned hydrogen peroxide-based life, he said. And different experiment heated the soil to see if something would happen which would have baked Martian microbes.

“The problem was that they didn’t have any clue about the environment on Mars at that time,” Schulze-Makuch said. “This kind of adaptation makes sense from a biochemical viewpoint.”

Even Earth has something somewhat related. He points to an Earth bug called the bombardier beetle that produces a boiling-hot spray that is 25 percent hydrogen peroxide as a defense weapon.

Schulze-Makuch acknowledges he can’t prove that Martian microbes exist, but given the Martian environment and how evolution works, “it makes sense.”

In recent years, scientists have found life on Earth in conditions that were once thought too harsh, such as an ultra-acidic river in Spain and ice-covered lakes in Antarctica.

Schulze-Makuch’s research coincides with work being completed by a National Research Council panel nicknamed the “weird life” committee. The group worries that scientists may be too Earth-centric when looking for extraterrestrial life.

The problem for scientists is that “you only find what you’re looking for,” said Penn State University geosciences professor Katherine Freeman, a reviewer of the NRC work.

A new NASA Mars mission called Phoenix is set for launch this summer, and one of the scientists involved said he is eager to test the new theory about life on Mars.

However, scientists must come up with a way to do that using the mission’s existing scientific instruments, said NASA astrobiologist and Phoenix co-investigator Chris McKay.

He said the Washington State scientist’s paper piqued his interest.

“Logical consistency is nice, but it’s not enough anymore,” McKay said.

Other experts said the new concept is plausible, but more work is needed before they are convinced.

“I’m open to the possibility that it could be the case,” said astrobiologist Mitch Sogin of the Marine Biological Lab in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

A member of the National Research Council committee, Sogin also cautioned against “just-so stories about what is possible.”

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