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Friday, September 30, 2016

On Becoming A Multi-Planet Species 

On Tuesday, September 27, 2016, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk delivered a presentation to the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico that could have a significant impact on the human future in space. Musk introduced a bold plan for an Interplanetary Transport System that could allow for human settlement of Mars to begin, possibly within a decade (though Musk cautioned that timelines are not firm).

This plan is more than a conceptual study, but is based on engineering development already carried out by SpaceX of a huge booster and spacecraft capable of carrying 100 passengers comfortably to Mars on a single trip.. The company has already begun hardware development of some components, revealing pictures of employees standing next to a giant liquid oxygen tank that would be part of the vehicle.

The presentation (PDF here) focused mostly on the means of transportation to get the settlers to the Red Planet. Musk said that while SpaceX will be making substantial investments in the project, he expects that it will take partnerships with other industrial partners and government agencies to accomplish this daring venture. Perhaps he is counting on partners to develop the infrastructure needed to sustain the settlers on their new planetary home.

SpaceX is already partnering with NASA on commercial cargo and crew to the International Space Station and on the planned unmanned Red Dragon mission to Mars. However, this project is so huge it dwarfs NASA'a own Journey to Mars program, providing unique challenges to a partnership.

This kind of undertaking is certainly high risk. There are a number of challenges, including technical, financial, and human factors to be addressed. There may be serious political challenges from those with vested interests and some with ideological motives.

One thing about Elon Musk is that when he sets his mind on an audacious goal, he has the drive to get it done (though maybe not on his originally announced timeline). Also, Musk is not alone with the vision for human expansion into space. Jeff Bezos, whose Blue Origin space company recently announced plans for a large new rocket (and a hint of a larger one to come) openly shares his vision "I want millions of people living and working in space. I want us to be a spacefaring civilization." And other visionary entrepreneurs are pursuing ventures in developing space habitats, mining the Moon and asteroids, space tourism, etc.

These developments are leading to the expansion of humanity beyond Earth with profound implications for economic growth, national and international security, and cultural development. We live at a time when our civilization is at great peril, and at the same time there is much promise for the future.


Video illustration of SpaceX's Interplanetary Transport System carrying people to Mars



Video of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk presenting the plan at IAC2016

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

In Remembrance of September 11, 2001, Fifteen Years Later 


U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael W. Pendergrass

Fifteen years ago today, I overheard a coworker down the hall from my office telling someone else about planes hitting the World Trade Center. I checked in on the Internet and on news radio for reports on what would develop into the the modern era's day of infamy. We know of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but there was also the attack that did not occur because of the heroic actions of the passengers on United Flight 93.

Fifteen years of daily living, along with increasing domestic rancor, may have dimmed the feelings of shock, horror, and outrage and the response of prayer, compassion, and resolve that united the people of America and most of the world. However, the current horrific events in the Middle East and the recent attacks around the world and here in America serve to remind us that the threat is still real. We must not allow complacency or political correctness to distract us from recognizing the reality of the current danger.

This anniversary stirs abundant remembrance and reflection and many stirring pictorial and video items have appeared on the web and on Facebook. I still find this audio/visual Internet presentation developed by a New Yorker shortly after the attacks as one of the most powerful portrayals of those times. The sequence is ~15 minutes long and some of the images and sounds are quite disturbing, others are inspirational. (Use the browser View/Zoom function and adjust the scroll bar to enlarge the slide show.)

It is important that we remember, not only to honor those who died and those who acted heroically that day, but to remain constantly aware of the ongoing and growing dangers, of the presence of real evil in the hearts of some people, and to maintain constant vigilance and a determination to defeat this evil. Finally, we must always remember to trust in God and his mercy during trying times. The story of the cross formed by two beams found among the ruins of the twin towers is recounted here.

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Saturday, September 10, 2016

OSIRIS-REx Boldly Goes to asteroid Bennu 

Photo credit: NASA/Sandy Joseph and Tim Terry

The NASA OSIRIS-REx  mission was successfully launched Thursday evening on its multi-year mission to scout the asteroid Bennu and retrieve a sample of that body that will be returned to Earth in 2023. The mission could reveal valuable information information about the development of the Solar System and will also provide technical and operational expertise beneficial to future scientific and commercial asteroid missions.

By a coincidence of celestial mechanics, the launch occurred on the 50th anniversary of the TV broadcast of the first episode of the original Star Trek series. So this mission began its journey to boldly go where no man-made robotic spacecraft has gone before!

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Friday, July 29, 2016

World Youth Day 2016 










Over five hundred thousand pilgrims are joining with Pope Francis in Krakow, Poland for World Youth Day 2016 now occurring to energize the world's young people for Christ. (Despite the title, it is actually a several day event.)

Here is the official web site. WYD is also being covered by EWTN.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Forty Seven Years Ago Today, We Stepped On Another World 


NASA

Today is the 47th anniversary of the Apollo 11 pioneering expedition to the lunar surface, the day human beings first made landfall on another world. Check out Rand Simberg's ceremonial commemoration of that epic voyage. Here is a brief video capturing highlights of the first two explorers on the Moon.



The Moody Blues were one of the premier rock music bands of that era. They were (and still are) great fans of space travel. Here is a video of highlights of the Apollo lunar expeditions accompanied by the first three songs from their 1969 album To Our Childrens' Childrens' Children, which was the band's celebration of the first human lunar landing.



Today is also the thirteenth anniversary ('blogiversary') of the launch of this humble blog. Here is the inaugural post (Note that I was too inexperienced to think of giving it a title.) on Life at the Frontier.

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

As It Happened, the Apollo 11 Launch 

Forty seven years ago this morning, Apollo 11 lifted off on the voyage to land the first men on the Moon. Here's a replay of what it looked like on TV from ~6 min before 'til ~4 min after launch. (The video quality is somewhat degraded from that of the live TV broadcast.) The terse, crisp voice of Jack King as Apollo Launch Control added to the drama of the historic countdown. Relive the moment or experience what it was like.



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Monday, July 04, 2016

Juno Arrives at Jupiter Tonight 

Credit: Lockheed Martin

The Juno probe launched nearly five years ago arrives this evening to enter orbit around the giant planet Jupiter to conduct unprecedented investigations of that celestial body.

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Happy Independence Day! 

Stars And Stripes by Junior Libby

As we join in the festivities of the Fourth, let's strive to keep to the values proclaimed in the Declaration that make it worth celebrating.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This is a time to be mindful and protective of the full range of personal, religious and economic liberties. Some additional thoughts from around the web remind us of the significance of some words from the second stanza of America the Beautiful and thoughts on the Stars and Stripes from a famous Catholic English writer.
Wow. Think about that line: "by whose stars we are illumined, and by whose stripes we are healed." Have you ever thought about your flag that way - so Christ-like? G. K. Chesterton did. It’s a stirring interpretation of America and its mission.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sine Die: The Circus on the Severn Folds Its Tent 







The Maryland General Assembly adjourned Monday night after its ninety-day session for 2016. Here is the Baltimore Sun's summary of highlights of the good, the bad and the ugly that was passed during this session, and here is Red Maryland's scorecard on the Assembly's disposition of some major issues.

Unfortunately, tax relief for Maryland citizens was not realized as the body adjourned. Some really good news is that the push for assisted suicide failed to even come to the floor in either chamber.

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Have a Blessed and Happy Easter! 

At daybreak on the first day of the week
the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus
took the spices they had prepared
and went to the tomb.
They found the stone rolled away from the tomb;
but when they entered,
they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
While they were puzzling over this, behold,
two men in dazzling garments appeared to them.
They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground.
They said to them,
"Why do you seek the living one among the dead?
He is not here, but he has been raised.
Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee,
that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners
and be crucified, and rise on the third day."
And they remembered his words.
Then they returned from the tomb
and announced all these things to the eleven
and to all the others.
The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James;
the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles,
but their story seemed like nonsense
and they did not believe them.
But Peter got up and ran to the tomb,
bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone;
then he went home amazed at what had happened.

Luke 24:1-12

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick's Day! 



Today is March 17, St. Patrick's Day. Be blessed, safe, and happy however you are celebrating Ireland's patron saint.

Saint Patrick's Breastplate

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort me and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

In the spirit of the holiday, check out LiveIreland.com for webcasts of Irish music and other media direct from Ireland.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Remembering Fallen Pioneers 



NASA, the nation and the world are observing this  week the anniversaries of human losses in spaceflight: Apollo 1 (forty  nine years ago today, January 27), Challenger (thirty years  ago tomorrow, January 28), and Columbia (thirteen years ago this coming Monday,  February 1).

May they be always remembered, along with the four Russians, the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo pilot and all those who have or will give their lives in the future as humans expand outward to explore, develop and settle new places in the cosmos.

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Friday, January 22, 2016

The March For Life 2016 Amidst The Approaching Winter Storm 

I participated today in the 42nd annual March for Life in Washington, DC. With the approach of  what may be a historic winter storm with blizzard conditions expected later tonight and tomorrow, many groups had to prudently change their travel plans. While the numbers may have been smaller than in some recent years, still many thousands of Americans, and some visitors from other lands, filled the route along Constitution Ave. to the Supreme Court showing fierce determination to witness to the dignity of every human life at any stage or condition.

Young people leading the March for Life

Ascending Capitol Hill on Constitution Ave.

These young feminists have life, not abortion, on their agenda.

The Prolife Generation confronts some shrieking pro-abortion demonstrators attempting to block the March at the Supreme Court.

Seeking equal justice for all, born and unborn.

These seminarians came from Poland to join the March.

Good one sentence statement of the prolife message from Pres. Abraham Lincoln.


The official March for Life banner finally arrived.


Mary, Mother of Jesus and Mother of us all, has a prominent place in the March.


Bikers supporting life participated in the March.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Why We March 

This is a slightly revised and updated article I first wrote and posted in 2004 at this time.

March for Life 2014 ascending Capitol Hill on the way to the Supreme Court

Friday, January 22, will mark the 43rd anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton Supreme Court decisions which imposed abortion-on-demand in the United States. Once again, concerned citizens will gather for the annual March for Life, which in recent years has usually drawn an estimated several hundred thousand participants. Now, why do so many people consider it so important to take time on a weekday to come to Washington, DC at the coldest time of the year to make their voice heard on this matter?

Before I go on any further, I need to say a couple of things. First, nothing in this article is meant to condemn anyone who has had an abortion or has been involved in abortion in some way. Far from condemning those with an abortion in their past, the people in the prolife movement are about healing and forgiveness, and want it to be clear that there is hope after abortion. Post-abortion counseling can be found through many church denominations and pregnancy counseling centers.

And second, while the prolife movement consists largely of people with strong religious convictions who feel called by God to defend the defenseless, that doesn't make the protection of human life a narrow religious issue. The facts that the defenseless exist and that they deserve protection in the human family can be persuasively advocated by non-religiously reasoned arguments.

First, let's start with a little scientific background (from the Science for Unborn Human Life website) about how each of us began our lives as unique human beings. A new human being is conceived when a sperm fertilizes an egg. The sperm has 23 chromosomes and so does the egg. But the fertilized egg has 46, half from each parent, and is genetically unique. These 46 chromosomes, which are fixed at conception, establish the child's sex and are a blueprint for how it will develop, both during pregnancy and after birth.

Blood vessels start to form very early, about 13-18 days after fertilization. Then, on about the 20th day - nearly the end of the third week - the foundation of the brain, the spinal cord, and the entire nervous system is established. The heart begins to beat on about the 22nd day after conception, circulating blood throughout the child. The arms begin to form on about day 26, followed by the beginnings of the legs on day 28, the same day that the mouth opens for the first time.

Both the eyes and ears are developing rapidly during the seventh week after conception. At this time, the thumbs, neck, heels of the feet and all of the fingers are also present. Taste buds begin to form during the eighth week after conception. All parts of the limbs are apparent at this time. In addition, the fingers and toes have lengthened and are completely separated.

By the end of the eighth week the overwhelming majority (several thousand) of the body's organs, structures and systems have already begun to develop. Few, if any, new structures begin to form after this time. During the remainder of the pregnancy, development consists mainly of growth and maturation of the parts of the body that are already present.

Isolated arm, leg and backward head movements begin at about 7 to 10 weeks after conception. During the ninth week, a regular pattern of breathing movements is observed, with a median frequency of about 30 breaths each hour.

These are just the highlights of how you developed during the first 2-3 months of your life. Now consider that a majority of abortions are performed during the tenth to twelfth week of gestation. Some are performed much later in the pregnancy, when the child has grown larger and any unbiased observer would recognize a baby when they see one.

So why if the evidence so clearly indicates that a unique human life begins at conception, how did the deliberate and violent destruction of that life come to be imposed as a 'constitutional right'? Time does not permit describing the whole history of abortion or the intertwining influences of the eugenics and population control movements. Let's start with the socially turbulent late sixties when a growing pro-abortion movement subversively exploited the legitimate aspirations of women for greater rights and participation in society.

The late Dr. Bernard Nathanson, former abortionist and co-founder of the pro-abortion group NARAL, since changed his mind and heart and became a leading prolife advocate. He points out the disinformation at the heart of the pro-abortion campaign.
- "The statistics that we gave to the American public about illegal abortions annually; the statistics we fabricated regarding the number of women dying from illegal abortions annually; all of these matters were pure fabrication and still persist to this very day."

- "We spoke of 5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year. I confess that I knew the figures were totally false. It was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics?"

- "We in NARAL were in the business of coining slogans principally for the media . . . we scattered catchy slogans for them . . . to use . . . in their stories. Slogans like "reproductive rights", "freedom of choice", "pro-choice". For many years we've known them to be hollow and meaningless. They're just catchy and, essentially, without substance."

The movement made rapid progress. California, New York and a few other states passed 'liberalized' abortion laws (though some other states rejected them). But what imposed abortion on American law were two Supreme Court cases, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, pronounced on January 22, 1973. The combined effect of the two decisions was to effectively impose abortion-on-demand throughout the nine months of pregnancy. Since that time, over fifty eight million human beings have been exterminated by abortion in the United States.

Aside from the grave issue that was decided, the finding that abortion is part of a constitutional 'right of privacy' is considered an overreach of judicial power even by some legal scholars who describe themselves as 'prochoice'. The 'reasoning' was based on 'penumbras' the justices claim to have seen in the constitution.

Did you know that the two plaintiffs in the Roe and Doe cases, Norma McCorvey and the late Sandra Cano, have filed affidavits to the effect that they were manipulated into their roles and that the decisions should be overturned? You would think that this development would be considered unprecedented in Supreme Court history, but apparently Chris Matthews, Diane Sawyer, the New York Times, etc. forgot to inform you.

One fact that is becoming evident that abortion-on-demand is not such a great thing for women. Abortion has left many women emotionally and sometimes physically scarred. Campaigns such as Silent No More and Women Deserve Better are tapping into this hidden anguish.

Also evident is the effect on our society, with conflicting attitudes on how we treat not only the unborn, but also the sick, disabled and elderly. Consider the heart wrenching case of the judicially imposed death of Terri Schindler-Schiavo in 2005. Abortion has torn marriages and families apart, and led to a hardened and increasingly violent culture. The raging debate over embryonic stem cell research and human cloning shows the growing risk posed by a disregard for the dignity of every human life.

So, we have had for the past forty three years, a culture that in some ways has grown cynical, forgoing the promise of a hopeful future for instant gratification, or more often, the resignation to unimaginative 'solutions' that pit mother against child or people against the planet. One is reminded of a quote from the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats:
"The blood-dimmed tide is loosed and everywhere a ceremony of innocence was drowned."

These Supreme Court abortion decisions were assumed to have 'settled' the issue in our society. Yet much to the consternation of the pro-abortion establishment, the movement of concerned citizens to protect life has only grown in strength over the past forty three years. The prolife movement has pursued multiple paths: educating the public, lobbying and litigating for change, participating in politics, and especially reaching out to help women with unplanned pregnancies.

On the political front, abortion continues to play a pivotal role in national and state elections and in the debate over health care and other public legislation, and is becoming increasingly intertwined with issues of religious and personal liberty and freedom of speech. The abortion conflict has recently ramped up with the release of Investigative videos revealing the hideous practices of Planned Parenthood exploiting their unborn victims and the women they claim to serve in order to harvest unborn human body parts. The powers-that-be and others who want to silence the prolife movement are terrified (even if subconsciously) that the brutal reality of abortion will be exposed. Presidents, election campaigns, economic cycles and other controversies come and go, but the struggle for life goes on.

Particularly significant is that the change in public attitudes on abortion is most striking among young people (who've lost peers they've never met). This is manifested in polling results and an upsurge of prolife activism among teens, college students, and new media savvy activists who are exposing the dark side of the abortion industry. This is much to the consternation of their professors and, in some cases, their parents. Sort of adds a new twist to some lyrics from the sixties by Buffalo Springfield:
"Young people speakin' their minds, A-gettin' so much resistance from behind."

So the buses are starting to roll, as thousands from distant states once again journey to Washington, where many will gather in prayer the night before or the morning of the March. Then we will rally and march, knowing that those we are trying to defend would some day defend our nation, write great literature, cure disease, compose stirring music, and explore and begin to settle the Solar System.

But more than for their potential accomplishments, we speak out for them simply because of the inherent dignity of each of their lives. In so doing we are responding to a great calling as individuals and as a civilization. And we'll continue to speak and march and work and pray, confident in the hope that, one of these years, we'll no longer face the cold winds. Instead, we'll gather on a warm spring day to celebrate the inclusion of the youngest in the human family within the protection of the law.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Circus On The Severn Convenes For 2016 


The Maryland General Assembly convened on Wednesday for its 2016 ninety day run. Governor Larry Hogan's new tax proposals are already the topic of discussion, pro and con, among the legislators as the 2016 session got underway.

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Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Passing of the Year 

Each year has meanings and memories, some of those that are personal to each of us and those close to us. In 2015, my sister Mary and my brother Jack passed from this life into eternity and they will always be in my thoughts and prayers. May we each treasure our own memories, happy or sad, of the passing year.

There are also memories of the year that are shared by our society and by human civilization. 2015 was certainly a year of contrasts, some things that provided great hope and inspiration, some were evidence of horror and depravity. Some events could even be described as just plain weird.

Bloodshed caused by terrorist acts caused by extreme ideology became a growing reality and ominous threat this year, particularly from the "Islamic State" (aka ISIS, ISIL, etc.) Paris was attacked twice, in January and November, with great loss of life. The terror came to our shores in a big way with the attack in San Bernardino in December. And the people in the Middle East where this barbarism was spawned continue to suffer the most. The situation triggered a massive migration of people, posing the challenge to western societies how to discern those who are truly refugees while protecting their people from infiltration by possibly large numbers of terrorist agents and sympathizers.

Some acts of barbarism are more insidious, as we were reminded again this year by a series of undercover videos revealing the grotesque practices of Planned Parenthood (as if abortion were not horrific enough already). As long as these activities are permitted to go on and are even funded by our tax dollars, we have to ask how much more civilized are we than the brutal ISIS forces.

Not all the events of 2015 were so depraved or discouraging. Our expansion into the universe continued with some spectacular exploration. Pluto, Mars, Ceres and other worlds provided some spectacular scientific and visual surprises to our robotic explorers and the humans controlling them from Earth. Meanwhile, advances were made to enable human beings to expand themselves outward and to provide for future generations. Entrepreneurial companies SpaceX and Blue Origin demonstrated reusability of rocket stages, a critical step toward dramatically lowering the cost of space travel. And in a bipartisan action, Congress passed a commercial space bill that, among other provisions, recognizes claims on resources harvested from asteroids and other celestial bodies. So much for "limits to growth"!

The 2016 US presidential election has already seen a long run-up in 2015, producing its share of frivolity and weirdness, along with some enlightening moments. We should not let the trivialities distract us from the seriousness decisions we face in 2016. Things have gone seriously wrong as a politically correct fantasy world has been imposed on us. It's time to move decisively toward a culture of life and a new birth of freedom.

Happy New Year, everyone!



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