Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Thanksgiving has a long history in our country, but the theme of giving thanks goes much further back in history, as recorded in the Bible. Two articles point out this significance as Thanksgiving this year is in an extremely rare coincidence with Hanakkah and the end of this Thanksgiving weekend coincides with the First Sunday of Advent.
Have a good time with family and friends and don't eat any more than I would. ;-)
Rabbi Daniel Lapin has a provocative column in WorldNetDaily on a message of Hanukkah that is relevant to people of all faiths. He shows examples, ancient and modern, of how a pessimistic Malthusian worldview has been repeatedly disproved by the Creator's providence of material resources and the ingenuity to utilize them to provide for the future. Rabbi Lapin says:
It only seemed that we lacked sufficient copper, whale oil or wood. In reality, our God-given ingenuity developed exciting new technology that eliminated our need for each commodity just as it was becoming scarce.
Hanukkah's miracle was that, day after day, the Temple's menorah just kept on burning in spite of an apparent shortage of fuel - a metaphor, surely, for all apparent shortages that can be overcome with faith. Hanukkah invites us all to express gratitude to the Creator whose beneficence is boundless. It stimulates discussions that can spur our spiritual growth. It reminds us that with His gift of creativity, challenges become optimistic opportunities to partner with God in creatively solving all material shortage.
Friday, November 22, 2013
In the Fall of 1963, I was in third grade. On that Friday afternoon, my class first heard the principal's announcement that President John F. Kennedy had been shot. Being in Catholic school, we immediately began saying Hail Marys. Shortly after, came the announcement that the President had died, more prayers and my teacher, Sr. Mary Alphonse, saying that we would see this event in our history books.
President Kennedy's Administration made history with the Cuban Missile Crisis, the partial nuclear test ban treaty, the Peace Corps, civil rights and, of course, the reach for the Moon.
Like any historical figure, Kennedy was a complex person in turbulent times. We later learned of the extent of his medical problems and of his personal moral flaws. At the same time, he showed the leadership skills to inspire American citizens to aspire to public service either formally, by entering government, or by in whatever way asking "what you can do for your country".
The world was in a tense situation with the Cold War at that time. However the nation's recent experience in winning World War II, the post-war prosperity, the growing attention to civil rights for all Americans, and the dawning of the Space Age combined to generate a "can-do" spirit in society. This spirit of the time enabled JFK to ascend to leadership as much as his leadership helped further that spirit.
We can only speculate what would have occurred had there been no shooting in Dallas and JFK had completed one or two terms as president. In the tensions of our present day, may we not forget that crises can bring forth leadership that can find opportunities for accomplishment. May we never forget that our future as a nation and as human civilization depends on adhering to or recapturing the fundamental values of faith, life, liberty and human dignity that have enabled our advancement so far.
Finally, the sudden death of a young leader fifty years ago reminds us of the fleetingness and uncertainty of our temporal lives. May we be always mindful of the eternal things promised by God when our time of faithfully living each of our temporal lives comes to an end.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Meanwhile, the demonstration flight of the Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) launched on September 18 on an Antares rocket and successfully docked with the ISS where the crew unloaded cargo included on this demo mission and loaded trash no longer needed aboard the station. This week, Cygnus departed the ISS and reentered Earth's atmosphere and burned up over the Pacific Ocean as planned. The successful mission clears the way for Orbital Sciences Corporation to carry out a contract for eight more cargo delivery missions to the ISS. Here is my amateur video of this launch. (I had to end the video as the rocket approached the Sun's glare.)
I was able to witness both launches in person. For the LADEE night launch, I stayed in Chincoteague, VA. For the Cygnus launch, my sister and I drove down from Ocean City, MD that morning (~1 hour drive) to watch the spectacular launch and were able to get back to Ocean City in time for a mid-afternoon bay cruise. Visiting the Wallops spaceport and watching a launch can be an exciting part of an Eastern Shore vacation.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael W. Pendergrass
Twelve years ago this, 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.
Twelve 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, terrorist activity around the world should serve to remind us that the threat is still real.
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 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.
While the number of casualties were much lower than in 2001, we should also remember that, one year ago, four Americans were killed by terrorists attacking the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, Libya. We owe it to them and their families, as well as for the future security of our country, to hold our leaders accountable for whatever happened there, which still has not been sufficiently revealed.
Friday, August 30, 2013
The Antares rocket on its test launch to orbit on April 21, 2013. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
September along the Mid-Atlantic shore usually means smaller crowds and lower lodging rates even as the air and water temperatures still hold on to summer warmth. This September, however, history will be made on the Delmarva Peninsula as two historic launches take place at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at Wallops Island, VA. Wallops Island is situated within easy driving distance of millions of residents of Washington, DC, Baltimore and other east coast cities. The spaceport is located close to popular vacation destinations including Chincoteague, VA, known for its wild pony population, and Ocean City, MD, the popular family beach resort.
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) is scheduled to be launched on a Minotaur V rocket on Friday September 6 at 11:27 PM. The night launch will be visible for hundreds of miles from several states around the launch site (weather permitting).
LADEE will be the first spacecraft to be launched to the Moon (or anywhere else beyond Earth orbit) from Wallops Island. NASA describes LADEE as “a robotic mission that will orbit the moon to gather detailed information about the lunar atmosphere, conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust. A thorough understanding of these characteristics will address long-standing unknowns, and help scientists understand other planetary bodies as well.”
The LADEE liftoff may not be the last deep space launch from Wallops. A number of commercial ventures have plans to prospect and eventually mine resources of the Moon and the asteroids and might chose the Virginia launch site for some of their missions.
Around September 17, late morning, Orbital Sciences Corporation is scheduled to launch its first Cygnus spacecraft on its demonstration mission to carry cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). If this mission is successful, Orbital will proceed to launch at least eight cargo missions to the ISS over the next several years (joining SpaceX, another company that launches its ISS cargo runs from Florida). The Cygnus cargo ship will be launched on Orbital’s new Antares rocket, which was successfully launched on its test launch in April. NASA has been seeking American companies to launch cargo, and eventually crewmembers, to the ISS to fill the role provided by the Space Shuttle program, which was retired two years ago.
These missions being launched from Wallops Island in September may be a harbinger of more activity to come. The Cygnus cargo launches are part of NASA’s strategy of acting more as a customer for commercial launch services to Earth orbit while it focuses on exploring more distant destinations.
However, these launches to the ISS are by no means dull. Some of the cargo going to the ISS includes experiments that will test new technologies in communications, propulsion, in-space refueling and servicing, etc. that will allow more bold future activities in space. Other experiments will have benefits here on Earth including observation of the Earth and its environment and groundbreaking research for the biotechnology industry that could improve peoples’ health and well-being. Also, small satellites called “CubeSats” built by students, researchers and industry frequently piggyback on these launches for a much lower cost than that of launching traditional larger satellites.
No launches of people are currently planned for Wallops, but as commercial space activity grows, that could change. The spaceport’s launch pads and runways could someday see crewmembers, researchers and tourists departing for and returning from space.
In the mean time, the growing space activity will benefit the Delmarva coast and the whole Mid-Atlantic region. High tech industry and jobs are growing around the launch site and tourism at the spaceport converges with that at the traditional nearby beach resorts. The spaceport will also provide nearby access to space for the government, industry and academic research institutions in the DC/Baltimore area and the rest of the Mid-Atlantic region.
It is possible to participate in the excitement happening on the Mid-Atlantic Space Coast by including a visit to the Wallops spaceport as part of your shore vacation any time of year. Launches will be visible for hundreds of miles away under favorable conditions, but to really see, hear and feel the power of a launch into space, the best option is to come to the Mid-Atlantic Space Coast and witness it close up.
For more information on these upcoming launches, please check these links:
NASA Wallops Flight Facility
Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS)
Orbital Sciences Corporation
Lodging is available in Chincoteague, VA, Pocomoke, MD, Ocean City, MD and other nearby towns in Virginia and Maryland.
Thursday, July 25, 2013
The NewSpace conference, where cutting edge developments in the space industry will be discussed, is underway in San Jose, CA. For those of us who can't be there in person, the sessions are being streamed live. (Here is the agenda.)
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Up to a million pilgrims are expected to join Pope Francis in Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day 2013 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.
Saturday, July 20, 2013
Today is the 44th 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.
Here is a tribute to Neil Armstrong, who took the first human steps on the Moon.
Today is also the tenth 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.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Thursday, July 04, 2013
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.
Monday, June 17, 2013
NASA, Artist concept by Denise WattThe National Research Council has appointed an ad hoc committee to study the future of human spaceflight. The committee is looking for input from the public. For more information and links to instructions on how to submit a paper (no more than 4 pages of text) by the July 9 deadline, click here.
I have already submitted my paper, which can also be found with the papers submitted by other interested persons at this public viewing site.
Here is the abstract for my submitted paper.
The ultimate goal of a human spaceflight program should be to enable the development of human migration into and settlement of space. A government program can’t make settlement happen. However, by spurring the development of spacefaring capabilities that serve near term needs, the human spaceflight program will help to develop the knowledge and capabilities that explorers, developers and settlers will use to expand humanity into space.
Friday, May 03, 2013
The most prominent was Monday's successful first powered flight test of SpaceShipTwo by Virgin Galactic. The test integrated the performance of the spacecraft with its hybrid rocket engine and paves the way to succeeding flights where the engine will burn longer, taking the spacecraft higher. Virgin Galactic expects the flights will reach the altitude defined internationally as the edge of space (100km/62.5mi) by the end of the year. Once the test program is complete, the company plans to begin commercial flights of tourists and researchers early next year. Here is a video of highlights of the flight with commentary by Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson.
In a couple of other developments, there was a recent flight extending the performance of SpaceX's Grasshopper test vehicle, which is an experimental rocket being tested to develop the capability for a reusable booster for carrying payloads into orbit. Finally, on Wednesday, the U.S. Air Force performed the final test of the X51A hypersonic vehicle succesfully. This type of propulsion could have some interesting military, civil and commercial applications including possibly faster intercontinental travel and another way to reach orbit.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Sunday's launch of the Antares rocket, developed by Orbital Sciences Corporation, was a significant step toward achieving NASA's goal of acquiring a second American provider of commercial delivery of supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). It was also a significant step for the Mid-Atlantic region, in particular the Eastern Shore of Virginia and Maryland, in participating in the the growing 21st Century Space Age which is based on increased partnership among commercial, government and international players.
Orbital will now proceed to a demonstration of its Cygnus spacecraft delivering cargo to the ISS, tentatively scheduled for late June. The Cygnus demonstration will complete NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program and Orbital will then join another company, SpaceX, in providing this service over the next several years under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract. NASA is also partnering with several companies, including SpaceX, to develop commercial crew transportation to ISS, however Orbital has no plans to compete to provide that service.
This launch was a significant step not only for the Antares rocket and the commercial supply of cargo to ISS. It opens a wider future to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), colocated at the NASA facility at Wallops Island, VA. Located on the Eastern Shore shared by Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, the NASA Wallops Flight Facility has hosted suborbital and small orbital launches for decades, but Antares is the largest rocket ever to launch from this site and is comparable to the medium lift rockets that have frequently launched from Cape Canaveral, FL.
Along with providing cargo resupply to the ISS, Orbital hopes to market the Antares to other government and commercial customers, launching out of Wallops and other sites. Meanwhile, the company will use its Minotaur V rocket to launch NASA's LADEE spacecraft to orbit the Moon. This mission is scheduled to launch from Wallops in August.
With a growing list of private ventures to explore the Moon, asteroids and even Mars, the MARS at Wallops Island is in a position to participate in these ventures. The runway at Wallops could also eventually host suborbital companies such as Virgin Galactic and XCOR carrying researchers and tourists into space for brief flights.
The area around Wallops includes Chincoteague, a laid back resort town most famous for the wild ponies residing on the nearby wildlife refuge. The surrounding area is largely rural and is facing trying economic times. The communities are excited about the new business and jobs the spaceport is bringing to the area. Other nearby Virginia and Maryland communities, including Ocean City, MD, a major family vacation resort, stand to benefit from the high tech jobs and additional tourism the spaceport will generate.
This area could become known as the Mid-Atlantic Space Coast as the activity and excitement at Wallops Island grow in the new and dynamic 21st Century Space Age.
NOTE: I observed the launch on Sunday from a site ~ 3 miles from the launch pad. Here is the amateur video I took of this historic launch. The first noise you hear is the wind, but the rocket's roar can be heard after launch.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Asteroid retrieval mission concept: Image Credit: NASA/Advanced Concepts Lab
More than two months overdue, the Obama Administration released its FY2014 budget proposal yesterday. The proposed budget is already being picked over from left and right over its priorities and levels of spending and taxes.
The proposed budget for NASA is $17.7 billion, covering a range of programs including human and robotic exploration International Space Station (ISS) and associated commercial crew and cargo resupply, Earth science, aeronautics, technology development, etc. The most intriguing item is a new program to go and retrieve a small asteroid and park it in a stable orbit near or around the Moon, where it could be more easily accessed by astronauts to investigate the object hands-on. This proposal has the support of the two major asteroid mining ventures, Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, provided NASA engages the commercial sector in a major way in carrying out this mission.
Some lawmakers are skeptical about the asteroid retrieval proposal, saying they'd prefer more emphasis on a return to the Moon. Achievement of either of these goals would probably depend on NASA engaging the private sector in a large way, as it has done for ISS cargo resupply and crew transfer, in order to accomplish missions at lower costs in what may be a long term tight fiscal environment.
Tuesday, April 09, 2013
The repeal of the death penalty is one move I tend to support because its deterrent effect is doubtful while the risk of executing the innocent is real. While the death penalty may not be essential to defending members of society, allowing them to defend themselves and others through exercising their Second Amendment rights is essential. The Second Amendment v. gun control question will remain among the most contentious issues in the state and in the nation.