Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Hanukkah and Our Attitude about the Future 

(This is a post I originally made in 2003 and feel is worth repeating each year, especially in light of some very dark anti-human views of the future vs. ongoing and emerging developments that can provide resources, from the Earth and from other locations in the Solar System and beyond, for future generations.)

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.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving! 

A special day set aside in our nation to give thanks to God for all His gifts to us.

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. Some celebrations of giving thanks in America predate the Pilgrims, including  the celebration of Mass by Spanish settlers in what is now St.Augustine, FL.

Have a good time with family and friends and don't eat any more than I would. ;-)

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Friday, October 20, 2017

Making The Moon Great Again 

Vice Pres. Mike Pence addresses National Space Council (Photo Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

The Moon appears to be shining brighter in our future these days. On October 5, the first meeting of the revived National Space Council was convened by Vice President Mike Pence on October 5 at the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, VA. The meeting featured three panels of leaders in government and the space industry (both traditional and entrepreneurial) addressing challenges facing civil, commercial and national security space sectors. In his opening remarks, the Vice President stated

“We will return American astronauts to the moon, not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond, The moon will be a stepping-stone, a training ground, a venue to strengthen our commercial and international partnerships as we refocus America’s space program toward human space exploration.”

The Trump Administration's pivot back to including the Moon as a key part of the US space strategy reverses the policy of the Obama Administration to largely bypass the Moon in a long term strategy oriented toward human missions to Mars.

The change in national policy came at a fortuitous time for the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) which held it's annual meeting and a "Back to the Moon" workshop October 10-13 in Columbia, MD. Organizers said that attendance was the largest since the first meeting back in 2005. Participants included some with experience from the Apollo explorations, including Apollo 17 astronaut Dr. Harrison "Jack" Schmitt and also students and young professionals who describe themselves as the "Next Gen" of lunar exploration. The meetings covered various aspects of getting back to the Moon in a sustainable way. Among the recurring themes were the importance of commercial and international partnerships and of In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU), the use of resources on the Moon to establish a permanent presence there and to support exploration further into space. Highlights of these meetings are covered in more detail in this article by Jeff Foust.

LEAG meeting convenes on October 10 in Columbia, MD.

Apollo 17 astronaut Dr. Harrison "Jack" Schmitt has hands-on experience drilling the Moon.

Full scale model of Moon Express MX -1E lunar lander

Two recent developments also indicate the accelerating pace of the Moon's growing role in our economy and our future. United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Bigelow Aerospace announced a public-private partnership to place a lunar depot in low lunar orbit by 2022. And data obtained by a Japanese lunar satellite indicates that a large lunar feature, a hallow lava tube, could provide a sheltered location for future lunar inhabitants. Expect more exciting developments to come as humanity returns to the moon to stay.

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Becoming A Multi-Planet Species, v.2.0 

On Friday, September 29, 2017, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk delivered a presentation to the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia. This presentation updated a bold, visionary plan for Mars settlement he introduced last year in Guadalajara, Mexico. The updated version included a downsizing of the Interplanetary Transport System introduced last year (from ginormous to just really huge), which enables its use in for other applications including Earth orbital and lunar missions, and even for point-to-point suborbital transport around the Earth. With its multiple applications, the name of the vehicle appears now to be TBD. Musk seems to have reverted to his original nickname for the vehicle, the BFR (meaning "Big F---ing Rocket).

The resizing of the SpaceX vehicle and its application to multiple uses is designed to make it more affordable. SpaceX plans to phase out production of its Falcon and Dragon vehicles after stockpiling an inventory so that the largely reuseable vehicles will be available for years after their production has ended. How the economics of this plan will pay relative to rising competitors in the space launch/travel industry and, for the suborbital transportation service, with competitors in the aviation industry, remains to be seen. But Elon Musk is known for breaking the mold and pushing whole industries to innovate. This latest venture to expand humanity's role beyond Earth will certainly be interesting to watch.


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Monday, September 11, 2017

In Remembrance of September 11, 2001 

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

Sixteen 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.

Sixteen 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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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

August 21, 2017: The Great American Eclipse 

The photo is overexposed and doesn't do justice to the actual spectacular appearance of the total eclipse.

The Moon's shadow raced across the continental United States on Monday, August 21. Millions gathered along the path of totality to witness the Great American Eclipse in totality while millions more viewed the partial eclipse over much of the Western Hemisphere.

I procrastinated and did not make advanced travel plans to the path of totality and thought I might have to be content with experiencing the partial eclipse at home in Maryland. In the final days before the eclipse, I devised a plan to find affordable lodging within striking distance of totality, staying in Charlotte, NC. I wound up joining friends at Triple Tree Aerodrome, a rural airport southeast of Greenville, SC.

This was my second total eclipse, the first one in 1991, when I joined a bus trip organized by a NASA Ames scientist which headed down from San Jose, CA to La Paz, on Mexico's Baja peninsula. Both experiences were worth the effort. The sight of the black silhouette of the Moon surrounded by the Sun's corona is a striking and memorable experience. Words or photos don't do it justice.

To observe the partial phase before and after totality, I used the certified eclipse glasses from NASA, though I primarily relied on a projection system I devised with a ~2.4" refractor telescope I've had since high school. This system allows several people to gather around to safely and comfortably view the Sun's image. It is necessary to adjust the telescope's pointing every minute or so as the Earth's rotation begins to move the image out of the field of view.

My homemade telescope solar projection system

Projected images of the eclipse before and after totality

This eclipse generated much public fascination and interest in the next opportunity to view this kind of awesome event. The next total solar eclipse over North America will happen on April 8, 2024, where the Moon's shadow will sweep up through Mexico, across Texas and up through the Midwest including Ohio into the Great Lakes region, upper New England and eastern Canada.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Forty Eight Years Ago Today, We Stepped On Another World 


Today is the 48th 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 Fourteenth 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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Sunday, July 16, 2017

As It Happened, the Apollo 11 Launch 

Forty eight 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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Tuesday, July 04, 2017

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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Sunday, April 16, 2017

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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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Holy Week 2017 

This week is the one considered Holy by many with a strong Faith in God. For Christians, it is the observance of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the most pivotal events of human history. The Easter Triduum as observed in the Catholic Church is described here and here. Pope Francis expressed his thoughts on Holy Week at his Wednesday General Audience.

This year, the week also includes the Jewish observance of Passover, the celebration of the Jews' passing over to freedom from the bondage of slavery they suffered in Egypt. This event was a historical manifestation of God's power recognized by Jews and Christians alike.

May this week of Holy Days bring blessings and peace to all.


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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sine Die: The Circus on the Severn Folds Its Tent for 2017 

The Maryland General Assembly adjourned Monday night after its ninety-day session for 2017. Here is the Baltimore Sun's summary of highlights of the good, the bad and the ugly that was passed during this session.

Some really bad or just plain silly legislation was passed. Some of this activity was more motivated by the desire of some  "progressive" Democrats to feel good about themselves standing up to the Trump Administration than by a serious intent to achieve practical results for Maryland residents.

Some really good news is that the dangerous push for assisted suicide failed to even come to the floor in either chamber again this year. Also, the TRUST Act (aka state sanctuary bill) passed the House of Delegates but was dropped without a vote in the Senate after public outrage arose over the rape case at Rockville HS where the alleged assailants are illegal immigrants.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy Saint Patrick's Day 

Today is March 17, St. Patrick's Day. Be blessed, safe, and happy while 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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Sunday, January 29, 2017

March for Life 2017: With New Hope and Determination 

Throngs of people in the March for Life surging toward the Supreme Court.

I participated on Friday, January 27th in the 44th annual 
March for Life in Washington, DC. This year's March, commemorating the infamous 1973 Supreme Court abortion decisions that imposed abortion on demand in the United States and the nearly sixty million abortions occurring since then, took place in the wake of the inauguration of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence into office. The March received the blessing and strong support of Pope Francis.

Instead of the Obama Administration's hostility to the cause of life and the even more ominous potential of a Hillary Clinton Administration, marchers came to DC in an environment of new hope and with determination to see real progress toward the protection of human lives in the womb. Still, it was important for the people to come and both encourage and hold accountable our new leaders, and to be a witness to the nation and the world. And come we did, with estimates of up to ~600,000 participants.

I started the day at an 8 AM Mass at St. Patrick's Church, offered by Cardinal Dolan of NY and packed with student groups and others from distant states. Then it was over to join the Family Research Council's ProLifeCon social media conference, featuring some key leaders and other amazing people in the prolife movement.

From there, after a quick McDonald's lunch, I headed to the March for Life Rally at the Washington Monument area. The crowds around there were so large, I stayed outside the security perimeter and listened to the start of the proceedings, highlighted by Vice President Mike Pence's  declaration of the Trump Administration's support for the prolife cause. I then made my way several blocks east along to Constitution Ave. to be at the front of the March to take some good pictures.

After joining some other photographers near the top of Capitol Hill for a while to capture the huge oncoming March, and then spending even more time in front of the Supreme Court, I went around the block back to Constitution Ave. and found the March was still surging strong. As our new President would say, this was really "Yuuuge!!" To end this awesome day, I joined friends and other marchers in celebration at DC's famous Irish pub, The Dubliner.

Huge crowd at the Washington Monument for the rally.

 VP Mike Pence pledged the Administration's support for the cause of life.

Here comes the Pro-Life Generation! (Students for Life of America).

Good to have some badass feminists on the side of life!

Approaching the Capitol: Nonviolent healthcare definitely does not include abortion.

The powerful presence of those involved in abortion who are silent no more.

Signs that succinctly state the case for protecting life.

A couple of powerful signs that couldn't say it any more clearly.

May the Supreme Court turn to the Constitution and protect life.

The many marchers continued to surge for ~2 hours.

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Remembering Fallen Pioneers 

NASA, the nation and the world are observing this and next week the anniversaries of human losses in spaceflight: Apollo 1 (fifty years ago tomorrow, January 27), Challenger (thirty one years  ago Saturday, January 28), and Columbia (fourteen years ago Next Wednesday,  February 1).

I still remember all too well that Friday night in 1967. I was at home with my brother watching a science fiction show on ABC called Time Tunnel when the first news bulletins started coming over about the catastrophic fire. It was a terrible shock to an eleven year old boy caught up in the excitement of the space age,. It was most unexpected because it came not during flight but during a ground test that I was not even aware was happening that day.

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. May God grant them all eternal rest.

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