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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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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Have a Holy and Merry Christmas! 

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth
to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
"Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
"Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

Luke 2:1-14

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Sunday, December 06, 2015

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 for future generations (e.g. this recent headline).)

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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Thursday, November 26, 2015

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. The end of this Thanksgiving weekend coincides with the First Sunday of Advent, starting the season of spiritual preparation for Christmas.

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

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Thursday, October 08, 2015

Pope Francis Visits The USA 

Pope Francis visited the United States in late September (following a visit to the island nation of Cuba). Starting in Washington, DC, the Holy Father visited President Obama at the White House, canonized missionary Saint Junipero Serra and addressed a joint session of Congress. He also visited with some of the poor being served by local Catholic charitable efforts. His meetings with the Little Sisters of the Poor (fighting the Obama Administration HHS mandate) and Kim Davis (Rowan County, KY court clerk involved in dispute over issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples) underscored the issue of religious liberty, one of the topics that he emphasized during his visit.

Here is my video of the papal motorcade I took on Constitution Ave.following the White House visit.



After DC, the Pope was on to New York City where he addressed the United Nations, visited St. Patrick's Cathedral and said Mass at Madison Square Garden. From NYC, the Holy Father went on to the climax of his visit, which was to mark the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. He concluded his US visit with the closing outdoor Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway before heading back home to Rome.

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Friday, September 11, 2015

In Remembrance of September 11, 2001 


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

Fourteen 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.

Fourteen 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 growing tensions and confrontations around the world 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, July 25, 2015

Affordable Return To The Moon To Stay 

On Monday, July 20, the 46th anniversary of the first landing of humans on the Moon, I attended a press conference in Washington, DC describing the release of a study commissioned by NASA on how humans can return to the Moon more affordably by means of commercial and international partnerships. The study was conducted by NexGen Space LLC, a consulting company, with the support of the Space Frontier Foundation and the National Space Society. The full report is available at this link (PDF).

    Panel listens to Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin commenting (via phone) on the just released study report on how to affordably return to the Moon to stay.

The report's executive summary summarized the conclusions:
Based on these assumptions, NexGen’s analysis concludes that by using an Evolvable Lunar Architecture that leverages innovative commercial and international partnerships:

• America could return humans to the surface of the Moon within 5-7 years of authority to proceed within NASA’s existing human spaceflight budget, at a cost of about $5 Billion (+/- 20%) for each commercial service provider by using commercial partnership methods.

• America could develop a permanent base on the Moon of 4 astronauts about 10-12 years after first setting foot on the Moon, that provides 200 MT of propellant per year in lunar orbit for NASA, again within NASA’s existing deep space human spaceflight budget and for a total cost of about $40 Billion (+/- 20%).

• A commercial lunar base providing propellant in lunar orbit would reduce the cost to NASA of sending humans to Mars by as much as $10 Billion per year. Such a commercial service would substantially reduce the cost and technical risk of using the Space Launch System (SLS) to send humans to Mars, by reducing the number of SLS launches required from as many as 12 to a total of 3.

• A permanent lunar base operated by commercial industry could substantially, if not completely, pay for itself by exporting propellant to lunar orbit for NASA to send humans to Mars.



The report received wide attention inside the space community and in the general media. Lunar geologist Paul Spudis, a longtime advocate for returning to the Moon, critiqued the study in  this article. Professor Johann-Dietrich Woerner, Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA) has already expressed interest in establishing a lunar "village" through international and commercial partnerships. While running for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich proposed establishing a lunar base, which he likely intended to be implemented with a strong commercial partnership approach, similar to what is recommended by this new study report.

This study's approach is not binding on NASA or Congress and may face resistance by some who favor more established ways of implementing large space projects. It does provide a starting point for developing innovative and affordable ways for the United States to maintain a leading role in what is becoming an increasing global enterprise of expanding humanity beyond Earth.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Forty Six Years Ago Today, We Stepped On Another World 


NASA

Today is the 46th 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 twelfth 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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Friday, July 17, 2015

New Horizons' Epic Journey Arrives at Pluto 

After a nine-and-a-half year journey following its launch from Earth, the New Horizons spacecraft arrived this week at the system of Pluto and its moons. The spacecraft just a quickly departed but will continue to transmit the treasures of pictures and data it collected for months to come. The few pictures already downlinked and released reveal amazing detail about Pluto and its largest moon Charon.

The mission was developed and operated for NASA by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland. To review the mission activities and see continuing updates, check the New Horizons APL web site.



Pluto nearly fills the frame in this image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, taken on July 13, 2015, when the spacecraft was 476,000 miles (768,000 kilometers) from the surface. Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI


The close-up image was taken about 1.5 hours before New Horizons closest approach to Pluto, when the craft was 47,800 miles (77,000 kilometers) from the surface of the planet. The image easily resolves structures smaller than a mile across.  Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI


 This annotated view of a portion of Pluto’s Sputnik Planum (Sputnik Plain), named for Earth’s first artificial satellite, shows an array of enigmatic features.  Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI


Remarkable new details of Pluto’s largest moon Charon are revealed in this image from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), taken late on July 13, 2015 from a distance of 289,000 miles (466,000 kilometers).  Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

I actually had a close encounter with New Horizons a few months before its launch. In September 2005, I was just assigned to the flight safety team for the final Shuttle servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. We had some visitors from Johnson Space Center (JSC) in town for meetings and so I was able to tag along as they were given a tour of the giant clean room in Building 29 at Goddard Spaceflight Center to inspect Hubble hardware.

We entered the clean room dressed in "bunny suits" to prevent contamination of sensitive hardware. In the corner near the entrance, there was a modest size spacecraft mostly covered in bright gold insulating material. It was the New Horizons spacecraft, undergoing some tests at Goddard before being launched on its epic voyage to Pluto. As I stood there, tingles went up my spine as I realized that in a few months’ time, this machine just a few feet away from me would be screaming on its way to Pluto, the mysterious little world in the Outer Solar System that fascinated me since childhood.

Now, nearly ten years later, that little spacecraft has accomplished its closest approach to Pluto and its system of moons. Even after transmitting all of its Pluto mission data, the New Horizons mission will not be over. Scientists are already considering a plan to target one or more other Kuiper Belt Objects close enough to New Horizons' trajectory for possible close up examination. There's still a lot out there to explore.

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

As It Happened, the Apollo 11 Launch 

Forty six 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 (who passed away last month) 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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Saturday, July 04, 2015

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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