Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Year End Thoughts
There's not time to adequately reflect on the meaning of all the momentous events that occurred in the past year.

The terrible fireball in the Texas morning sky on February 1 signaled the sacrifice of seven brave souls on the Shuttle Columbia, and spurred a long overdue discussion of the direction and implementation of our efforts on the frontier of space.

Heroism and sacrifice were also shown by U.S., British and other allied troops, along with Iraqis who stood up against their brutal tyrant in the war that dominated the news through 2003. Time Magazine's selection of The American Soldier as person of the year is certainly appropriate.

If I were to choose another recipient whose story would also merit the designation 'person of the year', it would be Terri Schindler-Schiavo, whose quiet suffering and incredible will to live, along with the courageous and tenacious efforts of her family and supporters, instigated a grassroots uprising against the bias toward death that has taken hold of many our institutions. Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the Florida State Legislature are to be commended for taking action to save Terri's life.

Terri's story, along with the passage and signing of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, are only two of the most important indicators of the erosion of the politically correct ideological oppression that has held sway over our society for the last thirty years or so. This is coming about largely due to the welcome emergence of the Alt(ernative) Media, which has enabled people to receive and share information, bypassing the biases of the Old Media.

Which brings me to note that 2003 is the year I joined the Blogosphere. Since my July launch of this humble blog, I've enjoyed sharing information along with my thoughts, and sometimes venting my feelings. On to blogging in the decisive Year 2004!
Beagle, Phone Home!
The Beagle 2 Mars Lander has not been heard from after several attempts to contact the robot. Operators are still holding out hope for contact via Beagle's traveling companion, Mars Express, next week. It is possible that the Lander may have landed in a crater.

Solar System exploration will get off to a fast start in 2004 with the Stardust cometary encounter on Jan. 2 and the Spirit Mars rover landing on Jan. 3.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Have a Blessed and Merry Christmas!
Michael Novak has a powerful Christmas column at National Review. A particularly insightful paragraph:

"Faith, as Jews and Christians understand it, honors reason, nourishes it, embeds it in a context of nobility and purity, such that all are commanded to respect its autonomy within its own realm. When practitioners of these religions do not so honor science, as often they have not, their rejection can be proven wrong on these two religions' very own philosophical grounds. As practitioners of reason have committed sins against faith, so have practitioners of faith, against reason. If there were no inherent nobility in each, no sin against either would count for so much."

I'll leave you with an account of the First 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

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Mars Express & Beagle 2 approach Mars...
...after separating on Friday. Beagle 2 will make landfall on the Isidis Planitia Basin region of Mars on Christmas Day while Mars Express enters Martian orbit, also on Christmas. Mars Express/Beagle 2 is Europe's first robotic mission to Mars.

Meanwhile, NASA's newly renamed Spitzer Space Telescope has produced spectacular infrared images of celestial objects.
Hanukkah and Our Attitude about the Future
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 have 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."

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

The Wright Stuff: From Kitty Hawk to Mojave
One hundred years ago today, Wilbur & Orville Wright undertook humanity's first successful powered manned flight. (Actually, they made four flights that day.) They had better flying conditions than those at today's attempted reenactment.

President Bush addressed the commemoration today, praising the Wright Brothers' feat. He said: "By our skill and daring, America has excelled in every area of aviation and space travel. And our national commitment remains firm: By our skill and daring, we will continue to lead the world in flight."

The President did not make any specific announcement on the direction of national space policy, as was anticipated by earlier speculation. This was not really surprising since expectations were downplayed in the last few days by Washington sources, including the White House Press Secretary. While this non-happening is slightly disappointing, the White House space policy review is apparently still underway. Hopefully, the President and his policy makers understand the importance of opening space and its resources to national security, economic growth and a culture of life, and are taking the time to get the policy right.

While the government continues its space policy development, the private sector moved ahead and made history today. Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites carried out the first flight of a manned vehicle designed and built without government funding to exceed the speed of sound. It was the first rocket-powered flight of SpaceShipOne (SS1), the company's vehicle undergoing testing for eventual suborbital spaceflight. (Look at this awesome image!) Scaled and several other contestants are aiming to attempt suborbital flight next year in order to win the X-Prize. The Wright Brothers' entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, and the second century of flight is off to a fast start.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Score One for Civilization!
The brutal tyrant Saddam Hussein has been captured alive in Iraq by the 4th Infantry Division. Time for prayers of thanksgiving.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Lord of the Rings
Along with the excitement over the hundredth anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight and the buzz over what President Bush may say regarding the future, this Wednesday is also being anticipated for the opening of the final film of the trilogy, Return of the King.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy not only contains an exciting story and spectacular effects, but also a definite spiritual world view. Tolkien's incorporation of Christian and some specifically Catholic themes into his works is described in this article.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Our Lady's Feasts
Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas. I know, I don't get to blog everyday, and Monday was the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Whither freedom of speech?
The Washington Post reported yesterday on reaction by advocacy groups across the spectrum to the Supreme Court's upholding of most of the McCain-Feingold Incumbent Protection Act.

While I'm by no means a legal expert, I'm puzzled how the Supreme Court can overextend its reach to find supposed 'rights', but seemingly doesn't give the benefit of the doubt to the freedom of speech explicitly stated in the First Amendment. Of course, responsibility for this outcome must also be shared by the Congress for passing this law and President Bush for signing it, even with doubts about its constitutional validity.

While the extent of McCain-Feingold's impact on free speech will be determined by further events, it is unlikely to achieve its stated goal of driving the excessive influence of money out of politics. Cumbersome legal micro-management usually does not effect its intended change in human behavior.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Air & Space Dedication
As part of the build-up to the centennial of the Wright Brothers' first flight, the Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air & Space Museum was dedicated today, presided over by Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist and Vice President Cheney. Participating remotely in the event was the crew currently on-board the International Space Station. The new center opens to the public on Monday, Dec. 15.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

The Real St. Nick
Today is the feast day of Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS)
Virginia and Maryland have agreed to establish a regional commercial spaceflight center at Wallops Island, Virginia.
Personal Media Hit
I have a letter-to-the-editor today in the Washington Times on the ongoing White House space policy development.

My letter references the Monday Op-Ed piece by House Space subcommittee Chairman Dana Rohrabacher.

My letter, published today, is linked here. Scroll down to the last letter titled Blasting off the space policy. (The Times chose that title, not me!) A few words were slightly edited, but my points were made intact.
Non-cooperation with the Culture of Death
I've been overdue on reporting on the exciting news of the Austin, Texas area contractors' boycott of Planned Parenthood's planned clinic construction. This is a significant development. Just because the Supreme Court imposed a 'right' to abortion-on-demand doesn't mean the people have to cooperate.
Today is Terri Schindler-Schiavo's 40th Birthday
David Andrusko of National Right to Life provides insight into the report of her guardian ad litem. For more information on the status of Terri's case, go to terrisfight.org.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Probably the most familiar Advent scripture reading:

On that day,
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A Spirit of counsel and of strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land's afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra's den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder's lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.

On that day,
The root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
The Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.

Isaiah 11:1-10

Monday, December 01, 2003

Sunday marked the start of the Advent preparation season for Christmas. (I know. Some radio stations have been playing non-stop Christmas music for weeks. Sigh!) Amy Welborn found a good informational link on Advent.