Monday, January 31, 2005

In Memory of February 1, 2003
Two years ago, the seven astronauts of the Shuttle Columbia STS-107 mission gave their lives on the frontier.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Checking out a new Blogger feature to...

... upload pictures from my own computer. Here are some friends at the March for Life. Posted by Hello
Civilized World Winning
It's been exciting to see freedom advance in the world in recent weeks in the Ukraine and in today's election in Iraq, where high turnout is defying the terrorists' attempt at violent intimidation.
"The news is freedom has won," Al-Lami said. "We have conquered terrorism."

Now-a-days, wherever significant events are occurring somewhere in the world, bloggers are present to record and comment.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The SMART-1 Spacecraft...
...has begun sending back images of the lunar surface.
Solemn Anniversaries
The world today marked the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

Meanwhile, NASA observed a Day of Remembrance for the Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia astronauts. All three space tragedies occurred at this time of year.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Cosmic Entertainer
The late Johnny Carson hosted guests from all walks of life on his late night television show, including two noted astronomers.

Also, I've learned third-hand from an e-mail that his New York Times obit contained an example of an astronomical side of his humor:
Once he was asked how he became a star, and he replied, "I started in a gaseous state, and then I cooled."

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The People Gathered.
Yesterday was a good day at this year's March for Life. The group I was with joined the March at 7th St., about half way between the Ellipse and the Supreme Court. Earlier, the rally held at the Ellipse was addressed (via phone) by President Bush.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has deepened another crisis in the cause of life by refusing to hear the case for reinstating the law protecting Terri Schindler-Schiavo. See reports here and here.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Why We March
This is a slightly revised and updated article I first wrote and posted last year at this time.

Today, January 22, marks the 32nd 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 on Monday for the annual March for Life, which in recent years has usually drawn more than 100,000 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.

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, former abortionist and co-founder of the pro-abortion group NARAL, has since changed his mind and heart and is now 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 embedded abortion in 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 forty 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 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 I guess Dan Rather, Katie Couric, 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. Abortion has torn marriages and families apart, and led to a hardened and increasingly violent culture.

So, we have had for the past thirty 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 thirty 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 apparently played a decisive role in the 2004 Election results.

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 college students, 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 speaking their minds, Getting 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.
Winter Weather
The DC Area got off rather lightly, with ~4-6 inches of snow. Those further to the northeast, especially up near Boston are getting hammered more severely.
More Hubble Trouble
It doesn't change my support for W, but I'm not happy with this decision by his Administration. Of course, I recognize the tight budget situation and I do want to see NASA get on with the Vision for Space Exploration. Hopefully, after Congress weighs in, some kind of creative solution will be developed.
A Week in History
I feel blessed to have been able to attend and participate in the Inaugural events in DC this week, including the swearing-in, the President's Inaugural address, the start of the parade and the Democracy Ball (one of several official inaugural balls) where I got to see President George W. & First Lady Laura Bush and the VP & Mrs. Cheney.

Friday, I joined a more informal gathering organized by the National Review Online folks at Fado's Irish Pub in DC. I saw a few old friends and got to meet some new ones, including some of the NRO staff including Jonah Goldberg, Kate O'Beirne, Ramesh Ponnuru and the ever-lively KJL.

A week of inspiration and celebration, but the nation has serious unfinished business. Today is the 32nd anniversary of the Supreme Court's imposition of abortion-on-demand in the United States, so Monday we'll gather for the March for Life.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Inauguration Day
Last night I enjoyed the Maryland Inaugural Gala, which featured state political leaders and W's sister Doro Bush Koch. Enjoyed good food and music and talking with old friends and new ones.

Time to rest up for a busy day tomorrow attending President Bush's swearing-in (I have a ticket for the standing area on the Mall) and other Inaugural events. Thanks to all who are planning and working on this Inauguration. Time to party, Yeehah!!
Cosmic Capital
One more reason to celebrate W's second Inauguration tomorrow. Jeff Foust cites a Orlando Sentinel article in which the President stated his willingness to spend political capital on space.
"The space vision met some resistance by some, but we got it fully funded," said Bush, adding that he likes the idea of going back to the moon, using it as a testing ground and then going beyond.
"I spent capital before," he said. "I'll spend it again on NASA."
Roe v. Roe
Norma McCorvey, plaintiff in the infamous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that imposed abortion-on-demand on the United States in 1973, is petitioning the Supreme Court to rehear and overturn the decision. I don't know if there is any precedent for a plaintiff asking for reversal of such a major decision, but don't hold your breath waiting for the Old Media to tell you about this historic development.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Open Source Processing of Huygens Imagery
The European Space Agency (ESA) is publishing more imagery, some in color, of Titan.

Meanwhile, as the internet has broadened peoples' participation in politics and media, Keith Cowing reports that is also becoming true, at least in some cases, for participation in scientific exploration.
On the Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday,...
here are links to his "I Have a Dream" speech and his 'Letter from Birmingham Jail'.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Landfall on an Intriguing World

Image from 16 km (10 mi) above Titan, ESA

First image from Titan's surface, ESA

This has been one of those memorable days when humanity gets its first close up look from the surface of an alien world for the first time.

The Huygens probe successfully landed on Saturn's moon Titan this morning. The probe has sent back images and other information. The European Space Agency's Huygens lander was carried to Saturn by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The two vehicles separated three weeks ago, and today Cassini relayed the transmitted data from Huygens back to Earth.

The images suggest some kind of fluid activities on the surface. More pictures and further analysis are expected to be released soon.

Fittingly, this historic international space exploration accomplishment came on the first anniversary of President Bush's announcement of the Vision for Space Exploration.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Timeline to Titan
Here's the European Space Agency's Huygens descent timeline to the surface of Saturn's moon Titan on Friday. NOTE: 'CET' is Central European Time, which is UTC (Greenwich Mean Time) + 1 hour, or six hours ahead of US Eastern Standard Time. Also the site states that the times are "Earth Received" time - i.e. 67 minutes after the actual events have taken place at the spacecraft.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Close Encounters

Deep Impact launch, NASA

Deep Impact is on its way to its July 4th fireworks encounter with Comet Temple 1. Meanwhile, the Huygens probe is closing in on Saturn's moon Titan.

Finally, check out this NBC News report on the critical role of remote sensing satellites in the tsunami relief effort.

Monday, January 10, 2005

All the News That's Fit to Forge
The independent panel report (PDF) on the CBS News forged document fiasco is out. Power Line Blog was one of the leading sources to expose the scandal, and now comments on the report.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

A Year with Spirit
The Mars Rovers reach their first anniversary on Mars. Friday, I had the pleasure to see Principle Investigator Steve Squyres summarize the past year's adventures, with plenty of images, at Goddard Space Flight Center.