Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Looking Outward from the Moon

A conference of scientists and space experts is being held this week at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore to explore how to use the Moon as a base for astronomical observations. Some key participants are quoted in this Space.com article.
"The main purpose is to really for the first time in many years have a very diverse group of astrophysicists come together and talk about whether it makes sense to do astrophysics from the Moon now that we've got NASA committed to sending people there and putting up infrastructure there," said Laurie Leshin, Director of Sciences and Exploration at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

A special day to give thanks to God for all His gifts to us. Have a good time with family and friends and don't eat any more than I would. ;-)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

To the Moon and the Asteroids

NASA continues to develop it's strategy for exploring the Moon with robots and humans.
The need to effectively use space resources “has penetrated deeply in planning for NASA’s Lunar Precursor and Robotic Program,” said David Atkinson, Deputy Program Executive for the Lunar Precursor Robotic Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. “It could become a keystone of our future human exploration”, with use of lunar resources helping to enable the settlement of the Moon, he said.

Meanwhile, Leonard David also reports that NASA is considering using it's planned human lunar exploration vehicles to go beyond and visit one or more Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs).
In general, a human mission to an asteroid offers an opportunity to take lunar-capable hardware and extend its reach to deep-space much sooner than would development of a full-up Mars-capable spacecraft, advised former astronaut, Tom Jones, a veteran of four shuttle flights.

The asteroids should be a major goal of our exploration efforts, given their potential threat of collision with Earth and also their tremendous potential to provide resources for future generations.
Going National

Congratulations to Tom Grenchik, Director of the Office for Pro-Life Activities of the Archdiocese of Washington, who has now been appointed Executive Director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
As founding director of the pro-life office, Mr. Grenchik was responsible for programs and efforts to promote respect for human life and dignity, particularly in the areas of abortion, reproductive technologies, stem cell research, cloning, contraception, pornography, crisis pregnancy assistance, health care, assisted suicide, capital punishment and other issues.

In his new position, Mr. Grenchik will have national visibility in advancing the Church's position on life issues.
Milton Friedman (1912-2006)

Milton Friedman, economist, who was a leading proponent of human liberty and free enterprise, passed away last week.
“He has used a brilliant mind to advance a moral vision — the vision of a society where men and women are free, free to choose, but where government is not as free to override their decisions,” President Bush said in 2002. “That vision has changed America, and it is changing the world.”

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Almost Heaven, West Virginia

I made a short post-election, pre-holidays getaway to Berkeley Springs, WV (less than two hours from the DC Area), yesterday and today. I left work early on Friday afternoon and arrived to have an early dinner at Maria's Garden & Inn, a nice restaurant with fine food, a friendly attitude, and an atmosphere that includes Catholic spirituality.

I timed this trip to coincide with the public star party at the Morgan County Observatory Friday evening. In spite of sporadic cloudiness (and a little adventure involving my car getting stuck in mud outside the observatory), the group that gathered had an exciting evening viewing celestial objects in the starry mountain country skies.

This morning included a short but healthy hike at Cacapon State Park and lunch at Tari's Cafe before returning home.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Mid-Atlantic Spaceport Readies for Launch of a New Era

The Washington Post reports on an impending launch from a spaceport only a three-and-a-half hour drive from DC, that may herald an expanding role for the region in the emerging space launch industry.
If all goes as hoped, at about 7 a.m. Dec. 11, a new day in the local aerospace industry will begin when the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport launches a 69-foot, green and white Minotaur I rocket carrying satellites for the Air Force and NASA.

It will be the culmination of a decade-long effort to start a regional, state-backed space launch industry and one that its creators believe could someday send tourists from the shores of Virginia to outer space.

Weather permitting, the launch should be visible from Washington on the eastern horizon, experts say.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Blue Origin Takes Flight

Blue Origin, the entrepreneurial space company founded by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos conducted it's first vehicle test flight this morning, according to Alan Boyle. Sorry, no spectacular pictures. The company has been very secretive about its development efforts and no pictures have been released. Still, this is one more small but significant step by an increasingly diverse space community toward a spacefaring civilization.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Some Post Election Analyses and Commentary

Noemie Emery at the Weekly Standard has six reasons for putting last week's election in perspective from a conservative point of view. Paul Schenck at National ProLife Radio sees an opening for prolife Democrats.

And Peggy Noonan once again eloquently puts a human face on our political leaders and the political process.
At the end of the day, or the end of this day, I look at the new Congress and wish them so well, such luck. Don't you? I want to say: Go, Nancy Pelosi. Be the speaker of whom historians will write, in 2032, "This was her moment, here was the summit, here she found greatness." Go, Democrats, be great and serious. Go, minority Republicans, refind yourselves. Go, conservatives.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Fight for Life Goes On

The Supreme Court today heard arguments on the federal ban on partial birth abortion. The hearing drew prolife and pro-abortion advocates to express their views on the proceedings.
We Win Some, We Lose Some

And yesterday's election was a loss. It does hurt to see good people lose, such as Michael Steele, Bob Ehrlich, Rick Santorum, Jim Talent, and others.

Congratulations to the winners. What we now have is a divided government and it is essential that both sides take joint responsibility for securing our civilization from those who would destroy us all regardless of party.

Certainly, the war in Iraq was the primary source of frustration for the voters, although the public is far from unanimous on what is the best solution. Senator Joe Lieberman, who supports military action in Iraq, won in an independent bid against a hardline anti-war Democrat in Connecticut. Lieberman is in an especially prized position now in the closely divided Senate, where he will be courted by both parties for support of initiatives. With the change in leadership announced today at the Defense Department, the administration will undoubtedly be revising the strategy for the war.

Other factors in yesterday's vote included the 'sixth year itch' pattern in a president's tenure, a perception of corruption and arrogance (which are all too present in both parties) and the sense that inertia in the current Republican leadership has slowed the drive toward advancing the principles and policies of their supporters.

I listened to and read some of the conservative commentators and they encouraged like-minded people to avoid bitterness and to use this setback as an opportunity to evaluate what went wrong and how to improve the campaign next time. They stressed that conservative principles and goals are as valid as ever, but that the execution needs improvement. New vigorous leadership on the Republican side and possible alliances with moderate and conservative Democrats (some newly elected) can advance initiatives in the future, while 2008 is not that far away.

As I move on to life after politics (for a respite, anyway), I have no regrets about the contributions I've made and especially the time I've spent on campaign activities this year. Working the phone banks the past few days (while ODing on caffeine and donuts) with some really nice people was a real inspiration, and I will be participating with them in future political activities.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Time is at Hand

Tomorrow is America's Day of Decision. Once more, it's time to pray, vote, and if you have time, participate in a Get Out The Vote effort. That can mean joining a highly organized phone bank or simply helping a neighbor get to the polls.

I will be active at the polling place in the early morning and at closing and participating in the county phone bank during much of the morning and afternoon. Tomorrow night will be an interesting night.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Get Out The Vote from Home

So you're not part of an organized GOTV effort in a state with competitive races, but you want to make a difference in this Tuesday's critical election. The Republican National Committee (RNC) has provided a way to participate in getting friendly voters to turn out around the country from the comfort of your own home.

Technology continues to spur innovation in the political process.
Saddam Hussein Convicted

Former Iraq tyrant Saddam Hussein was convicted today of crimes against humanity.

What is the reaction in Iraq?
Nouri al-Maliki, the Shiite prime minister, declared the verdicts as history's judgment on a whole era.

"The verdict placed on the heads of the former regime does not represent a verdict for any one person. It is a verdict on a whole dark era that has was unmatched in Iraq's history," al-malice said after the session.

Some feared the verdicts could intensify Iraq's sectarian violence after a trial that stretched over nine months in 39 sessions and ended nearly 3 1/2 months ago. Clashes immediately broke out Sunday in north Baghdad's heavily Sunni Azamiyah district. Elsewhere in the capital, celebratory gunfire rang out.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Pre-Election Musings and What's at Stake

It's Saturday evening, three days before the 2006 mid-term elections. The pundits and prognosticators are beside themselves talking about a 'wave', 'tsunami', 'momentum', etc. Polls in a number of tight races tend to shift back and forth by a narrow few percentage points.

So what's really going on? Obviously, there is understandable frustration about the difficult situation in Iraq, and differing opinions over what coulda, woulda, shoulda been done differently, and what are the options now. Throw into the mix the usual 'sixth year itch' that plagues whatever party is in power, Old Media bias, apparent polling results, etc. that point to modest to big gains by the Democrats.

On the other hand, Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) efforts, independent advocacy group efforts, uncertainties in polling accuracy make that less certain.

Also, other international developments like North Korea's nukes and continuing little domestic bombshells like Mark Foley's one man scandal and John Kerry's clumsy attempt to show off his brilliance can tip the momentum in either direction.

But there are real issues at stake. Speaking for myself, there is too much at stake to vote my mood, vent anger, 'throw the bums out', etc. While issues like immigration, federal spending, etc. have led many to frustration, what are the key issues?

My conclusion is that the paramount issues are those involving life and death. They fall into two broad categories, both pointing my preferences toward the Republicans in general.

Some of these life and death issues fall under the category of national security, terrorism, and war. The war in Iraq is obviously painful and frustrating, and every casualty report grieves all of us. Mistakes in planning are easy to see in hindsight. But the fundamental questions are, where do we go from here and who do we trust to carry out the global struggle against those who want to destroy our civilization. Note, that so far there has been no attack on our homeland since September 2001.

The other category of life and death issues are those social issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and exploitation of human embryos. Over 45 million surgical abortions in this country each mark the violent death of a living human being. The Terri Schiavo case was only the most visible example that getting out of the womb doesn't free the rest of us from the danger of this anti-life mentality. And the hype over embryonic stem cells and the deceptive efforts to write human cloning into public policy represent the most blatant attempt to exploit the hope for progress in mitigating suffering to achieve an agenda of further eroding the respect for the dignity of every human life. The leadership in Washington in recent years has at least nudged public policy more toward a culture of life and begun to balance the ideological mix on the federal courts.

Oh! Any election predictions, you ask? It will be an interesting night.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Peggy Noonan on Rick Santorum

The eloquent Peggy Noonan writes about what a national loss it will be IF Rick Santorum loses his Senate race.
Mr. Santorum has been at odds with the modernist impulse, or liberalism, or whatever it now and fairly should be called. Most of his own impulses--protect the unprotected, help the helpless, respect the common man--have not been conservative in the way conservative is roughly understood, or portrayed, in the national imagination. If this were the JFK era, his politics would not be called "right wing" but "progressive." He is, at heart, a Catholic social reformer. Bobby Kennedy would have loved him.

Note the amazing but true account of Rick and Karen Santorum's prayerful act near the end of her column.

Of course, the only poll that matters hasn't been counted yet. After reading this column today, I sent a contribution toward my native state tonight via this link.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Home Stretch

A week from now, I'll know the election is over when:

-I get more sleep and exercise.

-I'm consuming less caffeine and more healthy red wine.

-I can start to seriously clean up the clutter around my house.

-The phone bank scripts begin to fade from my memory.

-I'm making no more political donations for awhile.

-I go back to spending more time at Space.com than I do at RealClearPolitics.com.

-I have more time to blog on more various subjects.

But that's a week from now. In the meantime, I'm signed up for phone-banking this weekend and on Tuesday. (I'm taking the day off from work.) Gov. Ehrlich is virtually tied with Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley in the Maryland Governor's race and Michael Steele is gaining national attention as he is closing in on Rep. Ben Cardin for the U.S. Senate seat.

We had our final Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) planning session in Montgomery County last night. The volunteer base here is fired up and ready to climax months of effort with the big push during these final days. And while there are some unique circumstances here in Maryland, I hear that grassroots efforts in other states are also large and energized.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

This Picture Says It All

John Kerry has apologized for his so-called 'botched joke'. Whatever the political impact of his debacle, this response by some of our troops is precious. It's been circulating around the Internet like wildfire, apparently with no restrictions, so feel free to download and spread further.