Wednesday, January 31, 2007
The Hubble Space Telescope's main instrument, the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) failed last Saturday and is unlikely to be returned to normal operations. The anomaly is under investigation, according to the NASA press release.
"It is too early to know what influences the ACS anomaly may have on Hubble Space
Telescope Servicing Mission-4 planning" said Preston Burch, associate
director/program manager for the Hubble Space Telescope. "It is important that
the review board conduct a thorough investigation that will allow us to
determine if there are any changes needed in the new instruments that will be
installed on the upcoming servicing mission so that we can be sure of maximizing
the telescope's scientific output. We are continuing to make excellent progress
in our preparations for the servicing mission, which is presently targeted to
fly in September 2008."
Meanwhile, a commercial launch went ary on its launch platform with the explosion of a SeaLaunch Zenit booster on Tuesday. Here's a YouTube video of the launch explosion.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Rob and Karina Fabian met in the Air Force, but their love for science fiction (and for puns) brought them together. Karina is a cradle Catholic, and attending church with her introduced Rob to the beauty of the Catholic Mass. He instantly felt at home and was confirmed just before their wedding. They now have four children, Steven, Amber, Alex, and Liam.
Writing is one way they stay connected and share a passion that doesn't result in children. While on a "date," they dreamed up a near-future where mankind has colonized the solar system and an order of nuns dedicated to space search and rescue protects the intrepid spacers for "air, shelter and the love of God." These stories led directly to their editing two anthologies, Leaps of Faith (Christian SF no longer in print) and Infinite Space, Infinite God.
Rob is a Lt. Col. in the Air Force and will be taking a Squadron Command in Minot, ND, this Fall. Karina writes novels, stories and articles and she homeschools their children.
Q. How did you become interested in science fiction and how did you begin to integrate faith and sf?
Like many of our generation, I (Karina) grew up with Star Trek. Kirk and Spock were regulars at our dinner table, and the first real novels I read--aside from Wrinkle in Time--were novelizations of the series. Rob grew up devouring the Heinlein juveniles, and he still attributes many of his attitudes and ways of thinking to those books.
As for integrating faith into our writing, that just seemed to come naturally. The more I write (for I do most of the fiction in the house), the more I find my characters and topics expressing their faith. When we started collaborating, the idea of a solar system populated by humans seemed incomplete without religious institutions--and what better charism for a convent of spacefaring nuns than search and rescue? Thus the universe of Our Lady of the Rescue was born, and from it, the anthologies Leaps of Faith (no longer published) and Infinite Space, Infinite God (2006: Twilight Times Books).
Q. How does the science fiction community respond to Catholic sf?
Depends on who you ask. It's a tough sell with publishers in part because it's a niche market--yet Tor published Sacred Visions, another anthology of Catholic SF. Canticle for Liebowitz is a recognized SF classic, and you can't get more Catholic than it. Many SF writers have turned to Catholicism for characters, ideas or even a model to base a future or alien faith upon.
There's not a lot of books or stories out that could or should bear the title "Catholic SF" and we think that's a good thing. Infinite Space, Infinite God has that moniker because all of the stories examine some aspect of Catholic faith or practice. However, we think the ideal would be to see stories and novels that embrace the Catholic faith out in the SF mainstream.
That means we writers need to write well-crafted stories which incorporate the expression of faith as naturally as they do the use of science. We think we've succeeded in that with Infinite Space, Infinite God. Most of our reviews so far have been from non-Catholics and all have loved the book. One said she was touched to the point of chills when an alien said, "But you have directions." It was holding out a Bible and the Catechism at the time.
Q. How do the Church and the Catholic community respond to Catholic sf? In particular, how much thought is being given to the Church's role in future space communities?
Catholics who love SF want to see more, naturally. Just as naturally, you'll find a great many Catholics who are vitally interested in space exploration and science fiction. I can give you a list or anyone can do a Google search for Catholic science fiction blogs and find a dozen.
An online search of the Vatican archives produced 2300 documents about space science, 737 about "space exploration" and one specifically on space colonization. Several Popes have spoken at international conventions on the topic, and the Pontifical Academy holds conferences about it. The late Pope John Paul II summed it up in his address to the delegates of the Interagency Consultant Group in 1996:
…we live in a very special moment. Using the talents given by God, people of
science have been able to develop unprecedented means of obtaining knowledge.
Extraordinary means of transportation and communication have been developed.
Computers have reached capacities and speeds previously unimaginable. Serious
plans can now be made for space stations, space colonies, and for manned
missions to planets as far away as Mars. Scientists and technologists are
developing the possibilities of making the whole planetary system a home for the
human family. But all of these developments will lead to truly significant
results only if they are employed within the frame-work of a new humanism, where
spiritual, moral, philosophical, aesthetic, and scientific values are developed
in harmony, and where there is a profound respect for the freedom and rights of
the human person.
Q. Your anthology touches on issues of human life and human dignity. How do you see this literature playing a role in promoting a culture of life?
Science Fiction, more than any other genre is about examining ideas, asking "What if?" or exploring current trends. It can look at aspects of our society by removing them from the present (or even from humanity) and putting them in a new environment, where they can be seen more clearly. What we hope Infinite Space, Infinite God and other faith-filled SF can do is get people to think about these topics. There's no doubt that SF influences the way people think. A survey in the Library Journal (http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA447055.html) said the top reasons people read SF is to explore new ideas and to affirm their worldview. So Catholic SF can both present arguments for a culture of life in a way that entertains and influences and reaffirms that culture for those who already live it.
In fact, two of our goals for Infinite Space, Infinite God (beyond just being fun to read) were to make people think and to show the Catholic Church as a viable, valued presence in our future.
Q.One theme I explore on my blog is the contrast between a 'limits to growth'/population control scenario' and a positive future where space resources are used to provide for future generations. Do you or other Catholic sf writers explore this theme?
It's certainly a theme worth exploring, but we didn't cover it in this collection. We have several stories that looked at offworld colonization, but none that specifically considered it an answer to population control. "Hopkins' Well," however, did touch on the issue, but from a dystopic point of view--a world government rises which has insisted on population control along with other "quality of life" issues has persecuted the Catholic Church until there is only an underground movement and the one Catholic colony of Hopkins' Well on Mars.
Q. If given the opportunity (cost not being an obstacle), would you like to travel into space?
How many exclamation points do you want after our "YES"?
Q. Any final thoughts about Infinite Space, Infinite God and beyond?
Infinite Space, Infinite God comes out in print in August 2007. We hope people will enjoy reading it as much as we've enjoyed writing it.
If the sales pan out and Twilight Times is willing, we'd like to do an ISIG II. In the meantime, many of our authors are already putting out wonderful faith-filled and secular fiction. Karina is working on two novels--one in the Our Lady of the Rescue universe and one involving a Catholic dragon private detective. She's also shopping around her fantasy anthology The Miscria and hopes to have great news this year. We're also looking for a print home for Leaps of Faith, a Christian SF anthology. Anyone interested can keep up with the latest news at http://www.fabianspace.com/ and http://isigsf.tripod.com/.
FINAL NOTE: Thank you Karina and Rob. Best wishes on the move and the Squadron Command in Minot ND and I look forward to hearing of the success of Infinite Space, Infinite God.
I've enjoyed the National Review Institute's Conservative Summit in downtown DC this weekend. A few highlights:
- Newt Gingrich spoke on Saturday morning, bubbling over with ideas as always. One of them was to redirect NASA's future program to award a prize for the first successful entrepreneurial effort to get humans back to the Moon.
- Princeton Professor Robert George gave a succinct and articulate review of issues involving the protection of the dignity of every human life, including abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cells and human cloning.
- Former Governors Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee spoke of their reform efforts in their respective states and how they apply to national issues. The later two are preparing for presidential runs in 2008.
- Mark Steyn, who often writes serious columns about the crises facing western civilization, delivered a very humorous delivery at the Saturday night dinner. (I heard that this continued in a late night session which I passed on so as to commute home and get some sleep.)
- Sunday's concluding luncheon featuring economist Larry Kudlow and White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. Also, sitting at my table was Debra Burlingame, whose brother was pilot of the American Airlines Flight 77 which was crashed into the Pentagon by the Al Qeada terrorists. She told us of her efforts to help save the Ground Zero memorial in NYC from the travesty of diluting the memory of the 9/11 atrocities.
National Review Online's (NRO) Corner blog features accounts from over the weekend, and hopefully there will later be a summary at NRO's home page. I believe that following November's disappointing election setbacks, this conference was well timed to revitalize the conservative movement. As I told NRO's Kathryn Jean Lopez when I was leaving the luncheon room today, "It worked! We're energized!"
Thursday, January 25, 2007
I'll be commuting into DC this weekend for National Review's Conservative Summit conference. It will kick off Friday evening with a cocktail party honoring former UN Ambassador nominee John Bolton, followed by a panel of lively and sharp conservative women. Breakfast with Newt on Saturday morning will kickoff the rest of the weekend programming which will include Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and many well known writers and political insiders.
Astronaut John Grunsfeld already has two Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Shuttle servicing missions on his resume. He is now preparing with his crewmates for one more mission in September 2008, which will provide some much needed upgrades to HST systems and will upgrade Hubble's science capability with two new instruments which will expand the telescope's already legendary capabilities. John Grunsfeld is eager to take on the task, and is not shy about expressing his attachment to Hubble, as reported by Space.com.
“Hubble has truly transcended just being an astronomer’s tool for science,"Perhaps his most challenging task will be the complex repair of a failed instrument already onboard Hubble.
Grunsfeld said in a recent interview here at the Space Telescope Science
Institute, command central for the orbiting observatory. “It is an icon for
science and as I travel around the country or around the world, people know
Hubble—people have an idea of what Hubble does, people recognize that it’s
For Grunsfeld, the most significant and trickiest task will be to revive the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS), which conked out after a power failure in August 2003.
Installed on Hubble in February 1997, the STIS separates incoming light into its constituent colors, giving astronomers a chemical map of a distant object. Since deployed, STIS has been critical in the confirmation of black holes at the centers of galaxies, made the only discovery of an atmosphere around an exoplanet and helped confirm the age of the universe.
Preparing for the mission along with John Grunsfeld and his crewmates is a large team, including my colleagues and I, working to develop and carry out the mission from the ground.
Blogger became a part of Google some time ago, and so has been getting its users to switch over to Google accounts. I've just done so tonight. It looks like I'll have some new features to play with, but for now I'm just going to make this the first post and see how it works.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Meanwhile a big thank you to Karina for hosting me as a guest blogger by reposting my Why We March essay on her blog FabianSapce.
President Bush gave his State of the Union address tonight. Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia gave his party's response. Several domestic issues were discussed including federal spending, health care, and energy. However, the address focused on the global situation, particularly the war in Iraq.
Ultimately, the words of the President or of his critics won't matter. It will be the results of the new strategy. Jack Kelly of RealClearPolitics asks if the 'surge' strategy is already showing results. It's too early to say whether the developments cited in the article are signs of eventual victory or whether that hope is wishful thinking. However, there is a side of the story here you probably have not heard much of from Old Media sources.
Monday, January 22, 2007
...sparsely covered by the so-called 'Mainstream Media'. Once again, for the 34th year, the people gathered to call for an end to the greatest injustice of our time. Despite a cold and damp day, the March for Life included many thousands of participants whose expressions ranged from fervent prayer and hymns to enthusiastic chants of
Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Roe v. Wade has got to go!
The gathering of so many life-minded people in Washington, DC on one day allows for numerous gatherings before and after the March. I attended the second annual Blogs for Life conference. This event provides an opportunity for networking with other prolife bloggers.
This year's conference also provided a platform for some real leaders for life. Bobby Schindler, whose sister, Terri Schiavo, was put to death by judicial fiat, reminded the audience that the fight for life now goes beyond abortion to also include defending the sick and disabled. Jill Stanek, who heroic actions as a nurse exposed the horrific practice of allowing infants to die after induced deliveries and led to federal law protecting these infants, spoke of the power of prolife blogging. Senator Sam Brownback, who announced his presidential candidacy on Saturday, showed again that he is the leading voice in Washington for protecting human life and dignity. (I had the opportunity to chat briefly with Senator Brownback in the hallway at the conference.).
Actually, my March for Life activities started Saturday evening when I assisted my parish in welcoming and housing a large contingent of participants, mostly young people, who rode their buses for twelve hours from Saginaw, Michigan. The dedication of the many people who come from so many distant places is always the great inspiration of this march. We Shall Overcome!
Saturday, January 20, 2007
This is a slightly revised and updated article I first wrote and posted in 2004 at this time.
Moday, January 22, marks the 34th 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 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 forty five 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. Consider the heart wrenching case of the judicially imposed death of Terri Schindler-Schiavo. 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 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 played a decisive role in the 2004 Election results and in the confirmation hearings of John Roberts and Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court.
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.
Friday, January 19, 2007
Mark Shea is a prolific Catholic writer and blogger, who presents well reasoned discussions on many topics. However, his recent take on human space colonization and Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) activities comes up short. (Hat tip to Rand Simberg)
Mark Shea stresses that his negative views on space colonization and SETI are not based on theology, but on what he sees as the scientific realities. If space technology and launch costs were to continue at the level they are at with the current Space Shuttle system, we won't be going anywhere in a big way. However, Mr. Shea's outlook seems to overlook continuing developments such as nanotechnology, propulsion development, etc. along with the increasing private sector activity which is likely to significantly lower the cost of access to space.
As for SETI, the article rightly points out that the conditions that favored development of life on Earth do not exist every where in the universe, but that does not necessarily exclude a smaller number of civilizations that have spread out and adapted or that intelligent life forms may have evolved to thrive in different conditions than we have. It is as presumptuous to exclude the possibility of other civilizations as it is to insist that they must exist. Whether we ever find other civilizations or not, the modest (and mostly privately funded) search is well worth the effort in terms of inspiration and unforeseen discoveries as a byproduct.
Mark Shea's other point is that some enthusiasts have substituted space colonization and/or SETI as a substitute for the Christian view of our ultimate destiny. That is certainly true, but someone or another has exaggerated the significance of almost any human endeavor. Just because some pundits and citizen political activists seem to think of Barack Obama as almost a new Messiah does not negate the significance of politics and government as worthy endeavors.
Pope John Paul II seemed to have a more positive view on the possibility of space colonization and he put it in a Christian perspective in a 1996 address.
...we live in a very special moment. Using the talents given by God, people of science have been able to develop unprecedented means of obtaining knowledge. Extraordinary means of transportation and communication have been developed. Computers have reached capacities and speeds previously unimaginable. Serious plans can now be made for space stations, space colonies, and for manned missions to planets as far away as Mars. Scientists and technologists are developing the possibilities of making the whole planetary system a home for the human family. But all of these developments will lead to truly significant results only if they are employed within the frame-work of a new humanism, where spiritual, moral, philosophical, aesthetic, and scientific values are developed in harmony, and where there is a profound respect for the freedom and rights of the human person.
Thanks to Karina Fabian for a timely input of this quote. Look for a special feature on Catholic science fiction on this blog coming soon.
The disclosure that China successfully tested a ground launched anti-satellite missile last week has sparked a flurry of protests and analyses. The U.S. conducted an air-launched ASAT test back in the eighties and the Soviet Union/Russia has been pursuing ASAT technology. This event brings up a few observations.
First, given human fallibility (original sin), it was probably naive to believe that human activity would expand into space without some extent of 'militarization'. Of course we don't want to unnecessarily provoke or exacerbate the situation, but it is only prudent to plan for protecting our interests and the common good in space. It is in everyone's common good, including the Chinese, to refrain from further tests of this type which would create clouds of debris that could prove hazardous for other orbital activities.
Clarke Lindsey points out that the Chinese test may provide a timely boost for some DoD plans for more rapidly responsive launch capabilities, which would also benefit civil and commercial space activities.
Finally, the increasing level of civil, military and commercial activities of the US, Russia, China, India, Japan and other nations shows that space will be increasing in its role as a stage for human activity.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
A press conference was held at an astronomy conference last week to announce a plan to search for extraterrestrial signals similar to those emitted as a byproduct of our Earthly civilization, according to Edna DeVore of the SETI Institute, writing for Space.com.
Loeb and his co-author Matias Zaldarriaga (CfA) suggest looking for accidental leakage from an alien civilization. They point out that the new Mileura Wide-Field Array’s Low Frequency Demonstrator (MWA-LFD), which is designed to study frequencies of 80-300 Megahertz, will pick up the same frequencies used by Earth technologies. On Earth, military radars are the most powerful broadcast sources, followed by television and FM radio.
This search will complement planned targeted searches for extraterrestrial signals.
Dr. Peter Backus, Research Scientist at SETI Institute also spoke at the press conference. He stated that the MDA-LFD represents a good example of the power of the new generation of radio telescopes. Taking advantage of advances in technology, these telescopes are more powerful and flexible than the traditional, large radio telescopes. Using this same design model, “large N, small D” (a large number of small diameter dishes) the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) will ultimately have 350 dishes, each only 6 meters across. ... The ATA will expand the search to higher frequencies that have far less interference and background noise than the lower frequencies that will be observed by the MWA-LFD.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
President Bush addressed the nation tonight concerning the new strategy to 'surge' the number of U.S. forces while pushing the Iraqi government to be more aggressive about controlling warring factions. Of course, the domestic debate was underway before the speech was even delivered.
Yes, the Maryland General Assembly opened for its 90 day 2007 session today.
Friday, January 05, 2007
The second annual Blogs for Life conference will occur in Washington, DC on Monday, January 22, the day of the March for Life. The organizers plan an exciting program with some leading prolife advocates, including Senator Sam Brownback. I've just registered and I'm looking forward to networking with my fellow prolife bloggers as I did last year.
Exciting space news got off to a fast start in 2007 this week with Blue Origin, headed by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, releasing pictures and videos of the November flight of the company's Goddard flight test vehicle. Blue Origin has shrouded its development activities in secrecy up until now. The exciting videos are reminiscent of the DoD and NASA funded DC-X test flights of the 1990s except that the Goddard vehicle appears to use more operationally efficient propulsion technology and, most important, is privately funded.
Meanwhile, analysis of data from the Cassini spacecraft combined with the imagery and data from the landing of the Huygens probe on Saturn's moon Titan two years ago lead to the conclusion that liquid methane lakes presently exist on that moon.
Bob Novak describes how upcoming votes in Congress on embryonic stem cells will be an opportunity for newly elected self-described prolife Democrats to take a stand. Of particular interest will be how Pennsylvania's new Senator, Bob Casey Jr. votes on this issue.
Casey's vote may determine whether Bush's second veto is overridden by the Senate. The House will probably sustain a veto, with or without help from the seven Democrats. But apart from the stem cell bill, at stake is whether pro-lifers have any place in today's Democratic Party. Certainly, that small fraction will be under intense pressure from party leaders.
I do hope that Bob Casey will grow in his convictions to challenge the conventional wisdom in his party like his late great father did. Bob Casey Sr. was a major influence in my delaying for a few years switching from Dem to GOP.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
The nation paid President Gerald Ford its final respects with a service at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC today before his journey home to Michigan. On Sunday, I went downtown to join others in paying respects in the Capitol Rotunda.
One subject not covered in most of the public remembrances of Gerald Ford is his contribution to space policy while in Congress and in the White House. Jeff Foust summarizes and links to other reports on this topic.