Thursday, January 31, 2008

Fifty years ago this evening,...

...America's first satellite, Explorer I was launched. Alan Boyle reviews the event here and Jack Kennedy provides links to a couple of videos here.
Explorer 1 gave America a chance to recover some of its confidence and prestige after the Sputnik shock, but there was a scientific payoff as well: The data returned by the satellite showed that Earth was not surrounded by a swarm of killer pebbles, as some scientists had feared. However, the cosmic-ray readings hinted at the existence of bands of radiation surrounding the planet - an unexpected result that led to the discovery of the Van Allen Belts.

Political Happening

McCain takes the lead after Florida and Giuliani and Edwards exit, but the big political event for me this week was last night's Campaign for Life gala in DC for the Susan B. Anthony List, a dedicated women's prolife political action committee. Check out the link for the great work that they do and consider making a contribution.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Remembrance of Space Heroes

NASA is observing the anniversaries of its human losses in spaceflight: Apollo 1 (forty one years ago yesterday), Challenger (twenty two years ago today), and Columbia (five years ago next Friday, February 1). remembers each of these events and their impact on the nation's space efforts.

W's Final SOTU

President Bush is giving his final State of the Union message. His agenda includes maintaining tax cuts and curbing earmarks, supporting research into new energy sources and morally ethical medical research, and completing the mission in Iraq and meeting other international commitments.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

SpaceShipTwo Unveiled

Virgin Galactic unveiled its designs for its SpaceShipTwo commercial suborbital spaceliner and for its WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane.

Check out the Virgin Galactic site for a couple of(large file size) videos. HobbySpace provides some more streamlined videos and the press release along with Richard Branson's unveiling speech.
2008 really will be the Year of the Spaceship.

Politics This Week

Fred left the race on Tuesday, after promoting a consistent conservative agenda and more of an interest in governing than in campaigning.

It was the Dems' turn in South Carolina today, and Obama won big.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The People Came to March for Life

This is the view as I neared the top of Capitol Hill. Many thousands filled Constitution Avenue for blocks looking back, as there were many thousands ahead before I reached this point.

This is a shot I took from the 'bloggers' perch' at 1st and Constitution near the end of the March route.

Speaking Truth to Power in front of the Supreme Court.

For links to more images and information from the March, check out ProLife Blogs and Blogs for Life.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

This Injustice Will Fall

The events of the past twenty four hours were so inspiring and energizing, even while commemorating the infamous 35th anniversary of abortion-on-demand being imposed on our country. From the Vigil Mass for Life last night at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Basilica to the Blogs for Life Conference this morning, the actual March for Life itself and a post-March Capitol Hill reception only serve to energize me with hope and determination to see this great injustice overturned.

From the LifeNews article on the March:
Hundreds of thousands of pro-life people turned out for the annual March for Life in Washington, braving cold temperatures to take a stand for the right to life of unborn children. While marchers mourned 35 years of legalized abortion, many sounded a hopeful theme for a pro-life future and think the decision will eventually be reversed.

As with other recent marches, the number of young adults and high school and college students impressed organizers and provided another reason to be optimistic.

"People will get on a bus and travel 24, 48, 72 hours, some even further," Concerned Women for America president Wendy Wright told the Washington Times. "That's such an immense dedication, which is striking when you consider it is not on behalf of privileges or rights for themselves."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Why We March

This is a slightly revised and updated article I first wrote and posted in 2004 at this time.

Tuesday, January 22, marks the 35th 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 Tuesday 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 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 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 five 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 five 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.
Prez Race Results

McCain wins in South Carolina, while Romney and Clinton take Nevada. Fred came in a distant third in SC and his future plans appear TBD.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Blogs for Life

I'll be going to the Blogs for Life conference Tuesday morning in DC prior to participating in the March for Life. Check out the interesting list of prolife speakers.

Meanwhile, I'm watching on EWTN the rally for the West Coast March for Life occurring today. Speaking now is Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, carrying on his struggle for human rights.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Go Fred!

It's too wild and crazy to predict the outcome in South Carolina's primary tomorrow, never mind the actual nominations and general election, but right now I find myself favoring Fred Thompson as being the most consistent in supporting life, liberty and opportunity. Rick Moran writes how Thompson defies the conventional wisdom and provides more substance in his communication.
Vision 2.0?

Some planetary scientists, former astronauts and former NASA division directors are planning to meet at Stanford University in February to propose an alternative space vision to the one laid out by President Bush and currently being implemented by NASA.
Top U.S. planetary scientists, several astronauts and former NASA division directors will meet privately at Stanford University on Feb. 12-13 to define these sweeping changes to the NASA/Bush administration Vision for Space Exploration (VSE).

Abandoning the Bush lunar base concept in favor of manned asteroid landings could also lead to much earlier manned flights to Mars orbit, where astronauts could land on the moons Phobos or Deimos.

Their goals for a new array of missions also include sending astronauts to Lagrangian points, 1 million mi. from Earth, where the Earth's and Sun's gravity cancel each other out and spacecraft such as replacements for the Hubble Space Telescope could be parked and serviced much like Hubble.

The "alternate vision" the group plans to offer would urge far greater private-sector incentives to make ambitious human spaceflight plans a reality.

There's a lot that makes sense in this agenda as described in the article. The current exploration launcher architecture is facing serious technical issues and budgetary shortfalls and should certainly be re-evaluated. Accelerating human missions to the asteroids and the Lagrange points would really help open the frontier and spur the growth of a spacefaring civilization. Finally, enabling greater private sector involvement is most critical to creating a spacefaring civilization by making space activities affordable and profitable.

The major flaw I see in this group's vision, at least in the general way it is described in this article, is the seeming dismissal of lunar exploration having any significant value in the future development of space. Paul Spudis and Dennis Wingo make a case for the Moon playing a vital role for the development of space and providing benefits to humanity. If the lunar program is bogging down our space exploration efforts, it's the implementation that's the problem, not the role of the Moon itself.

It will be interesting to see where this group's vision will go after the Stanford meeting. While not flawless, this group and their agenda can contribute to a re-evaluation and revitalization of the vision for our future in space.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Mercury imaged by the approaching MESSENGER Spacecraft
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

The MESSENGER spacecraft flew by the planet Mercury this afternoon, the first of three flybys before the spacecraft enters orbit around the planet in 2011.

This evening some friends and I (after a stop for Mexican food and margaritas just outside the Lab) attended a Planetary Society sponsored event at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, the organization which built and is now controlling the pioneering spacecraft. We heard one of the leading mission scientists present a good background on the science and exploration of Mercury. However, the latest results and images from the flyby won't be available until Tuesday, so check back with the MESSENGER web site.
The Vision Thing

Today is the fourth anniversary of President Bush's 'Vision speech' on the future American direction in space. Jeff Foust looks at why this year is critical to the future of the Vision, noting that presidential politics and budgets are only part of the challenge facing the U.S. space exploration effort.
Beyond the budget and politics, there are a number of other issues that could impede progress on, or even threaten the future of, the Vision over the next year. Project Constellation in particular has a number of key technical milestones in the coming year, and while NASA and its contractors are confident about their progress, some people continue to raise concerns about the current architecture, including whether the Ares 1 vehicle is underpowered (or the Orion capsule is overweight). If those concerns persist through the year, it might open the door for a reconsideration of the entire technical architecture should the next president decide to replace Griffin as NASA administrator.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Edmund Hillary, RIP

Famed explorer Edmund Hillary, who was part of the first team to climb Mount Everest and return safely in 1953, died at age 88 in New Zealand yesterday.
Many shared anecdotes of personal meetings with the late adventurer, describing him as an iconic New Zealander whose achievements were important to both the country and the world.

Antarctica New Zealand chief executive Lou Sanson said his enduring image of Hillary was his love of the natural environment of the frozen continent.

"Most of all you could tell he was in love with what was outside, which was that wild, harsh continent and the ability to live in that," Sanson said.
Circus on the Severn Opens for 2008 Session

The Maryland General Assembly opened Wednesday for its 90 day 2008 session, as Maryland citizens face the increased taxes enacted during the special session last fall.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

New Hampshire Results

It's McCain winning with Romney second in the GOP race. Clinton is narrowly leading Obama in the Dem race.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Feast of the Epiphany

Today is the final highlight of the Christmas Season, the Feast of the Epiphany, which celebrates the journey of the Magi, the 'Three Kings' or 'Wise men' to visit the child Jesus. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains the background of this celebration in Scripture and tradition.
In chapter 60 of Isaiah (Is 60:1-6), it is predicted that at a time of darkness, the glory of the Lord will shine over Jerusalem. The heavenly light will be a beacon to the pagan nations and even to their kings. Here we find mention of camels whose job it will be to bring the wealth of these nations, including frankincense and gold, to the city of the Lord. Psalm 72 agrees that far off kings will bring gifts to the Son of David.

The Star that draws the Magi to Judea has long been a subject of wonder and scientific curiosity as explained in this USA Today article.
As told in the Gospel of Matthew, a star marked the birth of Jesus and led wise men, or Magi, from the East to present the child with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Their arrival in Bethlehem is celebrated by Western Christians on Epiphany, or the 12th Day of Christmas.

For centuries, the star has intrigued astronomers, historians, artists and theologians alike: was it a one-time miracle, a literary myth, or was it an actual astronomical occurrence?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Iowa Results

The earliest ever Iowa Caucuses were held tonight, and it was a good night for the grassroots campaigns of Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama. Edwards and Clinton are in a close race for second for the Dems and Romney came in second for the GOP with Thompson and McCain in a close race for third.

Results here for the GOP and here for the Dems.

From here on things will happen quickly with New Hampshire next week and other primaries soon to follow.