Monday, December 31, 2012

Putting Another Year Behind Us

As we are about to turn the calendar on another year, it's been quite a ride, leaving more questions than answers. The year began with a contentious start of a GOP presidential primary season, a growing struggle over life, conscience and religious liberty, and continued economic uncertainty. The year ended with Barack Obama re-elected for a second term, Congress divided roughly as it was before, and contentious battles over the looming "fiscal cliff", debt limits, and the overall vision of the economy.

The world continues to be on edge as old dictators in the Middle East give way to what may be even more extreme militant Islamist regimes. The attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya resulting in the death of the US Ambassador and three others sparked new doubts about the administration's handling of foreign and military affairs and about America's place in the world.

Violence struck closer to home with shootings by disturbed individuals at a movie theater in Colorado, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and at an elementary school in Newtown , CT (including the deaths of twenty young children) renewing the debate over gun control v. more guns in the hands of responsible citizens, mental health issues, and whether the cultural and moral directions of our society are to blame and whether or how those directions can be changed.

Advances in science, technology and medicine appear to be continuing apace. The announcement of an apparent confirmation of the Higgs Boson, a fundamental elementary particle of matter, and the continuing discovery of a variety of candidate planets around other stars, highlight the basic discoveries. The landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars, the initiation of commercial cargo deliveries to the International Space Station, and the announcements of a number of bold ventures to increase access to space and its abundant resources indicate the human expansion into space may proceed in the midst of economic uncertainty.

In the midst of all the good and bad, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed a Year of Faith that will extend through most of 2013 to spark renewed faith in God among Christians throughout the world during a time of increased secularization and uncertainty. Faith is something we'll need plenty of as we deal with issues of life, liberty, economic uncertainty and expanding frontiers in the new year and beyond.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Have a Holy and Merry 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

Two Christmas Favorites

Here are two stirringly beautiful Christmas music videos by Enya and Trans-Siberian Orchestra I'm posting again this year.



Trans Siberian Orchestra - Christmas Canon
shadow | MySpace Video

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hanukkah and Our Attitude about the Future

(This is a post I originally made in 2003 and feel is worth repeating each year, especially in light of some very dark anti-human views of the future vs. ongoing and emerging developments that can provide resources for future generations.)

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 has 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.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Golden Spike Company Announces Lunar Venture

Golden Spike Company illustration of how it would send people to the Moon using existing launch vehicles and proven technologies to reduce the cost of the trip.

On the cusp of the fortieth anniversary of Apollo 17, the last of the initial human expeditions to the Moon, a new commercial venture was announced today that could take humans back to the Moon within less than ten years. (More links here.)

The Golden Spike Company plans to use existing launch vehicles and capabilities as much as possible to make the cost more affordable. A new lander to take people to the lunar surface will be required, though the experience gained from the Apollo program plus new technology developed by various NASA and private ventures, including those vying for the Google Lunar X-Prize, could aid this effort.

Golden Spike consists of an impressive list of leaders and advisors, some having experience with the Apollo missions. One advisor, former House Speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has long advocated for entrepreneurial approaches to advancing America's activities in space. This was my analysis of his proposed lunar venture during this year's presidential primaries.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Science From Mars And Mercury

Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS
This is a view of two of the trenches made by the 1.6-inch-wide (4-centimeter-wide) scoop on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity in October 2012 at a site called Rocknest.

NASA made its much anticipated announcement of results from the first months of exploration of Mars by the Curiosity rover on Monday. The results are intriguing, if not yet so "earthshaking" as some recent speculation had indicated. There is still some question as to where the interesting compounds detected originated from. The performance of the rover and its science instruments are not in question, and NASA today announced plans to send a similar design of rover to Mars in 2020 to continue exploration of that planet.

Meanwhile, new discoveries on the planet Mercury were announced last week. The findings include deposits of water ice and traces of organic compounds at the planet's polar regions.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Advent 2012

Today marks the first Sunday of Advent, a time of preparation for the coming celebration of our Savior's coming at Christmas. To mark the beginning of this season, Here are Pope Benedict XVI's remarks from his weekly Angelus address today and a video (~23 min) I first posted last year of a group from Christendom College singing on the Ponte Sant'Angelo in Rome. (Thanks to RealCatholicTV.)


Catching Up With Planetary Explorers

Long overdue, I've added links to three major planetary exploration missions to my sidebar. Check out the links for MESSENGER (orbiting Mercury), Dawn (having explored asteroid Vesta, now en route to asteroid Ceres) and Curiosity (Mars Science Laboratory - the sophisticated rover now exploring Mars).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

A special day set aside in our nation to give thanks to God for all His gifts to us.

Thanksgiving has a long history in our country, but the theme of giving thanks goes much further back in history, as recorded in the Bible.

Have a good time with family and friends and don't eat any more than I would. ;-)

The Ordered Complexity of the Universe

This thoughtful commentary by Pope Benedict XVI illustrates the compatibility of faith and reason despite the attempts by some secularists and some fundamentalists to create antagonism between the two.
In the great human enterprise of striving to unlock the mysteries of man and the universe, I am convinced of the urgent need for continued dialogue and cooperation between the worlds of science and of faith in the building of a culture of respect for man, for human dignity and freedom, for the future of our human family and for the long-term sustainable development of our planet. Without this necessary interplay, the great questions of humanity leave the domain of reason and truth, and are abandoned to the irrational, to myth, or to indifference, with great damage to humanity itself, to world peace and to our ultimate destiny.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Election: Where We Go From Here


Tuesday's election results are a great disappointment to many of us (to put it mildly). I'm not going to engage in the Monday morning quarterbacking right now as some of the underlying details of the vote are still unclear, except that we should not give up the fight for our fundamental principles of defending life and liberty.

There were some positive results from yesterday's elections and the most significant was probably the rejection of an  assisted suicide measure in Massachusetts. Thankfully, there is still a broad spectrum of opinion that doesn't want to go there. 

For a little perspective, the results still leave the "people's house" and a majority of state governorships in strong opposition control. Federal, state and local elections in two years will be the next major opportunity for the people to express their desires electorally. If the current trends toward financial and social crises aren't altered, the political climate will be dramatically different. For those tending to gloating or glooming about the election results, Wes Pruden says a little perspective is in order.

Also, much of the struggle for civilization occur outside the political process. Infiltrating existing institutions in education, culture, etc. and forming new associations will keep us engaged. New networks of communication that bypass the old-style media have been growing and form the basis of our 21st century counterculture. (Interesting that those of us who adhere to more "traditional" values are now the counterculture.) Often the culture will lead and the politics will follow.

Finally, remember Who is still King and He is not up for re-election. Interesting times ahead.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

A Time For Choosing: Real Progress v. "Progressive" Fantasies

After all the ads, debates, polls, and punditry, the day of decision arrives on Tuesday. (Yes, many of us have voted already.) This election will determine who will serve as president for the next four years, along with members of the House and Senate and various state and local offices and referenda.

President Obama was elected four years ago on a wave of enthusiasm in the belief that he would be a "post-partisan" president who would unite the nation and heal its racial past. To be fair, he did inherit a bad economic situation (the causes of which deserve a fair analysis that time does not allow here). Unfortunately,  he (and Democratic Congressional leaders) chose a path that did not unite the nation nor focus on reviving the depressed economy and enabling the creation of new jobs. Instead, they pursued a path of highly ideological actions, highlighted by the passage of Obamacare without even a full disclosure of that legislation's content or ramifications.

The Obama administration's foreign policy seemed to be based on a world view indifferent to or hostile to traditional western values so that strong allies (Israel, Britain, etc.) were treated poorly while extreme socialist and Islamist governments were treated more leniently. The emerging scandal surrounding the recent terrible events in Benghazi, Libya do not square with the kind of national leadership required in  this dangerous world.

The policies of this administration and most Congressional Democrats do not support the protection of human life at every stage and condition of life and threaten the range of personal, religious and economic liberties that our nation is dedicated to upholding.

The fundamental issue is not President Obama personally himself, but that he is the point-man for a philosophy that labels itself as "progressive" that has little in common with real progress but indulges in fantasies that ignore the fundamentals of human life and dignity. This world view rejects the reality of the existence of unborn human lives and society's obligation to protect them, yet endorses government micromanagement in trivial matters such as what kind of light bulbs we can use or what size sodas we can drink. "Progressivism" believes that human nature can be molded through shame, intimidation, and if necessary, force of government power. It needs to be soundly rejected in this election.

Mitt Romney has a background immersed in business, governing a state and managing the 2002 Winter Olympics. He emerged this year (his second attempt to run for the GOP presidential nomination) sharpened by hard fought contests and debates with some tough and principled oponnents.

Mitt Romney's background is that of a pragmatic executive who wants to get things done. In order to ensure he is able to get the right things done, it is critical that we send to Washington a strong Republican House and turn control of the Senate to the GOP. Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid share responsibility with President Obama for the disastrous policies of the past few years.

Mitt Romney favors a program of lower and simpler taxes, cutting excessive government spending and reforming regulation to allow robust economic growth that will create jobs. Mitt Romney favors replacing Obamacare with healthcare reform that gives more control to patients and doctors, not government. Mitt Romney favors restoring US leadership in the world and treating our friends with respect and standing up to our adversaries. Mitt Romney favors policies that will enable more protection for human life and that respect our personal, religious and economic liberties. And Mitt Romney has chosen a capable running mate in Paul Ryan who could step in and strongly fight for these principles if called upon.

Politics and government are not the ultimate solution to the questions of life and no candidate or party is perfect, but sometimes one alternative is clearly preferable to the other. Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and the candidates for the other offices have closed this campaign with a call to our more positive, optimistic natures over the cynicism of much of our current establishment. It's time to reject "progressive " fantasies and choose real progress.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy Blowing In

One week before a historic presidential election, natural forces are in control in the eastern United States as Hurricane Sandy approaches and interacts with other conditions, potentially creating a "perfect storm". The worst conditions in the Mid-Atlantic region will be from mid-day Monday through mid-day Tuesday. Widespread power outages are likely and damage from wind and rain may cause lingering problems. God bless all and stay safe!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

In Remembrance of September 11, 2001


U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael W. Pendergrass

Eleven years ago this, I overheard a coworker down the hall from my office telling someone else about planes hitting the World Trade Center. I checked in on the Internet and on news radio for reports on what would develop into the the modern era's day of infamy. We know of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but there was also the attack that did not occur because of the heroic actions of the passengers on United Flight 93.

Eleven years of daily living, along with increasing domestic rancor, may have dimmed the feelings of shock, horror, and outrage and the response of prayer, compassion, and resolve that united the people of America and most of the world. However, terrorist activity around the world should serve to remind us that the threat is still real.

This anniversary stirs abundant remembrance and reflection and many stirring pictorial and video items have appeared on the web and on Facebook. I still find this audio/visual Internet presentation developed by a New Yorker shortly after the attacks as one of the most powerful portrayals of those times. The sequence is ~15 minutes long and some of the images and sounds are quite disturbing, others are inspirational. Use the browser View/Zoom function and adjust the scroll bar to enlarge the slide show.

It is important that we remember, not only to honor those who died and those who acted heroically that day, but to remain constantly aware of the ongoing dangers, of the presence of real evil in the hearts of some men, and to maintain constant vigilance and a determination to defeat this evil. Finally, we must always remember to trust in God and his mercy during trying times. The story of the cross formed by two beams found among the ruins of the twin towers is recounted here.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Conventional Wisdom (Or Not)

The Republican Convention held last week in Tampa, FL and the Democratic Convention underway now in Charlotte, NC convey contrasting worldviews. GOP nominee Gov. Mitt Romney challenged President Obama's record in office while emphasizing a positive vision for the future.
If I am elected President of these United States, I will work with all my energy and soul to restore that America, to lift our eyes to a better future. That future is our destiny. That future is out there. It is waiting for us. Our children deserve it, our nation depends upon it, the peace and freedom of the world require it. And with your help we will deliver it. Let us begin that future together tonight.
VP nominee Paul Ryan delivered a stirring call the previous night. The convention highlighted a number of rising stars in the party. Marco Rubio, Susana Martinez, Nikki Haley, Mia Love are among the names that may become more familiar to the nation.

The Dems convention kicked off today in Charlotte. First Lady Michelle Obama just finish a rousing call to rally supporters of her husbands re-election, but the rest of the roster of speakers tonight seemed to be a repetition of traditional Democratic themes claiming to be the party looking out for the poor and middle-class and trying to attack Republicans for undermining those efforts. Their claim to caring for the vulnerable is open to questioning both in terms of the effectiveness of traditional Democratic government-centered solutions and of moral consistency, given the openly proclaimed obsessive support for abortion-on-demand.

An underlying story of this election campaign has less to do with the efforts of the candidates and parties themselves and more with the changing nature of media that convey information to the public. Social media, talk radio and other alternatives are broadening the flow information and allowing things to  be known that are often filtered by the traditional "old media" sources. Conventional media types are frustrated that they are finding it increasingly "impossible ... to change the conversation". Actually, that's a good thing!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Neil Armstrong Passes away

Credit: NASA

Neil Armstrong, who became the first human being to step onto another world, passed away on Saturday, August 25, 2012 at age 82. Armstrong actually remembered the landing, where he skillfully brought the lunar lander to the surface with fuel running low, as the more challenging part of the lunar excursion. Here is the NASA page honoring Neil Armstrong with links, videos, etc.

May the Lord grant Neil eternal rest on the final Sea of Tranquility.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Romney/Ryan

Mitt Romney had a field of strong candidates to chose from for his vice-presidential running mate, but he couldn't have made a better choice than Paul Ryan. Romney's VP pick is already energizing grassroots activists for his campaign and the pair drew huge crowds at rallies over the weekend.

Ryan, as chair of the House Budget Committee has demonstrated his grasp of the fiscal and economic realities facing the nation and his ability to  be "quick on his feet" to explain them to the public. This episode from President Obama's health care summit a couple of years ago is a prime example.



Ryan is a Catholic who holds strong views in support of protecting human life, religious liberty and the definition of marriage while engaging in a thoughtful dialog with Catholic bishops on the prudential application of the Church's social teaching as regards to how to help the poor in ways that avoid imposing crushing debt on future generations.
Ryan replied in a brief statement that he shared their “commitment to a preferential option for the poor” — a key element of Catholic social teaching — but added that the option “does not mean a preferential option for bigger government.”
Speaking at Georgetown, Ryan said that some Catholics “for a long time have thought they had a monopoly of sorts … not exactly on heaven, but on the social teaching of our Church. Of course there can be differences among faithful Catholics on this.”

Monday, August 06, 2012

Curiosity on Mars!

















One of the first images from Curiosity after landing on Mars overnight. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech) (left); Image of curiosity descending to the Martian surface under its parachute taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona) (right)


NASA's Curiosity (Mars Science Laboratory) rover landed on the Martian surface early this morning (EDT), successfully completing a daring arrival sequence that had flight controllers and the world waiting in suspense. Curiosity contains state of the art sophisticated instruments that will add to our knowledge of Mars, including possibly clues on whether life could have existed there or could exist currently on the Red Planet.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Moving Toward Commercial Orbital Travel

NASA today officially announced that SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corp. have won funding awards in the final development round of its commercial crew program, now called Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap). This is a major step toward commercial transportation of people to orbit later this decade.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

A Desperate Mandate and a Quiet Revolution

Two significant events occurred yesterday. The Obama Administration's HHS mandate went into effect imposing requirements on individuals and institutions to provide contraception (including abortion inducing drugs) and sterilization in health care coverage regardless of conscientious objection. It's just the latest example of how certain powerful elements in society are so convinced that their opinions are so "enlightened" and "forward thinking" that they have the right to impose them on society. (Meanwhile, while contraception coverage is guaranteed, will Obamacare be there for people facing life threatening conditions, or will their care be rationed because the whole program is unsustainable?)
But yesterday may be remembered in history for the start of a peaceful revolution against the insanity being imposed by the cultural establishment. Who would have thought that something as ordinary as going out for a casual chicken meal could have such social and political significance? The attempt to marginalize Chick-fil-A over the owner's views and activities regarding same-sex marriage resulted in a massive hunger for the company's chicken by Americans rejecting the notion that a disagreement over that issue constituted 'hate' toward individuals or certain groups. (The trouble is that words like 'hate' are being cast so widely, would we recognize real hate when confronted with it? Think Syria, Iran, etc.) It's always difficult to predict how these things will play out politically, but just maybe that was the early rumbling of a seismic social shift being heard yesterday at lunch time.

Friday, July 27, 2012

NewSpace 2012

The Space Frontier Foundation's NewSpace 2012 conference is underway (starting yesterday going through tomorrow). I'm not there but I'm following much of it via live streaming of most of the sessions at this link. (Kudos to Spacevidcast!).

In another NewSpace development, Clark Lindsey (who is attending the conference) has signed off his Space Transportation News blog and will now monitor and report on developments in the commercial spaceflight industry at the NewSpace Watch site, which I've added to my side bar directly under the HobbySpace link where Clark will continue to post general space related items.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Anniversaries: One Great, One More Modest


NASA

Today is the 43rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 pioneering expedition to the lunar surface, the day human beings first made landfall on another world. Check out Rand Simberg's ceremonial commemoration of that epic voyage. Here is a brief video capturing highlights of the first two explorers on the Moon.



Here is a poetic video piece by Rick Tumlinson (produced last year).



Today is also the ninth anniversary ('blogiversary') of the launch of this humble blog. Here is the inaugural post (Note that I was too inexperienced to think of giving it a title.) on Life at the Frontier.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Will This Be The Defining Moment Of The Campaign?

President Obama's remarks in Roanoke, VA last week may be remembered as a pivotal moment in the 2012 campaign. It is this line that has touched a nerve: "If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen."
As this Christian Science Monitor article points out, taking the president's words in context as referring to public infrastructure still reveals a lack of understanding of how the economy works.
"It’s not the government’s money!" (Rep. Raul) Labrador said. "It was business people who gave the government money so we could have roads and buildings and infrastructure. That is what is fundamentally deficient in this administration.... He completely and fundamentally misunderstands what creates business, what creates a thriving economy."
Pat Sajak has a pithy commentary on this whole situation, concluding that
These defining moments take hold most devastatingly when they confirm what a large portion of the electorate already believes. Taken alone, it seems unfair that a single moment, an unguarded remark or a slip of the tongue can carry such weight. They're often dismissed as "gotcha" moments, but when voters are able to nod and say, "I knew it," these moments stick and do terrible damage. We have witnessed such a moment.
The statement has been the subject of numerous photo cartoons on Facebook this week, but this Romney ad seems to have really hit home.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Happy July 4th!

As we join in the festivities of the Fourth, let's strive to keep to the values proclaimed in the Declaration that make it worth celebrating.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This is a time to be mindful and protective of the full range of personal, religious and economic liberties. Some additional thoughts from around the web remind us of the significance of some words from the second stanza of America the Beautiful and thoughts on the Stars and Stripes from a famous Catholic English writer.
Wow. Think about that line: "by whose stars we are illumined, and by whose stripes we are healed." Have you ever thought about your flag that way - so Christ-like? G. K. Chesterton did. It’s a stirring interpretation of America and its mission.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

It's Up to We the People

Thursday's Supreme Court decision allowing the legislative health care monstrosity known as Obamacare to stand has drawn a range of reactions. Predictably, many liberal supporters of the bill waxed misty-eyed about how this law would ensure that no-one would have to worry anymore that healthcare for themselves or their children would be totally covered and would ensure that ice cream cones would grow on trees - well, the two results would be about as equally likely.
Conservative reaction was more mixed with some praising Chief Justice Roberts' brilliance for painting Pres. Obama into a corner for violating his promise not to tax those with incomes below $250,000 and for setting up precedent for limiting federal powers in future cases. Others labeled Roberts a turncoat who has probably doomed our society to expansive statist policies.
Actually, whatever one's assessment of the Chief justice's decisive role in this case or what his own motivations were is beside the point. One thing that Roberts made clear is that the Court's role is to rule on the constitutionality of a law, not its wisdom. As Kathryn Jean Lopez clearly points out, that's up to We the People. It would have been nice to have the Supreme Court make it easy for us by ditching Obamacare. But we'll have to do it the way the Constitution lays out, to bust our butts and our personal schedules to elect the right people to office in order to defend life and liberty.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Succesful Dragon Flight Heralds New Way of Doing Business in Space

SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is grappled by the International Space Station on Fri., May 25, 2012. Image Credit: NASA
Yesterday's successful splashdown and recovery of the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft concluded a groundbreaking mission that marks a change in the way business is done in space. Instead of being designed to a top-down list of requirements from NASA, the vehicle was designed internally by SpaceX for carrying cargo and eventually crew into space. (NASA, as the original primary customer through the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program does have input for some incremental changes to satisfy safety requirements.) SpaceX will soon be joined by Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC) in delivering cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). OSC will start launching their Cygnus/Antares vehicles from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at Wallops Island, VA later this year.
Beyond cargo delivery, the Dragon flight also advances the prospect of commercial crew services to the ISS in a few years. Other markets, such as Bigelow Aerospace commercial space stations will foster an exciting expansion of commercial space activity in the near future.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dragon Takes Flight and Spreads Its Wings!

Photo credit: NASA/Rick Wetherington, Tim Powers and Tim Terry
After a three day delay resulting from a last-second shutdown of Saturday morning's launch attempt, the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft was launched on a Falcon 9 rocket Tuesday morning at 3:44 AM EDT on its historic demonstration flight for commercial cargo delivery to the International Space Station (ISS). If several preliminary demonstration maneuvers are successfully completed, the Dragon spacecraft will rendezvous with and be grappled and docked to the ISS on Friday morning.
The events will be watched intently around the world and in Washington, DC where a many space-minded people are gathering for the Global Space Exploration Conference and this year's International Space Development Conference.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Launch Anticipation

Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft stand at Launch Complex 40 during a wet dress rehearsal ahead of the tomorrow's launch to the ISS. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston
There is an excitement in the area reminiscent of some early NASA launches as SpaceX prepares for its historic Dragon/Falcon 9 launch to the International Space Station (ISS) at 4:55 a.m. EDT Saturday morning. In this case, NASA is moving into more of a service customer role as this flight is a demonstration for future supply runs to the ISS. Here is Space.com's coverage page which includes related articles.
SpaceX rolled the vehicle out to the pad overnight and a prelaunch press conference was just concluded this afternoon. Some major news networks may provide TV coverage, but webcast coverage is definitely planned at the NASA TV web site and the SpaceX website.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Beyond the Limits to Growth: Social Implications of a Bold Business Venture

NASA, Artist concept by Denise Watt.
The Club of Rome’s “Limits to Growth” scenario that has had a profound impact on economic and social policies around the world is based on an model, generated on a mainframe computer forty years ago, assuming that the Earth and its resources are a closed system. In other words, material inputs to production originate only from the Earth itself and residual material from that production remain on the Earth. The “Limits” scenario has, to varying degrees, affected the environmental and industrial policies of various nations over the past few decades. The impact of complex environmental regulation on business is, at least in part, based on this world view.
But the “Limits to Growth” scenario, the modern incarnation of the older Malthusian world view, has had even more profound social consequences through its emphasis on the impact of supposed “overpopulation” on the planet and its resources. Overt population control measures, particularly the brutal one-child policy in China, are a direct threat to human life and liberty. However, a population control influence can be seen on more subtle issues around the world. The demographic trends seen in the “graying” of developed and developing nations indicate a population control effect already underway. Many would even see the recent controversial health care mandates in the US that impact religious, personal and economic liberties as having a population control agenda among the motivations. Thus, any development that either validates or calls into question the “Limits to Growth” scenario can have a profound effect on life in our society and the future of our civilization.
But what if the fundamental assumption of Earth as a closed system is called into question? What if humans have access to resources beyond Earth and are able to relocate some of our heavy industrial activity away from our home planet?
Today’s announcement of the Planetary Resources venture inaugurates an incremental plan that starts with affordable prospecting of Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) but that could lead to actual mining of materials for use in space and on Earth at a time far sooner than many had previously imagined practical. Use of resources from the Moon or asteroids is a prospect that has been discussed by some for many decades. But the difference between dreams and a serious venture is the commitment of serious money to a project. This is a bold venture and there is a great possibility it will not succeed. In that case, though, others will learn from it and some will eventually succeed. History may regard that today’s announcement as the turning point toward a growing extraterrestrial economy.
The proponents of Limits to Growth are not likely to just fold up their tent and go away. In fact, this year’s fortieth anniversary of “Limits to Growth” will probably see its advocates double down on the pessimistic scenario.
It should be said that the opening up of vast new resources does not diminish the case for responsible stewardship of resources on Earth or in space. Also, these social issues may continue to be struggled over on other grounds (“prolife” v. “prochoice”, etc.) However, they should not be decided based on unwarranted fears based on a faulty model using a flawed premise.
The availability of vast new quantities of resources can change social views on the future of civilization, in particular on our ability to welcome future generations by providing them with more abundant resources. In the 21st Century, we are beginning to realize the moral imperative behind human expansion into space: providing resources and opportunities for future generations.

Spece Resource Business Venture Announced

NASA, Artist concept by Denise Watt.
After several days of increasingly detailed media reports, Planetary Resources today announced its asteroid prospecting and mining business plan. The consortium was formed by a number of well known billionaire investors assisted by distinguished technical experts including a former astronaut and a famous filmmaker.
The venture, which was hinted at last week and formally unveiled Tuesday at Seattle's Museum of Flight, is sufficiently down to Earth to attract funding from such A-list investors as Google CEO Larry Page, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, Texas billionaire Ross Perot Jr. and spacefaring software executive Charles Simonyi. Filmmaker James Cameron has signed on as a senior adviser.
The plan is taking an incremental approach, starting with low cost telescopes in Earth Orbit that will survey for promising Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) and later will advance to more sophisticated up close prospecting of prime asteroid candidates. Eventually, resource rich asteroids will be selected for extraction of materials ranging from water, which yields hydrogen and oxygen, enabling more affordable deep space travel, to premium minerals, including platinum grade metals, that have numerous applications on Earth and in space.
Use of resources from the Moon or asteroids is a prospect that has been discussed by some for many decades. But the difference between dreams and a serious venture is the commitment of serious money to a project. This is a bold venture and there is a great possibility it will not succeed. In that case, though, others will learn from it and some will eventually succeed. History may regard that today’s announcement as the turning point toward a growing extraterrestrial economy. Humanity will have access to resources beyond Earth and we will be able to relocate some of our heavy industrial activity away from our home planet.
In the 21st Century, we are beginning to realize the moral imperative behind human expansion into space: providing resources and opportunities for future generations.
UPDATE: Here is a compendium of Space.com features on the Planetary Resources Venture and here are some Spacetoday.net media links.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Blogroll Catch Up

Been overdue on keeping my blog roll up with the times, so I've just added a few links. Two new effective prolife efforts have emerged in the past few years so I've added 40 Days for Life and Live Action to the blog roll. Also, catching up with Jeff Foust's prolific space new media journalism presence, I've added The Space Review and, in the blogs section, NewSpace Journal.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Yuri's Night



It's that time of year for Yuri's Night, marking the April 12 anniversaries of Yuri Gagarin's pioneering spaceflight (1961) and the first US Space Shuttle flight (1981). Many of the Yuri's Night events are being held tonight and this weekend.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Circus on the Severn Folds Its Tent for the Year (Maybe)

The Maryland General Assembly finally adjourned for its 2012 session Monday night with the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate pointing fingers at each other over failure to pass a budget-tax plan. Maryland residents have been spared some of the worst contemplated tax increases for now anyway, though assembly leaders and Governor O'Malley hint that a special session might be called later in the year if they get their act together.

Meanwhile, the Assembly session did enough damage already, highlighted by the passage of a "Same Sex Marriage" bill that has generated a movement to enable the voters to revisit the issue in November.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Have a Blessed and Happy Easter!

At daybreak on the first day of the week
the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus
took the spices they had prepared
and went to the tomb.
They found the stone rolled away from the tomb;
but when they entered,
they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
While they were puzzling over this, behold,
two men in dazzling garments appeared to them.
They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground.
They said to them,
"Why do you seek the living one among the dead?
He is not here, but he has been raised.
Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee,
that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners
and be crucified, and rise on the third day."
And they remembered his words.
Then they returned from the tomb
and announced all these things to the eleven
and to all the others.
The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James;
the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles,
but their story seemed like nonsense
and they did not believe them.
But Peter got up and ran to the tomb,
bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone;
then he went home amazed at what had happened.

Lk 24:1-12

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Homesteading the Frontier


Rand Simberg and James Dunstan answer questions at this morning's briefing on space property rights.

I attended a Capitol Hill briefing this morning organized by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). Space consultant Rand Simberg presented a proposal for a "Space Homestead Act", in which the US government would recognize property claims on the Moon and elsewhere in space under certain specified conditions. The proposal is here (pdf).

Attorney James Dunstan, while agreeing with Simberg's goal for space property rights, recommends a more incremental approach which he says is already underway, as he describes in his article here (pdf).

Whatever specific approach is taken, both speakers and the CEI agree that it is important to engage the conversation, as ensuring credible space property claims are recognized is a critical condition for opening the frontier in space to significant development and eventual settlement.

Primary Results

Mitt Romney was the winner of the primaries held in Maryland, DC and Wisconsin on Tuesday. With Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul showing no signs that they are about to quit, the presidential race will play itself out a while longer. Meanwhile, the Maryland House and Senate nominees of both parties are now lined up for the November general election.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Holy Week 2012

This week is the one considered Holy by many with a strong Faith in God. For Christians, it is the observance of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the most pivotal events of human history. The Easter Triduum as observed in the Catholic Church is described here. Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI began Holy Week observances with Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square

This year, it also happens that Friday night is the start of the Jewish observance of Passover, the celebration of the Jews' passing over to freedom from the bondage of slavery they suffered in Egypt. This event was a historical manifestation of God's power recognized by Jews and Christians alike.

May this week of Holy Days bring blessings and peace to all.

60 Minutes Does Space

The CBS Sunday evening show Sixty Minutes has covered developments in the space industry twice in the last two weeks. Last night's segment focused on the hard times facing workers who worked for decades supporting the now-retired Space Shuttle Program. The link to the video is here.

Two weeks ago, Sixty Minutes focused on SpaceX, one of the companies developing the means to restore US access to space through NASA's program to procure commercial services to transport crew members to the International Space Station. Some key members of Congress from both parties are hesitant to fully embrace this approach, though it appears to be the most realistic way to shorten the gap in US human space access. The link to the video for this segment is here

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

,

Artist unknown, Link by Saints.SQPN.com

Today is March 17, St. Patrick's Day. Be blessed, safe, and happy however you are celebrating Ireland's patron saint.

Catholic Forum provides links to descriptions of St. Patrick here and here.

Saint Patrick's Breastplate

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort me and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

In the spirit of the holiday, check out LiveIreland.com for webcasts of Irish music and other media direct from Ireland.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Steyn on Fluke

Mark Steyn has a unique talent for reminding us how our civilization is going to hell in a hand basket while keeping us in stitches all the way there. His comment on the whole Sandra Fluke episode is one of his best.
Nor is the core issue that, whatever the merits of government contraception, America is the Brokest Nation in History — although the Fluke story is a useful reminder that the distinction between fiscal and social conservatism is generally false. As almost all those fashionable split-the-difference fiscally conservative/socially liberal governors from George Pataki to California’s pathetically terminated Terminator eventually discover, their social liberalism comes with a hell of a price tag. Ask the Greeks how easy it is for insolvent nations to wean the populace off unaffordable nanny-state lollipops: When even casual sex requires a state welfare program, you’re pretty much done for.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Andrew Breitbart, RIP

Conservative media entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart passed away suddenly at the age of 43 early this morning in LA. His legacy includes Big Hollywood and its sister sites, which he and his colleagues have used to expose many of the cultural and political fantasies that have dominated our society in recent decades. The Anchoress has posted links to many comments here.

I recall seeing Andrew Breitbart at CPAC a few weeks ago, including his talk to a Students for Life session (held in a hotel hallway because the crowd was too big for the scheduled room). Here is a video taken of that talk, which explains a lot about Breitbart's passion to change the culture.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday Starts the Season of Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten season of preparation for the glorious celebration of Easter. Pope Benedict XVI calls Lent a time for reflection in preparation for Easter.
The Lenten season offers us once again an opportunity to reflect upon the very heart of Christian life: charity. This is a favourable time to renew our journey of faith, both as individuals and as a community, with the help of the word of God and the sacraments. This journey is one marked by prayer and sharing, silence and fasting, in anticipation of the joy of Easter.

One recent activity that has become aligned with Lent is the 40 Days for Life campaign, which organizes prayer vigils at local abortion facilities. I'll be participating in the event here in Silver Spring, MD.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fifty Years ago: First American in Orbit


NASA

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of John Glenn's pioneering orbital mission. NASA provides a multimedia presentation on the mission. A video marking the anniversary of this historic mission is linked below.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Contraceptive Obsession

In his delightfully pithy way, Mark Steyn points out that it is the Obama Administration that is obsessed with contraception, especially given the long term cause of our economic trends.
Americans foolish enough to fall for the Democrats’ crude bit of misdirection can hardly complain about their rendezvous with the sharp end of that page-58 budget graph. People are free to buy bacon, and free to buy condoms. But the state has no compelling interest to force either down your throat. The notion that an all-powerful government would distract from its looming bankruptcy by introducing a universal contraceptive mandate would strike most novelists as almost too pat in its symbolism. It’s like something out of Brave New World. Except that it’s cowardly, and, like so much else about the sexual revolution, very old and wrinkled.

Up and Running

My activities have been limited the last few weeks because of problems with my main computer. I brought it home Friday from Geek Squad intensive care and it now seems to be working fine.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Newt’s Bold Space Proposals


NASA

While campaigning for the Florida Primary vote, Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced on January 25 some bold proposals for accelerating our nation's space activities. These include establishing a permanent lunar base by 2020 (what would be the end of his second term if he wins the 2012 and 2016 elections), developing a new means of propulsion in the same period in preparation for missions to Mars and dedicating 10% of NASA’s budget to offering prizes for development of new space technological capabilities.

Putting aside all the political issues surrounding Gingrich and the current campaign, the question to address here is whether these proposals are realistic, especially given the severe constraints on spending due to the national debt. These initiatives are definitely bold, but as Gingrich pointed out, President John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to reach the moon within a decade at a time when the only experience in human spaceflight was Yuri Gagarin’s single orbit of the Earth and Alan Shepard’s suborbital flight.

The proposal to devote 10% of NASA’s budget to incentive prizes would be a major expansion of the smaller NASA's Centennial Challenges program already offering prizes. Some of the technologies addressed by this program including lunar lander demonstrations, lunar regolith (soil) excavation and astronaut glove designs would be useful to any return to the Moon to stay effort.

The establishment of even a small lunar base by 2020 would greatly accelerate the schedule currently projected by NASA and would seem to require a large increase in spending, a difficult case to make in this current economic and political environment. As Gingrich himself says, this initiative would not be practical doing business as usual at NASA and other government agencies. But some things are already starting to change in the space industry, including NASA’s move to rely on commercial transportation services to carry crew and cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). Cargo deliveries by SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation are set to begin later this year and several companies are vying to provide crew transportation for NASA starting around the middle of the decade. Gingrich did say in his speech that it would be necessary to be "practical" by, for example, using existing rockets such as the Atlas V in the effort. These rockets are not as powerful as the Space Launch System (SLS) now starting to be developed by NASA (under mandate of Congress). But the SLS would not be available until late in the decade at best and would probably be very expensive to operate, given that a smaller number of these large rockets would be procured.

Leading NASA and industry experts are already developing innovative strategies to enable humans to operate beyond Earth orbit and in the lunar vicinity within a few years, including use of small way stations in gravitationally stable points in cis-lunar space (the region of space surrounding the Earth and the Moon). Some of these architectures could make use of existing rockets including Atlas V, Delta IV and Falcon 9. The development of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy (which will have an advertised capability of launching 53 mT (117,000 lb) to low Earth orbit at competitive prices when it becomes available in 2013) will allow some more flexibility to launch larger payloads in support of a lunar effort. The commercial sector could be engaged to use these rockets to deliver hardware to establish a pioneering lunar base to the Moon prior to the arrival of the first lunar crew. That hardware would include equipment to utilize resources existing on the Moon to further develop and expand the facility.

Beyond innovative technical and operational solutions and increased reliance on the commercial sector, establishing a lunar base by 2020 will require forgoing the bureaucratic management style that has dominated government space efforts for the past few decades and a willingness to accept more risk to mission success and adopting greater flexibility in responding to and overcoming failures.

The Gingrich proposal to develop new propulsion technology to enable faster trips to Mars may sound like science fiction, and politicians have been known to try to wish new technologies into existence by throwing taxpayers’ money at them. However, alternative propulsion technologies have been developed and tested to varying levels. Advanced ground testing of nuclear rocket engines was accomplished in the sixties and early seventies before the program was cancelled. Gingrich may have had in mind a program currently under development by the Ad Astra Company called Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR). A prototype is to be tested at the ISS possibly as early as 2014. VASIMR’s designers claim it would reduce travel time to Mars from months to around 39 days. With some additional focused funding, this or a similar technology might become operational around 2020.

Admittedly, this is a very high level analysis without hard numbers, but it would seem that with some fundamental innovations and changes in the way we do business in space, Newt Gingrich’s bold proposals could be achievable, though challenging, under a constrained budget.

For society to undertake this kind of adventure and to accept the risks involved, there needs to be a clear case to be made as for why we should move into this frontier. I’ll make two points very briefly. In the near term, we need to spur new industries to grow our economy to create more jobs and reduce our debt. Space industries, along with biotechnology, information technology and nanotechnology are new industries that can help expand our economy.

Looking to the longer term, we have an obligation and a privilege to expand in order to provide for future generations. Accessing the resources of space to provide for a growing population of human persons is a positive approach to the future. This differs from the Malthusian world view that has been ascendant in our culture in recent times that undermines the dignity of human life and liberty through coercive population control policies that have also distorted the demographic structures of societies around the world.

Expansion into space means some will chose to seek opportunity by settling places beyond Earth. Gingrich addressed this idea by recalling his proposed legislation to grant statehood to a lunar settlement of 13,000 or more residents should they apply. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty prohibits national claims on celestial bodies, but it may not be clear how it would address a settlement population applying for annexation. Then again, the people living at a lunar settlement might choose to take their cue from our nation's Founding Fathers and from Robert Heinlein’s novel, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and declare their independence. The future is full of possibilities.

NASA's Day of Remembrance









NASA is observing the anniversaries of its human losses in spaceflight: Apollo 1 (forty five years ago tomorrow), Challenger (twenty six years ago Saturday), and Columbia (nine years ago next Wednesday, February 1).


Here is a link to a NASA multimedia presentation for today's Day of Remembrance.

NASA - Day of Remembrance

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

We Came in Huge Numbers to March for Life

While much of the Old Media didn't bother to tell you, citizens gathered in mass numbers (perhaps hundreds of thousands) in spite of a chilly light rain to March for Life on Monday, marking the 39th anniversary of the infamous Supreme Court decisions that imposed abortion on demand on our nation. The crowd was energized with the realization that this year brings a critical decision point for our society in the fight to protect the dignity of every human life.


The people surged along Constitution Ave. for ~2 hours...


...to convey a beautiful message.


This sign acknowledges a power above the Supreme Court.

The evening before the March, I attended the packed National Vigil for Life Mass and then in the morning I attended the ProLifeCon conference which emphasized the powerful role of new social media in communicating the cause of life.


These little fingers of a baby at 21 weeks of pregnancy that captured the world's attention in 1999...


...belong to Samuel Armas (now 12 years old) who joined his Mom and photographer Michael Clancy, who took that famous photo, at ProLifeCon on Monday. (For more on this famous photo and the controversy surrounding it, click here.)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Why We March

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

Sunday, January 22, marks the 39th 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, the 23rd, for the annual March for Life, which in recent years has usually drawn more than an estimated 200,000 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.

The late Dr. Bernard Nathanson, former abortionist and co-founder of the pro-abortion group NARAL, since changed his mind and heart and became 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 fifty 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 Chris Matthews, 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 in 2005. 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 eight 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 nine 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 Continues to play a pivotal role in the debate over health care and other public legislation. Polling data consistently indicates that, even when economic or other issues determine the outcome of an election, those voters that consider abortion decisive in their voting swing overwhelmingly for the prolife candidates. Presidents, economic cycles and other national controversies come and go, but the struggle for life goes on.

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 teens, college students, and new media savvy activists who are exposing the dark side of the abortion industry. This is 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.

South Carolina Picks Newt!

Newt Gingrich has been declared the winner of the South Carolina primary. This makes one each for Romney, Gingrich and Santorum. The campaign now heads to Florida for its Jan. 31 primary.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Innovative Ways to Explore Space


NASA

Some key planners in NASA and industry are looking at some unconventional ways to enable NASA to again move out beyond Earth orbit in spite of constrained budgets.
"In the current budget environment, we are taking the view that we can resume human space exploration beyond LEO now … with the systems that we have … or continue to wait for the lengthy development of systems that we wish we had," said Harley Thronson, senior scientist for advanced concepts at the Astrophysics Science Division of NASA Goddard’s Science and Exploration Directorate.

ProLifeCon!

The annual ProLifeCon will be held in Washington, DC on the morning of the March for Life (this year on Monday, Jan. 23). Originally known as Blogs for Life, the conference was renamed last year in recognition of the growing array of social media (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) being used for the cause of life. I've just registered and look forward to this gathering of prolife new media activists.

This conference is one of many exciting prolife events occurring in and around DC in conjunction with the annual march.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Here It Comes for 2012: The Circus on the Severn!

The Maryland General Assembly opens its 90-day session today, dealing with contentious issues from possible tax increases and new regulations to same-sex marriage.

New Hampshire Primary Results

Yesterday's New Hampshire Primary provided a good night for Mitt Romney, though it doesn't seem to have eliminated any of his competitors. It will be interesting to see how the race plays out in South Carolina, with it's more conservative, Republican-only primary voters.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Thrilla in Iowa

The Iowa Caucuses (or "Hawkeye Cauci", as Rush calls them) ended in a photo-finish, with Mitt Romney topping Rick Santorum by only 8 votes! Ron Paul came in at a strong third. After many months of pregame activities, things will now happen quickly over the coming weeks & months, starting in New Hampshire next week.

While we have several strong candidates, I'm feeling a little vindicated this morning. At our county GOP convention a year ago in the first straw poll I participated in for this cycle, I picked Rick Santorum. I've admired Santorum for his strong prolife stand while holding strong and articulate positions over a range of social, economic and national security/foreign policy issues. Whoever the GOP nominates, it's time for a change from that "Hope & Change" thing from the last time around.

Monday, January 02, 2012

New Year at the Moon


Using a precision formation-flying technique, the twin GRAIL spacecraft will map the moon's gravity field, as depicted in this artist's rendering. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The NASA GRAIL mission, which was launched last September, has arrived at the Moon. GRAIL-A arrived on New Years Eve, while GRAIL-B arrived a day later, in the new year. The mission is designed to map the interior of the Moon to gain knowledge of its origin and structure.