Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Inspiration Mars: A Most Audacious (But Perhaps Doable) Venture

Image: Inspiration Mars Foundation

In the last year or so, announcements of audacious space ventures by private business ventures and non-profit foundations have almost become common. However, today's announcement by space tourism pioneer Dennis Tito of the Inspiration Mars Foundation and its goal of sending an American man and woman (likely a married couple) on a nearly year-and-a-half mission to fly by Mars and return to Earth in 2018 may be the most breath-taking venture yet announced.

Using existing or nearly ready capabilities enables Inspiration Mars to target the exceptionally favorable Mars launch window that will open in January 2018. The simple "free return" fly-by mission trajectory is a major reason this audacious plan may just be doable in five years.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Asteroids Getting Attention After Friday Encounters

P. Chodas (NASA/JPL) (Click on image for enlarged view.)

The topic of asteroids encountering the Earth have suddenly received plenty of media and public attention following Friday's explosion of a large meteor over Russia, injuring over a thousand people and causing significant property damage, and the previously expected close flyby of the larger asteroid 2012 DA14, later that afternoon. The two objects approached Earth from different directions so they are not directly related. However, both objects were rocks moving in space, so the Russian meteor was the size of a small asteroid before it entered the Earth's atmosphere.

The two events have brought increased attention and urgency to detection of potentially threatening asteroids and how they might be diverted from colliding with Earth. NASA does have an asteroid detection program underway, although asteroid 2012 DA14 was detected by a serious amateur telescope. Thousands of Near Earth Objects (NEOs) have been detected already, particularly the largest ones that would be most devastating, but the Russian incident shows that many objects capable of causing casualties and damage remain undetected. The situation is getting attention in Congress. Meanwhile, the private B612 Foundation is raising money to fund a spacecraft capable of detecting many more of these objects and two business ventures, Planetary Resources and Deep Space industries are planning to prospect and eventually mine asteroids for their resources that could immensely benefit the future human economy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

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 people to return to God in the homily of his Ash Wednesday Mass, which will be his last public Mass as Pope.
"May the invitation to conversion, to 'return to God with all our heart,' resonate strongly in us," Pope Benedict said at St. Peter's Basilica on Ash Wednesday Feb. 13.

"Accepting his grace that makes us new men and women, with the surprising news that is participating in the very life of Jesus," he said during the Mass held at 5 p.m. local time.
The Holy Father also expressed gratitude during the emotional occasion as shown in this video.

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 11, 2013

Pope Benedict Retires

For the first time in about 600 years, a Pope has left the Chair of St. Peter by resignation rather than death. Pope Benedict startled the world this morning by announcing that he will be retiring from the papacy at the end of the month. This move was likely taken with much prayer and discernment by the Holy Father, as discussed in this article by William Fahey.

As can be expected, there is much speculation on who the papal successor would be. I have no clue as to who that may be, but I believe the Holy Spirit will guide the selection toward  someone able to lead the Church with vigor and moral clarity in proclaiming Jesus Christ in the face of hostility from much of our contemporary culture.

Woman Dies From Late-Term Abortion in Germantown, MD

It has been revealed that a young woman has died, along with her child, as a result of a late-term performed by LeRoy Carhart in Germantown, MD last week. Background on this terrible event, media links and an update on the Memorial Service held this morning are provided at Pray For Germantown. More details are provided by Jill Stanek.

Prolife leaders urge action to prevent Carhart from causing more deaths of women and their children.