The Sky Is Falling (Maybe)

September 23, 2011

An old NASA satellite the size of a bus will be plunging uncontrolled to earth some time today. Somewhere. They think. Or maybe not.

It won’t hit North America. Definitely. They’re pretty sure.

The six-ton satellite is expected to break into about 26 large pieces which may arrive in a 500-mile re-entry zone and will likely land either in water or on uninhabited land. Probably.

It seems to me we’ve heard this song before…

It’s raining space junk, hallelujah!


One Giant Step… For Islam?

July 20, 2010

Ahhh… the good old days.  Remember way back when NASA focused on things like space and didn’t have to concern itself with the self-esteem of any particular religious group? Back when our Presidents understood that NASA’s charter was about exploring “The Final Frontier” and not radical religious alignment? For example: 41 years ago today:

Recently, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden (and several confirming sources), stated The White House wants NASA’s focus, moving forward, to be on making sure Muslims are satisfied their contribution to math and science is being appreciated.

Our Tongue-In-Cheek department reports The White House is now trying to deny they ever told Bolden any such thing, but refused to address a rumor that they plan to rename NASA from National Aeronautical and Space Administration to National Association for Sharia Advancement. Their new motto: “That’s one small step for man, and One Big-Ass Mistake for America (O.B.A.M.A.).

H/T AM Tampa Bay

Gerry Ashley

NASA SCHMASA! What About These Other Hidden Agendas?

July 13, 2010

(From the Tongue-In-Cheek department of Grand Rants)

Washington (GrantRants) – In my many years involved in politics, observed and reported from both sides of the political fence, I’ve learned a number of age-old tricks used by politicians of either party.

One of the most frequently used techniques: “Whenever you receive a difficult question,  validate the question in a way that makes whatever bullsh*t you throw back at them seem believable and appropriate. If necessary, throw someone under the bus as long (as it is a subordinate.)”

In other words, precede your lies with “That’s an excellent question…” then proceed to unload the  boatload of manure.

Photo Source:

No Press Secretary in recent history has had to do more of that than Robert Gibbs. Last month, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden’s stated that President Obama made it clear that one of his top priorities of NASA under his administration was to (quote):

“find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contributions to science, math and engineering.”

Bolden also made a similar statement in February. The mainstream media must have been sleeping, because it got no press coverage then. Last month, it did. Yesterday, after Gibbs had the week-end to prepare a believable response to the resulting outcry, he finally had to address the issue at the morning White House briefing. When asked if Bolden’s statement was, in fact, the Obama plan for NASA, Gibbs was ready:

“That’s an excellent question,” was his response.

The problem, however, is in the answer Gibbs had. He denied  that Bolden was asked to focus on Muslim outreach altogether.  Apparently Gibbs hadn’t gotten the memo that last week the President backed Bolden’s comment, stating he wants NASA to engage with the world’s top scientists  by partnering with countries like Russia and Japan as well as collaborating with Israel and many “Muslim-majority countries.”

Oops, Gibbsy.

But what, exactly does this mean? Over in,  Mona Charen seems to have it figured out as she writes:

How in the world would NASA help Muslim nations to “feel good” about themselves? Would NASA hold science fairs in Tripoli or Tehran? Produce and circulate propaganda films about Great Muslim Men (careful, never women) of Science? Stress our global debt to Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, the father of algebra? (That’s risky, since al-Khwarizmi reportedly learned his math from the Indians.) How would Obama’s NASA chief undertake to alter the civilizational self-esteem of a billion people?

Of course, it’s entirely possible (pace Bernard Lewis) that the Muslim world does not lack for self-esteem on the matter of science or anything else. Certainly, scientific know-how has not been lacking in nuclear-armed Pakistan or (would be) nuclear Iran. Besides, hasn’t Obama heard? The whole self-esteem myth has been exploded. Though millions of tax dollars and God only knows how many wasted instructional hours have gone toward making American kids think they are really, really special, it turns out that there is zero correlation between such drilled self-esteem and academic performance. (See Scientific American, January 2005)

All this is fine, but what I want to know is what hidden agendas has “The Last Truthbender” established for other government agencies? Here’s what I’ve come up with so far (please note: None of these have been confirmed as of this writing):

National Institute of Health (NIH):
Reach out to the people of Cleveland to assist them rebuilding their self-esteem in the wake of LaBoob James’ bolting to Miami because he feared he wouldn’t win a Championship in Cleveland.

National Security Agency (NSA):
Implement a “Visit The Gulf!” tourism program to encourage all Americans to spend their vacation dollars in the Gulf States to help them rebuild their economy. Note: as Doug powers so adroitly points out at,  final details are being worked out as the First Family vacations in Maine.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA):
Reach out to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and point out to them that their credibility ain’t worth squat until the Doobie Brothers are Duly Inducted.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI):
Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh: Plug their damn holes!

We will continue to expose more scandals as they are uncovered.

Gerry Ashley

NASA Photo of the Day: Victoria Crater on Mars

August 14, 2009


Wow… If this doesn’t blow your mind, you ain’t got a pulse… (And no, this isn’t a photoshop fake. This is real.)

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-caltech/University of Arizona

(The  full 1.34 MB image is here.)

What follows is directly from this NASA site:

This image of Victoria Crater in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter at more of a sideways angle than earlier orbital images of this crater. The camera pointing was 22 degrees east of straight down, yielding a view comparable to looking at the landscape out an airplane window. East is at the top. The most interesting exposures of geological strata are in the steep walls of the crater, difficult to see from straight overhead. Especially prominent in this oblique view is a bright band near the top of the crater wall. Colors have been enhanced to make subtle differences more visible.

Total cost of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter program? $720 million or $0.72 billion.

Alan Speakman

Apollo 11: My, How We’ve Changed!

July 20, 2009

Alan-Apollo 11 1969

Yeah, that’s me on the left… I was 11 years old there, and that white blotch was the TV picture screen. It’s hard to describe the impact on a young mind… Remember, those were the days of transistor radios. There was no cable television, let alone MTV. Cordless phones? Ha! No home computers, no CDs or DVDs, no calculators (though if you knew what you were doing with a decent K&E or Pickett slide rule you could hold your own.)

There was none of it. Yet there we were… All watching a human — an American! — walking on a Moon that was 240,000 miles away from all the rest of us. Stunning. Numbing. Inspiring. To put it all in perspective, the on-board computer on Apollo 11 contained a whopping 2 KB of RAM. Today, a $50 HP 33s scientific calculator from Staples contains 16 times that.

Indeed the times have changed. What was JFK’s dream of space flight in general has become routine and the stuff of amazing budget cuts. What once was the stuff of heroes like John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, et al has been replaced by “who“. (Go ahead and try to rattle off the names of the current shuttle crew or the ISS occupants… Do you even know what the acronym “ISS” stands for?)

Once we were a people of “can-do”, a society of folks who believed that engineers could do the impossible with virtually nothing, almost instantaneously. Now, we’re a litigation-happy agenda-driven politically-driven selfish-brat rabble who want everything and more with less than nothing, yesterday. But hey! At least we still have “The View”.

Yup, we’ve changed… Take me back to 1969.

Alan Speakman

I Remember Apollo 11: 40 Years Ago

July 17, 2009

Forty years ago yesterday, three of the bravest men who ever lived started a journey no-one else had ever taken. Looking now at the craft in which they traveled, they were even braver than I remember thinking them back in July of 1969.


These were our heroes, and they were more than equal to the job at hand: going to the Moon!

apollo 11 astronauts

Actually, it apparently got so mundane in the capsule, that 40 years ago today, July 17, 1969, the big news of the day was hearing and seeing Mike Collins discuss what the astronauts had to eat aboard Apollo 11.

What, no Tang?

Those truly were heady days.


New Moon Photos from NASA

July 6, 2009

Not bad… Not bad at all. We’re (the U.S.) going to basically photograph the entire moon down to a resolution of 10′ (See new pic below…)

Cratered area near moons Mare Nubium region

Yeah, I’ll say the words that everyone is thinking but no one dares utter for fear of being called “superficial” or “unsophisticated”… “Will we be able to see the moon buggies?” (We plunked three LRV or “Lunar Roving Vehicles” in Apollo missions 15, 16, and 17.) There, I said it, and the answer is probably, “just barely.”

That out of the way, you can follow the progress of this new Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) here.

Cool beyond words!

Alan Speakman

Prepping Endeavor – NASA Image

June 17, 2009

UPDATE: Sigh. Launch scrubbed due to liquid hydrogen leak. Next window for launch is July 11. Stay tuned…

Yup, NASA does it (or more accurately is doing it) again…

Photo courtesy NASA

Photo courtesy NASA

But how big is the Endeavor really?

  • Putting a scale on it, if a six foot person were to stand next to the entire shuttle assembly (boosters, external tank, etc.), that would be roughly the same as laying a penny on a table and standing your thumb next to it and referencing to the web of your hand. How does it feel to be a penny?
  • The Endeavor weighs 4.5 million pounds at takeoff… So what does 4.5 million pounds mean? That’s 2,250 small cars sitting on the launch pad.
  • And the power needed to drive a beast like that? Let’s put it this way… If there were to be a catastrophic failure at liftoff, the resulting crater would probably be roughly 600′ in diameter and resemble the remains of a small nuclear weapon. (Check out:
  • How fast does the vehicle go… Zero to 17,000 mph in about nine minutes.

Yup, the upcoming shuttle launch is a very big deal indeed…  Don’t forget that you can watch it on NASA TV

Alan Speakman

Lonely on Mars

April 21, 2009

That’s from the navigation camera on the Mars rover Opportunity, picture series Sol 1850. The entire library of raw images from both Spirit and Opportunity is simply amazing… All told, that’s 234,780 pictures and counting from a five year mission designed to last only three months. (So far, the rovers have suffered a broken robotic arm, computer resets, and a stuck wheel. Still, they keep keeping on.)

Anyway… Ansel Adams, eat your heart out.

Alan Speakman

NASA Image of the Day: Pulsar Hand

April 9, 2009

Wow… This is from NASA’s site.

A Young Pulsar Shows Its Hand

A Young Pulsar Shows Its Hand

A small, dense object only 12 miles in diameter is responsible for this beautiful X-ray nebula that spans 150 light years. At the center of this image made by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory is a very young and powerful pulsar, known as PSR B1509-58, or B1509 for short. The pulsar is a rapidly spinning neutron star which is spewing energy out into the space around it to create complex and intriguing structures, including one that resembles a large cosmic hand.

In this image, the lowest energy X-rays that Chandra detects are red, the medium range is green, and the most energetic ones are colored blue. Astronomers think that B1509 is about 1,700 years old and it is located about 17,000 light years away.

Neutron stars are created when massive stars run out of fuel and collapse. B1509 is spinning completely around almost 7 times every second and is releasing energy into its environment at a prodigious rate — presumably because it has an intense magnetic field at its surface, estimated to be 15 trillion times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field.

The combination of rapid rotation and ultra-strong magnetic field makes B1509 one of the most powerful electromagnetic generators in the galaxy. This generator drives an energetic wind of electrons and ions away from the neutron star. As the electrons move through the magnetized nebula, they radiate away their energy and create the elaborate nebula seen by Chandra.

Image Credits: NASA/CXC/CfA/P. Slane et al.

So how big is the object in the photo? Well, 150 light years or 879,854,400,000,000 miles across. And the pulsar that’s spinning off this show? Just 240 blocks wide. Not bad… Not bad at all…

Just a heads up… You can use the “Resources and References” box on the right in our home page to access the NASA site… Just poke around a little in there and you’ll find beaucoup images free for the downloading. (And like the “CIA FactBook”, you can RSS feed the NASA site too.) Extraordinarily cool.

Alan Speakman