Tag: Space Exploration

This Week’s Book Review – Final Frontier

 

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.

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Member Post

 

Alright, Rico-scientists, I turn this over to you for further explanation and evaluation. From IFL Science: The latest news regarding the EM Drive, which produces a thrust seemingly from nowhere, comes from Paul March, one of the principal investigators on the EM Drive, and was published on the NASA Spaceflight forum. The post is in reply to an […]

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First Light, Last Light

 

lor_0298959350_0x630_sci_1Take a look at the image on right: that’s the surface of Pluto, as rendered by the New Horizons probe earlier this week. In less than 24 hours, the probe will zip past the diminutive little world, snapping pictures that will put this one to shame (though, sadly, of only one of its sides). Already, we’ve nicknamed features on Pluto that we didn’t know existed and found new mysteries to uncover. Best of all, we’ll have new data to pour over and marvel at for months, if not years, because of the incredibly slow bandwidth available to the probe. So while that image will never be among the best taken of Pluto, it will always be special because it was among the first.

Lion_in_the_garden_of_Palmyra_Archeological_Museum,_2010-04-21Now, contrast that never-before-seen-by-human-eyes image with the one to the left. That is the Lion of al-Lat, a 1st century statue that had survived 2,000 years of war and history — until being intentionally demolished by the Islamic State last month. This is just one example of IS’s spree of destruction, which follows the similar iconoclasm of the Taliban, who famously destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan. That picture is important because, sadly, it is among the last ever taken of it.

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Slipping the Surly Bonds

 

shutterstock_251316592In my lifetime, I believe that the greatest symbol of American exceptionalism has been NASA, the United States space program, and the American flag that waves (in a manner of speaking) over the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon. In an age when anti-American, anti-imperialist sentiment was building steam, America may not have been universally loved, but it was universally respected. In a rickety vessel that now seems more primitive than the boats in which Columbus sailed the Atlantic, three Americans blasted off, crossed an empty void, landed on a new world and, just to show off, televised the whole thing. And the reaction of the whole world to this incredible spectacle was: “well, of course it is the Americans.”

You had to think twice before you’d mess with someone who could do that.

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Member Post

 

Leonard Nimoy. There. I’ve made this post topical. (For the record, I cannot remember a time when I did not find the religiosity of Star Trek to be anything but an unbearable embarrassment. I liked the show because it was entertaining, and–let’s be honest–the casting of Nimoy vs. Shatner was Roddenberry’s single brilliant decision [which […]

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One Small Step for Business

 

moon-openUnder the 1967 Outer Space Treaty — to which the United States is a signatory — neither nations nor private citizens can make territorial claims on the Moon or other celestial bodies. However, this doesn’t mean that people can’t use resources they find there. If you want to mine for Helium-3 or water, go right ahead; just know that you can’t legally claim the mine as your own or keep anyone else out, any more than a fisherman can keep other people away from a school of tuna (admittedly, it’s a little unclear whether you can sell those materials back on Earth as your property).

From a property rights perspective, this is a shame in that it discourages exploration and development. Besides being cool, this means that there are resources sitting there that potentially aren’t being used simply because we haven’t adopted a legal framework that allows people to profit from their work. Still, it could be worse: neither the United States nor any other space-capable country signed the Moon Treaty, which explicitly banned commercial operations on the Moon. As if that isn’t bad enough, the language it uses is the sort that most Model UN participants would find too utopian, collectivist, and bureaucratic (“The Moon and its natural resources are the common heritage of mankind… Neither the surface nor the subsurface of the Moon, nor any part thereof or natural resources in place, shall become property of any State, international intergovernmental or non-governmental organization, national organization or non-governmental entity or of any natural person.”).

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