Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"Private Moon Rover Aims for Apollo 11 Landing Site"

Cool stuff from
Nearly 40 years after Americans first set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969 with NASA's historic Apollo 11 flight, a host of private rocketeers are hoping to follow to win a $30 million prize. Here, looks at Astrobotic, one of 17 teams competing in the Google Lunar X Prize:

If there's one name that's on the lips of many Google Lunar X Prize competitors, it's Astrobotic. The team boasts a name that readily conveys its ambitious aspirations for reaching the moon and beyond.

"Astrobotic Technology is going to do a series of missions for scouting, prospecting, mining, and all sorts of things that robots can do to get ready for the human return to the moon," said David Gump, President of Astrobotic.

Winning the Google Lunar X Prize requires teams to land a robot on the moon, move at least 1,640 feet (500 meters) and beam high definition views back to Earth.

The team plans for a pinpoint landing just over a mile from the Apollo 11 site, where Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. Astrobotic's "Red Rover" would then beam back high-definition images of the dusty footprints left by Armstrong and fellow Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin, all while taking care not to disturb the historical site.
Let's hope Red Rover is as resilient as Spirit and Opportunity.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Testing the splashdowns

It makes me feel good to see they are doing this. It means we are that much closer to extending our reach.
For the first time since the Apollo era, NASA is testing a new moonship in the turbulent waves of the open ocean.

The life-size mockup of the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, NASA's replacement for its retiring space shuttle fleet, is undergoing a series of water landing trials this month in the Atlantic Ocean off the eastern coast of central Florida. They are the first ocean tests of a full-size NASA spacecraft since the Apollo capsule's development in the 1960s.


The Orion crew capsule is NASA's planned replacement for its three aging space shuttles, which are due to retire at the end of next year. Orion capsules are designed to launch atop a new rocket, the Ares I, and ferry six astronauts to the International Space Station or carry a four-person crew to the moon and back.
Hello, moon. We're coming back.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday sonnet: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Achingly poignant with its imagery of loss, this sonnet was written in 1886.

"The Cross of Snow"

In the long, sleepless watches of the night,
- A gentle face--the face of one long dead--
- Looks at me from the wall, where round its head
- The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.
Here in this room she died; and soul more white
- Never through martyrdom of fire was led
- To its repose; nor can in books be read
- The legend of a life more benedight.
There is a mountain in the distant West
- That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines
- Displays a cross of snow upon its side.
Such is the cross I wear upon my breast
- These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes
- And seasons, changeless since the day she died.

Rhyme scheme: abba abba cde cde

Friday, April 24, 2009

Early morning texture

Just a picture of some shadows thrown by the morning sun.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Low pitch evening

Check out the form of this pitcher from the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.

Nothing special here. I just liked the way this guy threw.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What I just finished reading yesterday

I know, it's incredibly geeky, but I really did just finish reading this book.

I bought it for some medieval class I took long ago, and it's one of those old college books that just never left my possession. It reproduces passages from earlier works that were familiar to and had an influence on Geoffrey Chaucer, and the point of the book is to read the original pieces and compare them to the relevant passages from Chaucer's works. Some of the pieces are blah and uninteresting, but some are quite entertaining. And, since they are packaged in sections that are usually just a few pages long, it's easy to read over a series of short sessions. With a full-time job and children, most of the time I only get about five or ten minutes of reading time to myself, so often I will need something that lends itself to quick reads. This fit the bill nicely.

Now I'm a little inspired to pick up Chaucer again and reread some of his stuff. But that might take me a bit longer and require a little more concentration. It is in Middle English, after all, and I am a bit rusty.

Some cause for worry ...

... for fans of space exploration.

"NASA’s moon missions face fuzzy future"
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - At a spacecraft factory down the road from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a small robotic probe is being prepared to fly to the moon. Its mission: map the lunar surface so NASA can find safe landing spots for astronauts.

But that may be the least of its worries.

A report issued last week by the Congressional Budget Office warns that the new manned space initiative, called Constellation, which is intended to follow the space shuttle and space station programs, is likely to cost about 50 percent more than advertised.

"Stephen Hawking rushed to British hospital"

LONDON - Stephen Hawking, the British mathematician and physicist famed for his work on black holes, was rushed to a hospital Monday and was seriously ill, Cambridge University said.

Hawking has been fighting a chest infection for several weeks and was being treated at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, the university city northeast of London, the university said.

“Professor Hawking is very ill,” said Gregory Hayman, the university’s head of communications. “He is undergoing tests. He has been unwell for a couple of weeks.”

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Iron Maiden: Brave New World

I finally got Brave New World, and I gave myself some time to soak it in before writing this review. My take: good. It's not one of Iron Maiden's best albums, but it has some strong songs on it, and it does feature the comeback of Bruce Dickinson on lead vocals.

The cover features Eddie as a ghostly figure among the clouds above a futuristic London. Spooky stuff, but not one of their better covers. At least it beats this one all to hell.

Thematically, the songs are all over the place. Subject matter includes mercenaries ("The Mercenary"), desert nomadic culture ("The Nomad"), dreams ("The Dream of Mirrors"), fallen supernatural beings ("The Fallen Angel"), ghosts ("Ghost of the Navigator"), and much more. Overall, I'd say my favorites are "The Wicker Man," "Out of the Silent Planet," "The Thin Line Between Love and Hate," and "The Mercenary."

But the album has been growing on me, and I like it more now than when I first got it. If I keep listening to it, Brave New World just might become one of my favorite Maiden albums.

Here's a bit of "Out of the Silent Planet" to give you a taste.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Iron Maiden examples

I've updated my reviews of the Iron Maiden albums with audio samples.

Also, I finally got Brave New World. A review will be coming soon, hopefully.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

That's what IT always says to do

One of the Mars rovers is having a bit of a problem. Maybe.
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit mysteriously rebooted its computer twice over the weekend; mission controllers are examining data sent back by Spirit to see if they can diagnose the problem behind the glitch.

"While we don't have an explanation yet, we do know that Spirit's batteries are charged, the solar arrays are producing energy and temperatures are well within allowable ranges. We have time to respond carefully and investigate this thoroughly," said Spirit project manager John Callas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "The rover is in a stable operations state called automode and taking care of itself. It could stay in this stable mode for some time if necessary while we diagnose the problem."

Well, I guess you could expect a few glitches from a system that's been operating five years longer that was expected.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Warming up

Are you ready? It's that time of year again!

Go Missions!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Not knowing the meaning of "choice"

But, then again, what should we expect from our political leaders?
While many large restaurant chains have already eliminated trans fats, some [Texas] state lawmakers want to speed up the process -- especially when it comes to smaller, local eateries.

Juan Espinoza has owned Johnny's Restaurant for decades, and said he only uses trans fat products to cook up fries and the occasional chile relleno -- but state Senate Bill 204 would to put an end to that.

"When you see 200 pound fifth-graders, you know we need to do something about this," said State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh.

The bill, presented by Shapleigh and co-sponsored in the state House by Carol Alvarado, would ban restaurants from packaging, storing or using any products containing trans fats to prepare or serve food.

"Give people healthy options and choices. When you give them healthy choices, they'll make the right choice," said State Rep. Carol Alvarado.

[emphases added]
(from KSAT-12)

Compulsion is choice.

I'm beginning to think that I should just vote reflexively against the incumbent, whoever that may be.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Answer: quintessential "Texas" song

Want to give someone a taste of what Texas is like in musical form? I don't think you can go wrong with a little swing.

My choice is "Boogie Back to Texas" from Asleep at the Wheel's 10.

Playing with terms

Changing the names of things may play well with the political base, but it doesn't keep the bad guys from wanting to destroy us.
WASHINGTON — When President Obama briefed Congressional leaders at the White House last week on his plans to send more troops to Afghanistan, Senator Harry Reid offered some advice: Whatever you do, he told the president, don’t call it a “surge.”

Not to worry. Mr. Obama didn’t and wouldn’t. The exchange, confirmed by people briefed on the discussion, underscored the sensitivity about language in the new era. Mr. Obama and his team are busily scrubbing President George W. Bush’s national security lexicon, if not necessarily all of his policies.


Obama advisers said they were not trying to de-emphasize the danger of extremism but to take the politics out of it. Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, used the term "terrorism" during her Senate confirmation testimony, but also referred to it as "man-caused disasters." She later said that it was a deliberate attempt to change the tone.

“That is perhaps only a nuance,” she told Der Spiegel, the German newsmagazine, “but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur.”

But the risk, in the minds of some critics, is looking like the government no longer takes the dangers of the world seriously. “They seem more interested in the war on the English language than in what might be thought of as more pressing national security matters,” said Shannen W. Coffin, who served as counsel to former Vice President Dick Cheney. “An Orwellian euphemism or two will not change the fact that bad people want to kill us and destroy us as a free people.”
(from the New York Times, via Althouse)

And let's hope the euphemisms don't numb us to the real dangers of terrorism that are actually out there.

"Man-caused disasters." :-P It's only April, but that already gets my vote for the most clunky phrase of the year.