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Space Exploration Technology's founder and CEO, Elon Musk dreams big; he's already established his own electric car company, solar power company and the most successful private launch company in the world. For years, his really big dream has been to put humans on Mars before NASA? NASA's current plans are for a manned mission by 2035; Musk says he can do it by 2026:
Elon Musk, speaking to CNBC about how the future of humankind is rather closely tied to our ability to get off this planet, is “hopeful that the first people could be taken to Mars in 10 to 12 years” — with SpaceX rockets and spacecraft, of course. This lines up with some of his previous comments about establishing a Mars colony in the 2020s. Meanwhile, NASA recently announced that it would try to put a human on Mars in 2035 — and only if it can secure the necessary funding and carry out a number of important milestone missions beforehand. Tantalizingly, Musk also spoke about SpaceX going public on the stock market — perhaps to raise the necessary funds to fly (and establish a colony?) on Mars.
Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, has long been an advocate of setting up a Mars colony. Way back in early 2012 he said he’d worked out a way of sending an “average person” on a round-trip to Mars for $500,000. His tune seems to be a little more muted now, but his new estimate of 10-12 years — before 2026 — is still fairly optimistic. To get there, SpaceX would probably use the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle (basically the Falcon 9 but with two huge booster rockets stuck onto it), and a variant of the recently announced manned Dragon spaceship. NASA’s Mars mission would use the Orion spacecraft (which is finally almost ready for testing), and the new Space Launch System (which isn’t expected to be ready for a few years yet).
SpaceX is already testing a reusable rocket to make space transport more economical, a must for large scale Mars colonization.
A privately-funded Mars mission is a big order; but, Musk will not have to deal with the 'cost-plus' pricing that makes everything NASA does more expensive:
......prices are expected to rise significantly in the next few years, according to defense department officials. Why? Musk says a lot of the answer is in the government’s traditional “cost-plus” contracting system, which ensures that manufacturers make a profit even if they exceed their advertised prices. “If you were sitting at an executive meeting at Boeing and Lockheed and you came up with some brilliant idea to reduce the cost of Atlas or Delta, you’d be fired,” he says. “Because you’ve got to go report to your shareholders why you made less money. So their incentive is to maximize the cost of a vehicle, right up to the threshold of cancellation.”
Note that bit about "the threshold of cancellation!" Anyone remember what happened to Bush I's Moon-Mars initiative? Projected costs kept going up, until the eyes of Congress glazed over, and the whole project was cancelled.
Posted by LongTomH | Tue Dec 23, 2014, 03:07 PM (3 replies)
Start back in the 19th Century with Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad, where a court clerk's decision began the process of redefining a corporation, an 'artificial person' under US law for over a century, as a person with the same constitutional rights as a 'natural person,' i.e. a citizen.
Another major step was Buckley v. Valeo which equated money in the form of campaign contributions with First Amendment protected free speech.
Since then, the Supreme Court has gone rogue in the words of trial lawyer Steve Justino:
Thom Hartmann calls them “five unelected, unaccountable, Kings in black robes.”
I call them “five results-oriented corporatists, who will twist their legal arguments into any pretzel logic necessary to recognize, and expand, the legal and the Constitutional rights of corporations, and the very wealthy, and, to limit, or take away completely, the legal and Constitutional rights of natural human beings.”
Whatever you call them, it should be clear to any objective observer that the five Justices in the Conservative majority on the United States Supreme Court -- Chief Justice Roberts, and Associate Justices Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy and Alito — are arguably the most radical extremists ever to sit on the Supreme Court bench.
All of this led to the horrible Citizens United v. FEC decision in 2010, which removed many limits on campaign spending and led to the creation of the super 'PACs.'
The 2014 McCutcheon v. FEC decision dropped another turd in the punchbowl by removing limits on total campaign spending by large donors; although the $2,600 limit for donations to individual campaigns still remains. Look for a challenge to that last limit in the near future.
More resources can be found on: The Frequently Asked Questions page at Move to Amend.org.
Move to Amend is sponsoring an amendment to the US Constitution: The We the People Amendment, introduced into Congress as House Joint Resolution 29. The We the People Amendment attacks both the concept of corporate personhood and the money-as-speech precedent of Buckly vs. Valeo. Any amendment which attempts to address the Citizens United decision without addressing those precedents will fail.
Posted by LongTomH | Sun Nov 30, 2014, 03:26 PM (0 replies)
Get rid of these dangerous precedents:
The only proposed Amendment to the Constitution that will accomplish both these ends is the We the People Amendment introduced in Congress as House Joint Resolution 29 on February 14, 2013. The recent Udall Amendment recently rejected by Congress lacked language that would address either the issue of corporate personhood or money as speech.
If you want to learn more go to Move to Amend's website. See if there's an MTA affiliate chapter near you, or start one.
Posted by LongTomH | Tue Nov 18, 2014, 01:28 PM (1 replies)
I think this is what a lot of us have been feeling since Tuesday night.......
I was joking about this last night to my friends in the Kansas City Affiliate Chapter of Move to Amend. Which brings me to the crux of this post: We're all depressed right now; but, a lot of us are still fighting.
There are hopeful signs across the country; whenever a resolution to support a real Progressive issue was on the ballot, it won. Resolutions to amend the Constitution to get rid of big money in politics, were on the ballot in Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Florida. No matter how the Senate or gubernatorial contests ran, voters supported amending the constitution by big margins:
In Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Florida, citizens voted overwhelmingly yesterday for their legislators to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling and declare that only human beings – not corporations – are entitled to constitutional rights and that money is not speech and campaign spending can be regulated.
Residents in dozens of cities had the opportunity to vote on measures calling for an end to the doctrines of corporate constitutional rights and money as free speech, and in every single town the vote was supportive. Often by an overwhelming margin.
Money in politics affects our lives everyday,” said Donna Richards, a Move to Amend volunteer of of Fond du Lac, WI. “We pay too much for healthcare. Our taxes go towards corporate welfare and wars, instead of education and protecting our environment. Our energy policy is dictated by Big Oil, and we can’t even pass reasonable gun background checks because the gun manufacturers have bought half of Congress. This isn’t what democracy looks like.”
"Nearly all Americans share the sentiment that corporations should not have the same rights as people, and big money in politics should be removed," stated Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, National Director of Move to Amend. "It is time for Congress to pass the We the People Amendment and send it to the states for ratification. The leadership of both parties need to realize that their voters are clamoring for this amendment, and we are only going to get louder."
Before someone shows up here to whine: "You'll never do this! The rich and powerful will always rule!" I'm going to say: No one in Move to Amend has any illusions about this being easy. A lot of us are older, many of us already believe this probably won't be accomplished in our lifetimes; but, it needs to be done to restore democracy for our younger family and friends.
Please remember: the Constitution has been amended before.
See if there's a Move to Amend affiliate chapter near you and get involved.
Posted by LongTomH | Thu Nov 6, 2014, 02:56 PM (0 replies)
With a wasteland as their canvas, a Master and his Apprentice set about turning rubble into planets and moons, asteroids and comets, spinning them in orbit around a symbolic Sun. So begins Ambition, a short film made by Academy Award-nominated director Tomek Baginksi in collaboration with the European Space Agency.
Produced in Poland and shot on location in Iceland, the film was just screened during the British Film Institute's celebration of "Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder" in London.
At the heart of the film is the Rosetta comet mission, but the ESA says it's a larger tribute to how contemporary space exploration is crucial to searching for clues to our own origins.
Commenting on Ambition, Alastair Reynolds said, "As a science fiction writer, it's hard to think of a more stirring theme than the origin and ultimate destiny of life in the universe."
Posted by LongTomH | Mon Oct 27, 2014, 03:58 PM (4 replies)
Remember those cryo-sleep chambers in 2001, the Alien franchise and Avatar? Those may soon become a reality as a way to reduce the costs of sending astronauts to Mars and beyond.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, here’s a quick rundown. Traveling far into space is a tricky endeavor. With existing technology, traveling to a planet like Mars takes about 180 days, for example. Keeping a crew of people alive (and entertained) in space for that long isn’t hard, but it does require a lot of food, water, energy, and other supplies. This makes manned long-distance space travel extremely expensive, since hauling more supplies requires huge amounts of storage space, and thousands of additional dollars just to get it all that stuff into orbit.
In theory, suspended animation would help solve this problem. If astronauts could be placed in a deep sleep during the journey, they would require far fewer resources along the way. Instead, they could just be put to sleep at the beginning and woken back up when they arrive at their destination.
Now, with a manned mission to Mars likely in its sights, NASA has begun to explore the viability of such an idea, and has recently funded a study by Atlanta-based aerospace engineering firm SpaceWorks Enterprises to help work out the kinks in the process.
The bulk of the study revolves around placing humans in torpor — a state in which metabolic and physiological activity is drastically slowed down. To do this, the company has developed a three-stage system. Step one involves sedating the person and using a neuromuscular blockade to prevent movement, whereas step two is to physically lower the person’s body temperature by about 10 degrees farenheit, thereby reducing cellular activity and metabolic rate by around 50 to 70 percent. This is achieved with the help of cooling pads and a nasally-inhaled coolant that lowers the subject’s temperature from the inside out. Then, once in torpor, the subject is hooked into an intravenous drip that supplies their body with all the nutrients needed to keep them alive.
Using these methods, SpaceWorks has reportedly managed to keep a person in stasis for a week — an impressive feat, but even so, there’s still much work to be done before the technology is ready for primetime. In addition to extending the length of the stasis period, the company has a handful of other hurdles to overcome. The potential onset of pneumonia, muscle atrophy, and bone loss have yet to be addressed; and the long term-effects of stasis on human organs is still largely unknown. SpaceWorks still has a long road ahead of it, but with a few more years of research, it’s not unreasonable to think that suspended animation, cryostasis, torpor –whatever you want to call it– might finally bring a manned mission to Mars within reach.
There are some exciting possibilities here for outer-solar system and interstellar missions (ala Avatar)
Posted by LongTomH | Tue Oct 7, 2014, 04:40 PM (4 replies)
Move to Amend leader David Cobb debates James Bopp, one of the lawyers who argued for Citizens' United in the infamous 2010 Supreme Court case.
I think you'll agree: David mopped the floor with the CU guy. Bopp just resorted to Ad Hominem and Poisoning the Well arguments, which clearly didn't work with the Indiana University audience.
Move to Amend did not, repeat did not support the Udall Amendment (SJR 19), recently defeated in the Senate. MTA's objection was that SJR 19 did not address the precedent at the heart of Citizens' United and the more recent McCutcheon decision, which is the concept that corporations are persons under the law, entitled to the same constitutional rights as natural persons.
Move to Amend supports the We the People Amendment, introduced in the US House as HJR 29 in February 2013.
Posted by LongTomH | Thu Sep 18, 2014, 03:40 PM (0 replies)
I've made my reservations plain in earlier posts; it seems that astronomer/science blogger Phil Plait has similar reservations:
What I want to point out—again—is how the Space Launch System is gumming up the works. SLS is supposed to be a heavy-lift rocket designed by NASA to replace the shuttles. I say “supposed to be” because I have been saying for quite some time that it is very likely to get bloated, over budget, and behind schedule. That’s a common circumstance for really big NASA projects (like the Space Station, the shuttle, Hubble, JWST, and others). NASA’s bureaucracy gets in the way, and as the dollar signs increase, Congress-critters start getting their own states and districts involved, muddying the situation further.
As it stands right now, the first uncrewed test launch date for SLS is set for late 2017, with a crewed flight four years later; a long time from now. These things historically have rarely gotten off on time, too. SpaceX is far closer to having a working crewed vehicle, but if this budget goes through as written, it could mean we won’t have American rockets putting Americans in space again for several more years.
This is getting so ridiculous that I’m starting to lean more and more toward an outright cancellation of SLS. It’s just too big and tempting a target for Congress members to avoid. President Obama canceled its predecessor, Constellation, because of cost overruns and scheduling slips. I still think it was the right thing to do; we’d have thrown billions at a rocket that we still wouldn’t have. SLS is seriously starting to feel like it’s slipping into that same groove. I’m not the only person to think so, either.
An excerpt from the Aviation Week article linked to by Phil:
Simply put, the SLS program should be canceled now to free up approximately $10 billion programmed for this decade. This money could then be redirected to continue the planned flight tests of the Orion spacecraft with the much lower-cost Falcon Heavy booster while making a robust investment in a first-generation space station in the vicinity of the Moon. An investment in such a cislunar station would provide—by the early 2020s—a multifunctional platform to act as a fuel depot, a workstation for robotic operations on the Moon and a habitat to protect against the more intense radiation environment outside of the Earth's magnetic field. This station could even be used as a habitat during longer-duration human missions to an asteroid and eventually to Mars.
From the Space.com article, also linked:
Earlier, SpaceX stated it could develop a rocket that would launch 150 metric tons of payload,or 20 metric tons more than the most powerful version of SLS at a fixed price development cost of $2.5 billion (an amount that comes to roughly 1.25 years of SLS's funding). Also worthy of consideration is spacecraft launch company United Launch Alliance's (ULA) proposed — but not currently pursued — economical, large launcher that would loft 140 metric tons at $5.5 billion total development cost.
Wouldn't it make more sense for NASA to buy a huge rocket from SpaceX or ULA and get much more capability for less money? If SLS were cancelled now, couldn't a small part of the resulting savings help speed up development of the large SpaceX or ULA launch vehicles — or both? In fact, this was exactly what NASA proposed to Congress before SLS was legally forced on them.
Edited to add: I've addressed some of my objections to the current Space Launch System before. Quoting from Elon Musk:
.....prices are expected to rise significantly in the next few years, according to defense department officials. Why? Musk says a lot of the answer is in the government’s traditional “cost-plus” contracting system, which ensures that manufacturers make a profit even if they exceed their advertised prices. “If you were sitting at an executive meeting at Boeing and Lockheed and you came up with some brilliant idea to reduce the cost of Atlas or Delta, you’d be fired,” he says. “Because you’ve got to go report to your shareholders why you made less money. So their incentive is to maximize the cost of a vehicle, right up to the threshold of cancellation.”
Posted by LongTomH | Fri Sep 5, 2014, 12:21 AM (0 replies)
I know this will raise some hackles here (and, by the way, this pretty well describes my 'beliefs,' if one can call it that!) The Spiritual Practice of Agnosticism:
As an agnostic, I’m very aware that we agnostics are often seen as fence-sitters—the tepid ones choosing neither hot nor cold. Why can’t we just buck up and admit that we’re atheists? Or why can’t we admit that we have a soft spot for one god or another? Why can’t we just cry wolf or shut up?
Contrary to the cliche, agnosticism isn’t about not deciding. It’s about honestly facing what we know about knowing itself. It is, as the Victorian biologist, T.H. Huxley, who coined the term, said, “not a creed but a method.” (Athiesm is a creed because it is a belief, like theism.)
Gnostic in Greek means “knowledge.” In the Western world we know the term best from the early Christian movement called Gnosticism, which claimed esoteric knowledge of the workings of the universe. Such knowledge, Huxley pointed out, can be neither proven nor disproven. The Gnostics claimed to have “solved the problem of existence.” Huxley, however, wasn’t so sure of their untestable opinions. (Neither, it might be mentioned, was the Church so sure of their solution.)
This is not fence-sitting or vacillation. It is, rather, a commitment to the active search for what we can know. In this way it is much like the spiritual practice of via negativa, a method of removing those things that are not “god” in order to discover god.
I know this is putting a 'cat among the pigeons' for this board, a big, mean, battle-scarred alley cat; but, it's a viewpoint that isn't expressed often enough.
By the way, I do recommend this person's blog on Patheos: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/uucollective/author/davidbreeden/
Posted by LongTomH | Sat Aug 30, 2014, 06:01 PM (62 replies)
From AAAS Science: Rocks Made of Plastic Found on Hawaiian Beach. We've found tons of plastic floating in our oceans - which really complicated the search for MH 370 wreckage; floating plastic junk kept turning up in aerial photos and being identified as wreckage. Bits of plastic are now incorporated in Antarctic ice. Now, we're seeing:
Geologist Patricia Corcoran of the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, and Charles Moore, captain of the oceanographic research vessel Alguita, stumbled upon the new rocks on a beach on the Big Island of Hawaii. These stones, which they’ve dubbed “plastiglomerates,” most likely formed from melting plastic in fires lit by humans who were camping or fishing, the team reports this month in GSA Today. Although anywhere there is a heat source, such as forest fires or lava flows, and “abundant plastic debris,” Corcoran says, “there is the potential for the formation of plastiglomerate.” When the plastic melts, it cements rock fragments, sand, and shell debris together, or the plastic can flow into larger rocks and fill in cracks and bubbles to form a kind of junkyard Frankenstein.
Corcoran says some of the plastic is still recognizable as toothbrushes, forks, ropes, and just “anything you can think of.” Once the plastic has fused to denser materials, like rock and coral, it sinks to the sea floor, and the chances it will become buried and preserved in the geologic record increase.
The discovery adds to the debate about whether humanity’s heavy hand in natural processes warrants the formal declaration of a new epoch of Earth history, the Anthropocene, says paleontologist Jan Zalasiewicz of the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the study. Plastics in general are so pervasive that they’ve been documented in a number of surprising places, including ingested in wildlife and on the sea floor. The mass of plastic produced since 1950 is close to 6 billion metric tons, enough to bundle the entire planet in plastic wrap. Combine plastic’s abundance with its persistence in the environment, and there’s a good chance it’ll get into the fossil record, Zalasiewicz says. “Plastics, including plastiglomerates, would be one of the key markers by which people could recognize the beginning of the Anthropocene.”
How long the plastic will endure remains a matter of debate, however. Jerolmack says he doubts the material will stick around in the fossil record. After all, plastic melts, and rocks often pass through hellish depths and temperatures through tectonic processes and burial. Geologist Philip Gibbard of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom says he imagines that plastics might “revert back to a source of oil from whence they came, given the right conditions of burial.” But Zalasiewicz and Corcoran say that isn’t true for all the plastic. Some of the material can be preserved as a thin carbon film, much like the way fossil leaves are preserved. Zalasiewicz says that in some rare cases, in that etch of carbon “you may well be left the shape for a flattened plastic bottle.”
I'm not as negative about the human race as some others on DU; but, we really, really need to clean up our act.
Posted by LongTomH | Sat Jun 7, 2014, 06:00 PM (9 replies)