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Posts Tagged ‘NASA’

Ignoring the reality of climate change

In Economy, Education, Environment, Health, history, National News, News Media, Opinion, Politics, Science, Technology, Uncategorized, World News on September 12, 2017 at 10:27 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

As another devastating hurricane blasts its way across the southeast sections of the United States, I am still amazed at how many people continue to believe that climate change isn’t a real thing, with real consequences. Yes, logically, there is a reasonable debate as to how much mankind has affected the changes in the Earth’s climate and weather. If you want to argue that point, it is valid. But to dispute the facts of the matter, that’s just sheer ignorance.

Before getting into more of this debate, let me say that climate and weather have been an interest of mine going back to my early days. My background in physics, chemistry, and engineering gives me a more fact-based view of scientific subjects. Facts can be trusted, but the interpretation of those facts is when things get shaky.

Our planet is not some static ball of water and dirt spinning aimlessly through space. It’s a living, breathing, ever-changing construct made up of moving water, moving land masses, and billions of different types of life forms. The measurements we make of the planet’s climate – air quality, water temperatures, polar cap conditions, and so on – are really its “vital signs.”

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 10.25.30 AM

Photo courtesy, NASA.gov

You can check on how our world is doing right on the website of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The direct link is https://climate.nasa.gov. There you can read non-political facts about how climate changes affect our world and our societies around the globe. From the warming oceans, which contribute to the recent volatile hurricane seasons, to increased intense rainfall events – it’s all there, with no political slant, just the facts.

For the moment, we’re going to ignore the stupidity of politically-charged, or religiously-motivated people who pick and choose to accept facts as it pleases them and falls in line with their “beliefs.” Facts don’t choose sides and you don’t have to believe in them – they are real, they are measurable, and they can be verified.

But to that point, there are people who totally deny even the very concept of climate change, alleging that it’s, “fake news,” or whatever the terms are now, so they’d never go look at that data on NASA’s website. And yet, they’re the same people who probably went there to learn about the recent solar eclipse and watch it happen via live stream.

Interpreting the cause is another matter, but to deny that it exists just demonstrates a level of glaring ignorance in American society today. As I mentioned before, scientifically speaking, it’s my contention that after an estimated 4.5 billion years of existence, we really have no idea what is “normal” for our planet, especially since mankind has only been here for a tiny fraction of that time and keeping records for far lesser of a period.

If you’re one of those who simply likes to ignore facts for political reasons, or just because you need to think you’re “right,” then here is a suggestion. Stop looking at the thermometer altogether, any thermometer. Why? Because that’s what this all comes down to, the fact of a changing number on a non-partisan, inanimate piece of scientific equipment. All the scientists did was write it down and show it to us.

And our leaders and the current administration in the White House are going to be no help at all. As the Huffington Post pointed out a while back, “If you’re trying to wrap your head around climate change, don’t ask Donald Trump.” This was in response to the following statements he made on a radio show last September.

Candidate Trump said, “I am not a believer. Unless somebody can prove something to me, I believe there’s weather.” And his blathering on the subject hasn’t got much better since. If anything, it’s worse.

People interpret facts rather than taking them at face value. We evaluate them based on how they fit into and confirm our pre-existing beliefs. That internal bias is a constant issue whenever you’re trying to win someone over with facts and statistics, there’s just not enough emotion involved to help move ideas forward. Until people stop ignoring any fact that doesn’t fit their bias, our country will continue to be ineffective in protecting our environment.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. More online at deerinheadlines.com

 

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Space flight really is rocket science

In history, National News, Opinion, Science, Technology, Uncategorized on November 3, 2014 at 2:41 pm

DIH LOGOBy now, most have heard about the failed test flight of Virgin Galactic’s “SpaceShip Two,” which crashed in California’s Mojave Desert on October 31st.  One of the spacecraft’s pilots died in the crash, the other critically injured. While this is Virgin’s first fatality during the development of their “sight-seeing” spaceship for the super rich, perhaps it is just another sign that the pursuit of more money and fame may not be adequate reasons attempt another small step for (rich) mankind. Space travel really is rocket science, and then some.

After a successful flight and ocean landing in July of 1961, astronaut Gus Grissom’s Mercury space capsule sank after a premature detonation of explosives blew the hatch. Grissom managed to escape, only to die six years later in a fire during a “plugs out” test of the Apollo 1 capsule on the pad at Cape Kennedy. Astronauts Ed White and Roger Chaffee also perished in that tragedy.

Other terrible accidents followed during America’s “space race” to beat Russia to the moon and meet President Kennedy’s goal of landing a man there before the end of the decade. America did finally put men on the moon, several times. But, as space travel became more complex, the dangers increased exponentially, and so did the cost of human life.

Space flight is hard! It should be left to the experts.

Space flight really is rocket science!

Famously re-created by Ron Howard on film, Apollo 13 was, in short, a miracle of human survival. By all odds, three guys trapped in a freezing pop can, 240,000 miles from Earth, should never have been able to make it home. Fortunately, thanks to the skill, ingenuity and experience of the crews both in space and on the ground, the movie managed to get a real-life happy ending.

More than two decades after the Apollo 1 catastrophe, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff, marking the first time a civilian had died in a space travel accident. In February 2003, the shuttle Columbia broke up on re-entry over Texas after insulating foam from the main fuel tank had damaged the heat shield as it left the launch pad.

No matter how far technology appears to have advanced, space flight is now, and will always be, experimental. The engineers and pilots at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) learned a great deal from the catastrophic failures mentioned earlier. But as more, privately developed, manned space flights are attempted, it is important to keep in mind that all of these disasters happened under the watchful eyes of some of the smartest, most experienced aerospace experts in the world. Yet people still died.

At our present level of technology, space flight is not something that should be left to over-privileged billionaires with fancy English titles. It’s dangerous, expensive and the drive for national security and scientific achievement does not exist in these endeavors. Virgin Galactic’s efforts are about money, pure and simple. Upon further reflection, however, cash may not be any less a humanitarian reason to get into manned space flight than beating the Communists to the moon.

After mothballing the last of the space shuttle fleet, America seems to be all but out of any residual space race that may still exist. Massive budget cuts enacted by the Obama administration have stripped NASA to its bare bones, its government money now subsidized more often by private companies using facilities and personnel to launch communications satellites. Without the space shuttle, the International Space Station depends more and more on private industry – and the Russians – to remain manned and supplied.

Lacking a more pressing need to funnel billions of dollars back into government-sponsored space flight, private organizations will eventually be the only way Americans go to space. For more companies like Virgin to get involved in the endeavor, however, there would need to be some kind of return on investment to motivate them.

Perhaps one of the space probes will find gold or platinum on Mars or one of Jupiter’s moons, inspiring a space-age gold rush. Until that happens, people should probably keep an eye open for more rich kids’ toys dropping out of the sky.
The Jamestown Comet Editor/Publisher Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer based in Jamestown, Ohio. More at gerydeer.com.

50 Years Later, Oh, That View Is Still Tremendous

In Local News, National News, Opinion, Politics, Science, State News on February 21, 2012 at 6:36 am

Col. John Glenn on his first orbit aboard Friendship 7 in 1962

By Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines

 

In 1958 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was commissioned to getAmericainto the space race and beat the Russians to the moon. President Kennedy had set a public deadline of landing a man on the moon by the end of the 1960’s but no one even knew if it could be done. To make it happen, NASA had to invent new technology and learn new skills previously conceived of only in the pages of comic books.

To get things started, NASA established Project Mercury and seven test pilots were chosen from various branches of the armed services to be the first American astronauts. Sitting in tiny capsules atop converted ballistic missiles, these brave men learned how to break the bonds of gravity, achieve orbit, navigate and then return safely back to earth.

On February 20, 1962, Colonel John H. Glenn, Jr., a Marine Corps fighter pilot fromCambridge,Ohio, blasted off fromCape Canaveralto become the first American to orbit the earth. Only the second Mercury flight, Glenn’s Friendship 7 capsule and splashed down safely in the ocean after completing three orbits. The mission lasted only 4 hours, 53 minutes and 23 seconds but it was long enough to allow the United States to catch up to the Soviets.

Glenn’s mission was considered a great success especially considering it happed less than a year after Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard flew the firstU.S.space shot aboard his Mercury capsule, Freedom 7. Shepard and Glenn had paved the way for the future of theU.S.space program, and within a few years, Project Mercury had achieved all its objectives.

The next series of missions, Project Gemini, allowed the astronauts to leave the relative safety of the capsule and the new two-person spacecraft that was more maneuverable than the Mercury craft. The Gemini vehicles were also used to develop docking and rendezvous technology, vital to the lunar landings.

By 1967, however, NASA had hit yet another growth spurt. Project Apollo replaced Gemini and, along with a few of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, nine new pilots were selected. Things were moving at a feverish pace and NASA was making good time to fulfill Kennedy’s promise but that achievement did not come without a price.

Each and every mission had multiple objectives ranging from simple tests of new equipment to advanced flight evaluations. Whatever the purpose, procedures were established in order to minimize danger. Ultimately, however, space flight was dangerous and these men were test pilots and sometimes things didn’t go as planned.

In January of 1967, Apollo 1 Command Pilot Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward H. White and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee died in a fire during a ground test of the command module capsule atCape Canaveral. The accident forced several design and safety procedure changes and delayed manned Apollo flights for nearly two years.

When the first manned Apollo mission launched in October of 1968, many in Washington felt the Apollo 1 accident was caused by haste and carelessness and pushed for the program to be shut down before more money and lives were lost. Work continued, however and today Neil Armstrong’s immortal words from the Sea of Tranquilitystill resonate across the generations.

Between 1969 and 1972, there were six successful moon landings. In 1973, NASA launched America’s first space station, “Skylab,” and by 1977, the first space shuttle, Enterprise, was ready for flight control and landing tests. The space shuttles were retired in 2011 after three decades of service.

 

None of these later accomplishments would have been possible without the bravery and fortitude of those first 7 space pioneers. Ironically, John Glenn was one of the first astronauts to leave the space program (to pursue a career in politics) but he is also the only Mercury astronaut to return to space after retiring.

In 1998, Glenn flew as a payload specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery at the age of 76 – the oldest human ever to fly in space. Here’s to John Glenn on the 50th Anniversary of America’s first orbital flight.