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Alex Baer

Space: Yeah, It's Rocket Science.

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Sometimes, everything really IS rocket science.

Even for NASA, nothing in life is a given, no matter how many successes, and no matter how high the zenith or how far the apogee.

Witness the crash of a moon lander in a recent test, an embarassing oops! after so many wins, the most recent -- and perhaps most extraordinary in some time -- the safe landing of the one-ton rover Curiosity on Mars.

No surprise:  Building knowledge, and finding your way along in the dark, is slower than running down familiar routes in broad daylight.  It's especially true, out on the edge, where no one has been before.

Starting a path is a lot trickier than following a rut.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 August 2012 21:45 Read more...

Running by (and past) the Numbers

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Poll numbers on Paul Ryan, Willard Romney's chosen running mate, have been crunched, and early results are looking good, according to a story by Jerry Manderd over at the Evver-Luvvin News Division (END).

* * * * *

Almost three to two, Americans say they enjoy the thought of a Romney-Ryan tag-team in the White House more than they would enjoy, on a queasy Monday, a cold box lunch consisting of lima beans and liver.

By a wide margin, when asked about Ryan as a co-candidate, respondents said they would prefer Dan Quayle or Spiro Agnew, or even Whig Party candidate Millard Fillmore, even though he died in 1874. Martin Van Buren and Aaron Burr also received honorable mentions as write-in candidates in the survey of 2,300 U.S. residents whose last names begin with the letter "Q."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 August 2012 20:33 Read more...

Space: Measuring Bangs and Bucks

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For cosmic tire-kickers, NASA's Mars rovers were always special.  Then, Curiosity came along:  twice as long and five times heavier.  The mission was like shot-putting a Mini Cooper 352 million miles, then perfectly hitting an entry window to the planet -- a zone measuring about 3 by 19 kilometers, a microscopic target after that long a distance.

You hit the thin atmosphere at 13,200 miles an hour -- 3-point-7 miles per second -- a real need to slow down, fast:  enter friction and deployed heat shield, then 'chute, slowing from 900 miles an hour to 180 in just two minutes, then sky crane, to surface.

Cross your fingers, and hope a long list of mission-critical events, all closely timed and exactingly choreographed, happen precisely on cue.  No pressure:  We're just trying out a trunkful of new landing operations, is all -- Talk about a mission with lots of precisely-moving parts!

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 August 2012 19:07 Read more...

The Most Expensive Space There Is

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There's nothing like a spectacular success to bring out the hordes of troglodyte critics in droves. The very second NASA's car-sized rover, Curiosity, was safely set down on Mars last week, the drumbeats of money agony were begun by umpteen tribes of assorted knuckle draggers.

Leave it to the myopic to miss this:  NASA's budget is less than 1% of the federal budget.  The most expensive "space program" we all pay for in this country is the vacuum between the ears of confused and ignorant people.

We pay for that space, for that vacant and unused real estate, in so many ways, and so often, not the least being in lost opportunities for men and women, as well as for our entire species.

Last Updated on Monday, 13 August 2012 20:49 Read more...

Leakage from Beyond Beyond

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You have to hand it to Willard Romney:  Whenever he needs to make a clutch play, and reach right in and pull a rabbit out of his hat, he always reaches right in and confidently pulls out roadkill instead.

That big-eyed deer staring into the headlights at Willard's side, about to be figuratively mounted on history's grillwork, is Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin).  He's the one who the fun-loving people on the Romney tour bus have dangled onto the roadway, in the lane of oncoming traffic, as new veep road sport.

Ryan, sporting his signature Eddie Munster haircut, is now the wan Number Two man on Romney's commodious, but small-sheeted roll call for veep.  With Ryan now seated in a tight position behind Number One, there is both a sense of urgency and relief to a party plumbing the depths, and the outer limits, of exactly how much  [self-censored]  any country can take.

Last Updated on Sunday, 12 August 2012 21:54 Read more...

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