An estimated $6 billion was spent on the November 7 U.S. federal elections – $2.5 billion on the two major parties’ presidential campaigns alone, $1 billion of that on television ads – and Americans woke up the following morning to discover that nothing had changed. Sadder perhaps if no wiser.
The White House and the Senate remained in the hands of the Democratic Party and the House of Representatives under Republican control. Built-in structural stalemate will continue, with no substantive legislation passed for four more years, surely none beneficial to the American people or to world peace, each party blaming the other for the lack of results. Onward to the next six-billion – or ten-billion – dollar election.
(Touchdown! 0:40) Robotic rover Curiosity has successfully landed in Mars’ Gale Crater. The landing, described by NASA as “seven minutes of terror,” proceeded smoothly – READ MORE http://on.rt.com/d0rbeb
The prospect of Earth being ruled from space is no longer science-fiction. The dream of the original Dr. Strangelove, Wernher von Braun (from Nazi rocket-scientist to NASA director) has survived every US administration since WW2 and is coming to life. Today the technology exists to weaponize space, a massive American industry thrives, and nations are maneuvering for advantage.
The failures of the General Electric nuclear reactors in Japan to safely shut down following the 9.0 Tahoku earthquake, following in the wake of the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the deadly methane gas explosion in Massey’s West Virginia coal mine, conclusively demonstrate the grave dangers to human society posed by current energy production methods.
A little more than a minute after Challenger was launched at the Kennedy Space Center on a frigid winter morning 25 years ago, the shuttle broke to pieces when an o-ring joint in one of the solid rocket boosters failed, and the seven Challenger astronauts died.
That 1986 Challenger launch was arguably the high water mark of the U.S. manned space program. Through Mercury, Gemini and the Apollo lunar exploration program, as well as numerous unmanned scientific probes, we had boldly answered the call of space. There was no apparent limit to the adventure, sense of national accomplishment and economic benefits space exploration could confer. NASA and the White House intended the Teacher-in-Space and the proposed Journalist-in-Space flights to convey that excitement to the world.
I am writing from Nagpur on Oct 10 but not certain when I will be able to post this, as I have no Internet connection at this time. I am staying in a guesthouse that the state ministers use when they come to Nagpur each year for the state assembly that meets for a couple of weeks. It is a humble room with bed, two chairs, a desk, and an Indian-style bathroom. Lucky for me it is air conditioned, as Nagpur seems to have a reputation as one of the hottest places in India. Nagpur is located about mid-center in the country.
The new military space plane, called the X-37B, was launched yesterday from Cape Canaveral strapped to an Atlas V rocket. The X-37 will spend up to 270 days in space before landing at Vandenberg AFB in California. The space plane will mostly fly on “autopilot” since there is no human inside the craft.
Meanwhile yesterday at Vandenberg AFB, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) also test launched another space plane – the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle, known as the Falcon.
The two-day NATO foreign ministers meeting in the Estonian capital of Tallinn on April 22-23 focused on the completion of the military alliance’s first 21st century Strategic Concept and on the war in Afghanistan, the near-complete absorption of the Balkans into the bloc, and the expansion of operations at the Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence established by NATO two years ago in the same city.
The most important deliberations, however, were on the integrally related questions of U.S. nuclear weapons stored on air bases in five NATO member states and the expansion of the Pentagon’s interceptor missile program to all of Europe west of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
I was a bit surprised to hear Obama last week promote the Mars missions with such vigor. His call for manned missions to the red planet won’t be cheap and you wonder how the nation can afford to pay for them. He intends to increase NASA funding by $6 billion over the next five years – one of the few budget increases in government discretionary funding.
Democracy Now did a short story on the Obama announcement and had Victoria Samson from the Secure World Foundation on to talk about it. Amy Goodman asked her about the military connection to NASA and she denied there was one. Anyone who follows the space program knows differently. Here is what she said.
From August 17-20 the annual U.S. Space and Missile Defense Conference was conducted in Huntsville, Alabama, which hosts the headquarters of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA).
Among the over 2,000 participants were the Missile Defense Agency’s new director, Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. James Cartwright, commander of the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command Army Lt. Gen. Kevin Campbell and NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Administrator Charles Bolden Jr.
There were also 230 exhibitors present, among them the nation’s major arms manufacturers with an emphasis on those weapons companies specializing in global missile shield and space war projects. The presence of the head of NASA indicated that the distinction between the military and civilian uses of space is rapidly disappearing. As the Bloomberg news agency reported on the second day of this year, “President-elect Barack Obama will probably tear down long-standing barriers between the U.S.’s civilian and military space programs to speed up a mission to the moon amid the prospect of a new space race with China” and “Obama’s transition team is considering a collaboration between the Defense Department and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration….”  The recently appointed NASA chief, Bolden, is a retired Marine Corps general.
On August 13th the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and Chicago-based Boeing International announced a test of their joint Airborne Laser (ABL) missile defense system, which “successfully tracked and hit the mark earlier this month during its first in-flight test against an instrumented target missile.” 
Employing a modified Boeing 747-400F prototype airplane, on August 10 the Missile Defense Agency had the adapted commercial airliner use infrared sensors against a missile launched from San Nicolas Island, California and “found, tracked, engaged and simulated an intercept with a missile seconds after liftoff. It was the first time the Agency used an ‘instrumented’ missile to confirm the laser works as expected. Next up this fall will be the first live attempt to bring down a ballistic missile….”