Mercury 13 (2018)

This documentary from Netflix is really interesting. First off it’s about early spaceflight which is a very interesting topic in general I am a big fan of the film The Right Stuff (about the Mercury program) and miniseries From the Earth to the Moon (about Apollo) so this one was up my alley.  This is about the women who underwent the same tests as the men did to determine if they were fit to be astronauts. The tests were developed by William Lovelace and with the influence of Jacqueline Cochran. There were several rounds of test but unfortunately it was never sanctioned by NASA and was shuttered before it really got that far. It shows how far we’ve come that in the 60s there was a Congressional hearing about women in space. This is pretty crazy as you’d think that they would really want anyone who was willing to go to space to go, just to beat the Russians but it would take some time for the US to have women in space. The old boys club was set and unwilling to budge. Thankfully it changed and Sally Ride eventually got into space followed by Eileen Collins who became the first female American to fly in space piloting the Shuttle first in 1995 and the current pool of astronauts is diverse.

If you got the chance to watch it please do to learn a little bit more about the beginnings of the Space programs.

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Space Policy

So, we knew that Trump would have some sort of space policy and yesterday he revealed it. Space Policy Directive 1 according to Trump “marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use. This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints — we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond.” This sound sort of like Newt Gingrich’s idea from back in 2012 to build a colony on the Moon.  It sort of is a tweak to Obama’s plans as we will no longer be going to an asteroid. Now NASA and science haven’t been at the forefront of the Trump Presidency with facts taking a seat behind feelings, sure the race back to the moon seems to be a common Republican goal but it would be great if they could “make NASA great again”. (#MNASAGA, anyone?)  Previous attempts to make it back to the moon from the past Republican Presidents have failed to pick up steam. It’s nice that there are some guidelines being set out but it would be a whole lot better if NASA had an Administrator and one who knows that Climate Change is a thing.

However, I doubt anything will be coming of this unless Congress approves some more funding for NASA, in the 2012 Neil deGrasse Tyson told the Senate Science Committee that “Right now, NASA’s annual budget is half a penny on your tax dollar. For twice that—a penny on a dollar—we can transform the country from a sullen, dispirited nation, weary of economic struggle, to one where it has reclaimed its 20th-century birthright to dream of tomorrow.” For just a penny basically the same budget that NASA got in the 70s-90s a lot could be done and I doubt that we’d get anywhere to the 3- 4% of the Federal Budget that it got building the Apollo program. Let alone that fact that it won’t be until 2019 that the first test flight of the new Orion Spacecraft will be launched and that most likely will be unmanned and it won’t be until 2021 that we will see a manned mission. Will this policy include that new cis-lunar space station built with Roscosmos, the second International Space Station or perhaps an American space station or something else? It just want to set America as a leader in Space once again so it seem doubtful. Yet, the good news is that in 2018 the US can finally send people back up to space from its own soil with the Commercial Crew systems by SpaceX and Boeing. I guess we will have to wait and see what all happens.

Science and Faith

All to often when we talk about finding a calling in life but not so often that we can have a calling within a calling. This one is pretty cool since it involves NASA and nuns. An former aerospace engineer and current professor at the University of Prince Edward Island is taking a sabbatical and becoming a member of the Congregation of Notre Dame. The CBC has a unique interview up as well so if you have some time take a listen. Sure she didn’t really work for NASA but for a company that worked for NASA but we’re all suckers for alliterations. The link between faith and science is real and not as weird as it seems. I mean the Vatican has it’s own science focus, with Guy Consolmagno, SJ the director of its Observatory and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.  However many people swear that the Church doesn’t know anything about science or the fact that a bunch of huge topics come from Catholics. Genetics comes from Gregor Mendel who was an Augustinian monk,  Big Bang Theory was proposed by Fr. Georges Lemaitre, the list goes on and even just Catholics in general they’ve had the first steps. From geology and astronomy to zoology and medicine Catholics have made and continue to today to make impact in all fields of science.

News Roundup

Weird Al: This fall there will be a show with Weird Al . It’s called Milo Murphy’s Law and will be on Disney XD. It looks interesting but that’s about all I can tell from the theme song that’s been released so far. Disney XD also has Star Wars Rebels and a bunch of Marvel animated shows as well. It come on in October so I will check out a couple of episodes.

NASA: Here’s a nice feel good story as NASA has found and re-established contact with a probe that it lost two year ago. The probe it found is the STEREO-B one of the pair of probes used in the STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) mission which looked at the sun and we’ve gotten a whole bunch of information from this mission including a complete picture of the sun.

Top Gear: So the most recent series of Top Gear with Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc has been regarded as a huge miss and Evans himself resigned from the show after the season was over. There are some rumors that perhaps the BBC might be pulling for another new host, but there are also rumors floating around saying that the trio of Clarkson, May and Hammond might return. However they have that Amazon Prime show The Grand Tour coming some time in the future. So it seem like only a distant dream from the BBC as it would get a huge hit back with them coming back to Top Gear.

News roundup

Space: Astronaut Scott Kelly has returned to Earth after almost a Year in Space. PBS will be airing a show about this Year in Space and Kelly will be doing a Reddit AMA and a Facebook Live on Friday. It will be interesting to hear what NASA and RKA have learned from this and how they use it on future expeditions.

Beer: There are places where Pumpkin beers are still on the shelves. Forbes says that there are many still there because there were just so many different Pumpkin beers this past fall from a wider variety of sources as well as increased production of favorites. The article also points toward the warmer than average Fall and perhaps has to do with Fall beers appearing around mid-summer. Hopefully this upcoming year we will see a smaller variety of Pumpkin beers and perhaps some other fall flavored beers (Pecan Pie or a nice Marzen (Oktoberfests) would be nice)

Politics: Well, it was Super Tuesday and the American Electorate couldn’t care less it seems all be inevitable that come November it will be Hillary Clinton running against The Donald. Is this what we deserve not really but it’s what we get with the system we have.  As someone has said the system is broken. It would be nice to see some change in the political landscape. Yet this might be a single term so there is some hope that it won’t last long.

News Roundup

This week we have a varied grouping of articles that piqued my interest this week.

Netflix: Researchers have crunched the data and have determined that the average viewer spend about a minute to a minute and a half browsing Netflix to find something to watch. This is furthered by the fact that viewers look at between 10 and 20 title before just giving up.

NASA: This is some pretty cool news as NASA is toying with the idea of working with laser propulsion system which could possibly make interstellar travel a reality. This would be a game changer in the spaceflight since you wouldn’t have to use all that fuel to go anywhere which would make it a less expensive endeavor. Also according to the report it would cut down travel time between Earth and Mars currently about 8 month for like a probe but according to this if the science works out it would cut it down to merely days.

Musical Theater: Over on Playbill there is a unique look at the current state in the musicals where they ask if we are in a new Golden Age, perhaps a Platinum Age of Musical theater. Rick McKay is working on his Golden Age trilogy about the oral history of Broadway from the 40s-today. Playbill says that musicals are more a national phenomenon today with the abundance of musicals available to the general public with the success of the live musicals on NBC and FOX as well as in movie theaters and on musical shows such as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Nashville and Empire. Not to talk about that musical about Alexander Hamilton which debuted at 12 on the Billboard 200 and was number one on the Rap chart.

Politics: In not really big news Senate Republicans have confirmed that they will not vote on any Supreme Court nominees that Obama gives them. This would be the first time since the 1800s that this has happened. However this plan by the Republican might blow up in their faces since they have 24 seats up and it seems like the American people might have gotten sick and tired of what they’ve been doing in Washington and want a change. This might also change how Mitch McConnell and Republican feel about scheduling any appointment hearing for Supreme Court justice.

The Martian (2015)

The Martian or as it could be called Matt Damon gets rescued again, I think he is the most rescued individual in modern film. Spoilers to follow.

It’s 2035 and Mark Watney (Damon) is a member of the Ares III mission who are on a 31 sol (Martian Day) mission. A huge dust storm comes and the mission is aborted Watney gets hit by debris while trying to make it to the MAV (Mars Ascent Vehicle) in order to get to Hermes and head back to Earth. Watney’s fellow crew member think he’s dead and head home without him, but Watney was just punctured by an antenna which also made it’s way through the bio meter, but his blood sealed the suit so he stayed alive. Watney realizes that his only hope would be to get the where the Ares IV is scheduled to land but he need to get more food although the mission supply would last him roughly a year so Watney as a botanist decides to become a farmer, he sets up a field of martian dirt adds some fecal matter as fertilizer and plants some potatoes from the Thanksgiving meal. He gets this figured out rather quickly. Eventually he goes and upgrades his rover with the other rover and the plutonium  to make it work better. This leads him to discover Pathfinder, which just needed a battery change and works perfectly after sitting for 40 years and the technology used back in 1996 is compatible with the 2030s tech as using Pathfinder Watney can communicate with NASA  and they talk him through linking the rover to Pathfinder so they can chat that way.

All in all it’s a fun movie Matt Damon trying to survive on his own on a planet. It is Ridley Scott’s best movie in years and was nominated for 7 Academy Awards and was in several top ten list for 2015.  I think we need to have a couple of films where Matt Damon does some rescuing or they just fail to save him. The biggest problem with the movie is that after watching it you really don’t care much about anyone else or could you tell their names with the exception of Damon. That might be the biggest problem I had with the movie.

News Roundup

X-Files: The miniseries debuted on Sunday on Fox and the ratings were pretty high for that episode and the episode that aired on Monday night also got decent ratings as well. This could bode will for fan of the series as with the enthusiasm for the series Fox, Chris Carter and the cast might be persuaded to make another miniseries type season. I am sure there would be people who want to watch it. The first two episode are a nice addition to the series.

Cursing/Swearing: Over on Reddit there is a memo from back in 1898 about offensive language used in Baseball which was issued to rid the sport of offensive language. Unfortunately not much has changed but the memo is pretty funny to read as although language has changed a great deal since 1898 but the terms and way that we insulted people hasn’t changed much.

Mars Rovers: Opportunity has been on Mars or a dozen years. It is remarkable that the 90 day plan has been surpassed 47 times. It’s been sending back information about Mars ever since and it’s nice that NASA is still relevant although they currently don’t have their own way into space. Hopefully that will change soon with the commercial crew options in 2017.

News Roundup

Music: This was a cool story about how the music of Mozart and other classical composers sounded a little different from what we know it as. Since there was a completely different style of playing the piano. Christina Kobb has taught herself how they played the piano some 200 years ago. It’s pretty cool and there is a video of it as well. If you have some time watch the video.

Theatre: Some sad news Theodore Bikel the originator of Captain Von Trapp and played Teyve more times than anyone in the world has died. I was lucky to see him in Fiddler back in 2001 when it stopped by Wolf Trap.

Space: This is the best news of the week NASA has conducted a study which said that human could be back on the moon by 2021. With all the recent NASA news about Pluto and the the robotic missions it is nice to have some speculation about NASA sending human back into space. This is only if NASA continues the collaboration with the private space companies (SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, Boeing) like with the resupply missions (ongoing) and eventually crewed missions (2017). I hope that with all the other science that we are getting from Outer Space it inspires younger American to get interested in become Astronauts, and perhaps there will be one day when we have a moon colony and we can go visit the moon like it’s only a trip across the ocean. Then we can start development on Luna Park.

News Roundup

Space: This is the biggest news since NASA’s New Horizons probe has reached Pluto and is sending back information currently. However this new information is going to take a long time to be all send over at Gizmodo they point out that we will be getting a smattering here at the beginning but to look at all we have it’s going to take about 16 months for it all to be sent back to earth. It is a reasonable speed when we remember that the probe left Earth about a decade ago, Pluto is 3 billion miles away and it’s running on like 10 watts of power. I hope that the information gathered inspires the youth of America to take up the banner of Space exploration.

Beer: This is pretty funny with all the trouble that Budweiser is/has gotten in from trying to emphasis the Macro-brewery and the simpleness of what they produce. You might remember that at the Super Bowl they bemoaned the Pumpkin peach ales and other strange flavors at micro-breweries and other craft breweries. I’ve read that many craft breweries made and perhaps will be offering Pumpkin peach beer this fall as a result of the ad. Since it is summer Budweiser is back at it saying on Twitter that “No one cheers the individual who brings a watermelon wheat”. This statement was not taken kindly by the fan of 21th Amendment Brewery’s Hell or High Watermelon.  This is great news since there are so many small breweries throughout the US and it would be great if beer drinkers looked at what’s local or regional instead of the big national beers.

DC/NYC: I found this an interesting article and it’s related to another article I read a couple days ago, at Congressional Cemetery they will have goats taking care of the invasive species that are threatening trees.  The other article was about sheep grazing at Old St. Patrick’s in NYC. I like these stories about animals being brought back into cities to do things like this that they once did in the same cities. It’s great since it introduces children to farm animals and so many children living in large cities are very disconnected from where food comes from.