Thursday, January 31, 2008

Space Update II

*For time reasons, I haven't referenced any sources, but all of these stories can be found on (

Space to Become Topic at Presidential Debate

It is entirely likely that in the Democratic Presidential Debate hosted by CNN tonight that the topic of space might come up. It is something that I will definitely be looking forward to. It is part of an effort by aerospace engineers and space enthusiasts to bring space to center stage. This was accomplished by flooding the request page on CNN for topics to be brought up. I can only hope that Wolf Blitzer will listen to what the people want to hear!

Space Shuttle Launch Scheduled for 7 Feb.

Presuming that a kinked radiator hose doesn't cause a delay, the Space Shuttle Atlantis will attempt to launch again on 7 February after two month's of delay caused by a fuel sensor glitch that repeatedly scrubbed past launch attempts. The mission, STS 122, will deliver the European Space Agency's (ESA) Columbus laboratory to the International Space Station (ISS).

Columbus was first concieved in the 1980's as a potential space station for the ESA, but it was only with the proposal by the United States for the ISS that Columbus became a feasible project. It will be attached to Harmony (Node 2), which was delivered to station last year.

The ISS is still on track to be completed before the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2010.

Asteriod 2007 WD5 Misses Mars

While by no means the spectacular event we were all hoping for, it was still a close call. Asteroid 2007 WD5 flew past Mars uneventfully on the 30th without incident. It missed the planet by approximately 6.5 Mars radii. This came a day after a 500 foot wide object passed Earth just outside the orbit of the Moon. It was not deemed a priority for spacecraft currently near Mars, meaning none of them turned their cameras towards the object. Probably a wise move, particularly for an object of that size.

U.S. Spy Satellite to Re-enter Atmosphere

That's right, one of our spysats is expected to reenter, not more than a year after it was launched. Believed by many sources to be US 193, it was launched in December 2006 from Vandeburg Airforce Base in California. It weighs between 5-10 tons, depending on where you're getting your sources.

It's central computer failed shortly after and the imminent reentry is the result of a loss of control in the propulsion system. It is expected to reenter over North America, meaning Canada, the U.S., or Mexico. The exact location remains uncertain, but the Air Force is monitoring the situation and will keep the public notified.

The risk is not necessarily having large metal parts raining down on populated areas, but the remaining hydrazine rocket fuel on board, which is toxic. Make sure not to touch any meteors you see enter the atmosphere over the next few months!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mr. Brightside

Last night, I went out and saw Barack Obama speak for the second time in the past year, and I must say that I was quite impressed, probably more so than when he spoke in May. With the departure of John Edwards from the stage, my choice is set in stone: Obama is the way to go.

Even being the flaming liberal I am, there are numerous reasons not to vote for Hillary. Aside from being a polarizing figure, she's carrying familiar blood with her. While I think that Bill was good president, light years ahead of our current baggage, he's been hurting her campaign. In listening to him speak in Independence this last Saturday, I couldn't help but wonder who's presidency it would be: his or Hillary's?

While I have no sources to cite, I don't know how many times I heard him say that as president, he would do such-and-such. No one can discredit the leverage that White House experience can give Hillary, however it's time for new blood, it's time for a change.

This is the underlying principle in Obama's campaign, that America is ripe for change. This was also Edward's platform. It is for that reason that many pundits, myself included, believe that many of Edward's supporters will now back Obama; those numbers could become higher if Edward's chooses to endorse Obama.

In Obama's speech last night at Municipal Auditorium, I was hoping for some lingering questions about important issues to me to be answered. Those questions, being the space geek I am, had to do with the strength of his space policy. While he didn't address that issue, he did focus on one issue that I have strong opinions of: education.

In reading on his website a few weeks ago, I discovered that for the sake of improving K-12 education, NASA's Project Constellation (returning men to the Moon) will be delayed for 5 years to offset the budgetary needs of the bolstered education program. It's been a concern of mine. How can this education program be so good that NASA has to be put on the back burner, especially Project Constellation?

I got my answer.

His education program will do many things, of which I have every right to be concerned of in the years to come. With regards to college, he pledged that every college bound student should receive $4,000 in tuition to support their education, with the only cost being to give back to the community in the form of community service. A pretty good deal for a money hungry college bound student like myself; and I get to help out the community, something that I've always enjoyed doing whenever possible. I'm sold on this point.

The other aspect, deals with K-12 education standards. Specifically, how progress is measured. The most profound statement of the night (for me) was when he mentioned that standardized tests are not the only way to measure a student's progress, and that educators should be able to report back on this. Standardized tests have put me where I am today, for better or for worse. If standardized tests are allowed to hold so much power in the education system, a rift will no doubt start to form, determining who succeeds in life and who fails, a decision that in some cases may be out of the student's control. Sold again!

Ensuring the proper education of every student heavily outweighs NASA's Moon, Mars, and Beyond initiative. The private spaceflight sector will likely be employed to help NASA offset costs and ensure continued involvement in the $100 billion International Space Station, of which I remind you the United States had payed for over half of. I predict there will be a boom in private spaceflight as a result of this, and that's something I'm willing to wager my future on, wanting to be a rocket scientist myself.

America is ready for Barack Obama, and the future looks bright with him as president. For this reason, he is Mr. Brightside.

*There is also talk that space is about to hit the presidential election in full force, thanks to John Benac, and engineer for Boeing.

Note: The commentary in this blog do not reflect on the opinions of the popular band, The Killers, who perform the song for which this article is named: Mr. Brightside.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

60 Minutes on Saddam

For those out there who may still have doubts about claims that I've made that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, that he didn't pursue ties with Osama Bin Laden, and that the entire war was based on misinformation, I ask that you take a look at tonight's 60 Minutes interview with the man who interviewed Saddam while he was in U.S. custody.

That man, George Piro, gave probably the most informative and up front interview so far from a government agent about what went wrong in Iraq. If you missed it, a link is provided below that reports on the story. A written article and some video clips are provided. Definitely worth a read.

For those who are on board with respect to the war being a mistake, this interview is a boon. While it might only be reinforcing what we already know, it's more proof none the less.

With that in mind, I do believe, especially in light of recent successes in Iraq, it would be a mistake to make an immediate withdrawal of troops. It would need to be a phased withdrawal, done over a period of years to ensure stability. Let's not make this mistake into a catastrophe and an irreversible blemish on America. We might be there for the wrong reasons, but the last thing we need is for a region that is unstable to become even more so by irresponsible actions by neighboring states (like Iran.)

CBS Story

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Space Update I

Since I read so much space news, I'm going to condense my blogs on space stories into one post, unless something large happens that prompts it's own post. Enjoy : )

SpaceShipTwo: Mark Two

Being the space enthusiast I am, I'm obligated to report on this story. On 23 January, Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites released their new design for SpaceShipTwo. I have to admit, given it is a complete reversal from their original design that remained true to SpaceShipOne, this new design is quite sleek and sexy from my standpoint.

It still will carry 6 paying passengers on a two and a half hour flight with nearly 5 minutes of weightlessness. They expect to construct two launch craft, White Knight Two, and up to 40 SpaceShipTwo's, a veritable fleet. Test flights are expected to start this June, with the first commercial flights starting sometime next year.

As Richard Branson said, "2008 will be the year of the spaceship."

Martian Sasquatch?

You decide. This photo was taken from the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit earlier this month.

This image has been significantly enlarged. The reddish blue object below the "Sasquatch" is a rock that is probably quite small in reality. I've looked at the larger image at NASA's JPL website, but I was unable to see it. There are some people now suggesting that it could be a Danish mermaid.
NASA has yet to comment, but I have a solution to solve this, it's out there, but it just might work. Take another picture.
Large Asteroid to Pass Earth

Interesting how the most threatening story in this post ended up at the bottom. Asteroid 2007 TU24 will pass nearly 334,000 miles from Earth on 29 January. The object is comparable in size to several football fields and will be visible to those with small satellites.

To fully realize how close this asteroid pass will be, the Moon orbits at about 240,000 miles. This will be the closest asteroid pass of such a large rock until 2027, unless something is discovered between now and then.
Objects this size are estimated to hit Earth every 37,000 years or so.
This should make for an interesting target for amateur astronomers out there.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bush Lies: What a surprise!

In a study that was released this evening by two nonprofit journalism organisations proving what many of us have already believed: the build up to the War in Iraq was plagued by lies and what amounts to propaganda on the part of the Bush Administration. While the administration is not yet ready to acknowledge that they in any way mislead the American public, this does further support claims that have been made for the past five years about the build up.

In fact, according to the study released by the Center for Public Integrity and the Fund for Independence in Journalism, the Bush Administration made 935 false statements regarding Iraq from September 11, 2001 to September 2003, 7 months after the invasion.

I know it can get tricky when talking to people about why a leader is a bad one, because no matter what you say, they have something to fire back. For those out there who think that Bill Clinton made a horrible president because he lied under oath, take this into account if you still support Bush. Comparatively speaking, Bubba's affair was nothing more than that; something fit for the gossip column in the tabloids next to the story on which celebrity is in rehab now.

This is a serious issue, and if it weren't so close to the end of their term, I would recommend impeaching Bush, Cheney and any other remaining cabinet members that concocted these lies. It's being said now by other's, and I'll say it too:

Make sure that whoever you vote for this year, make sure that they are going to be as honest as a president should be with the American people. The fate of our country may depend on it.

Real Men of Genius

We salute you, war mongering president guy. You go above and beyond to make sure that you get the war you want. Tell a thousand lies. Nothing can stop you, not even the press Anybody home? Yes, today, we salute you, Mr. War Mongering President Guy.

Coming to bookstores: A Thousand Lies: Bush in the Hot Seat By Pants Onfyre


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Zeitgeist Zephyr

I do have a new name for my blog, Zeitgeist Zephyr "Spirit of the Westward wind...". I do have a new website for it, however I downloaded the wrong package, so I can't blog on it for another month. It is at . Hopefully it's up and running, for some reason it's blocked here at school, so I can't check on it!

American Bully

For any of you out there who doubt that bullying has longer lasting affects than merely causing emotional distress, please read this article. Bullying is a serious issue and it's one that I can't stand to witness. This story details why.

KCTV 5 Story

Monday, January 14, 2008

Both Sides of the Apocalypse

In the Iranian answer to "The Passion of the Christ", "Jesus, The Spirit Of God" details the Islamic account of the life of Jesus Christ. Few people realize that the Qu'ran (Koran) and The Bible share quite a lot in common.

In the earliest days of Islam following the time that Muhammed had spent on Earth, most Muslims had a copy of the Qu'ran and a copy of The Bible. This is due to the fact that much of the foundation of Islam is based on Judaeism and Christianity. Many of the Qu'ran's early prophets would be familiar to any one who is Jewish or Christian - Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus Christ. The key difference is that Islam views Jesus as merely a prophet, and not the Son of God, and that it was Judas who was crucified.

What I found interesting about the article I read on this is that it brings up these similarities between Christianity and Islam, which are so rarely puplicized. The other reason is that it seems we have some common ground in current issues, namely dealing with the Apocalypse. The Apocalypse, according to Islam, will include the return of Imam Mahdi (Muslim prophet) with Jesus.

It has been the position of the Iranian government under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to hasten the return of Jesus and the Mahdi.

If you're like me and believe that our President has (wrongly) used the Apocalypse as justification for getting involved in the Middle East, at least we know both sides are working towards a common goal...


Friday, January 11, 2008

According to Michael Chertoff - I'm a con man

It's stuff like this that infuriates me and makes me yearn for better days ahead, days when the Bush administration is a thing of the past.

What this comes down to is something that I've been vehemently against from day one, and that is the REAL ID Act. What it amounts to is being the first national ID card system by establishing uniform standards for drivers licenses.

So, what has happened in the happy world of politics to prompt me to write about this yet again? For one, I can't stress enough how much power this gives the government, being able to monitor everything you do and purchase. Remember the novel 1984, by a guy called George Orwell. Pretty good stuff, talks about a government that kills people who don't do explicitly what it expects them to, monitoring every aspect of their lives on video cameras and ID cards. Big Brother is watching.

Here's the new propaganda. Fresh words from the heir to the prince of darkness himself, the Director of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Michael Chertoff. He came out today and had this to say about opponents of the REAL ID Act.

"There are three categories of people who will be very unhappy about secure driver's licenses: terrorists ... illegal immigrants ... and con men."

Well, I know I'm not an illegal immigrant, and despite what DHS might think about my hobbies*, I'm not a terrorist. The only thing that leaves me as being at least somewhat American is a con man. That statement must also mean that the ACLU, which is against REAL ID, is a terrorist organization.

It's this blatant rhetoric that makes me fear and despise to the point of hatred this administration. The moment I heard Chertoff speak those words on Fox News, I had to turn the TV off and go into another room so my head could explode without damaging the TV. If there is any one person in this government who should be impeached, it is Michael Chertoff. The ACLU has my back on this one.

Fox News


*As many of you know by now, I had a little visit from the Department of Homeland Security regarding a purchase I made for a small amount of potassium nitrate that I have honestly only used for the construction of very small model rocket engines (only a few grams of fuel per engine.) I still maintain that the batch of fuel I made has the explosive properties of those little snakes that you light on the Fourth of July. Needless to say, DHS is probably monitoring my blog and they probably aren't too happy for me mentioning them. I should also mention that it took them 13 months before they decided to investigate my purchase. What kind of self respecting terrorist would wait 13 months before doing anything? Canada is looking more and more like a paradise...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

No Mars Impact

Scientists announced today that asteroid WD5 2007 will not hit Mars on January 30. The odds dropped rather dramatically, from a 1 in 40 chance just yesterday to a 1 in 10,000 chance today. It is expected to pass just 2,000 miles from Mars.

While I am very disappointed, it definitely was a good exercise for scientists. It was just 100 years ago this June that a celestial object exploded over the Tunguska region of Siberia. With events of that nature happening roughly every hundred years or so, we are statistically due for another hit this year. While that is highly unlikely, our ability to track and predict the course of asteroids and comets is crucial. Someday it will happen again, and we don't want to get caught off guard.

If the Tunguska "object" (the same size as WD5, 160 feet across) had hit just a few hours earlier, it would have decimated Moscow. Not good PR for any space program.

Of course, if it's going to happen to Mars, we welcome it with open arms!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

What Happened?

During the New Hampshire primaries yesterday, something rather unusual happened. For the first time during this election, the polls leading up to primary day were off. Not just a little bit, but by a significant margin. Many polls had Obama leading Clinton by as many as 12 points. While I wasn't surprised that Hillary won, I wasn't expecting her to win, nor was I expecting Obama to lose by 3 percentage points.

It's an issue that is going to be tackled, and needs to be tackled before we get much deeper into the elections. Many are suspecting that it was late deciders that caused the influx of Clinton votes, but this is an issue that warrants investigation. I think it is imperative, not just for the Democrats, but for the Republicans as well.

The Story:
Drudge's Pick

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

New Hampshire Upset

While still too early to declare it, it looks as if Hillary might have won N.H., despite the media hype and polls pointing to an inevitable Obama victory. Only 15% of precincts have reported so far, so we'll see soon.

On the GOP side, McCain has likely won. I'll blog once all of the votes have been tallied.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Mars Asteroid Update

While asteroid WD5- 2007 is still a few weeks out from any potential impact with Mars, scientists back on Terra Firma are drooling over the prospects of a Mars asteroid hit. The scientific data from such a strike would be enormous, providing information about asteroid and comet impacts that up till now has existed in the realm of pure speculation.

The odds of impact have decreased to 3.6% chance of an impact, down from 3.9% a few days ago. To the outside observer, these odds are very small, but as far as asteroid impacts go, this far surpasses anything that has been detected previously. Experts expect that the odds will decrease to a zero percent probability of an impact.

I, like many other science minded folks out there, am hoping for an impact. Not only would it provide data on an asteroid impact itself, it also has the chance to expose evidence of biological material on Mars that would normally be sealed underground. A true cornucopia of scientific data! Blog Story

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Iowa Bowl

When talking about the big game this evening, many might think first of the Orange Bowl with the Kansas Jayhawks versus Virginia Tech. However, a more significant bowl is playing out in the great state of Iowa, the Iowa Caucus, the first major battle of the 2008 presidential election.

Sparing non significant filler material, I'll cut to the chase. Obama and Huckabee won. Here's how the top three candidates stacked up according to the Drudge Report around 9:30 PM.

Obama 37.53%
Edwards 29.88%
Clinton 29.41%

Huckabee 34%
Romney 25%
Thompson 14%

As has been detailed in the media, the Democratic side of the race is much closer than the Republican side, however it is clear at this point that Obama dominated. Edwards and Clinton are still too close to call definitively, but it is clear now that Hillary Clinton will have a bit of a tougher time winning in other states, now that her aura of invincibility has been crushed.

While I intend to bring attention and spend time covering the early primaries, I don't want to over do it. While being first is nice and all, there really hasn't been much correlation over the years as to who wins Iowa and who becomes president. Just remember, Howard Dean won Iowa in 2004, we all know how that ended...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The New Reality

Well, it finally happened. Today, oil reached the infamous $100 a barrel mark. Other than representing an increased dependence on oil in unstable regions of the world, this is also a stark reminder of the growing scarcity of oil in the resivours that are currently being tapped. While some large oil fields have yet to be tapped in regions like Siberia and Alaska, this does represent a major milestone in modern man's relationship with "black gold."

What does this mean for us? Well, obiviously gas prices will go up. The cost of airline tickets will be next, almost as immediate as prices at the pump. Heating bills will likely go up for those who heat their homes with oil. The larger picture, as with any "normal" increase in oil prices will be an increase in the cost of shipping goods, which will likely translate to higher prices for everyday products.

Of course, while talking about oil prices, one is bound to talk about our addiction to oil and other non-renewables. The most obvious solution is to go renewable. Using existing technology, bio fuels represent the next major step in humanity's never ending quest of finding resources. However, since most bio fuels come from products that we use as food, corn and soy aren't permanent solutions, and must be used responsibly. Hydrogen would be the holy grail of fuel for our cars, and is coming closer to reality with each passing year.

Other technologies for other energy issues, primarily powering the home lie in wind power, nuclear power, and solar power. A whole new frontier exists in the latter two, with nuclear fusion providing an even safer method than the current reactors using nuclear fission. Solar power will find it's greatest use in solar power platforms in space that beam back power to the earth, but lets not get ahead of ourselves!

Here are some news stories specific to $100 barrels of oil.
Drudge's Pick*

*Story linked directly from The Drudge Report

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

China Rising

Interesting how the times have changed. As my first blog in 2008, I'm going to briefly call attention to what looks to be one of the largest stories of the year: China entering into the realm of the superpowers. While the United States has been the world's reigning superpower since the collapse of the Soviet Union, that power is quickly fading, as financial woes and political 'blunders' on the international stage have been tainting America's image abroad.

China's rising role on the international stage in 2008 can't be ignored. Many trends seem to indicate a Europe that is more willing to cooperate with China than America. Hosting the 2008 Olympic games looks to be a potential boon, or punch, to China depending on how events surrounding the games unfold. Either way you look at it, China is a force to be reckoned with, and it would be wise to bring China to center stage as America prepares to decide on the next president.

Main article