Sunday, February 17, 2008

Space Update IV

Astronauts to Return Home and Spy Sat to be Shot Down

Astronauts on board STS-122 will be making their first attempt to return home this coming Wednesday. The mission successfully connected the Columbus laboratory, courtesy of the European Space Agency (ESA), to the International Space Station (ISS). Despite having one astronaut experiencing a brief case of space sickness, the mission was rather uneventful. Columbus has been on the drawing boards since the 1980's, so it was a significant step forward for ESA countries. It experienced futher delays when the Space Shuttle Columbia disentigrated five years ago.

Atlantis's mission is running on schedule, however due to the upcoming attempt by the U.S. Navy to destroy the wayward spy satellite, US 193, the backup runway at Edward's Airforce Base will be up and ready in case weather conditions prohibit the landing of the shuttle at Kennedy Space Center. The Navy will not go through with it's operation until the shuttle is safely on the ground to reduce the risk of encountering debris. The ISS will be well out of the possible range of debris that will be created from the intercept, with most of what remains of the satellite reentering the atmosphere harmlessly in the weeks and perhaps months ahead.

Russia is vocally denouncing the decsion to shoot down the satellite, claiming that the United States military has exterior motives and that the data they will be collecting during the intercept will constitute a weapons test. China is also expressing concern. While I'm usually against the actions of this administration when it comes to their decisions regarding weapons and space, I must say that I'm siding with them on this one.

My reasoning being that while even though I think the threat of the hydrazine fuel onboard the satellite is being overplayed, we have to remember that this satellite is the size of a school bus. Since it is expected to reenter over North America, there stands a decent chance that some debris will strike and damage private property and perhaps life itself. I think that the administration is handling this as responsibly as it can, even offering to pay for any damages that the falling spy sat may cause.

This is under slightly different circumstances than the Chinese anti-satellite test about this time last year. The satellite they destroyed, while disabled, was in a stable orbit.
In the meantime, Russia and China both proposed a new space treaty dealing with space weapons, which the United States has rejected, claiming that it gives an unfair advantage to the Russians and Chinese. The only existing treaty regarding weapons in space is the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. However, it was written in the early days of the Space Age, and the times have changed since then. In order for a new treaty to be effective, like anything else, it needs to be brokered by all sides and all sides must be willing to make some concessions.

It is of concern of mine that the Bush administration asserted the right of America to weaponize space. While no recent evidence exists to suggest that the weaponization of space by America is imminent, it is an issue that should be reversed by our next president. Maintaining and clearly defining the extent and range of our weapons is crucial to keeping space a pristine environment that can be used safely by all. 'Star wars' might look cool in the movies, but in reality, they are a threat that no one should want to confront. We are indeed in perhaps one of the more pivitol periods of the Space Age since its inception druing the Cold War.

*Again, spellcheck is not working, I apologize for typos.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bring Third World Countries to Center Stage

As cynical as this may sound, third world countries should be playing as big of a role, if not a larger role in mitigating the affects of global warming. The current position on this, that has been widely accepted by many, is that it should be industrialized nations, like the U.S. and countries in the European Union for instance, that should significantly reduce emissions, and that less severe restrictions should be placed on industrialzing countries, like China and India. I've only come to the recent realization that this philosophy is absurd.

Don't get me wrong, I think that the United States has an obligation to be a world leader in reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions. I think we should be THE leader in this area. However, to assume that third world countries can't handle the responsibility of taking on new and cleaner technologies is turning our shoulders to history.

During the industrial revolutions of the 19th and 20th Centuries in the Western world, new technologies were being developed that had previously not existed. In all likelyhood, the new technologies that we will be using to reduce pollution in the atmosphere will be built in China and India anyways, so what's to say that they can't use it too? Who says that they need to go down the same, polluting path that the rest of the world has been on for the past hundred and fifty years before deciding to switch to cleaner sources of energy when it's too late?

Many of the technologies that we are currently developing, like electric and hydrogen powered cars, wind turbines for generating power, and even to a certain extent some other forms of energy like geothermal and solar, have existed conceptually for over a century. For example, the first test of geothermal energy was in 1904 the first working solar cells were made in 1883.

Did you know that before the innovation of the assembly line, most cars were actually electric powered? The internal cumbustion engine that has dominated cars for the past century was popularized by the reduced cost that was brought about by Henry Ford beating everyone to the punch and making the internal combustion engine car a viable piece of technology, even as electric cars were still relatively cheap. The reason that electric hasn't become more popular in the time since is the relatively easy and cheap access to oil and the capacity of batteries.

Wind turbines have been around for nearly 2,000 years. While their use has varied over the ages, from milling grain products to running early industrial facilities, their introduction as a cheap source of renewable energy has gained momentum in recent decades.

What's my point to all of this? I think it's rediculous that there are people who think that post-industrial countries should carry the brunt of the task of cleaning up. It took Western civilization 200 years to develop the technologies we have now. It also took that same 200 years to pollute the atmosphere to the point we're at right now. I know some of my critics out there might argue back on this point, but the simplest logic behind why global warming is happening is that 200 years of constant polluting can't not be doing anything the planet. Take a look at this picture of China right now. The left is a clear day and the right is what happens when the smog moves in. It could be an extreme case, but sights like this were commonplace throughout our industrial revolution. Remember, no environmental regulations existed to prevent this from happening at the time, they do now.

It's for this reason that industrializing nations need to take an active role in fighting global warming. They don't exist in some sort of parallel universe, where what they're doing doesn't make a difference to what we do. In fact, as some satellite imagery might suggest, China is contributing to air pollution over the United States.

I don't want to sound like I'm giving third world countries the short end of the stick. The United States needs to get its act together and come up with an effective energy policy that mirrors Kyoto, since our President has refused to sign it for 'economical reasons.' I'm sorry, but as someone who would like to have a recognizable world to live in when I'm older and for my children and grandchildren, 'economic reasons' is a really bad excuse. Please take into account the long term needs of everyone before making a decision like that.

*Note: Spellcheck isn't working, I probably misspelled something.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Space Update III

Space Shuttle Atlantis Lifts Off

Yesterday, the Space Shuttle Atlantis lifted off without a hitch under partly cloudy skys. The mission, STS 122, is carrying the Columbus laboratory to the International Space Station (ISS). On the schedule for today, shuttle astronauts will be carrying out the heat shield inspection that has become a routine part of mission operations since shuttles returned to flight after the loss of Columbia. While chunks of insulating foam were seen breaking off from the orange external fuel tank during launch, it is believed that nothing of signifcance struck the shuttle.

They will arrive at the ISS on Saturday and are expected to dock around noon Eastern Time. Columbus is planned to be attached to the station on Sunday with spacewalks following in the week ahead to get all of its systems on line. The shuttle is expected to return on Presidents Day, 18 Feb. Coverage of STS 122

Scaled Appeals Fines

Scaled Composites, the company building SpaceShipTwo (SS2) and White Knight Two, will be appealing $28,870 of fines to the California Department of Industrial Relations imposed after the fatal explosion of a test engine for SS2 that killed three employees.

Scaled Composites has been cooperating through the investigation, and this is one of those unforseen but necessary hurdles that will occur over the next couple of decades as commercial spaceflight is being developed. While the deaths represent the first in the age of private spaceflight, they will be by no means the last and how Scaled handles this will determine how future incidents are handled.

I personally have no reason to believe that the appeal will result in a negative outcome, it is just merely a stage in the process. Story

Lunar Eclipse on 20 February

This will be a total lunar eclipse visible to much of the Western Hemisphere, with North and South America in prime viewing positions. The total phase of the eclipse will start at about 10 PM EST. I'll post more information as the day approaches.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

And the home of the [blank]

Being the high school student that I am, I'm somewhat obligated to speak out on issues that are centered around other high school students. This one comes from Shawnee Mission West High School.

As is being reported in multiple local media outlets, including KCTV 5 and The Kansas City Star, the faculty at SMW has started to crack down on a practice that is extremely common place at sporting events across the nation, professional and high school. That is, filling in at the end of the national anthem, the name of the home team. Instead of singing "and the home of the brave," it would be "and the home of the Vikings" (SMW Vikings)

The grounds for the school going after this are perfectly legitimate, it's a matter of respecting our fallen veterans and those fighting abroad. I am perfectly in support of this.

How the school is going about enforcing it is where I have an issue.

Even though students had been warned prior to game time not to butcher the national anthem, they naturally did so. The school's response? Eject them from the stands. As a clever protest, as high school students tend to do, students came to the next game with duct tape over their mouths.

Here's what I think the school did wrong, as many tend to do. They underestimate the level of maturity of teens. Yes, we can be ignorant little buggers sometimes, but we really don't like to be threatened or disrespected. Remember, we are young adults.

What do I mean by threatened? From our perspective, coming out and saying 'don't butcher the national anthem or we'll punish you' is a threat. On the other hand, saying 'be respectful and don't butcher the national anthem' is treating us like our age. See the difference? I garauntee if that were the technique used more often and consistently, school administrators and students would live together a little more peacefully.

That's not to say that punishment is bad, but when it gets explicitly spelled out and carried out for something that really isn't harming anyone directly, students will fight back. I know this, I've done it before and I'm defending it now.

I know this might sound crazy, but if you teach respect and don't force it down the throats of students (by threatening/punishing them) they're more likely to take heed and listen. Set a good example, and respect us first before telling us to respect others.

We're perfectly capable of understanding the position of our 'elders' on issues like this, it's a matter of how they go about presenting and addressing the issue.

*Spell check isn't working so sorry for any typos!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Gross Inefficiency

That's all I can say about what I had to go through tonight to caucus here in Kansas.

For the 9th Senate District of Kansas, which encompasses much of western Olathe, Lenexa, and parts of DeSoto, expected to hold the Democratic caucus in a church for 600 people. It is estimated 2000 people showed up.

We had to relocate two blocks to the west to the county courthouse where they are now holding an outdoor caucus in the cold and mist, and perhaps snow later this evening.

It turns out I wasn't registered to vote, as I thought I had, and there was no one recieving new voter registration papers, at least not for the near future. Unfortunately, I was unable to participate, however it looks like Obama might pull out a win for Kansas.

I've submitted this to Drudge, hopefully someone picks this up. KMBC 9 news was there and I hope that this story gets publicity. This is rediculous!

The First Day of the Rest of America

Since most of my readers live in Super Tuesday states, I just want to encourage everyone to go out and vote. I don't care who you vote for or why you're voting for them, just do it. This is probably one of the most important elections of the century, and with so many issues on the line, the future of America is at stake. If all goes well, the best man (or woman) for the job will be elected and perhaps our image can be improved abroad and at home.

God Bless.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sweet Mother of...

I was in a discussion today about why President Bush was bad, and I now have a new arguement to tell you why.

A $3.1 trillion budget. That's 3,100,000,000,000 Dollars. I don't know how he can think that this is good for the country. Considering the world is quite possibly about to slip into a recession, and that the government is throwing out money to try and stimulate the economy, with the same tax cuts in place that Bushie put in 8 years ago, things can only get worse from doing this.

What's perhaps the most disturbing about this is that he has now announced that he realizes that as a result, the U.S. budget deficit would more than double. I may not have a degree in economics, but this can't be good for the country, in the near term or in the long run. What ever happened to fiscal conservatism?