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+ - In the wake of the Emanuel AME Church Massacre, time to ban the series 'Firefly->

MarkWhittington writes: In the wake of the massacre at the Emanuel AME Church, America seems to be bent on eradicating even the hint of any symbol regarding the Confederacy, from removing the Confederate battle flag from public spaces to even deleting Civil War computer games. Serious people have proposed banning “Gone With the Wind” and sanitizing “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Others have advocated blowing up the Jefferson Memorial and other monuments to famous Southerners whether they had anything to do with the Civil War or not.

However, if America is serious about expunging any hint of the Confederacy, it must even ferret out cultural artifacts that cloak it in allegory and symbolism. So, it is time to follow a modest proposal that the old, cult science fiction TV series “Firefly” be banned from the airwaves and DVDs and video downloads of the series be abolished. And other manifestations of the series, such as online games, must be deleted.

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+ - DARPA is already working on designer organisms to terraform Mars->

MarkWhittington writes: Space visionaries dream of a time when human beings will not only settle Mars, but will terraform the Red Planet into something more Earth-like, with a breathable atmosphere, running water, and a functioning biosphere. Evidence exists that Mars was more or less Earth-like billions of years ago before the atmosphere leached away into space and the water became frozen under the ground and at the poles. Terraforming Mars is decades away from the beginning and probably centuries away from the end. But DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is already genetically engineering organisms that will help turn the Red Planet blue, according to a story in Motherboard.
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+ - Gizmodo article accuses America of space imperialism during Apollo program->

MarkWhittington writes: Gizmodo, as part of a series of stories about space, ran a piece called ‘What is Stopping Us from Building Cities in Space? No, it’s not Tech.” The article attempts to examine some of the political impediments that have stymied the settlement of the high frontier. Unfortunately, the piece would have been more convincing had it not been for one rather glaring error.

The piece suggested that the United States attempted to claim the moon as sovereign territory when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted the American flag at Tranquility Base on July 20, 1969. “So much of what seems to motivate any space exploration is the concept of flag planting, which the US pretty much invented: I HEREBY CLAIM THIS MOON FOR AMERICA.” Nothing, in fact, could be further from the truth

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+ - Russian official calls for 'international investigation' of the Apollo program->

MarkWhittington writes: According to a Tuesday article in the Moscow Times, a spokesman for Russia’s Investigative Committee named Vladimir Markin suggested that an international investigation be mounted into some of the “various murky details surrounding the U.S. moon landings between 1969 and 1972.” Markin would particularly like to know some of the missing moon rocks went to and why the original footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing was erased. Markin hastened to add that he is, of course, not suggesting that NASA faked the moon landings and just filmed the events in a studio.
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+ - Astrobotic to take Mexican payload to the moon->

MarkWhittington writes: One of the great results of the commercial space revolution, which promises to lower the cost of space travel, is the opportunities it opens for countries and private entities to operate in space who would not otherwise be able to do so. The latest example of this phenomenon is the agreement by Astrobotic, one of the competitors in the Google Lunar X Prize, to take a yet to be determined payload provided by the Agencia Espacial Mexicana, according to a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The arrangement will help Mexico become the first Latin American country to land and operate a payload on the lunar surface.
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+ - Self-driving cars to impact everything from insurance to policing to healthcare->

MarkWhittington writes: The advent of commercially available self-driving cars is about five years away, but already some are thinking about how they will disrupt the economy and how society operates in general. The Wall Street Journal suggested that one industry that will suffer is that of auto insurance. Since the vast majority of auto accidents are caused by human error, the more self-driving cars that are on the road, the fewer accidents will occur. Such accidents that would happen would be the result of hardware and software malfunctions. Insurance for self-driving cars would more resemble product liability coverage than the sort of auto insurance we have today.

Indeed, the technology will also likely impact diverse industries such as auto mechanics, taxi services, and health care, as well as policing.

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+ - Neil deGrasse Tyson urges America to challenge China to a space race->

An anonymous reader writes: According to a Tuesday story in the UK edition of the International Business Times, Neil degrease Tyson, the celebrity astrophysicist and media personality, advocated a space race between the United States and China. The idea is that such a race would spur innovation and cause industry to grow. The Apollo race to the moon caused a similar explosive period of scientific research and engineering development.
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+ - Newt Gingrich calls for doubling federal medical research at NIH-> 1 1

MarkWhittington writes: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich published an oped in the New York Times calling for the doubling of the National Institutes for Health, currently at $31 billion. The idea, coming from Gingrich, is not as crazy as it may sound at first glance. Gingrich helped to start the ball rolling the last time the NIH budget was doubled, starting in the late 1990s. Gingrich has also been an advocate of science research as a means of benefiting the country.

Gingrich presents his case as a means of real health care reform, not from layering on more bureaucracy, but in finding cures and treatments for diseases.

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+ - European Space Agency invited to contribute a lander to NASA's Europa Clipper->

MarkWhittington writes: According to a Friday story in Spaceflight Now, NASA has invited the European Space Agency to participate in its upcoming Europa Clipper project. Europa Clipper, pushed by Rep. John Culberson, the chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA, recently received backing from the Obama administration. Europa Clipper would launch in the early 2020s and would be placed in an orbit around Jupiter that would cause it to fly by Europa, a moon of Jupiter, at least 45 times during its operational life.
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+ - Idea floated to send the Asteroid Redirect Mission to Phobos->

MarkWhittington writes: At a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council, the subject of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) came up. According to both NASA Watch’s Keith Cowing and the Houston Chronicle’s Eric Berger, an idea was floated to send the ARM to Phobos, a moon of Mars, instead of an asteroid to be named later. The idea is that the ARM mission would travel all the way to Mars orbit, using a solar electric propulsion system, and then collect a boulder from Phobos and return it to a retrograde lunar orbit.
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+ - Report: NASA may be headed back to the moon after all->

MarkWhittington writes: According to a Friday story by the Houston Chronicle’s Eric Berger, NASA is quietly started to consider plans to return American astronauts to the moon in advance of a Mars landing in the 2030s. While a return to the moon flies in the face of President Obama’s firm directive that Earth’s nearest neighbor should be bypassed, it would likely have the support of the scientific and commercial space communities, the Congress, and NASA’s international partners. Likely such an effort would only go into high gear once Obama leaves office.
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+ - Lunar IceCube to examine water on the moon with NASA grant->

MarkWhittington writes: One of the 12 technology development projects selected by NASA as part of the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) is called Lunar IceCube, according to a Wednesday announcement by Morehead State University, the recipient of the grant. MSU was given $7.9 million to develop a cubesat to explore for water ice on the moon, the presence of which has been indicated by a number of other space probes over the past two decades. Lunar ice would change the economics of lunar exploration and settlement in profound ways.
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+ - Planetary Society pushes for Mars orbital mission before NASA landing->

MarkWhittington writes: The Planetary Society announced Thursday the results of the “Humans Orbiting Mars” workshop that brought in a number of space experts to develop helpful suggestions for how NASA can fulfill its mandate to send humans to Mars in the 2030s and return them safely to the Earth. The plans is to send a mission to orbit Mars in 2033 in advance of the landing mission in the late 2030s. The workshop believes that this could be done for a NASA budget that increases about two percent a year after the International Space Station is decommissioned in 2024.
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+ - NASA's ARM will take a boulder from an asteroid and take it to lunar orbit->

MarkWhittington writes: NASA announced more details of its controversial asteroid redirect mission. The space agency has chosen to not snag an asteroid in deep space and move it to a retrograde orbit around the moon. Instead, an uncrewed spacecraft with a solar electric propulsion system will snag a boulder off of a larger asteroid and bring it to lunar orbit for an Orion spacecraft to visit.
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+ - Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser could land at Ellington Space Port near Houston->

MarkWhittington writes: Despite having been rejected in NASA’s commercial crew program, Sierra Nevada has been very busy trying to develop its lift body spacecraft, the Dream Chaser. Having rolled out a smaller, cargo version of the spacecraft for the second round for contracts for commercial cargo to the International Space Station, the company has amended the unfunded Space Act Agreement with NASA to add a closeout review milestone that would help transition the Dream Chaser from the preliminary design review to the critical design review step. Finally, Sierra Nevada announced a new agreement on Tuesday with the Houston Airport System to use Ellington Spaceport as a landing site for the cargo version of the Dream Chaser.
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There is no opinion so absurd that some philosopher will not express it. -- Marcus Tullius Cicero, "Ad familiares"