One Giant Leap

 

9:32 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. That’s this day’s official blog posting time. This also precisely synchronizes with that 50 yester-years ago moment in time when the Apollo 11 Saturn-V, 1st stage, 5 Rocketdyne F-1 engines (literally) roared to life to send astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins soaring upward and into the annals of human history… their ultimate date with destiny… The Moon / Sunday, July 20, 1969.

At that meticulously mapped and scheduled space / time, Armstrong would become the first (known) human to ever set foot on the surface of another world… which had been an apogee moment / a dream fulfilled… the dream of the bold, think big, visionary: President John F. Kennedy.

Armstrong’s Tranquility Base moonwalk would begin by precisely aligning his words and deeds to take his “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Regrettably, a scant three years later, small-minded and tightfisted naysayers deemed space exploration a monumental waste of time and assets… money better spent on solving our earthly problems.

Such hastily fired off, retrorocket rationale does beg the question on this auspicious day in human history…

Just what did we actually gain from the NIxonian decision to pull the plug on NASA’s manned space program? Has not that same small mindedness and tightfistedness severely crippled virtually every attempt at working towards the betterment of our society / world?

True, the Space Shuttle program did usher in a new era of human space exploration… but… that was in low Earth orbit. Our astronauts were restricted to literally running around in circles.

The same can be said about earthbound problem solvers who lack that “one giant leap” type of thinking. Seeing how our worldly woes have yet to be effectively dealt with, would you not agree this has been a half century long waste of time and money?

 

 

 

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Is It Too Late To “Do The Other Things”?

We’re within mere days of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong taking his “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”… thereby becoming the first (known) human to set foot on the Moon.

Not long after that astounding technological achievement, we were told that the prevailing mood throughout America had changed. In short… it had morphed into…

“Been there done that! (insert yawn) Now let’s solve problems on Earth!”

Granted, that second sentiment could be deemed a valid point. However, I’d sure as hell like to know what problems we’ve actually solved in the past half century? What about this unresolved 1 – 2 punch…

• Vying, meddling, outsider asshat leaders are hell bent on conquering the Middle East.
• Environmental damage has become so severe that, by 2050, Earth will become uninhabitable.

Of course, there is an inextricable link between those bullet-pointed, seemingly disparate issues.

That link is us. Too damned many of us are oil junkies, which leaves our leaders little choice but to risk going to war with oil-rich nations… just to secure us our “fixes”. And once we “catch that buzz” and hit the road in our gas guzzlers and heat / cool our energy inefficient homes, we’ll also be stomping our massive carbon footprints all over the Earth… trampling it to death!

Folks, that’s effing pathetic. And while what I’m about to say may sound cliche… damn it… I’ll say it anyway.

If we can put a man on the moon why the hell can’t the white dove of peace, someday, soar through Earth’s clean, clear skies… not only over the Middle East but worldwide?

Truth be told… if we had wanted it to be that way… we could’ve made it so.

The tragedy… this could’ve been “mission accomplished” decades ago. Had we applied and expanded upon that same Apollo technology and resolve, by now we could’ve been depending on a planetary network of solar energy collectors, which spew zero Carbon Dioxide.

Had that happened, today’s news headlines would not be all about little boy Trumpian aggression escalating Iranian / American hostilities and small thinking Trumpian “clean coal” nonsense and negligence precipitating environmental ruin and the destruction / death of our entire planet. But we chose to do nothing this past half century.

So, is it too late to undo the damage? Well to do so would require a visionary leader. On May 25, 1961 President John F. Kennedy said…

“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”

That brilliant, insightful man could even foresee applying human know-how and resolve beyond our lunar ambitions. He actually said, “do the other things”!

“DO THE OTHER THINGS!!!”

A visionary President could reread Kennedy’s words… slightly revise and positively react to set a new goal:

“We choose to pursue Clean Energy Independence in the next decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”

So who might that new, visionary leader be? Considering DC’s political climate change ever since January 20, 2017… no names come to mind.

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Clean Coal??? NOT!!! (1 Quick Limerick #084)

 

 

A know-nothing, know-it-all, known for defiance,
Lambastes all time-honored, fact driven science,
Which warns us Earth won’t be nifty,
By nearby year Twenty-Fifty,
Unless we end fossil fuel reliance!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is the Tyrant-o-saurus Rex Still on a Rampage?

Journalist and Radio Personality Joshua Johnson hosts the vital to democracy and liberty program, 1A, which is produced by WAMU and distributed by NPR throughout my homeland (as well as being www accessible). BTW, his show’s name refers to the U.S. Constitution’s 1st Amendment, which among other important items… stands for…

“…freedom of speech… the press and the right of the people [to] peaceably assemble and… petition the Government for a redress of [their] grievances.”

Earlier today, Johnson’s program diverted from his typical political fare by featuring an interview with paleobotanist and geologist Kirk Johnson… who’s also the director of The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. FYI, past 1A programs are oft accessible from Joshua’s website menu. However, as of my posting time, today’s discussion was not yet available. Maybe later today?

Anyway, I found their dialogue about Tyrannosaurus Rex quite fascinating. Consider how the T-Rex… sans the services of any big name PR firms, Hollywood Agents and Fox “News” has still managed to establish his big… and I mean YUGE… name and maintain an intergenerational, international fan base… one which, apparently, has not waned one iota over the course of the past 68 Million years!

Doncha agree that this is quite “The Feat”… seeing how back in the day… uh… really, Really, REALLY back in the day… this once-upon-a-time feared and now extinct (?) dinosaur, had boasted anatomical marvels… e.g., two, way too tiny hands, which were stunningly disproportionate to his way too big head and gargantuan body and YET also managed to be on par with his puny reptilian brain. Additionally, this beastly creature was notorious for constantly going on continental rampages to [1] vent his insane, insatiable rage, [2] overplay his Rex / Kingly status and [3] enforce his reputation as a beyond redemption badass… the enemy of all the other, more decent creatures (great and small) of that (or any other) epoch.

Hmm… methinks this loathsome beast… far worse than the Loch Ness Monster… may not have gone totally extinct, after all!

Has not Tyrant-o-saurus Rex been frequently spotted in the vicinity of DC’s deep, dank, murky, fetid swamp waters flowing adjacent to and even flooding the cellar of a painted white house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Perhaps the Johnson and Johnson team… both radioman Joshua and scientist Kirk… need to dig deeper into this matter?

 

 

Don’t Dig Climate Change? That’ll Dig Our Own Graves!

 

Earth Day 2019 has come and gone… and as far as the UN-American, UN-educated and UN-educable UN-prez is concerned… long sigh… well… let’s just say he’s UN-concerned.

Day in / day out, that steeped in ignorance, know-nothing, know-it-all, pseudo-scientist sits on his “brain”, [1] bogusly flipping off white lab coated, steeped in time-honored science, learned climatologists, [2] erroneously debunking their decades long, studies and [3] inexcusably refuting (with his mere nuh-uh) their data driven, carefully considered conclusion that humans are responsible for life imperiling, climate change / global warming.

How dare he remain headless / heedless re nature’s retaliatory fury… i.e., the exponentially increasing incidents of damaging and deadly freakish heatwaves / droughts / firestorms… the planet-wide arctic blasts / ice and snow storms… the ferocious wind storms, tornadoes and hurricanes.

Of course such a ‘tude can be readily accounted for. After all, (in all likelihood) the fake prez has never read page one of even one environmentally themed textbook… or for that matter… read any book at all… not even the dust jacket blurbs from his own ghostwritten books which, typically, boast a $#!+ – load of his worthless, self-indulgent delusions.

Hell, the closest he’s ever come to wearing a white lab coat is whenever he (figuratively) dons his white KKK hoodie and robe.

What that all boils down to is that we… who are deeply concerned about securing survival for ourselves (for posterity, too) now find we are waging a two-front battle… [1] AGAINST the fake prez’s all too real ignorance and [2] FOR a cleaner greener planet Earth.

One would think that… at the very least… that lazy bum would know when to step out of the way to allow the tireless, genuine experts do his work for him. Of course, the only way that’d ever likely happen is if climatologists gave credit where no credit was due… i.e., stroked his considerable ego by promising him top billing on all of their hard work.

Look… even if anyone could offer conclusive evidence that humans are not causing climate change, just WTF would be the harm in our cleaning up our home world, anyway?

After all we are talking about the only known planet within our vast universe capable of supporting all life on Earth. Even if there were other habitable worlds, they’d be so distant, humankind might not ever survive the long, multiple millions of light-years journey.

For the sake of re-emphasis… we must accept the findings of our climatologist sleuths / CSI investigators… believe them when they tell us that the climate change culprits are none other than you and me.

Our being cast in that lead role… being the climate change villains / heavies means we must also lead the charge. Before it’s too late (if it’s not too late, already), it’s imperative to right out wrongs. To fail to do so? Well…

If the freakish weather doesn’t kill in an instant, we’ll wind up facing down the slow, time-release death of UV incineration, air pollution asphyxiation, polar icecap meltdown inundation / suffocation and non-arable soil / low crop yields starvation. Welcome to our eventual planet-wide graveyard? It does not have to be that way.

For the sake of brevity… let’s now shrink this post down to a more memorable, bumper sticker length catchphrase…

 

Don’t Dig Climate Change?
That’ll Dig Our Own Graves!

 

 

 

Humankind (not just in Houston), We Have A Problem

On April 11, 1970… at 13:13 (military time)… Apollo 13’s three-stage, Saturn-5 rocket successfully blasted off from launch pad 39-A. For any triskaidekaphobics out there, that 39 does crunch out as 3 x 13. All superstitions aside, astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise were moonward bound and… if all went well… Lovell and Haise would wind up moon walking… exploring and prospecting a lunar region known as the Fra Mauro Highlands. Needless to say, all did not go well.

A scant two days later… on the 13th no less… an oxygen tank explosion severely crippled their spacecraft’s Service Module… that massive destruction creating a life threatening shortage of power, heat, water and breathable air.

In a blink of an eye… in one human heartbeat… saving the lives of these three men had become paramount. The new, revised mission had instantaneously repurposed the Lunar Module… BUT… seeing how it had been designed to only keep two men alive for far fewer days than it would take for all three to safely return to Earth… its role as a lifeboat was limited.

At stake here… even the slightest miscalculation could’ve easily repurposed their linked up, three-piece spacecraft (Command / Service / Lunar Module) one final time… i.e., made it a floating tomb where their suffocated, frozen bodies would be traversing the starlit, inky black cosmic vacuum… throughout eternity.

Fortunately, once everyone’s initial adrenaline surge had eased up a bit, NASA Mission Control’s Gene Kranz, ground crew leader and “steely eyed missile man” (that’s a compliment), began coordinating the rescue efforts. From that moment forth, all concerned Apollo 13 personnel… flight and ground crew alike… began bravely soldiering on.

Crisis after crisis mounted. Contingencies never before dealt with (even in flight simulators) now presented themselves. One critical decision after another had to be made. Scribbled out in pen and pencil painstaking procedures needed to be [1] relayed to the flight crew and [2] executed in the precisely correct order… e.g., a duct-taped CO2 scrubber improvisation and fly by the seat of your pants, computer UN-assisted, engine blazing, mid-course corrections… all with little to no margin of error.

The Kranz Team’s perfectly thought out, (literally) on the fly plans were also providing humanity a fleeting glimpse at our true intellectual potential… how limitless it can be when we set our minds to it. Also impressive… how quick thinking, innovative grown-ups had fully and rapidly realized that egos, finger-pointing / assessing blame and other unproductive posturing had to be checked at the door prior to entering Mission Control.

In the meantime, publicly, Apollo 13’s real life, unfolding in real time, life or death drama was astounding and captivating a goodly portion of Earth’s (then) 3.7 Billion onlooking souls… I among them. This event was also affording us a better sense of our global community… and how three members of our human family were now in such deep trouble that they might never make it back home again.

Might our resultant beamed to the heavens, positive energy surge (the devout would deem this the power of prayer) have also played a role in the Apollo 13 crew’s survival? At the very least, it’d be a good bet that Mission Control’s CAPCOMS had intermingled their tech talk with morale boosting news of the worldwide well-wishers. Yeah, I’d hazard a guess that we did make a difference.

And while we space-age, Earthbound onlookers had all traveled along the wondrous path to unity (at least twice) before… especially during the Apollo 8 and 11 missions (8’s first humans in lunar orbit and 11’s first man on the moon) this time around, the specter of death was lurking off in the closer-than-you-think, distance. And that, indeed, did present an almost palpably unsettling feeling.

Then, during Apollo 13’s last day, the one remaining key question became…

Would the Kranz Team’s accumulation of consistent, spot-on decision making be sufficient to earn them the right to look the Grim Reaper squarely in the eye to proclaim…

NO… NOT TODAY! GET THE HELL OUTTA HERE!

Well as it turned out… on this very April 17th, 1970 day, NASA’s efforts had allowed astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise to survive the perilous journey back to Earth… their one final challenge being Swigert successfully piloting the Command Module through Earth’s atmosphere. There was further concern, too, because that days earlier O2 tank explosion could’ve damaged their spacecraft’s heat-shield… to the extent that it might not withstand the fiery reentry…

As we just saw in Director Ron Howard’s 1995 big screen, mostly spot-on dramatization, NASA had transformed what could’ve been the worst disaster in the history of space travel into their finest hour. Apollo 13 made a picture perfect, all three parachutes deployed, right on target, splash down just scant minutes into the noontime hour.

And while this is one chapter in the book of human history with a “they lived happily ever after” ending, one still has to wonder why the same could not be said re the spirit of global unity?

It would appear that, not unlike Apollo 13’s ruptured Service Module oxygen tank, civility… especially now… has been bleeding out from the inky black, intracranial vacuum, which typically afflicts thoughtless people.

Just how does THAT jibe with a society capable of successfully putting a man on the moon when everything goes right… and mounting a triumphant, heroic rescue when everything goes wrong?

The short answer… it doesn’t jibe.

The longer answer… that can be found within the lessons learned from this Apollo 13 mission… and within similar stories. Just to name one? Captain Sullenberger’s Miracle on the Hudson.

BTW, should anyone reading this post wish to contribute some additional, similar historical references… maybe even relate your own personal account(s) re that “can do” human spirit… and how it/they made a difference at a crucial moment… the comment section awaits you.

 

A Nothing To Howl At Super Wolf Blood Eclipsed Moon

 

To say the least, I’d be flattering myself to even whisper the words ASTRONOMER and CRITIC anywhere in the vicinity of my birth-name… even after qualifying / clarifying those proper nouns with adjectives such as RANK and AMATEUR.

And far be it from me to negatively critique a lunar eclipse… one of Ma Nature’s most magnificent performances… BUT… this time out… as far as I was concerned… her show was playing out in a crappy venue… in spite of the atypically (for a Michigan winter) clear skies.

Unlike my past experiences of this nature, I’d categorize last night’s total eclipse a total bust.

Many moons ago, I had derived far more enjoyment from watching Earth’s nearest celestial neighbor setting just as the eclipse had achieved totality. True, I had been booted from “The Theatre” long before the start of “Act II: The return to Full Phase” but half a “show” had been better than none.

And speaking of none… last night’s problems had arisen right from the get-go. The temperature had already plummeted to 0° F / -18° C… with the wind chill factor only making matters worse. By eclipse end the predicted temps would be tanking out at -7° F / -22° C.

Adding to this meteorological misery was the viewing angle. With the Moon at the zenith, it didn’t take long for this to become a (literal) pain in the neck. My in-advance awareness of this positioning problem was the precise reason that I hadn’t even bothered lugging out my 90mm telescope (I mean who’d even want to crouch down even closer to the recently fallen, thick, cold blanket of snow?)

Anyway… long sigh… with my three layers of clothing (inclusive of a thick down parka, lined gloves, long-johns and winter boots) still proving inadequate… with self-preservation mode constantly kicking in full force, I found myself needing to return (frequently) to the not-so-great indoors to warm up. And that need is at the crux of this negative review.

While I cannot speak for everyone… I found what was really missing was that uninterrupted dramatic build up towards totality. It’s kind of like leaving the movie theater to go buy popcorn and returning just as the protagonist… just in the nick of time… heroically saves the day. In other words…

My needing to repeatedly rejoin this eclipse in progress ruined the mood. Even timing it out to return at the precise moment of totality presented new problems. At that juncture, my eyes were no longer accustomed to the dark. Adding to my woes was how the overhang of my parka’s hood was constantly blocking my line of sight. Try dodging that while attempting to relocate the directly overhead Moon, now darkened by the Earth’s shadow. As for “losing” the hood? Yeah, right… just what I needed… frostbitten ears. Need I say more?

Orienting my head back into its default position and glumly swaying it side to side, once again the cold proved too much. Now back indoors and reclining on my sofa, head resting comfortably, I dozed off and didn’t wake up until long after the “Super Wolf Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse of 2019” had ended.

All in all… at least in my neck of the woods… very little to howl at!