Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Explorer 1 launched 1958, First Primate launched 1961, Apollo 14 launched 1971

Explorer 1, the U.S's first satellite, was launched on January 31, 1958, in response to the Soviets Sputnik 1 and 2, launched the year before.  It detected the Van Allen radiation belts and continued transmitting for four months, althought its high powered transmitter lasted a month.  Explorer 1 remained in orbit for another 12 years before burning up in the atmosphere in 1970.

Ham the Astrochimp blasted off January 31, 1961 in a Mercury Redstone rocket to see if man was ready for space travel.  Ham performed a series of tests during his 16.5 minute flight.  He traveled 157 miles before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean, suffering only a bruised nose.  Ham died in 1983. After a successful mission, NASA deemed it safe for Alan Shepard to be the first American in space.

Apollo 14 crew: Stuart Roosa, Alan Shepard, and Edgar Mitchell

And speaking of Alan B. Shepard, he commanded Apollo 14, the third (successful) manned mission to the moon.  His crew consisted of Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa and Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell.  They launched January 31, 1971 and landed on the Fra Mauro formation (the original landing site of Apollo 13) February 5.  Shepard hit two golf balls on the moon's surface using a makeshift club.  He claimed the balls went 'miles and miles and miles' but the distance was estimated to be 200-400 yards.  How long is a par 5?  After Shepard and Mitchell spend 33 1/2 hours on the moon, they took off and the crew returned to Earth February 9.

My updated Author Page on Amazon.com!

I just updated my author page on Amazon.com so check it out!


Monday, January 30, 2017

The Alan Parsons Project releases "Gaudi" 1987

The tenth and final studio album by The Alan Parsons Project, Gaudi, was released in January 1987.  Eric Woolfson wrote the rock opera Freudiana, which was released in 1990 and Alan Parsons pursued a solo career.

Gaudi referred to the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, whose best known creation is La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain.  A song dedicated to the building is the opening track.

Paseo de Gracia refers to a major thoroughfare in Barcelona.  Gaudi designed some of the unique buildings seen along the street.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Remembering John Hurt (1940-2017)

2017 seems to be off in a sprint to catch up or outdo 2016 with celebrity deaths.  Just two days after we lose Mary Tyler Moore, outstanding actor John Hurt passed away yesterday from pancreatic cancer.  I was first introduced to John Hurt in the movie Alien, in which he starred with Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerrit, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton and Ian Holm, a stellar cast.

He played a gay policeman in Partners with Ryan O'Neal.  It's interesting to watch this trailer after 35 years, seeing the gay stereotypes all in one 2 1/2 minute clip.  Hurt played his role with a touching vulnerability that was probably alien to most audiences at that time.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

"Babylon 5" premieres 1994

Another of my favorite television shows, Babylon 5, premiered January 26, 1994.  I found it to be an interesting, non-Roddenberry look at space exploration.  Babylon 5 won a Primetime Emmy in 1994 for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Makeup for a Series.

I particularly liked the Psi Corps, even though they were mainly portrayed as the bad guys.  Talia Winters was my favorite character and I was bummed when they got rid of her.  I still haven't seen that episode.  I've used the Psi Corps as inspiration for my own Psionic Corps novels featuring Corey Shaw and others.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Remembering Mary Tyler Moore (1936-2017)

Beautiful and perky Mary Tyler Moore has passed away today at age 80.  She had suffered from diabetes since age 33 and complications from the disease has finally taken its toll.

I remember watching the Mary Tyler Moore Show every Saturday night in grade school up until high school.  Her show came on right before The Bob Newhart Show and then The Carol Burnett Show.  My saddest recollection: I can't remember the episode in 1974 but word came in half way through the show that my grandmother Anne had passed away.

I remember the final episode when she left the newsroom and turned out the light.  An end to an era.  She truly did turn the world on with a smile!

The Donald orders EPA media blackout, freezes contracts

In a move that doesn't surprise anyone but should frighten everyone, The Donald's administration has ordered a media blackout for the Environmental Protection Agency.

CBS News obtained a copy of the memo distributed to EPA employees:

“Incoming media requests will be carefully screened,” one directive said. “Only send out critical messages, as messages can be shared broadly and end up in the press.”

“No press releases will be going out to external audiences,” it said. “No social media will be going out. A Digital Strategist will be coming on board to oversee social media. Existing, individually controlled, social media accounts may become more centrally controlled.”
“No blog messages,” it added.

Doug Ericksen, the communications director for Trump's transition team at EPA said "We're just trying to get a handle on everything and make sure what goes out reflects the priorities of the new administration."  

Within hours of his inauguration, information on climate change and global warming disappeared from the White House's website.  The Donald's campaign included denying global warming as a "hoax" perpetrated by the Chinese, a claim he later denied.  So it is clear what the White House's priorities are.  Ericksen predicted the news blackout will be lifted by the end of the week.  It is still censorship.

We shall see.

BTW, News of this censorship of the EPA is strangely absent from the NewsOK.com website.  Just FYI.

The Donald has also promised to kill a number of federal programs including the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Justice Department, which prosecutes polluters.




Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Our environment is doomed...Trump to cut environmental regulations

He says environmentalism is out of control and promises workers will still be protected.  However, he hasn't produced anything of substance of how this will be carried out.  This is part of his plan to boost manufacturing in America.  That might be a good thing but at the expense of our nation's health?


Cassini sends back beautiful images of Saturnian moons


Daphnis - the wave maker

Mimas - the Death Star



For over 12 years, the Cassini spacecraft has been orbiting Saturn, studying its moons, its rings and its atmosphere.  It is sending back some beautiful pictures of Saturnian moons.  It is scheduled to be destroyed by sending it into Saturn's atmosphere to avoid contamination of the moons.  (Huygens didn't contaminate Titan?).

Monday, January 23, 2017

Pioneer 10 sends its last signal 2003

Fourteen years ago, January 23, 2003, Pioneer 10 sent its last signal received by Earth.  Launched March 3, 1972, Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to travel through the asteroid belt and the first to encounter Jupiter, up close and personal, reaching the gas giant December 3, 1973.

It continued broadcasting at a whopping rate of 256 bits/second, which degraded to 127 millibits/second.  When it was approximately 12 billion light-years (80 astronomical units) from Earth, its power fell below the level where it could send signals strong enough to be received.  Now it is estimated to be 116 AU from Earth.

Happy birthday, Anita Pointer!

Beautiful and talented Anita Pointer, born January 23, 1948, is a founding member of the ultra-awesome band the Pointer Sisters, with June, Ruth and Bonnie.   She helped her sisters blast onto the charts with a country music performance of "Fairytale" a song she co-wrote with sister Bonnie.  They received their first Grammy (of many) for Best Country Performance by Duo or Group 1974 and nominated for Best Country Song.

They became the first all African-American female group to perform at the Grand Ol' Opry.  Here are my girls singing "Fairytale"!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Happy birthday, Buzz Aldrin!

Edwin Eugene "Buzz" Aldrin, born January 20, 1930, was the second man to walk on the moon, following Neil Armstrong July 21, 1969 during the Apollo 11 mission.  A Presbyterian, Aldrin held communion on the surface of the moon, but it wasn't broadcast since there was a suit against NASA brought on by an atheist against the reading of Genesis by Apollo 8.

Aldrin retired from NASA in 1970.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

New Horizons launched toward Pluto 2006

The New Horizons spacecraft, launched January 19, 2006, performed the first flyby of Pluto, exceeding everyone's expectations.  New Horizons reached Pluto (now 'dwarf planet') in July 2015 and sent back gigabytes of data which NASA scientists will be studying for years.

New Horizons took pictures of Pluto's surface as well as its moons, giving us a much better understanding of Charon.

Buoyed on the success of the mission, the New Horizons team requested and has been granted an extension.  New Horizons is headed toward 2014 MU69, a large body in the Kuiper Belt, arriving in 2019.  It will study other trans-Neptunian objects as well.

Scientists race to save data on climate-change, fearing a Trump dump

The Huffington Post, Business Insider and Inverse Science have reported in the past few days that scientists are racing to protect and save climate data stored at the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration prior to Trump’s inauguration tomorrow.  Trump, a devout climate change-denier, has nominated another global warming denier Scott Pruitt to head the EPA.  Scientists fear this administration could wipe out important data on environmental issues beyond just climate data.  

On January 12, 2017, the Sierra Club filed Freedom of Information Act requests for information held by the EPA and the Department of Energy, while similar efforts are being undertaken elsewhere, such as DataRefuge, at University of Pennsylvania’s Program in Environmental Humanities.  PhD students at Harvard have joined with other scientists and policymakers to form Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, which is working to archive publicly available information and monitor changes in government websites. 

Data purges have been carried out by previous administrations, such as W. for example.  During his regime, EPA shut down some of its research libraries and reduced access to important data.  A Trump advisor has suggested NASA cease its climate research and focus on space exploration.  The Trump team has also asked the Department of Energy to provide names of employees and contractors who have participated in international climate talks and President Obama’s work on regulating carbon emissions, a request the DoE has denied.  Ronald Regan, whom the New York Times said trees cause pollution, appointed two champions of industry, including Anne M. Burford as Administrator for the EPA, but forced to resign after being investigated by Congress in mismanaging toxic waste remediation.

There is no direct promise from the Trump group to purge scientific data or make it vanish, but scientists are taking no chances.

"Tremors" released 1990

One of my favorite guilty pleasures, Tremors, was released January 19, 1990.  It blends comedy and horror with just the right mix.  Reba McEntire made her movie debut in Tremors, and for people who like to play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, this movie which starred Bibi Besch ties Kevin with the entire Star Trek franchise!  You're welcome!

It has spawned 4 sequels and an animated series.  Well, three sequels and one prequel.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Our environment is doomed: $cott Pruitt favor$ donor$ over environmental safety

In 2005, Drew Edmondson, then Oklahoma Attorney General, sued several large poultry producers for damages to then scenic Illinois River caused by chicken manure pollution.  The suit also sought to force the companies to change the way the poultry producers disposed of 300K tons a year of animal feces.

Thirty of the executives named in the lawsuit dumped money into Pruitt's campaign and, behold, he won!  Instead of continuing the battle to clean up the waters, Pruitt ground the process to a halt, negotiating a "study" of the "appropriate levels of phosphorous" in the Illinois River.

Here is the committee's final report:

It has very little in practical solutions for cleaning up the river, other than recommending the river be cleaned up.  Much of the report seems aimed at determining what different types of "nuisance algal taxa" are present, how levels of phosphorous affect their blooming, etc.

Pure science, but not applied science.

So, the committee has wasted several years and no doubt loads of money on this "study" and yet, little has been done for the Illinois river.  In 2003, Edmondson brokered a contract with Arkansas poultry producers to reduce pollution from animal waste.  Phosphorous levels have dropped in recent years.  Pruitt allowed the contract to expire without seeking an extension, then dissolved the environmental group that brought the lawsuits against the poultry producers.  Phosphorous levels remain above the state standard.

And once again, I must mention the number of suits Pruitt has brought against the EPA, proposing easing restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions by fossel fuel-burning power plants.  His track record is clear who he has in his best interests.

US District Court Judge Kimberley J. Mueller wrote in an opinion of a law suit brought against the EPA by Pruitt and others:

“The court concludes plaintiffs have not brought this action on behalf of their interest in the physical or economic well-being of their residents in general, but rather on behalf of a discrete group of egg farmers whose businesses will allegedly be impacted."


Let's hope intelligent minds like this are weighing in on Pruitt's confirmation hearings.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Remembering astronaut Gene Cernan (1934-2017)

Gene Cernan, the last man on the Moon, passed away today from ongoing health issues.  He went into space three times, as the pilot of Gemini 9A, Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 10 and Commander of Apollo 17.  He is the eleventh man to walk on the moon.

Being the last person to ascend the ladder into the lunar module, Gene spoke these words:

Bob, this is Gene, and I'm on the surface; and, as I take man's last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I'd like to just (say) what I believe history will record: that America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus–Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.
— Cernan


Ilan Ramon, first Israeli astronaut, launches in 2003

Ilan Ramon, NASA's first Israeli astronaut, blasted off in the Space Shuttle Columbia January 16, 2003. Unfortunately, it would be his only mission, since just 16 days later, Ramon perished along with six fellow astronauts when the Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry.

His mother and grandmother were holocaust survivors, having survived Auschwitz.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Happy birthday, Andrea Martin!

Beautiful, talented and funny Andrea Martin, born January 15, 1947, is one of the funniest comediennes in the world today. She came to the attention of most American audiences during her time in Second City TV, Canada's version of Saturday Night Live. I loved her as Aunt Voula in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but when she appeared in the Deep Space Nine episode of Family Business as Ishka, Quark's mother, I realized that I would worship her forever.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Happy birthday, Shannon Lucid!

Shannon Lucid, born January 14, 1943 in Shanghai, China, set a record for length of time in space and the longest time for an American woman (the only American woman) serving on the space station Mir.

Her record for longest stay in space held until 2007 when it was broken by another American woman, Sunita Williams.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Our environment is doomed...Sen. Inhofe endorses Pruitt for EPA leadership

I've had this clip in my draft folder for several days now and I have to get it out there.  Sen. James Inhofe, anti-science, has endorsed AG Scott Pruitt for heading the EPA. This is a disaster in the making.  I don't know what pull Inhofe has in the confirmation hearings for the EPA, but he is chair of the Senate Environment Committee.  The fox guarding the hen house.

In his speech, Inhofe said:

Pruitt has seen first-hand the abuses of power at the hands of this agency and has fought back to ensure environmental quality without sacrificing jobs.


What abuses?  Since its inception in 1970, the EPA has managed to lower harmful and toxic emissions from fuel-burning power plants.  The abuses will come at the hands of Pruitt, a global warming-denier, absolutely no background in environmental issues and a total disregard for the Earth.


Dr. Franklin Chang-Díaz, NASA's first Latin-American astronaut, launched 1986

Dr. Franklin Ramon Chang Diaz was the third Latin-American in space and NASA's first when he took off January 12, 1986 in the Space Shuttle Columbia.   He is of Chinese and Costa Rican ancestry, which has got to be a first somewhere.  I'm not sure the Chinese could come up with a mixture like that!

He is a veteran of 7 Space Shuttle flights which ties for the record.  His first mission landed 6 days after launch.  It was the last space shuttle mission for a long time, since the Challenger exploded just 10 days later.

He was inducted into the NASA's Astronaut Hall of Fame May 5, 2012.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Golden Frog: extinct- Global Warming casualty

Global warming claims another victim: the golden frog (or toad).  Last seen in 1989, this small amphibian lived in the mountaintop cloud forests but have been declared extinct due to drought caused by global warming, reports National Geographic.  The deadly fungus chytrid fungus, which has been allowed to propogate because of climate changes, is responsible for countless amphibians.

The golden toad is just one of those species to help keep insect populations in check, such as mosquitos.  Without them, mosquitos could flourish spreading deadly diseases.  Also, animals who feed on the frogs will disappear.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Venera 6, Soviet probe to Venus, launched 1969

The Venera 6 spacecraft, launched January 10, 1969 from the former Soviet Union, reached Venus May 17.  A parachute opened after the main capsule entered the atmosphere to slow the rate of descent. It sent out data every 45 seconds for 51 minutes. It stopped operating due to high temperature and pressure.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Luna 21 launched 1973

Luna 21, Soviet probe to the Moon, was launched January 9, 1973.  It deployed the second successful Soviet rover Lunokhod 2.  The rover operated until June 3, exploring during the long lunar day, hibernating during the lunar night.  Its mission concluded on June 3, it is assumed it failed or could not be revived after the lunar night.

It logged almost 24 miles over its lifetime, a record for rovers until Opportunity on Mars surpassed its distance.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Five reasons Scott Pruitt is the worst choice for EPA

The Donald has put Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's name forth as director of the Environmental Protection Agency, a man who is a global warming denier, anti-clean air, and on his knees in the oil and gas industry.

The  Sierra Club posted 5 things about Scott Pruitt that are terrifying.  I actually most of them except his fight against EPA's Mercury and Air Toxins safeguards.

In a nut shell,

Pruitt receives major donations from oil and gas industries, which oppose the Clean Air Act, a policy that has  been in place since 1970 and has greatly reduced air emissions from fossil fuel burning power plants.

He has plagiarized a letter from an oil and gas industry giant and sent it to the federal government and EPA using State of Oklahoma's stationery.

He has sued the EPA several times opposing anything that doesn't allow the oil and gas industry free reign to pollute the atmosphere.



Thursday, January 5, 2017

Study finds NOAA did NOT fudge data on climate change!

Texas Republican Lamar Smith (B.A. in American Studies from Yale and a J.D. from SMU) was named chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.  Smith, who has no background or experience in any type of science (Christian Scientist does not mean a scientist who is Christian), accused National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists of fudging the data and lying about global warming in a paper published in 2015.  NOAA scientists also took time to explain their findings to Smith, but it wasn’t good enough for him.  The reason behind his allegations?  NOAA manipulated the data to benefit the Obama administration, who has been pushing the Clean Power Act.  Note that two sources report that Smith has received more money from the fossil fuel industry than any other industry.

Now, an independent study reviewing NOAA’s climate data, which has already been made public, has declared the results as accurate.  They found no evidence of cooking the books or manipulating the data to get the results they needed to support Obama’s “extreme climate change agenda.”

So the only basis for Smith’s accusations is money.  He has no proof of a climate change ‘hiatus’.  He is motivated by contributions from the fossil fuel industry which opposes Obama’s Clean Power Plan and the Clean Air Act.  Smith has issued more subpoenas in his time as chairman of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology than the committee's entire history.  

What will he and Trump do in the face of facts?  Probably ignore them again since it doesn’t suit their own agenda.  Trump has called global warming “bullshit” and a “hoax”.  He has promised to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement.   

Our environment is doomed.  Our planet is warming an at alarming rate, but Trump is ignoring it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Spirit, Mars rover, lands on Mars 2004

Spirit (MER-A: Mars Exploration Rover - A or MER-2) landed on the Martian landscape January 4, 2004.  It was launched June 10, 2003 and was planned for a 90 day mission, but Spirit proved to be more valuable.  Spirit operated for 2269 days before contact was lost.  It logged 4.8 miles of driving, much more than the planned 0.4 miles.  After more than 5 years of exploration, Spirit got stuck in soft soil.  For eight months, NASA tried to free it but finally announced in January 2010 Spirit was permanently stuck, but it continued to conduct scientific research from its stationary position.

Spirit captured a dust devil moving across the Martian landscape: 

Three weeks after Spirit landed, its twin rover, Opportunity (MER-B) landed on the opposite side of Mars.

Luna 1, first man-made object to reach the Moon, 1959

Luna 1, launched January 2, 1959 from the Soviet Union, made its closest approach to the Moon on January 4.  It was the first flyby of the moon by a man-made object, although it was meant to crash into the moon.  It missed the moon by about 3700 miles and remains in a heliocentric orbit between Earth and Mars.

It still managed to send back data on Earth’s outer Van Allen radiation belt and determined the Moon to have no discernable magnetic field.  Its flyby of the moon came one year to the day Sputnik 1 entered Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

J. R. R. Tolkien, high fantasy author, born 1892

John Ronald Reuel (J.R.R.) Tolkien, born January 3, 1892, has been dubbed the “father” of modern fantasy literature, been ranked 6th on a list of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945, and 5th top-earning “dead celebrity” in 2009.  His works of “high fantasy” such as The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.

The Hobbit was published in 1937, written years before for his children, became popular with adults as well as youngsters.  So popular the publishers asked for a sequel.  That sequel become The Lord of the Rings, published in 3 volumes from 1954-1955.  It became popular in the 60’s and has remained just as successful today. 

He published other novels but the LOTR is his most beloved to date.


Mars Polar Lander launched 1999

Mars Polar Lander

The Mars Polar Lander and the Mars Climate Orbiter were launched separately on January 3, 1999, to study the Martian weather, climate, water and carbon dioxide.  The Polar Lander was planned to touch down on the southern pole region near the CO2 icecap.  However, on December 3, the probe was jettisoned, and a planned communcation blackout started that would last until the probe landed.  This was the last NASA heard from the Polar Lander.  It is assumed it hit the Martian surface at a high rate of speed and disintegrated upon impact.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Ceres (asteroid/dwarf planet) discovered 1801

January 1, 1801, Italian astronomer Guiseppe Piazzi of Palermo discovered what he thought was a comet, but after observing it 24 more times, he realized it was an asteroid, reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006.  He named it Ceres, the Roman goddess of the Harvest.  It is the largest object in the asteroid belt but only 4% of our moon's mass.

NASA sent the spacecraft Dawn which reached Ceres in 2015.  It is the first time Ceres has been observed up close.  Dawn is still sending data on the dwarf planet.