Monday, July 31, 2017

Newsok columnist Wingerter sucks up to Pruitt - WTF?

Justin Wingerter's post in today demonstrates a blind, uncompromising loyalty to Scott Pruitt, thinking that all this talk about the EPA administrator is exciting!  But even the first paragraph is enough to make someone seriously ill.  Any one with a brain, at least.  Wingerter sounds like a star-struck teenaged girl facing her teen idol.

Listen to this obsequious drivel:
"Critics and supporters of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt have found common ground in their shared belief that the former Oklahoma attorney general is operating with an efficiency and zeal beyond that of his predecessors."

I have yet to hear any of his critics use the terms 'efficiency' in describing his policies.  'Zeal' maybe, but not in a good way.  His 'zeal' is taking apart the EPA so oil and gas industries can pollute the environment with impunity.  This does not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the process from becoming The Donald's nominee to somehow (God only knows) getting appointed.

Al Armendariz, a former regional EPA administrator stated: “I'm not aware there's ever been an environmental administrator with an agenda to roll back environmental regulations one after another.”

We've never had a pretender-in-chief so hellbent on destroying the environment.  The Donald put Pruitt there for  the sole purpose of dismantling the EPA.

Back in March, Pruitt denied a ban on chlorpyrifos, after a study from the USDA questioned EPA's methodology and mistaken conclusions that it is unsafe.  According to, there are some questions about the EPA study, but claims stronger data and conclusions come from the November 2016 report from Columbia  Center for Children's Environmental Health at Columbia University.

How convenient that Wingerter's post left out the citation for the USDA's study., on the other hand, listed 27 references, USDA not included.

It's been clear for a while that Pruitt is hostile  to the EPA while getting on his knees in the oil and gas industries, criticizing the EPA for its policies to protect our air and our water.  Pruitt is out to line  his pockets with the help of oil and gas.

“I'll do it as long as the Lord calls me to and as long as the president wants me to do it,” Pruitt said.

God help us all!
   (and references therein).

Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-46) launched 1992

Claude Nicolllier, Franklin  Chang-Diaz, Ranco Malerba

Space Shuttle Atlantis took off Juy 31, 1992, mission STS-46, carrying Claude Nicollier, the first Swiss astronaut, Franklin Ramon Chang-Diza, the first Costa Rican astronaut and Franco Malerba, the first Italian astronaut.

Commander Loren J. Shriver, Pilot Andrew M. Allen, Mission Specialist 2 Marsha S. Ivins and Mission Specialist 3 Jeffrey A.  Hoffman completed the crew.

The mission marked the 150th human spaceflight to reach orbit.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Happy birthday, cosmonaut Vladimir Dezhurov!

Vladimir Dezhurov.jpg

Veteran cosmonaut/astronaut Vladimir Dezhurov, born July 30, 1962, in the former Soviet Union, has traveled on Soyuz and the Space Shuttle to Mir and the International Space Station.  He has logged 9 EVAs at just over 37 hours total.  Not bad for only 2 trips to space!

His first mission was aboard Soyuz TM-21, launched in March 1995 to Mir.  This mission saw the first American, Norman Thagard, to ride on a Soyuz spacecraft.  Dezhurov returned to Earth in July 1995 on the Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-71).

He flew to the ISS in August 2001 aboard the Discovery (STS-105) and returned in December aboard the Endeavour (STS-108).

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Soyuz MS-05 has reached the International Space Station

In 6 hours, Soyuz MS-05 launched and then docked with the International Space Station!  That's a typical day's commute in the DC area.  Paolo Nespoli, Randy Bresnik and Sergey Ryazabsky have joined the three current residents on the ISS, Peggy Whitson, Jack Fischer and Fyodor Yurchikhin, who are scheduled to remain aboard until September.  The new arrivals will spend 5 months on the ISS conducting many scientific experiments.

One such experiment is a study developed by the Michael J. Fox Foundation of the pathology of Parkinson's disease to aid in the development of therapies for patients.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Skylab 3 launched 1973

Skylab 3 crew (L-R): Owen Garriott, Jack Lousma, Alan Bean

Astronauts Alan L. Bean, Science Pilot (and Oklahoman) Owen K. Garriott and Pilot Jack R. Lousma blasted off July 28,  1973 in Skylab 3, the second manned mission to the U.S. space station.  Their mission time was 59 days and 11 hours.  NASA extended the mission from one to two months so the effects of flight duration on physiological adaption and readaptation could be examined.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Happy birthday, Daniel Burbank, Space Shuttle, Soyuz and ISS astronaut!

Daniel Christopher Burbank, born July 27, 1961 in Connecticut, is a veteran of two Space Shuttle missions (both on Atlantis) and a Soyuz mission (TMA-22).  Both space shuttle flights took him to the International Space Station, where he helped prepare the ISS for permanent inhabitants.

The Soyuz mission took him back to the ISS in September 2011 and he stayed until April 2012.

Soyuz MS-05 is fixin’ to blast off tomorrow

Soyuz MS-05 crew (L-R): Paolo Nespoli, Sergey Ryazansky, Randy Bresnik

The 134th flight of the Soyuz program will launch tomorrow (July 28, 2017) from Baikonur, Kazakhstan 10:30am-ish for us in the Baltimore Daylight Time Zone. This will be Expedition 52 to the International Space Station.  Its crew consists of Commander Sergey Ryazansky (Russian), Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli (Italian) and Flight Engineer Randy Bresnik (Kentuckian).  They will spend five months living, working and conducting scientific experiments. 

Nespoli has been to the ISS twice before already.  He flew on the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-120) back in 2007 and went back in December 2010 – May 2011 as part of the Soyuz TMA-20.

Ryazansky flew on Soyuz TMA-10M to the ISS (Expedition 37) and stayed from September 2013 March 2014.  It was his first spaceflight.

Bresnik (a Virgo like me) traveled on the Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-129) in November 2009.  He only spent 11 days on the ISS, but performed 2 EVAs and had a baby while in orbit. Like Ryazansky, he’s been to the ISS once and it was his first spaceflight.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Space Shuttle Discovery "Return to Flight" launched 2005

STS-114 crew.jpg
STS-114 Crew - Back row (L-R): Stephen Robinson, Andrew Thomas, Charles Camarda, Soichi Noguchi.
Front Row (L-R): James Kelly, Wendy Lawrence, Eileen Collins

Space Shuttle Discovery blasted off July 26, 2005, the “Return to Flight” since it was the first space shuttle mission since the Columbia disaster in 2003.  During the launch, video footage showed debris separating from the external tank.  NASA decided to postpone future flights until they could make additional modifications to the hardware.  Shuttle flights resumed on July 4, 2006 but part of that delay was due to Hurricane Katrina.

Its crew consisted of Commander Eileen Collins, Pilot James M. Kelly, Mission Specialist 1 Soichi Noguchi (courtesy of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency or JAXA), Mission Specialist 2 Stephen K. Robinson, Mission Specialist 3 Andrew S. W. Thomas (first Aussie in space back in 1996), Mission Specialist 4 Wendy B. Lawrence and Mission Specialist Charles J. Camarda.

They performed 3 EVAs over the course of 8 days, 19 hours and 54 minutes.

Apollo 15 launched 1971

Apollo 15 crew: Commander David Scott, CMP Alfred Worden, LMP James Irwin

Apollo 15, launched July 26, 1971, was the first time the lunar rover was deployed and used on the moon's surface.  The mission was the fourth one to land on the moon and the ninth overall manned mission.  Its crew consisted of Commander David R. Scott; Command Module Pilot Alfred M. Worden; and Lunar Module Pilot James B. Irwin.

They reached lunar orbit on July 30 and Scott and Irwin touched down later the same day (UTC) in the Hadley area.  They spent 2 days and 18 hours on the surface, during which time they conducted three EVAs and deployed the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) for its first use.

They returned to Earth August 7, logging in a total mission time of 12 days, 7 hours, 11 minutes, and 53 seconds.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

First space walk by a woman - Svetlana Savitskaya 1984

Svetlana Savitskaya became the first woman to perform an Extra-Vehicular Activity, July 25, 1984.  In a rush to upstage the U.S.'s plans to put women into space, the Soviets launched Savitskaya in 1982, seven months before Sally Ride, on Soyuz T-7.  She took her second trip into space on Soyuz T-12 to Salyut 7.

She spent 3 hours and 35 minutes in an EVA repairing Salyut 7 with fellow cosmonaut Vladimir Dzhanibekov.

Happy birthday, Paul Weitz, Skylab and Space Shuttle astronaut!

Paul Joseph Weitz, born July 25, 1932, is a veteran of the Skylab 2 mission and commander of the initial Space Shuttle Challenger flight.  It was likely that he would have been chosen as Command Module Pilot for the Apollo 20 mission had it not been cancelled.

He's spent 793 hours in space.  He performed an EVA during the Skylab mission lasting a little over an hour and a half.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Oklahoman Editorial Board: Science leads to dark paths!

We can always count on the Neanderthals on the Oklahoman Editorial Board to provide us with a good laugh every now and then.  An opinion published July 20 was titled: “In policy, debates, bowing to “science” can lead down dark paths.”

The opening sentence states that the use of “science” is an intellectually offensive tactic of some activists to stifle debate.  Reading through the opinion, the Oklahoman Editorial Board talks about how the eugenics, or ethnic cleansing, was declared a science by then associate surgeon general Dr. W. C. Rucker of the U.S. Public Health Service.  The article proceeds to demonstrate how this set a precedence for sterilization of inmates in prisons and mental asylum.  It was even perpetuated into the 1970’s when American Indian women were sterilized at an OKC federal facility.

Read this quote from the article:

“It took the Nazi Holocaust to discredit eugenics. Before then, critics were dismissed as backward, anti-science zealots.”

Leave it to the Oklahoma Editorial Board to say the Holocaust was good for something.  As typical, the OEB does not cite any references that one can follow to read more about these subjects.  What did Rucker show as his evidence to support his eugenics?  Did other doctors or scientists support his findings?  The article does not say.  It implies that once Rucker made his declaration, the rest of the country followed like mindless rats seduced to follow the Pied Piper.

Rather than give other examples of “science leading us to the Dark Side”, the OEB latches on to this one thread and doesn’t let go, as if feeling the need to beat it into our brains to make the point.  And all the examples are limited to Oklahoma.

The intro to the second to last paragraph is the most worrisome and chilling, that this board has a voice that is reaching out to the mindless rats:

“Science is one thing.  People’s interpretation of science is something else.”  Then, “policy proposals based on debatable interpretations of science should certainly be debated.” 

Didn’t they warn us at the beginning about debates with science? 

Although never specified in the article, one can read between the lines and see the inference to the present “debate” over global warming.  Never fans of science, Gov. Failing, Pruitt and other Republicans, in Oklahoma and nation-wide deny climate change and global warming vehemently.  They cling to their faith and beliefs and shun the evils of science. 

Scientists can be wrong, which is why we have peer reviews.  Nobody is ‘debating’ the issue of climate change, i.e. no one has presented data to show our climate is NOT changing.  NASA and NOAA have submitted decades of data that have been researched and reviewed by both sides of the debate and have reached one conclusion: Earth is warming up. 

The OEB has a point that one cannot take one person’s word as proof.  Yes, got it.  We went to a dark place then.  But that has changed.  We’re in the 21st century now, guys.  People are watching each other like Orwellian Big Brothers.  It’s okay to be skeptical but not to be obstinate and suspicious.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Venera 8 lands on Venus, 1972

The Soviet probe Venera 8 touched down on Venus July 22, 1972, becoming the second spacecraft to land on the planet, but it was the first one to make a soft landing. It was preceded by Venera 7 in December 1970, whose parachutes failed to deploy and it hit the surface at about 16.5m/sec.

Venera 8 transmitted for just over 50 minutes before going silent.  It confirmed data from Venera 7 about the harsh conditions on Venus.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Gus Grissom launched in Liberty Bell 7, 1961

Virgil "Gus" Grissom became the second man in space July 21, 1961, when he took off in the Mercury-Redstone 4 spacecraft named Liberty Bell 7.  The flight lasted just over 15  minutes and went without problem until splashdown.  The hatch cover which was to be blown open in case of an emergency, accidentally blew off.  Grissom almost  drowned but was rescued.  The Liberty Bell 7 sank and was recovered in 1999.

Grissom passed away January 27, 1967 when a fire broke out on Apollo  1 during a pre-launch test.

Mars 4, Soviet probe, launched 1973

The Soviets launched the Mars 4 probe on July 21, 1973 to orbit the Red Planet.  Shortly before it reached Mars, two of its on-board computers failed and it passed within 2000km of the Martian surface on February 10, 1974.  It did send back some information,  but little of it was useful.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Actress Wendy Richard born 1943

Wendy Richard, born July 20, 1943, was one of the longest-running actresses on the British series Eastenders, but she will also be remembered as the sweet, ditzy Miss Brahms on Are You Being Served?

She remained close friends with her Are You Being Served? castmates.  She died in 2009 from cancer just months before Mollie Sugden passed away.

The Viking has landed (1976)!

Viking 1, the first of two spacecraft sent to Mars as NASA's Viking program, landed on Mars, July 20, 1976, on the 7th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing.  Viking 1 touched down in the Chryse Planitia and transmitted its first picture within 25 seconds, taking 4 minutes to complete the transmission.  The Viking spacecraft were designed to search for life on the Red Planet, but did not find any evidence.

Viking 1 operated for about 6 years until a faulty command sent to the lander resulted in loss of the signal.  The Mars Reconaissance Orbiter took a picture of it in 2006.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Happy birthday, Benedict Cumberbatch!

Handsome Benedict Cumberbatch, born July 19, 1976, brought Marvel superhero Dr. Strange to the big screen.  I admit this is the only work of his that I've seen but I loved his depiction of Dr. Stephen Strange.

Billy Joel's "It's Still Rock & Roll to Me" reaches #1

Billy Joel's single from Glass Houses, It's Still Rock and Roll to Me, reached #1 on the Billboard's Pop Singles chart July 19, 1980.  It spent 2 weeks at #1, and 11 weeks in the Top 10 Billboard's Hot 100.  According to American Top 40, it was the 7th biggest hit of 1980.

He performed it live in the USSR:

Donna Summer releases "Donna Summer" 1982

The queen of disco, Donna Summer, released her self-titled album Donna Summer, July 19, 1982, her first collaboration with Quincy Jones.  David Geffen, the owner of Geffen Records, hoped this would help restore her to the star power she had during the late 70's.  Although it fell short of expectations, the album (her 10th studio release) generated the top 10 single, Love is in Control, which was nominated for a Grammy.

We miss you, Donna!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Scott Pruitt, EPA lie about the increase coal mining jobs

Image result for scott pruitt cartoons

Scott Pruitt and the TEPA claimed last month in an interview with "Meet the Press":

"Since the fourth quarter of last year until most recently, we've added almost 50,000 jobs in the coal sector. In the month of May alone, almost 7,000 jobs."
Sounds awesome, doesn't it?  The problem is it isn't true.  Politifact did some fact checking on Pruitt's claim and found out Pruitt isn't even close to being right.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017 only 1300 coal mining jobs were added and only 400 of those in May.  A far cry from the 50,000 this year and 7,000 in May Pruitt claims.  And most of those jobs began before The Donald was even elected.

Politifact admits that deciphering BLS' data is tricky, so they looked at "mining and logging" jobs, which is a broader term.  But those jobs amounted to 38,000 jobs, still much less than 50,000.


Read the whole article here:

Review of "The Venus Throw" by Steven Saylor

For the life of me, I cannot understand or find the link between the title of this book and its plot.  According to the author, the Venus throw is a certain results from the roll of the die (or the equivalent of dice in ancient Rome).  This appears in only one scene while Gordianus is sitting in a bar and is interrupted by someone playing a game at a nearby table shouts “The Venus Throw!”

Saylor’s fourth book in his Gordianus the Finder series centers around the murder of Dio, an Egyptian ambassador from Alexandria on a diplomatic mission to Rome.  Dio turns up unexpectedly at Gordianus’ door, dressed as a woman.  He remembers tutoring a young Gordianus many years before when the Finder was traveling the world and gaining wisdom.  It is also when and where Gordianus met and bought the beautiful slave Bethesda. 

Dio begs Gordianus for help, since he is convinced people want him dead, his mission to Rome to fail.  He started out from Alexandria with a retinue of fifteen diplomats and after several assassination attempts, he is the only one left.

Gordianus feels he must refuse his old mentor, lest he bring the violence to his own home and family.  Which has a ring of irony in the end.

No surprise to the reader, Dio is murdered and Gordianus is compelled to find out who killed him.  Then he is contacted by Clodia, a wealthy, beautiful, and amoral widow.  She is convinced the handsome Marcus Caelius (known by Gordanius) is the murderer and is will to pay anything for him to prove Caelius is guilty.  But is Clodia only out for revenge as a woman scorned?  With her, nothing is as it seems and Gordianus doubts she is out for justice.

As with previous novels, Saylor’s story can get bogged down as he tends to enter entire speeches from history records but this time he limits it to only one.  I like the details Saylor gives of life in ancient Rome, its culture, geography, attitude, etc.  The Venus Throw did not drag with as many speeches as before and Saylor does provide a surprise ending. 

3 ½ Jupiter’s lightning bolts.

Gemini 10 launched 1966

Pilot Michael Collins and Command Pilot John W. Young took off July 18, 1966 in Gemini 10 (officially Gemini X), the 8th Gemini flight and the16th manned American flight.  Collins performed two EVAs, one of which involved an attempt to engage the Agena module from the Gemini 8 mission but was unsuccessful.

They returned to Earth just less than 3 days after lift-off.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Happy birthday, Janet Kavandi, space shuttle astronaut!


Janet Lynn Kavandi, born July 17, 1959 in Carthage, Missouri, is a veteran of three space shuttle missions.  Her first was STS-91 aboard Discovery, the last mission to the space station Mir in June 1998, where she was a mission specialist.  Her second mission was STS-99 on the Endeavor in June 2000.  It was the last solo flight of the Endeavor because the remaining missions were dedicated to the International Space Station.

Her final mission STS-104, was also to the ISS on board the Atlantis in July 2001.

Apollo-Soyuz Test Project - linking American and Russian spacecraft 1975

In the early 1970's while tensions between Washington, DC  and the Kremlin ran high, a small group of scientists from both country worked toward a, a collaboration....perhaps a joint space mission(?) for the space programs of both countries could meet in space.

A cooperative mission was first proposed by NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine and the Soviet Academy of Sciences president Mstislav Keldysh accepted.  The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) was not universally considered a good idea, with many Americans feeling the ASTP would give the USSR to much access and help them get a step up.

The crew of the Apollo spacecraft was Commander Thomas P. Stafford (from Oklahoma!), Command Module Pilot Vance D. Brand (Colorado) and Docking Module Pilot Donald K. (Deke) Slayton (Wisconsin).  The Soyuz 19 crew consisted of Commander Alexey Leonov and Flight Engineer Valeri Kubasov.

Both spacecraft launched July 15, 1975 within hours of each other and docked on July 17.  The historic handshake between American and Soviet crews too place over Metz, France.  The astronauts and cosmonauts spoke in each other's languages, but because Stafford had a pronounced drawl when speaking Russian, Leonov joed that the languages spoken during the mission were Russian, English and "Oklahomski."

The ships separated after 44 hours and went their separate ways. The Soviets stayed in space for five days while the Americans remained for nine.  Soyuz 19 returned to Earth on July 21.  Apollo returned on July 24, an error occured and the crew was exposed to toxic nitrogen tetroxide fumes.  Brand lost consciousness but Stafford managed to get emergency oxygen masks on him and Brand and gave one to Slayton.  They were hospitalized for two weeks in Oahu (!) but made full recoveries.

Remembering Martin Landau (1928-2017)

Martin Landau, Oscar-winning actor, has passed away, July 15, 2017. His creer started way back in 1953, but he was an Oscar for Best Performance by a Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi in Johnny Depp's Ed Wood.  He enjoyed a brief stint as Commander John Koenig on Space:1999, but unfortunately, the show was cancelled after it sstecond season

He passed away July 15, in Los Angeles, where his publicist siad he had been hosptilized at UCLA for complications

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Apollo 11, first manned mission to land on the moon, launched 1969

Apollo 11 crew (L-R): Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin

The first manned mission to land on the moon, Apollo 11, was launched July 6, 1969, with Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.  The lunar lander Eagle touched down on the surface, July 20, when Armstrong broadcasted his famous line "The Eagle has landed!"  While he and Buzz Aldrin spent just under a day on the moon, Collins orbited alone in the Columbia, the lunar orbiter.

They returned to Earth July 24.

Friday, July 14, 2017

NASA releases video of New Horizons Flyover of Pluto and Charon

Is this cool or what?  NASA scientists have created videos of Pluto and its moon Charon from the data received from the New Horizons spacecraft from its flyby two years ago.

Check these out!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

"The Wooden Samurai" my latest story is available!

Remember to swing by JMS Books (or and get your copy of my historical gay romance, The Wooden Samurai!

In 1708 Japan, Hirata, a samurai serving Lord Takarada, is enjoying his elevated status in the daimyo’s army when he finds a gift, a wooden carving of a samurai on a horse.  Hirata realizes he has a secret admirer but who is it?  He discovers it is Matsuda, a young archer in Takarada’s retinue, who has taken a liking to Hirata.

But Hirata is not ready for a relationship with a man and refuses Matsuda.  After his rejection, Hirata realizes that he does love Matsuda, but now the archer is far away with Lord Takarada in Edo Castle and he does not know when they will return.

Hirata decides on a plan to convince Matsuda that he is ready, but before he can put it into action, an earthquake and a tsunami destroy the daimyo’s manor.

Hirata becomes frantic, since he has no idea if Matsuda is alive and if he will ever see him again.

Happy birthday, Aleksei Yeliseyev, first Lithuanian cosmonaut, 1934

Image result for Aleksei Yeliseyev

Aleksei Stanislavovich Yeliseyev was born July 13, 1934, in Zhizdra, Russia, to a Lithuanian father and Russian mother.  Although he was born in Russia and uses his mother's name, Yeliseyev, he is considered to be the first cosmonaut of Lithuanian heritage.  He served as flight engineer on three missions: Soyuz 5, Soyuz 8 and Soyuz 10 before retiring from the Soviet space program in 1985.

The first U.S. astronaut of Lithuanian heritage is Karol Joseph Bobko, who has flown three space shuttle flights.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Donald E. Westlake, crime fiction author, born 1933

Donald Westlake.jpg

Donald Westlake, born July 12, 1933, was a prolific and diverse author.  He specialized in crime fiction, but also dabbled in science fiction and even non-fiction.  He is one of very few authors who have won three Edgar Awards in three different categories.

Several of his works have been made into movies.  I remember reading one of his books back in college but, for the life of me, I cannot remember what it was. :D

He passed away December 31, 2008 from a heart attack.

Rick Husband, space shuttle astronaut, born 1957

Richard "Rick" Husband, born July 12, 1957 in Amarillo, Texas, was an astronaut for NASA.  He flew on two space shuttle missions, STS-96 on Discovery and STS-107 on Columbia which disintegrated upon re-entry February 1, 2003.  Although the Columbia mission was only his second flight, he was appointed Commander.

Prior to his NASA career, Husband was a Second Lieutenant in the US Air Force, attending pilot training at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma.  He logged over 3800 hours of flight time in more than 40 different types of aircraft.

Phobos 2, Soviet probe to Mars, launched 1988

Phobos 2, launched July 12, 1988, was the second of Soviet probes sent to explore Mars and its moons, Phobos and Deimos. The first probe, launched just days before, was lost not long after launch, but Phobos 2 made it to the Red Planet.  It investigated the Martian atmosphere and took 37 pictures of the moon Phobos, but contact was lost on March 27, right before it was to pass within 50m of the moon's surface and release two landers.  The Soviets determined the problem was due to a failure of the on-board computer.

Here is the only video I could find of the Phobos 2 program that did NOT include any references to aliens, alien ships, or abandoned alien civilizations.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

E. B. White, children's books author, born 1899

Elwyn Brooks (E.B.) White, born July 11, 1899, is probably best known for his book Charlotte's Web.  It is a must-read for every person and has been voted the top children's novel in a 2012 survey of School Library Journal readers.

Before writing, White worked as an editor of the Cornell Daily Sun, a cub reporter for the Seattle Times and was on staff at the New Yorker after it was founded in 1925.  It wasn't until the late 1930's that White began writing children's books and published Stuart Little in 1945, and, in 1952, Charlotte's Web, which receiveda Newbery Honor from the American Library Association.

White went on to win the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963 and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 1970.  His third novel, The Trumpet of the Swan won the Sequoya Award from Oklahoma.  I was 8 years old when it was published, but I have never heard of this one.

He passed away October 1, 1985 from Alzheimer's disease.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The EPA is no more.

In a move we all saw coming, The Donald has dismissed all remaining scientists from the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy.  No surprise, since naming Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator, they've done nothing else but deny climate change and global warming, dispute valid scientific research (they don't "believe" in it) and laying off anyone with a brain.

The EPA undergoes change with each administration, but the Democratic presidents tend to put more focus and commitment to science.  During President Obama's administration, OSTP had nine scientists on staff, who dealt with policy issues such as STEM education, biotechnology and crisis response.  The OSTP had over 100 employees in all.

Earth is doomed.  Thanks, GOP.

Epimetheus, Saturn's moon, up close!

While the Cassini spacecraft prepares for her swan song and death dive into the Saturnian atmosphere, she is still orbiting the planet and taking pictures of everything.  In February, Cassini performed a flyby of the inner moon Saturn XI or Epimetheus.

The moon Janus was discovered in December 1966 by two separate astronomers and believed there to be only one moon.  In 1978, two more astronomers determined that 1966 observations were best explained by two distinct objects, sharing very similar orbits.  Voyager 1 confirmed this in 1980, so the two astronmers Stephen Larson and John Fountain are credited with Epimetheus' discovery.

Epimetheus is only about 70 miles in diameter which means it is too small to have an atmosphere or to be geologically active.  It has two named craters, Hilairea and Pollux, characters from Castor and Pollux of Greek mythology.

Happy birthday, Greg Kihn!

Baltimore native Greg Kihn, born July 10, 1949, enjoyed a hey-day in the 1980's with his band.  His first big hit, The Breakup Song (They Don't Write 'Em) went to #15 in 1981, but his biggest hit, Jeopardy, went to #2 in 1983.

After going solo and working in radio, Greg has started a literary career, with his first novel, Horror Show, being nominated for the prestigious Bram Stoker Award, for best new novel.  He wrote a mystery novel, Rubber Soul, in 2013 which features the Beatles.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

"Tron" released 1982

It may not have received the best reviews, but true to the Disney spirit, it took us to some place we hadn't been before.  Where The Black Hole took us...well... into a black hole, Tron took us into a computer, using computer graphics, which were ground-breaking at the time.  Nowadays, those special effects seem lame but back then, they were awesome!  Even now, it's great to look back and watch young Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Atlantis launches, Space Shuttle program's final mission, 2011

The Space Shuttle Atlantis launched on July 8, 2011 on the last mission of the Space Shuttle program.  Four astronauts, the first four person crew in 28 years, delivered a payload to the International Space Station.  They returned to Earth July 21, closing the chapter on the Space Shuttle program.

Crew: Commander Christopher Ferguson, Pilot Douglas Hurley, Mission Specialist 1 Sandra Magnus, Mission Specialist 2 Rex Walheim

Friday, July 7, 2017

David Eddings, sci-fi/fantasy writer, born 1931

David Eddings portrait.jpg

David Eddings, born July 7, 1931, is best known as a science fiction/fantasy author, who wrote the Belgariad series, featuring Aunt Pol.  I read the first two books, Pawn of Prophecy and Queen of Sorcery back in the 80's.  I especially enjoyed the fantasy adn magic aspects of the stories. I suppose I should probably finish the series and the rest of his books.

Eddings passed away June 2, 2009 in Carson City, Nevada, from natural causes.

Opportunity, Mars rover, launched 2003

The Mars Rover that keeps on going, Opportunity (MER-B) was launched July 7, 2003 and arrived on the Red Planet January 25, 2004.  It has not stopped since.  Still going over 13 years later, Opportunity has exceeded its planned operating time by 50 times. It has traveled almost 30 miles and even has an asteroid named for it.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

LaVerne Andrews born 1911

The big sister of the Andrews Sisters, LaVerne Sophia, was born July 6, 1911.  She, Maxene and Patty brought their unique blend of tight harmonies to the universe in the 1930's-1940's, and are still influential today.

During World War II, they entertained troops all over the world, and were named the "Sweethearts of  Armed Forces Radio Service".

After the death of their parents, the sisters became distant from each other, fought and finally broke up in 1953.

LaVerne passed away from cancer May 8, 1967.

Their first big hit was Bei Mir Bist Du Schon in 1937.

Soyuz 21 to Salyut 5 launches 1976

Cosmonauts Boris Volynov (commander) and Vitaly Zholobov (flight engineer) blasted off from Baikonur July 6, 1976 in Soyuz 21 on their way to Salyut 5.  Their mission was scheduled to last from 54-66 days, but on August 24, it was announced their mission would end in 10 hours.

No official explanation has ever been found as to why the crew were recalled to Earth so soon.  The most likely scenario is an "acrid" odor detected on the space station.  Another explanation is Zholobov was in failing health (probably due to nitric acid leaking from the fuel tanks; or the crew did not follow their exercise program  and suffered from lack of sleep.

They boarded Soyuz 21 and attempted to detach from Salyut 4, but the mechanism failed to operate properly.  They received the first set of emergency instructions right before they lost contact with Russia, due to them moving behind the Earth.  Once they regained their signal, they received the emergency procedures and they were able to free themselves from Salyut 5.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Happy birthday, Tom Henricks, 4-time Shuttle astronaut!

Tom Henricks, born July 5, 1952 in Ohio, is a veteran of four Space Shuttle missions.  He served as a pilot on his first mission (STS-44)  on board the Atlantis in 1991.  He also served as pilot on his second mission (STS-55), on Columbia in 1993. His third mission (STS-70), he served as Commander on the Discovery, in 1995 and he was also commander on his fourth and last mission (STS-78) on Columbia in 1996.

He became the first person to log over 1000 hours as pilot/commander.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Mars Pathfinder Sojourner Lands on Mars 1997

The little probe that could, Mars Pathfinder Sojourner, landed on the Red Planet July 4, 1997.  Originally expected to operate for one week to at most one month, Sojourner surpassed all expectations and lasted three months, before contact was lost.

The rover was launched December 4, 1996, taking seven months to reach Mars.  It showed NASA's commitment to lower cost missions, for example, using air bags to land instead of thrusters.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Pruitt's EPA plan to ease methane releases gets shut down by DC Court

In another set-back to Scott Pruitt's EPA, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled 2-1 in favor of a lawsuit filed by the National Resources Defense Council and other agencies concerned with global and atmospheric pollution.  The EPA issued a "stay" of federal standards to reduce leaks of methane as well as other air pollutants from oil and gas wells and facilities.

Like the issue with the mercury releases, the stay was issued without any advance public notice, nor any opportunity for public comment, as required by law.  He also proposed to extend the stay for two years.  Methane and the other air pollutants can produce smog, cause cancer and can trigger asthma attacks.

The Clean Air Council, Earthworks, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Integrity Project and Sierra Club joined NRDC in bringing the lawsuit against the EPA.

What justification could Pruitt have for suspending these poisons? Oh, right.

NASA confirms it is not hiding kidnapped children in slave camps on Mars

In an actual turn of events, NASA had to defend itself against claims that it kidnaps children and ships them to Mars on a 20-year ride, where they have no choice but to work as slaves.  Robert David Steele was a guest on Alex Jones Show and claimed:

“We actually believe that there is a colony on Mars that is populated by children who were kidnapped and sent into space on a 20-year ride.”
and this:

“So that once they get to Mars they have no alternative but to be slaves on the Mars colony.”

Naturally, NASA had to defend itself without cracking up in the middle of their statement.  And against this sort of inane drivel, that's not as easy as it sounds.  Alex Jones is also known for stating the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax and promoted the Pizzagate conspiracy.  Most of his elaborate conspiracy theories have been debunked, and that's easy to do.

The only thing moving right now on Mars are the Rovers, dust devils and occasionally, running water!  But even rocket scientists need a laugh every now and then.  You cannot make this shit up!

Oklahoma Earthquakes: Blame man, not Mother Nature

NASA has turned its eyes in the sky earthward to study the rash of earthquakes that have rocked the Sooner State since 2009.  Their conclusions support the number of previous studies that link wastewater injections into porous geographical formations underground, i.e. human-induced activities, to earthquakes.

NASA's study focused on the largest earthquakes, the 5.7 magnitude near Prague in 2011 and the 5.8 magnitude near Pawnee, last September 3. Using their radar satellites allows them to see and study details of the earthquakes that were not previously matched and do not reach teh surface.

You can read the article below but the results of their study indicates "a human-induced earthquake resulting from wastewater injection, rather than a naturally caused quake".  The article opens with a statement saying "Oklahomans are no strangers to Mother Nature's whims" but as the article continues, it is clear Mother Nature has nothing to do with the Sooner State's earthquakes.