Astronomy

Hope, Obscure, Refusing to Die

Detail of 'Animal Nuz #228' by Eric Lewis, 6 December 2014, via Daily Kos Comics.Sometimes amid the noise and bluster we might feel an angry impulse toward something that seems almost absurd by comparison. Yet it also seems inevitable that there is a lesson waiting to be learned. Eric Lewis reminds us of something very, very important that happened this week; the United States is moving back toward its very own manned space program.

But no. We can’t possibly pause to celebrate that, can we? Because we’re all too busy giving attention-hungry cops exactly the sort of sycophantic celebrity they’re after.

It is worth noting that controversial professor Leonard Jeffries used to denounce the space program as an effort by white people to spread their filth across the Universe. It’s only about a quarter-century later, and perhaps the most disgraceful thing about that rhetorical temper tantrum is the effort American society has devoted to proving it true.

Space exploration is something to be celebrated; getting the hell off its rock is one of the fundamental purposes of the living endeavor. This arrangement of matter and energy can last as long as the Universe itself allows, unless Life destroys itself first. Yet Lewis makes an important point: When the time comes, can we please leave the racism behind?

Everybody wins that way; the human endeavor can properly advance, and the hatemongers can finally start feeling like they’ve got a place to call home. And when they look around at the wreck of whatever is left, they can celebrate that they finally got what they wanted, the whole trash heap of human existence on planet Earth all to themselves.

Evolution is supposed to coincide with progress. Oh, you romantic American rebels, you.

Another Reason to Increase NASA Funding

Sometimes, the best justification for something is to look at the things that it is not:

An artist's rendering of the Phobos Grunt (Ground) probeRussian officials on Tuesday acknowledged that the chances of fixing a space probe bound for a moon of Mars that got stuck in Earth’s orbit are close to zero, Russian news agencies reported.

The unmanned $170 million Phobos-Ground was launched two weeks ago and reached preliminary Earth orbit, but its engines never fired to send it off to the Red Planet. Russian engineers have been trying to retrieve data from the probe as it passes over their territory but haven’t established contact ….

…. The failed spacecraft is 13.2 metric tons (14.6 tons), and most of that weight, about 11 metric tons (12 tons), is highly toxic fuel.

Davydov said Tuesday that Phobos-Ground could crash to Earth some time between late December and late February. The site of the crash cannot be established more than a day in advance, he said.

Davydov insisted that “if you calculate the probability of it hitting somebody on the head, it is close to zero.”

Thank you, Vitaly Davydov. We all feel so much better.

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