A Challenging Existence

Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh talks with guests in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., 13 January 2009. (Photo: Ron Edmonds/AP)“OK so there’s flowing water on Mars. Yip yip yip yahoo. You know me, I’m science 101, big time guy, tech advance it, you know it, I’m all in. But, NASA has been corrupted by the current regime. I want to find out what they’re going to tell us. OK, flowing water on Mars. If we’re even to believe that, what are they going to tell us that means? That’s what I’m going to wait for. Because I guarantee, let’s just wait and see, this is September 28, let’s just wait and see. Don’t know how long it’s going to take, but this news that there is flowing water on Mars is somehow going to find its way into a technique to advance the leftist agenda. I don’t know what it is, I would assume it would be something to do with global warming and you can―maybe there was once an advanced civilization. If they say they found flowing water, next they’re going to find a graveyard.”

Rush Limbaugh

What stands out is this is not, really, so unexpected. Neither is the part where the man who mouths a golden mike described the “challenging existence” of always being right.

Every once in a while, these inflammatory media stars not so much let down their guard but find themselves actually hiding behind their falsehoods. One or another of the FOX News hosts once admitted he knew he wasn’t describing real facts; Rush Limbaugh once tried to duck controversy by posturing himself as a comedian, even comparing himself to Bill Maher, who rightly and roundly rejected the sleight. Still, though, the point persists, as does the concomitant question: Mr. Limbaugh and his fellows are entertainers. Why do their audiences receive them as purveyors of fact?

The thing is that we probably would not look at any one NASA event and predict Mr. Limbaugh would respond as he has, but now that he’s gone and said it, well, you know, is anybody really surprised?

Just keep this one in mind; you will hear it in the murmur and buzz around you. You know, the dude at the pub; that one guy at work; your proverbial crazy uncle.

And when you do encounter this bit of tinfoil, remember that even Mr. Limbaugh knows he’s full of shit. And ask yourself why these people you encounter might believe it. Or, hell, ask them; that ought to be interesting; you know, proverbially.

Because if Mr. Limbaugh is a comedian, how is the joke not on the Dittoheads?


Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh talks with guests in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., 13 January 2009. (Photo: Ron Edmonds/AP)

Media Matters Staff. “After NASA Announces It Found Water On Mars, Rush Limbaugh Says It’s Part Of A Climate Change Conspiracy”. Media Matters for America. 28 September 2015.

A Moment for MESSENGER

Detail of Mercury global mosaic compiled by MESSENGER probe, which crashed into the planet's surface 30 April 2015 SCET.  Image via Johns Hopkins University.

Thank you, MESSENGER.

Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., confirmed today [30 April 2015] that NASA’s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft impacted the surface of Mercury, as predicted, at 3:26 p.m. EDT this afternoon (3:34 p.m. ground time).

MESSENGER Mission Complete: Final statistics for MESSENGER probe, which crashed into Mercury 30 April 2015 SCET.  Image from screenshot from mission page at Johns Hopkins University.Mission controllers were able to confirm the end of operations just a few minutes later at 3:40 p.m., when no signal was detected by the Deep Space Network (DSN) station in Goldstone, California, at the time the spacecraft would have emerged from behind the planet had MESSENGER not impacted the surface. This conclusion was independently confirmed by the DSN’s Radio Science team, who were simultaneously looking for the signal from MESSENGER from their posts in California.

MESSENGER was launched on August 3, 2004, and it began orbiting Mercury on March 18, 2011. The spacecraft completed its primary science objectives by March 2012. Because MESSENGER’s initial discoveries raised important new questions and the payload remained healthy, the mission was extended twice, allowing the spacecraft to make observations from extraordinarily low altitudes and capture images and information about the planet in unprecedented detail.

Last month — during a final short extension of the mission referred to as XM2′– the team embarked on a hover campaign that allowed the spacecraft at its closest approach to operate within a narrow band of altitudes, 5 to 35 kilometers above the planet’s surface. On April 28, the team successfully executed the last of seven orbit-correction maneuvers (the last four of which were conducted entirely with helium pressurant after the remaining liquid hydrazine had been depleted), which kept MESSENGER aloft for the additional month, sufficiently long for the spacecraft’s instruments to collect critical information that could shed light on Mercury’s crustal magnetic anomalies and ice-filled polar craters, among other features.

With no way to increase its altitude, MESSENGER was finally unable to resist the perturbations to its orbit by the Sun’s gravitational pull, and it slammed into Mercury’s surface at around 8,750 miles per hour, creating a new crater up to 52 feet wide.

“Today we bid a fond farewell to one of the most resilient and accomplished spacecraft ever to have explored our neighboring planets,” said Sean Solomon, MESSENGER’s Principal Investigator and Director of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “Our craft set a record for planetary flybys, spent more than four years in orbit about the planet closest to the Sun, and survived both punishing heat and extreme doses of radiation. Among its other achievements, MESSENGER determined Mercury’s surface composition, revealed its geological history, discovered that its internal magnetic field is offset from the planet’s center, taught us about Mercury’s unusual internal structure, followed the chemical inventory of its exosphere with season and time of day, discovered novel aspects of its extraordinarily active magnetosphere, and verified that its polar deposits are dominantly water ice. A resourceful and committed team of engineers, mission operators, scientists, and managers can be extremely proud that the MESSENGER mission has surpassed all expectations and delivered a stunningly long list of discoveries that have changed our views not only of one of Earth’s sibling planets but of the entire inner solar system.”

(Johns Hopkins University)