The Star Trek Report chronicles the history of mankind's attempt to reach the stars, from the fiction that gave birth to the dreams, to the real-life heroes who have turned those dreams into reality.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

NASA Adds More Space Launch Platforms For Sale

This is from Voice of America, way back in August 2013

Monday, January 6, 2014

Is China's Space Program Shaping a Celestial Empire?


China is pressing forward on its human space exploration plans, intent on establishing an international space station and, experts say, harnessing the technological muscle to launch its astronauts to the moon.

Highlighting China's intent, the country is working with the United Nations to stage a major workshop on human space technology, to be held Sept. 16-20 in Beijing.

The meeting is organized jointly by the U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs and the China Manned Space Agency, co-organized by the International Academy of Astronautics and hosted by the China Manned Space Agency.

The five-day international workshop will bring together senior experts, professionals and decision-makers from public sectors, academia and industry worldwide. [See photos from China's Shenzhou 10 space mission]

On the agenda, the workshop aims to contribute to "establishing institutional capacity in microgravity science and enhancing international cooperation in human space exploration as a global endeavor," according to meeting documents.

Share and exchange information
"With such a strong partner as China, I am convinced that this workshop will be extraordinary and interesting, and valuable results will be achieved for the whole space community," Mazlan Othman, director general of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, said in a statement.

The workshop "will provide great opportunities for space colleagues from the world to share and exchange information and ideas on human space exploration activities. I believe those exchanges will definitely enhance the friendship among us and the international cooperation in the endeavor," Zhaoyao Wang, director general of the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), said in a statement.

Zhaoyao said that, since its establishment in 1992, the CMSA has organized 11 flight missions and sent 10 Chinese astronauts into outer space to bolster the nation's human space exploration activities.
China's first space traveler, Yang Liwei, was sent into orbit in October 2003, making China the third nation — after Russia and the United States — to launch astronauts to space using its own vehicles. [Chinese Lift-Off! Crew of 3 to Visit Space Lab |(Video)]

"The year 2013 marks the 10th anniversary of China's manned space flight mission," Zhaoyao said. "These achievements are crucial steps towards fulfilling China's plans of building a manned space station around the year 2020, which would benefit the world by promoting international cooperation in the utilization of the station for the peaceful exploration and use of outer space."

Progress…faster than expected
"My top line is that the Chinese are moving ahead aggressively on a human exploration program," said Laurence Young, Apollo program professor of astronautics and professor of health sciences and technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Young told that China is progressing toward robotic lunar exploration and eventually human moon exploration.

In gauging China's human space exploration campaign, Young said "they have laid out what appears to be a more than reasonable, but nevertheless optimistic plan."

From single-piloted missions to multiple crews, space walking, "everything they have been touting they have, in fact, made progress on," Young said. "To many of us, it has been faster than we might have expected."

Distinctive Chinese program
Some experts have criticized China's rockets and spacecraft as simply blowing dust off Russia's Soyuz design. But Young disagreed, saying, "They are wrong." China has taken the best of what they've imported from the Russians, learned from America and the European Space Agency, he said, "and are building a distinctive Chinese program."

Going to the moon is not easy, Young said. "We have to give the Chinese credit for taking on those hard problems. Whether they will be successful or not remains to be seen. But they are serious about it," he said.

A leading expert in space biomedical research and artificial gravity, Young has been invited to take part in an International Forum for Space Life Science and Space Biotechnology, to be held Sept. 24 in Beijing.

At the forum, China's strategic plan for life science, biotechnology and international cooperation, geared to the country's space station, is to be rolled out.

"Around 2020, China is going to build its own space station and to carry out space science research of larger scale," said Yidong Gu, an Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and leader of the science planning group for China's space station. [Watch China's first video lesson from space]

Unmistakable warning signs
Writing for the journal Foreign Policy this month, John Hickman, a professor of political science at Berry College in Georgia, said there "are unmistakable warning signs that China may surpass the United States and Russia to become the world's pre-eminent spacefaring power."
Hickman said China's recent piloted space mission, Shenzhou 10, "may determine the terms under which the spacefaring powers compete on the final frontier. By the way, he said that one of many ancient names for China is Tianchao — the Celestial Empire. Shenzhou 10 may be pointing the way toward its creation," he said.
On the Chinese Space Mission Shenzhou 10
Launched in June of this year, Shenzhou 10 was China’s fifth piloted space flight mission and the tenth flight of the Shenzhou spacecraft. It was the last of the three Shenzhou flight missions intended for testing rendezvous and docking techniques with the country’s Tiangong 1 space lab. The mission lasted 15 days, the longest space trek so far in the history of China’s human space flight program.
Credit: CMSE
"For Washington to continue to ignore Beijing's resolute space policy doesn't mean there is no space race; it means that Beijing wins by default," he said.
"Saying that it takes two to tango is a poor excuse for losing because international space politics isn't a tango. Instead, it is a conga line," Hickman told
"One of the underlying problems in U.S. space policy-making is the conviction based on the dominant Constructivist Theory of International Relations that the behavior of states is necessarily constrained by a consensus on international norms," Hickman said. "Some decision-makers in Washington are convinced that Beijing can be talked into accepting the leadership of Washington because it has been working to establish that consensus together with the second-tier space powers."
Ignore the consensus
China Astronauts
Hickman said the hitch is that a state like China can ignore the consensus if it possesses the material means and the economic and technological wherewithal to do so. China does, he said. 
"The problem with the constructivist theory of international relations is that it tempts decision-makers into engaging in wishful thinking about the future.  If China takes the lead, then the other second-tier space powers will begin to follow the Chinese lead," Hickman said.
The last time America was forced to participate in a space race, Hickman said, America managed "a come from behind win" in large part because the U.S. had the advantage of a much larger and more efficient economy than the Soviet Union. 
"That is not true this time around. China is not the Soviet Union. The implication is that what we need is a serious 'forward' space policy now or we will lose not only this international competition but also the chance to lead the human endeavor in space," Hickman said.
Hickman then posed this question with a suggested answer: "What should the United States do? Answer: Establish a permanent manned United States base on the moon first."

Last frontier left
"I do think a human moon landing is very much in the cards for China," said Narayani Basu, a research officer with the Southeast Asia Research Program at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies in New Delhi, India. "It would seem a natural culmination to the three-phase program that they are working towards completing," she told
All in all, space is the last frontier left, Basu said. "Beijing is aware of its competitors. It has done its research and it is working to become a competitor to be reckoned with as far as space exploration goes. They've improved and built upon the technology already in place so that their space program is leaner and sleeker in terms of budgeting," she said.

Basu said that China is looking for resources on Earth. And the next step is outer space.
China Dragon Space Station
A major stepping stone goal for China is orbiting a large space station, a facility targeted for the 2020 time period.
Asteroid mining, establishing a permanent manned base on the moon, these are all avenues just waiting to be taken advantage of, Basu added. "The U.S. program is struggling at the moment. Taking a quick lead in matters like these will give Beijing an upper hand in terms of 'geo-strategy' in the future," she said.
International space stage
China's space station is to be in place by 2020, officials have said — perhaps the same year that the International Space Station is going to be scrapped.
"That will undoubtedly give the Chinese an edge on the international space stage," Basu said. "It is also a signal of hope to the Chinese people that China is regaining some of its past glory…that it's still a strong contender in world politics. It is a message that the Party would like to get across, both internationally and domestically, in my opinion, especially given all the bad press about its slowing economy."
Basu said that, practicalities apart, space exploration definitely figures as a theme in Chinese President Xi Jinping's "Chinese dream."
"His vision implies that China will become stronger, has a definite strategic and economic footprint, and a global — and with the culmination of the space program — extraterrestrial — presence. So, in all fields and arenas, it will be a force to reckon with," Basu said.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Voyager probe 'leaves Solar System'

From the BBC:

The Voyager-1 spacecraft has become the first manmade object to leave the Solar System.

Scientists say the probe's instruments indicate it has moved beyond the bubble of hot gas from our Sun and is now moving in the space between the stars.

Launched in 1977, Voyager was sent initially to study the outer planets, but then just kept on going.

Today, the veteran Nasa mission is almost 19 billion km (12 billion miles) from home.

This distance is so vast that it takes 17 hours now for a radio signal sent from Voyager to reach receivers here on Earth.

"This is really a key milestone that we'd been hoping we would reach when we started this project over 40 years ago - that we would get a spacecraft into interstellar space," said Prof Ed Stone, the chief scientist on the venture.

"Scientifically it's a major milestone, but also historically - this is one of those journeys of exploration like circumnavigating the globe for the first time or having a footprint on the Moon for the first time. This is the first time we've begun to explore the space between the stars," he told BBC News.

Sensors on Voyager had been indicating for some time that its local environment had changed.

The data that finally convinced the mission team to call the jump to interstellar space came from the probe's Plasma Wave Science (PWS) instrument. This can measure the density of charged particles in Voyager's vicinity.

Readings taken in April/May this year and October/November last year revealed a near-100-fold jump in the number of protons occupying every cubic metre of space.

Scientists have long theorised such a spike would eventually be observed if Voyager could get beyond the influence of the magnetic fields and particle wind that billow from the surface of the Sun.

When the Voyager team put the new data together with information from the other instruments onboard, they calculated the moment of escape to have occurred on or about 25 August, 2012. This conclusion is contained in a report published by the journal Science.

"This is big; it's really impressive - the first human-made object to make it out into interstellar space," said Prof Don Gurnett from the University of Iowa and the principal investigator on the PWS.

On 25 August, 2012, Voyager-1 was some 121 Astronomical Units away. That is, 121 times the separation between the Earth and the Sun.

Breaching the boundary, known technically as the heliopause, was, said the English Astronomer Royal, Prof Sir Martin Rees, a remarkable achievement: "It's utterly astonishing that this fragile artefact, based on 1970s technology, can signal its presence from this immense distance."

Although now embedded in the gas, dust and magnetic fields from other stars, Voyager still feels a gravitational tug from the Sun, just as some comets do that lie even further out in space. But to all intents and purposes, it has left what most people would define as the Solar System. It is now in a completely new domain.

Nasa's Voyager probes
  • Voyager 2 launched on 20 August 1977; Voyager 1 lifted off on 5 September the same year
  • Their official missions were to study Jupiter and Saturn, but the probes were able to continue on
  • The Voyager 1 probe is now the furthest human-built object from Earth
  • Both probes carry discs with recordings designed to portray the diversity of culture on Earth

Voyager-1 departed Earth on 5 September 1977, a few days after its sister spacecraft, Voyager-2.

The pair's primary objective was to survey the planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune - a task they completed in 1989.

They were then steered towards deep space. It is expected that their plutonium power sources will stop supplying electricity in about 10 years, at which point their instruments and their 20W transmitters will die.

Voyager-1 will not approach another star for nearly 40,000 years, even though it is moving at 45km/s (100,000mph).

"Voyager-1 will be in orbit around the centre of our galaxy with all its stars for billions of years," said Prof Stone.

The probe's work is not quite done, however. For as long as they have working instruments, scientists will want to sample the new environment.

The new region through which Voyager is now flying was generated and sculpted by big stars that exploded millions of years ago.

There is indirect evidence and models to describe the conditions in this medium, but Voyager can now measure them for real and report back.

The renowned British planetary scientist Prof Fred Taylor commented: "As a young post-doc, I went to [Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory] and worked for a while with the team that was doing the science definition study for the Outer Planets Grand Tour, which later became Voyager.

"It seemed so incredible and exciting to think we would see and explore Jupiter and Saturn close up, let alone Uranus and Neptune.

"The idea that the spacecraft would then exit the Solar System altogether was so way out, figuratively as well as literally, that we didn't even discuss it then, although I suppose we knew it would happen someday. Forty-three years later, that day has arrived, and Voyager is still finding new frontiers."

Schematic of the Solar System The Sun sits in an extensive bubble of hot gas called the heliosphere

  • Solar wind: The stream of charged particles blown off the Sun and travelling at "supersonic" speeds (white arrows)
  • Termination shock: Area where particles from the Sun begin to slow and clash with matter from deep space
  • Heliosheath: A vast, turbulent expanse where the solar wind piles up as it presses outward against interstellar matter
  • Heliopause: The boundary between the solar wind and the interstellar wind, where the pressure of both are in balance

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Time Runs Out for Telescope, Examining Kepler's Contribution to Space Research

From PBS: Time Runs Out for Telescope, Examining Kepler's Contribution to Space Research

JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. space agency confirmed yesterday that its renowned Kepler telescope is beyond repair, a big blow in its search for planets.
The Kepler was launched into an orbit around the sun in 2009, its purpose, observe stars thousands of light years from Earth that may harbor Earth-like planets. By looking at what happens to the light emanated by the stars, it's discovered more than 3,500 possible planets, more than 100 of which have been independently confirmed.
But it has not yet found one planet that has the right conditions for sustaining life as here on Earth. NASA says the spacecraft's wheels, which are critical for keeping it pointed correctly, do not work anymore. Astronomers are now assessing its legacy.
Michael Lemonick is the author of a book about Kepler called “Mirror Earth." He has long written about space and science for TIME magazine.
Michael Lemonick, welcome to the NewsHour.
Tell us a little bit more about what the original mission for the Kepler was.

MICHAEL LEMONICK, author: The original mission was to take a census, really, of a group of stars, an average group of stars, to find out what percentage of them have planets of any kind, and what sizes those planets come in and how far they are from their stars, how the temperature on the surface of those planets would be, if you were there.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And why is that important? And how much of that mission did it get done?
MICHAEL LEMONICK: It got -- well, first of all, it got a huge amount done.
It's important because when -- the reason we look for planets around other stars at all is because we're interested in whether there is life elsewhere in the universe. And the best bet for life, we would think, would be on a planet just like Earth, that is, about the same size as Earth, orbiting a star like sun, with the right temperature for water to exist in liquid form, which is a requirement for life, we think.
And since we know there's a planet like that already in the universe, and life is here, we want to look for a planet like that elsewhere as the best bet for finding life.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And so what happened to the telescope? We mentioned the wheels not working. What -- was this something they expected would go wrong?
MICHAEL LEMONICK: Well, so, these wheels help the telescope point very precisely at the stars it's looking at.
You have to hold the telescope very steady in order to detect the very faint fluctuations in light that happen when a planet goes in front of a star, so it dims just a tiny bit. And the wheels help keep it pointed incredibly precisely. And they have had four of these reaction wheels that the satellite went up with.
One of them failed last year. Another one failed last spring. And with only two wheels still working, you can't point with the accuracy that you need. And so the telescope is still in perfect working order. It just can't aim in the direction that it's supposed to.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael Lemonick, it must be incredibly frustrating for the NASA scientists who put so much effort into this. How are they taking it?
MICHAEL LEMONICK: Well, they're actually taking it pretty well. When Kepler was first approved in 2000, it was approved for a four-year mission. That's what the scientists asked for. And NASA said, yes, you can have four years.
And they have completed the four years. In 2012, the scientists said, wow, we could do better science if we had another several years, and they got another three-and-a-half. But the first primary phase of the mission has been completed. And only the first two years worth of data from those four years have been analyzed yet. And those numbers you quoted in the introduction, all those planets it's found already, that's just from the first two years of data.
So they have got two more years' worth to probe through, many more discoveries to make. All they're -- all that is lacking is the ability to then go even deeper and look even further. So they're disappointed, of course. They would have liked to do more with this amazing satellite, but they're incredibly satisfied with what they found already.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But in terms of adding to our understanding of space, you're saying this is significant?
MICHAEL LEMONICK: This is very significant.
What they have done in the survey is discovered what they are convinced are more than 3,000 planets. They haven't all been confirmed yet, but most of them will be. And what they see is that if you look out around average stars, you will see some planets, like Jupiter, big, gassy, giant planets that would be very inhospitable to life, more, smaller planets like Neptune, still not very hospitable.
But as you get smaller and smaller and closer to Earth in size, there are more and more planets. And if they extrapolate from what they have seen, one estimate, one lowball estimate is that in the Milky Way, there would be 17 billion planets with just the right conditions for life, and that's a low estimate. There are probably more than that.
So, we didn't know any of this before Kepler. Now we know that Earth-like planets are almost certainly very common in the Milky Way. Fifteen years ago, we didn't even know there were planets at all around other stars. Now we know that Earths are very common in the Milky Way.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And what do they believe it's going to take to find out where those other Earths are?
MICHAEL LEMONICK: Well, so Kepler's primary mission is often misunderstood.
It wasn't specifically to find those planets in particular. It was to get an idea of how common they are. That's the basic mission. So, if it found that Earth-like planets are very rare, that tells astronomers, OK, maybe it's not worth going out now and trying to find specific ones. What it's found instead is that Earth-like planets are probably very common.
There are probably plenty of them reasonably close to us, and now we can start targeting, with new telescopes, targeting stars closer to Earth than the Kepler stars, which are quite far away, looking for those planets, and, ultimately, with more powerful telescopes, looking at their atmospheres and their surfaces to try and determine whether there's really life there, because it's one thing to say, yes, this is a good place where life could exist.
We want to be able to say, yes, life does exist on these planets. And that is now not a crazy thing to try and do, thanks to Kepler. We now know it's not a quixotic endeavor.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, that is pretty exciting.
Michael Lemonick, thank you very much.
Thank you.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Showdown over NASA funding likely

From USA Today: Showdown over NASA funding likely

WASHINGTON — A Senate panel Tuesday narrowly approved a bill reauthorizing NASA, setting up a showdown with the House over how much money the nation's space program should get.

The three-year bill, which now heads to the full Senate, would give the space agency $18.1 billion in fiscal year 2014, $18.4 billion in 2015 and $18.8 billion in 2016 -- $2 billion more per year than the U.S. House is considering. NASA received $17.7 billion in fiscal 2013, which ends Sept. 30.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passed the bill 13-12 along party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

"While it's not as much as we'd like NASA to have, it's certainly a step in the right direction," Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said after the vote. Nelson chairs the Science and Space Subcommittee that helped shape and steer the legislation.

If the Democratic-led Senate passes the bill as expected, lawmakers likely will have to reconcile it with a House bill that promises NASA much less. Earlier this month, lawmakers on the GOP-led House Science, Space and Technology Committee settled on a funding figure closer to $16.8 billion for fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2015. A vote on the House floor is expected later this year.

The partisan conflict over NASA funding largely involves each party's view of how much money is available to spend on most federal programs, such as space and science.

Republicans are unwilling to go beyond the overall allocations spelled out in the budget they approved earlier this year. Those levels assume the government-wide budget cuts Congress agreed to in 2011 -- known as sequestration -- will remain in effect.

Democrats on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee argued Tuesday that NASA reauthorization should be based on how much money the agency realistically needs, not on what might be available in the next budget cycle.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., called a Republican amendment to reduce the bill's funding levels "a misguided attempt to really turn the committee into nothing but the Appropriations (Committee)."

"And I think we have very important technology-mission oversight that we have to focus on," she said.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the top Republican on the panel, sounded optimistic that lawmakers can compromise.

The NASA bill "will likely need even more work before (it) reflects the kind of consensus that has characterized our committee's enacted legislation," he told panel members. "With additional effort, however, I am hopeful that we can get there in the weeks and months ahead."

The difference is not just about money. It's also about NASA's overall direction and whether the agency should be allowed — or trusted — to pursue the course it's laid out for the next few years.
Both the House and Senate measures would provide money to continue developing NASA's top priorities: a deep-space mission to Mars, a joint venture with aerospace firms to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station, and completion of the James Webb Space Telescope.

But while the Senate bill would permit an asteroid retrieval mission the agency wants to undertake as part of its stepping-stone approach to Mars, the House measure strictly prohibits it.

"I don't think that is the position of a committee to be telling the scientists and the NASA experts of what we should be doing," Nelson said Tuesday.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Buzz Aldrin on Why We Should Go to Mars

From Smithsonian:  Buzz Aldrin on Why We Should Go to Mars
A member of the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, Buzz Aldrin was the second man to walk on the moon. In the years since, he has become an advocate for space exploration and technology, calling for renewed U.S. investment in the space program. In Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration, Aldrin lays out a detailed, multi-stage plan for journeying to the red planet that would culminate in the first permanent human settlement beyond the Earth.
It’s been more than four decades since you landed on the moon. What’s your assessment of the U.S. space program since then?
The United States has had periods of ambition, but it has not financed them appropriately. Interest waned after the first Apollo landing on the moon. There was the conflict in Vietnam that attracted attention and financing and U.S. government support, and then a general disinterest by the American people in American leadership and technology. Our standing in education in the world, in science, technology, engineering and math, began to go up because of Apollo and then back down again. I’m trying to fix a lot of that.
The space shuttle has been the most high-profile program in the years since Apollo. Do you think it was a success?
It killed two crews, it was way over budget, and it hasn’t really accomplished what it set out to do. Of course we pioneered international cooperation and zero gravity experiments and we gained medical knowledge about long-term habitation in space. But the experiments were disappointing for the results of a national laboratory. We had to rely on Russian contributions to build the space station. And now the United States is financing the Russian space program in order to keep our people, in America, at our $100 billion space station, because we had to retire the shuttle.
NASA ended the space shuttle program in 2011. Do you think that was premature?
No, the program needed cancelling, but NASA and the U.S. had seven years between the beginning of 2004 and the end of 2010 to come up with a replacement for the shuttle, which it failed to do.
You’ve worried about the U.S. falling behind. Do you see other government space agencies doing better work? The Russians, for example, or the European Space Agency?
Well, they’re not well-financed either. But they continue to be able to transport crews to the $100 billion International Space Station. And the Chinese have advanced, with Russian assistance, to potentially surpass the United States.
During the Apollo program we were in a so-called “space race” with the Soviet Union. Do you think that it’s important for the U.S. to lead the world in space exploration, or should it be more of a partnership between nations?
Absolutely the United States should lead in space, for the survival of the United States. It’s inspiring for the next generation. If we lose leadership, then we’ll be using Chinese capability to inspire Americans.
You were critical of President Bush and NASA’s proposal to return to the moon, but the moon does play a role in your conception of a mission to Mars. Can you explain?
To send humans back to the moon would not be advancing. It would be more than 50 years after the first moon landing when we got there, and we’d probably be welcomed by the Chinese. But we should return to the moon without astronauts and build, with robots, an international lunar base, so that we know how to build a base on Mars robotically.
What would the moon base look like?
I think it should be an early version of a habitation module for a U.S. interplanetary spacecraft. We would put it there for testing temperature control, the temperature changes with 14 days of sunlight and 14 days of darkness on the moon, radiation protection—that’s absolutely necessary for venturing beyond the earth’s magnetic field.
After we build the moon base, you believe we should use what we learned and send humans to Mars’ moon, Phobos, to build a base on Mars.
That would be my preference. We’ve learned, with the robots Spirit and Opportunity on the surface of Mars, that you can’t control them adequately from the Earth. What we’ve done in five years on Mars could be done in one week—that’s a significant advance—if we had human intelligence in orbit around Mars. It’s much, much easier to send people there for a year and a half and then bring them back, before sending them back later to permanently land on Mars.
So to return to Earth, it’s easier to launch off Phobos than Mars, because Phobos is a smaller body with less gravity?
Yes. We need to build the base on Mars from orbit before sending people to the surface. And they will be permanent settlers and not return to earth, like the Pilgrims on the Mayflower left Europe.
You think we can actually get humans to live out their lives on Mars?
How can people be persuaded to do that? You’d be asking them to sacrifice a lot. It’s a big step.
It wouldn’t be a problem, getting volunteers, fully capable people, to assume that mission for the rest of their lives. They will realize that they will go down in history. The pilgrims were a big step, too. Columbus was a big step. Magellan was a big step.
Why should humans colonize another planet?
There may be diseases, there may be nuclear conflict or there may be an impact by a very large asteroid that endangers the human race. Stephen Hawking says we have about 200 years. And I said to him, I think we could make it to another planet in less than 50 years.

President Kennedy famously announced in 1961 that we should send a man to the moon by the end of that decade. Do you think we need a similar declaration in order to kick start the Mars mission?
That is my goal. A leader on Earth who makes such a commitment will go down in history more than Alexander the Great, Queen Isabella or almost anyone. The 50th anniversary celebrations of Apollo 11 through Apollo 17, between 2019 and 2022, should be a very significant time period for the leader of a country on Earth to make a commitment for human beings to establish permanence on another planet in the solar system. But instead of the one decade that Kennedy used for the moon, we would probably require two decades.
You’ve been a big supporter of space tourism, but so far it’s only been available to a wealthy few. Do you think it can lead to innovation?
Certainly it can, by inspiring young people, industry and the government. One of the first space tourists [Dennis Tito], buying his own ticket to fly on the Russian spacecraft to the Russian-augmented United States space station, is the initiator and the leader of “Inspiration Mars,” a proposal to fly a married couple around Mars and back in 2018.
What do you think of that idea?
It’s a very inspiring mission, which I strongly support. It would be a year and a half, for the crew, and we would learn many things about having people in space for a long duration: radiation exposure, the high-speed reentry, many other things. But the major thing is firing up our leaders and the people to adequately fund further exploration.
A lot of American technological genius these days seems to be devoted to social media and the Internet. Do you worry that our best minds are working on apps for your iPhone rather than trying to get us to Mars?
Not necessarily. That’s progress, and I’m trying to keep up with communication enhancement and information technology, so I can communicate with this younger generation. Sometimes people pay more attention to me than they do to the news from NASA. An example is “Dancing with the Stars,” the popular TV program. For many people I’m more known for that and several other television appearances than for the moon landing. I try and remain visible to the public. Your generation developed all of this technology, and I’m trying to catch up with all of it. But it obviously is a distraction, just like the Notre Dame football team and the Lone Ranger were for me growing up.
What was it like to walk on the moon?
My observation was, “Magnificent desolation.” It was magnificent for the human race to be able, as Neil Armstrong said, to take that step. But the desolation for the people taking that small step—it was more desolate than any scenery here on Earth.
What were your emotions when you were taking that step?
Caution, apprehension and exhilaration. Not fear. That comes after. I was following my commander and executing what we trained for.
Do you have a question for Buzz Aldrin? Ask him as a part of our The Future is Here” conference on June 1. The answers will be filmed and streamed live from the event on that day.
He will also be signing copies of his book at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, from 11 am to 2 pm on June 1 in the museum gift shop.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Take your blood pressure medication!

Spent most of yesterday in the hospital, where my mother was admitted. Her doctor had changed her blood pressure medication a couple of weeks ago, it wasn't doing the job. Unfortunately her doctor was out of town and a home therapist said we should take her to the Emergency Room.

Bad idea, as far as I'm concerned. Put her back on her old medication which was working, just causing her to cough.

Instead we brought her to the emergency room, and since she's old and deaf, this got her more stressed out and scared than ever, because they were all gathered around her shouting questions and wanting to run tests and I'm sure she thought she was dying or something, which sent her blood pressure even higher.

She spent the night there, and is still in today for more tests, which I don't think she needs but I guess since they've got her in there they want to get their money's worth out of our insurance...  she's in a private room which must be costing a fortune....

The reason for my headline... she was about 40 when she was first diagnosed with high blood pressure...took pills for a couple of days but didn't like how they made her she stopped taking them and tried to do the "natural remedy" thing.

Result, 20 years later she had congestive heart failure, and now instead of taking 1 pill a day she has to take 4. And has to go into the hospital periodically on occasions like these.

Moral of the story - go get your blood pressure checked, and if you have high blood pressure make sure you take your meds, otherwise believe me you'll wish you had, when it is too late...