Friday, September 24, 2004
1. SPACE STATION: MAYBE THEY COULD USE IT TO TEST MISSILE DEFENSE.
Nature reports that if the crew still can't repair the balky Russian-built oxygen generator by the end of October, when the crew is scheduled to be replaced, ISS may have to be abandoned. NASA might be privately relieved. With every day that passes it becomes more evident that the $100B boondoggle is, as Bob Park described it in Congressional testimony in 1997, the "greatest single obstacle to the continued conquest of space." From the beginning, the most expensive science project in history was scorned by the scientists. In 1991, Presidents of 57 scientific societies opposed the orbiting laboratory. APS President Nikko Bloembergen, summed it up, "microgravity is of microimportance."
2. MARS: ROBOT EXPLORERS ARE BACK AT WORK AFTER A WINTER BREAK.
Spirit and Opportunity resumed contact after Mars emerged from a couple of weeks behind the sun. It occurred during the dead of winter in Mar's southern hemisphere. Already 5 months beyond warranty, both rovers seem to be in good health and high spirits, leading NASA to extend rover operations another six months. That was not an easy decision. NASA is in serious budget trouble due to the cost of repairing the Shuttle fleet. But if they abandon the International Space Station, they won't need the shuttle.
3. BOOK BAN: CAMPAIGN MAILING SAYS LIBERALS WILL BAN THE BIBLE.
According to the NY Times, the Republican Party acknowledges mass mailings warning residents of Arkansas and West Virginia that "liberals" seek to ban the Bible. I was, of course, shocked, and immediately called Valery Messalina, the only liberal I know. "Why," I asked, "do you want to ban the Bible?" "This isn't the sort of book you want to leave around where children might read it," she replied. "It's full of stories of incest and rape, and worse. As a mother, I want to keep it out of our country."
4. ETHICS: NIH BANS MOONLIGHTING WITH PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES.
In a major policy shift, the National Institutes of Health has declared a one year moratorium on private consulting arrangements of NIH scientists. Considering the potential for abuse, how could it have been allowed in the first place? In fact, Zerhouni saw it as a way to attract good people from private companies (WN 09 Jul 04), but embarrassing media reports finally made it clear that the change was necessary.
5. PROLIFERATION: IRAN AND NORTH KOREA FLAUNT NUCLEAR ASPIRATIONS.
With the U.S. stretched thin in Iraq, North Korea appears to be preparing a missile launch, and Iran is defying the International Atomic Energy Agency with a new round of nuclear experiments.