Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Air Force, Boeing Test Flying Death Ray

Airborne laser successfully destroys ground target


So very much of our current technology has been inspired by science-fiction; cellphones (Star Trek), laptop and hand-held computers (Star Trek), wrist-watch televisions (Dick Tracy), stun-guns (Flash Gordon)—the list seems endless.

In the 1985 satirical comedy Real Genius, a group of university students—led by Val Kilmer—design a high-power laser system capable of destroying ground targets from an aircraft. Real Genius climaxes with a memorable scene in which the airborne laser destroys the newly-constructed home of the film’s despicable villain.

On 13 June 2009, that science-fiction idea also became reality.

During a test of the Air Force’s Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, a converted cargo plane incinerated a “dummy” ground target with a megawatt-class oxygen-iodine laser.

ATL took off from Kirtland Air Force Base, NM, fired its laser while flying over White Sands Missile Range and successfully hit its ground target. ATL, which Boeing is developing for the Air Force, is a C-130H aircraft equipped with a chemical laser, a beam control system, sensors and weapon-system consoles.

Boeing and the Air Force successfully fired the high-power laser aboard the Advanced Tactical Laser aircraft for the first time in flight.

“We fired the laser in-flight. We hit a target on the ground,” said Gary Fitzmire, vice president of Boeing’s Directed Energy Systems.

Fitzmire added:

This successful test is a major step toward bringing directed energy capability to the warfighter. We have demonstrated that an airborne system can fire a high-power laser in flight and deliver laser beam energy to a ground target.

ATL's ultra-precision engagement capability will dramatically reduce collateral damage.

We were able to conduct many ground tests to build confidence of the system and the laser itself. Last summer, we conducted an integrated ground test. Our targets are ground-based tactical targets such as a fuel tank, vehicle or communications node.

More tests are planned to demonstrate ATL's military utility. The system is designed to destroy, damage or disable targets with little-to-no collateral damage. These demonstrations support development of systems that will conduct missions on the battlefield and in urban operations.

The roughly $200 million ATL program began in late 2002.

The ground target in this test was not identified. One wonders what it might have been…


Friday, July 17, 2009

Apollo Moon Landers Photographed By Lunar Orbiter

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images historic Moon landing sites

Vehicles, instruments, astronaut footprints visible

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, has returned its first imagery of the Apollo moon landing sites. The pictures show the Apollo missions' lunar module descent stages sitting on the moon's surface, as long shadows from a low sun angle make the modules' locations evident.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, or LROC, was able to image five of the six Apollo sites, with the remaining Apollo 12 site expected to be photographed in the coming weeks.

The satellite reached lunar orbit June 23 and captured the Apollo sites between July 11 and 15. Though it had been expected that LRO would be able to resolve the remnants of the Apollo mission, these first images came before the spacecraft reached its final mapping orbit. Future LROC images from these sites will have two to three times greater resolution.

All images credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Labeled LROC image of Apollo 11 landing site

Apollo 11 lunar module, Eagle.
Image width: 282 meters (about 925 ft.)
› Unlabeled image

Labeled LROC image of Apollo 15 landing site

Apollo 15 lunar module, Falcon.
Image width: 384 meters (about 1,260 ft.)
› Unlabeled image

Labeled LROC image of Apollo 16 landing site

Apollo 16 lunar module, Orion.
Image width: 256 meters (about 840 ft.)
› Unlabeled image

Labeled LROC image of Apollo 17 landing site

Apollo 17 lunar module, Challenger.
Image width: 359 meters (about 1,178 ft.)
› Unlabeled image

Labeled LROC image of Apollo 14 landing site

Apollo 14 lunar module, Antares.
Image width: 538 meters (about 1,765 ft.)
› Unlabeled image

Labeled LROC image of Apollo 14 landing site

"The LROC team anxiously awaited each image," said LROC principal investigator Mark Robinson of Arizona State University. "We were very interested in getting our first peek at the lunar module descent stages just for the thrill -- and to see how well the cameras had come into focus. Indeed, the images are fantastic and so is the focus."

Buzz Aldrin and the Lunar Module

This photograph shows Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin in front of the lunar module. The photo helps provide a scale to the LROC images shown above. Credit: NASA/Neil Armstrong › Larger image

Although these pictures provide a reminder of past NASA exploration, LRO's primary focus is on paving the way for the future. By returning detailed lunar data, the mission will help NASA identify safe landing sites for future explorers, locate potential resources, describe the moon's radiation environment and demonstrate new technologies.

"Not only do these images reveal the great accomplishments of Apollo, they also show us that lunar exploration continues," said LRO project scientist Richard Vondrak of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "They demonstrate how LRO will be used to identify the best destinations for the next journeys to the moon."

The spacecraft's current elliptical orbit resulted in image resolutions that were slightly different for each site but were all around four feet per pixel. Because the deck of the descent stage is about 12 feet in diameter, the Apollo relics themselves fill an area of about nine pixels. However, because the sun was low to the horizon when the images were made, even subtle variations in topography create long shadows. Standing slightly more than ten feet above the surface, each Apollo descent stage creates a distinct shadow that fills roughly 20 pixels.

The image of the Apollo 14 landing site had a particularly desirable lighting condition that allowed visibility of additional details. The Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Package, a set of scientific instruments placed by the astronauts at the landing site, is discernable, as are the faint trails between the module and instrument package left by the astronauts' footprints.

Launched on June 18, LRO carries seven scientific instruments, all of which are currently undergoing calibration and testing prior to the spacecraft reaching its primary mission orbit. The LROC instrument comprises three cameras -- two high-resolution Narrow Angle Cameras and one lower resolution Wide Angle Camera. LRO will be directed into its primary mission orbit in August, a nearly-circular orbit about 31 miles above the lunar surface.

Goddard built and manages LRO, a NASA mission with international participation from the Institute for Space Research in Moscow. Russia provided the neutron detector aboard the spacecraft.

Related Link:
› Additional information on LROC

Supplemental Material

graphic depicting locations of Apollo landings

This graphic shows the approximate locations of the Apollo moon landing sites.
Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
› Larger image
› View animation

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Apollo Astronaut-Moonwalker Calls Global Warming Political Tool

Says global warming is being exploited by scientists for political purposes
Tells of scientists who lose funding if they speak out
Harrison Schmitt is seen here during his Apollo 17 moonwalk in December 1972.  (NASA)
Harrison Schmitt, seen here during his Apollo 17 moonwalk in December, 1972
This story is a few months old, but I feel it bears repeating considering the prominence of Dr. Schmitt. Intriguing perspective.
Adding his voice to a growing chorus of scientists speaking out against the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) hypothesis, former astronaut and moonwalker Harrison Schmitt says that many scientists have sold out their objectivity for political reasons.
In some very strongly-worded statements, Dr. Schmitt lets it be known that he does not agree with the belief that man is predominantly responsible for global warming.  He said, “I don’t think the human effect is significant compared to the natural effect.”
Dr. Schmitt recently resigned from the Planetary Society over his firm belief that global warming is not man-made.
In his email resignation Schmitt said:
“Consensus”, as many have said, merely represents the absence of definitive science. You know as well as I, the “global warming scare” is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, incomes and decision making. It has no place in the [Planetary] Society's activities.
As a geologist, I love Earth observations. But, it is ridiculous to tie this objective to a "consensus" that humans are causing global warming when human experience, geologic data and history, and current cooling can argue otherwise.
In an interview with AP, in speaking about those that advocate the man-made climate change hypothesis, Schmitt said:
They've seen too many of their colleagues lose grant funding when they haven't gone along with the so-called political consensus that we're in a human-caused global warming.  It's one of the few times you've seen a sizable portion of scientists who ought to be objective take a political position and it's coloring their objectivity.
Best known as the first ‘scientist astronaut’, Dr. Schmitt was chosen to walk on the moon with Apollo 17 in 1972 due to his education and experience as a geologist.
Dr. Schmitt received a B.S. degree in science from the California Institute of Technology, then spent a year studying geology at the University of Oslo in Norway and received a Ph.D. in geology from Harvard University in 1964.
Now a resident of Silver City, NM, he has been a United States Senator and currently serves as chair of the NASA Advisory Council providing technical advice to the NASA Administrator as well as being an adjunct professor of engineering physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

NASA Warming Scientist James Hansen Blasts Obama's 'Counterfeit' Climate Bill

Calls H.R. 2454—the Waxman-Markey bill “a monstrous absurdity...less than worthless!”

James Hansen, the rogue NASA researcher largely responsible for the “Global Warming” hysteria, rakes the “climate” bill over the coals

Excerpt from James Hansen’s statement:

It didn't take long for the counterfeit climate bill known as Waxman-Markey to push back against President Obama's agenda. As the president was arriving in Italy for his first Group of Eight summit, the New York Times was reporting that efforts to close ranks on global warming between the G-8 and the emerging economies had already tanked…

This requires nothing less than an energy revolution based on efficiency and carbon-free energy sources. Alas, we won't get there with the Waxman-Markey bill, a monstrous absurdity hatched in Washington after energetic insemination by special interests.

For all its "green" aura, Waxman-Markey locks in fossil fuel business-as-usual and garlands it with a Ponzi-like "cap-and-trade" scheme…

The fact is that the climate course set by Waxman-Markey is a disaster course. Their bill is an astoundingly inefficient way to get a tiny reduction of emissions. It's less than worthless, [Emphasis mine] because it will delay by at least a decade starting on a path that is fundamentally sound from the standpoints of both economics and climate preservation.

Here are a few of the bill's egregious flaws:

•It guts the Clean Air Act, removing EPA's ability to regulate CO2 emissions from power plants.

•It sets meager targets -- 2020 emissions are to be a paltry 13% less than this year's level -- and sabotages even these by permitting fictitious "offsets," by which other nations are paid to preserve forests - while logging and food production will simply move elsewhere to meet market demand.

•Its cap-and-trade system, reports former U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs Robert Shapiro, "has no provisions to prevent insider trading by utilities and energy companies or a financial meltdown from speculators trading frantically in the permits and their derivatives."

•It fails to set predictable prices for carbon, without which, Shapiro notes, "businesses and households won't be able to calculate whether developing and using less carbon-intensive energy and technologies makes economic sense," thus ensuring that millions of carbon-critical decisions fall short.

End Hansen Excerpt.

To read the complete Hansen article go to this link.

My, my. A falling-out amongst thieves.

Even the most rabid climate-change lunatics are demonizing H.R. 2454, the so-called Waxman-Markey or Cap-and-Trade, (more like Graft-and-Tax), bill as an abomination.

For more on Hansen and global-warming go to this link.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Obama On U.S. Oil Imports: Lying Or Just Ignorant?

In a 6 July 2009 interview with the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Obama gave the same false information on U.S. oil imports he has been repeating since at least February of this year:

We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy.  Yet we import more oil today than ever before [Emphasis mine].

That quote is from the official White House transcript of the interview.

Obama was wrong in February and is wrong today.


The above chart from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, shows that U.S. oil imports peaked in November 2005 and have been declining ever since.

On the page at the above link, you may view a data table of the U.S. weekly oil imports from 1991 to date.

Now, I know the facts on this, you (now) know the facts on this, but the President of the United States keeps spouting inaccuracies about U.S. oil imports. I found this data very easily, and I would kinda think Obama—backed by dozens of staff and a trillion-dollar bureaucracy—could as well.

Yet Obama has been spouting this drivel since at least February 2009—even though the facts are laughably easy to obtain.

So my question is this:

Are Obama and his administration lying or simply ignorant and inept?

The answer has to be one of those two choices.

Frankly, neither answer sits well with me, nor should it with you.

GOP Fairytale? $30 Million For Harvest Mouse?

Here is the interesting tale as reported by PolitiFact:

No money in the stimulus for San Francisco mice

To hear Republican House members tell it, you'd think House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stuffed $30 million into the stimulus bill to benefit an endangered mouse in her district.

Rep. Steve King of Iowa called it an earmark and "a pet project" while pointing to a sign he made that said "Pelosi's Mouse slated for $30 Million."

Rep. John Boehner of Ohio opposed the bill and asked how money "for some salt marsh mouse in San Francisco is going to help a struggling autoworker in Ohio?"

And Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana said on Fox News that there was "$30 million in there to protect mice in San Francisco."

The tale of the mouse appears to have originated around Feb. 6, 2009, from Republican staff members of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.

"Appropriations Republicans, concerned with this irresponsible process and possible abuse of taxpayer funds, have asked various federal agencies how they intend to spend the windfall of cash that Congress may approve in the 'stimulus' bill," said a memo posted to the site. "One peek behind the bureaucratic curtain has yielded the following examples of hidden program information that is not included in the language of the bill or report . These are programs which various federal agencies have privately indicated they will fund with 'stimulus' money."

The memo lists a number of projects, including up to $37.5 million for "wetland restoration in the San Francisco Bay Area — including work to protect the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse."

That became fodder for a Feb. 11 e-mail from Michael Steel, Boehner's spokesman. "Thirty million dollars for wetland restoration in the San Francisco Bay Area — including work to protect the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse," Steel wrote. "This sounds like spending projects that have been supported by a certain powerful Democrat in the past. And it certainly doesn't sound like it will create or save American jobs."

That e-mail made it into a Feb. 12 story in the Washington Times headlined "Pelosi's mouse slated for $30M slice of cheese." The story stated, incorrectly as it turns out, that the stimulus bill "includes $30 million for wetlands restoration that the Obama administration intends to spend in the San Francisco Bay Area to protect, among other things, the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse."

And that story was then picked up by the Drudge Report.

That's when the mouse references exploded, morphing from a possible project of an unnamed agency to Pence's "$30 million in there to protect mice in San Francisco."

We wanted to get to the bottom of this issue and find out what was up with the mouse.

Turns out the salt marsh harvest mouse is a previously obscure beneficiary of a major environmental restoration project for the San Francisco Bay area.

"A friend e-mailed me and asked me if any of the $30 million for the mouse was for us, and I was like 'What are you talking about?'" said Steve Ritchie, an engineer with the California State Coastal Conservancy, a state agency charged with preserving and restoring the coastline.

When the stimulus bill was first proposed and a call went out for ready-to-go projects, Ritchie prepared a list of the agency's shovel-ready projects and submitted it to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, both of which received money in the final version of the stimulus bill.

Three projects would turn abandoned industrial salt operations back into natural wetlands, about 26,000 acres in all. It turns out the mouse is an endangered species that likes tidal salt marshes, and it's mentioned by name as one of several species that will benefit.

But the projects themselves — the South Bay Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project , the Napa Plant Site , and the Napa Salt Marsh restoration — are intended to do more than just benefit wildlife. It's major construction work to create recreation areas and to restore marshland that will resist flooding and storm surge.

"This is bulldozers, front-end loaders, backhoes. These are major earth-moving projects to break down levees, to resculpt the landscape and to make sure nature can do its thing," Ritchie said. "Right now, we just have these lousy little salt pond levees and they break."

"These are real jobs, and these are truly ready to go," he added. "We can definitely spend this money for construction by Nov. 30, 2010."

Given this description of the projects, which were first reported in the San Jose Mercury News , it's a serious distortion to say there's money in the bill to protect San Francisco mice. The bill doesn't even list the San Francisco projects by name. And the funding agencies — the Corps of Engineers or NOAA — could still decide to fund the projects or not. The bill passed a final vote in the House on Feb. 13, with no Republicans supporting it.

So Pelosi did not put an earmark in the bill to save the mice. In fact, there's no money in the bill for mice. For this reason, we rate Pence's remark False.

And here is the take on the tale from Media Matters for America:

In his February 12 blog entry, posted at 1:27 p.m. ET, Sargent explained how he determined the source of the Pelosi-mouse allegation, and how he debunked it:

How did this one get going? Yesterday a House Republican leadership staffer circulated a background email, which I obtained, charging that GOP staffers had been told by an unnamed Federal agency that if it got money from the stim package, it would spend "thirty million dollars for wetland restoration in the San Francisco Bay Area -- including work to protect the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse."

The GOP staffer's email didn't say what agency it was. It didn't say the money was actually in the package -- just that an unnamed agency had said they would spend it on that if they got it.

But conservatives picked up the claim and began stating as fact that the mouse money was in the bill. On Fox News yesterday, Mike Huckabee blasted the bill for containing money for Pelosi's mouse, and today GOP Rep Dan Lundgren hammered the alleged mouse money in the bill as "absurd." Today's Washington Times ran with a story called: "Pelosi's mouse slated for $30M slice of cheese."

But I just contacted the House GOP staffer [and his name would be…?] who wrote the initial email laying out this talking point, and he conceded that the claim by conservative media that the mouse money is currently in the bill is a misstatement. "There is not specific language in the legislation for this project," he said.

Politicians: Loathe them or despise them, you can’t like them.

Or trust them.