Posts Tagged ‘NASA’

Fly Me to the Moon, Please!

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Look! Up in the sky! Our ancestors.

Look! Up in the sky! Our ancestors. Nibiru was a no-show again.

Trump thinks he’s an emperor.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and about 70 percent of the country think the president is a moron.

Of that remaining 30 percent, a sizable portion believe Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and the earthquakes that rocked Mexico were god’s vengeance on humankind for (a) the mere existence of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons and (b) the idea that such persons should be allowed the same rights as “normal” people. Others in this group take it as fact that there were a pair of dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark.

This is by way of reporting, in case you missed it, that Nibiru once again failed to live up to its hype. This is not disappointing, but it is getting old.

If you somehow missed it, Nibiru is a “giant planet,” supposedly discovered by the Sumerians, which, according to one translation of ancient Babylonian texts, passes by Earth every 3,600 years to allows its inhabitants to interact with earthlings. NASA says it’s a hoax, but the prediction has evolved (or mutated) into Nibiru (also called Planet X), flying into or close by Earth, causing cataclysmic problems. That was supposed to happen in May 2003 and again in December of 2012. 

Also, Sept. 23 just passed. Missed again, although the “end of times” had been predicted by David Meade, a conspiracy theorist and self-proclaimed “Christian numerologist” who must have miscalculated, as did all those web sites dedicated to Nibiru.

It’s the interactive fly-by of Nibiru that caught my attention, though, not the hellfire and brimstone and rising tides theory. One would have to think that any celestial visitors these days would only have to slow down enough to take a peek at the headlines and decide to come back in another 3600 years when maybe we had our stuff a little better together.

Some people, however, are not willing to wait that long for contact with beings from elsewhere in the universe. Doug Vakoch is one of those. The president of METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is moving along with announced plans to send messages to stars with planets thought to be capable of sustaining life. First transmissions are scheduled for next year, despite warnings from some noted scientists that in sending messages rather than just listening for them he may be inviting trouble in the form of nasty aliens, as portrayed in many science-fiction movies.

Vakoch and his crew of serious scientists dismiss those portrayals as the result of active imaginations and a situation for which we have no actual data. “One of the reasons people are so afraid of METI is that it seems riskier to do something than to do nothing,” he says.

Ironically, one of those who have voiced warnings about METI is Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX. Musk is not the sit-around-and-wait -for-things-to-happen type.

Last month, as earthlings were breathing a sigh of relief at having been spared the wrath of Nibiru once more, Musk was in Australia at the annual meeting of the International Astronautical Congress moving up the deadline on his intent (some say pipe dream) to launch a manned mission to Mars. He’s talking 2024. Yes, seven years. Employing a really big rocket with lots of powerful engines, his plan is to launch two cargo missions to Mars in 2022 and four missions in 2024, two cargo and two with crews. Eventually, the goal is to create a colony, with the rockets transporting 100 people per trip.

Paying for his grand plans is always a question with Musk. He says he figures on building lots of rockets (smaller than his original plan) which can also be used to fly people to Paris or London or Tokyo instead of just Mars. He says his system could move people between any two cities on this planet in less than an hour, for an appropriate fee of course. People would be the payload on the Mars rockets, also. Investors welcome.

Closer to home, Musk says the really big rocket could be used to take people to the Moon. “It’s 2017, we should have a lunar base by now,” he said in Australia. “What the hell is going on?”

Well, sir, as stated above, the president (whose business advisory councils you quit and who named a climate-denier to head NASA) thinks he’s an emperor, the secretary of state thinks he’s a moron and 30 percent of Americans — some of whom think dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark — are apparently still OK with all that.

So, Messrs. Musk and Vakoch, if you don’t mind, let’s get those rockets and inter-planetary messages going quickly, before the emperor declares war on Nibiru.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Going Ape in the Oval Office

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

LIFE cover, Feb. 10, 1961. Ham the Chimpanzee in the space capsule after returning from the Mercury Redstone 2 space flight.

Ham, the chimp … American hero

I started writing a column recently by likening what is happening in the White House these days to a chimpanzee jumping up and down on the furniture and throwing feces at the walls. A group of white men, I said, stood by with thin smiles as if approving of the actions. When the chimp left the room to watch television, the men went about rearranging the furniture and cleaning the walls the best they could. A thankless job, I wrote, but it pays well. That should tell you all you need to know about those men.

I didn’t get very far with the column because I soon realized it was terribly insulting to chimpanzees. They are, after all, our closest cousins, sharing 98 percent of our genes. They are intelligent creatures who enjoy people and know how to behave appropriately in their environment. In the jungle, act like a hunter. In the Oval Office, act presidential. In a space capsule, act like an astronaut.

As fate (and NASA) would have it, 56 years ago on Jan. 31st, a chimpanzee named Ham became the first “American” launched into space, sub-orbital. The historic event was captured nicely in the movie version of “The Right Stuff.’’ As the seven Mercury astronauts compete to be the first, the movie dramatizes the launch and splashdown and reveals America’s first astronaut to be … a chimp.

Ham’s flight from Cape Canaveral to splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean lasted 16 minutes and 39 seconds. Ham wasn’t just a passenger in the capsule. He pulled the appropriate levers at the appropriate times and performed perfectly. He suffered only a bruised nose for his efforts. His flight paved the way for Alan Shepard’s flight in May later that year. Second American in space. That makes Ham an American hero in my book.

I doubt the current occupant of the White House could be trusted with such a mission as Ham’s. For one thing, it required focus. Also, discipline. Spurred on by Ham’s story, I did a little more research on chimps. It turns out they share a lot of traits once supposedly reserved for humans. They enjoy friendships. They have strong family bonds. They can show empathy. They can make and use tools. They can remember distant events. They’ve been observed showing regret and exercising self-restraint and wouldn’t that be welcome in the White House today.

Some observers say chimps can even understand when other creatures know or don’t know something. That’s another way of saying they have a realistic assessment of whomever they are dealing with. No guesswork. And yes, being almost human, they can be violent. Usually it’s because there are too many alpha males in a group and not enough females. Most violence that occurs is between groups of chimps rather than within a group, although one group recently was said to have killed a  former leader who was described as a tyrant. Maybe a brutal form of justice?

Really, the only negative thing I learned about chimpanzees in my brief research is that they are endangered. Of course. Their population has been eliminated everywhere except central Africa where they are poached for food. Man apparently cannot bear to have other creatures alive on this planet without killing them for sport or commercial gain or, in this case, an exotic source of food. Unfortunately, respect for other living creatures is just one of many positive traits that seem to be lacking in the current White House occupant.

So I apologize humbly to chimpanzees for even considering such a comparison as mentioned at the top of this article in the first place. I further encourage all compassionate human beings to contribute to such organizations as the World Wildlife Federation in their efforts to save these wonderful apes.

As for those clowns in suits in the White House, he’s your wild creature. If you can’t make him behave, you’ve got to get rid of him. After all, the house belongs to the American people. The previous tenant left it in beautiful condition. Clean that crap off the walls and find someone who knows how to act in public.

rjgaydos@gmail.co

UFO’s and Global Warming: It’s Science

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

By Bob Gaydos

NASA was accused of intentionally cutting the live video feed as the gray object appeared over the Earth's horizon.

NASA was accused of intentionally cutting the live video feed as the gray object appeared over the Earth’s horizon.

Do you believe in UFO’s? I do. Well, to be precise, I believe in the possibility of UFO’s. More precisely, I believe in the possibility of intelligent life somewhere in the universe other than on this tiny planet we inhabit.

It’s a matter of numbers. They are too overpowering to dismiss. Astronomers’ best estimate (based on science and math, not guess work) is that there are between 100 billion and 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe. That’s galaxies. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains an estimated 100 billion stars. Around the stars are billions of planets. Alone, Earthlings? Only arrogance would argue that.

I’m thinking about this for a couple of reasons:

  • Digital Journal, a website that follows such things, reported recently that the live video feed from the International Space Station was interrupted just as a misty, gray object appeared over the horizon of the Earth. UFO researchers claim that NASA deliberately cut the feed and that this is routine behavior by the space agency whenever unidentified objects appear. NASA claimed it was simply technical difficulties.
  • If I accept the argument that there are no UFOs and that life doesn’t exist anywhere else in the universe, that the people who track unidentified flying objects are just odd folks with too much time on their hands, I can only conclude that the way we treat what is presumably then the only habitable body in the universe is a shameful display of ignorance.

Full disclosure: I live in what has sometimes been referred to as the UFO capital of the Northeast — Pine Bush, N.Y. Although things have been quiet in the local skies of late, UFO sightings at times have seemed as common as snow plow sightings. There is an active UFO support group and a UFO festival every spring that includes a parade down the main street of the hamlet.

This is obviously good for business and the Chamber of Commerce was smart to capitalize on the area’s reputation. It’s a lot of fun, with kids dressed up as space visitors of one sort or another and purple alien figures adorning the windows of many businesses. But the UFO group is serious and meets regularly to discuss UFO sightings and paranormal-related topics

I am a skeptic when it comes to conspiracy theories, which abound among UFO believers. I also know it’s tempting for some people to inflict hoaxes on others because they think it’s funny. There’s a lot of that surrounding UFO’s as well. But I do not casually discount the possibility of UFO sightings because, again, look at those numbers.

The recent NASA video was posted to YouTube and shows a fuzzy grayish object rising over the horizon of Earth. UFO followers say it wasn’t the moon, which they say appears white in videos. I have no idea who’s right in this matter. I do know that a lot of people don’t believe NASA and think the government covers up every possible contact with UFOs. I also know that a lot of people think the UFO believers are not to be believed. I wish that a meeting of the minds could take place of believers, skeptics, scientists and government officials for a serious discussion of the likelihood of life elsewhere in the universe and whether or not those life forms may have visited us.

While I’m waiting for that to happen, I marvel at the colossal short-sightedness, neglect and seemingly willful ignorance with which so many of us treat the planet on which we live. We have polluted our waters, leveled our forests, wiped out species of animals and burned so much fossil fuel that the air in some places is unbreathable and the planet itself is warming up at a rate that alarms scientists.

There is almost universal agreement among scientists that global warming is going on and that it poses a serious threat to the future of the planet. Simultaneously, one of the dumbest examples of self-sabotaging denial I have heard is the one that goes something like, “Well, I’m not a scientist, but I don’t believe in global warming.” Every Republican politician seems to have uttered this line in the past year.

Well, I’m not a plumber, but that’s who I call when I can’t get water for a shower.

President Obama made this point well in his State of the Union address: “I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what — I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.”

Yes, we should. And we should stop dismissing theories because we don’t understand the science behind them or discount beliefs because we can’t accept the conclusions they may lead us to. Arrogance combined with ignorance is a recipe for disaster.

So, yes, the Earth is getting too warm for our own good.

Do UFO’s exist? Good chance.

Does our government cover up information about possible UFO’s? Even better chance.

Is there life elsewhere in the universe? Undoubtedly.

Is it more intelligent than us? I sure as hell hope so.

* * *

PS: See you at the Pine Bush Area UFO Festival and Fair this spring.

At Last, a New GOP World, Far, Far Away

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Kepler-22b, future home of the GOP?

By Bob Gaydos

You say you don’t believe in fate, that there is no grand scheme, that life is not a complex mosaic that connects us all and somehow fits the pieces together when we’re not looking? OK. I get it. I used to be one of you. Life was just a bunch of random occurrences happening to random people at random intervals. When something somehow worked out just the way we would have liked it to, had we even thought of it, it was a happy coincidence.

One thing that always bothered me about that randomness explanation was, for want of a better phrase, our emotional human reactions to stuff that happens. If it’s all a crap shoot, who cares? Why get so worked up over things? Why not just count your coincidences and be happy?

But I don’t even care about that anymore. You live long enough, stuff happens, you stop trying to figure out why and sometimes you’re just grateful that it did.

So … a few days ago I wrote an angry piece in which I asked what I thought was a rhetorical question: “In what civilized universe is the field of presidential candidates put forth by the Republican Party considered anything but an insult to the intelligence?”

Well, lo and behold, a few days later, one of those things you call a “coincidence” and I call a sublime alignment of the stars happened. NASA announced it had discovered an “earth-sized” planet orbiting around a star much like our own sun, located in the sweet spot of its constellation where life as we define it could actually exist. NASA scientists hailed the discovery of the planet as a major a step in finding Earth’s “twin.”

A civilized universe, as it were, waiting to be claimed.

The message was clear. What a perfect answer, I thought, to the perplexing problem of what to do with all those Republican presidential candidates and the people who actually think any of them is capable of being president of the United States. We could build a fleet of space ships big enough to carry them all and blast off for Kepler-22b, as the planet has been named.

Money, always the major obstacle to space flight, would probably not be a big deal. I figure most Democrats, liberals, progressives and, in truth, any American with a modicum of common sense would be willing to scrap every project in the U.S. space program and direct all the resources to developing the spacecrafts as quickly as possible. They’d probably chip in. If more funding was needed, the Koch brothers and other major contributors to the Republican Party would probably be willing to kick in big bucks, especially if the major donors got to put their names on the space ships.

Tell me Donald Trump wouldn’t drop plans to host a Republican debate in Iowa in a heartbeat if he could put his name on the side of a spaceship bound for a new world. A new world, by the way, where he could settle his own country if he wanted and have first dibs on examining everybody’s birth certificate and passport. He could probably even fire the space crew if they didn’t live up to his standards and fly the ship himself.

But it’s not just Trump who would be happy on Earth’s “twin.” Everybody on those ships would be living in heaven, some probably taking the thought literally. Think of it. A planet with no immigration problem, a West Virginia with its own sun. No need for fences. No messy deportations. Minimum-wage jobs for anyone who wants one.

Not that anyone would, what with a population and government dedicated to the proposition that whoever works the hardest makes the most money and gets to keep it. No IRS. No fussy environmental rules to harass developers and investors looking to reap the benefits of the planet’s abundant supply of resources.

No gays. No abortions. No smarty-pants college professors (except for Newt). No socialists. No welfare. No Medicaid. No Medicare. No Social Security. Probably not a lot of old people. Definitely no poor people.

Lots of guns, though. And churches. As many as they want and plenty of praying in schools. Learning history would be optional (a concession to Michele Bachmann) and so would science (Jon Huntsman would not make the trip). And male politicians could have as many wives and mistresses as they want and lie about it with no fear of negative repercussions, an adaptation of the French model on this planet.

The Earth-twin government would consist mostly of a large army to discourage or repel threats from without and a police force trained to detect and suppress threats from within. The new constitution might have fewer amendments. Everyone would own shares of stock in a new inter-stellar exchange and no one would pay capital gains taxes. Mitt Romney could even decide to stay here if he felt more comfortable.

This, in sum, could be the Utopia for which Republicans have been praying, although they would probably want to change the planet’s name. Kepler-22b is dull even for Republicans. Selling the naming rights would probably bring in a tidy sum, though.

Of course, colonizing a new planet and getting it up to speed to interact with societies on other planets obviously can’t be done overnight. But a lot of the work — planning, campaigning, law-writing, voting, mating — could be done on the historic flight. NASA scientists say the new planet is 600 light years away, meaning it would take the only currently operating space vehicle — the space shuttle — about 23 million years to get there.

Sounds about right.

bob@zestoforange.com

Beware Nibiru, the Death Planet

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Look! Up in the sky! Our ancestors.

By Bob Gaydos

So, you know about Nibiru, right? Planet X?

Why are you giving me a blank stare? Nibiru. Or maybe you prefer Elenin. C’mon, it’s this freaky big planet hiding behind the sun that’s supposed to crash into Earth in December of 2011 killing us all. It’s all over the Internet, man. Don’t you ever watch YouTube?

This thing is so big and so scary that NASA and Google have formed a conspiracy to hide the information from us. They don’t want us to know when the end of the world is coming because, well, that’s part of the conspiracy, too.

I can understand your confusion. I am embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t heard of Nibiru either until about a week ago when my son, Zack, and I were watching TV. Something, perhaps some power of suggestion implanted in him hundreds of years ago by aliens, compelled him to ask me: “You know about that, right? That planet that’s supposed to hit the Earth?”

“Uh, no. How do you know this?”

“It’s on YouTube.“

‘‘Oh. And how do you know it’s true?” (Force of habit.)

“There’s a black rectangle on GoogleSky where it’s supposed to be.”

“So it’s a conspiracy?”

“Uh huh.”

(Disclaimer for Zack: He is a very bright 17-year-old with a particularly sadistic sense of humor on occasion. He will go right for your weak spot. Ergo: “How do you know it’s true?” “It’s all over the Internet.”

Of course, it is. David Morrison, a planetary astronomer at NASA and senior scientist at the NASA Astrobiology Institute, estimates that there are 2 million websites discussing Nibiru. It has been the source of countless wasted hours as people either expanded the hoax or wasted precious time trying to convince believers it was nonsense.

For the life of me, after four-plus decades in journalism, I still don’t get people’s attraction for conspiracy theories, the wilder the better. One of my operating principles has always been that the more complex, outrageous the theory being proposed, the simpler the probable answer: It’s about money; it’s about sex; it’s about fear/ignorance. It’s B.S.

So, personally, I am inclined to accept NASA’s statement that there is no mysterious planet hurtling to Earth because they — or one of the millions of other humans who scan the night skies with really good telescopes would have seen it by now. And I accept Google’s explanation that the blank spot on its sky photo was the result of technical problems involving one of their many source for the data. I add credence to this explanation by also accepting the argument that, since GoogleSky is a picture of the actual sky, anyone could simply go outside, look through their telescope at the area in question and see what was there and take their own picture. Apparently no one has thought of doing this.

Simple, common sense explanations.

I also subscribe to the late Carl Sagan’s principle that “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary levels of evidence if they are to be believed.”

And the claims about Nibiru are nothing if not extraordinary. Still, I ventured relatively objectively into the Internet universe to research the subject until I stumbled on the origin of the Nibiru story.

In a nutshell: The doomsday scenario of collision with another planet was first described in 1995 by Nancy Lieder, a self-described “contactee.” She claims to be able to receive messages through an implant in her brain from aliens in the Zeta Reticuli star system. She says she was chosen to warn mankind of an impending planetary collision which would wipe out humanity in May 2003. Oh yeah, this catastrophe was supposed to happen eight years ago, but when it didn’t, the doomsday fans looked around and found the Mayan calendar prediction of a 2012 cataclysmic end. Convenient, no?

Lieder gave the planet the name “Planet X,” which astronomers traditionally reserve for planets yet undiscovered. She further attached it to a popular book, “The Twelfth Planet,” which pinned the Nibiru story on ancient Sumerians, who supposedly believed humans evolved on Nibiru and stopped briefly on Earth to colonize it.

At this point, I was becoming somewhat less objective. I found more support for the Nibiru theory on websites that also wrote about extraterrestrials, the Illuminati, mind control, Freemasons, the matrix, and other prophecies. The constant theme was that, despite its size, no one could see Nibiru — and thus prove its existence — because of a grand conspiracy by government and science (and apparently Google) to hide it from us, to what end I still cannot fathom.

I leave it to psychologists to explain why some people feel the need to create grand hoaxes and conspiracy theories and why so many more people feel the need to believe them. I suppose it makes life more interesting, but I’m a “keep it simple stupid” kind of guy. Plus — and this is just between you and me — I know the U.S. government has a massive, secret, anti-alien unit that will make toast of Nibiru. It’s under the Denver Airport. Zack saw it on YouTube.

bob@zestoforange.com