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gemtaur80 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gemtaur80 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/23/2008 at 5:26am
And between the floods and fires there are many thousands evacuated. I'd imagine they're not paying much attention to Mars at this point either.
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christophersnow View Drop Down

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote christophersnow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/23/2008 at 7:51am
I did say I was laissez-faire, right? I meant it.

Privatize the Space Program
by Robert Garmong (March 15, 2003)

When asked how they would "heal" after the loss of space shuttle Columbia, NASA's engineers responded as one: NASA heals by solving yesterday's problems and launching the next mission. So, indeed, does the American nation. Thus, before the grief had fully faded into memory, we began asking ourselves what had gone wrong, and how to solve it.

Many solutions have been proposed, from the incremental (such as safety upgrades and improved inspections) to the radical (such as a new breed of space vehicles powered by plasma engines). But the most radical change, the one that would improve space exploration most dramatically, has been ignored: privatizing the space program.

There is a contradiction at the heart of the space program: space exploration, as the grandest of man's technological advancements, requires the kind of bold innovation possible only to minds left free to pursue the best of their thinking and judgment. Yet by placing the space program under governmental funding, we necessarily place it at the mercy of governmental whim. The results are written all over the past twenty years of NASA's history: the space program is a political animal, marked by shifting, inconsistent and ill-defined goals.

The space shuttle was built and maintained to please clashing constituencies, not to do a clearly defined job for which there was an economic and technical need. The shuttle was to launch satellites for the Department of Defense and private contractors—which could be done more cheaply by lightweight, disposable rockets. It was to carry scientific experiments—which could be done more efficiently by unmanned vehicles. But one "need" came before all technical issues: NASA's political need for showy manned vehicles. The result, as great a technical achievement as it is, was an over-sized, over-complicated, over-budget overly dangerous vehicle that does everything poorly and nothing well.

Indeed, the space shuttle program was supposed to be phased out years ago, but the search for its replacement has been halted, largely because space contractors enjoy collecting on the overpriced shuttle without the expense and bother of researching cheaper alternatives. A private industry could have fired them—but not so in a government project, with home-district congressmen to lobby on their behalf.

Now comes evidence that the political nature of the space program may have even been directly responsible for the Columbia disaster. Fox News reported that NASA chose to stick with non-Freon-based foam insulation on the booster rockets, despite evidence that this type of foam causes up to 11 times as much damage to thermal tiles as the older, Freon-based foam. Although NASA was exempted from the restrictions on Freon use, which environmentalists believe causes ozone depletion, and despite the fact that the amount of Freon released by NASA's rockets would have been trivial, the space agency elected to stick with the politically correct foam.

It is impossible to integrate the contradictory. To whatever extent an engineer is forced to base his decisions, not on the realities of science but on the arbitrary, unpredictable, and often impossible demands of a politicized system, he is stymied. Yet this politicizing is an unavoidable consequence of governmental control over scientific research and development. If space development is to be transformed from an expensive national bauble whose central purpose is to assert national pride, to a practical industry with real and direct benefits, it will only be by unleashing the creative force of free and rational minds.

Nor would it be difficult to spur the private exploration of space. After government involvement in space exploration is phased out, the free market will work to produce whatever there is demand for, just as it now does with traditional aircraft, both military and civilian. In addition, Congress should develop a system of property rights to any stellar body reached and exploited by an American company. This would provide economic incentive for the sorts of extremely ambitious projects NASA would not dare to propose to its Congressional purse-holders.

Extending man's reach into space is not, as some have claimed, our "destiny." Standing between us and the stars are enormous technical difficulties, the solution of which will require even more heroic determination than that which tamed the seas and the continents. But first, we must make a fundamental choice: will America continue to hold its best engineering minds captive to politics, or will we set them free?
"It had to be said. The world is perishing from an orgy of self-sacrificing." - Howard Roark
Dean Koontz= Always working!
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WhiteWolf View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote WhiteWolf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/17/2008 at 4:59am

Quote New data pinpoint Mars' wet and balmy past

Jul 16 09:35 AM US/Easter

Water bathed the surface of southern Mars for millions of years, helping to create an environment theoretically capable of nurturing life, according to a new study into the planet's mysterious oceans.
Scientists at Brown University in Rhode Island used an instrument aboard a US spacecraft, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, to hunt for traces of phyllosilicates, or clay-like minerals that preserve a record of water's interaction with rocks.

They found phyllosilicates in thousands of places, in valleys, dunes and craters in the ancient southern highlands, pointing to an active role by water in Mars's earliest geological era, the Noachian period, 4.6 to 3.8 billion years ago.

"These results point to a rich diversity of Noachian environments conducive to habitability," the authors conclude.

An intriguing find was of deposits in the pointed peaks at the centre of craters. These peaks are generally taken to be underground material thrown up by an impacting asteroid or comet.

For water to be present in such peaks, it must have been present as much as five kilometres (three miles) below the planet's surface, the paper suggests.

"Water must have been creating minerals at depth to get the signatures we see," head researcher John Mustard, a professor of planetary geology, said in a press release.

The subsurface phytosillicates were formed at relatively low temperatures, of between 100 and 200 degrees Celsius (212-392 degrees Fahrenheit), which implies that Mars was not only wet but also relatively temperate at the time.

"What does this mean for habitability? It's very strong," Mustard said. "It wasn't this hot, boiling cauldron. It was a benign, water-rich environment for a long period of time."

The paper, which appears on Thursday in the London-based science journal Nature, is the latest assessment to conclude that Mars was once awash with water, one of the ingredients for life.

Close-up investigations by US landers and imaging from orbiters have also suggested that frozen water may lie close to the surface in some areas today, and possibly in abundance.

Still unclear is what happened to the oceans. The leading theory is that the planet's once-thick atmosphere began to thin, causing the precious liquid to evaporate into space. Only a thin atmosphere, consisting overwhelmingly of carbon dioxide, remains today.

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