NASA, Please Explain


Why hasn’t mankind been back to the Moon? Why do humans only travel as far as the International Space Station (ISS) and no further if Russia and the United States have already had successful Moon landing missions? These questions fuel the conspiracy fires that claim the Apollo Moon landing was a staged scene and never really happened. Regardless of a person’s position on this, what of Russia? If they made it to the Moon, why haven’t they been back either?

During the years of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, it was always a game of one-upmanship. Rather than flinging bombs at one another it was a bit of “Whatever you can do I can do better.” The space race was no exception.

In 1961 the Soviet Union took the lead in the space race when Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth and returned home, all in one piece. In response, U.S. President John F. Kennedy did not say, “Well done.” No, instead he threw down the gauntlet and swore that the U.S. would out-do the Soviet’s achievement. He declared that within a decade Americans would have a man on the Moon and back home safe and sound. Eight years later people around the world watched televised broadcasts of Neil Armstrong planting a U.S. flag on the surface of the Moon. Or did he?

What we know now compared to what we knew then may cast great doubt on the legitimacy of the Apollo mission. Accusations that film director Stanley Kubrick prepared a fake production staged with the latest technologies of 70s era filmdon may actually have credibility. Consider the most common criticisms that point to the film being a fake:

  • Wind mysteriously blowing a flag that should be in the vacuum of space.
  • Anomalous shadows cast in different directions which would indicate multiple sources of light.
  • No disturbance of lunar dust or the Moon’s surface from the landing of the space module.
  • What are the strange objects that are reflected at different times in the visors of the astronaut’s space helmet?
  • Where are all the stars that should be in the background?

Skeptics of conspiracy theories can argue away these questions. For years the gringa has been inclined to believe in the Moon landing as an event that really did happen. My reason being that, for one thing, think about how many people would have to be in on such a crazy secret for all of these decades. I don’t know about you, dear readers, but the gringa’s pretty certain that somewhere along the way, throughout all of these years, surely someone would have cracked.

Despite my confidence in NASA, however, the gringa must admit that by becoming informed about the Van Allen radiation belts, I may have to change my position. This may be the smoking gun that exposes how the entire world has been duped. The U.S., desperate to remain relevant and seen as the most powerful nation, outperforming its most aggressive global competitor, may have gone so far as to stage the most incredible hoax of all time.

You see, the Van Allen radiation belts surround the Earth. Consider these belts to be an enormous layered donut and the Earth the donut hole. They radiate outward as far as 36,000 miles depending on whether they are expanding or contracting. The innermost ring generally spans from 400-6,000 miles above the surface of the Earth. The outer belt stretches generally from about 8,400-36,000 miles above Earth. The ISS is safely tucked into orbit at a mere 230 miles from the Earth’s surface in what is called a Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Orbiting between the two belts is a GPS satellite set 12,500 miles away, just inside the innermost rim of the outermost belt, where radiation levels fluctuate according to waxing and waning cycles. Just within the outermost layer of the outermost belt is NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory in geosynchronous orbit at 22,000 miles away studying the mess solar radiation makes from time to time.

In addition to the Van Allen radiation belts is the problem of a cloud of cool, charged particles which envelopes most of Earth’s outer atmosphere. Its nearest edge is about 600 miles from the surface of the Earth and extends outward and stops just inside the outermost edge of the furthest Van Allen belt. Scientists call this cloud the plasmasphere. It seems to cause particles in the outer belt to scatter. As the electrons scatter they create a loop which becomes a well defined belt. The plasmasphere is responsible for creating and maintaining the belts. When a powerful solar event occurs, such as a solar flare, some of the belts’ electrons can be forced by these extreme conditions into the space void between the belt layers, thus creating the waxing and waning effect of the belts.

The craziness of this relationship boggles the gringa’s mind. Think about it. The electrons are prevented by Earth’s magnetic field from penetrating all the way to Earth and frying all of us Earthlings. However, they also do not have enough energy to escape and dissipate into outer space. Thus they are trapped in this belt system which results in a protective barrier that traps dangerous radioactive solar radiation so that we don’t all get fried. Without the belts we fry. Without the plasmosphere we fry. Without the magnetosphere we fry. And if we hang out in any of these Earth preserving regions for any length of time we fry. Is that not the most amazing irony? That which preserves us can also kill us.

Considering that the Moon is 238,900 miles from the Earth, these dangerous, radioactive belts must have been navigated safely with the technology available in 1969. The only other option would have been to “thread the needle”, so to speak, by using a trajectory that would have allowed astronauts to travel through a narrow window of space that would have avoided the highest concentrations of radiation within the belts.

If this path had been successfully traveled in 1969, and adequate shielding technology existed, why is the danger posed by the Van Allen belts considered to be the main obstacle and unsolved problem preventing a consecutive Moon landing today? The gringa suspects the answer may lie in the fact that there really was no successful 1969 Moon landing to begin with.

Here are the words and quotes NASA uses to describe the Van Allen belts today:

  • 2 donuts of seething radiation.
  • Impenetrable barrier.
  • Wax and wane.
  • Expose satellites in low-Earth orbit to damaging radiation.

So what did NASA do to deal with the dangers of the Van Allen belts? Did they come up with a competent strategy and deliver the real deal with a man on the Moon or did they scam the entire world?

Newly discovered in 1958 by scientist James Van Allen, not much was known about them two years later when the first solution was offered up. In 1960 Robert O. Piland and Stanley C. White told NASA that hoping to shield astronauts effectively from the radiation was impractical. They did believe they could provide moderate protection and a safe enough route that would enable astronauts to not fry as they passed through the outer belt.

NASA got to work with a Group On Trajectory Analysis. Van Allen, himself, suggested that by detonating a nuclear warhead the crew could clear a path of travel. The gringa can only say, “Thank goodness NASA didn’t do that!” However, the defense industry in the US really mucked things up by nuclear testing which only increased the intensity of the radiation levels in the belts.

In 1964 NASA officials were confident that with the right skin on the spacecraft, a layer of protection provided by instrumentation, and the right trajectory, the risk was nominal to the crew. Equipped with dosimeters to record radiation exposure, the gringa is puzzled over the final results as reported by NASA. The agency reports that over the course of all the Lunar missions, astronauts were only exposed to radiation levels that were actually lower than the 5 rem a person working in a nuclear power plant would be exposed to annually. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission claims that the average American is exposed to a radiation dose of about 0.62 rem annually. A full body CAT scan delivers a radiation dose of 1 rem. So any human going through some rather routine medical procedures can easily reach the same radiation exposure levels as what NASA reported in the Apollo Moon landing crew.

ISS astronauts deal with radiation issues daily. It took the gringa quite a bit of head scratching and calculating to discover how ISS astronaut radiation levels compare to the astronauts of the Apollo Moon missions. They use a different measurement, the SI system. Maybe, if there is a conspiracy, this is by design to confuse amateur sleuths like myself. Anyway, I digress.

Basically one mSv is the equivalent dose of radiation an average person would be exposed to on Earth in one year’s time. Astronauts on the ISS are exposed to 1 mSv daily! This exposure takes place well outside the Van Allen belts in a space station constructed with the latest technology in radiation shielding and manned by personnel equipped with the safest space suit equipment available. How, then, could minimally protected astronauts pass through highly radioactive belts not just once, but twice, and not be ravaged with radiation? If ISS astronauts report a daily radiation exposure equivalent to a year’s worth of radiation back home and are not in the belts themselves, how in the world is the public supposed to believe that the Apollo astronauts were only exposed to the amount of radiation a person would absorb if they had 4-5 full-body CAT scans?

The  gringa has become incredibly skeptical. The gringa is going to be hopping mad if she discovers hard evidence that proves we have all been had. NASA, please explain.

Sources:

www.nasa.gov

www.nrc.gov

www.popsci.com

www.mun.ca

www.newscientist.com

www.windows2universe.org

Image Credit: www.wakingtimes.com

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Kennedy Spaceport, It’s Official


Has the gringa mentioned before that I’m a Trekkie? I’m sure I have. And that includes all the spin-offs, like “Deep Space Nine”. Although the International Space Station is nothing like that orbital station, we Earthlings are one step closer to becoming more “Trek-like”. No longer are the places that rockets launch from simply called “facilities”. Nope, now we can all officially call that “space center” in Florida the “Kennedy Spaceport”.

You see, we are no longer just launching rockets and shuttles. We are entering the phase of space travel being performed in spacecrafts. It’s a different concept altogether, although the spaceships are still flung through Earth’s atmosphere riding piggy-back on a rocket.

The Cygnus spacecraft is delivered into space attached to an Atlas V rocket. This spacecraft is for cargo delivery. The Orion spacecraft hitches a ride on a Delta IV Heavy rocket. It is a spacecraft in which a crew actually travels aboard. The Kennedy Spaceport will also be where the Dragon and Starliner, the large crew capacity spacecrafts, will launch.

NASA’s spacecrafts will no longer need the runway previous shuttles used. The runway is three miles long and 300 feet wide. However, it is not just going to be forgotten now that the shuttle program has entered NASA’s annals of history. Commercial and government partners will be putting it to good use. Even NASA repurposes, the gringa likes this.

The Kennedy Spaceport is leading the way for the space travel and space science industry to prepare for their ultimate challenge, the manned mission to Mars. By having a multi-use spaceport, industry partners and NASA can streamline their efforts which will result in greater efficiency in their collaborations in developing and testing the technologies that are going to safely deliver a crew to the Red Planet.

The spaceport will also be able to process resupply missions quicker and more efficiently. The purpose of the missions on the International Space Station are research, research, research as well as testing new technologies. This is all part of NASA’s goals to improve life on Earth and accomplish gains and progress in space exploration.

A consolidated spaceport is NASA’s new approach to managing the flow of traffic to and from space. Within the coming years, traffic to and from the space station will increase considerably. Such traffic will not just be to swap crews on the ISS or resupply the ISS. The next big project is to lasso an asteroid and tow it into orbit around our moon. This will then usher in a series of missions where crews will travel to this asteroid and begin their Mars mission training.

Kennedy Spaceport is going to be the hub of all of this space travel activity. It will become the home of thousands of engineers, technicians and scientists who support the astronauts while they are off-world.

President Obama challenged NASA to create a spacecraft and support technology that would enable astronauts to perform long-term, deep-space missions with the ultimate goal of landing on Mars. NASA accepted the throw down of the gauntlet and the Kennedy Spaceport is one more step to fulfilling this challenge. Further testing of the Orion spacecraft will eventually result in it being ready to deliver astronauts to deep space and an exploration venture of Mars.

NASA has every confidence that it will fulfill President Obama’s objectives. Why does this space agency have such confidence? Because it believes in the skills of its personnel.

And one more reason to get behind this agency’s efforts is its dedication to respect the source of its funding. Not only is NASA repurposing the shuttle runway but it is also repurposing many buildings and structures throughout the sprawling Kennedy complex. Some buildings that NASA has no use for will be used by industry partners. The unique capabilities of these commercial companies will be right next door to the agency they are developing technology for.  This can only improve research and development and save the taxpayers lots of moolah.

Very soon launches of crews to outer space will be a regular thing. On-worlders will see them as “no big deal”. Eventually it will take something really spectacular and unbelievable to make us go, “WOW”, something like, boots on the ground on Mars!

Source & Photo Credit: http://www.nasa.gov

 

All Aboard The “Moon Express”


A couple of years ago “Moon Express” completed a round of flight tests at Kennedy Space Center. Evidently, this didn’t seem like big news because the popular media sources were rather silent on the matter. Is the “Moon Express” newsworthy or not? The gringa just had to find out. I mean, with the name “Moon Express” conjuring up images in my mind’s eye of a space alien whodunit novel, surely there’s a story in there somewhere.

The “Moon Express” is a private company partnering with NASA’s Lunar CATALYST mission to provide a chunk of technology referred to as “MX-1”. The primary role of Moon Express is in the field of transporting commercial cargo from the Earth to the Moon. The MX-1 is an innovative lunar landing vehicle to help Moon Express fulfill its self-proclaimed mission of “blazing a trail to the Moon to unlock its mysteries and resources for the benefit of life on Earth and our future in space.” Considered by Moon Express to be the eighth continent, the company, with NASA’s support, looks to the Moon as an economic opportunity in order to exploit its natural resources that are rare here on Earth. What are these natural resources and their potential to help mankind?

Take, for instance, the platinum group metals classified as PT-78. Platinum is so scarce on Earth, that humans are only capable of producing a few hundred tons every year. This metal is the least reactive and most resistant to corrosion and can withstand extremely high temperatures. Platinum is most commonly used as a catalyst to produce chemical reactions such as igniting hydrogen and is used in the catalytic converters of automobiles. Estimates of manufacturing experts claim that almost one fifth of industrial applications require platinum. The plan is to mine this valuable commodity found on the Moon, return and sell it back on Earth, and the fellas at Moon Express can make the bank and fund their goals of further space exploration. Is that not the wildest “American Dream” story ever? The gringa is fascinated. I’m thinking of going out and buying a pick-axe and shovel and wheelbarrow and coveralls and…

And, the first stage in achieving these goals is the MX-1commercial lunar lander. This robotic spacecraft will deliver scientific and commercial cargo much cheaper than NASA. How can they do this? Moon Express has developed a “green” space vehicle that is powered by sunlight and, for fuel, uses hydrogen peroxide! Next time the gringa cuts herself, when cleaning the wound and the hydrogen peroxide gets all fizzy, I will imagine myself blasting into space like a shooting star!

Moon Express is just one of a small handful of private companies that have contracted with NASA. These contracts do not allow any funds to be exchanged. They are, rather, an agreement about support services and technologies that will be shared. Moon Express in particular will play a key role in assisting space exploration objectives such as returning geologic samples from the moon, providing the first platform of deployment for further space exploration, and prospecting resources on the Moon such as metals, water and oxygen that can be used to advance space exploration programs.

For more information about Lunar CATALYST, visit http://www.nasa.gov/lunarcatalyst.

For more information about Moon Express, visit www.moonexpress.com

Sources:

http://www.totalmateria.com/page.aspx?ID=CheckArticle&site=ktn&NM=237

www.nasa.gov

www.moonexpress.com

Photo credit: www.floridatoday.com

Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 – Open The Gates


In 1963 President John F. Kennedy showed his support for immigration reform by declaring the quota system as “intolerable.” Later that year, America would tragically lose this beloved President to an assassin’s bullet but Congress would go on to follow his lead in passing the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965. In many ways, even though JFK was gone when the bill passed into law, the nation owes its diversity to him. America’s current immigration standards had their birth in the 1965 legislation that he championed and was eventually signed into law at the foot of the Statue of Liberty by President Lyndon B. Johnson October 3, 1965.

This legislation was commonly called the the Hart-Celler Act after the Congressmen who authored the bill, Representative Emanuel Cellar, of New York, and Senator Philip Hart, of Michigan, with additional support of Senator Ted Kennedy, of Massachusetts, JFK’s brother.  It sought to abolish the quota system that discriminated based on ethnic origin. Instead, the United States of America wanted an immigration policy that focused on reuniting families and importing a skilled labor class. This would be accomplished by showing preference to a resident immigrant’s family relations for clearance to enter the country. Quotas were replaced by a total annual immigrant cap of 170,000 but immigrants who were related to U.S. citizens or residents did not count toward this quota. For the first time, entire family units could uproot themselves and immigrate as a cohesive unit to the United States and join a long lost loved one who had paved the way for them.

As compassionate, family value motivated legislation, the sacrifice of separation became a thing of the past. Under the quota system, many immigrants made the painful decision to separate the family unit in order for at least one or two to emigrate to the New World and begin building a better life. Many would wait years for reunification. Joseph Errigo, who was the National Chairman of the Sons of Italy Committee on Immigration spoke before Congress and asked that the nation “abolish a system which is gradually becoming unpopular and inoperative.” At that time 249,583 Italians were on waiting lists for entry into the U.S.

Just as family members of immigrants already present in the country were shown preference for entry into the nation, professionals, scientists and notable artists did also. Skilled laborers were another desirable class of immigrant because at the time of the bill’s passage, there were not enough laborers in the U.S. to satisfy the needs of industry. Other preferred classes of immigrants who were widely accepted and not counted toward the quota were “special immigrants”. And what made a person so “special”? If you were born in an “independent” nation of the Western hemisphere, were a minister or had been employed by the U.S. government while living in another country, you could count on an open door policy to enter the United States. Restrictions still existed for Communist immigrants, but were considerably relaxed when compared to the past when a Communist couldn’t even get a foot in the door and often got a boot in the ass out the door.

Humanitarianism was definitely at play in this legislative effort to reunite families as the United States opened up the nation’s borders to the Western Hemisphere, as well as Asian and African countries. This would eventually result in the growth of an unexpected ethnic diversity in the United States. Historically, citizenship had been restricted as much as possible to white Europeans. Naturalization had, in the past, been kept to a minimum among the non-white races. The game changing legislative reforms of 1965 made it possible for this gringa’s Caveman to be here today.

People from Greece, Poland, Portugal and Italy had been earnestly seeking entry into the United States. The quota system was a significant hindrance for such immigrant hopefuls. Thanks to the many Americans who stood up for racial equality, the discriminatory practice of immigration quotas based on ethnic origin became a thing of the past. Gone were the days of preferential treatment toward Northern Europeans when it came to immigration. Nativism and xenophobia were headed out the door right on the heels of state mandated segregation.

Did the framers of this legislation realize the significance of what they were creating? Did they have any idea how much change this would bring about? Were they truly equality minded individuals who were seeking to reflect the values of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s in immigration reform? Were the great floods of immigrants from all over the globe an unexpected surprise? Perhaps an unwelcome surprise? Was there disappointment as the American population increased with large numbers of newcomers who were not as well-educated as the existent population? Was the nation socially evolving and becoming less discriminatory toward other races and ethnicities? The gringa has so many questions.

The movers and shakers of the civil rights movement were the forward-thinkers who kept the country moving along in the direction of social evolution. The first civil rights laws since Reconstruction were passed in 1957, again in 1960, then two more bills, one in 1964 and another in 1965. As state and local authorities responded in kind with their own new laws and ordinances designed to stamp out any practice of racism by making such acts illegal, immigration reform then seems a natural extension of the social change that was sweeping across the nation. Representative Philip Burton of California is recorded as stating to Congress, “Just as we sought to eliminate discrimination in our land through the Civil Rights Act, today we seek by phasing out the national origins quota system to eliminate discrimination in immigration to this nation composed of the descendants of immigrants.” The voices of the civil rights movement had been heard and the nation delivered results yet again with immigration reform.

There is also evidence of an awakening of humanitarianism within America on a scale unseen in the past. As Africa and Asia were experiencing colonization from powerhouses such as the Soviet Union, resulting instabilities created international refugee crises. Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey recognized that without immigration reform, it would not be possible to offer relief to these desperate people therefore the nation would be unable to have “the respect of people all around the world”.

Foreign policy was also a critical factor in passing sweeping changes for immigration laws. The country wanted the good will of other nations. This could very well have been in response to the Latin American countries, particularly Mexico, being fed up with the nation’s racist and discriminatory behavior and exploitation of their people as an imported labor class. It could also have been the U.S. reacting to Cold War propaganda that cast the U.S. in the light of Nazism specifically due to its race based immigration system. It also seems the nation had finally learned its lesson that discriminatory immigration policies could inflame passions against the country. There were those in the nation that finally seemed to put two and two together and think, just perhaps, Japanese militarism against America in World War II might have been incited by passions in Japan that were stinging from the racist exclusionary policy of 1924.

Many in the nation were rather unimpressed with the bill’s significance. When the legislation finally became law in October of 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson said that the immigration reform was “not a revolutionary bill. It does not affect the lives of millions… It will not reshape the structure of our daily lives or add importantly to either our wealth or our power.” Considering how dramatically the ethnic fabric of the country has changed in the fifty years since this legislation, I believe he grossly underestimated the power of this immigration reform to bring about significant change.

The reality of the bill, despite Johnson’s opinion, is that it was a drastic change from the past. The effect would be immediate and the results long-lasting. Within the first five years after the bill was enacted, refugees from war ravaged countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia would increase nearly four times their immigration total prior to the immigration reform. As people suffered poverty and political oppression, they poured into the country from places like Cuba and Eastern Europe. Within the first thirty years after passage of the 1965 legislation, the number of immigrants into the U.S. tripled as compared to the numbers who entered the country in the thirty years prior to the new laws. Within thirty-five years, the largest group of immigrants was no longer the white Europeans, but, instead, were the people of Mexico, the Philippines, Korea, the Dominican Republic, India, Cuba and Vietnam. In 1965, at the time of this bill’s passage, eighty-five percent of the United States population was white. By the year 2009, about sixty percent of the population was white. Census projections expect that by the year 2042, whites will no longer be the majority ethnic class of the American population. President Johnson couldn’t have been more wrong. The status quo of the American population was to become vastly changed.

Representative Cellar, who sponsored the bill, sat in the same camp as Johnson. He was not entirely convinced that the results of this legislation would significantly change the ethnic face of the nation. Boy, did he underestimate his own legacy. Even Attorney General Robert Kennedy was unprepared for the reality that was to come. He spoke to House immigration subcommittee members and told them, regarding Asian immigrants “… immigrants would come the first year, but we do not expect that there would be any great influx after that.” Brother Teddy seemed to feel the same way when he said, “First, our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually… It will not upset the ethnic mix of our society…” Secretary of State Dean Rusk was under the impression that only about 8,000 immigrants should be expected from India. He was only off by about 20,000. Dead wrong, these guys were just dead wrong.

A few politicians, however, could smell the winds of change all over the bill. Representative William Mill of New York penned these thoughts, “… the number of immigrants next year will increase threefold and in subsequent years will increase even more…” He was pretty close to the truth, it just took a little longer to fulfill his prediction.

In New Jersey, Myra C. Hacker, Vice President of the New Jersey Coalition, sounded off about the age old concerns of immigrants arriving, stealing jobs and lowering wages. Testifying before the Senate immigration subcommittee hearing, she said, “We should remember that people accustomed to such marginal existence in their own land will… lower our wage and living standards, disrupt our cultural patterns…” Nothing new under the sun, a fear-mongerer fearing the unknown people that haven’t even arrived yet.

Although nothing created by man can be perfect, this piece of legislation has withstood the test of time and is still, excepting a few changes, the immigration policy of the United States now. The gringa must admit that one of the most important sources of happiness in life, her beloved Caveman, can be traced back to October 3, 1965. I wasn’t even born yet, but the wheels were already in motion for my dreams to come true. Funny how life works like that.

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1965_immigration_and_nationality_act.html

http://www.history.com/topics/us-immigration-since-1965

http://cis.org/1965ImmigrationAct-MassImmigration

http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/geopolitical-origins-us-immigration-act-1965

http://www.asian-nation.org/1965-immigration-act.shtml

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5391395

Photo credit:  behindthescenes.nyhistory.org