A Menagerie of Outspoken Opinions on Science, World Politics, and Geek Culture

Monday, June 07, 2004


First of all, let me assure everyone that I am aware former President Reagan died over the weekend. There is no tribute or mention of him here because I'm saving that for Friday, a day which President Bush has declared a national day of mourning. My thoughts on the life of America's 40th President will be here then.

I will wonder out loud, however, about one thing: How long before some leftist publication or editorial cartoon soils itself with an anti-Reagan rant? They've already mocked the death of Pat Tillman; I hardly think former President Reagan's passing will be taboo for such people. We shall see.

Moving on, I have lots of interesting science stuff today. First is a report that the Opportunity rover on Mars will be descending into another, much larger crater. The rock strata available for it to examine will be far greater than anything it has yet encountered. I know that even space enthusiasts are a little tired of hearing about Mars rovers; they've been doing their thing for almost half a year now. But that, kids, is precisely what is so cool. When robots performing geology on the surface of another planet has become routine - even boring - you know the technology is getting mature. NASA has done a superb job with this program, collecting data about Mars that will take years to fully analyze and learning lessons that will make the next generation of probes even better. Sample-return mission, here we come!

I also have some more on the impending launch of SpaceShipOne's maiden voyage; this article concentrates on Paul Allen's involvement. Why, you ask? One reason: It's a perfect example of why the social democracies of Europe can keep their short work weeks, free health care at third-rate hospitals, and sky-high taxes. I'll take our "unfair" and "oppressive" free-market system ... unless, of course, there are any private firms in Norway or Belgium that are about to put a man in space.

Lastly, does anyone else remember the environmentalist fear mongering that went on when we launched the Cassini spacecraft to Saturn? The anti-nuclear crowd were urinating on themselves in terror at the possibility an accident; the whole lot of them were just sure that pieces of radioactive ceramic were going to be raining down on the unfortunate inhabitants of some third-world nation because the evil Americans wanted to explore Saturn (probably to steal all of that Saturnian oil). Well, seven years and 2.2 billion miles later Cassini has arrived at the sixth planet and is getting ready for orbital insertion later this month. It's mission will last for years - possibly decades - and will involve the very first landing on the moon of another planet. This one is huge, folks. And not a single Bantu tribesman was clobbered with a glowing chunk of American spaceship fuel. Imagine that!