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Panaroma
Partial cut of panorama from Gale Crater. Click image for lots of awesome pics and background explanations at Bad Astronomy.
Safe On Mars! I have to confess, I can't quite believe the landing sequence worked so flawlessly. But it was a hoot on the front page and on the reco list, and a big shot of fun in the arm for the country:
So what, in the scheme of things, is the justification for the draconian budget cuts to NASA’s planetary program that threaten scientists’ carefully thought out plans for exploring the solar system in the coming decade? Is it that we don't value the high-tech jobs, the magnet for STEM education, the knowledge and inspiration we get from NASA’s planetary explorations?
NASA/JPL have been doing a superb job of getting raw data straight to the public. Take a moment to sust sit down with your significant other or child, starting here right through black and white  Martian gold.
  • H. rudolfensis gets a boost as a specific taxon with the find of more fossil remains from three different individuals. Good news for lumpers & splitters: "Rudy" might well be part of the ancestral line that led to anatomically modern humans.
  • If you liked Alaskan bear cam, you'll probably love kitty cam! And what do you suppose kitty cam caught your sweet lil pussy cat doing when you weren't looking?
  • Microbiologists and astrobiologists agree: One of the most resilient classes of microbes on earth go by the name of Methanogens. They and their archean cousins could be the true rulers of terrestrial biota and more:
    That's where University of Massachusetts Amherst scientist James Holden comes in. He is working on an exciting new discovery about microbes that exist within the cracks of undersea volcanoes. "Evidence has built over the past 20 years that there’s an incredible amount of biomass in Earth’s subsurface ..."
  • What do you do when our space exploration technology is increasing leaps and bounds, offering more and more bang for the buck as Mr. Moore's law predicts, but our political appropriations machinery is seized up by greedy billionaires? Here's one answer:
    If you’re Alan Stern – head honcho of the Pluto New Horizons probe and longtime scientific researcher- you start a new company that’ll fund space science by engaging the public. So he did. The company is called Uwingu – Swahili for "sky" – and the team includes several top-notch scientists like Geoff Marcy, Andy Chaikin, Emily CoBabe-Ammann, Pamela Gay, Mark Sykes, and many others.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 06:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Astro Kos and SciTech.

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Comment Preferences

  •  To be a Martian... (12+ / 0-)

    ...would I be required to wear a Roman-style helmet?

  •  And what about the ISS? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    palantir, melfunction, LOrion, atana

    I can't think of a single scientific discovery that has come anywhere close to what the Mars missions have accomplished, and yet we've wasted hundreds of billions of dollars on the George Bush 1 boondoggle.

    Manned space flight (which may be cool, but accomplishes little science) should take a back seat to the huge advancements in robotic space exploration.

    •  ISS is research about living in space (10+ / 0-)

      If we're ever going to send people to Mars, we're gonna wanna know how to keep people alive and healthy for the trip.

      The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.

      by xxdr zombiexx on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 06:15:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  er (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        palantir

        Right now, our planet is going through an existential crisis--overheating is an accurate description.  Weather patterns are changing, making our infrastructure less than ideal--farms in the wrong places is an example.  We need to spend less on Mars and more on remedies at home.  Life or death trumps curiosity.  Put a nasty way--finger in the dike before nail polish.

        Apres Bush, le deluge.

        by melvynny on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 06:35:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  If we'd stop blowing ALL our money (11+ / 0-)

          on war and the rich, we might be able to accomplish something:

          The MSL mission costs about 10% of 1 year of the war on drugs.

          The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.

          by xxdr zombiexx on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 06:47:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  folly (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            palantir

            War folly is a disease--and almost always present--gotta fight climate change with the bucks we have, not the bucks we should have.  Regardless of merits, NASA is considered a frill--as is climate control by some-- I guess all of life is fooly.

            Apres Bush, le deluge.

            by melvynny on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 07:15:25 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I see. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              palantir

              You are so right.

              Let's pull the plug now and sell it all off on ebay.

              How could I be so wrong and selfish?

              The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.

              by xxdr zombiexx on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 07:24:09 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  sadly (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Aunt Pat, palantir

                In the end, we all die.  While alive, I want to like the person in the mirror--and hope my kids live life to the fullest. We need a war on climate change.

                Apres Bush, le deluge.

                by melvynny on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 07:34:45 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  A war on climate change will likely produce (0+ / 0-)

                  MORE climate change, as wars on everything else seem to create more of whatever.

                  We KNOW what causes climate change and we ARE working on that and the MAIN obstacles are politics.

                  Effort towards reining in war spending, imposing regulations on fossil fuel and RESEARCH on alternative energies are the answers.

                  Where do you suppose the technology for your computer came from?

                  The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.

                  by xxdr zombiexx on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 08:33:01 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  sperry rand/ bell labs (0+ / 0-)

                    Remember Univac?  Climate control is probably too late--need to ameliorate and prepare for change.  This can be a unifier for mankind--or the tower of babel that destroys us all--not sure 200 years down the road a third option will exist.  Dystopia needs climate change to stay relevant in the movies.

                    Apres Bush, le deluge.

                    by melvynny on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 08:41:55 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, and while we're at it, might as well (0+ / 0-)

          close all the national parks, too.

          Who can afford such a frippery when people are in need?
          Or Amtrak.
          Might as well pull what little funding we send to NPR, PBS, the Smithsonian, National Gallery of Art.

          And it's OK to fund university research, but things like anthropology, paleontology, etc -- maybe some other time.

          I'm sure you could think of loads  more.

          After all, with a country of 300+ million people, everything's unimportant to somebody.

          LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

          by dinotrac on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 09:18:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  extreme (0+ / 0-)

            Carried to the extreme, everything is foolish.  When there is a power failure, good universities send all emergency power to their medical facilities.  It's not that I'm against the Mars missions--not at all--but we need to put our best scientists to work on our most pressing problem--climate.  If congress cuts scientific spending, resources need to be allocated appropriate--at times of scarcity--triage is necessary.  

            Apres Bush, le deluge.

            by melvynny on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 09:40:07 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yup, of course. (0+ / 0-)

              But look what you said:

              We need to put our best scientists to work on our most pressing problem
              Never mind that agreement might not be universal as to which problem is most pressing,  are you sure that research of places like Mars and Venus offer no insights into earth's climate?

              Are you sure that those might fine scientists and engineers -- and they are mighty fine -- even have an interest in working on something else?

              Great things come from unexpected places.  After all, NASA has been a great user of alternative energy -- Solar panels, fuel cells and the like. Curiosity is an electric vehicle powered by a low-grade nuclear power supply.

              And -- so much potential for increasing efficiency will come from smart devices using the kinds of software that --- wait for it --- NASA employs on these missions.

              LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

              by dinotrac on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 10:19:09 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Manned trips to Mars are a joke (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JML9999, PrahaPartizan, atana

        It's taking NASA as long to design and build a ship to go back and forth to the ISS as it did to run the entire Mercury and Gemini Programs.

        We are many, many, many decades away, from even coming close to having the technology for a manned mission to Mars.  The ISS is taking away from developing the technology, not contributing to it.

        •  That all may be true.... but,, (5+ / 0-)

          So what if it's taking  so long to build that particular but necessary craft?

          That's how technology is developed - it's not a linear process. If you don't try, it never happens by itself.

          They did a slam-bang job on the Curiosty project wrt landing as they did. They have had practice. They stuck the landing.

          The ISS may be a typical political boondoggle but that doesnt mean the idea is wrong - politics USUALLY fucks-up everything it touches.

          Politics is the problem, politics is why there's so much waste, and politics is likely behind a certain drag we find on the evolution of more efficient technologies of all sorts.

          The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.

          by xxdr zombiexx on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 06:53:51 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  But Not Building the Craft Necessary (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            pollwatcher

            Unfortunately, I see no evidence that we're building the craft that we need to be able to make a journey beyond the Moon.  NASA spends a pittance on alternative propulsion systems, so we're not making progress beyond the traditional chemically fueled rocket systems.  We've done little beyond putting some monkeys in a can and sending them into the void.  We can test to see the effect of weightlessness on human physiology but that's about all the ISS can really do.  Worse, it doesn't do much good if you can't bring the folks you sent 100 miles up back down to Earth, because their return kills them.  Of course that might suggest we send a real monkey in a can on a Mars mission to measure what does happen when an Earth-raised being gets subjected to two years in weightlessness.  Then maybe we'll start thinking about the type of real craft we need to travel beyond the Moon.

            "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

            by PrahaPartizan on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 07:36:24 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  No New propulsion, no trip to Mars (0+ / 0-)

              I really don't see how we get to Mars on chemical propulsion.  We need a big breakthrough in alternative propulsion systems before going beyond low orbit manned flights becomes practical.

              •  huh? (0+ / 0-)
                I really don't see how we get to Mars on chemical propulsion.
                You say this after we just landed Curiosity on Mars!
                It's only (roughly) a six month trip with chemical propulsion. That's doable with humans onboard.
                The propulsion system isn't the issue so much as the radiation, but that too is an eminently solvable problem.

                --- Keep Christian mythology out of science class!

                by cybersaur on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 10:00:57 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Difference in Scale (0+ / 0-)

                  The difference in scale between crewed missions (notice the plural) and an occasional robot lander demands different propulsion systems to be cost effective.  Sending a human crew to Mars will require that we boost out of Earth's gravity well a vehicle at least the size of the ISS.  When one considers just how much trouble we had merely getting the ISS assembled with multiple launches spread over years, one should be able to see the limitations on expecting to use chemical propulsion systems for crewed missions between the planets.

                  "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

                  by PrahaPartizan on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 10:05:44 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

    •  Well at least JPL is funded for 5 more years! (0+ / 0-)

      We are the 99% ... we will be heard. We are WOMEN... we Will be Heard.

      by LOrion on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 08:30:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I am still like a kid on Xmas! (9+ / 0-)

    MUST SEE video (if yer a big ol' nerd like me)

    And this: heat shield impact movie

    Driving is on tap and they have a path id'd already

    I am waiting for a 'cease and desist' e-mail from NASA/JPL MSL because I wear out their pages.

    Awesomeness.

    The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.

    by xxdr zombiexx on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 06:12:12 AM PDT

  •  Once around the Solar System, NASA. (7+ / 0-)

    What I'd love to see us doing next would be to explore a more inhospitable planet to investigate and verify our theories on it's environment. We might be surprised if we were able to land something on Venus per se. Not just looking through the atmosphere from orbit, but actually know what liquids and gases do at that temperature would be fantastic. Each time we succeed we advance one more step in the sciences. It's not just landing "another" rover on Mars. It's learning something we didn't know before. And it translates to opportunities back on Earth.

    "I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately." -- George Carlin, Satirical Comic,(1937-2008)

    by Wynter on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 06:15:09 AM PDT

    •  Once around the solar system? (12+ / 0-)

      Voyager is still going strong:

      SIGNS CHANGING FAST FOR VOYAGER AT SOLAR SYSTEM EDGE

      Two of three key signs of changes expected to occur at the boundary of interstellar space have changed faster than at any other time in the last seven years, according to new data from NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft.

      For the last seven years, Voyager 1 has been exploring the outer layer of the bubble of charged particles the sun blows around itself. In one day, on July 28, data from Voyager 1's cosmic ray instrument showed the level of high-energy cosmic rays originating from outside our solar system jumped by five percent. During the last half of that same day, the level of lower-energy particles originating from inside our solar system dropped by half. However, in three days, the levels had recovered to near their previous levels.

      A third key sign is the direction of the magnetic field, and scientists are eagerly analyzing the data to see whether that has, indeed, changed direction. Scientists expect that all three of these signs will have changed when Voyager 1 has crossed into interstellar space. A preliminary analysis of the latest magnetic field data is expected to be available in the next month.

      "These are thrilling times for the Voyager team as we try to understand the quickening pace of changes as Voyager 1 approaches the edge of interstellar space," said Edward Stone, the Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. "We are certainly in a new region at the edge of the solar system where things are changing rapidly. But we are not yet able to say that Voyager 1 has entered interstellar space."

      The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.

      by xxdr zombiexx on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 06:19:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Soviets Have Already Done It (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      palantir, cybersaur

      Back in the 1970s and 1980s the Soviets launched several Venera spacecraft, some of which circled Venus and several of which actually landed.  The Soviets even managed to have some of the landers survive long enough to return pictures of the surface successfully.  The budget for trying to develop a rover for Venus is probably in nobody's future because the design requirements will need to be hellacious, literally.

      "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

      by PrahaPartizan on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 07:52:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Uwingu? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JML9999, xxdr zombiexx

    Bad name obviously thought up by a brainiac.

    That's why science needs people who are good at marketing and PR to be a buffer between them and the public.

    And please take my remark not as an insult of what I shorthandedly refer to as a "brainiac" but as an acknowledgement (sans filter) of the fact that very smart people just don't understand advertising yourself.

    This head movie makes my eyes rain.

    by The Lone Apple on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 06:17:08 AM PDT

  •  This is so so wrong and sad... but funny anyway (5+ / 0-)

    The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.

    by xxdr zombiexx on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 06:21:07 AM PDT

  •  You're a Martian jelly donut??? n/t (5+ / 0-)

    A PALINDROME: Slip-up set in Utah. Trail, no? M. Romney -- odd! Elder an AMC man, a Red-led doyen. Mormon liar that unites pupils?

    by Obama Amabo on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 06:24:56 AM PDT

  •  Hey, I remember methanogens! (6+ / 0-)

    I had my first full time science job in a lab studying them - ran floor to ceiling DEAE columns and built an HPLC machine specifically to isolate one particular methane-fixing cofactor.

    Too bad a science career is so much harder to come by these days.  At 40 and with a molecular virology PhD.  I still don't have much of a chance at one, and with paylines for junior-investigator grants at 3% and falling, I probably never will.  To me, all the austerity isn't just a bunch of statistics.  It's my life, and quite possibly, my life's end.

  •  OT (8+ / 0-)

    Not sure where to post this medical info--but this can't be a wrong place.  I'll keep it short--my daughter was diagnosed with ms 2 years ago, put on powerful drugs with bad side effects.  Before that, she was dxed with lupus and bad migraines--put on powerful drugs.  The doctors knew she came from the northeast, but wouldn't consider chronic lyme disease.  Most doctors don't outside the northeast.  Finally got the name of a NY doctor who treats similar patients--2 months of antibiotics and she's cured.  MRI is now clean.  Optic nerve is now normal--vision restored to one eye.  No more seizures.

    Doctors in North Carolina have lost their licenses for treating lyme--insurers won't pay for such doctor's visits unless forms are fudged.  Each doctor specialty treated her with blinders.  Conclusion--our system sucks for many reasons--not just expense.  Hillary was right when she said all md visits should be computerized--and available to patients.

    Our story has a happy ending--what about all those misdiagnosed?  Illness is cruel and inhuman when perpetrated by smug adherence to failing protocol.  

    Apres Bush, le deluge.

    by melvynny on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 06:29:28 AM PDT

    •  Was just commenting on the utter brokenness (4+ / 0-)

      of the 'health care delivery system' with the Nurse Practitioner I work with.

      She sent this client of ours with a sky-high blood sugar (diabetes) to the ER and they sent him back in less than an hour with some lame prescription. She was just sitting there with her mouth open.

      There's a doc we refer people to for physicals and some medical treatment and sometimes he just herds them all to the ER for reasons I cannot fathom.

      I have clients I want to discharge from the partial hospital program but there's little of nothing to refer him to: with him just living in a cruddy personal care home and nothing to do, he'll be in trouble with the law or decompensate and return to the hospital. The Assertive Community treatment teams seem to uniformly suck and he needs Medicaid, which he HAS, but nobody can find out where his card is - meaning the DFACS offices responsible for issuing such card - so he's in limbo while we await a fundable, useful resource.

      It's outrageous and I totally blame republicans for chopping away at health care services.

      The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.

      by xxdr zombiexx on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 06:44:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Note that "budget cuts" aren't the whole problem (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    palantir

    NASA runs short of money even with the budgets they ask for because they overrun those budgets.

    Curiosity was budgeted for $1.5 Billion but cost $2.5 Billion.  That has drained money from other NASA projects.

    Almost every NASA project has a history like that.

    Of course that's microscopic compared to money lost on an Iraq war, but failure to predictably budget has been a chronic NASA problem that critics can easily latch on to.

  •  Fossil week in Nova Scotia and Alberta (0+ / 0-)

    "A Nova Scotia man out for a casual beach stroll has stumbled upon what’s being described as one of the most significant fossil discoveries in the province’s history." http://www.theglobeandmail.com/...
    "Staff at the Royal Tyrrell Museum have made a huge, 65-million year old discovery, stumbling upon the remains of a triceratops just east of Drumheller, Alta." http://www.torontosun.com/...

    (Obviously planted by gord to fool the evolutionists.)

  •  So, apparently we can transmit a signal from MARS (0+ / 0-)

    But I still can't get broadband in my mountainous corner of planet Earth??? Okay.

    Surprisingly enough, the red planet looks just like it does in that movie starring Val Kilmer;)

    If you run into Justice John Roberts thank him for giving Barack Obama... FOUR MORE YEARS!!!! OBAMA 2012!!! WHOO HOOO!

    by tha puddin on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 09:07:17 AM PDT

  •  Wow -- I didn't know that Martians spoke German (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PrahaPartizan

    Probably sneer at our rovers while driving by in their Marsedeses.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 09:13:56 AM PDT

  •  "...our space exploration technology is increasing (0+ / 0-)

    "...our space exploration technology is increasing leaps and bounds..."

    Are you sure about that?  It's definitely increasing, but, leaps and bounds?  I remember when we were sending men to the moon and back.  That was more than 40 years ago.  We've been in a deep rut for decades.

    Part of it is lack of funding.  Part of it is lack of public interest.  Part of it is also NASA internal politics.

  •  Spaeaking of Martians... (0+ / 0-)

    But where are the Martian Cat-Men?

    [/plug]

    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 07:24:32 PM PDT

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