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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘NASA’

Satellite Photo of the Snow

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

The above is a NASA satellite photo from this morning showing the snow in the Jerusalem environs and up in the Golan.

Will Bio-Fuels Solve the Oil Crisis? (Podcast)

Monday, January 21st, 2013

What are bio-fuels? How are they made? And do you think they are a viable solution to the oil crisis? On this week’s Goldstein on Gelt show, Jonathan Trent of the NASA Ames Research Center and an adjunct professor in biomolecular engineering at UC Santa Cruz introduces the Omega project and discusses other natural sources of fuel. Find out more by tuning into a very natural podcast this week.

America Needs a New Civil Space Policy

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Other nations are not waiting for the US to decide what kind of space policy it wants.

China is moving ahead with its independent manned space program. On June 18, 2012, a Chinese Shenzhou capsule, with China’s first female Taikonaut aboard, docked with China’s new space station. This Chinese mission is most likely meant to show that China is winning a new space race with the United States.

In January 2013, whatever the new administration, it will almost certainly not consider civil space policy to be one of its top priorities – civil space being the government’s non-military space program. The most important part of that is NASA; other parts include NOAA for civilian weather satellites and the FAA office of commercial space transportation for licensing commercial space launches.

If, in the first few weeks, space questions arise at all, restoring the 22% (or more) cuts made by the current administration to America’s military space programs will take precedence over decisions on the future of NASA. The European Space Agency has, at least for the moment, given up on major new cooperative space exploration programs with NASA. Further, the confused management of the US Space Agency has discouraged most of the world’s space organizations from joining with Americans on any serious new projects.

This situation is the opposite of the goal which the Obama administration set for itself in the June 2010 National Space Policy. The White House policy makers said then that they wanted to “expand international cooperation on mutually beneficial space activities to broaden and extend the benefits of space …”

International partnerships for space exploration are certainly being developed — only without the United States.

It is hard nevertheless to imagine that the question, “What do we do about NASA?” can be long postponed: the US government’s military space and civilian space (which mostly means NASA) are two sides of the same coin. The same firms that support the military’s essential space functions also support NASA’s science and exploration programs. The stress on major civil space programs — caused by a combination of complex requirements, underfunding and poor management — means that in early 2013, several of the most important programs, including the Mars exploration project and the James Webb Space Telescope, will be in even deeper trouble than they already are.

Any new administration will at some point have to face the incredibly incompetent way in which the future of scientific research on the International Space Station (ISS) has been handled. To put it bluntly, the same woman who was in charge of writing the specifications for the body which is to supervise science on the ISS, is now a senior officer in the institution that won the contract. This involves, at the very least, what used to be called “the appearance of impropriety.” Until the new administration and NASA take dramatic action to separate themselves from this mess, investigations and litigation will probably ensure that very little science will be done on the station.

Moreover, to save money for the very costly and behind-schedule Webb Space Telescope — managed by the Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland, and the pet project of the powerful and sometimes feared Democratic Senator, Barbara Milkulski — the rest of NASA’s science programs have been gutted. This plunder has been especially true of the planetary science missions: future Mars exploration programs have been canceled, and the planned “Flagship” mission to the outer planets has been postponed to the point where it is doubtful it will fly anytime within the next decade.

The manned space exploration program is a shambles. The commercial space projects are taking baby steps at a time where giant ones are needed. One hopes that the so-called “New Space” companies will find a way to thrive in this environment, but they are, with the exception of SpaceX, nowhere near ready to fly paying passengers into orbit, and will not be ready for some years to come.

In the early morning of May 22, 2012, SpaceX, based in Hawthorn California, finally launched its Dragon ISS resupply capsule on the company’s own Falcon 9 rocket. This was only the third Falcon 9 launch and the first since December of 2010. Three days later, on May 25th, the Dragon capsule was successfully berthed onto the space station. There is nothing unusual about a complex space launch vehicle taking more time than expected to perfect. For a private firm such as SpaceX, however, it has been an expensive process that has, no doubt, hurt its bottom line, at least for the short term.

The SpaceX Dragon’s launch was carried out under the terms of the Bush-era Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. In 2007 and 2008, NASA was planning to extend the COTS contract to cover transporting people, as well as cargo, to the ISS under the so-called COTS-D program. Now, instead of the commercial program being a useful auxiliary to NASA’s main human exploration plans, COTS-D was renamed the Commercial Crew and Cargo Development program (CCDev) and, after that re-renaming, is now named the Commercial Crew Program (CCP). NASA created this program to build vehicles that would take over the entire job of carrying people and cargo from Earth to orbit and back, a task was formerly performed by the Space Shuttle.

Congress rejected that approach; at present a stalemate exists between those who support giving the entire job to the so-called “commercial” industry and those who are pushing for a compromise. The compromise which the Obama administration reluctantly accepted in 2010 was that NASA would continue to develop the Orion capsule for possible missions to the asteroids, the Moon or Mars, and that NASA would begin work on a new rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS), which closely resembled the heavy-lift Ares V, a part of the Bush era Constellation Return-to-the-Moon Program. The SLS, like the Ares V, will, in theory, be able to lift more than 120 tons of payload into the Earth’s orbit — more than any other rocket in history. The current leadership at NASA, however, has been less than enthusiastic about the SLS program and has tried to undermine it every chance they got.

So how, in January 2013, could a new President restore NASA’s place as a world leader in science, technology and exploration? Perhaps by following three relatively-simple-to-understand principles:

Number OneRespect the US Constitution

Congress is a co-equal branch of the government. As such, it may be incredibly frustrating to deal with at times; however, its role as the keeper of the national purse must be acknowledged. The Obama administration’s cancellation of the Constellation program, which aimed to return Americans to the Moon and eventually land US astronauts on Mars, was nothing short of an act of political vandalism. Constellation had been carefully crafted, with considerable input from senior Senators and Representatives from both political parties. Killing Constellation poisoned NASA’s relations with the men and women on Capitol Hill. Until there is new leadership at the space agency and also at the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, the bitterness and anger will endure.

Number Two: Set Clear Goals

People are tired of hearing about President Kennedy’s 1961 instructions to NASA to “within this decade, land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth.” The Apollo program was a product of a unique time and place. The US will never again devote more than 2% of GDP to NASA as it did in the mid 1960s. If the country were to spend even 1% of its annual wealth on NASA, it would look like a miracle.

Yet, reduced funding is no excuse for allowing the space agency to disaggregate into a unconnected set of programs which not only cannibalize each other, but which are often canceled after spending billions with nothing to show for them. A Back-to-the-Moon-and-on-to-Mars program is still the most sensible, and doable, long term goal. Humanity needs to explore and settle new worlds, and America needs to be at the forefront of those efforts.

Number Three: Reform the Way NASA Does Business

As with many other Federal agencies and departments, the waste that results from starting and then canceling programs dwarfs any other form of governmental waste. The cancellation of the Constellation program, after more than 9 billion dollars had been spent on it, was merely one example of this practice. Few foreign governments habitually start, and then kill, expensive national programs with the same reckless disregard for the national purse or the national interest as do our leaders in Washington DC.

To carry out these reforms not only does NASA desperately need to fix its management problems, such as the ones which have led to the wild cost overruns in the Webb Space Telescope program, but above all NASA needs new leaders in Washington. Any President should look soon into a top-to-bottom, radical reform and simplification of the gigantic and complex Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR). America’s FAR are rivaled only in their Kafkaesque complexity and lack of rationality by America’s Tax Code.

Done correctly, such reforms would save the government hundreds of billions of dollars over the next ten years, not only at the Defense Department, but also at NASA. FAR reform would free up cash inside the NASA budget for research, science and exploration.

It should be noted that both of NASA’s commercial programs, COTS and the CCP, have been carried out under the “Space Act Agreement” law. This legislation has enabled the COTS and CCP contractors to build their vehicles to fill NASA crew and cargo transportation needs without having to fulfill the costly and time consuming requirements of the Federal Acquisition Regulations. This raises the question: Why doesn’t NASA ask all its contractors to work under the Space Act Agreement rules?

It needs to be clearly understood America’s civil space program is just as much an instrument of national power as the US Navy or the State Department. It is to be hoped that the President and Congress will in the future recognize this fact.

Originally published by the Gatestone Institute.

Kibbutz Ein Harod Cooler on Mars

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

NASA’s Curiosity rover, roaming around Mars taking pictures as we speak, is using a refrigerator developed and manufactured in kibbutz Ein Harod (Ihud), in northern Israel, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

Ein Harod (Ihud)’s Ricor Cryogenic and Vacuum Systems specializes in cryogenic coolers, which are miniature refrigerators designed to reach extremely low temperatures.

Back in 2005, an American buyer ordered from Ricor several “cryocoolers” for a NASA research assignment to Mars.

“When it was announced that the Curiosity had landed on Mars, we contacted the buyer, who confirmed that the Israeli cooler was indeed in Mars,” Ricor’s marketing manager Yoav Zur told Yedioth. “Everyone in the factory was excited. Our 170 employees were all very proud.”

The coolers serve to keep a detector onboard the Curiosity at minus 173 degrees Celsius at all times. The detector is used to identify Mars materials.

“Without our cooler, it would be impossible to determine the type of materials examined on Mars.,” said Zur.

One – Skillet Suppers

Friday, November 25th, 2011

The all-purpose stovetop to oven skillet is a kitchen essential. Mine works overtime and never lets me down. My skillet and a pair of tongs turn out delicious dinners for my family. Here are three special skillet suppers:

 

Chicken Thighs with Roasted Winter Fruit The wonderful thing about skillet chicken is the crisp golden brown skin you get when searing for about 8-10 minutes on each side and then finishing off in the oven. Searing also lock in those juices so you have nice, moist, flavorful chicken.

Your best friend and must-have-on-hand ingredient for skillet chicken is broth. I use boxed broth and always have extra in my pantry. This recipe comes alive with sweetness from apples, pears and grapes. A combo of mustard powder, cinnamon, garlic and thyme round out the flavors of this dish.

 

Prep time: 10 minutes; Cook time: 45 minutes; Ready time: 55 minutes; Serves 4

 

Ingredients

1 teaspoon olive oil

4 bone in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2-pounds)

2 tart apples such as pink lady or granny smith, cored & cut into ½-inch thick slices

2 ripe but firm pears, cored and cut into ½-inch thick slices

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon mustard powder

½ to ¾ cup chicken stock

1 cup red grapes

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

 

Directions

Heat oil over medium high heat in a 12-inch or larger oven-proof skillet. Add chicken and brown for 8 to 10 minutes per side until nicely golden brown. Remove and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400° F. If there is more than 2 tablespoons of grease in the skillet, drain excess grease. Add apples and pears and sauté for 4 to 6 minutes or until just beginning to brown. Add garlic, salt, cinnamon and mustard powder and sauté 1 minute more. Add chicken thighs back to the pan with ½ cup chicken stock and bring to a boil. Transfer to preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Add grapes and ¼ cup more chicken stock if liquid has reduced too much and return to the oven for 15 minutes.

Garnish with balsamic vinegar and thyme and serve each chicken thigh with about 1 cup roasted fruits.

 

Steak with Red Wine Glazed Carrots, Parsnips & Mushrooms Skirt steak is a boneless, relatively inexpensive cut prized more for its flavor than tenderness. To minimize toughness, it can be marinated and/or grilled, or pan seared very quickly (think stir-fry) or braised very slowly. Slice thinly against the grain to maximize tenderness.

This steak (much like brisket and London broil) has long fibers running through it. You will see these distinct lines in the meat.  Cutting against means don’t slice parallel to those lines, but rather across those lines, ideally at a 45 degree angle. You’re cutting those long fibers into short ones to make it easier to chew. By the way, you can slice these meats before or after cooking, but if you cut after cooking, let the meat rest a bit. Everything behaves better when it’s rested.

 

Prep time: 10 minutes; Cook time: 33 minutes; Ready time: 43 minutes; Serves 4

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound skirt steak

2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch sticks

2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch sticks

½ cup mushrooms, quartered

½ cup chicken stock

½ cup dry red wine

1 tablespoon coarsely chopped parsley

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions

Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium high heat. Add steak and sear until nicely browned, about 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Remove and let rest. Add parsnips and carrots and sauté 6 to 8 minutes or until slightly browned and beginning to soften. Add mushrooms and sauté 2 minutes. Add stock and wine and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender and sauce is reduced and thickened. Stir in parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Thinly slice steak against the grain and return to pan for 2 to 3 minutes or until heated through and coated in sauce. Divide between 4 shallow bowls.

 

Asian Vegetables with Quinoa Last, but certainly not least is a skillet meal featuring quinoa.  Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah or kee-no-uh) is from South America and it’s a species of goosefoot, a “grain-like” crop. It is packed with calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and iron, and has a high protein content to boot. Unlike wheat and rice (but similar to oats) it contains a balanced set of amino acids, making it a complete protein source. It’s high in fiber, gluten-free and easy to digest. It’s so nutritious that NASA is considering it as a crop for their Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned space flights. It’s kinda like rice or couscous. Has a nice, nutty flavor too.

Parshat Shemot

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

“Houston, we have a problem.” These words that were transmitted on April 11, 1970 by astronaut Jim Lovell, commander of Apollo 13, initiated a crisis of potential catastrophic proportions for NASA and the space program. There had been an explosion in the landing module’s cryogenic hydrogen and oxygen tanks, which provide electrical power, oxygen and water for the astronauts. Due to the explosion the spacecraft was quickly losing all of these, as well as its propulsion power. If something were not done quickly, Apollo 13 and its three astronauts would be lost. Instead of anticipating landing on the moon, the crewmembers were now wondering whether they would ever see their families again.

In charge at mission control was Flight Director Eugene Kranz. After evaluating the damage and assessing the situation, Kranz and his team realized the full extent of what they had to do. “They had to keep the astronauts alive for four days, to get home using an engine designed to land on the Moon, and to perform the hazardous reentry procedure, all with dwindling power and water” (The Leader’s Mentor, Ian Jackman, Editor, Random House New York 2005, p. 25).

After a 15-minute brainstorming session with his key people, Kranz ended with a pep talk. In no uncertain terms he let them know that, “When you leave this room, you must leave believing that this crew is coming homeFlight people have got to believe, your people have got to believe, that this crew is coming home.” Taking their lead from Kranz the NASA engineers outdid themselves. With creativity that boggles the mind every problem was solved, and the Apollo 13 crewmembers were successfully brought home.

Without detracting from the vast accomplishments of the NASA engineers, experts who have studied this case assign substantial credit to Kranz himself. It was his steadfast belief that the crewmembers could be saved, as reflected in his words and actions, which inspired and drove the engineers. Had he shown doubt, the engineers might not have exerted the effort to come up with the solutions that ultimately resolved the crisis.

We cannot emphasize enough, the importance of a leader believing that things will work out. In light of this we can understand why Moshe had to spend so many years outside of Egypt getting prepared to assume the leadership of Bnei Yisrael.

The Torah relates Moshe’s experiences when he left the palace to check on his people. Almost immediately he comes across an Egyptian, brutally beating a Jew. The passuk states (2:12): “And he looked to and fro and saw that there was no man, so he slew the Egyptian and buried him in the sand.” Although the literal meaning of the verse is that Moshe checked to make sure nobody was watching, many commentators have understood the words as indicative of other issues.

Rashi explains that before Moshe killed the Egyptian he looked into the future to make sure that nobody righteous was destined to come forth from him. Had this been the case, Moshe would have had to weigh this factor before he killed the Egyptian.
The Netziv claims that Moshe first looked around to see if there was anybody that he could approach to summon help for the Jew. Sadly, Moshe saw that there was nobody. All of Egyptian society was indifferent to the plight of the Jews.

Other commentaries explain that even the Jews themselves were indifferent. This idea was brought home to Moshe on the following day when he was trying to break up a fight between two Jews. He was essentially told to mind his own business. Seeing this, Moshe lost faith in the Jewish people. If a people could sink so low that they not only fail to help another Jew but they assault somebody who does, then Moshe felt that they were beyond help. In response to this Moshe felt he had no choice other than to flee Egypt.

G-d, however, had other plans for Moshe. During his time in Midyan, while caring for Yitro’s sheep, the Midrash (Shemot Rabbah 2:2) describes how Moshe once followed a runaway sheep. Wondering why it fled, Moshe tracked it to a stream. Upon seeing it drink Moshe realized that the sheep was in fact tired and thirsty. It was not running away. We can envision that this incident gave Moshe a new perspective on Bnei Yisrael. Perhaps their indifference was not a sign of spiritual death but simply exhaustion.

According to Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, this notion was reinforced at the Burning Bush. Moshe was perplexed at the fact that although there was a fire deep inside the bush, the bush itself was not on fire nor was the deep fire getting extinguished. Rabbi Soloveitchik explained that the bush symbolized the Jewish people. Although on the outside there was no fire, which represented the coldness of their slave mentality, inside there was a burning flame. “Once one penetrates into the depths of a Jew, no matter how repugnant his exterior, no matter how subordinate he is to his master, one will recognize that the Jew quests for freedom and quests for HaKadosh Baruch Hu (Noraot HaRav 8 edited by B. David Schreiber p.78).

Moshe was now ready to return to Egypt. From his experiences as a shepherd and the revelation at the Bush, he learned that Bnei Yisrael could be saved. While there would still be setbacks, Moshe’s future doubts would no longer focus on Bnei Yisrael but rather on his own ability to lead them. Moshe now had the primary ingredient of leadership – he believed in his cause.

Despite the difficult challenges they face, leaders must believe that they can succeed. Eugene Kranz captured the essence of this attitude, an attitude we should all adopt, in the title of his autobiography: Failure Is Not an Option.

Rabbi David Hertzberg is the principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division. Questions and comments can be e-mailed to him at Mdrabbi@aol.com

Parshat Shemot

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

        “Houston, we have a problem.” These words that were transmitted on April 11, 1970 by astronaut Jim Lovell, commander of Apollo 13, initiated a crisis of potential catastrophic proportions for NASA and the space program. There had been an explosion in the landing module’s cryogenic hydrogen and oxygen tanks, which provide electrical power, oxygen and water for the astronauts. Due to the explosion the spacecraft was quickly losing all of these, as well as its propulsion power. If something were not done quickly, Apollo 13 and its three astronauts would be lost. Instead of anticipating landing on the moon, the crewmembers were now wondering whether they would ever see their families again.
 
         In charge at mission control was Flight Director Eugene Kranz. After evaluating the damage and assessing the situation, Kranz and his team realized the full extent of what they had to do. “They had to keep the astronauts alive for four days, to get home using an engine designed to land on the Moon, and to perform the hazardous reentry procedure, all with dwindling power and water” (The Leader’s Mentor, Ian Jackman, Editor, Random House New York 2005, p. 25).
 
         After a 15-minute brainstorming session with his key people, Kranz ended with a pep talk. In no uncertain terms he let them know that, “When you leave this room, you must leave believing that this crew is coming homeFlight people have got to believe, your people have got to believe, that this crew is coming home.” Taking their lead from Kranz the NASA engineers outdid themselves. With creativity that boggles the mind every problem was solved, and the Apollo 13 crewmembers were successfully brought home.
 
         Without detracting from the vast accomplishments of the NASA engineers, experts who have studied this case assign substantial credit to Kranz himself. It was his steadfast belief that the crewmembers could be saved, as reflected in his words and actions, which inspired and drove the engineers. Had he shown doubt, the engineers might not have exerted the effort to come up with the solutions that ultimately resolved the crisis.
 
         We cannot emphasize enough, the importance of a leader believing that things will work out. In light of this we can understand why Moshe had to spend so many years outside of Egypt getting prepared to assume the leadership of Bnei Yisrael.
 
         The Torah relates Moshe’s experiences when he left the palace to check on his people. Almost immediately he comes across an Egyptian, brutally beating a Jew. The passuk states (2:12): “And he looked to and fro and saw that there was no man, so he slew the Egyptian and buried him in the sand.” Although the literal meaning of the verse is that Moshe checked to make sure nobody was watching, many commentators have understood the words as indicative of other issues.
 

         Rashi explains that before Moshe killed the Egyptian he looked into the future to make sure that nobody righteous was destined to come forth from him. Had this been the case, Moshe would have had to weigh this factor before he killed the Egyptian.

         The Netziv claims that Moshe first looked around to see if there was anybody that he could approach to summon help for the Jew. Sadly, Moshe saw that there was nobody. All of Egyptian society was indifferent to the plight of the Jews.
 
         Other commentaries explain that even the Jews themselves were indifferent. This idea was brought home to Moshe on the following day when he was trying to break up a fight between two Jews. He was essentially told to mind his own business. Seeing this, Moshe lost faith in the Jewish people. If a people could sink so low that they not only fail to help another Jew but they assault somebody who does, then Moshe felt that they were beyond help. In response to this Moshe felt he had no choice other than to flee Egypt.
 
         G-d, however, had other plans for Moshe. During his time in Midyan, while caring for Yitro’s sheep, the Midrash (Shemot Rabbah 2:2) describes how Moshe once followed a runaway sheep. Wondering why it fled, Moshe tracked it to a stream. Upon seeing it drink Moshe realized that the sheep was in fact tired and thirsty. It was not running away. We can envision that this incident gave Moshe a new perspective on Bnei Yisrael. Perhaps their indifference was not a sign of spiritual death but simply exhaustion.
 
         According to Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, this notion was reinforced at the Burning Bush. Moshe was perplexed at the fact that although there was a fire deep inside the bush, the bush itself was not on fire nor was the deep fire getting extinguished. Rabbi Soloveitchik explained that the bush symbolized the Jewish people. Although on the outside there was no fire, which represented the coldness of their slave mentality, inside there was a burning flame. “Once one penetrates into the depths of a Jew, no matter how repugnant his exterior, no matter how subordinate he is to his master, one will recognize that the Jew quests for freedom and quests for HaKadosh Baruch Hu (Noraot HaRav 8 edited by B. David Schreiber p.78).
 
         Moshe was now ready to return to Egypt. From his experiences as a shepherd and the revelation at the Bush, he learned that Bnei Yisrael could be saved. While there would still be setbacks, Moshe’s future doubts would no longer focus on Bnei Yisrael but rather on his own ability to lead them. Moshe now had the primary ingredient of leadership – he believed in his cause.
 
         Despite the difficult challenges they face, leaders must believe that they can succeed. Eugene Kranz captured the essence of this attitude, an attitude we should all adopt, in the title of his autobiography: Failure Is Not an Option.
 

         Rabbi David Hertzberg is the principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division. Questions and comments can be e-mailed to him at Mdrabbi@aol.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/parshat-shemot-2/2007/01/10/

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