Sunday, August 28, 2016
A team of six people have completed a Mars simulation in Hawaii, where they lived in near isolation for a year. Since 29 August 2015, the group lived in close quarters in a dome, without fresh air, fresh food or privacy. Experts estimate that a human mission to the Red Planet could take between one and three years.
The Nasa-funded study run by the University of Hawaii is the longest of its kind since a Russian mission that lasted 520 days. "The researchers are looking forward to getting in the ocean and eating fresh produce and other foods that weren't available in the dome", said Kim Binsted, principal investigator for the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation.
The team consisted of a French astro-biologist, a German physicist and four Americans - a pilot, an architect, a journalist and a soil scientist.
The experiment dealt with the human element of exploration. While conducting research, the six had to live with limited resources, wear a space-suit when outside the dome, and work to avoid personal conflicts.
The team members had almost no privacy during the mission
They each had a small sleeping cot and a desk inside their rooms. Provisions included powdered cheese and canned tuna. Missions to the International Space Station normally only last six months.
Just how far are we from mounting a crewed mission to the Red Planet?How far we can push humans, particularly in regard to extreme physiology, mental and emotional stress? Space analogue environment research aims to identify challenges and find solutions that will one day help to send a manned mission to Mars, and more importantly, see it safely return.
The overall challenge of sending a manned mission to Mars is a jigsaw puzzle. Success is only possible using international collaboration to make use of all the pieces of research from space programs all over the world. This would incorporate the international lessons learned from astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS), the space shuttle and such analogues as the European Space Agency's Mars 500 mission and Concordia. This would also include physiological lessons learned in intensive care and medicine.
Some of the principal challenges include dealing with cosmic rays in space, surface radiation on Mars, storms of dust or "fines" (particles that are smaller than dust), the effects of weightlessness on humans and other physical challenges associated with long term space travel. Remaining healthy will be the greatest challenge for an astronaut travelling to Mars, both physically and mentally.
The space environment is harsh on the human body and astronauts must maintain good bone density, muscle mass and cardiovascular fitness in order to be able to effectively work in Martian gravity after an extending zero gravity transit.
The stepping stones that mark our progression towards a manned Mars mission may incorporate trips to asteroids, the Moon, points in deep space or even the moons of Mars itself.
Inspiring missionsThere have been many failures of attempts to orbit spacecraft around Mars and land explorative space vehicles. Despite such losses, a US$2.5bn creation was born, built and launched in 2011. On August 6th this year, Nasa's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover finally penetrated Mars' thin atmosphere and landed safely in Gale Crater.
The mission's scientists hope that it will forge an exciting new chapter in Mars exploration; unlocking more secrets about the Red Planet's history.
Upcoming future planned projects to Mars, including the InSight and Mars Geyser Hopper missions are waiting in line, alongside projects from other countries such as India and China which have started to make their own plans.
We have never attempted a return trip; it has all been one-way exploration. Overcoming this challenge seems the next natural step and a crucial consideration for sending a manned mission.
Shared common projections predict a manned mission to Mars will happen, eventually.
All of this will take time and perhaps the earliest opportunity for humans to visit Mars would be the 2030s. Our knowledge and presence in space is playing a vital role in our future.
A manned Mission to Mars should be mankind's long-term goal and to achieve this will require long-term political and financial commitment and will only be successful as part of an international collaboration.
Armstrong's viewEarlier this year, in response to the budgetary and ambition cuts in Nasa, the late commander of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, expressed his sadness at the situation.
"Some question why Americans should return to the Moon. 'After all,' they say 'we have already been there.' I find that mystifying. It would be as if 16th century monarchs proclaimed that 'we need not go to the New World, we have already been there'."
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Just a few metres above sea level, it is comprised of a shallow lagoon surrounded by a coral reef, with the presence of fresh water and is the subject of Micronesian legend.
A ship was sent to rescue Mr and Mrs Jack but could not enter the shallow lagoon to reach them, forcing authorities to send two more boats that were due to arrive at noon on Friday.
A spokesperson for the US Embassy in Kolonia said the rescue operation has been “successfully completed” adding: “They are found and are waiting for a ship to take them home.”
Fayu is among more than 600 islands housing a combined total of 103,000 people in the Federated States of Micronesia, which is a US-associated state in the Western Pacific.
Mr and Mrs Jack’s rescue came months after three men stranded on the uninhabited Micronesian island of Fanadik were found after spelling out “help” with palm fronds.
It never ceases to amaze me how many people set out to sea in inadequate boats with no back up power source, no supplies, no shelter, no inflatables, 2 way radio or even flares. And they believe they can conquer the very powerful and often mercurial Pacific ocean where a wind can raise 20/30 foot swells.
Friday, August 26, 2016
Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, for a bail hearing.
The multiple gold medal-winning Paralympian, serving six years for murdering his girlfriend on Valentine's Day 2013, was not in court when the judge ruled that the state's petition had no reasonable prospects of success on appeal.
Women's rights groups in a country beset by high levels of violent crime against women say Pistorius has received preferential treatment compared to non-whites and those without his wealth or international celebrity status. His backers say he did not intend to kill Steenkamp.
Judge Thokozile Masipa sentenced the Paralympic gold medalist to six years behind bars in July for murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in 2013, but the prosecution had said the decision was "shockingly lenient".
Pistorius's defense had earlier argued the state was prejudiced and had dragged the case on too long, adding in their court documents that "enough is enough".
"I'm not persuaded that there are reasonable prospects of success on appeal or that another court may find differently," Masipa said in her ruling, dismissing the state's application.
Masipa originally sentenced Pistorius in 2014 after he was found guilty of manslaughter, but that conviction was increased to murder by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in December. The subsequent six-year sentence she passed in July was also criticized by women's groups for being too lenient.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel, who had sought 15 years for Pistorius for the murder conviction, told Reuters he could not comment. Nel has said Pistorius had not shown any remorse and had yet to explain why he fired the fatal shots.
"His remorse and or prospects of rehabilitating could not be tested," Nel argued before Masipa's ruling, referring to Pistorius' decision not to testify at the sentencing hearings.
It was unclear whether the state would appeal the ruling. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesman was not available to comment.
'LIKELY TO APPEAL'
Both the Pistorius and Steenkamp families declined to comment following Masipa's ruling.
Pistorius, who had the lower part of his legs amputated when he was a baby, says he fired four shots into the toilet door at his luxury Pretoria home in the mistaken belief that an intruder was hiding behind it.
His defense has argued that his disability and mental stress that occurred in the aftermath of the killing should be considered as mitigating circumstances.
"This trial and this process has been exhausted beyond any conceivable exhaustive process," his main defense lawyer Barry Roux said in a brief rebuttal.
The track star was treated in hospital for wrist injuries earlier this month, but prison officials said Pistorius denied trying to kill himself. The incident coincided with the first day of competition in the Rio Olympic Games.
The ruling raised further division, with South Africans taking opposite sides on the issue in social media. Legal analysts were equally divided on whether prosecutors would appeal Masipa's ruling to the supreme court.
"In my experience over the years, the Supreme Court of Appeal has placed a lot of confidence in our High Courts, and I must say, I would be surprised if they had to accept the petition," said Johannesburg-based lawyer Ulrich Roux.
Criminal law attorney Zola Majavu said the state had a chance of success if they appealed to the supreme court.
"Remember it was the same SCA that overturned her conviction on culpable homicide. So if I were in Gerrie Nel's shoes I would persist so that the SCA can pronounce on the matter," he said.
Don't give up and walk away now Gerrie. You have to prove to us that wealth and celebrity do not mean preferential treatment in your justice system, like everyone else's. What is a human life worth these days? Be the bulldog you are reputed to be.
Do it for all the South African women out there who would like to believe their lives are worth more than six years, which will likely transmute to three years with good behavior. It is worth mentioning, also, that his cell is away from the prison population with amenities not granted to other prisoners. Don't let us down Gerrie.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
'SHAME ON YOU!' Donald Trump boomed a pre-buttal of Hillary Clinton's 'racism' speech on Thursday in Manchester, New Hampshire, saying that her name-calling is 'the last refuge of the discredited Democrat politician'
'PREJUDICE AND PARANOIA': Hillary Clinton sought to paint Trump and his supporters as racists, and Trump tried to preempt her
'Shame on you,' he boomed, while TV networks prepared to switch over to Clinton for her long-awaiting smackdown of the Republican presidential nominee.
Clinton, he told a hotel ballroom full of New Hampshire voters, would 'accuse decent Americans who support this campaign – your campaign – of being racists. Which we're not.'
'When Democratic policies fail, they are left with only this one tired argument: "You're racist. You're racist. You're racist." They keep saying it: "You're racist",' Trump exclaimed, in an unusual pre-buttal less than an hour before Clinton spoke a continent away in Nevada.
The billionaire populist pointedly asked black and Hispanic voters for their support, suggesting that many hope to see 'for the first time – maybe ever – a better future, and a future that begins with jobs, jobs and more jobs. And also education, education, education.'
'We will promote the values of tolerance, justice and acceptance,' he pledged as he wrapped up.
'We will steadfastly reject bigotry and hatred and oppression in all of its forms.'
The Clinton campaign tried its own preemption strategy, sending reporters a few excerpts from her speech while Trump was talking.
'From the start, Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia,' the prepared text read in part. 'He's taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over one of America's two major political parties.'
'If he doesn’t respect all Americans, how can he serve all Americans?' the campaign said she would ask.
Clinton planned to focus her ammunition on the Trump campaign's loose tie-ins with the so-called 'Alt-right,' a sparsely populated and difficult to define fringe movement based on white nationalism and the view that 'immigration and multiculturalism as threats to white identity.'
That's a reference to Trump's newly minted campaign CEO Steve Bannon, formerly the executive chairman of Breitbart News â€“ an outlet revered by the Alt-right.
Trump painted Clinton's attempt to tar him with the brush of bigotry as a time-worn tactic that has lost its potency over the decades.
'They keep going back to the same well, but you know what? The people are becoming too smart,' he said. 'They've heard it too many times before. The well is dry. The well is dry.
'This is the year the people who believe in much more honest politics, say the word "Enough".'
He tweeted after Clinton's speech that she had been 'pandering to the worst instincts in our society. She should be ashamed of herself!'
And in a followup message on Twitter, he said her 32-minute speech was '[v]ery short and lies. She is the only one fear-mongering.'
It has been amusing to watch the worst slander-monger in the history of US politics try to assume an innocent stance. Donald Trump regularly incites political violence, is a serial liar, racist, xenophobe and misogynist who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.
His policies appear to change direction with the political wind. Just saying.