Category Archives: US Space Policy

Orbital Sciences Launches It’s Antares Rocket

From spaceref.biz:

Orbital Sciences Corporation Sunday launched its Antares rocket at 05:00 p.m. EDT from the new Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A at the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The test flight was the first launch from the pad at Wallops and was the first flight of Antares, which delivered the equivalent mass of a spacecraft, a so-called mass simulated payload, into Earth’s orbit.

“Today’s successful test marks another significant milestone in NASA’s plan to rely on American companies to launch supplies and astronauts to the International Space Station, bringing this important work back to the United States where it belongs,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Congratulations to Orbital Sciences and the NASA team that worked alongside them for the picture-perfect launch of the Antares rocket. In addition to providing further evidence that our strategic space exploration plan is moving forward, this test also inaugurates America’s newest spaceport capable of launching to the space station, opening up additional opportunities for commercial and government users.

“President Obama has presented a budget for next year that ensures the United States will remain the world leader in space exploration, and a critical part of this budget is the funding needed to advance NASA’s commercial space initiative. In order to stop outsourcing American space launches, we need to have the President’s budget enacted. It’s a budget that’s good for our economy, good for the U.S. Space program — and good for American taxpayers.”

The test of the Antares launch system began with the rocket’s rollout and placement on the launch pad April 6, and culminated with the separation of the mass simulator payload from the rocket.

The completed flight paves the way for a demonstration mission by Orbital to resupply the space station later this year. Antares will launch experiments and supplies to the orbiting laboratory carried aboard the company’s new Cygnus cargo spacecraft through NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.

“Today’s successful test flight of Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket from the spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia, demonstrates an additional private space-launch capability for the United States and lays the groundwork for the first Antares cargo mission to the International Space Station later this year,” said John Holdren, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. “The growing potential of America’s commercial space industry and NASA’s use of public-private partnerships are central to President Obama’s strategy to ensure U.S. leadership in space exploration while pushing the bounds of scientific discovery and innovation in the 21st century. With NASA focusing on the challenging and exciting task of sending humans deeper into space than ever before, private companies will be crucial in taking the baton for American cargo and crew launches into low-Earth orbit.

“I congratulate Orbital Sciences and the NASA teams at Wallops, and look forward to more groundbreaking missions in the months and years ahead.”

Orbital is building and testing its Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. After successful completion of a COTS demonstration mission to the station, Orbital will begin conducting eight planned cargo resupply flights to the orbiting laboratory through NASA’s $1.9 billion CRS contract with the company.

NASA initiatives, such as COTS, are helping to develop a robust U.S. commercial space transportation industry with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program also is working with commercial space partners to develop capabilities to launch U.S. astronauts from American soil in the next few years.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=V3L7crGudVU

Although Orbital had to reschedule three times, they got their test launch off.

Let’s hope they solved their fairing separation issues before the main Cygnus missions start.

Orbital Sciences Test Launches Antares Rocket

To Ply The Martian Way

From Centauri Dreams:

Existential risks, as discussed here yesterday, seem to be all around us, from the dangers of large impactors to technologies running out of control and super-volcanoes  that can cripple our civilization. We humans tend to defer thinking on large-scale risks while tightly focusing on personal risk. Even the recent events near Chelyabinsk, while highlighting the potential danger of falling objects, also produced a lot of fatalistic commentary, on the lines of ‘if it’s going to happen, there’s nothing we can do about it.’ Some media outlets did better than others with this.

Risk to individuals is understandably more vivid. When Apollo 8 left Earth orbit for the Moon in 1968, the sense of danger was palpable. After all, these astronauts were leaving an orbital regime that we were beginning to understand and were, by the hour, widening the distance between themselves and our planet. But even Apollo 8 operated within a sequenced framework of events. Through Mercury to Gemini and Apollo, we were building technologies one step at a time that all led to a common goal. No one denied the dangers faced by every crew that eventually went to the Moon, but technologies were being tested and refined as the missions continued.

Inspiration Mars is proposing something that on balance feels different. As described in yesterday’s news conference (see Millionaire plans to send couple to Mars in 2018. Is that realistic? for more), the mission would be a flyby, using a free return trajectory rather than braking into Martian orbit. The trip would last 501 days and would be undertaken by a man and a woman, probably a middle-aged married couple. Jonathan Clark, formerly of NASA and now chief medical officer for Inspiration Mars, addresses the question of risk head-on: “The real issue here is understanding the risk in an informed capacity – the crew would understand that, the team supporting them would understand that.” Multi-millionaire Dennis Tito, a one-time space tourist who heads up Inspiration Mars, says the mission will launch in 2018.

Mars_atmosphere

Image: A manned Mars flyby may just be doable. But is the 2018 date pushing us too hard? Image credit: NASA/JPL.

We’ll hear still more about all this when the results of a mission-feasibility study are presented next weekend at the 2013  IEEE Aerospace Conference in Montana. Given the questions raised by pushing a schedule this tightly, there will be much to consider. Do we have time to create a reliable spacecraft that can offer not only 600 cubic feet of living space but another 600 for cargo, presumably a SpaceX Dragon capsule mated to a Bigelow inflatable module? Are we ready to expose a crew to interplanetary radiation hazards without further experience with the needed shielding strategies? And what of the heat shield and its ability to protect the crew during high-speed re-entry at velocities in the range of 50,000 kilometers per hour?

For that matter, what about Falcon Heavy, the launch vehicle discussed in the feasibility analysis Inspiration Mars has produced for the conference? This is a rocket that has yet to fly.

No, this doesn’t feel much like Apollo 8. It really feels closer to the early days of aviation, when attention converged on crossing the Atlantic non-stop and pilots like Rene Fonck, Richard Byrd, Charles Nungesser and Charles Lindbergh queued up for the attempt. As with Inspiration Mars, these were privately funded attempts, in this case designed to win the Orteig Prize ($25,000), though for the pilots involved it was the accomplishment more than the paycheck that mattered. Given the problems of engine reliability at the time, it took a breakthrough technology — the Wright J-5C Whirlwind engine — to get Lindbergh and subsequent flights across.

Inspiration Mars is looking to sell media rights and sponsorships as part of the fund-raising package for the upcoming mission, which is already being heavily backed by Tito. I’m wondering if there is a breakthrough technology equivalent to the J-5C  to help this mission along, because everything I read about it makes it appear suicidal. The 2018 date is forced by a favorable alignment between Mars and the Earth that will not recur until 2031, so the haste is understandable. The idea is just the kind of daring, improbable stunt that fires the imagination and forces sudden changes in perspective, and of course I wish it well. But count me a serious skeptic on the question of whether this mission will be ready to fly on the appointed date.

And if it’s not? I like the realism in the concluding remarks of the feasibility study:

A manned Mars free-return mission is a useful precursor mission to other planned Mars missions. It will develop and demonstrate many critical technologies and capabilities needed for manned Mars orbit and landing missions. The technology and other capabilities needed for this mission are needed for any future manned Mars missions. Investments in pursuing this development now would not be wasted even if this mission were to miss its launch date.

Exactly so, and there would be much development in the interim. The study goes on:

Although the next opportunity after this mission wouldn’t be for about another 13 years, any subsequent manned Mars mission would benefit from the ECLSS [Environmental Control and Life Support System], TPS [Thermal Protection System], and other preparation done for this mission. In fact, often by developing technology early lessons are learned that can reduce overall program costs. Working on this mission will also be a means to train the skilled workforce needed for the future manned Mars missions.

These are all good reasons for proceeding, leaving the 2018 date as a high-risk, long-shot option. While Inspiration Mars talks to potential partners in the aerospace industry and moves ahead with an eye on adapting near-Earth technologies for the mission, a whiff of the old space race is in the air.  “If we don’t fly in 2018, the next low-hanging fruit is in ’31. We’d better have our crew trained to recognize other flags,” Tito is saying. “They’re going to be out there.”

In 1968, faced with a deadline within the decade, NASA had to make a decision on risk that was monumental — Dennis Tito reminded us at the news conference that Apollo 8 came only a year after the first test launch of the Saturn 5. Can 2018 become as tangible a deadline as 1970 was for a nation obsessed with a Moon landing before that year? If so, the technologies just might be ready, and someone is going to have to make a white-knuckle decision about the lives of two astronauts. If Inspiration Mars can get us to that point, that decision won’t come easy, but whoever makes it may want to keep the words of Seneca in mind: “It is not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It is because we dare not venture that they are difficult.”

There are a lot of nay-sayers out yonder decrying Tito’s idea as suicidal and a waste of money. But as recently as a couple of months ago questionnaires were sent out asking for volunteers to sign up for a one way trip to Mars (Mars One), even if there’s a better than even chance of dying at any moment of it.

The results were astounding.

Tito’s idea of sending an older married couple is nothing short of public opinion genius and if successful, could be the format of any future Mars colonization efforts.

Not to mention the technologies needed for the crossing.

Mars Flyby: Daring to Venture

Future Space Explorations will be Humans with Robots

From Wired.com:

[...]

Rumors are currently swirling that NASA may soon announce plans to send humans back to the moon and then, onward, to an asteroid and Mars. While this immediately invokes visions of moon bases and the first footsteps on Mars, the truth is likely to be very different.

Nowadays some scientists and engineers at NASA and other space agencies are taking a second look at historical exploration scenarios. In the past, robotic and human exploration have been seen as rivals, we either do one or the other. Some in the spaceflight community have said we can do everything with machines while others argued that exploration is a man’s job. But there’s another option. The still-nascent field of telerobotics, where humans operate robotic surrogates from afar, means that our next exploration efforts will be quite unlike anything seen before.

With ever-improving computing power and communication protocols, astronauts could float in a space station in orbit around the moon or Mars, donning exoskeleton controllers to teleoperate robots in real time. These probes would drive, fly, drill, dig, scoop, and gather material faster and with more precision than current probes controlled from Earth. The best part of humans, our powerful brains that can identify the perfect geologic rock sample and make decisions on the fly, would be combined with all the advantages of robots — their advanced cameras, suites of instruments, and bodies that aren’t prone to degenerative problems like blindness and bone loss after months of space travel. One day our mechanical proxies could even help humans visit places that would destroy our bodies, like the hellish surface of Venus or the frozen ocean of Europa.

“I don’t want to replace the humans in space with robots,” said NASA engineer Geoffrey Landis, who works with the Spirit and Opportunity rover science team and writes science fiction. “But I think it’s a good way to start. Because we do have robots and the robots are getting much better, while the humans are evolving much more slowly. Let’s not do humans or robots, lets work together.”

The future will be one where human cognition visits another planet via machine while our bodies remain high above it. Welcome to planetary exploration rebooted or, perhaps, de-booted.

NASA is an exploration agency but there are currently several competing ideas as to what their destination should be. A plan that started development in 2004, President Bush’s Constellation program, would have built an enormous new rocket and tons of new hardware to enable a moon base and future Mars mission. Constellation, sometimes referred to as “Apollo on steroids,” would have also incurred enormous costs. The Obama administration canceled the effort in 2010 and decided NASA should avoid the deep and potentially dangerous gravity wells of planets, focusing instead on zero-g points around the moon or an asteroid. But vestiges of the old Constellation program remain.

Congress was all for ditching the moon and Mars plans but decided to keep building the shiny new rocket (maintaining employment in many of their constituent districts). The Space Launch System, which is scheduled to be ready for human crews in 2019, will be the most powerful rocket ever built, capable of bringing astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit, where the space station sits, for the first time since the Apollo days.

This puts NASA in a conundrum. “Once you’re out there, then what do you do?” said astronomer Jack Burns from the University of Colorado. Within a decade, we may be able to get people in the vicinity of the moon but “there’s not enough money in the budget to build a human lander.”

Space funding is flat. NASA is not projected to get much more than its current $17.7 billion per year for the next five years. This makes efforts that don’t require human landings on other worlds much more attractive. Burns is part of the new wave of scientists and engineers that are re-thinking exploration. He helps run a consortium called the Lunar University Network for Astrophysics Research (LUNAR) that is looking at missions where astronauts teleoperate robots on the lunar far side to conduct scientific investigations.

Under such a project, NASA would use its big new rocket to get astronauts to the Earth-moon Lagrange 2 point, where gravitational forces from both bodies cancel out and allow a spaceship to sit tight without expending fuel. From here, a crew could stay in continuous contact with mission control on Earth while floating 40,000 miles above the far side of the moon, an area never explored by Apollo. Perhaps as early as next decade, three astronauts could visit L2 in NASA’s Orion spacecraft. It’s possible that there they would meet up with a deep-space habitat derived from leftover ISS parts that NASA is currently planning.

From their vantage high above the moon, the crew would release a flotilla of rovers and probes to the lunar surface and direct them to interesting geological areas, such as the South Pole Aitken Basin. As one of the largest and oldest impact basins in the solar system, Aitken would provide valuable information about the heavy asteroid shellacking our planet received during its earliest days. A human operator would drive the rover around and select several 4 billion-year-old rocks, corresponding to a time when the first single-celled life forms appearing on Earth. If the crew could return such rocks back to a lab, scientists might be able to figure out the origin story of terrestrial life.

Image: NASA and the LUNAR consortium’s K-10 Black rover, performing tests in a crater in Canada. Matt Deans

Another project that researchers envision would use a remote-controlled robot to roll out 33-foot-long sheets of thin plastic studded with metallic antennas. These structures would act as a giant radio antenna, listening to signals from the earliest stars and galaxies. Scientists currently have little information about the time between the smooth universe just after the Big Bang and a billion years later, when the cosmos was full of stars and galaxies. Earth’s radio frequencies are jammed up with noise from garage door openers, radio, TV signals, and other technology so the lunar far side provides a clean window to this early history of the universe.

In the summer of 2013, NASA will begin telerobotics field tests at Ames research campus in Mountain View, California. Astronauts aboard the ISS will control a robot named K-10 as it travels over the surface and deploys a roll of film antennas.

“The future will be one in which an astronaut leads a team of robots,” said Burns. “They will be pioneers for what is going to be the new way of exploring in space and other planetary bodies.”

This works into the Singularity scenario very well because robotic tele-operations will quickly evolve into mind-uploading.

I’m not really sure if that’s a good thing, but it will be more cost effective to change an organism to fit an alien environment than try to engineer an environment to fit an alien organism ( meaning human explorers or settlers ).

Time will tell.

Almost Being There: Why the Future of Space Exploration Is Not What You Think

Elon Musk Interview

From Wired Science:

When a man tells you about the time he planned to put a vegetable garden on Mars, you worry about his mental state. But if that same man has since launched multiple rockets that are actually capable of reaching Mars—sending them into orbit, Bond-style, from a tiny island in the Pacific—you need to find another diagnosis. That’s the thing about extreme entrepreneurialism: There’s a fine line between madness and genius, and you need a little bit of both to really change the world.
——–
All entrepreneurs have an aptitude for risk, but more important than that is their capacity for self-delusion. Indeed, psychological investigations have found that entrepreneurs aren’t more risk-tolerant than non-entrepreneurs. They just have an extraordinary ability to believe in their own visions, so much so that they think what they’re embarking on isn’t really that risky. They’re wrong, of course, but without the ability to be so wrong—to willfully ignore all those naysayers and all that evidence to the contrary—no one would possess the necessary audacity to start something radically new.

I have never met an entrepreneur who fits this model more than Elon Musk. All of the entrepreneurs I admire most—Musk, Jeff Bezos, Reed Hastings, Jack Dorsey, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and a few others—have sought not just to build great companies but to take on problems that really matter. Yet even in this class of universe-denters, Musk stands out. After cofounding a series of Internet companies, including PayPal, the South African transplant could simply have retired to enjoy his riches. Instead he decided to disrupt the most difficult-to-master industries in the world. At 41 he is reinventing the car with Tesla, which is building all-electric vehicles in a Detroit-scale factory. (Wired profiled this venture in issue 18.10.) He is transforming energy with SolarCity, a startup that leases solar-power systems to homeowners.

And he is leading the private space race with SpaceX, which is poised to replace the space shuttle and usher us into an interplanetary age. Since Musk founded the company in 2002, it has developed a series of next-generation rockets that can deliver payloads to space for a fraction of the price of legacy rockets. In 2010 SpaceX became the first private company to launch a spacecraft into orbit and bring it back; in 2012 it sent a craft to berth successfully with the International Space Station.

It’s no wonder the character of Tony Stark in Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr., was modeled on Musk: This is superhero-grade stuff. I sat down with him at Tesla’s Fremont, California, factory to discuss how cheaper and (eventually) reusable rockets might someday put humans on Mars.

Chris Anderson: You’re not a rocket scientist by training. You’re not a space engineer.

Elon Musk: That’s true. My background educationally is physics and economics, and I grew up in sort of an engineering environment—my father is an electromechanical engineer. And so there were lots of engineery things around me. When I asked for an explanation, I got the true explanation of how things work. I also did things like make model rockets, and in South Africa there were no premade rockets: I had to go to the chemist and get the ingredients for rocket fuel, mix it, put it in a pipe.

Anderson: But then you became an Internet entrepreneur.

Musk: I never had a job where I made anything physical. I cofounded two Internet software companies, Zip2 and PayPal. So it took me a few years to kind of learn rocket science, if you will.

Anderson: How were you drawn to space as your next venture?

Musk: In 2002, once it became clear that PayPal was going to get sold, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine, the entrepreneur Adeo Ressi, who was actually my college housemate. I’d been staying at his home for the weekend, and we were coming back on a rainy day, stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway. He was asking me what I would do after PayPal. And I said, well, I’d always been really interested in space, but I didn’t think there was anything I could do as an individual. But, I went on, it seemed clear that we would send people to Mars. Suddenly I began to wonder why it hadn’t happened already. Later I went to the NASA website so I could see the schedule of when we’re supposed to go. [Laughs.]

Anderson: And of course there was nothing.

Musk: At first I thought, jeez, maybe I’m just looking in the wrong place! Why was there no plan, no schedule? There was nothing. It seemed crazy.

Anderson: NASA doesn’t have the budget for that anymore.

Musk: Since 1989, when a study estimated that a manned mission would cost $500 billion, the subject has been toxic. Politicians didn’t want a high-priced federal program like that to be used as a political weapon against them.

Anderson: Their opponents would call it a boondoggle.

Musk: But the United States is a nation of explorers. America is the spirit of human exploration distilled.

Anderson: We all leaped into the unknown to get here.

Star Man

To put Elon Musk’s astronomical goals in perspective, here’s a look at some of his stellar achievements so far.—Victoria Tang

1983

At the age of 12, designs a videogame called Blast Star and sells it to a computer magazine for $500.

1995

After spending two days in a graduate physics program at Stanford, drops out to start Zip2, an online publishing platform for the media industry.

1999

Sells Zip2 to Compaq for $307 million.

2000

Forms PayPal by merging his new online-payments startup, X.com, with Max Levchin and Peter Thiel’s Confinity.

2001

Establishes the Musk Foundation to provide grants for renewable energy, space, and medical research as well as science and engineering education.

2002

PayPal goes public; its stock rises more than 54 percent on the first day of trading. Eight months later, eBay acquires PayPal for $1.5 billion. Musk founds SpaceX.

2004

Invests in Tesla Motors, a company that manufactures high-performance electric cars.

2006

Helps create SolarCity, which provides solar-power systems to some 33,000 buildings. Will serve as the company chair.

2008

NASA selects the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle and the reusable Dragon spacecraft to deliver cargo to the International Space Station after the space shuttles retire.

2010

Makes a cameo appearance in Iron Man 2. Director Jon Favreau cites Musk as an inspiration for Tony Stark.

2012

SpaceX’s Dragon becomes the first commercial spacecraft to berth with the ISS

———

Few people change the course of human history and less realize that witnessing that change is important. Mainstream science is slow to change and it takes a hard-headed individual to fight against it.

Musk is such an individual and it will be interesting to see him outsmart ignorant public and political forces to achieve his stated goal of making mankind a multi-planetary species.

It will be fun to watch!

Elon Musk’s Mission to Mars

Hat tip to Nasa Watch.

Interview: Lee Billings

From blogs.plos.org:

Like many geeks of the post-Sputnik generation, I grew up hoping that space travel would be common by the time I reached middle age. Weaned on a youthful diet of speculative fiction by the likes of Ray Bradbury and Arthur Clarke, raised on Star Trek and The Outer Limits, and thrilled by real-life hero Neil Armstrong’s “one small step” onto the gravelly surface of the Moon when I was in elementary school, it never occurred to me that humankind’s manifest destiny in the stars would be undone by changing political winds, disasters like the Challenger explosion, and a mountain of debt to pay for misguided military adventures like the War in Iraq.

It’s true that, in some ways, we’re living in a new golden age for space nerds. Bard Canning’s gorgeously enhanced footage of Curiosity’s descent to Mars — made instantly available by the global network we built instead of a Hilton on the Moon — certainly beats  grainy snippets beamed down from Tranquility Base. A newly discovered exoplanet that “may be capable of supporting life” seems tomake headlines every few months. Cassini’s ravishing closeups of Saturnregularly put the fever dreams of ILM’s animators to shame. But wasn’t I supposed to be “strolling on the deck of a starship” by now, as Paul Kantner’s acid-fueled hippie space epic Blows Against the Empire promised me when it was nominated for a Hugo award in 1971?

The problem, it turns out, isn’t just a loss of political will to finance manned space flight. Rocket science turns out to be rocket science — not easy, and constrained by some very real limitations dictated by material science, the physics of acceleration, and the unwieldy economics of interstellar propulsion. Until a real-life Zefram Cochrane comes along to invent a practical warp drive, I may not be sightseeing on any Class M planets anytime soon.

One of the best briefings on the state of the art of interstellar exploration is Lee Billings’ essay “Incredible Journey,” recently reprinted in a wonderful new anthology called The Best Science Writing Online 2012, edited by Scientific American’s Bora Zivkovic and Jennifer Ouellette. I’m very honored to have a piece in the anthology myself: my NeuroTribes interview with John Elder Robison, author of the bestselling memoir of growing up with autism, Look Me in The Eye, and other books. When SciAm’s editors suggested that each author in the book interview one of the other authors, I jumped at the chance to interview Billings about his gracefully written and informative article about the practical challenges of space flight. Billings is a freelance journalist who has written forNatureNew ScientistPopular Mechanics, and Seed. He lives outside New York City with his wife, Melissa.

[...]

Steve Silberman: Before we even get into the meat of your piece, I want to mention how impressed I was by the power and lyricism of your writing. Phrases like “the cosmos suddenly becomes less lonely” and “the easiest way the Daedalus volunteers found to fuel their starship was, in effect, the industrialization of the outer solar system” make vast and highly abstract concepts immediately comprehensible and visceral to lay readers. What made you want to become a science writer, and who are your role models for writing, in any genre?

Lee Billings: My attraction to science preceded my attraction to the act of writing, perhaps because, like every child, I was intensely curious about the world around me. Science, more so than any other source of knowledge I could find, seemed to change the world into something at once eminently understandable and endlessly mysterious.

I became interested in science writing, science journalism, at approximately the same time I realized I would make a poor scientist. I was midway through my college prerequisites, thinking I was on a path to a career in neuroscience. I’d been having a lot of trouble with the more quantitative courses — calculus, organic chemistry, and so on. Many of my friends would ace their assignments and tests after sleeping through lectures and rarely cracking a book. I would study hard, only to receive poor grades. Meanwhile I was breezing through courses in English, literature, history, and art. After a particularly fervent all-night cram-session for a final exam that I still almost flunked, I decided if I wasn’t destined to excel within science itself, perhaps I could instead try to make my mark by helping communicate the world-changing discoveries scientists were making. So I switched my academic emphasis from neuroscience to journalism, and became something of a camp follower, scavenging and trailing behind the gifted few at the front lines of research. I’ve never looked back, and have no regrets. The job never gets old: Rather than being at best a mediocre, hyper-specialized bench worker, being a science writer lets me parachute in to varied fields on a whim, and invariably the brilliant individuals I find upon landing are welcoming and happy to talk to me.

As for influences… I still have a long way to go, but if my writing ever comes to possess a fraction of Carl Sagan’s charisma and elegance, John McPhee’s structure and eye for detail, Richard Preston’s depth of focus and cinematic flair, Stanislaw Lem’s imagination and analytic insight, or Ray Bradbury’s lyrical beauty, I will be a happy man.

Ray Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles"

Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles”

Silberman: Several times a year now, we hear about the discovery of a new exoplanet in the “Goldilocks zone” that could “potentially support life.” For example, soon after he helped discover Gliese 581g, astronomer Steven Vogt sparked a storm of media hype by claiming that “the chances for life on this planet are 100 percent.” Even setting aside the fact that the excitement of discovering a planet in the habitable zone understandably seems to have gone to Vogt’s head at that press conference, why are such calculations of the probability of life harder to perform accurately than they seem?

Billings: The question of habitability is a second-order consideration when it comes to Gliese 581g, and that fact in itself reveals where so much of this uncertainty comes from. As of right now, the most interesting thing about the “discovery” of Gliese 581g is that not everyone is convinced the planet actually exists. That’s basically because this particular detection is very much indirect — the planet’s existence is being inferred from periodic meter-per-second shifts in the position of its host star. The period of that shift corresponds to the planet’s orbit as it whips from one side of the star to the other; the meter-per-second magnitude of the shift places a lower limit on the planet’s mass, but can’t pin down the mass exactly. So that’s all this detection gives you — an orbit and a minimum mass. That’s not a lot to go on in determining what a planet’s environment might actually be like, is it?

Now, get up and walk around the room. You’re moving at about a meter per second. Imagine discerning that same rate of change in the motion of a million-kilometer-wide ball of plasma, a star many light-years away. Keep in mind this star’s surface is always moving, in pounding waves and swirling eddies, in rising and falling convection cells, in vast plasmatic prominences arcing above the surface, often at many kilometers per second. At any particular moment, all that stellar noise can swamp the faint planetary signal. Only by building up hundreds or thousands of careful measurements over time can you get that crucial periodicity that tells you what you’re seeing might be a planet. So the measurement is quite statistical in nature, and its interpretation can change based on the statistical assumptions being used. This is further complicated by the fact that planets are rarely singletons, so that any given stellar motion may be the product of many planets rather than one, requiring careful long-term study to tease apart each world’s contribution to the bulk signal. It’s also complicated by the instability of astronomical instruments, which must be kept carefully, constantly calibrated and stabilized lest they introduce spurious noise into the measurements. In the case of Gliese 581g, not everyone agrees on the putative planetary signal actually being caused by a planet, or even being real at all — the signal doesn’t seem to manifest equally in the handful of instruments purportedly capable of detecting it.

So it’s very difficult to just detect these things, and actually determining whether they are much like Earth is a task orders of magnitude more difficult still. Notice how I’m being anthropocentric here: “much like Earth.” Astrobiology has been derisively called a science without a subject. But, of course, it does have at least one subject: our own living planet and its containing solar system. We are forced to start from what we know, planting our feet in the familiar before we push out into the alien. That’s why we, as a species, are looking for other Earth-like planets — they probably offer us the best hope of recognizing anything we might consider alive. It’s not the strongest position to be in, but it’s the best we’ve got. Calculating the probability of life on an utterly alien world outside the solar system for which we know only the most basic information — its mass, its orbit, maybe its radius — is at this stage a very crude guess. The fact is, we still don’t know that much about how abiogenesis occurred on Earth, how life emerged from inanimate matter. There are very good physical, chemical, thermodynamic reasons to believe that life arose here because our planet was warm, wet, and rocky, but we really don’t yet know all the cogent occurrences that added up to build the Earth’s earliest organisms, let alone our modern living world. A warm, wet, rocky planet may be a necessary but not a sufficient condition for life as we know it to form and flourish.

Lee Billings with planet hunter Geoff Marcy

Lee Billings with planet hunter Geoff Marcy

This is really a chicken-and-egg problem: To know the limits of life in planetary systems, we need to find life beyond the Earth. To find life beyond Earth, it would be very helpful to know the limits of life in planetary systems. Several independent groups are trying to circumvent this problem by studying abiogenesis in the lab — trying to in effect create life, alien or otherwise, in a test tube. If they manage to replicate Earth life, the achievement could constrain just how life emerged on our own planet. If they somehow manage to make some single-celled organism that doesn’t use DNA, or that relies on silicon instead of carbon to build its body, or that prefers to swim in liquid ethane rather than liquid water, that gives us a hint that “Earth-style” biologies may only be one branch in a much larger and more diverse cosmic Tree of Life.

Silberman: Going deeper than the notion of the cosmos feeling “less lonely” – as well as the fact that we all grew up watching Star Trek and Star Wars and thinking that aliens are frickin’ cool (as long as they’re not the mama alien fromAlien) — why do you think people are so motivated to daydream about extraterrestrial life? What need in us do those dreams fulfill?

Billings: I don’t really think most people are necessarily motivated to daydream about just any sort of extraterrestrial life. It will probably take more than a microbe or a clam to excite most of our imaginations, even if that microbe happens to be on Venus or that clam happens to be on Mars.

I do think humans are motivated to daydream about extraterrestrial intelligence, and, to put a finer point on it, extraterrestrial “people.” They are motivated to dream about beings very much like them, things tantalizingly exotic but not so alien as to be totally incomprehensible and discomforting. Maybe those imagined beings have more appendages or sense organs, different body plans and surface coverings, but they typically possess qualities we recognize within ourselves: They are sentient, they have language, they use tools, they are curious explorers, they are biological, they are mortal — just like humans. Perhaps that’s a collective failure of imagination, because it’s certainly not very easy to envision intelligent aliens that are entirely divergent from our own anthropocentric preconceptions. Or perhaps it’s more diagnostic of the human need for context, affirmation, and familiarity. Why are people fascinated by their distorted reflections in funhouse mirrors? Maybe it’s because when they recognize their warped image, at a subconscious level that recognition reinforces their actual true appearance and identity.

More broadly, speculating about extraterrestrial intelligence is an extension of three timeless existential questions: What are we, where do we come from, and where are we going? The late physicist Philip Morrison considered SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, to be the “archaeology of the future,” because any galactic civilizations we could presently detect from our tiny planet would almost certainly be well more advanced than our own. It’s unlikely that we would ever receive a radio message from an alien civilization in the equivalent of our past Stone Age, and it’s unlikely Earth would ever be visited by a crewed starship that powered its voyage using engines fueled by coal or gasoline. Optimists consider this, and say that making contact with a superior alien civilization could augur a bright future for humanity, as it would suggest there are in fact solutions to be found for all the current seemingly intractable problems that threaten to destroy or diminish our species. It’s my opinion that most people think about aliens as a way of pondering our own spectrum of possible futures.

I’m inclined to believe some of the things Billings has to say in that it’s doubtful we’ll build anything like a starship in the near future and folks ( taxpayers ) just won’t fund those kinds of projects. Entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, James Cameron and Peter Diamandis could in the future fund projects such as starprobes and starships – only if they prove profitable.

IMO it looks like stronger telescopes both on Earth and in space will be the only human built machines exploring the closer solar systems for any signs of life and extant civilizations because they can be economically constructed – and if they found anything interesting, the items are still a safe distance away.

Five Billion Years of Solitude: Lee Billings on the Science of Reaching the Stars

Dragon Launch!

After many delays and much political trepidation, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule was launched on top of it’s Falcon 9 rocket for NASA’s COTS 2+ test flight to the ISS.

The launch occurred at 3:44:38 a.m. in spectacular fashion and of course was instantly politicized and speechified:

The second demonstration mission for NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program is under way as SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lifted off Tuesday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 3:44 a.m. EDT.
“I want to congratulate SpaceX for its successful launch and salute the NASA team that worked alongside them to make it happen,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “Today marks the beginning of a new era in exploration; a private company has launched a spacecraft to the International Space Station that will attempt to dock there for the first time. And while there is a lot of work ahead to successfully complete this mission, we are certainly off to good start. Under President Obama’s leadership, the nation is embarking upon an ambitious exploration program that will take us farther into space than we have ever traveled before, while helping create good-paying jobs right here in the United States of America.”
The Dragon capsule will conduct a series of checkout procedures to test and prove its systems, including the capability to rendezvous and berth with the International Space Station. On Thursday, May 24, Dragon will perform a flyby of the space station at a distance of approximately 1.5 miles to validate the operation of sensors and flight systems necessary for a safe rendezvous and approach. Live NASA TV coverage beginning at 2:30 a.m.
Following analysis of the flyby by NASA and SpaceX managers, the Dragon capsule will be cleared to rendezvous and berth with the space station on Friday, May 25, marking the first time a commercial company has attempted this feat. The Expedition 31 crew on board the station will use the orbiting complex’s robotic arm to capture Dragon and install it on the bottom side of the Harmony node. NASA TV will provide live coverage beginning at 2 a.m.
“This flight is an important milestone as NASA and SpaceX develop the next generation of U.S. spacecraft to carry the critically important experiments, payloads and supplies to our remarkable laboratory in space,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration Operations Directorate at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington.
SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, which will perform its own test flight later this year, have been working under NASA’s COTS program, which provides investments to stimulate the commercial space industry in America. Once the companies have successfully completed their test flights, they will begin delivering regular cargo shipments to the station.
“NASA is working with private industry in an unprecedented way, cultivating innovation on the path toward maintaining America’s leadership in space exploration,” said Philip McAlister, director for NASA’s Commercial Spaceflight Development.
In parallel to COTS, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is helping spur innovation and development of new spacecraft and launch vehicles from the commercial industry to develop safe, reliable and cost-effective capabilities to transport astronauts to low Earth orbit and the space station.
NASA also is developing the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS), a crew capsule and heavy-lift rocket that will provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. Designed to be flexible for launching spacecraft for crew and cargo missions, SLS and Orion will expand human presence beyond low Earth orbit and enable new missions of exploration across the solar system.

I got up at 3:20 a.m. just to watch the launch again ( I got up this past Saturday early also, much to my wife’s dismay) and I wasn’t disappointed.

Any launch is a good launch using this dangerous mainstream technology. Hopefully in a couple of decades there will be a way to build “beanstalks” so the costs of lifting cargo and people to Earth orbit come down to the realm of ordinary working folks.

SpaceX Launches NASA Demonstration Mission to Space Station

UFOs: History and the Hardware 2

It has been four years since I wrote my popular blog post UFOs, history and the hardware and while I have researched other subjects over that time, researching UFOs and what they might be comes back into my ken . I guess what is your first love is always your first love, no matter what.

During that four year period I have read works written by Jacques Vallee, Richard Dolan, Nick Pope, Zecharia Sitchin and of course, Stanton Friedman. And I’m not even counting the many podcasts and YouTube videos posted by others over those years I listened to and watched.

So what have I learned?

That reality is in the eye of the beholder.

Yeah, that could be a cop-out, but truthfully I have concluded that there might not be a definitive answer when it comes to the UFO phenomenon.

Are flying saucers ET vehicles or deep black craft made by the U.S. Military-Industrial-Complex? Well, check out Area 51.

Of course the main stream media have literally no credibility when it comes to Area 51. You be the judge.

Then there is the story of Dr. Dan Burisch/Crain of Area S-4 fame and supposed former Majestic-12 operative.

He proclaims that ETs are time travelers from the future, and thusly are a branch of Humanity not yet evolved. They are not true “aliens” at all. And he gives an excellent description of Area 51 and the S-4 complex he worked at.

Is Dr. Dan a disinformation artist or is he the real deal? I’m not sure, but I like the time traveler theory. Any descendent race of humanity colonizing another planet, no matter how Earth-like will have to undergo some sort of tranformation, either bioengineered or by natural selection. True aliens wouldn’t resemble human beings at all in my view, if one takes the theory of planetary evolution seriously.

And then there is Bob Lazar. One cannot talk about UFO hardware in Area 51 and S-4 without mentioning Bob Lazar. Although many have tried to discredit Bob over the years, his story has remained consistant  and unchanging over the years. In my opinion, I think he is the real deal, for whatever that is worth.

Of course when one talks about Bob, you can’t leave out his friend John Lear. Lear is an enigma to me. At times he smacks of unflagging credibility simply because of his mass of flying different types of aircraft over the years from the time he was sixteen years old (just from being the son of the man who invented the Lear Jet). A person doesn’t reach that accoplishment from being an unstable psycho wacko.

But then again, some of his stories are really hard to swallow. Just listen to what he has to say and you be the judge.

In closing, my conclusion is that the answer to UFO hardware is buried in the Nevada desert  and in old records at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. If supposed time traveling ETs from the future left any kind of hardware laying around, the military-industrial-complex of the United States has confiscated it and you bet your back-side the technology has been back engineered to the max if possible.

And these projects are beyond top secret. Even above the United States nuclear secrets.

Your U.S. tax payer dollars at work!

________

Also check this out:

President Obama tells Will Smith’s son: “I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of extraterrestrials”!

Update: Micah Hanks to discuss UFO Time Travelers in his new book.

The U.S. Navy and UFO Files

In 1952 the United States was inundated with UFO sightings comparable to an all out invasion worthy of any movie that came out at the time.

Although most UFO files have since been released in the world (mostly from European countries and South America), none at all have been released from the U.S. Navy.

In fact, research shows that the Navy has no files what-so-ever.

Huh? How can that be? Especially during a time when UFO sightings were the order of the day, and not so much tinfoil.

Now a story has surfaced involving a former Navy Secretary (Dan Kimball) and an Admiral (Arthur Radford) whom in 1952 while flying over the Pacific Ocean in separate aircraft on the way to Guam from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was buzzed by disc-shaped craft going over 2000 mph.

Considering the U.S. Navy has never released any official documents pertaining to unidentified flying objects, there’s some interesting reading below about how an unexplained UFO incident over the Pacific Ocean sparked an official investigation by the Office of Naval Intelligence in 1952…the contents of which are still classified.
The incident occurred over the area of ocean between the islands of Guam and Hawaii and involved the aircrews of two separate Navy aircraft witnessing two ‘disc shaped’ objects which ‘circled’ their aircraft twice and departed to the East at an approximate speed of 1500 to 2000 mph – on board the aircraft was Admiral Arthur Radford and Naval Secretary Dan Kimball who later convened a conference with the Chief of the Naval Research Admiral Calvin Bolster about making a full investigation of all Navy and Marine UFO reports.
There’s more details and newspaper articles about the UFO incident and subsequent investigation below, Project 1947′s Jan Aldrich also raises some extremely important points about the complete lack of declassified US Naval UFO documents and undisclosed O.N.I. UFO investigations.
Incident:

Admiral Radford & Navy Sec. Kimball Planes Buzzed

Navy Secretary Dan Kimball was flying to Hawaii when two disc-shaped craft streaked in toward his Navy executive plane. There is no doubt that it it actually happened. In December of 2006 Dan Wilson located an article found in the Blue Book files and Jean Waskiewicz produced a transcript of that article, which can be found at the bottom of this directory.

“Their speed was amazing,” he told me later, in Washington. “My pilots estimated it between fifteen hundred and two thousand miles an hour. The objects circled us twice and then took off, heading east. There was another Navy plane behind us, with Admiral Arthur Radford on board. The distance was about fifty miles. I had my senior pilot radio a report on the sighting. In almost no time Radford’s chief pilot called back, really excited. The UFOs were now circling their plane—they’d covered the fifty miles in less than two minutes. In a few seconds the pilot told us they’d left the plane and raced up out of sight.”

Aftermath:

After landing, Secretary Kimball had a report radioed to the AF, since it was officially in charge of the UFO investigation. When he returned to Washington he had an aide ask the AF what action had been taken. He was informed it was against orders to discuss case analyses, even with witnesses who made the reports. In regard to other Navy & Marine Corps reports …on checking, found that the Air Force had insisted on getting all copies of reports, without even a preliminary Navy investigation. As in his own case, the AF had refused to answer any questions about these sightings, except for a few that were already known to the press, which it later tried to debunk.  As soon as he learned this, Secretary Kimball had a conference with Rear Admiral Calvin Bolster, Chief of the Naval Research. He wanted ONR to make a full investigation of all Navy and Marine reports from then on and also try to get duplicate reports from witnesses in unexplained earlier cases. And this was to be kept separate from the Air Force Project Blue Book

NICAP Case Directory

Newspaper Articles:

THE CABINET MEMBER told his story to an audience of Navy officers and air cadets a couple of weeks ago at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola. He may have expected it would stop there, but since he made no such request and since nothing was said about his remarks being off the record,  I’ll take the liberty of repeating his report.On a recent flight across the Pacific, he said, he was flying at night from Pearl Harbor to Guam. Another plane, with additional members of his party, was trailing several miles behind on the same course.  Kimball stressed the fact that he has the utmost faith and confidence in the pilot who was with him that night, a pilot who has flown him for thousands of miles over a period of years.
Somewhere out over the dark Pacific, he said, the pilot came back to the cabin visibly excited and reported that a flying saucer had appeared out of nowhere, had flown abeam the secretary’s plane for some distance, and had just raced ahead and shot up into the sky and out of sight. He and the co-pilot had both watched the phenomenon, he said. He asked if he should radio a report of the incident to Pearl Harbor.
Kimball advised him not to pointing out that Pearl Harbor probably wouldn’t believe the story. Instead, the secretary suggested sending a message to the plane astern and ordering them to keep a sharp lookout for any unusual sights.IN A MATTER OF MINUTES, the second plane radioed excited­ly that a flying saucer had just come down and flown alongside the wing tip, then had shot ahead and vanished into the sky.
Shakespeare had it right; “There are stranger things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

link

“Operation UFO: The Official Truth about Flying Saucers”, 22 November 1953  (The Milwaukee Sentinel)

The author of the article is Captain Walter Karig, Special Deputy to Chief of Information, U.S. Navy.
This newspaper article discusses the UFO scene as of 1953.
Quote from the article: “Dan Kimball, then Secretary of the Navy, was convinced that “flying saucers” are not figments of the imagination after a UFO buzzed his airplane during a trans-Pacific flight.”

Newspaper article

edit on 02/10/08 by karl 12 because: (no reason given)
reply posted on 12-4-2012 @ 03:46 AM by karl 12

U.S. Navy UFO Investigation:

Image: Dan Kimball.

And we know absolutely that another one existed and that it was ordered at the highest levels. This was the study ordered by Secretary of the Navy Dan Kimball, and soon-to-be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff, Admiral Arthur Radford, that was precipitated by the close passage of their planes by a UFO in mid-Pacific, and the subsequent blunt uncooperative treatment of the Secretary’s aides when they later inquired about the incident from the Air Force. Kimball ordered, through Radford, that a separate Navy file be maintained, particularly of Navy cases, since the Air Force could not be trusted to act in a responsible and civil manner as to openly sharing information as to what was going on.
The Kimball/Radford study was headed by a commander, Frank Lowell Thomas, out of the Office of Naval Intelligence [I think that this is correct, but it could have been ONR instead---these two offices work pretty closely together]. Commander Thomas’ study/file went on for an unknown amount of time; it could have been a year, it could have been several. Radford didn’t retire from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs until 1957—pretty close to when Keyhoe’s informants were keeping their file “with the approval of the Admiral”. We don’t know if there was any relationship whatever between these two files, or even if they in some ongoing form were the same thing. Whatever the exact situation, one can never say with any honesty that the Navy had no interest in UFOs. And, those early files contained some of the best cases of the era, and would be historically important.

UFOs & The Enigma of the United States Navy

Missing Information:

MUFON

In 1962, former Secretary Dan Kimball and Admiral A.W. Radford were on planes flying between Guam and Hawaii and were circled by two high-speed flying discs. A disc flying around military people of this stature should be the only confirmation required by public, government, science alike to accept that discs do fly and they are not ours. We still have not seen the flight reports. The sighting was confirmed by a U.S. Naval Research, Chief Admiral Calvin Bolster. The full text of the investigation should be released. In addition, other UFO investigations done by Naval Research should be released.

Unidentified Flying Objects: The Missing Information

Project 1947.

US Navy Office of Naval Research – investigations set up by Secretary of the Navy Dan Kimball after aircraft carrying him and the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Calvin Bolster were separately “buzzed” by UFOs over the Pacific.  Later attempts by Dr. James McDonald to question Kimball and the civilian head of the project failed.  Despite numerous requests under the Freedom of Information Act, to date no documents concerning the investigations have been located.

link

reply posted on 12-4-2012 @ 04:02 AM by karl 12

The statistics in the article below about FOIA UFO documents just about sums up the UFO declassification status of the U.S. Navy and Jan Aldrich’s article also makes some very astute points about missing US Naval UFO Information including Secretary Kimball’s ONI UFO project in 1952:

Ever wonder what the U.S. Government has in their filing cabinets?  Search more than 530,000 pages of declassified documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and find out..
This section contains batches of documents that have been received from multiple agencies.  The FOIA request was for all documents relating to UFOs… the following is what was released:

Army – 355 Pages – 22 megs
Central Intelligence Agency [2,763 Pages]
Defense Intelligence Agency UFO Files Through 1979 [204 Pages] Defense Intelligence Agency UFO Files from 1979-1989 [12 Pages] Defense Intelligence Agency UFO Files From 1990 to date [30 Pages]
Department of Defense [270 Pages]
Federal Bureau of Investigation UFO Documents [1,600 Pages] – [ Part 01 | Part 02 | Part 03 | Part 04 | Part 05 | Part 06 | Part 07 | Part 08 | Part 09 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 ]
John F. Kennedy Library [127 Pages]
NASA Headquarters [131 Pages]
National Reconnaisance Office UFO Documents (No Records) National Security Agency’s UFO Files [159 Pages] National Security Agency’s Once Exempt From Release [254 Pages]
Navy (No Records)
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense [132 Pages]
Space Command [7 Pages]
Wright Patterson Air Force Base [910 Pages] – All documents relating to Project Sign and Grudge[ January through August, 1948 | September through December, 1948, 1949.

Notice that the Navy officially has no record regarding the incident in spite of the involvement of very high ranking officials.

Is this a lie, or did the Navy bury any files so deep the nobody can find any written report at all?

Is this because the UFOs were actually deep black Navy projects and the Secretary and Admiral were supposed to inspect the characteristics of the test articles?

Or were they ET craft from interstellar space (or the future?).

2000MPH UFO Incident Sparks U.S. Navy UFO Investigation 

Once again, the Daily Grail is my friend!

Projects Beta and Bluebeam: National Security State Disinfo Dujour!

When it comes to investigating the National Security State and disinformation about UFOs, nobody does it better than Nick Redfern.

However in this recent entry at Mysterious Universe, he posts a commentary on Greg Bishop‘s book Project Beta: The Story of Paul Bennewitz, National Security, and the Creation of a Modern UFO Myth.

In the book Bishop writes about the very real sad story about physicist Paul Bennewitz and the way the government apparatus of the security state used and abused this man to drive away his sanity, thusly to stoke the mythology of UFOs into the American psyche:

Many people unacquainted with the complexities of the UFO puzzle assume that all talk of attempts by “the government” to silence certain players in the field is nothing but outright paranoia and lies. Even within Ufology there are those who dismiss such stories as X-Files-like nonsense. How wrong they all are. Published in 2005, Greg Bishop’s book, Project Beta: The Story of Paul Bennewitz, National Security, and the Creation of a Modern UFO Myth, provided the field of UFO research with what was without doubt one if its most important contributions in years.

The subject matter of Project Beta was an unusual one; and while seasoned researchers were already aware of certain aspects of this dark and ultimately tragic affair, those unaccustomed to the events in question might have been forgiven for thinking that they had stumbled upon a high-tech, X-Files-meets-Robert Ludlum-style thriller. But Project Beta told a very real story – one that was as harrowing as it was informative.

In essence, the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction book related the saga of physicist Paul Bennewitz, who, after digging into Air Force and National Security Agency secret projects at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico in the late 1970s that he believed were connected to the activities of sinister extraterrestrials and UFOs, was put under deep surveillance by the US military and intelligence services, and was bombarded by the murky world of officialdom with a mass of disinformation, faked stories and outright lies in order to divert him from his research – which worked. In fact, it worked rather too well, and led to the mental and psychological disintegration of Bennewitz.

While everyone with an interest in UFOs should read Greg Bishop’s book, it will not please all – particularly those who are of the opinion that aliens inhabit underground bases in the United States, that cattle mutilations are the work of sinister extraterrestrials, or that the rumors of government-alien collusion have a firm basis in reality. As Greg skillfully demonstrated, many of the cornerstones upon which today’s ufological lore are built, had their origins in the fertile minds of military intelligence and the behind-the-scenes, spook-brigade.

Much of the UFO “truth” fed to the research community by purported and sympathetic insiders and whistleblowers might not be “out there” after all. It may all be one big con behind which a veritable plethora of classified, military projects have been hidden – and, in the Bennewitz caper, projects specifically focused upon NSA communications systems, test flights (and possibly crashes) of early, prototype Stealth aircraft, and Air Force technologies designed to track the orbital movements of space satellites launched by the former Soviet Union.

As Project Beta skillfully revealed, Bennewitz had come to the conclusion that the collective operations described above were related to the activities of extraterrestrials, when in reality the truth was far more down to earth, although most certainly not in a mundane fashion. The book demonstrated that the Intelligence community cared not a bit that Bennewitz thought that their secret operations were UFO-related – precisely because the UFO connection was one of Bennewitz’s own making.

However, there was deep concern on the part of the world of officialdom that by digging into classified activities at Kirtland in search of UFOs, Bennewitz would inadvertently reveal – to the Soviets, in a worst-case scenario – information and technology that had to be kept secret at all costs, even if those costs included Bennewitz’s own sanity.

And so a plan was initiated: Having learned the essential parts of Bennewitz’s theories – very ironically from the man himself, by actually breaking into his home while he was out and checking his files and research notes – that aliens were mutilating cattle as part of some weird medical experiment; that they were abducting American citizens and implanting them with devices for purposes unknown; that those same aliens were living deep underground in a secure fortress at Dulce, New Mexico; and that we were all very soon going to be in deep and dire trouble as a direct result of the presence of this brewing, intergalactic threat, the Air Force gave Bennewitz precisely what he was looking for – confirmation that his theories were all true, and more.

Of course, this was all just a carefully-planned ruse to bombard Bennewitz with so much faked UFO data in the hope that it would steer him away from the classified military projects of a non-UFO nature that he had uncovered. And, indeed, it worked.

When Bennewitz received conformation (albeit carefully controlled and utterly fabricated confirmation) that, yes, he had stumbled upon the horrible truth and that, yes, there really was an alien base deep below Dulce, the actions of the Intelligence community had the desired effect: Bennewitz became increasingly paranoid and unstable, and he began looking away from Kirtland (the hub of the secrets that had to be kept) and harmlessly towards the vicinity of Dulce, where his actions, research, and theories could be carefully controlled and manipulated by the Government.

As long-time watchers of the ufological research scene will be aware, American Intelligence even brought Bill Moore (co-author with Charles Berlitz of the 1980 book, The Roswell Incident) into the scheme and asked him to keep them informed of how their disinformation operations against Bennewitz were working. In return, Moore was promised – and provided with – data and documents on super-secret, official UFO projects, crashed saucers, dead aliens, and more.

Bishop and Redfern aren’t the only folks to write extensively about the connection between UFOs and government disinformation. Chris Knowles over at the Secret Sun posted about another plan that was fed to another unfortunate individual, Serge Monast, which was none other than a script written by Gene Roddenberry in the 1970s for a future episode of Star Trek — in case it got revived!:

Anyone who spends anytime looking into the UFO phenomena has probably seen the words “Project Blue Beam” – often misspelled – show up when any aerial anomalies are being discussed online.
“Blue Beam” has become such a catch-all that it’s now applied to any sighting, no matter how trivial. It’s also been stretched to explain phenomena that have nothing to do with UFOs at all. You often see it conflated with HAARP, a very real program that’s also been stretched to explain anything that might otherwise require actual thought to deal with.
We saw any number of claims that the balloon show on October 13 was itself the work of this mythical Blue Beam, even though the event itself has little to do with the claims of the original “Project Blue Beam” essay, which was published online by the radical Fundamentalist and Quebec separatist Serge Monast. “Blue Beam” has been dated to 1994, but I don’t remember hearing anything about it until at least 1996, when Monast died of an apparent heart attack. But 1994 is very, very important to the chain of events we’re going to look at in this piece.
UFOs and the National Security State author Richard Dolan got so sick of hearing about the mythical Project Blue Beam that he wrote a scathing essay entitled “Project Blue Beam Countdown? Don’t Bet on It”in the run-up to an alleged Blue Beam event on October 13. In it, Dolan outlined the claims made in Monast’s original essay:

First, a series of artificially created earthquakes at “certain precise locations on the planet,” which will uncover archaeological evidence that will “be used to discredit all fundamental religious doctrines.”
Second, we will be subjected to “a gigantic space show.” This will involve “three-dimensional optical holograms and sounds, laser projection of multiple holographic images to different parts of the world, each receiving a different image according to predominating regional national religious faith. This new ‘god’s’ voice will be speaking in all languages.” These staged events will show the “new Christ” or Messiah, and will be a false Second Coming.
Third will be the “Telepathic Electronic Two-Way.” This involves “telepathic and electronically augmented two-way communication where ELF, VLF and LF waves will reach each person from within his or her own mind.” These communications will fake a communication from god.
Fourth, according to Monast, would be “the universal supernatural manifestation with electronic means.” He said it would take on three specific “orientations.” One would simulate an alien invasion, which would then provoke nations with nuclear weapons to strike back.

Dolan quoted extensively from Monast’s writings so that reasonable individuals could get a measure of the man and the extremist religious views that dictated his view of world events:

I included this long passage just so that you could get a whiff of the mind of this man. Very intense, no understanding of science. At no point in any of Monast’s writings is anything like evidence offered for any of this. To say nothing of the fantastic capabilities he attributes to NASA or the United Nations.

The logistics of the various sky shows also seems daunting, to say the least. First there is the false alien invasion scenario — presumably this could be done with a fleet of black triangles, although could they blanket the world? Doubtful. But then, regarding the religious fakery, are “they” really going to blanket the world with holographic images of, what — God? Jesus? Krishna? Allah? All the while sending a message into our brains via extra low frequencies in all languages of the world? All in a way that convinces us to abandon our previously held faiths?

What Dolan may not have realized it is that Monast - rather, the mischeivous spooks who fed him the whole Blue Beam scenario in the first place – was/were borrowing plots points left, right and center from another source.
We’ll get to that in a moment, but first Dolan took the time to dismiss most of the current Blue Beam theorizing as regurgitated bullshit:

None of these sites offer anything resembling evidence to support the alleged existence of Blue Beam. I am not asking for proof, only evidence. And I see nothing.

Well, there is evidence of Blue Beam, only it comes from a source one would never confuse with Jane’s Defence Weekly or Covert Action Quarterly. For some deep background on all of this alleged devilry, let’s travel back to 1994.
RECYCLED STAR TREK SCRIPTS
Not long before Serge Monast stunned the conspiracy circuit with his “Project Blue Beam,” a book was released on Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. It recounted information that hardcore Trekkers were well familiar with; Roddenberry’s proposed Star Trek feature film script from the mid-70s:

“In May 1975, Gene Roddenberry accepted an offer from Paramount to develop Star Trek into a feature film, and moved back into his old office on the Paramount lot. His proposed story told of a flying saucer, hovering above Earth, that was programmed to send down people who looked like prophets, including Jesus Christ.
Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek by Joel Engel, p.165, Hyperion, 1994

Shortly thereafter, Monast writes of a very similar situation- a satellite that will project images of holy figures:

With computer animation and sounds appearing to emanate from the very depths of space, astonished ardent followers of the various creeds will witness their own returned messiahs in convincing lifelike reality.
Then the projections of Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Krishna, etc., will merge into one after correct explanations of the mysteries and revelations will have been disclosed.

So, already we see two of Monast’s Blue Beam claims – an alien “invasion” and a false reappearance of the Earth’s major historical prophets – taken straight out of the Star Trek script.
How are these images of these gods to be received? In both cases, telepathically.

Monast again, 1994: The advancement of techniques propel us toward the third step in the Blue Beam Project that goes along with the telepathic and electronically augmented two-way communication where ELF, VLF and LF waves will reach each person from within his or her own mind, convincing each of them that their own god is speaking to them from the very depths of their own soul.

Roddenberry, 1976: “On the planet below, people are beginning to receive mental impressions of a returning God.”

The projected images are only part of Blue Beam; there’s also the “massive UFO invasion.” Note: Monast’s “UFO over every major city” scenario is stolen from the original V (1983), which in turn was borrowed from Roddenberry’s original 70s script for Earth: Final Conflict.:

Monast, 1994: “The first is the ‘space show.’ Where does the space show come from? The space show, the holographic images will be used in a simulation of the ending during which all nations will be shown scenes that will be the fulfillment of that which they desire to verify the prophecies and adversary events.
“One is to make mankind believe that an alien (off-world) invasion is about to occur at every major city on earth in order to provoke each major nation to use its nuclear weapons in order to strike back.”
Roddenberry, 1976: “At the same time a huge object, one thousand times larger than a starship, is moving toward Earth, knocking off the U.S.S. Potemkin and hurtling a cluster of asteroids toward Earth. Kirk, now a grounded admiral, assembles his old crew (all of whom have risen higher in rank), and they take the newly refitted Enterprise on a mission of interception with the alien claiming to be God.”

The whole point of all of this is to convince the world that these computers on these orbital platforms are the work of God, but it’s all a grand deception. In both cases:

Monast, 1994: The result of these deliberately staged events will be to show the world the new ‘christ,’ the new messiah, Matraia (Maitreya), for the immediate implementation of the new world religion. Enough truth will be foisted upon an unsuspecting world to hook them into the lie. “Even the most learned will be deceived.”
Roddenberry, 1976: “The Object turns out to be more than just a vessel–it is a computer form so advanced it is a living entity itself. However, we discover that this God they’ve worshipped is actually the Deceiver, the computer-programmed remains of a race who were “cast out” from their dimension and into this one.”
Roddenberry quotes taken from The Making of Star Trek-The Motion Picture, by Susan Sackett and Gene Roddenberry, Pocket/Wallaby, 1980

So again, Monast’s Blue Beam is essentially the same as Roddenberry’s “God Thing.” Both are computer programs on orbital platforms creating electronic visions and apparitions, tailor-made to the beliefs of certain populations. The difference is that Monast chalks it all up to NASA while Roddenberry was describing a malfunctioning alien craft:

Monast, 1994: “Computers will coordinate the satellites and software already in place will run the sky show. Holographic images are based on nearly identical signals combining to produce an image or hologram with deep perspective which is equally applicable to acoustic ELF, VLF and LF waves and optical phenomena.” Roddenberry: “Somewhere out there,” [Gene] starts off, his eyes widening as he continues, “there’s this massive … entity, this abstract, unknown life force that seems mechanical in nature, although it actually possesses its own highly advanced consciousness. It’s a force thousands of times greater than anything intergalactic civilization has ever witnessed. It could be God, it could be Satan, and it’s heading toward earth. It demands worship and assistance, and it’s also in a highly volatile state of disrepair.”
Star Trek Movie Memories by William Shatner with Chris Kreski, HarperCollins, 1994 (note publication date)

Themes from Roddenberry’s unused script were recycled throughout the franchise’s history, including the ST: TNG episode “Justice” and the now-notorious Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Then there was the Next Generation episode, “Devil’s Due,” which was one of the highest rated episode’s in the series history.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Izwxbmwo9qw&feature=player_embedded
This episode, which ran in 1991, had even stronger echoes of Monast’s 1994 “Blue Beam” theories. Here’s the synopsis:

The USS Enterprise-D responds to a distress signal from a science station on Ventax II, where the planet is in chaos over the return of a being who claims to be that culture’s “devil.”

Not coincidentally, that devil is there to install a new world order on the alien planet. Which brings us to Monast’s “Blue Beam” denouement:

The second is to make the Christians believe that the Rapture is going to occur with the supposed divine intervention of an alien (off-world) civilization coming to rescue earthlings from a savage and merciless demon. Its goal will be to dispose of all significant opposition to the implementation of the New World Order in one major stroke, actually within hours of the beginning of the sky show!

Again, this is the same scenario we see before in “Devil’s Due,” which is based in themes Roddenberry first explored in his God Thing script. The parallels continue: Monast writes in Blue Beam that “the first step in the NASA Blue Beam Project concerns the breakdown [re-evaluation] of all archaeological knowledge. It deals with the set-up, with artificially created earthquakes at certain precise locations on the planet.”

I must also note that investigator Richard Dolan has written about the national security state and disinformation. Despite of this evidence, folks such as Stephen Bassett and Dr. Steven Greer spread the religious mythology of “good aliens” into the memestream.

Stay tuned for more fun!

Update: I find it interesting that Wikipedia doesn’t have an entry on Stephen Bassett. Anyone have a “theory” on this parculiarity?

NASA Gets Sirius on the 17th (UPDATE)

Project Blue Beam Exposed! (UPDATED)

UFOs: The Project Beta Scandal

Special hat tips to The Anomalist and the Daily Grail.

Will Robots Be Our Successors In Space Exploration?

The above question may already be a nonsequitor since automated space probes permeate the Solar System. The Moon and Mars are covered with mankind’s mechanical surrogates extensively with many more on the horizon despite NASA’s budgetary woes.

While lip service and political demagoguery concerning NASA’s budget and the manned space program rule the day and despite monetary cut-backs, the automated probe programs seem to have survived to a certain degree. And the public at large like the unmanned probe programs, it is the population in NASA districts in southern states who gripe about manned program budget short-falls. Tax-payer supported jobs there are popular in spite of the explosive cognitive dissonance.

In that vein, professor of electrical engineering at Penn State John D. Mathews spoke of SETI’s failure of finding ETIs and posits that exploring space will mean more machines, not Man:

“The basic premise is that human space exploration must be highly efficient, cost effective, and autonomous as placing humans beyond low Earth orbit is fraught with political economic, and technical difficulties,” John D. Mathews, professor of electrical engineering, reported in the current issue of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society.

If aliens are out there, they have the same problems we do, they need to conserve resources, are limited by the laws of physics and they may not even be eager to meet us, according to Mathews.

He suggests that “only by developing and deploying self-replicating robotic spacecraft — and the incumbent communications systems — can the human race efficiently explore even the asteroid belt, let alone the vast reaches of the Kuiper Belt, Oort Cloud, and beyond.”

Mathews assumes that any extraterrestrial would need to follow a similar path to the stars, sending robots rather than living beings, which would explain why SETI has not succeeded to date.

“If they are like us, they too have a dysfunctional government and all the other problems plaguing us,” said Mathews. “They won’t want to spend a lot to communicate with us.”

It is extremely difficult to broadcast into the galaxy and requires vast resources. Radio signals need to emanate in every direction to fill the sky, and the energy requirement to broadcast throughout space is quite high.

“Current infrared lasers can communicate across our solar system,” said Mathews. “The problem in terms of SETI is they are highly directed beams.”

Point-to-point communications using infrared signaling requires less power, but the signals are extremely directional. If extra-terrestrial beings are using laser-generated infrared signaling, we would never notice their signals because they are so tightly targeted to their destinations.

Mathews suggests that if human exploration is not possible, robots could go where many people do not want to go and do what many do not want to do, not only on Earth, but also in space.

To minimize the cost, he suggests that the initial robots be manufactured on the moon to take advantage of the resources and the one-sixth gravity. He notes that we have the technology to create these exobots now, except for a compact power source. To create a network of autonomous robots capable of passing information to each other and back to earth, the vehicles must be able to identify their exact location and determine the time. With these two bits of knowledge, they should be able to determine where all the other robots near them are and target them with an infrared laser beam carrying data.

“The expensive part of launching anything is escaping the surface of Earth and its gravity well,” said Mathews. “It would also be easier to target the space debris in near Earth orbit and in geosynchronous orbit and even recycle it.”

Initially, the exobots would serve two purposes: clear existing debris and monitor the more than 1,200 near-Earth asteroids that are particularly hazardous in that they closely approach Earth during their orbits.

“As a first step, we really should launch robot vehicles to learn something about these asteroids and to place beacons on them for identification and tracking,” said Mathews.

Ultimately, the network of exobots — self-replicating, autonomous and capable of learning — will spread through the solar system and into the galaxy, using the resources they find there to continue their mission. Communicating with infrared lasers is communicating at the speed of light, which is the fastest we can hope to achieve.

“Our assumption in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is that ET wants to be found,” said Mathews. “But who has energy resources to spend trying to wave their metaphorical hand across the galaxy?”

He said it is more likely that one of our exobots will intercept a signal from one of theirs if we are to make first contact.

I find this sad in a way, I do think mankind does have a place in exploring the Universe in person, beit in World Ships, suspended animation or by physics yet undefined in an engineering sense.

But if strong AI is the major way the Technological Singularity will occur, this could very well be the scenario by which humans will explore the Galaxy.

Finding ET May Require Giant Robotic Leap 

 

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