Monthly Archives: June, 2012

Fiction and Fusion

From Centauri Dreams:

Having looked at the Z-pinch work in Huntsville yesterday, we’ve been kicking around the question of fusion for propulsion and when it made its first appearance in science fiction. The question is still open in the comments section and I haven’t been able to pin down anything in the World War II era, though there is plenty of material to be sifted through. In any case, as I mentioned in the comments yesterday, Hans Bethe was deep into fusion studies in the late 1930s, and I would bet somewhere in the immediate postwar issues of John Campbell’s Astounding we’ll track down the first mention of fusion driving a spacecraft.

While that enjoyable research continues, the fusion question continues to entice and frustrate anyone interested in pushing a space vehicle. The first breakthrough is clearly going to be right here on Earth, because we’ve been working on making fusion into a power production tool for a long time, the leading candidates for ignition being magnetic confinement fusion (MCF) and Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF). The former uses magnetic fields to trap and control charged particles within a low-density plasma, while ICF uses laser beams to irradiate a fuel capsule and trap a high-density plasma over a period of nanoseconds. To be commercially viable, you have to get a ratio of power-in to power-out somewhere around 10, much higher than breakeven.

Image: The National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory focuses the energy of 192 laser beams on a target in an attempt to achieve inertial confinement fusion. The energy is directed inside a gold cylinder called a hohlraum, which is about the size of a dime. A tiny capsule inside the hohlraum contains atoms of deuterium (hydrogen with one neutron) and tritium (hydrogen with two neutrons) that fuel the ignition process. Credit: National Ignition Facility.

Kelvin Long gets into all this in his book Deep Space Propulsion: A Roadmap to Interstellar Flight (Springer, 2012), and in fact among the books in my library on propulsion concepts, it’s Long’s that spends the most time with fusion in the near-term. The far-term possibilities open up widely when we start talking about ideas like the Bussard ramjet, in which a vehicle moving at a substantial fraction of lightspeed can activate a fusion reaction in the interstellar hydrogen it has accumulated in a huge forward-facing scoop (this assumes we can overcome enormous problems of drag). But you can see why Long is interested — he’s the founding father of Project Icarus, which seeks to redesign the Project Daedalus starship concept created by the British Interplanetary Society in the 1970s.

Seen in the light of current fusion efforts, Daedalus is a reminder of how massive a fusion starship might have to be. This was a vehicle with an initial mass of 54,000 tonnes, which broke down to 50,000 tonnes of fuel and 500 tonnes of scientific payload. The Daedalus concept was to use inertial confinement techniques with pellets of deuterium mixed with helium-3 that would be ignited in the reaction chamber by electron beams. With 250 pellet detonations per second, you get a plasma that can only be managed by a magnetic nozzle, and a staged rocket whose first stage burn lasts two years, while the second stage burns for another 1.8. Friedwardt Winterberg’s work was a major stimulus, for it was Winterberg who was able to couple inertial confinement fusion into a drive design that the Daedalus team found feasible.

I should mention that the choice of deuterium and helium-3 was one of the constraints of trying to turn fusion concepts into something that would work in the space environment. Deuterium and tritium are commonly used in fusion work here on Earth, but the reaction produces abundant radioactive neutrons, a serious issue given that any manned spacecraft would have to carry adequate shielding for its crew. Shielding means a more massive ship and corresponding cuts to allowable payload. Deuterium and helium-3, on the other hand, produce about one-hundredth the amount of neutrons of deuterium/tritium, and even better, the output of this reaction is far more manipulable with a magnetic nozzle. If, that is, we can get the reaction to light up.

It’s important to note the antecedents to Daedalus, especially the work of Dwain Spencer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. As far back as 1966, Spencer had outlined his own thoughts on a fusion engine that would burn deuterium and helium-3 in a paper called “Fusion Propulsion for Interstellar Missions,” a copy of which seems to be lost in the wilds of my office — in any case, I can’t put my hands on it this morning. Suffice it to say that Spencer’s engine used a combustion chamber ringed with superconducting magnetic coils to confine the plasma in a design that he thought could be pushed to 60 percent of the speed of light at maximum velocity.

Hmm..if I recall, Robert Heinlein’s story “Orphans of the Sky“, the starship Vanguard ‘s main power source was called the ‘converter’, which was a fusion reactor that not only fused hydrogen, but any other material thrown into it. That story ( actually two stories ) was first written in 1941, definitely the World War 2 era.

Again Paul Gilster links the past with the present. Great job Paul!

Fusion and the Starship: Early Concepts

SETI and the SKA


It was a vision of the that was never meant to be. In 1971 ’s Ames Research Center, under the direction of two of SETI’s great heavyweights – Hewlett–Packard’s Barney Oliver and NASA’s Chief of Life Sciences, John Billingham – sponsored a three-month workshop aimed at coordinating SETI on a large scale. While laying the groundwork of much of what was to follow for SETI in the subsequent decades, such as the existence of the ‘water hole’ between 1420 and 1666MHz, it also investigated what SETI could do if money and resources were no option. By the end of the three months they had come up with Project Cyclops, which detailed plans for an immense array of radio dishes, up to a thousand in all, each dish 100-meters across with a total collecting area of up to 20 square kilometers. Cyclops would have been able to hear the faintest whisper, the quietest murmurings from ET, capable of picking up rogue leakage from their civilizations or being deafened by the blaring signal of a deliberate beacon.

Cyclops was never built of course; it was never intended to have been. Rather it was a thought experiment, a look at what was possible if SETI scientists had carte blanche to build whatever they wanted. Indeed, 100-meter dishes are just about the largest we can build before they become structurally unstable. They’re also expensive, but crafty radio scientists have realized that linking many smaller and cheaper radio dishes together in a process known as interferometry can create a combined collecting area equal to or larger than those single dishes, and far more efficiently.

As such, today we stand on the cusp of a new era in radio astronomy, one that could give SETI the boost it needs to discover that we are not alone. In May 2012 it was announced that the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) – an ambitious network of thousands of – would be based in both South Africa (in addition to neighboring countries) and Australia. Assuming funding is in place, construction on phase one is set to begin in 2016, phase two in 2019, with the whole venture to be complete by 2024. will get the majority of radio dishes, each one 15 meters across, designed for targeted observations, while Australia will have the low frequency antennas and mid-frequency phased array dishes for wider-field survey work. It’s not quite on the scale of Project Cyclops but, overall, the size of the SKA is still enormous, with initial baselines (the widest distance between telescopes in the interferometer; the longer the baseline, the greater the angular resolution) of hundreds of kilometers, with phase two expanding that to 3,000 kilometers. A veritable forest of radio antenna on two different continents, listening to the stars.

Whereas Cyclops was designed to be a SETI-dedicated array upon which other astronomical projects could piggyback, the SKA is the mirror image, an instrument primarily for seeking neutral hydrogen in the early Universe, for examining emission from pulsars and black holes and exploring cosmic magnetism. Yet the search for life and its origins has never been far from the SKA’s priorities, with plans to probe the interiors of planet-forming dust discs around young stars to search for the building blocks of life in those planetary construction yards. There’s also SETI and the possibility that the SKA could chance upon an artificial radio signal from another world. So would SETI experiments be welcome on the SKA, perhaps piggybacking at no extra cost on other astronomy experiments as SETI does on Arecibo?

That’s an affirmative, confirms Dr. Michiel van Haarlam, the SKA’s Interim Director General. “It’s not been put to the test yet but it is definitely being considered,” he says. “It’s on our list of science cases so I think it will be there, in competition with all the other proposals out there.”

So, what could SETI do on the SKA? Suffice to say, alien searches have rarely been attempted on very long baselines. More often than not SETI has been performed on single dishes and when interferometry has been utilized, such as on the Allen Telescope Array (ATA), it’s rather localized with short baselines, but very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) is finding itself increasingly in vogue. How does SETI perform on telescopes of such size?

SETI on the SKAEnlarge

An artist’s impression of the SKA’s 15-meter dishes, staring up at the Milky Way. Credit: SPDO/TDP/DRAO/Swinburne Astronomy Productions

The bane of SETI is terrestrial interference from the likes of television and radio, cellphones, orbiting satellites and airport radar. With a long baseline array of so many telescopes across such a wide stretch of land, is it feasible to eradicate all interference? It turns out you don’t need to, says Hayden Rampadarath of the International Center for Radio Astronomy in Perth, Australia. He led a SETI VLBI experiment to listen to the Gliese 581 system – a red dwarf with at least four orbiting terrestrial planets – using the three telescopes of the Australian Long Baseline Array. The report on the experiment, to be published in The Astronomical Journal, describes how, despite no extraterrestrial signals bring received, the system did detect and successfully identify 222 narrow and broadband signals of terrestrial origin.

“Because of the large separations of the individual telescopes, hundreds to thousands of kilometers, the same radio frequency interference would usually only be seen by one or two telescopes and, as such, would not be correlated,” says Rampadarath. “However, sometimes this might not be true and interference that does correlate would instead experience a geometrical delay – and hence a phase delay – that arises due to the radio emission arriving earlier at some of the telescopes than at others.”

This phase delay could then be used to rule out any rogue emission – the point being that long baseline interferometry on the SKA need not worry about interference from terrestrial signals, therefore making the array an excellent tool for targeted SETI operations.

Whereas our interference is an obstacle for SETI, extraterrestrial radio interference may provide an opportunity. The SKA’s promotional literature has frequently talked about being able to eavesdrop on ET’s own terrestrial radio signals, neatly sidestepping the issue of whether ET would spend the resources on deliberately beaming a signal to us. Certainly our own rogue radio signals have been permeating space for almost a century, but they’re weak, dropping off with distance following the inverse square law; the SETI Institute’s Seth Shostak has previously pointed out that we couldn’t even detect our radio signals with our current equipment at the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, 4.2 light years away. What hope then do we have of detecting ET’s version of tacky reality television and soap operas?

It depends on whom we ask. “For phase one of the SKA, we can detect an airport radar at 50 to 60 light years,” says van Haarlam.

Professor Abraham Loeb, Chair of the Astronomy Department at Harvard University, goes even further. In 2006 he wrote a paper with his Harvard colleague Matias Zaldarriaga that was published in the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics, describing how upcoming radio observatories such as the SKA could eavesdrop on radio broadcasts.

“Military radars in the form of ballistic missile early warning systems during the Cold War were the brightest,” he tells Astrobiology Magazine. “We showed that these are detectable with an SKA-type telescope out to a distance of hundreds of light years, although TV and radio broadcasting is much fainter and can be seen to shorter distances.”

It is undisputed that our over the horizon radar has powerfully leaked out into space. However, those early warning radars are in most cases, like the Berlin Wall, a relic of a past time, used for only a few decades before becoming obsolete. Today they have been mostly replaced by broadband radars that hop across frequencies, making them untraceable to extraterrestrials, a theme that’s been latched onto in a paper published in The International Journal of Astrobiology by Dr. Duncan Forgan of the University of Edinburgh and Professor Bob Nichol of the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth. They worry that, if extraterrestrial civilizations followed our technology curve, with the move over to digital broadband signals, they would have reduced their radio leakage and made their planets ‘radio quiet’, leaving a window of only about a century where we can eavesdrop on them.

“If we are able to improve our technology so that our signal does not leak out into the Galaxy and if we improve it on a certain timescale, then our estimates suggest that even if our Galaxy is well populated but with human-like intelligence that decides to drastically curb its signal leakage, then it becomes very difficult to detect them,” says Forgan. If that’s the case, then the chance of the SKA’s existence coinciding with one of those relatively short time windows of extraterrestrial leakage is going to be small.

SETI on the SKAEnlarge

A representation of the giant Cyclops array from NASA’s 1971 SETI study. Credit: NASA

It gets worse. Although Forgan accepts that radar will still be directed into space to probe potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroids, this use of radar is random and non-repeating, points out Dr. James Benford of Microwave Sciences, Inc. who, along with John Billingham, assessed our own civilization’s visibility in a paper presented at the Royal Society’s ‘Towards a Scientific and Social Agenda on Extraterrestrial Life’ discussion meeting in October 2010. They calculated that a transmission deliberately beamed into space by the 70-meter Evpatoria radio antenna in the Crimea, far more powerful than our TV and radio leakage, would only be detectable as a coherent message by a SKA-sized receiver out to 19 light years, and as a raw burst of energy containing no information out to 648 light years.

Worse still, they argue that Loeb’s calculations for our TV and radio leakage being detectable out to 75 light years – calculations that are based on very long integration times on the order of months – are not feasible because radio stations will rotate over the limb of a planet, preventing locking onto the signal for a prolonged period of time to facilitate detection (Benford levels the same criticism at van Haarlam’s estimate of detecting airport radar out to 50 light years).

Furthermore, in response to Seth Shostak’s claim that a receiver the size of Chicago could detect our radio leakage out to hundreds of light years, Benford and Billingham respond by pointing out that such an antenna, with a total collecting area of 24,800 square kilometers, would cost $60 trillion, of similar order of magnitude to the planet’s entire GNP (for comparison, the SKA is projected to cost around $1.5 billion). If ET is going to hear us, they’re going to have resources far in advance of our own, meaning that our own efforts to eavesdrop with the SKA are going to be futile.

SETI on the SKAEnlarge

An artist’s impression of the SKA’s low frequency antennas that will be located in Australia. Credit: SPDO/TDP/DRAO/Swinburne Astronomy Productions

The picture painted by Forgan and Nichol, Benford and Billingham is pretty bleak for eavesdropping with the SKA. However, Loeb counters, “The periodicity due to rotation of a planet is a big plus that can help in identifying the artificial nature of the signal.” He adds, “In addition to planetary rotation, one could search for periodicity due to the orbit of the planet around its star.”

Benford isn’t convinced by Loeb’s arguments. “Absence of signal [as the planet rotates] means absence of detection time and the signal-to-noise ratio is reduced,” he says.

However, we’ve been assuming that our aliens are planet-bound. Suppose they have spaceflight. That could change things quite a bit. Radio communication between satellites, space stations and spacecraft would not be subject to planetary rotation. Duncan Forgan admits that he hasn’t factored spaceflight or interplanetary colonization into his vision of a radio quiet Universe, but cautions, “It’s unclear exactly how much radio traffic would result from a civilization that has multiple planets around multiple stars.” There are other methods of communicating, he says, such as lasers or even ephemeral neutrino beams. On the other hand, notes Jim Benford, a planet-faring civilization may use microwave beaming to power their spacecraft, dramatically increasing their leakage signature.

Ultimately, whichever side of the debate you fall on, there are a lot of unknowns and assumptions built into each argument that renders neither of them entirely persuasive. Maybe the SKA won’t be able to eavesdrop on ET, but there’s certainly no harm in trying. If it fails, there is always more traditional SETI to fall back on, namely the search for deliberate beacons.

Benford imagines the existence of transient beacons, designed to be cost efficient, flashing our way only once in a given timeframe. These, he says, look a lot like pulsars, something that the SKA is primed to search for; perhaps a transient beacon will manifest itself in one of the SKA’s pulsar sweeps? It’s the potential for this kind of serendipitous discovery that could make the SKA such a powerful tool for SETI, as long as the manpower and resources are there to search through all the raw data that the SKA will produce. Certainly, there will be lots of it: in order to process all the data covering millions of one hertz wide narrowband channels, exaflop computers that are capable of performing on the order of a million trillion operations per second will be required. There’s only one problem: such powerful computers have not been invented yet, but Moore’s Law and recent advances in computing tell us that they are on their way and will be ready by the time the SKA is online.

Jim Benford suggests making things even simpler. Searching for transient beacons is going to require a lot of watching and waiting, staring unblinkingly in the hope of catching the brief burst of a transient signal in the act – something like the mysterious ‘Wow!’ signal, perhaps. According to Benford, a small array of radio dishes, each tasked with observing a particular patch of sky non-stop, would do the trick. There’s no need to use the entirety of the SKA, he says; the small array of dishes that form ASKAP, ’s SKA Prototype, would be sufficient and far more efficient at a fraction of the cost of using the entire SKA.

Regardless of the SKA’s true ability to detect extraterrestrial leakage, it is still vastly superior to anything we have conducting SETI right now, including the Allen Telescope Array that has struggled for funding. What the SKA does prove is that, even if the ATA shuts down, it’s not the end of SETI itself. “Radio SETI is going to get a real boost because we have fantastic telescopes coming like the SKA that are game-changers for radio astronomy,” says Forgan. “It’s a very exciting time.”

And there’s certainly no harm in looking, just in case. “The nature of SETI research is exploration,” says Loeb. “We should act as explorers and make minimal educated guesses, simply because extraterrestrials might be very different from us and our experience might not be a useful guide.”

On the other hand, if they are like us and do have leakage that is predominantly from military radar, then we might want to steer clear, warns Loeb. “The conclusion I would draw is that militant civilizations are likely to be visible at greater distances than peaceful ones, and we should be very careful before replying to any detected signal.”

In my humble opinion using the purely electromagnetic means of searching for ETI is doomed to failure, noting our own civilization’s reduction of radio wave broadcasting.

But there’s big money in this endeavor, mainly the military-industrial-complex’s spending of tax-payer dollars!

SETI on the SKA 

Another CIA Vetted UFO “Fiction” Book

As I troll across the InnerTubes, I occassionaly run across an interesting website that features a possibly good story about UFOs, the government  and the CIA.

Robby Graham’s site, Silver Screen Saucers, has an interesting post about a CIA operative who has written a book that is supposedly vetted by the CIA itself.

And it’s questionable validity:

Chase Brandon, a thirty-five year veteran of the CIA, will tonight appear as a guest on Coast to Coast AM with John B. Wells. Many listeners will no doubt be unfamiliar with Brandon and his career with the CIA, but his name has passed my lips literally thousands of times over the past several years.
Brandon spent twenty-five years in the Agency’s elite Clandestine Service as an undercover, covert operations officer. His foreign assignments involved international terrorism, counterinsurgency, global narcotics trafficking and weapons smuggling. He was also an Agency foreign political affairs analyst, Presidential briefer to Bill Clinton and an instructor in paramilitary and espionage tactics at multiple secret CIA training camps.
Brandon is perhaps best known as the CIA’s former Entertainment Liaison Officer – a position that required him to establish working relationships with many of the biggest names in Hollywood and to provide advice to filmmakers on matters of “accuracy and authenticity” with regard to the CIA’s image onscreen. He was – though he prefers to phrase it more sympathetically – the CIA’s chief frontline propagandist in Hollywood. He advised on countless films and TV series – often uncredited – quietly shaping scripts, characters and concepts.
As a great deal of my academic research has been focused on cinematic propaganda efforts, Brandon’s activities in Hollywood naturally have been of considerable interest to me and I have spent many hours discussing with colleagues and writing about the CIA’s role in Hollywood and the influence wielded by Chase Brandon and other CIA advisors in the entertainment industry.
The CIA/Hollywood relationship is a sordid one, and it predates the start of the Agency’s “official” involvement in Tinseltown by four decades. You can read about this relationship in Professor Tricia Jenkins’ excellent new book, The CIA in Hollywood: How the Agency Shapes film and Television, and I’ll be exploring the CIA/Hollywood symbiosis in great detail in the context of the UFO phenomenon in my forthcoming book, Silver Screen Saucers: Sorting Fact from Fantasy in Hollywood’s UFO Movies.
With Chase Brandon’s credentials in mind, the UFO community is set to engage in furious debate about this CIA man’s first novel, which is now on sale and is titled The Cryptos Conundrum. It is a “fictional” book dealing with the UFO/ET issue, specifically with the Roswell crash and cover-up. This marks the first time ever that any retired CIA operative has written a book (presented either as fact or fiction) on the UFO topic that has received the Agency’s official stamp of approval. On that basis alone, it’s a must-read.
On the first page of the book, a bold, underlined notice reads:
This material has been reviewed by the CIA to prevent the disclosure of classified information.
But, of course, classified information can’t technically be disclosed if it is presented as fiction. Brandon is gleefully aware of this, and selects as his first quote of the book a musing by Francis Bacon:
“Truth is so hard to tell, it sometimes needs fiction to make it plausible.”
I’ve read Brandon’s novel. Obviously, it’s intriguing, to say the least, and Brandon clearly wants it to be seen to contain many truths, despite its “fiction” label. Does Brandon have ‘inside’ information on UFOs? It is my assessment that, yes, probably he does. Some. The circles he’s walked in during his career would almost certainly have made him privy to UFO-related chatter; to whispers and suggestions, if not hard evidence. This is not to say the information Brandon might have is true. Most of what he “knows” is likely based on what he’s been told, not on what he’s seen [UPDATE: even though he claims to have seen proof of Roswell with his own eyes]. More than anything, what readers should remember when reading Brandon’s tantalising book is that the author is a trained expert in propaganda and psychological warfare. Buy his book, then, but don’t buy into it.
Scoll down and read the informed comments from readers of the post; you will find the mercurial Collins Elite and the “UFOs are demons” theory pops up again.
Interesting. Does this guy (Brandon) really believe the phenomenon is “supernatural”, or is it classic CIA disinformation?
I’m not going to buy this guy’s book, I’ll wait for it to come to a library.

Moon Water


A crater on the moon that is a prime target for human exploration may be tantalizingly rich in ice, though researchers warn it could just as well hold none at all.

The scientists investigated Shackleton Crater, which sits almost directly on the moon’s south pole. The crater, named after the Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, is more than 12 miles wide (19 kilometers) and 2 miles deep (3 km) — about as deep as Earth’s oceans.

The interiors of polar craters on the moon are in nearly perpetual darkness, making them cold traps that researchers have long suspected might be home to vast amounts of frozen water and thus key candidates for human exploration. However, previous orbital and Earth-based observations of lunar craters have yielded conflicting interpretations over whether ice is there.

For instance, the Japanese spacecraft Kaguya saw no discernible signs of ice within Shackleton Crater, but NASA’s LCROSS probe analyzed Cabeus Crater near the moon’s south pole and found it measured as much as 5 percent water by mass. [Photos: Searching for Water on the Moon]

Now scientists who have mapped Shackleton Crater with unprecedented detail have found evidence of ice inside the crater.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter essentially illuminated the crater’s interior with infrared laser light, measuring how reflective it was. The crater’s floor is more reflective than that of other nearby craters, suggesting it had ice.

“Water ice in amounts of up to 20 percent is a viable possibility,” study lead author Maria Zuber, a geophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told

Don’t get your hopes up, though. The amount of ice in Shackleton Crater “can also be much less, conceivably as little as zero,” Zuber cautioned.

This uncertainty is due in part to what the researchers saw in the rest of the crater. Bizarrely, while the crater’s floor was relatively bright, Zuber and her colleagues observed that its walls were even more reflective.

Scientists had thought that if highly reflective ice were anywhere in a crater, it would be on the floor, which live in nearly permanent darkness. In comparison, the walls of Shackleton Crater occasionally see daylight, which should evaporate any ice that accumulates.

The researchers think the reflectance of the crater’s walls is due not to ice, but to quakes. Every once in a while, the moon experiences shaking brought on by meteor collisions or the pull of the Earth. These “moonquakes” may have caused Shackleton’s walls to slough off older, darker soil, revealing newer, brighter soil underneath.

Whether or not the crater floor is brightly reflective due to ice or other factors is also open to question.

Shackleton Crater Relief Split View

This split-view image shows an elevation map (left) and shaded relief (right) of the 21-kilometer-wide Shackleton Crater. The crater’s structure is shown in false color from data by NASA’s LRO probe. Image released June 20, 2012. CREDIT: NASA/GSFC/SVS

“The reflectance could be indicative of something else in addition to or other than water ice,” Zuber said. For instance, the crater floor might be reflective because it could have had relatively little exposure to solar and cosmic radiation that would have darkened it.

Zuber noted that the measurements only look at a micron-thick portion of Shackleton Crater’s uppermost layer. “A bigger question is how much water might be buried at depth,” Zuber said, adding that NASA’s GRAIL mission will investigate that possibility.

The researchers also used the orbiter to map the crater’s floor and the slope of its walls. This topographic map will help shed light on crater formation and study other uncharted areas of the moon.

“We would like to study other lunar polar craters in comparable detail,” Zuber said. “There is much to be learned here.”

Huge Moon Crater’s Water Ice Supply Revealed

What does all this mean? Will the current occupants of the Moon share the water with us humans?

I wouldn’t bet on it.

We’re being relegated to catching asteroids.

The Transcension of ET Civilizations

For some reason, 60 years seems to be enough time for SETI to scan the local star neighborhood for radio signals, a sign mainstream science believes will be the way we’ll prove there’s ET intelligence in the Universe.

And as Mankind hasn’t received any radio signals from Out There yet, the famous “Fermi Paradox” is invoked.

The following abstract gives yet another possible explanation of the “silence” and one I have heard of before, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it tossed out into the mainstream:

The emerging science of evolutionary developmental (“evo devo”) biology can aid us in thinking about our universe as both an evolutionary system, where most processes are unpredictable and creative, and a developmental system, where a special few processes are predictable and constrained to produce far-future-specific emergent order, just as we see in the common developmental processes in two stars of an identical population type, or in two genetically identical twins in biology. The transcension hypothesis proposes that a universal process of evolutionary development guides all sufficiently advanced civilizations into what may be called “inner space,” a computationally optimal domain of increasingly dense, productive, miniaturized, and efficient scales of space, time, energy, and matter, and eventually, to a black-hole-like destination. Transcension as a developmental destiny might also contribute to the solution to the Fermi paradox, the question of why we have not seen evidence of or received beacons from intelligent civilizations. A few potential evolutionary, developmental, and information theoretic reasons, mechanisms, and models for constrained transcension of advanced intelligence are briefly considered. In particular, we introduce arguments that black holes may be a developmental destiny and standard attractor for all higher intelligence, as they appear to some to be ideal computing, learning, forward time travel, energy harvesting, civilization merger, natural selection, and universe replication devices. In the transcension hypothesis, simpler civilizations that succeed in resisting transcension by staying in outer (normal) space would be developmental failures, which are statistically very rare late in the life cycle of any biological developing system. If transcension is a developmental process, we may expect brief broadcasts or subtle forms of galactic engineering to occur in small portions of a few galaxies, the handiwork of young and immature civilizations, but constrained transcension should be by far the norm for all mature civilizations.

The transcension hypothesis has significant and testable implications for our current and future METI and SETI agendas. If all universal intelligence eventually transcends to black-hole-like environments, after which some form of merger and selection occurs, and if two-way messaging (a send–receive cycle) is severely limited by the great distances between neighboring and rapidly transcending civilizations, then sending one-way METI or probes prior to transcension becomes the only real communication option. But one-way messaging or probes may provably reduce the evolutionary diversity in all civilizations receiving the message, as they would then arrive at their local transcensions in a much more homogenous fashion. If true, an ethical injunction against one-way messaging or probes might emerge in the morality and sustainability systems of all sufficiently advanced civilizations, an argument known as the Zoo hypothesis in Fermi paradox literature, if all higher intelligences are subject to an evolutionary attractor to maximize their local diversity, and a developmental attractor to merge and advance universal intelligence. In any such environment, the evolutionary value of sending any interstellar message or probe may simply not be worth the cost, if transcension is an inevitable, accelerative, and testable developmental process, one that eventually will be discovered and quantitatively described by future physics. Fortunately, transcension processes may be measurable today even without good physical theory, and radio and optical SETI may each provide empirical tests. If transcension is a universal developmental constraint, then without exception all early and low-power electromagnetic leakage signals (radar, radio, television), and later, optical evidence of the exoplanets and their atmospheres should reliably cease as each civilization enters its own technological singularities (emergence of postbiological intelligence and life forms) and recognizes that they are on an optimal and accelerating path to a black-hole-like environment. Furthermore, optical SETI may soon allow us to map an expanding area of the galactic habitable zone we may call the galactic transcension zone, an inner ring that contains older transcended civilizations, and a missing planets problem as we discover that planets with life signatures occur at a much lower frequencies in this inner ring than in the remainder of the habitable zone.

The mention of inner rings or zones smacks of the Anthropic Principle, so I’m not too impressed with this abstract, but it looks like it’s a very well written hypothesis.
But my question is this; “Why does the mainstream consider 60 years enough search time for ET activity to be detected?”
Are we really that convinced we’re on top of the local Galactic food-chain?
And where does that leave the issue of UFOs? Are they possible manifestations of civilizations who have attained Technological Singularity status?

Convince me.

The transcension hypothesis: Sufficiently advanced civilizations invariably leave our universe, and implications for METI and SETI

Hat tip to the Daily Grail.

Skunk Works Mystery Drone

UFO, or not UFO, that is the question.

Below is a satellite view of Lockheed’s Skunk Works unmanned drone of the future:

An overhead image of Lockheed Martin’s “Skunk Works” facility: Photo: Google Earth

A commercial satellite has spotted a mysterious unmanned aerial vehicle parked at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, California. The orbital snapshot was reportedly taken on Dec. 4, but became public only last week in a blog post by George Kaplan, a self-described “open source” intelligence analyst who relies solely on publicly available imagery.

Wrapped in what appears to be plastic, parked at an angle next to an F-16 on a concrete apron near the U.S. Air Force’s top-secret Plant 42, the supposed UAV shares the basic dimensions and overall flying-wing shape of many of today’s jet-powered drones. Using the 50-foot-long F-16 as a yardstick, it seems the UAV has a wingspan of around 60 feet.

Beyond that, anything we say about the “new” drone is conjecture. We emailed a Lockheed spokesperson asking for comment, but the company does not habitually comment on the goings-on at the Skunk Works, whose other products have included the F-117 stealth fighter and the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes.

That said, the mystery drone’s wingspan seems to match the consensus figure for the wingspan of Lockheed’s secretive RQ-170 Sentinel, also a Skunk Works design. The stealthy RQ-170 was first spotted at Afghanistan’s Kandahar Air Field in 2007. Two years later the Air Force confessed to operating a small number of Sentinels for “reconnaissance and surveillance.”

On Dec. 4, coincidentally the same day Kaplan’s snapshot was taken, Iranian forces captured a crashed Sentinel near the Iran-Afghanistan border, provoking a diplomatic row. As revealed by the Iranians, the crashed Sentinel’s maintenance logs indicated that it, or at least parts of it, had been sent back to Palmdale from Afghanistan for maintenance. Noted aviation journalist David Cenciotti connected these dots in his own search for the mystery drone’s identity. “I think it’s a Sentinel,” he tells Danger Room. “A damaged one.”

But the nameless UAV could also be the long-rumored, but previously unseen, prototype for the stealthy P.420 drone bomber that Lockheed patented way back in 1997. At least, that’s what the reporters at Flight think. Very little is known about the P.420, though it’s possible some of the old drone’s design elements made it into the operational RQ-170.

Less likely, the shrouded ‘bot could be related to Lockheed’s undisclosed new design for the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike drone fighter competition. Four companies — Lockheed, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Atomics — are competing to build potentially hundreds of ship-launched UCLASS strike drones for service in the 2020s. Northrop’s entry will almost certainly be based on its X-47B demonstrator, and Boeing’s on its similar X-45C. Both the X-47B and the X-45C are flying wings with spans between 40 and 60 feet. It wouldn’t be surprising if Lockheed’s proposed robotic fighter were similar, and therefore a close match with the mystery drone seen at Palmdale.

But a brand-new UAV prototype would never be left outside in full view of satellites, according to two drone-industry insiders who spoke to Danger Room on condition of anonymity. “If it had any value it wouldn’t be sitting there like it is,” one insider says.

Maybe not, but the Pentagon and its industrial partners don’t have the best track record keeping its secret drones such as the RQ-170 under wraps. Just ask the Iranians. It’s not inconceivable that Lockheed is putting the finishing touches on a new, top-secret robotic warplane — and accidentally left it out in the open for the world to see.

Hmm..I wonder if it has any new propulsive tech, like the kind the U.S. Government denies having back-engineered from non-existent UFOs?

Satellite Spots Lockheed’s Mystery Drone

UFOs and Christianity

According to a U.S. government think tank, the Collins Elite, the UFO phenomenon is actually linked with angels and demons, not aliens.

In their view, this validates Conservative Christianity and that the U.S. government must turn more theocratic in nature in order to combat the “alien” invasion and save the soul of the nation.

UFO researcher Tim Beckley believes this outlook should be given more thought and that there’s a lot of evidence for it:

It’s UFOlogy’s dirty little secret. It’s something that is better left swept under the rug.  Stanton Friedman doesn’t talk about it. Stephen Bassett most assuredly would keep the subject at arm’s length. The late Richard Hall would have deleted you from his address book. And Steven Greer would never consider it part of his ongoing Disclosure program.  

To coin ourselves a catch-all phrase that brings together all the negative aspects of the subject, I prefer to call it the DARK SIDE OF UFOLOGY!

It would appear – at least at first glance – that only those who consider themselves Christian fundamentalists have a rigorous drum to beat on behalf of the subject matter  we are considering – that at least some UFOs can rightfully be tied in with Demonic phenomenon. It would seem to be almost an exclusive element of their zealous faith based  belief system that contends anything remotely occult or supernatural—and that would definitely include UFOs — has a stanch  ally in the devil and his minions.  Christian apologist,   Dave Hunt has stated, “the same people that run UFOs are the same people that run haunted houses.“

Indeed, it has become more apparent even by those who for decades held dearly to a deep belief that UFOs must be interplanetary in nature, that there is a paranormal nature to this enigma that cannot easily be set aside. Several top notch researchers — such as the late Dr J. Allen Hynek’s former associates Ted Phillips and Philip Imbrogno —  have come to realize that we are NOT dealing solely with physical craft from outer space occupied by off-world astronauts coming  to warn us that we might possibly annihilate ourselves either ecologically or in the course of our warlike nature.

More and more emphasis needs to be placed on the spiritual, occult and paranormal nature of the phenomenon seen in our skies and invading our homes and personal boundaries. It’s not all “sweetness and light,” kiddies. The truth is that there are a host of negative elements associated with UFO encounters. Some of the entities involved could very well be leading us down the primrose path. You can believe, and the evidence clearly is undisputable, that there are cosmic criminals in our midst who have successfully managed to possess and control the minds of  utterly frightened participants who had no warning that they were to be caught up inside a nightmarish web of confusion and chaos.

The late Lord Hill Norton head  Admiral of the British Fleet was quoted as saying he felt UFOs were demonic in nature.

There are numerous aspects of this dark side of UFOs that we  examine closely in our just published book Round Trip To Hell In A Flying Saucer: UFO Parasites, Alien Soul Suckers, Invaders From Demonic Realms

+ The connection between UFOs, demons, and possibly Satan himself.

+ The fascination for and the link between Nazism, occultism and post WWII German-made flying saucers.

+ The ghastly exercise of blood draining and human sacrifice throughout antiquity and their relationship to animal and human mutilations and blood letting in modern times, which align closely to the appearance of UFOs in specific theaters of operation on our planet.

+ The weird claims of John Lear that aliens are coming here to kidnap humans and not return them. That people are being used for food, and how “they” are performing sadistic experimentations upon us, and are attempting to suck out our souls and place them in “containers” for their own perverted use.

+ The Islamic belief in the normally invisible elementals identified in the Koran as the Jinn and how these malevolent spirits are able to misrepresent themselves by camouflaging their true identity and traveling around at fantastic speeds.

+ Shape shifters who can turn into human looking beings, animals, orbs, fireballs or manifest themselves even as physical “hardware” to fool us into believing they are mechanical devices.

+ The casting of magical spells, occult rituals and the ability to conjure up

spirits and beings often mistaken for UFOnauts but more closely aligned with the elemental kingdom.




Long time investigator Ann Druffel says the aliens are not who they claim they are, but have sinister motives.

I don’t think a week went by when my mail box (not the one that is part of your Windows or Mac, but the one that stands, or used to stand, at the curb) wasn’t jammed with a couple of large manila envelopes from William C. Lamb.

To be honest, our “correspondence” was mostly one sided. To me, Lamb was a bit of a nutter (British for crackpot). He claimed to have images of heaven and even God’s throne that astronomers had photographed through high powered telescopes that exist on the edge of the galaxy. To him the ole man in the clouds was as real as you or I and the Lord’s Kingdom was a place you could actually see if you had a powerful enough telescope. Kind of crazy, right?  Well, the story doesn’t end there. According to Lamb, he knew all about God and Satan firsthand because he had seen Beelzebub with his own eyes. No! It wasn’t part of a near-death or out-of-body experience, but a component of a UFO landing.

Lamb had been out hunting in a snowstorm around four or five AM in February 1922, as he explained, when he heard a buzzing sound and saw this huge spherical craft hovering over a nearby field. It was so large and brilliant to his eyes that it blocked out the stars and he found himself mesmerized by its sudden appearance. He watched in awe as a partition opened on the side of the craft and a gigantic creature with wings flew to the ground and landed in the snow. The being was somewhere between seven and eight feet tall and appeared demonic in its facial features and physical form. Lamb said he hid behind a tree and watched as it tracked through the snow, its hooves – yes, I said hooves – melting down to the tundra as it went along. Eventually it came to a sturdy wire fence and managed to just walk through it, burning through the mesh and leaving it looking red hot.

At the time I had every reason to believe Lamb was totally delusional. It was

obvious that he saw everything through the eyes of orthodox religion. So much so that when he was approached by this ghoulish figure he managed to get it to fly off, using the name of Jesus and commanding it to depart.

The case is known to others besides me. Apparently a letter or two from W.C. was also preserved in the Air Force’s Project Blue Book files because astute researcher Jacques Vallee mentions it in his book Passport to Magonia.  Vallee has long expressed his opinions that, “UFOs are real but they are not physical. They are messengers of deception,” and that, “. . .the UFOs beings of today belong to the same class of manifestation as the (occult) entities that were described in centuries past.”

As far back as the 1960s – perhaps earlier! — certain fractions in the U.S. government and military acknowledged the occult nature of  what were still referred to in many circles as flying saucers. In 1969 the U.S. Printing Office issued a 400-page publication entitled UFOs And Related Subjects, a huge compendium of over 1000 books, literature and testimonies of UFO contactees. The document was compiled for the Air Force and the Library of Congress  by Lynn Catoe  who in its Introduction matter-of-factly states: “A large part of the available UFO literature is closely linked with mysticism and the metaphysical. It deals with subjects like mental telepathy, automatic writing and invisible entities as well as phenomenon like poltergeist manifestations and possession. Many of the UFO reports now being published in the popular press recount alleged incidents that are strikingly similar to demonic possession and psychic phenomenon that have long been known to theologians and parapsychologists.”  Others with a decisively Christian bent have expressed concern that “the aliens often encourage illicit sex, and other ungodly things.” One abductee Calvin Parker told me that aliens had caused the AIDS virus and that, “I think they are demons. I feel like it’s evil. It could come from another world, but I think it’s kind of interdimensional in this one,” Parker explained to a reporter.

Ann Druffel  has been active in investigating  UFOs since 1957 when she joined the National Investigations Committee on Unidentified Flying Objects. The affable author of Tujunga Canyon Contacts (co-authored by D. Scott Rogo) and How To Defend Yourself Against Alien Abduction  is a no nonsense type of individual. She has paid her dues and everyone respects her opinions, even when she unhesitantly states: “The entities who pose as ‘extraterrestrials’ are not what they say they are. Rather, they are apparently unwholesome entities who have deceived and interacted with humans since the dawn of history. Be they mythic, ‘real,’ ‘spiritual,’ interdimensional or from a ‘hidden world’ which somehow exists in or alongside our own earth plane, I cannot say, since proof still eludes us. I do know for certain, however, that interfering, shape shifting, ‘otherworldly’ entities have been described by every major culture (and many smaller cultures) on the face of the earth down through the millennia, and that these older cultures developed means to fend them off or, at the very least, recognized them for what they were.”  


Nick Redfern is one of the few investigative journalists that is almost universally respected  in a field where disagreements and lingering grudges between UFOlogists are fairly common. Recently, he authored a book, Final Events: And The Secret Government Group on UFOs and the Afterlife which just about  ruined his near perfect reputation.  The work details the history of a hidden think tank within the U.S. Government that believes rather than having alien origins, UFOs are really a tool of the Devil.

We sat down for a length interview with Redfern to  be found in  Round Trip To Hell In A Flying Saucer. Redfern explained to me that the think tank was begun to try and exploit the mental powers of what they called “Non-Human Entities,” commonly known as the Grays. “There were people in the official world,” Nick says, “that wanted to see if the mind-power of the Grays could be utilized as a form of mind-weaponry by the Pentagon, and the Department of Defense ..something along the lines of a next generation Remote Viewing type program.“ The more the Pentagon group got into the project, “the more they came to believe that the Grays were highly deceptive, and they also came to believe the Grays were actually – and quite literally – deceptive demons from Hell, who were here to deceive us about their true agenda – which was to bring people over to the dark side and prepare things for Armageddon, but to do it under the guise of a faked alien appearance,” or so Redfern reveals.

“As for abductions, the think tank believes the whole alien scenario is a scam – a series of brain-induced hallucinations provoked by these entities as a means to reinforce the idea that they are aliens here to experiment on us..” Furthermore, the they can seemingly, “provoke hallucinatory imagery in the mind: aliens, goblins, Bigfoot, etc. to make us believe we’re seeing something physical and external.”

The group came to conclude, says Redfern, “That Earth is a farm, and that we are the cattle. . .that these entities essentially are here to harvest and feed upon the energy of our soul at death because these demonic creatures are basically energy-based, and our energy feeds and fuels them.”  This task is further expanded upon  in our book by retired CIA “jockey” and ace pilot John Leer who has long maintained such a “peculiar” theory.

For our book Round Trip To Hell In A Flying Saucer, we have gathered together our own “think tank” of prominent individuals to express their opinions and to collectively publish their own findings. Included in this roster are Brad Steiger, Adam Gorightly, Kenn Thomas, Brent Raynes  as well as the posthumous John Keel author of Trojan Horse and Mothman Prophecies. 

Incorporated in this large sized work is also a little known tome published in 1955 from which we adapted the overall title of our own work.  Not only did Cecil Michael claim to rub shoulders with Mr Scratch, but he says he went with him straight to hell. Proclaims the flyleaf on a very rare copy: “Here is one of the most startling stories ever written! The narrator, calmly working in his auto repair shop, suddenly finds himself playing host to a pair of visitors from outer space. From that moment his entire life is changed.

“For weeks the Spacemen practice all types of weird experiments upon their bewildered friend, who is too terrified to protest. Finally, wearying of their ingenious super-games, they decide to take the poor auto mechanic on a trip to Hell. . .And, as you descend with the narrator into a modern Inferno, you will pray, with the auto mechanic who tells the story, that his visit will be a short one.”

The British publication Magonia encapsulates Cecil Michael’s bizarre Round Trip To Hell In A Flying Saucer in this manner:

“The craft went off into space, eventually arriving at a bleak red planet with a lake of fire into which coffins were cast, the dead bodies inside them then coming to life and burning in agony. He was afraid that he would be trapped there permanently, but apparently he was saved by a vision of Christ that appeared in a beam of white light, and returned to Earth. The trip seemed to have taken four days, but only four hours had passed.”

Without a doubt this can be said to be our oddest contribution to the overall body of UFO and paranormal literature we have published over the last five decades. It discusses a theory that is straight out of the movie The Exorcist.

To many it will be a difficult to accept concept. To others it is something that they already recognize as part of their on going faith. It is none the less a premise that needs to be explored. 

An old Sir Arthur C. Clarke saying comes to mind in this instance; “A sufficiently advanced alien technology is indistuigishable from magic.”

I don’t think a truly alien intelligence would be an exclusive view-point of a local planetary religion, but would perhaps disguise itself as one in order to carry out an objective.


Hat tip to The Anomalist.

NASA releases more gifted NRO telescope details

As the title implies, NASA released more info concerning its “gift” of obsolete telescope parts from the NRO.

To me, it just seems to me just standard government FIOA fare, mainstream script reading that gives the right amount of denial and hiding behind the moniker of “national security”:

NASA has released more information about the two space telescopes, held in storage, that it announced last week it had received from the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

A painter freshens up the NASA logo that adorns NASA Glenn Research Center’s Flight Research Building.

The news raised lots of questions among space-minded folks. In an effort to get a few more answers, USA TODAY has acquired the question-and-answer sheet provided to NASA Public Affairs folks last week to answer queries about the gift scopes.

Here ’tis:

Exactly what property was transferred?

The NRO transferred to NASA some space qualified optical systems hardware that was residual from previous development work.

What hardware was transferred?

The equipment consists of elements that with some work could make: two telescopes with support structure and a protective light baffle and other miscellaneous spares along with the associated documentation.

What are the technical specifications of the hardware?

Technologies include Exelis lightweight mirror, advanced structures, patented hybrid laminate technologies, and Hexcel/Exelis co-developed cyanate siloxane low moisture resin technology. Additional technical details include:

– 2.4 m, f/8 with <20% Obstructed Aperture

– Field of View: 1.6 arc min, as a Cassegrain

– Wavefront Quality: <60 nm, rms

– Stable, f/1.2, Lightweight ULE primary Mirror

– Stable, Low CTE Composite and Invar Structures

– Actuated Secondary Mirror Positioning

– 1,700 kg mass, including Telescope and Outer Thermal Barrel

– 2 Flight Units Available, with Limited Parts for 3rd

Where is the equipment located?

The equipment is housed at the Excelis Division of ITT in Rochester, NY.

‘Who has direct control of the hardware?

The ownership of the equipment is managed by the J at Propulsion Laboratory for NASA HQ under our master contract with them.

Where is the Program/Project Office ta be located?

For now, the Program Office has not been designated for use of this equipment. The activities are being managed directly by NASA HQ using an interim Project Element at JPL for early study activities. A decision on Where a potential Project office will be established depends on the outcome of study activities to determine the best scientific utility of any potential mission using the equipment. Those studies will be guided by the community inputs based on the Decadal report, NWNH (New Worlds, New Horizons) and consultation with our science advisory structure.

Why did the NRO give this material to NASA?’

The NRO determined that the equipment was not suitable for future intelligence missions.

What is the value of the equipment being transferred?

The value of the equipment is in the avoided cost to a potential NASA mission that could use it. Typically it could cost between $100M to $300 (million) to procure this level of flight hardware. The NRO estimates the cost of the hardware at approximately $275M.

Seriously, What is it worth’?

The equipment as recently transferred has a book value of around $75M. That value is not to be construed as the investment expenditure, but the residual value as determined by contract elements.

What is NASA going to do with the Equipment?

NASA is looking into several missions and scientific investigations Within the Astrophysics Division of the Science Mission Directorate. Until studies are complete, it is sufficient to say that there are areas of Dark Energy, exoplanets and traditional astrophysics that can make good use of the equipment.

What happens if NASA can’t afford to use the equipment? Is there a large cost to NASA for someone else’s left-0vers’?

The cost to the nation is negligible and would be borne by the country at any case. For NASA, the cost really involves minimal storage costs until we determine that we can use it. If the equipment can’t be used, it can be disposed of easily and at minimum cost. (Abandon in place is the usual least cost method)

If the material is at a specific contractor, does that mean that contractor has a lock on work with the equipment?

While it is easier to imagine using the assets of the organizations that developed the equipment, NASA is taking control of the design materials and tooling such that we could use our own internal facilities or those of other contractors for work as best fits the acquisition strategy and best interests of the US Government.

Are there other organizations involved with this activity’?

NASA is discussing potential collaborations with other government agencies the possibility of collaborative efforts in order to keep the overall cost of a potential mission as low as possible consistent with the science goals eventually established. As WC develop our concepts further. there will be opportunities for others to join our effort as well as potential for foreign partners to express an interest. For now, there no agreements in place with other organizations.

Who built the hardware? When was this hardware developed?

Exelis (ITT nee KODAK) developed and built the hardware between the late 1990s and early 2000s.

What other subcontractors or government agencies were involved in developing or building the hardware?

Numerous subcontractors, vendors, and parts suppliers contributed. NRO was the only government agency involved.

How long has the hardware been in storage? Are other items in storage, if so, what?

Due to classification or policy guidance, we cannot reveal how long the hardware has been in storage. The NRO stores many components from various programs for spare parts, reuse, design studies, anomaly resolution, and historical preservation. Due to classification or policy guidance, We cannot reveal the specifics of the other items in storage or their locations.

What NRO program produced the transferred hardware?

Due to classification or policy guidance, we cannot discuss the program office or directorate that produced the hardware.

Is this XXX program’s technology and/or hardware?

Due to security or policy guidance, we cannot discuss the program or directorate that produced the hardware.

Did NRO, ITT, or another organization remove anything from the hardware; of so, what was removed?

Yes, Exelis removed some classified components added to the telescope assembly after its completion that were not germane to NASA’s space science missions. We cannot discuss these components or what they were used for, as they are classified

What happened to the contract?

The contract ended and the hardware has been in storage since that time. Due to security and policy guidance, we cannot discuss when or why the contract ended

What will NASA use the hardware for once the transfer is complete?

NASA is studying the use of this hardware for potential future science applications.

How did NASA learn about the NRO technology? Did NRO approach NASA, or did NASA approach the the NRO?

The NRO made NASA aware of the existence of this hardware; NRO was seeking a suitable disposition of this flight-qualified hardware.

Does NRO do other classified business with NASA?

This hardware transfer is not classified and does not imply NASA does classified work.

NASA spying on the American public or adversaries?

No. The NASA budgets and programs are public information. NASA has a wide portfolio of Earth and Space Science programs that study the universe in which we live.

How is NRO benefiting from this transfer of hardware?

The NRO is not benefiting from this transfer. As a good steward of government resources, NRO sought a new use for existing hardware assets no longer in use and approached NASA.

How is this hardware similar to the Hubble Space Telescope?

It is approximately the same size as Hubble but uses newer, much lighter, mirror and structure technology.

Can the press take photos of the hardware? If not, will NRO/NASA provide photos?

At NRO’s request, NASA will only provide photos of the hardware after its integration; there will be no photos of the transferred hardware alone.

Why does the hardware no longer have intelligence collection uses?

This hardware, developed in the late 1990s, does not fit within the current intelligence architecture or meet future mission requirements.

Hats off to the Freedom-of-Information-Act (FOIA) Office at NASA headquarters, which speedily delivered this information to the public.

The NASA Public Affairs office last week denied a request for the document, claiming it was an internal document.

I’m not impressed. Whether NASA uses these obsolete NRO telescope parts is contingent on future NASA budgets, or perhaps monetary “gifts” from private industry.

I think these parts will be kept in storage forever, not used at all.

It’s cheaper. 

Lost: Wormhole

Thanks to

And hat tip to the Daily Grail.

Seth Shostak: ” The Aliens Would Win.”

From Kurzweil AI:

Alien invasion is alive and well in Hollywood this season, given Men in Black III, Battleship, and Prometheus, which opens June 8 in the U.S., IEEE Spectrum Tech Talk reports.

Cue Seth Shostak, senior astronomer with the SETI Institute, who offers five points about aliens that don’t cut it in Hollywood:

1. Your great-great-grandma was probably not from outer space.

“I get emails every week saying that Homo sapiens are the result of alien intervention. I’m not sure why aliens would be interested in producing us.  I think people like to think we’re special. But isn’t that what got Galileo and Copernicus into trouble – questioning how special we were? But if we’re just another duck in the road, it’s not very exciting.”

2. If aliens come, we’re probably toast.

“Whoever takes the trouble to come visit us is probably a more aggressive personality. And if they have the technology to come here, the idea that we can take them on is like Napoleon taking on U.S. Air Force. We’re not going to be able to defend ourselves very well. But if I wanted that to be correct, it would be a very short movie.”

3. They won’t catch our colds.

“Alien life forms wouldn’t come here only to be done in by our bacteria, unless they were related biochemically to humans. Bacteria would have to be able to interact with their biochemistry to be dangerous, and their ability to do that is far from a sure thing.”

4. Aliens don’t look like Screen Actors Guild members.

“Thanks to computer animation, we now have more variety of aliens in films, but they’re still soft and squishy—and big on mucus. Chances are, the first invaders will be some sort of artificially intelligent machinery. But in films, even machinery needs to look like biology, otherwise actors would be talking to a box.”

5. Nobody’s getting lucky.

“The idea that they’ve come for breeding purposes is more akin to wishful thinking by members of the audience who don’t have good social lives. Think about how well we breed with other species on Earth, and they have DNA. It would be like trying to breed with an oak tree.”

I think Dr. Shostak listens to too much Dr. Hawking, but that’s just my opinion.

As to his last point, he doesn’t think too much about the theory of interplanetary ( interstellar ) panspermia.

He should read this article about the ” red rain ” espisode in Kerala, India in 2001.

Maybe life in the Universe is related at the basic level?

The aliens would win