News of Carl Sagan’s involvement with a plan to “nuke” the moon, Project A119, has become relevant again. In fact, Sagan was involved in a number of military causes during his all-too-short lifetime. But later, he cut all ties with the military. Here’s what happened.
Carl Sagan spent his childhood under the ominous cloud of World War II. As the war faded and the United States and USSR entered a Cold War, the United States once again looked to its best and brightest — including many academic scientists — to consult with the military.
Sagan’s extremely limited involvement in a theoretical plan to “Nuke the Moon” as a show of U.S. military might recently caused an uproar, but this was just one aspect of Sagan’s involvement with the militarily. Sagan’s involvement in Project A-119 occurred while he worked toward his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. The good scientist actually broke personnel restrictions placed on the classified project by listing his involvement on a job application.
Sagan and Project Blue Book The majority of Sagan’s contact with the military came as a member of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board beginning in 1966. Sagan lectured at Harvard at this time in his life, but would soon depart to become Associate Professor of Astronomy in the Center for Radiophysics and Space Research at Cornell after being denied tenure by Harvard.
At this time in his career, Sagan had already begun to publish his suppositions about the atmosphere of Venus and became a member of the fringe in the eyes of many thanks to his ruminations on the possibility of intelligent life in the universe. Sagan also played a role in advising the U.S. Space Program, a program synonymous with military applications during the Cold War era.
Sagan allegedly received $800 per day (roughly $4500 in current dollars), an astounding sum for a university lecturer, to act as a consultant for the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. The United States Air Force Scientific Advisory Board began in 1944 as a secret program with a variety of missions, including determining the possibility of using atomic energy in jet propulsion as well as non-traditional use of nuclear weapons.
Sagan’s military contact revolved around Project Blue Book, a 23-year study of UFOs conducted by the United States Air Force that ceased in January of 1970. Project Blue Book took a systematic approach to the study of unidentified flying objects, analyzing possible UFO data and aiming to determine if these objects were a danger to United States national security.
Within the two-decade-plus report are 12,618 “sightings”, with analysis leaving a mere 700 classified as unidentified. The Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, however concluded that Project Blue Book did not meet necessary rigors, suggesting a university-led study of unidentified flying objects would be far more conclusive.
Separation from the military After the closure of Project Blue Book, Sagan continued to act as a prominent scientific advisor for NASA, arguing for the financial merit of robotic spacecraft.
Sagan became an extremely vocal advocate against nuclear proliferation after the rise of President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. Sagan openly protested the testing of nuclear weapons, with the sage arrested for trespassing after a 1986 underground detonation of a thermonuclear warhead in the Nevada desert.
Though he cut ties with the military, Sagan continued to ponder the idea of space war. He concocted the Deflection Dilemma — the idea that the using a significant blast to knock a near earth object on a trajectory towards earth off course could also be used as a weapon, sending the object into the country or countries of choice.
If you are curious, you can lose an entire weekend and browse through the entirety of Project Blue Book online thanks to the Project Blue Book Archive, or have a marathon of Twin Peaks to catch a hint of the intrigue surrounded Project Blue Book.
The idea of blowing up the Moon seems far-fetched, but not knocking an asteroid into an orbit that intercepts a certain country(s) and wreaks destruction over one side of the planet. It’s the ultimate Dooms-Day Device!
That’s why I don’t think NASA’s plan of flying to an asteroid in 2025 and Planetary Resources’ idea of asteroid capture and mining will be politically viable or palatable in the international arena because if a country that has the technology to move planetary objects into different orbits, especially in Earth orbit has the ultimate weapon over other nations in the form of a huge hammer.
And I’m really surprised this isn’t mentioned at various mainstream space sites.
Maybe it’s an unmentionable thing?
What looked like a fireball streaked across the Texas sky on Sunday morning, leading many people to call authorities to report seeing falling debris.
“We don’t know what it was,” said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Roland Herwig.
The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office used a helicopter to search after callers said they thought they saw a plane crashing, a spokesman said.
“We don’t doubt what people saw” but authorities found nothing, said spokesman John Foster.
There’s speculation the event might be tied to the recent Russian/American satellite collision.
The military denies it of course.
Hat tip to The Anomalist
Here’s one for you Mac Tonnies ‘cryptoterrestrial’ supporters out there:
Davies will challenge the orthodox view that there is only one form of life in a lecture titled “Shadow Life: Life As We Don’t Yet Know It” on Feb. 15 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His presentation is part of the symposium “Weird Life.”
“Life as we know it appears to have had a single common ancestor, yet, could life on Earth have started many times? Might it exist on Earth today in extreme environments and remain undetected because our techniques are customized to the biochemistry of known life?” asks Davies, who also is the director of the BEYOND Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
It begs the question of how many catastrophes has occurred to the Earth over the billions of years and how other planets in different solar systems form and develop their own biologies, if any.
In the fall of 2005, the TV show “Threshold” was broadcast on CBS. It was a contemporary time, sci-fi show like “Stargate SG1” (meaning the time is the present, not the future) that posited an alien invasion from space (or the future possibly). In the premier episode, an alien “probe”, which was simultaneouly existing in multiple dimensions, appeared over a Navy research ship and broadcasted a signal that killed most of the crew, but the survivors’ DNA was altered in such a way as to describe them as “alien.”
The show only lasted 9 episodes on network TV, then the show’s entire 13 episodes were shown on the Sci-Fi channel in 2006. It was released on DVD about then too.
The reason I’m mentioning this is because I happened to rent the whole series at a local video store over the weekend and after watching it I was amazed at the good quality of it! The last few shows were showing signs of drifting away from the premise, but overall, I thought the series was good and that it died a premature death.
The science was cutting edge, with multiple dimension theory and using automated, artificial intelligent probes to carry encoded copies of the invader’s DNA to convert (subvert?) the indigenous population’s, modeling methods that we might carry out on interstellar colonizations (invasions?).
Alas, as always on network TV, if one doesn’t capture the all important 18-39 year-old demographic within two weeks, a show dies an ignoble death.
Especially if it’s sci-fi.
With two test digs under its belt, NASA’s Phoenix lander is now ready to do some real science.
The spacecraft might take its first sample of Martian soil for analysis on Thursday from a site dubbed “Baby Bear” (scroll down for image). The sample was supposed to be taken on Wednesday, but NASA said that NASA’s Odyssey orbiter, which relays Phoenix data to and from Earth, had entered a “safe mode,” preventing Wednesday’s instructions from reaching the lander.
Phoenix scientists are excited for the soil collection to begin. “We’re ready to start interacting with the surface,” said chief scientist Peter Smith of the University of Arizona. “This is where it’s absolutely making me so happy.”
Finally, a real dig. What will it reveal? Maybe something like this. Drum roll please…..
At last, scientists have discovered a form of life that could have evolved on Mars. Geologists unearthed a treasure trove of fossilized remains in a salty, acidic lake in remote Australia — the creatures, probably about 250 million years old, were, according to New Scientist, “made up of a mix of inorganic crystals and ‘hairs’ stuck together in a mass” (pictured). The lake where they lived was filled with water whose extreme levels of salinity and acidity are a near-match for Martian water. Find out more, plus see more cool pictures of the blobs, below.
According to New Scientist:
Kathleen Benison, a geologist at Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, led a team that studied the sediments formed by acidic and very salty lakes in modern day Western Australia, and those deposited around 250 million years ago in North Dakota. It is very difficult to survive in such a tough environments and few signs of life have ever been found in these sorts of lakes.
Inside the halite and gypsum “evaporate” minerals, which form as the lake waters dry up, Benison and colleagues found previously unknown fossilised blobs at both the modern and ancient sites, ranging in size from 0.05 to 1.5 millimetres. They were made up of a mix of inorganic crystals and “hairs” stuck together in a mass (pictured). They named them hairy blobs.
The team argues that each hair was in fact a separate microorganism because the hair fossils are made of disordered graphite which, unlike inorganic graphite, has irregular layers that suggest it was once a live organism..
Many of the hairs are coated with crystals of gypsum, a calcium sulphate mineral. This link with gypsum suggests that the microorganisms were fuelled by chemical interactions with sulphur in the acidic water – which helped the gypsum to form.
Being my cynical, ornery, doubting Thomas self however, I’m not holding my breath for the simple fact that we’ve been disappointed so many times before.
But when you shoot craps, sometimes you do come up with a seven or eleven!
The giant landslide centred at Köfels in Austria is 500m thick and five kilometres in diameter and has long been a mystery since geologists first looked at it in the 19th century. The conclusion drawn by research in the middle 20th century was that it must be due to a very large meteor impact because of the evidence of crushing pressures and explosions. But this view lost favour as a much better understanding of impact sites developed in the late 20th century…
…new research by Alan Bond, Managing Director of Reaction Engines Ltd and Mark Hempsell, Senior Lecturer in Astronautics at Bristol University, brings the impact theory back into play. It centres on another 19th century mystery, a Cuneiform tablet in the British Museum collection No K8538 (known as “the Planisphere”).
It was found by Henry Layard in the remains of the library in the Royal Place at Nineveh, and was made by an Assyrian scribe around 700 BC. It is an astronomical work as it has drawings of constellations on it and the text has known constellation names. It has attracted a lot of attention but in over a hundred years nobody has come up with a convincing explanation as to what it is.With modern computer programmes that can simulate trajectories and reconstruct the night sky thousands of years ago the researchers have established what the Planisphere tablet refers to. It is a copy of the night notebook of a Sumerian astronomer as he records the events in the sky before dawn on the 29 June 3123 BC (Julian calendar). Half the tablet records planet positions and cloud cover, the same as any other night, but the other half of the tablet records an object large enough for its shape to be noted even though it is still in space. The astronomers made an accurate note of its trajectory relative to the stars, which to an error better than one degree is consistent with an impact at Köfels.
Ancient Sumerians were superb observers of the night sky and are credited with the founding of astrology, which surprisingly is still practiced and followed to this day. They passed this practice on to their Assyrian and Babylonian descendents, who spread it to the Hebrews.
After the Babylonians came the Persian Empire, who no doubt practiced it and when Alexander the Great conquered them, it spread even more through the West. The ancient Egyptians practiced a form of astrology and some argue they taught the Sumerians, but the Sumerians were contemporaries and possibly an older culture, so it might be the other way around, nobody is sure. That is how mainstream historians see it anyway and there are other alternative histories that contradict the main doctrine, but that’s for another post.
It’s interesting to note that ancient Middle Eastern cultures show a certain continuity, because the article says the cuneiform tablet is Assyrian and that it was a copy from a Sumerian original that was 2400 years older. So astronomical observation was a well developed discipline that no doubt had well trained observers. Modern researchers obviously are taking this into account as they verify the meteorite theory.
Ancient Sumerians are also credited with another astronomical observation, an event that might occur every 5000 years like clockwork.
Does ‘Nibiru’ ring a bell?