Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

2015 best year ever

2015 the best year ever?!? For who? Taylor Swift? The super-wealthy? Robots? Donald Trump?


2015 Was the Best Year Ever in Space


With 2015 now behind us, what truly stands out? Other than (alas) holding the record for hottest year in recorded history? Amid a confusion of good, bad, and disturbing news, what I find noteworthy is that 2015 was by far humanity’s best year in space—exploring the universe around us.

How can that be? Even if you happen to be one of those out there who do care about us boldly going, it would seem that our glory days lie far behind us, back in the era of Apollo moon landings. Today’s kids seem mostly to yawn when we turn to the NASA channel or talk about colonizing Mars. The United States spends 0.5 percent of an annual $3.8 trillion federal budget on space endeavors (compared to the Apollo era’s 5 percent). Most of our fellow citizens guess the figure to be much higher, and many think we spend too much.

MARS, UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: The rover Curiosity takes a selfie at the “Big Sky” drilling site, inside Gale Crater. NASA’s rover missions continue to compile remarkable evidence of a time when seas rolled across the Red Planet.
To those who do care, the romantic stuff—the manned portion of the program—seems to be in perpetual slumber, though we’re promised that may change in three or four years. So, is my raving about a best year in space biased in favor of robots? As a planetary astronomer who serves on the advisory council of NASA’s Innovative and Advanced Concepts group, I know how many wondrous ideas are fizzing forth from creative people. And yes, I’m further fired up by my other main profession—as a science-fiction author.

Indeed, before we’re done here today, I intend to show you that our scientific program to explore the cosmos has produced the most important works of visual art in history.

But first, let’s start with tangible and indisputable reasons why you should care about space.Pragmatic, spin-off technologies like our entire solar energy, micro-chip, and computer industries had their start with NASA, along with the communications satellites that enable cell phones in poor regions where folks could never dream of getting a landline. We take for granted Global Positioning Systems rooted in orbit. Other satellites empower brilliant atmospheric models that have extended the old four-hour “weather report” into amazingly detailed 14-day forecasts, and yearly climate projections that help farmers plan crops and you your vacations.

Oh, and there’s this seldom mentioned “pragmatic” benefit from space. Without spy satellites, verifying arms control agreements, we all probably would have died in some nuclear apocalypse. That, too.

But all of those benefits have been slow and steady. What made 2015 so special?
If you want to read more, you will have to click here.

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