Way Out There

That’s where our future lies.

Way the hell out there… beyond the moon… and beyond even Mars.

If you haven’t been paying attention to all the noise being stirred up by the global scientific community – specifically cosmologists and those fields relating to astronomy – and watching all the pleading videos on YouTube from the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye, we Earthlings on this blue marble that circles the sun every 365 days are driving our species into the ground because we can’t be bothered to spend tax dollars on endeavors that will eventually lead us away from our home planet.

Every year, this situation gets more dire – especially in these lean years where governments have had to drastically slash their budgets.

You’ve heard of NASA, right?

Yeah, yeah… they were in that movie about the asteroid – they supposedly had a bunch of people just sitting around dreaming shit up!

Well… in reality, I’m sure there are a bunch of people at NASA whose job is to “dream shit up”, but the American agency’s main job has been – since the late 1950s – to further humanity’s understanding of the cosmos by sending humans and robotic probes out into the big black yonder.

In the beginning, there were the Mercury and Gemini rocket programs that put Americans into space after playing laggards to the Commie bastards in the USSR.

And then there was the Apollo program… the one NASA program that has accomplished a feat so complex and daring that nobody has been able to duplicate in 40+ years since: putting a living human being onto the surface of the moon.

Before any of you conspiracy wingnuts try and set the comment section ablaze down below with your lunacy (see what I did there?), be of the understanding that all comments have to approved by me – and not one word of how you think the lunar landings were faked will ever see the light of day on this blog.

Why am I so certain that NASA put Neil Armstrong and the astronauts that followed him onto the moon’s vast plains of regolith?

For one single reason: the Red Soviets never said that the Americans were fibbing.

Why would the Kremlin stand by and let the U.S. of A. boast about landing on the moon if it actually hadn’t happened? Especially when that kind of press made the Soviet space program – which was National Priority #1 during the 1960s – look like a total and utter failure?

It would have been in Moscow’s best interest to dispute the American’s claims if they had definitive proof that NASA was actually filming the moon footage on a soundstage somewhere – but the only thing that came down the wire from the Soviets was a begrudging congratulation.

What made them privy to the actuality of the Apollo capsules heading to the moon? (And no… they weren’t paid off as some nuts insist).

The Russians had deep space tracking facilities just as powerful as the Americans… radar facilities that could track anything in Earth orbit or beyond – all the way to the moon and past it

So, as the Apollo missions unfolded, the Soviets watched with detached fascination on their radar tracking scopes – probably cursing aloud and hoping that each trip to the moon would go horribly wrong so that they could (politely and in political terms) laugh at the American’s bungling of something that they could then claim was easy and that they were going to successfully carry out via their superior scientific apparatus.

But, like I wrote up above, that didn’t happen – and the Commies were forced to eat crow, quickly killing their own moon landing program before it had even gotten off the ground.

So, yeah… humans have walked on the moon… drove around on the moon… played golf on the moon… and looked at porn while on the moon.

If you need more proof, check out the Mythbusters episode regarding the so-called Moon Hoax: Adam and Jamie thoroughly debunked all the most popular “theories”.

Okay… I’m gonna get this blog entry back on track.

Like I was saying before I went off on the wingnuts, space exploration – and human space exploration specifically – has gone off the rails almost globally due to the lack of political will to spend big money on things Joe Public had begun to take for granted.

The average person out there – who hasn’t studied the various doings of NASA, the ESA, JAXA, and other space agencies around the world in any depth beyond the 20 second blurbs on the nightly news when a space shuttle launched – kinda assumes that human space flight is routine, fairly easy, and is already half-way to Mars.

Sorry, space cadets: humans have been stuck in low Earth orbit for the past fortyish years since the Apollo program concluded – the farthest we’ve gone off the face of the planet is to service the Hubble Space Telescope…  570 kilometers straight up, or 350 miles for our Imperial measurement friends.

The moon is  385,000 kilometers away.

In the waning years of his presidency, George W. Bush tried to build himself a legacy by commanding NASA to start planning for humankind’s return to the moon before foraging outwards to Mars – something that the American people could surely get behind in the way that they embraced John F. Kennedy’s vision of man going to the moon for the first time.

However, elections came to America.

At first glance, Barrack Obama was good for NASA since he was science-friendly… and maybe Bush’s Orion/Constellation program would have maintained forward momentum if a class of representatives hadn’t been elected to Congress that were more interested in nickel and diming important federal prorgams in order to service that 1% the Occupy movement loves to hate.

Unfortunately, NASA’s budget kept getting scaled back in the years that followed Dubya’s departure (and even while he was still Commander In Chief)… cut down so much that Obama was forced to take a scalpel to the American space program – paring away costly items that Congress just refused to pay for.

The costliest of these items being human space flight beyond Earth orbit – whether that be to the moon or to Mars.

On paper, not all is lost: Obama has endorsed sending humans to an asteroid or a Martian moon by the year 2030… by which time the Chinese Commies will have set up a permanent base on our own moon.

You see, only the Chinese are taking human space flight seriously in the here and now – aggressively pursuing space flight at a rate of speed that would almost put the 60s space race to shame.

Of course, the Chinese have more money than they know what to do with – we buy nearly all of our consumer goods from them, after all.

I suppose it also has to do with the fact that they don’t spend a dime on basic human needs – but I digress.

So, on top of building entire metropolitan cities from scratch for people who won’t move to them, Beijing has spent billions of yuan on building rockets, space capsules, and other space-related infrastructure that will put them on the moon within the next decade.

You might be saying “So what? What does that have to do with me?”

I’ll tell you what: humankind needs a new home… and that home will be out there – first amongst the planets in our own solar system, and then out among the stars you gaze at every night.

This isn’t some panicky prediction based on environmental concerns (though our rapid depletion of natural resources here on Earth is certainly making a good case for it) but simply based on the fact that Earth will eventually run out of space for our massive populations.

If we – as a species – want to continue growing our masses without check, then we are going to need new places to put our children/grandchildren/great grandchildren/etc. so that they can thrive in environments capable of supporting them.

…And we can’t allow the Communist Chinese to control that stellar high ground – not when the individual human lives under their control mean so little.

The last thing we need is abysmal-pay sweatshops on the moon.

No.

Just no.

We need to band together as a species on united human space exploration front so that all of the ground that humankind can travel to will be open and fair to all.

I know that may sound like a rehashed speech from a Star Trek episode, but it’s true: when humankind’s destiny is clearly out into the cosmos, we all need to get behind that destiny to make it happen.

We need to speak up and force the people we elect to office to spend tax dollars that will help us into the future… instead of spending money on the same old crap that we’ve done for a 100 years or more: big business and a military to pursue the interests of big business.

Big business is only interested in pacifying the masses with goods and services… and the military’s only interest is in how to kill the masses.

Those two things do nothing to preserve our species – a species that has barely existed for a million years… which is inconsequential when taken in context with the actual age of Planet Earth.

We will certainly be our own undoing if we don’t get ourselves off this planet – not all of us, of course… but a number that will ensure our survival in case something untoward should happen to our homeworld (cataclysm, environmental collapse, alien invasion, etc.).

The only way we will do this is by spending money on human space flight… no matter how small in scale it may seem at first.

The  313,286,000 people who live in the United States Of America (minus the native population) didn’t all arrive on the Nina, Pinta, and the Santa Maria with Christopher Columbus – they got here by being the children of those who immigrated to North America in the years after Columbus “discovered” the New World – an expedition of discovery that was paid for with money from Spain’s tax coffers.

Exploration on a grand scale is done by nations (and currently with the help of private companies).

Those nations now need to spend the money necessary to send our species way out there.

It’s our only real chance to make sure our species… well… lives long and prospers.

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Farewell, SGU.

I’ll freely admit that I was near tears when the episode faded to black after watching Destiny’s hyperspace trail disappear into the stars.

“Poor Eli,” was all I could muster.

And for a moment, every episode of Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, and Stargate Universe that I could remember played in reverse order – right back to Jack O’Neil sitting on his boat before Daniel asks him to come back to the SGC.

As much as it hurts those non-haters in this crowd, the franchise did deserve a rest – 13 or so years of constant production is almost unparalleled in TV history outside of soap operas (which are also dropping like flies).

Outside of Star Trek, what genre series has come even close? And, no, Doctor Who doesn’t count because it went out of production for a spell – unlike ST:TNG, DS9, Voyager, and eventually Enterprise… which had been in production from 1987 thru to 2005.

But back to Stargate.

The end of SG on Syfy is all about dollars and cents, and not a lack of faith in the producers – a move to service the dumb-as-rocks viewers Syfy and their new Comcast overlords want to chase with advertisers in tow.

The only space opera left is the BSG: Blood & Chrome – which goes back to the tried and true “shoot ’em up” that makes the CroMags (tee hee… name check) happy, and thusly lifts the spirits of each advertiser that will want to shill Budweiser, Cheetos, and Snuggie For Pets.

As many have pointed out in various forums, Syfy should change their slogan to “Check Your Brain At The Door’… so a series that requires a little thought would naturally get shit canned.

It was funny: a few nights ago, I was watching 28 WEEKS LATER after a number of years and was amused to see Robert Carlyle in it – and couldn’t keep from making Rush jokes to myself.

And that’s how it will be for the time being – us at home seeing SGU and other SG actors in shows made after and before the SGU cancellation and wondering…

Wondering whatever became of their SG alter egos  – of all the dramas, plots, and character developments.

We can only hope that the time between now and the time SG comes back to us will be filled with SGU comics, novels, and other licensed tie-ins.

At least then we’ll know what happens to Eli.

Me, personally? I think he’ll let Ginn out of her computer stasis so it can be just the two of them until the lights finally go out.

From The International Desk: Japan Not So Hot…

I feel I must say a few brief words today since a report has recently surfaced in regards to sexuality in The Land Of The Rising Sun.

According to many knowledged statisticians, 36% of male Japanese teens have little or no interest in sexual relations with women.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin, 59% of teen girls are feeling the same way about men.

This news is shocking when you realize that Japan has the most abysmal birth rate amongst the G-8 nations… which could be seen as a good thing when you consider the very small amount of land mass that Japan actually occupies, but it’s not so good when you’re trying to maintain a population to occupy those islands.

These stats are even more shocking when you factor in Japanese animated fare like manga and anime… which are positively loaded with sexual iconography and frequently pornographic themes.

However, things get strange when you actually look at government approved pornography produced in Japan: it’s very heavily censored when distributed to Japanese citizens i.e. anything that’s between the legs is mandated to be blurred out.

I’m sorry… but doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of pornography?

If there are whole generations of kids thinking the opposite sex (or even your own sex) has nothing going on between their legs but an amorphous blur, perhaps that’s why they’re not inspired to want to get in anybody’s pants.

I mean… it’s not like the Japanese girls are unattractive! (see below)

It’s difficult to comprehend, to say the least.

Some are pointing to the fact that Japanese culture is a hyperstylized version of Western society, and as such, Japanese teens see it as their responsibility in life to start a family much later on so they can live up to the maximum productivity ethic that is pervasive in Asian cultures – much like how North American couples defer kids until their late 30s so they can accumulate personal wealth and standing before starting a family.

This sort of behavior could be falsely reinforced with the knowledge that the average Japanese citizen will live a longer life than they would in many other nations around the globe.

Whatever the reasons, the Japanese government must act quickly to get their young people hot and horny for each other again… to actively steam up a culture who’s heat has dissipated into the cold air over Mount Fuji.

If the Japanese birth rates fall any lower, the world could be in trouble!

If there are no new citizens in 20 years, who’s going to be building those Toyotas (hopefully they will have nailed down the accelerator problems by then), Nintendos, and Sony Playstations?

The Joint Strike Fighter

Our next war bird

Canada has said yes to the F-35 Lightning II.

What’s of particular note here is the F-35 is billed as the Joint Strike Fighter – and the ‘Joint’ is applied in many ways when you look at it on a global scale.

For purely U.S. purposes, the Joint Strike Fighter moniker is based on the fact that it’s a ‘joint service’ aircraft i.e. that 3 branches of the U.S. armed forces will be flying it – the Navy (carrier adapted), the Air Force (base variant), and the Marines (vertical take off and landing variant).

When you step back to a macro scale view and look at how the F-35 applies to the global fighter scene, Joint Strike Fighter takes on a new meaning.

Eleven countries from around the world have contributed money to the development of the F-35: the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Norway, Denmark, Israel, Singapore, and the United States (which contributed the lion’s share of spending).

The idea behind this venture was to supply all the countries involved with a common aircraft that would make joint operations between the stated nations more seamless – as well as allowing each state access to cutting edge technologies that they may not have been able to afford independently.

The end part of the previous paragraph is where countries like Canada specifically come in to play: Canada has nowhere near the tax base or military funding to develop a cutting edge fighter that could dominate other world player’s planes.

I don’t say that in an effort to kick my nation’s pride, but to only state an honest fact.

Also, there is some doubt as to whether our southern neighbors would take kindly to our designing and producing an air superiority fighter that could easily compete with their own: think back to Canada’s one proud moment in fighter design history (the vaunted Avro Arrow) and you’ll see how tragically influential the United States can be when it demands to be the kid on the block with the best toys.

Regardless, Canada’s aging fleet of CF-18s are quickly going to surpass their ‘best before’ date as they are all part of McDonnell Douglas’s first production run of the F/A 18 airframe – first flying for Canada in 1982.

In comparison, the United States has mostly moved to the newer F/A-18 Super Hornet – which has many performance upgrades over the Canadian legacy models, including better avionics and softer radar signature which are derived from being completely new planes as compared to modified airframes.

Yes, our CF-18s have been subject to regular maintenance and technical upgrades over the years – but for all intents and purposes, they are dinosaurs when compared to the rest of the G8 countries’ air force assets.

There are anecdotal stories that kick around the global fighter pilot communities of how Canadian Air Force staff had to make the rounds and beg for spare parts during our fighter jet commitments to U.N. and NATO missions in places like Kosovo and missions like Desert Storm – such as asking the Spaniards for spare batteries, etc.

How are we – as Canadians – to take pride in our military forces when they have to depend on the charity of other nations when we get into a pinch?

Does that make your heart swell with patriotism?

On second thought, forget I brought that up…

Canadian F-18s are aging and will soon have flown so many flight hours that their air frames will be considered unsafe to fly by technical standards.

We can not afford to send our top-notch pilots up into the air against threats to our global and national interests if there is a real chance that the jet will disintegrate under the stress loads that tactical maneuvers place upon a plane.

So here we are in 2010, nearly 30 years after we acquired our last fighter.

Why are tactical fighters important to Canadians?

What else will keep the newly ‘assertive’ Russian bombers out of our air space?

How else will we be able to fulfill our duties to NORAD, NATO, and the United Nations when it comes to rogue states?

Are we to just send along Good Luck cards from Hallmark?

No.

We need our boys to be in the thick of it, pulling Canada’s weight when it comes down to the nitty gritty – when some nation out there needs it’s ass kicked and priorities straightened out.

For Canada to have a voice in those kinds of matters, we need something to punctuate our sentences.

And nothing says that like a heat-seeking missile up the bad guy’s tail pipe.

We, as Canadians, are a peaceful lot and desire diplomacy over war – that’s a given… and a lot of us may not find spending $16,000,000,000 on 64 planes (including maintenance costs) to be a very good deal.

However, to paraphrase a very smart man, war is diplomacy when all other means have failed.

Sometimes, you have to stop using the carrot and start using the stick.

Wouldn’t you rather have a bigger stick than our potential adversaries?

The F-35 is that bigger stick.

It will be the first time Canada has owned a stealth fighter – one that is all but invisible to enemy radar… which is a very good thing when our young men are up in the skies against deadly forces – as any advantage in air-to-air and air-to-ground combat can be the difference between a pilot coming home in once piece and coming home in a body bag(s).

No, the F-35 isn’t the razor sharp portion of the cutting edge when it comes to fighter planes – that would be the F-22, and the United States isn’t sharing that aircraft with anybody.

Also, I must acknowledge the fact that the F-35 is years behind schedule and has saddled the U.S. Defense Department with numerous cost overruns – but in the end, the technology is still sound: whereas the F-22 returns a radar signature equal to that of a metal marble, the F-35 bounces back a profile of a metal golf ball  – which is still smaller than most birds.

Plus, the jet comes with cutting edge sensor suites, futuristic situational awareness systems for the pilot, and more weapons carrying capability than any plane of similar size – which leaves the F-35 as a solid No. 2 contender.

And this is where I must part ways with my preferred Canadian political party and the official Canadian Opposition – the Liberals.

The current federal Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff, says that the Defense Department should have tendered the contract out to more manufacturers – instead of just handing it to Lockheed Martin on a silver platter… perhaps considering the No. 3 contender, the Eurofighter Typhoon.

From a strictly business standpoint, that would be a prudent idea – but when you take that business to the level of a nation state, there are many other things to consider: jobs for Canadians… wise investment of dollars Canada has already spent… how our armed forces will operate when hand in hand with other global players, etc.

Canada’s interest in the F-35 was initiated by the previous Liberal government when it was in charge of Canada’s future – to the tune of more that $100,000,000.

To simply walk away now would be a monumental waste of money, and a missed opportunity of epic proportions.

Iggy calls it a boondoggle, and is threatening to kill the contract the second the Liberal party takes power again.

I’m sorry, Iggy… but I’m going to have to step back and call you an idiot who would prefer to use a think-tank approach to solving skirmishes.

In this one instance, I have to painfully concede that the conservative mindset is correct: the candle with the biggest wick wins.

This blogger may not speak for all Canadians at all times, but I’m pretty sure I speak with one voice when I say this:

We want to win.

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See video of the F-35 here

Royal Canadian Air Force

What Is The Cost?

Hey, you!

Yeah… you over there in the automobile.

How you doing?

You’re good?

That’s cool. Can I ask you a question?

Yes? You sure you don’t mind?

Okay, great.

Here it goes…

Just who the hell do you think you are?

What right do you have to cause this:

What’s that?

You didn’t cause the mess in that photo?

I, sir/madame, sincerely beg to differ.

That machine you’re sitting in now lives on the petroleum that’s covering them there waves.

In fact, so do the 1,074,355,233.333 other cars on the planet – which I’m sure are not all as gas-sipping as your SUV is.

I wonder how many times you’ve hopped into that beast – driven a distance that would have taken you all of 5 minutes to walk – only to grab something that you could have easily carried home… a carton of milk, maybe?

I’ll tell you: probably 500 times, and I’m being very lenient with that estimate.

Why do you do this?

Because you feel entitled.

You feel that it’s your God-given right to drive that motorized monstrosity wherever you damn well feel like.

Well, it may be your right by the laws of your city/province/state/country – but that right doesn’t supersede the entire freakin’ planet!

No… you didn’t have a direct hand in blowing up that oil rig.

No… you didn’t have a direct role in the shoddy design of the well head that’s leaking 5,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf Of Mexico every day since the accident happened – and will continue most likely for several more months until British Petroleum can get a new drilling rig on site and bore a relief well to suck up the oil that’s bursting forth from the ocean floor.

But yes, you are responsible!

How?

Because of that God damned entitlement you think you have to drive around a parking lot for 10 minutes looking for a parking space!

B.P., Exxon, Shell, Petro-Canada, and all of the other ‘big oil’ companies drill holes in the planet so they can harvest crude oil that they will process and sell to you and all the other miserable car driving assholes like you in the form of rediculously-marked up gasoline at your nearest gas station.

And because there are so many of you who abuse your right to drive so often that you burn twice or three times the amount of fuel than you really need, Big Oil has to make more and more of those holes in the earth’s crust to get at that precious Black Gold – and a lot of those wells are drilled in places that are ecologically sensitive.

This oil spill is already larger than the U.S. state of Rhode Island.

If emergency crews can not get the leaking under control inside the next month, the oil will span an amount of ocean equal to the state of California.

Think of all the wildlife that will die so you can pick up your kids from school when they could easily walk home in under 10 minutes.

God forbid little Suzie and her brother Jimmy burn off the calories from all the McDonald’s food you buy them.

Think of the sea turtles that are going to die in vast numbers just so you can use your bank’s drive through.

All of the ocean birds that are getting coated in the thick, viscous oil slurry created when the waves and crude oil mix together – making it impossible for them to fly.

Imagine all the coastal wetlands along the Gulf Coast that are now being inundated with oil, killing everything from frogs to alligators that live in those areas where fresh water meets salt water.

Think of all the fish that are breathing this crap into their bodies with every movement of their gills – and some of these fish are the ones you depend on being caught for food.

No.

You won’t think of any of those things because you honestly don’t give a shit.

Some talking head will list all the damages on the nightly news and you’ll shake your head at the images on your TV screen – but as soon as the news has moved on to the latest celebrity cheating scandal, you’ll have forgotten the environmental apocalypse that you’ve had a hand in.

You’ll probably get up and go out to your SUV so you can drive down to the corner store and buy a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

You know what?

Fuck you.