Tuesday, December 7, 2010

One Sees the Mud, the Other the Stars


~Frederick Langbridge

Of Note: NASA's space program has come under assault as too expensive without enough return to the American people. The current administration instead intends to rely on private companies to deliver satellites and other space payloads. In addition, the United States government is entering into international compacts with other space agencies to explore the heavens. Some are not waiting. Today, a Japanese mission called Akatsuki entered orbit around Venus and will take readings for the next 2 years of the mysterious atmosphere surrounding Earth's alter-ego. It joins a European Union spacecraft doing the same thing, though in a different orbit. Together they may gather enough data to determine what happened to second rock from the sun. What intrigues the researchers is the fact that Venus, named for the Roman goddess of love and beauty, is enshrouded by a 12-mile thick layer of sulfuric acid charged by lightning bolts. These blistering clouds whip by at 220 miles per hour, 60 times faster than the planet itself. The lead Japanese scientist explained: "In so many ways, Venus is similar to Earth. It has about the same mass, is approximately the same distance from the sun and is made up of basically the same material. Yet the two worlds ended up so different. We want to know why." Could it be that Earth will suffer the same or similar fate if global warming is left unchecked? This is the question that really underlies the current spate of research. It is encouraging to know that some far-sighted governments are in front of this issue even in their continued exploration of space.

Today's Weather Report: 11 degrees Fahrenheit and crisp. And cloudy. Forget what I said about sunshine in December. It was a myth. I am not complaining, however, because every day is a good day to be alive. All the stores in town today were bulging with shoppers picking out Christmas presents. It is interesting the array of gift options available. The stores somehow convince us we need all these gee-gaws to survive. By January we have come to our senses, but our pocketbooks lament. This year I'm trying something new--Heifer International is getting my dough. At least next month, I will smile when the credit card bill comes rolling in knowing someone has gotten a life-sustaining cow or sheep or pig. Don't know if the recipients will appreciate the sentiment, but hey, I figure we have to start somewhere. Heart to heart can't be beat.