A living world, from 370,000 km away

By Phil Plait | July 31, 2010 7:30 am

In all the solar system, in all the galaxy, in all the Universe, there is but one world we know for sure harbors life.

LRO_earth

Home.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter took this picture in June 2010. From 373,000 km (231,000 miles) away, however, the evidence of life is scant. The image is gray scale, with no blue-green color to give away forests, oceans, carbon-based oxygen-breathing organisms. But we still know it’s there.

Click the image to bring it home, or download a reference image if you need a little help identifying locations. I will never leave this planet, and you probably won’t either, but our machines do. And a precious few of us humans do as well. Maybe, in just a decade or two, this view will be a common one for a lot more of us.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Pretty pictures, Space
MORE ABOUT: Earth, LRO

Comments (47)

  1. IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE

    Phil Plait:

    I will never leave this planet,…

    What?! Not even if you ever get the chance to do so?

  2. I used to dream of “L-5 in ’95.”

    Then I switched to the “Moon and Soon.”

    Now? Pretty much resigned to “Guess I’m Stuck Here.”

    Lots of shiny guns and bombs, tho.

  3. Zucchi

    I can’t give up on going into space myself.

  4. Trebuchet

    I downloaded the “annotated image” but don’t see any annotation. No big deal, I had figured out where I was looking at anyhow. I’m glad we at least have robots to travel for us.

    I guess I’d have to take issue with your statement that a precious few humans leave home. LEO isn’t leaving home, it’s just going across the street. Even the moon is just your town’s nearest suburb. Mars? Maybe the seat of the next county. I wish we had a plan to go there in person.

  5. Joey Joe Joe

    In all the solar system, in all the galaxy, in all the Universe, there is but one world we know for sure harbors life.

    We must destroy it now! Or else they might destroy us!!!

  6. Chris

    Oh crap, Southeastern Australia and New Zealand fell off…

  7. phil,

    Can’t you get that TV show of yours to pony up for a ride on one of those Virgin Galactic flights coming one of these years?

  8. Bramblyspam

    If you put up similar images of the other planets and moons in our solar system, I think this would be the only one that clearly has significant amounts of solid land and liquid oceans on the surface, as well as (of course) an atmosphere.

    Yes, the picture wouldn’t allow us to conclude that this planet harbors life, but surely it would look far more promising than any other world we know of. Just because the picture lacks color doesn’t mean that the world looks barren.

  9. Jack Mitcham

    I think it was Prof. Brian Cox who said something like “Earth has a strange property. The further you get away from it, the more beautiful it seems. “

  10. jcm

    Nice pic. But I think it would be much nicer if it was in color.

  11. Gordon

    There we are, on our little blue ball. Floating through the vastness of space… all of us.

  12. Sitnalta

    If I was given this image of an alien world, knowing nothing about it, I would still be very excited to see clouds and what appears to be a vast liquid ocean. It would get you on the fast track to more telescope time to say the least.

  13. Austin

    “I will never leave this planet”

    Not with that attitude, you won’t!

  14. Adam English

    ” I will never leave this planet, and you probably won’t either”

    Well that’s a little depressing. I’m only 22, I would hope within the next 70 years I’m on this planet I would have the chance to head out there at least once!

  15. Jamie

    “Well that’s a little depressing. I’m only 22, I would hope within the next 70 years I’m on this planet I would have the chance to head out there at least once!”

  16. Jamie

    “Well that’s a little depressing. I’m only 22, I would hope within the next 70 years I’m on this planet I would have the chance to head out there at least once!”
    You might live for the next 70 years, but do you think you’ll be in shape to leave earth for that long? I figure people our age have got a good 30 to 40 year window, most 70 year olds probably would disintegrate on re-entry ;(

  17. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Jamie :

    Two words for you there : John Glenn

    Three decades later, after serving 24 years in the Senate, Glenn lifted off for a second space flight on October 29, 1998, on Space Shuttle Discovery‘s STS-95, in order to study the effects of space flight on the elderly. At age 77, Glenn became the oldest person ever to go into space. Glenn’s participation in the nine-day mission was criticized by some in the space community as a junket for a politician. Others noted that Glenn’s flight offered valuable research on weightlessness and other aspects of space flight on the same person at two points in life thirty-six years apart — by far the longest interval between space flights by the same person — providing information on the effects of spaceflight and weightlessness on the elderly, with an ideal control. Upon the safe return of the STS-95 crew, Glenn (and his crewmates) received another ticker-tape parade, making him the tenth, and latest person to have received multiple ticker-tape parades in a lifetime. (as opposed to that of a sports team.)

    Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Glenn#NASA

    If Glenn can do it, others can too! ;-)

    True, John Glenn is an exceptional human being – but other exceptional people do exist and people are staying fitter longer as well as living longer these days. With medical technology etc .. improving who knows how old people will still be able to fly?

  18. Sam

    I may be an adolescent who is not always pushing for change, is usually comfortable, and sometimes feels he’s lost the wonder of space, since he’s so familiar with it. But I love space, I love space exploration, and I swear to God I will go into space at least once in my lifetime. I don’t care if it’s suborbital or interplanetary, governmental or private – If I knew I were to die today I would spend everything on getting my ashes into the next rocket.

  19. Michael Kingsford Gray

    “Maybe, in just a decade or two, this view will be a common one for a lot more of us.” – P.P.

    Using ‘what’ as an energy source?

  20. Messier Tidy Upper

    Well the LRO’ shot there is a nice picture of Earth from space but I’ve seen better ones – and ones taken by Humans like the Apollo 8 “Full Earth” & “Earthrise” one’s that have had a far bigger impact. Then too as seen from a *real* distance there’s Voyager II‘s famous Pale Blue Dot” photo (which Carl Sagan had a hand in taking I gather) – and my personal fave of Earth as a speck within the Saturnian rings in Cassini‘s backlit Saturn image. This doesn’t compare to those for me. Plus its got a bit missing from it and is Black & White. Still its nice.

    I will never leave this planet, and you probably won’t either, but our machines do.

    Well I wouldn’t be quite so sure of that and I sure hope you are wrong there.

    However,that does seem all too depressingly likely – thanks, in part at least, to Obama’s horrible short-sighted, unpatriotic, anti-science & space exploration policy of cancelling NASA’s human space program setting us backwards.

    BTW. Its not just me that thinks that – Patrick Moore wrote in a recent editorial column in his Sky At Night magazine :

    With a single stroke of his pen, or more probably his computer, President Obama of the United States has wiped out the whole of NASA’s manned lunar programme … Now I can almost hear Mr Obama saying: “One small step for a Presdient, one giant leap backwards for mankind,” or rather for America; it may well be that the next moonwalker will be Chinese.”

    – Patrick Moore, Page 23, “The Universe according to Patrick Moore” in Sky At Night magazine, May 2010.

    Personally I think Obama has betrayed not just us and future Western generations but also the past generations – throwing away all the work, money, effort and sacrifice put in by the heroes of Apollo and the earlier US space programs – and I will never forgive or forget this disgraceful decision by a leader who I hoped would be far better than that. :-(

    Oh & it is NOT just our machines either – people have seen Earth from that perspective before in the flesh – although the last humans to travel beyond Low Earth Orbit flew nearly forty years ago now. (1972 – Ronald Evans, Harrison Schmitt & Eugene Cernan in Apollo 17.)

    Perhaps we’ll go again and end this pathetic lull in human space exploration and progress – but not if Obama gets his way. :-(

    *****

    PS. I know Obama’s orated some vague talk of going to Mars instead but no specific plan to do it, no date set for launch equals no credibility whatsoever for that. :-(

    The shuttles are retiring with no replacement in sight.

    The Ares-Constellation program – which was finally getting to fly was scrapped.

    And now Obama is talking of turning NASA into another diplomatic agency useful only in grovelling to the Muslim world which has always hated us and isn’t going to change until we are all Muslim too.

    How wrong and how backwards and anti-science and exploration can Obama be before the likes of the BA criticise such madness from their idol?

  21. Messier Tidy Upper

    I also prefer the clouds of Earth picture by the GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) observatory that the BA posted here back in June :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/06/11/the-cloudy-warming-earth/

    & http://goes.gsfc.nasa.gov/text/goesfaq.html

    & http://goes.gsfc.nasa.gov/

    for more colourful GOES pics.

    As far as black & white images of Earth go that GOES one is the goer! ;-)

    Not that this LRO one is bad at all – its fine but its just there are better images.

  22. Randy A.

    The earth indubitably has life… But is there intelligent life? After reading the news, I doubt it…

  23. Pi-needles

    I will never leave this planet, and you probably won’t either, but our machines do.

    Really – which machines of yours have flown into space? Your toaster? Your radio? Your computer? ;-)

  24. M Saunder

    I’m pretty skeptical about the cost effectiveness of going to space, it uses up a lot of resources to be honest.

  25. It doesn’t matter what he calls himself – Messier Tidy Upper/Plutonian Being from Pluto/Steve0R; it doesn’t matter what the topic is – NASA, global warming or Pluto – there’s nobody on the internet quicker off the draw when it comes to proving that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  26. Gary Ansorge

    20. Michael Kingsford Gray

    “Using ‘what’ as an energy source?”

    How about nuclear energy?

    25. M Saunder

    A lot of people say that, because they have no idea how much it actually costs, in raw energy. Dr. Gerard K. O’neille originally calculated it cost 4 cents per lb to reach orbit(in 1973 dollars). Currently, it costs us nearly 10,000 times that amount because our systems are so inefficient.

    Liquid H2+O2 specific impulse(best chemical fuel) of 450.

    Nuclear light bulb, ISP over 3000.

    Fusion (calculated by Dr. Bussard) of 10,000 to 100,000.

    Light craft(can’t actually calculate the ISP, since the power plant stays on the ground).

    Space tether(cheap but very slow,ie, two weeks to geosync orbit).

    There are many proposed ways of accessing space in a cost effective manner. We just haven’t built them yet.

    Studies of extra solar planets suggest earth is near the lowest range for a planet capable of supporting life(ie, capable of holding an atmosphere long enough for complex life to evolve). Larger earth like(rocky, watery planets) could be more common than earth sized. Unfortunately, they’ll also have much higher surface gravity, so I would expect, any intelligent, techno savvy species will have that much more difficult a time getting off their planet.

    Perhaps this is why we’ve not yet been visited???

    We’re SO lucky to have this small a planet. It’s relatively easy to leave.

    GAry 7

  27. sneepy

    Since this photo was taken ~150 Mkm off the star of the system, I would say the apparent ocean should consist of water, probably with dissolved salts, especially because I think the upper left corner has solid water. Because the black-body temperature at this distance should be at some -18 degrees, I’m rather surprised there isn’t any more of that. This indicates there has to be some other factors at work, as by entropic principles the planet should be colder. My personal guess is there are some deposits of atomic carbon present of the surface of this planet, and the lightning produced by the icy crystals on the clouds could occasionally ingite these, but this is just speculation. Too bad the probe didn’t have a spectrometer. I propose a second probe with a wider range of spectrographic instruments to be sent. I know other scientist are fascinated by the complex arrays of the clouds and are wondering how they develop over time, thus the ideal solution would be if the probe could be parked on the orbit of this planet, though the technical challenges of directing this accurately would be immense.

  28. ndt

    Bramblyspam Says:
    July 31st, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    If you put up similar images of the other planets and moons in our solar system, I think this would be the only one that clearly has significant amounts of solid land and liquid oceans on the surface, as well as (of course) an atmosphere.

    Earth is not the only planet in our solar system with an atmosphere. Venus and Mars both have atmospheres – Mars’s thin but Venus’s certainly isn’t – and the gas giants are almost all atmosphere. Saturn’s moon Titan also has one.

  29. Messier Tidy Upper

    @26. Vagueofgodalming Says:

    It doesn’t matter what he calls himself – Messier Tidy Upper/Plutonian Being from Pluto/Steve0R; it doesn’t matter what the topic is – NASA, global warming or Pluto – there’s nobody on the internet quicker off the draw when it comes to proving that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    Yeah, I love you too Vagueofgodalming (if that’s *your* real name ;-) ) – NOT! :roll:

    An ad hominem attack on me without any reason provided or supporting evidence – how nice of you. :-(

    Dude, if you have a specific disagreement with anything I’ve said please have the basic decency to say what exactly your objection is and make your case as to why *you* think so rather than just launching into an unsupported nasty and unhelpful personal attack as you’ve done.

    Am I wrong when I note there have been better photos of Earth taken from space such as those taken by Apollo 8, and Voyager II and GOES – and, I might add, the Rosetta spaceprobe although, as I noted, this image is nice just not as good as some others.

    Am I wrong in saying John Glenn was over 70 when he made his great flight aboard the Discovery orbiter?

    Am I wrong when I say Obama has cancelled the Ares-Constellation NASA manned lunar return program?

    What precisely is your problem and what evidence do you offer to say I got things wrong?

    So what exactly is your problem Vagueofgodalming? What have I done to hurt you? Oh wait I can answer that for you – nothing! I just come here & express my views and add my comments just the same as you & everyone else.

    BTW. Yes, I’ve gone by a few usernames in my time, Messier Tidy Upper being the current one which I’ve been using consistently for many months now & intend to keep on using – no secret there – but I hardly think that’s a crime or unique to me. Nor should someone’s name or identy really matter because it’s what is said and not who says it that is actually the important thing methinks.

  30. Matt L

    Messier Tidy: NASA’s spaceflight program has been I trouble since Apollo was canceled. And it’s been effectively dead since GWB announced constellation without actually bothering to fund it. Since then congress has done nothing to fix the problem.

    Obama’s program simply recognizes this fact. Short of finding some way to convince congress to part with billions more (Good luck with the tea party watching…), which was never going to happen, Obama had no real choice.

    His program still aims at human spaceflight, but puts low earth orbit into the commercial sector where…hopefully…money could eventually be made and thus solve the funding issue that has plagued NASA. Meanwhile it tasks NASA with charting a course further out…

    It’s not perfect…BUT..it IS better than the unfunded waste that we had before where billions went into a project that was never gong to be finished.

  31. Messier Tidy Upper

    @29. ndt & #9. Bramblyspam :

    Pluto also has an atmosphere – arguably a more earth-like one than other planets given it is also mainly a nitrogen one like ours although it is also different in many respects to Earth’s!

    Titan has lakes as well – although Titans’s lakes are liquid methane & ethane rather than water. There is an under ground – or rather under *ice* ocean on Europa and maybe some other ice moons also and even our Moon has a very tenous and thin atmosphere of its own. :-)

  32. jick

    Maybe it’s just me, but I get the feeling that Messier Tidy Upper’s ten-paragraph rant about Obama not funding human space exploration was merely a build-up to say this:

    > And now Obama is talking of turning NASA into another diplomatic agency useful only in grovelling to the Muslim world which has always hated us and isn’t going to change until we are all Muslim too.

    Me says: Meh.

  33. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Jick : No.

    There are many things I object to about Obama’s anti-NASA, anti-space exploration policy & turning NASA into another diplomatic agency – NOT ITS JURISDICTION – to grovel to the Muslims & others is just one of many of them.

    Cancelling Bush’es Ares-Constellation policy is the main one. That decision was a betrayal of both the future – American’s having a strong continuing role in space exploration going beyond LEO – and the past spitting upthe accomplishments of the Apollo era. :-(

    But I guess you like all too many others here are too afflicted by Obama-mania to see things clearly, more’s the pity.

    PS. For the record, if I was eligable (non-American) I would’ve voted for Obama myself over the McCain-Palin nightmare team.

    But this does NOT mean I have sacrificed my brain to waffle about hope & change or believe Obama can do no wrong. Obama has made number of disgraceful decisions since taking office and these deserve and need to be criticised.

    Why exactly do you have a problem with this & seem to feel the need to label & denigrate detailed criticism of Obama as “ranting” rather than making some serious and valid points?

    @ 31. Matt L :

    You have a couple of good points to the extent that, yes, Bush should have funded Constellation better and done more to see it fly and, yes, the NASA human spaceflight program has been struggling for direction and momentum post-Apollo era.

    However, I disagree that Obama didn’t have any option – he should have insisted on funding Ares-Constellation and making sure he made it progress further and probably also worked much harder to reduce the gap between the last shuttle flight and the shuttle’s successor taking wing.

    But instead Obama chose to kill the only new manned rocket and spaceflight program seriously underway in what is an appalling betrayal and failure of vision. He has left NASA without rockets, without capability. No shuttle. No Ares, no options but begging a ride with the Russians or the corporates. Obama will leave NASA mothballed and stranded and America out of the human space race. Which is just pathetic – and not what he promised pre-2008 election.

    Ares-Constellation may have had its teething issues but then so did Apollo and so did Hubble. It was just starting to take off -literally. Imagine if we’d cancelled Apollo after teh unmanne dApollo 4 test – that’s the exact equivalent. Plus it was the only game in town. You can’t just cancel your predecessor’s space programs. That way we never fly. Period. :-(

  34. Gary Ansorge

    34. Messier Tidy Upper

    So, what part of the Republican PArty saying NO to anything Obama proposes don’t you understand?

    As has already been stated, Bush made a big deal of Ares, w/o providing funding. Had Obama attempted to properly fund it, the GOP would have resisted. But Obama, recognizing the funding inadequacies, proposed an entirely new direction and of course, the GOP opposes that as well. They’re very good at saying no;not so good at proposing reasonable alternatives.

    Hey, it’s a BLACK guy trying to repair the engine of state. There’s a lot of resistance to that. No way the ruling elites want to be proven incompetent.

    ,,,but at least, he’s trying.

    Gary 7

  35. Adam

    Came here just to comment on the never leave the planet quote.

    Phil… You and I are both too young to say that. I’m just hoping I can afford the ride before I die.

  36. Andrew

    I’m still very confused about how NASA has anything to do with grovelling to the Muslim world.

  37. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Andrew :

    See :

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/space/7875584/Barack-Obama-Nasa-must-try-to-make-Muslims-feel-good.html

    In summary from there :

    The head of the Nasa has said Barack Obama told him to make “reaching out to the Muslim world” one of the space agency’s top priorities. Charles Bolden, a retired United States Marines Corps major-general and former astronaut, [& current NASA administrator – ed.] said in an interview with al-Jazeera that Nasa was not only a space exploration agency but also an “Earth improvement agency”.

    Think NASA ‘s role was to organise space exploration and science? To get American astronauts in space doing wonderful things and serving American and Western interests?

    Well I did & I suspect most people do – but that’s not its role according to Obama. Instead President Barack Hussein Obama wants NASA’s reason for existence to be .. making Muslims feel happy and good about themsleves. Plus being an “Earth improvement agency” :roll: whatever the blazes that is supposed to mean!

    Seems the National Aeronautics and Sapce Administration is badly misnamed in Obama’s view

  38. Messier Tidy Upper

    Continued : [Out of edit time – sorry.]
    ————

    Seems the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is badly misnamed in Obama’s view – it should really be the Muslim Feel Good Go Nowhere Earth Improving Agency. :-(

    Which raises a number of obvious questions such as why the blazes is Obama so keen on supporting the Muslim world with its values and not so much supporting, oh I dunno, say *America* and its diametrically opposite values – and why is the BA being so quiet about this issue?

    This article from the same online newspaper :

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/barackobama/7717795/Neil-Armstrong-says-Barack-Obama-is-poorly-advised-on-space.html

    Gives Neil Armstrong’s critique of Obama’s (anti)NASA policy which is also excellent if disturbing reading. I’ll note from there that :

    Mr Armstrong and fellow Apollo program commanders James Lovell and Eugene Cernan said in that letter [an open letter slamming Obama’s cancellation of the Ares Lunar return program – ed.] that the [Obama] plan “destines our nation to become one of second or even third rate stature.”

    Which makes you why on Earth Obama seems so keen to boost Muslim interests and harm the United States of America – ostensibly his nation. :-(

    But then what would Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell & Gene Cernan know? They’re criticising His Messiah-ness Obama so they must just be ranting trolls according to the Obama-lovers here right?

    **************

    PS. No reply to my post # 30 above challenging (#26.) Vagueofgodalming’s nasty personal attack on me and asking him to back up his unfounded assertions that I was wrong on things he hasn’t specified here. Can’t take it or back up what you said, eh Vagueofgodalming? What a surprise. :roll:

  39. Messier Tidy Upper

    @35. Gary Ansorge Says:

    34. Messier Tidy Upper : So, what part of the Republican PArty saying NO to anything Obama proposes don’t you understand?

    Obama managed to get his healthcare bill – among other things – through despite the Republican parties opposition even assuming you are correct about the Republicans purely opposing for the sake of it there which I’d dispute.

    As has already been stated, Bush made a big deal of Ares, w/o providing funding. Had Obama attempted to properly fund it, the GOP would have resisted.

    Would they have? Really? You think so obviously -and I think not but we’ll never know because Obama didn’t try it or opt for that much more reasonable, patriotic and honourable course of action.

    Well Unless Obama comes to his senses and changes his mind. Hopefully Congress will block Obama and prevent him killing Constellation in this case although this currently seems sadly unlikely.

    But Obama, recognizing the funding inadequacies, proposed an entirely new direction and of course, the GOP opposes that as well. They’re very good at saying no;not so good at proposing reasonable alternatives.

    As I’ve said before Obama is not so much providing a “new direction” as a hot air smokescreen for killing off NASA’s human spaceflight program altogether. Go to Mars – sure where’s the detailed plans? The detailed schedule with deadlines in the near-future of when its going to happen? Why not build upour expertise -again – by retruning the moon a stehfirst step as was Bush’es idea?

    Hey, it’s a BLACK guy trying to repair the engine of state. There’s a lot of resistance to that. No way the ruling elites want to be proven incompetent,,,but at least, he’s trying.

    Trtying to be proven incompetent? In that case he’s not doing too badly! ;-)

    Sounds like reverse racism there – Obama’s black so he must deserve better and get more chances than the former white folks eh? (BTW. Obama’s half-white with an American Motherand a Muslim Kenyan father and he was raised in Indonesia too – not that it matters. Or does it?*)

    I don’t give a flying toss about the colour of Obama’s skin I care about the damage Bracak Hussein Obama has done to space exploration, NASA and our future.

    ———————————————

    * Perhaps this upbringing could be considered, well y’know, NOT very American and the fact that he also happend to have a favourite preacher ranting and shouting “God D-m Amercia!” and being anti-white should perhaps be a worry as to whether such an individual is *really* suited for the job of leading America and the Free Non-Muslim Western world? Just a thought y’know.

  40. KAY

    Why did Barak Obama kill the only government agency that was showing a profit? Think of the constant research spinnoffs that morphed into industries…Doesnt he like money..?
    Professor Isaac Asimov, one of he most prolific publishers in favor of space flight in the world(over fifty books on every available subject, a tremendous intellect, and a real down to Earth guy) would have been stunned…..

  41. Messier Tidy Upper

    @37. Andrew Says: [August 2nd, 2010 at 11:44 am]

    I’m still very confused about how NASA has anything to do with grovelling to the Muslim world.

    I’ve got another post on this currently awaiting moderation which will hopefully come through okay in a few hours but just quickly for you for the moment :

    “NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a recent interview that his “foremost” mission as the head of America’s space exploration agency is to improve relations with the Muslim world. Though international diplomacy would seem well outside NASA’s orbit, Bolden said in an interview with Al Jazeera [Arab TV station – ed.] that strengthening those ties was among the top tasks President Obama assigned him. He said better interaction with the Muslim world would ultimately advance space travel.”

    I’ll put the source in a separate comment below this – a news article link titled “NASA Chief : Next Frontier Better Relations With Muslim World” (Fox news.)

    Of course, neither Obama nor Bolden explains exactly *how* NASA “reaching out” (polly-speak for grovelling) to the Muslim world is going to advance the United States space travel goals and *what* the Muslim world is actually going to do to help NASA’s space exploration program nor do I see how it possibly *can* do so or why we should devote valuable NASA time and resources to aiding the global group who most hate us.

  42. Messier Tidy Upper

    Here’s my source for the above quote :

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/07/05/nasa-chief-frontier-better-relations-muslims/

    It is a weird story that’s very hard to explain rationally methinks but its sadly all too true.

  43. Mike Mullen

    “It is a weird story that’s very hard to explain rationally methinks but its sadly all too true.”

    It’s very easy to explain rationally; Bolden was in the Middle East, big surprise that he makes speeches that includes a lot of platitudes aimed at stroking the egos of his audience. This is no difference than the hysterics surrounding that Lori Garver presentation a few months ago, only for it to turn out that the quotes on that occassion were from some Senator putting his own spin on Garver’s text.
    At least Obama’s plan contained a commitment to R&D and commercial space. the senate response is a pork barrel SD HLV with no mission hardware and no purpose other than job creation.

  44. Mike Mullen

    27. Gary Ansorge Says:

    “A lot of people say that, because they have no idea how much it actually costs, in raw energy. Dr. Gerard K. O’neille originally calculated it cost 4 cents per lb to reach orbit(in 1973 dollars). Currently, it costs us nearly 10,000 times that amount because our systems are so inefficient.

    Liquid H2+O2 specific impulse(best chemical fuel) of 450.

    Nuclear light bulb, ISP over 3000.

    Fusion (calculated by Dr. Bussard) of 10,000 to 100,000.”

    One to add to your list. The SABRE engine under development for the Skylon project:

    ISP Sea level: 2000s
    Vacuum: 450s

    Probably about the best you can do with LOX and LH2, fingers crossed for intercooler tests next year and a full prototype engine around 2014.

  45. Robert Carnegie

    With the right observing equipment I think you can detect oxygen, which is how anaerobic microbes pee. Or something. Anyway, a planet with oxygen is where some freaky stuff is happening.

    Due to science fiction, whenever I see a shot of the Earth from space, I expect that something bad is going to happen to it. Which is true, I guess, and you don’t have to go up there to see it. I heard somebody wrote a book, but I’m not talking about that.

    And it’s lovely, it’s fragile, it’s easily bruised, it’s a minuscule speck of dust in heaven, it’s everything that there is – practically speaking, that is.

    I think that leaving may be a mistake.

    Having said that, if it’s what you want, going up does seem pretty difficult, but maybe see how far you can get in the other direction, down… and what is it you’re saying -now-? :-)

  46. OK, Messier, Let’s Do This.

    What I was referring to was this:

    Obama’s horrible short-sighted, unpatriotic, anti-science & space exploration policy of cancelling NASA’s human space program setting us backwards.

    Generally speaking, on the topics I referred to, other commenters have usually done a sterling job of taking you down, and I don’t normally bother to repeat arguments they have made. But, since you ask…

    ‘short-sighted': as numerous people have pointed out, Constellation had been underfunded since the day it started. Augustine and Obama have been clear-sighted enough to recognise this. Sure, with a truly massive injection of money, beyond anything Congress would be likely to authorise, it might have been saved. Don’t pretend you weren’t aware of this point.

    ‘unpatriotic': are you seriously going to say that you aren’t able to see the self-evident absurdity of this? Do you mean you think Obama is deliberately and maliciously anti-American? Or are you supposing a scenario something like this:

    Big O: Taking into account all the factors, the most cost-effective decision will be to cancel Constellation.

    Advisor: Sir, that may be true, but it’s un-American.

    O: Gosh darn it, you’re right! What a blunder! But I made up my mind a minute ago. It’s too late to change now. We’ll just have to press ahead and hope nobody notices.

    A: Yes, that’s the best plan.

    ‘anti-science': Obama’s plan (though Congress may yet overturn this part) is to increase funding for science. I think the BA may have mentioned this just a few times in the last few months. What’s more, Obama has generally shown himself to be pro-science, both in the sense of supporting scientific research and ion the sense of paying attention to scientific evidence as it relates to policy.

    ‘cancelling NASA’s human space program': it’s only been pointed out a bajillion times (as the BA might write) that Obama hasn’t proposed to cancel human spaceflight. He’s not very keen on the Moon, and there’s a reasonable debate to be had there. He wants the private sector to do low earth orbit (and what could be more American than that, by the way? It’s us Old World types who allegedly want the gummint to do everything.) so technically that isn’t NASA anymore, just all NASA’s contractors plus a few new companies. Long range human space exploration stays firmly with NASA.

    The key point here isn’t that you are wrong – it’s that you have repeated a pile of talking points with no acknowledgment that they have been rebutted. That’s what I mean by not knowing what you are talking about. It’s your ability to spend considerable time on a blog by an intelligent, knowledgeable scientist with intelligent knowledgeable commenters while at the same time entertaining the first vacuous notion that enters your head with no apparent awareness that reason and evidence have been presented to contradict it that is so frustrating.

    And, as I intimated, it’s a pattern.

    You ask: ‘if you have a specific disagreement with anything I’ve said please have the basic decency to say what exactly your objection is and make your case as to why *you* think so rather than just launching into an unsupported nasty and unhelpful personal attack as you’ve done.’

    But people have done this countless times with no effect. What is the point of continuing what is so clearly a failed strategy?

    OK, I admit I was probably unhelpful, though if I got under your skin enough to make you start to think about yourself there could be hope. And I’m sorry I’ve taken so long to reply – RL intervened.

    I have no quarrel with your remarks about Glenn or the relative merits of different photos. You have done nothing to hurt me (except insofar as all illogical arguments cause me pain), but that’s not the point. If I just thought you were another troll (as I have come close to thinking in the past) I wouldn’t have reacted.

    And, I’m sorry, it was an overreaction: you did say something the other day suggesting you are shifting a bit on global warming, so the BA’s optimistic approach is more right than my pessimistic one, at least in your case.

    But… you do kinda shoot your mouth off without checking your facts…

    Usernames – yeah, the temptations of assonance got to me. I don’t really have a complain there. I used to be David here until I realised they’re a dime a dozen. You’ll find me surreyguy at Planetary Society and umsf.com. And my LJ is linked, of course. I’d have no objection to you knowing my RL name if there was an easy way to tell you without leaving it open to people (eg future employers) to google my real name and get to places like this. Not everyone approves of blogs and the like.

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