In which I geek about the seasons.
In which I post about Pluto
15 years ago, the church apologised for the trial of Galileo. This in itself should have given the hint that Papal infallibility isn't what it was.
The current Pope has just gone back on that, saying the trial was 'reasonable and just'.
It's a Papal showdown!
Both Popes can't be right (you can't apologise if you've done nothing wrong, and you can't have done something wrong if your action was reasonable and just)... yet, both are infallible.
Does not compute.... warning... error.... *BAA-boooom!*
So, despite earlier reports, Pluto has lost it's planetary status. This is probably the best overall choice given the difficulties with including it, a definition which included pluto (except as an anachronism) would have included several other objects.
Fortunately, the classification has no real significance for astronomers!
It is 20 years ago today that the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded. I well remember this, it was a huge event. I saw it on television, and could not believe it. The explosion, then those two rockets flying off in seperate directions.
Of course, it provoked the expected bad taste playground 'humour', such as 'Q. What colour eyes does an astronaut have? A. Blue... one blew this way...'
The great physicist, Richard Feynman (who should be as well known as Einstein) was on the investigating board of the Challenger disaster - famously (amongst folks who know about this sort of thing) demonstrating before the press how the 'O rings' which sealed the fuel tanks could fail.
It did graphically demonstrate that space flight whilst routine, was not risk free, despite the low risks stated prior to the accident by NASA management (contrary to the estimates of the engineers).
For me, Challenger was one of those defining moments as I grew up (along with Chernobyl in the same year). This was why I watched the landing of Discovery after a troubled flight with baited breath. I literally held my breath as the infra red showed the shuttle circling, and did not realise this for some time... not good!
As seen on slashdot, the Indian moon mission in 2-3 years time will have a component which will impact the surface in a trial for future soft landings. It'd be wonderful to aim for the moon, it's hard to believe that we're some 35 years after Apollo 11 and we have only visited the moon a handful of times. What's really odd is that by Apollo 13 the world had lost interest, until the accident, that is. To go to another world, that's something to fire the spirit!
Yes, there are plenty of problems 'on earth' - but that should not prohibit research and exploration. Indeed, life wasn't perfect in Europe when Columbus sailed West. One never knows where the new discoveries which will help solve the 'at home' problems will come from. Indeed, one might argue that space research in India is providing much know-how and expertise which can provide jobs in related industries in a trickle down way.
ISRO has just awarded two more launch contracts as a result.
Interestingly, India has it's own launch vehicle programme, yet it is relying on other agencies for it's recent launches, and is in talks with Lockheed. India has launched it's own satellites before, and is looking to enter the commercial launcher market.
ISRO was to launch Insat-3A on Ariane-5, of the ESA
Personally, I'm quite fond of the Ariane series of rockets used by the ESA, they're vaguely reminiscent of something I've seen before....