Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Water on Mars!

I just came across this CNN article about evidence of recent water activity on Mars. It seems that images taken over time by the now lost Mars Global Surveyor show new gullies that seem to have been dug on Mars, possibly by water. Here is a link to the official NASA images. This opens up all kinds of possibilities. Mars could still be volcanically active. There could be the precursors of life or even life itself on Mars. They will probably try to be even more careful to sterilize the next Mars explorer before it is launched. This news makes it imperative to start work on a serious effort to send a manned mission to Mars. It will take a long time to get going.

About 12 years ago I started reading the Mars series: Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. The trilogy described how Mars could be colonized with existing technology. The first book was the best. The last two were good, although they required some interesting conjectures of earthly political and environmental developments.

Water on Mars. It's amazing.

Monday, December 04, 2006

NASA Gemini Anniversary

NASA published this image of Gemini VI taken by the Gemini VII capsule rushing to do the first manned rendezvous in its image of the day series. The Gemini flights in the 60's were the training missions to prepare for the Apollo lunar atttempts.

I remember watching all of these missions on TV from takeoff to splashdown. We even listened to them on the radio. It was better than any science fiction because it was real. As much as I like Star Trek, I think we need to do more in real space.

Team of Rivals

I just finished reading Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. What an amazing book! I have never read a Civil War book or Lincoln biography like this before. How does a politician deal with rivals and an overwhelmingly difficult situation? In the case of Lincoln, you invite your rivals to work with you in the Cabinet. You use the skills that brought them to the top of the political world to work on the nation's problems.

While reading the book I couldn't help but compare Lincoln to more recent presidents. Like Bill Clinton, Lincoln could empathize with everyone he meant. Over and over the book recounted instances where he put the welfare of others over his own. Yet unlike Clinton, Lincoln had mastered himself. He had an iron self-discipline, from which he never deviated.

George W. Bush is famously single-minded, but unwilling to change. Lincoln always recognized his own errors and changed course when he was shown to be wrong. He was also at pains to take the responsibility for his mistakes as he strove to correct. them.

I found that I didn't want the book to end, since I knew how it ended. This book makes you realize how important it is to have the right leader at the right time. Also, no one can predict who will be the leader, or from where he will come.