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Trump’s NASA Pivot

by Marina Koren        October 7, 2017        (theatlantic.com)

• Trump wants to return astronauts to the Moon by 2020, shifting the focus away from Obama’s Mars agenda.

• Trump wants to establish a lunar base, or an orbiting “cislunar” base, before heading to Mars.

• Mars proponents worry that we’ll get stuck on the Moon.

• India’s space program plans to visit the Moon next year.

• Both Russia and China plan to visit the Moon by the 2030’s.

• The European Space Agency envisions building a “moon village.”

• NASA wants to send the Lunar Rover to the back-side of the Moon.

• They all might be very surprised by what they find on the dark side of the Moon.

 

Rumors that the Trump administration was more interested in the moon than Mars began circulating days after the inauguration. Leaked memos published in February revealed the president’s advisers wanted NASA to send astronauts there by 2020, one part in a bigger plan to focus on activities near Earth rather than missions deeper in the solar system. Vice President Mike Pence spoke vaguely of a return to the moon in a speech in July. In September, the administration nominated a NASA chief who extolled the construction of lunar outposts. All signs pointed to a significant shift in the country’s Mars-focused space agenda of the last seven years.

This week, the Trump administration made it official.

“We will return NASA astronauts to the moon—not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” Pence said Thursday at the inaugural meeting of the National Space Council, an advisory body his administration recently revived.

The vice president’s comments marked a pivot from Barack Obama’s directive for a “Journey to Mars,” established in 2010, and harkens to the aspirations set forth by the George W. Bush administration. The Obama administration had maintained that some kind of human activity in cislunar space—the region between the Earth and the moon—was necessary to test technology for a mission to Mars, but the efforts would amount to a pit stop, not a destination. While Pence did not provide details on what kind of “foundation” Americans would build on the moon, the new direction was clear: Americans should be spending more time in their cosmic backyard before flying off into the solar system.

“It’s a 180-degree shift from no moon to moon first,” said John Logsdon, a space-policy expert and former director of the Space-Policy Institute at George Washington University.

The announcement is obviously good news for space-transportation companies and lunar researchers lamenting the country’s 45-year absence from the moon. For those in the Mars camp, many of whom aim for a human mission to the planet by 2033, the news puts their ambitions on shakier ground.

“Most of the people who are Mars-centered worry that we’ll get stuck on the moon.”

The administration’s push for a return to the moon may be unambiguous now, but plenty of questions remain, ranging from the basic, like when and how, to the intriguing, like the role commercial spaceflight companies might play. NASA also wouldn’t be starting from scratch. The space agency has spent the last decade building the Space-Launch System and Orion, a rocket and spacecraft intended to carry people into deep space but also to build a cislunar way station called the Deep-Space Gateway. NASA planned to use the Deep-Space Gateway as a place for astronauts to prep for deep-space journeys, but the new shift could see the station being used for lunar landings.

Both time-tested contractors and growing commercial companies will be eager to work on potential lunar activities. Boeing is currently developing a capsule that would ferry people into low-Earth orbit, and SpaceX said its proposed mega-rocket, which is mostly intended to fulfill Elon Musk’s Sim City-esque ambitions for Mars, could contribute to travel to the moon. Musk, well aware of the political benefits of it, leaned heavily into lunar ambitions. “It’s 2017. We should have a lunar base by now,” he said recently. “What the hell’s going on?”

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Planet Nine Could Be Our Solar System’s Missing ‘Super Earth’

by Samantha Mathewson           October 12, 2017           (Space.com)

• NASA has detected an as yet unseen “Planet 9” determined to be 10 times the mass of the Earth and 20 times farther from the Sun than Neptune.

• Caltech astronomers say that this massive planet is causing bodies in our Solar System, including planets, to tilt.

• This could explain why Kuiper Belt objects orbit in the opposite direction from everything else in the solar system.

• The most common type of planets that have been discovered around other stars are rocky “Super Earths”. Planet 9 may be our Solar System’s Super Earth.

• The astronomers plan to search for the mysterious planet using the Subaru Telescope at Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii.

 

Planet Nine is out there, and astronomers are determined to find it, according to a new statement from NASA. In fact, mounting evidence suggests it’s hard to imagine our solar system without the unseen world.

The hypothetical planet is believed to be about 10 times more massive than Earth and located in the dark, outer reaches of the solar system, approximately 20 times farther from the sun than Neptune is. While the mysterious world still has yet to be found, astronomers have discovered a number of strange features of our solar system that are best explained by the presence of a ninth planet, according to the NASA statement.

“There are now five different lines of observational evidence pointing to the existence of Planet Nine,” Konstantin Batygin, a planetary astrophysicist at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, said in the statement. “If you were to remove this explanation and imagine Planet Nine does not exist, then you generate more problems than you solve. All of a sudden, you have five different puzzles, and you must come up with five different theories to explain them.” [The Evidence for ‘Planet Nine’ in Our Solar System (Gallery)]

In 2016, Batygin and co-author Mike Brown, an astronomer at Caltech, published a study that examined the elliptical orbits of six known objects in the Kuiper Belt, a distant region of icy bodies stretching from Neptune outward toward interstellar space. Their findings revealed that all of those Kuiper Belt objects have elliptical orbits that point in the same direction and are tilted about 30 degrees “downward” compared to the plane in which the eight official planets circle the sun, according to the statement.

Using computer simulations of the solar system with a Planet Nine, Batygin and Brown also showed that there should be even more objects tilted a whopping 90 degrees with respect to the solar plane. Further investigation revealed that five such objects were already known to fit these parameters, the researchers said.

Since then, the astronomers have found new evidence that further supports the existence of Planet Nine. With help from Elizabeth Bailey, an astrophysicist and planetary scientist at Caltech, the team showed that Planet Nine’s influence might have tilted the planets of our solar system, which would explain why the zone in which the eight major planets orbit the sun is tilted by about 6 degrees compared to the sun’s equator.

“Over long periods of time, Planet Nine will make the entire solar-system plane precess, or wobble, just like a top on a table,” Batygin said in the statement.

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An AI God is Already Under Development

by Paul Seaburn        October 5, 2017         (mysteriousuniverse.org)

• Anthony Levandowski, the founder of self-driving Google cars and Otto trucks wants to “promote the realization of a Godhead based on artificial intelligence.”

• Levandowski has established “Way of the Future”, a non-profit religious corporation that worships this Godhead.

• A friend said that Levandowski “had this very weird motivation about robots taking over the world—like actually taking over, in a military sense. It was like [he wanted] to be able to control the world.”

• Artificial intelligence is feared by scientists and technology gurus like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk.

• Silicon Valley sees the singularity – when robots or AI surpass human intelligence – to be not too far off.

• All of sudden, jokes about “AI Overlords” aren’t so funny anymore.

 

“To develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on artificial intelligence and through understanding and worship of the Godhead contribute to the betterment of society.”

That’s the mission statement of Way of the Future, a nonprofit religious corporation founded by Anthony Levandowski, the god of self-driving vehicles. He’s the engineer who built Google’s autonomous car and founded Otto, a self-driving truck company that was acquired by Uber. He’s now being sued by Alphabet, the parent company of Goggle, for allegedly stealing trade secrets and infringing on patents. Perhaps that’s why he needs an AI god.

“He had this very weird motivation about robots taking over the world—like actually taking over, in a military sense. It was like [he wanted] to be able to control the world, and robots were the way to do that. He talked about starting a new country on an island. Pretty wild and creepy stuff. And the biggest thing is that he’s always got a secret plan, and you’re not going to know about it.”

That quote from an engineer friend is in an article in Wired and sums up Levandowski’s view on robots … and on Way of the Future. Not much is known about the company/religion. While just discovered now, Wired found that he filed the incorporation paperwork in 2015. There doesn’t appear to be a website or anything more from Levandowski, which goes along with his reputation for “secret plans.”

Anthony Levendowski

Artificial intelligence alone is already feared by scientists and technology gurus like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, who sees AI as the antithesis of conventional religion or “summoning the devil.” Others in Silicon Valley see the singularity – when robots or AI surpass human intelligence – to be not too far off. Silicon Valley is said to be moving towards transhumanism, where the human condition is transformed and improved (saved?) by technology.

Is Way of the World already working on the next phase beyond transhumanism where AI becomes a savior and a god? All of sudden, jokes about “AI overlords” aren’t so funny anymore, especially when one considers that plenty of gods destroy many humans while selecting those qualified to be saved.
Levandowski made his name developing a self-driving car which must someday make god-like decisions when in an accident situation where it has to choose who to save and who to run over. Perhaps he’s creating this new religion out of guilt because he knows what the answer will be:
“Pretty wild and creepy stuff.”

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