Marcia Dunn reports: Legendary astronaut John Young, who walked on the moon and later commanded the first space shuttle flight, has died, NASA said Saturday. Young was 87.
The space agency said Young died Friday night at home in Houston following complications from pneumonia.
NASA called Young one of its pioneers – the only agency astronaut to go into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programs, and the first to fly into space six times. He was the ninth man to walk on the moon.
“Astronaut John Young’s storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight,” acting NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot said in an emailed statement. “John was one of that group of early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation’s first great achievements in space.”
Young was the only spaceman to span NASA’s Gemini, Apollo and shuttle programs, and became the first person to rocket away from Earth six times. Counting his takeoff from the moon in 1972 as commander of Apollo 16, his blastoff tally stood at seven, for decades a world record.
He flew twice during the two-man Gemini missions of the mid-1960s, twice to the moon during NASA’s Apollo program, and twice more aboard the new space shuttle Columbia in the early 1980s.
His NASA career lasted 42 years, longer than any other astronaut’s, and he was revered among his peers for his dogged dedication to keeping crews safe — and his outspokenness in challenging the space agency’s status quo.
Chastened by the 1967 Apollo launch pad fire that killed three astronauts, Young spoke up after the 1986 shuttle Challenger launch accident. His hard scrutiny continued well past shuttle Columbia’s disintegration during re-entry in 2003.
“Whenever and wherever I found a potential safety issue, I always did my utmost to make some noise about it, by memo or whatever means might best bring attention to it,” Young wrote in his 2012 memoir, “Forever Young.”
He said he wrote a “mountain of memos” between the two shuttle accidents to “hit people over the head.” Such practice bordered on heresy at NASA.
Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, who orbited the moon in 1969 as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked its surface, considered Young “the memo-writing champion of the astronaut office.” Young kept working at Johnson Space Center in Houston “long after his compatriots had been put out to pasture or discovered other green fields,” Collins wrote in the foreword of “Forever Young.” Read the rest of this entry »
An inside look at the single largest public outreach program for the Department of Defense — and the Pentagon’s most elaborate propaganda operation.
But the number printed in the newspaper in December 1955 had a digit wrong — and was instead the direct line into the secret military nerve center in Colorado Springs, Colo., where the Pentagon was on the lookout to prevent nuclear war. The Air Force officer and World War II fighter pilot who took the first call that day for Father Christmas thought it was a crank — and Col. Harry Shoup sternly said so.
“The little kid started crying,” Shoup’s daughter, Terri Van Keuren, recalled in an interview. “So Dad went into his ‘Ho ho ho’ and got the kid’s list.”
Sixty-two years later, the Continental Air Defense Command is now the North American Aerospace Defense Command, and its interactive NORAD Tracks Santa has become the largest single public outreach program for the Defense Department. It’s also, you might say, the Pentagon’s most elaborate propaganda operation.
On Christmas Eve, while monitoring the heavens for North Korean missile launches or Russian military aircraft flying too close to the U.S. or Canada, NORAD will also be reporting the progress of Santa and his reindeer as they travel from the North Pole around the world delivering presents and holiday cheer. It will correlate the jolly elf’s journey with its network of 47 radar stations, spy satellites in “geosynchronous” orbit 22,300 miles above the earth, fighter jets and a suite of special high-tech “SantaCams.” Or so the publicity stunt’s plan goes.
“The moment our radar tells us that Santa has lifted off, we begin to use the same satellites that we use in providing warning of possible missile launches aimed at North America,” says NORAD’s detailed 14-page internal handbook for the operation, which is replete with Santa stats (first flight believed to be Dec. 24, 343 A.D.) and even talking points for that uncomfortable question many parents also confront: “Is there a Santa Claus?”
It’s all part of the ornamented script that more than 1,500 volunteers — including the four-star general in charge of defending North America — are using to field an anticipated 150,000 calls and an avalanche of emails and social media posts (2 million Facebook followers so far) who are all seeking to locate Ole St. Nick on his starlight odyssey.
“As soon as you’re hanging up there’s another kid wanting to talk to you,” Preston Schlachter, NORAD’s Track Santa program manager and its director of community outreach, said of the 23-hour period leading up to Christmas when volunteers work in two-hour shifts, backed up by dozens of sponsors ranging from Microsoft to the National Defense Industrial Association, Taco Bell and the local Amy’s Donuts in Colorado Springs.
In the past, VIPs like former first lady Michelle Obama have also taken a turn at the phones.
“It is the best two hours you’ll ever experience,” Schlachter added in an interview. “You are getting these calls from all over the world. One of the coolest things I like about the program is the multi-generational aspect of it. We are seeing feedback on social media, people who call in and tell us they tracked Santa when they were kids and they’ve introduced it to their kids and now they’re introducing it to their grandkids.” Read the rest of this entry »
The Cold War test of nerves is back. Risky close encounters between Russian and NATO forces have increased dramatically in the Baltic region over the past three years. The WSJ’s Tanya Rivero explains what’s at stake.
Houston, apparently, we do NOT have a problem.
InfoWars conspiracy theorist host Alex Jones had a guest on Thursday to discuss how kidnapped children have been sent on a two-decade mission to space.
Well, NASA has responded and publicly denied the theory that they have a child slave colony on Mars.
“We actually believe that there is a colony on Mars that is populated by children who were kidnapped and sent into space on a 20-year ride,” said Steele. “So, that once they get to Mars they have no alternative but to be slaves on the Mars colony.”
Jones responds to his guest, “Look, I know that 90 percent of the NASA missions are secret and I’ve been told by high-level NASA engineers that you have no idea. There is so much stuff going on.” … (read more)
Source: Houston Chronicle
Martian Slave Babies: Alex Jones Airs Theory On Kidnapped Children Raised On Mars
Alex Jones has been repeatedly accused of running false stories on his InfoWars program. However, this week one guest caused jaws to drop and prompted a NASA spokesman to deny that it has kidnapped children and worked them as slaves on a Mars colony. Of course, that is exactly what National Aeronautics and Slaves Administration (NASA) would say if it was kidnapping children and working them slaves on a Mars colony.
The Mars Slave Baby story was broken by Robert David Steele who declared: “We actually believe that there is a colony on Mars that is populated by children who were kidnapped and sent into space on a 20-year ride. So that once they get to Mars they have no alternative but to be slaves on the Mars colony.” Adding to the chilling aspects of this colony is that these children could travel for 20 years to Mars and still be children. Read the rest of this entry »
Travis said on its Facebook page at about 3:30 p.m. Pacific time that officials were responding to the incident, and asked the public to stay away so emergency responders could deal with it. About 15 minutes later, the base said on its official Twitter feed that a shelter in place had been declared, and that people should lock doors and windows.
In response to a comment on the original Facebook post, Travis said that the warning was not connected to a base exercise already scheduled for the day. Read the rest of this entry »
B-17 Flying Fortresses in overseas combat theaters during World War II. The B-17 may have first seen combat in American markings in the Philippines, but it would earn its enduring fame with the Eighth Air Force, based in England and fighting over Occupied Europe. The story of the B-17 would become the story of the VIII Bomber Command (later Eighth Air Force) strategic heavy bombardment campaign of the European Theater of Operations (ETO) during World War II
Initially equipped with B-17Es in 1942, the Eighth Air Force received B-17Fs in Jan 1943 and B-17Gs in Nov 1943. Flying Fortresses were employed in long-range strategic bombardment operations over Occupied Europe and Nazi Germany, August 1942 – May 1945 attacking enemy military, transportation and industrial targets as part of the United States’ air offensive against Nazi Germany.
SEATTLE – Dan Springer’s latest test launch over the weekend has raised concerns among U.S. officials. The Pentagon says the ballistic missile flew 1,000 miles higher than NASA’s International Space Station. It was then able to re-enter earth’s atmosphere and splash down just 60 miles from Russia. One official told Fox News it was a “big step forward” in North Korea’s nuclear missile program.
Emergency planners in Hawaii, the closest state to North Korea, have taken notice and are evaluating existing nuclear attack response plans. Meanwhile, another possible target on the West Coast is barred from taking any steps to plan for a nuclear attack.
Washington State allows evacuation plans for every disaster scenario except a nuclear bomb. Former state Rep. Dick Nelson remembers the prevailing thinking in the legislature at the time concerning response plans in the event of nuclear war.
“You are really sending a message that you’re getting ready to do something maybe yourself,” Nelson said.
The law passed in 1984, seven years before the end of the Cold War. It was the opposite approach taken by President Ronald Reagan, whose peace through strength doctrine helped lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
A current Washington state senator says the current law is irresponsible and naïve.
“I think it’s ridiculous and silly,” says state Sen. Mark Miloscia, “And sort of the head-in-the-sand mentality. If it has a probability of happening, prepare for it.”
Seattle could be in the crosshairs if North Korea’s leader, Kim Jung Un, ever did the unthinkable. Naval Base Kitsap reportedly has roughly 1,300 nuclear warheads — almost one-quarter of the U.S. arsenal — making it the largest stockpile of nukes in the world. The Puget Sound is also home to Joint Base Lewis McChord, home to the important Stryker Brigade. With the headquarters of Boeing, Microsoft and Amazon, the region is a high-tech hub. Read the rest of this entry »
NOT OVERBOOKED? United Airlines: Controversial Flight NOT Overbooked; PR Genius UA CEO Apologizes AgainPosted: April 11, 2017
“I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight, and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard,” CEO Oscar Munoz said in a statement. “No one should ever be mistreated this way.”
Video of a man being dragged out of his seat on a United Airlines flight has sparked social media uproar. The airline insisted the flight was over-booked and that it had no choice but to contact authorities when the man refused to leave. (April 10) AP
United has been under siege since videos of Sunday night’s violent confrontation on the plane at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport went viral, drawing hundreds of millions of views around the world. Social media outrage rained down on the Chicago-based airline, prompting a public apology Monday from Munoz.
United spokesman Jonathan Guerin said Tuesday that all 70 seats on United Express Flight 3411 were filled, but the plane was not overbooked as the airline previously reported. Instead, United and regional affiliate Republic Airlines, which operated the flight, selected four passengers at random to be removed to accommodate crew members needed in Louisville the next day.
Three passengers went quietly. The fourth, who was literally pulled out of his seat and off the plane, was David Dao, a physician in Elizabethtown, Ky.
Munoz issued a public apology Monday, but hours later sent a letter to the airline’s employees lauding the behavior of the flight crew in dealing with a “disruptive and belligerent” passenger. Munoz credited employees with following established procedures on the Louisville-bound flight. Read the rest of this entry »
The Defense Department still uses 8-inch floppy disks and computers from the 1970s to coordinate nuclear forcesPosted: April 3, 2017
Mackenzie Eaglen writes: Dale Hayden, a senior researcher at the Air Force’s Air University, told an audience of aerospace experts earlier this month that proliferation of antisatellite technology has put America’s communications networks at risk. “In a conflict, it will be impossible to defend all of the space assets in totality,” he said. “Losses must be expected.”
It has never been easier for America’s adversaries—principally Russia and China, but also independent nonstate actors—to degrade the U.S. military’s ability to fight and communicate. Senior military officials have expressed grave doubts about the security of the Pentagon’s information systems and America’s ability to protect the wider commercial virtual infrastructure.
The U.S. Navy, under its mission to keep the global commons free, prevents tampering with undersea cables. But accidents—and worse—do happen. Last year a ship’s anchor severed a cable in the English Channel, slowing internet service on the island of Jersey. In 2013 the Egyptian coast guard arrested three scuba divers trying to cut a cable carrying a third of the internet traffic between Europe and Egypt. “When communications networks go down, the financial services sector does not grind to a halt, rather it snaps to a halt,” warned a senior staffer to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in 2009. Trillions of dollars in daily trading depends on GPS, which is kept free by the Air Force.
There are now an estimated 17.6 billion devices around the world connected to the internet, including more than six billion smartphones. The tech industry expects those numbers to double by 2020. That growth is dependent, however, on secure and reliable access to intercontinental undersea fiber-optic cables, which carry 99% of global internet traffic, and a range of satellite services.
The U.S. military is working on ways of making them more resilient. For instance, the Tactical Undersea Network Architectures program promises rapidly deployable, lightweight fiber-optic backup cables, and autonomous undersea vehicles could soon be used to monitor and repair cables. In space, the military is leading the way with advanced repair satellites as well as new and experimental GPS satellites, which will enhance both military and civilian signals. Read the rest of this entry »
The measure amends current law to add human exploration of the red planet as a goal for the agency.
Flanked at an Oval Office bill-signing ceremony by astronauts and lawmakers, Trump observed that being an astronaut is a “pretty tough job.” He said he wasn’t sure he’d want it and, among lawmakers he put the question to, Sen. Ted Cruz said he wouldn’t want to be a space traveler, either.
“For almost six decades, NASA’s work has inspired millions and millions of Americans to imagine distant worlds and a better future right here on earth. I’m delighted to sign this bill. It’s been a long time since a bill like this has been signed, reaffirming our commitment to the core mission of NASA: human space exploration, space science and technology.”
— President Donald Trump
But Cruz, R-Texas, offered up a tantalizing suggestion. “You could send Congress to space,” he said to laughter, including from the president.
Trump, who faces a crucial House vote later this week on legislation long promised by Republicans to overhaul the Obama-era Affordable Care Act health law, readily agreed. The health care bill is facing resistance from some conservative members of the party.
“What a great idea that could be,” Trump said, before turning back to the space exploration measure sponsored by Cruz and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
The new law authorizes $19.5 billion in spending for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for the budget year that began Oct. 1. Cruz said the authorization bill is the first for the space agency in seven years, and he called it a “terrific” achievement. Read the rest of this entry »
Brainchild of artist and actor Jack Millard causes stir along highway in Arizona
(1) Titan launch test from Cape Canaveral, only first stage engine tested, 2nd stage only a dummy, engine with 300,000 lbs thrust successful (2) News In Brief – Berlin mayor Willy Brandt arrives in U.S., speaks in English (3) “Virginia” – Fort Meyer VA funeral of 6 bodies returned by Russia, crew of plane shot done by Russia, no word of other 11 crew missing (partial newsreel).
1959: The United States successfully test-fires its first Titan I intercontinental ballistic missile. The threat of global nuclear holocaust moves from the plausible to the likely.
Tony Long The Titan I was not the first ICBM: Both the United States and Soviet Union had already deployed ICBMs earlier in the 1950s (the Atlas A by the Americans, the R-7 by the Russians). But the Titan represented a new generation, a liquid-fueled rocket with greater range and a more powerful payload that upped the ante in the Cold War.
The Titan that the U.S. Air Force successfully launched from Cape Canaveral featured a two-stage liquid rocket capable of delivering a 4-megaton warhead to targets 8,000 miles away. A 4-megaton detonation, puny by today’s standards, nevertheless dwarfed the destructive power of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan.
The Titan’s range meant that, firing from its home turf, the United States was now capable of hitting targets in Eastern Europe, the western Soviet Union and the Soviet Far East.
The first squadron of Titan I’s was declared operational in April 1962. By the mid-’60s, five squadrons were deployed in the western United States.
The missiles were stored in protective underground silos, but had to be brought to the surface for firing. The Titan II, which began appearing in large numbers during the mid-’60s and eventually supplanted the Titan I, would be the first ICBM that could be launched directly from its silo.
Today, ICBMs can be launched from silos, from mobile launchers and, most effectively, from submarines. Read the rest of this entry »
Multi-warhead weapon tested amid growing tensions with the United States.
The flight test of the DF-5C missile was carried out earlier this month using 10 multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs. The test of the inert warheads was monitored closely by U.S. intelligence agencies, said two officials familiar with reports of the missile test.
The missile was fired from the Taiyuan Space Launch Center in central China and flew to an impact range in the western Chinese desert.
No other details about the test could be learned. Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Gary Ross suggested in a statement the test was monitored.
“The [Defense Department] routinely monitors Chinese military developments and accounts for PLA capabilities in our defense plans,” Ross told the Washington Free Beacon.
The test of a missile with 10 warheads is significant because it indicates the secretive Chinese military is increasing the number of warheads in its arsenal.
Estimates of China’s nuclear arsenal for decades put the number of strategic warheads at the relatively low level of around 250 warheads.
U.S. intelligence agencies in February reportedthat China had begun adding warheads to older DF-5 missiles, in a move that has raised concerns for strategic war planners.
Uploading Chinese missiles from single or triple warhead configurations to up to 10 warheads means the number of warheads stockpiled is orders of magnitude larger than the 250 estimate.
Currently, U.S. nuclear forces—land-based and sea-based nuclear missiles and bombers—have been configured to deter Russia’s growing nuclear forces and the smaller Chinese nuclear force.
Under the 2010 U.S.-Russian arms treaty, the United States is slated to reduce its nuclear arsenal to 1,550 deployed warheads.
A boost in the Chinese nuclear arsenal to 800 or 1,000 warheads likely would prompt the Pentagon to increase the U.S. nuclear warhead arsenal by taking weapons out of storage.
The new commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, stated during a Senate confirmation hearing in September that he is concerned about China’s growing nuclear arsenal.
“I am fully aware that China continues to modernize its nuclear missile force and is striving for a secure second-strike capability,” Hyten told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“Although it continues to profess a ‘no first use’ doctrine, China is re-engineering its long-range ballistic missiles to carry multiple nuclear warheads and continues to develop and test hyper-glide vehicle technologies,” Hyten added. Read the rest of this entry »
President Trump, you have a golden opportunity to employ the qualities your supporters believe you have to challenge the Pentagon and the defense aerospace industry to do something that hasn’t been done for many decades: Provide just what the US needs to defend itself on time and at a reasonable cost. The F-35 is a mess and you know it, Mr. President. So does Mad Dog. The F-35 has taken far too long to develop, as costs and serious doubts about its capabilities mount. Meanwhile, the US military air fleet ages, and costs to maintain it and keep it combat ready increase. The F-35 has its defenders but, honestly, those defenders are people with a vested interest in keeping the program going — either military pilots who fear that without that plane, they’ll have no ride at all, or people who have been intimately involved in developing and overseeing the program through its long and tortured history.
“Here’s how to do it. First, tell the Pentagon to define a short, clear set of specifications. I can give you one as an example they can start from. Tell them to do this in 90 days. They can do it — there are really smart people who have been thinking about this a lot for a long time.”
The basic problem with the F-35 is grounded in its fundamental conception: A common airframe that serves all three of the US flying services — Air Force, Navy and Marines. The US faced a “smart” solution to fighter procurement like this once before in notoriously “smart” Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s plan to develop a common Air Force and Navy fighter program in the 1960s. The two services knew that their needs were very different then and successfully fought that proposal. By the 1990s, when the F-35 program had its inception, they’d apparently forgotten all that.
“Absolutely no representatives from any contractor who wants to participate in the project should be allowed to participate in drafting these specification. You define the first and most important specification: Each aircraft is to cost no more than $60 million. Yes, you read that right. $60 million. It can be done. Don’t let anyone tell you it can’t.”
But I won’t rehash that history here. Instead, let me propose a straightforward solution. Don’t totally cancel the program. The F-35 does have some good characteristics and all three services and our allies who have committed to the program should take some of them. The F-35B, with its short take-off and vertical landing capabilities is the only possible near-term or even intermediate-term solution for the Marines’ need to replace the rapidly-aging Harrier upon which they depend. The stealth but especially the incredible smarts built into the basic design of the F-35 can and should be used by the Air Force and Navy in strike missions for which those qualities make it a superior weapon.
You will be told that reducing the numbers of F-35s we buy will increase their unit cost. That is true to some extent, but at some point we have to cut our losses and do what’s best for the overall, long-term defense budget and the nation’s defense.
Both the Air Force and the Navy need a “backbone” warplane that is a fighter first, but that can do a decent job in the strike role and do it in significant numbers (which means at a reasonable cost). (They also need a backbone generally when it comes to the defense contractors. Give it to them.) Both services did a good job in procuring such planes during the era of the “teen series” fighters: The F-16 for the Air Force, and the F-18 for the Navy.
Here’s how to do it. First, tell the Pentagon to define a short, clear set of specifications. I can give you one as an example they can start from. Tell them to do this in 90 days. They can do it — there are really smart people who have been thinking about this a lot for a long time. Absolutely no representatives from any contractor who wants to participate in the project should be allowed to participate in drafting these specifications. You define the first and most important specification: Each aircraft is to cost no more than $60 million. Yes, you read that right. $60 million. It can be done. Don’t let anyone tell you it can’t.
Second, allow any contractor who wants to participate two years to build a flying prototype at their own expense. Two years. And the contractors pay for it. It can be done. Modern rapid prototyping, materials and computer design make this possible. Don’t let anyone tell you it doesn’t. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] 600 Days & Counting: US Air Force’s Unmanned Space Plane, X-37B, on Verge of Breaking Record for Longest Time in SpacePosted: January 16, 2017
It marks the first time for that stealth aircraft to be stationed overseas.
The US Marine Corps said it has sent a squadron of F-35B fighter jets to Japan, marking the first operational overseas deployment for the controversial aircraft that is under scrutiny from president-elect Donald Trump.
The deployment of the 10 planes to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni on Honshu Island marks a major milestone for the F-35, which has been bedeviled by technical glitches and soaring cost overruns.
With a current development and acquisition price tag already at $379 billion for a total of 2,443 F-35 aircraft, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 is the most expensive plane in history, and costs are set to go higher still.
The Marines’s version of the plane, known as the F-35B, is capable of conducting short takeoffs and vertical landings.
Trump last month sent shockwaves through the aerospace industry when he tweeted that he wanted rival Boeing to price out a possible alternative.
“Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!” Trump tweeted December 22.
The F/A-18 Super Hornet does not have stealth capabilities and has been in use since the late 1990s.
Once servicing, maintenance and other costs for the F-35 are factored in over the aircraft’s lifespan through 2070, overall program costs have been projected to rise to as much as $1.5 trillion.
Proponents of the F-35 tout its speed, close air-support capabilities, airborne agility and a massive array of sensors giving pilots unparalleled access to information. Read the rest of this entry »
Paris (AFP) – The Moon, our planet’s constant companion for some 4.5 billion years, may have been forged by a rash of smaller bodies smashing into an embryonic Earth, researchers said Monday.
Such a bombardment birth would explain a major inconsistency in the prevailing hypothesis that the Moon splintered off in a single, giant impact between Earth and a Mars-sized celestial body.
“The multiple impact scenario is a more ‘natural’ way of explaining the formation of the Moon.”
In such a scenario, scientists expect that about a fifth of the Moon’s material would have come from Earth and the rest from the impacting body.
Yet, the makeup of the Earth and the Moon are near identical — an improbability that has long perplexed backers of the single-impact hypothesis.
“In the early stages of the Solar System, impacts were very abundant, therefore it is more natural that several common impactors formed the Moon rather than one special one.”
“The multiple impact scenario is a more ‘natural’ way of explaining the formation of the Moon,” said Raluca Rufu of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, who co-authored the new study published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Such multiple hits would have excavated more Earth material than a single one, which means the moonlets would more closely resemble our planet’s composition, said the study authors. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Iranian Jet Picking Up Obama Administration’s Prisoner Release Ransom Payment of $400 Million in Swiss FrancsPosted: December 29, 2016
A video from Jan. 17, 2016, shows an Iranian government jet as it departs Geneva, Switzerland, with $400 million in Swiss francs from the Obama administration. It was the same day four American prisoners were released from Iran.
It May Not Feel Like Anything To Be an Alien
Susan Schneider writes: Humans are probably not the greatest intelligences in the universe. Earth is a relatively young planet and the oldest civilizations could be billions of years older than us. But even on Earth, Homo sapiens may not be the most intelligent species for that much longer.
“Why would nonconscious machines have the same value we place on biological intelligence?”
The world Go, chess, and Jeopardy champions are now all AIs. AI is projected to outmode many human professions within the next few decades. And given the rapid pace of its development, AI may soon advance to artificial general intelligence—intelligence that, like human intelligence, can combine insights from different topic areas and display flexibility and common sense. From there it is a short leap to superintelligent AI, which is smarter than humans in every respect, even those that now seem firmly in the human domain, such as scientific reasoning and social skills. Each of us alive today may be one of the last rungs on the evolutionary ladder that leads from the first living cell to synthetic intelligence.
What we are only beginning to realize is that these two forms of superhuman intelligence—alien and artificial—may not be so distinct. The technological developments we are witnessing today may have all happened before, elsewhere in the universe. The transition from biological to synthetic intelligence may be a general pattern, instantiated over and over, throughout the cosmos. The universe’s greatest intelligences may be postbiological, having grown out of civilizations that were once biological. (This is a view I share with Paul Davies, Steven Dick, Martin Rees, and Seth Shostak, among others.) To judge from the human experience—the only example we have—the transition from biological to postbiological may take only a few hundred years.
I prefer the term “postbiological” to “artificial” because the contrast between biological and synthetic is not very sharp. Consider a biological mind that achieves superintelligence through purely biological enhancements, such as nanotechnologically enhanced neural minicolumns. This creature would be postbiological, although perhaps many wouldn’t call it an “AI.” Or consider a computronium that is built out of purely biological materials, like the Cylon Raider in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica TV series.
The key point is that there is no reason to expect humans to be the highest form of intelligence there is. Our brains evolved for specific environments and are greatly constrained by chemistry and historical contingencies. But technology has opened up a vast design space, offering new materials and modes of operation, as well as new ways to explore that space at a rate much faster than traditional biological evolution. And I think we already see reasons why synthetic intelligence will outperform us.
Silicon microchips already seem to be a better medium for information processing than groups of neurons. Neurons reach a peak speed of about 200 hertz, compared to gigahertz for the transistors in current microprocessors. Although the human brain is still far more intelligent than a computer, machines have almost unlimited room for improvement. It may not be long before they can be engineered to match or even exceed the intelligence of the human brain through reverse-engineering the brain and improving upon its algorithms, or through some combination of reverse engineering and judicious algorithms that aren’t based on the workings of the human brain.
In addition, an AI can be downloaded to multiple locations at once, is easily backed up and modified, and can survive under conditions that biological life has trouble with, including interstellar travel. Our measly brains are limited by cranial volume and metabolism; superintelligent AI, in stark contrast, could extend its reach across the Internet and even set up a Galaxy-wide computronium, utilizing all the matter within our galaxy to maximize computations. There is simply no contest. Superintelligent AI would be far more durable than us.
Suppose I am right. Suppose that intelligent life out there is postbiological. What should we make of this? Here, current debates over AI on Earth are telling. Two of the main points of contention—the so-called control problem and the nature of subjective experience—affect our understanding of what other alien civilizations may be like, and what they may do to us when we finally meet.
Ray Kurzweil takes an optimistic view of the postbiological phase of evolution, suggesting that humanity will merge with machines, reaching a magnificent technotopia. But Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and others have expressed the concern that humans could lose control of superintelligent AI, as it can rewrite its own programming and outthink any control measures that we build in. This has been called the “control problem”—the problem of how we can control an AI that is both inscrutable and vastly intellectually superior to us. Read the rest of this entry »
Moscow (AFP) – A Russian military plane carrying 91 people has disappeared from radar after taking off from the southern city of Adler, local news agencies reported the defence ministry as saying Sunday.
Russian aircraft goes missing pic.twitter.com/BEpTSYtrLH
— NewsX (@NewsX) December 25, 2016
On December 24th, 1968, Apollo 8 made its final pass around the moon and the crew, in turn, sent home this message:
“We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.
‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.'”
“And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”
Japan is leaping into space resources, agreeing to work with a robotic-exploration company to create a blueprint for an industry to extract resources from the moon that would enable more extensive space exploration.
It can reach an altitude of over 6,500 feet and travel at over 65 miles per hour.
This film documents the selection of the original seven astronauts for Project Mercury: Lieutenant Malcolm S. (Scott) Carpenter, Captain Leroy G. (Gordon) Cooper, Lieutenant Colonel John H. Glenn, Captain Virgil I. (Gus) Grissom, Lieutenant Commander Walter M. Schirra, Lieutenant Commander Alan Shepard, and Captain Donald K. (Deke) Slayton.
The footage shows the selection criteria and process, the astronauts in training, and the beginnings of our knowledge of manned space flight.
Project Mercury was the first human spaceflight program of the United States led by its newly created space agency NASA. It ran from 1959 through 1963 with the goal of putting a human in orbit around the Earth, and doing it before the Soviet Union, as part of the early space race. It involved seven astronauts flying a total of six solo trips.
On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space in a suborbital flight after the Soviet Union had put Yuri Gagarin into orbit one month earlier. John Glenn became the first American to reach orbit on February 20, 1962. He was the third person to do so, after Soviet Gherman Titov made a day-long flight in August 1961. Read the rest of this entry »
“Today, the first American to orbit the Earth, NASA astronaut and Ohio Senator John Glenn, passed away. We mourn this tremendous loss for our nation and the world. As one of NASA’s original Mercury 7 astronauts, Glenn’s riveting flight aboard Friendship 7 on Feb. 20, 1962, united our nation, launched America to the forefront of the space race, and secured for him a unique place in the annals of history.
“While that first orbit was the experience of a lifetime, Glenn, who also had flown combat missions in both World War II and the Korean War as a Marine aviator, continued to serve his country as a four-term Senator from Ohio, as a trusted statesman, and an educator. In 1998, at the age of 77, he became the oldest human to venture into space as a crew member on the Discovery space shuttle — once again advancing our understanding of living and working in space.
“He earned many honors for both his military and public service achievements. In 2012, President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor the country can bestow, and he also received the Congressional Gold Medal.
“Glenn’s extraordinary courage, intellect, patriotism and humanity were the hallmarks of a life of greatness. His missions have helped make possible everything our space program has since achieved and the human missions to an asteroid and Mars that we are striving toward now.
“With all his accomplishments, he was always focused on the young people of today, who would soon lead the world. ‘The most important thing we can do is inspire young minds and advance the kind of science, math and technology education that will help youngsters take us to the next phase of space travel,’ he said. ‘To me, there is no greater calling … If I can inspire young people to dedicate themselves to the good of mankind, I’ve accomplished something.’ Read the rest of this entry »
The multiple-axis space test inertia facility, fondly called “the gimbal rig,” simulated tumble-type maneuvers that might be encountered in space flight. From February 15 through March 4, 1960, the gimbal rig provided valuable training for all seven Project Mercury astronauts. John Glenn explains how it worked and what the experience was like. Credits: NASA
On February 20, 1962, NASA astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth in his Mercury capsule Friendship 7. In 4 hours and 56 minutes, John Glenn circled the globe three times, reaching speeds of more than 17,000 miles per hour. The successful mission concluded with a splashdown and recovery in the Atlantic Ocean, 800 miles southeast of Bermuda.
In this video, Glenn discusses the Multiple Axis Space Test Inertia Facility, informally known as the “gimbal rig,” used to train the “Original Seven” Mercury astronauts for America’s first human spaceflights.
The rig, which simulated an out of control spacecraft and required the astronauts to bring it back under control, was located at what was then NASA’s Lewis Research Center near Cleveland, Ohio. That center now bears Glenn’s name. Read the rest of this entry »
One of the original “Magnificent Seven” astronauts in NASA’s Mercury program, John Glenn captured the nation’s attention in 1962 when he first circumnavigated the globe and returned as a hero who had scaled heights no American had reached before. In his post-NASA career, Glenn served four terms as a U.S. senator from Ohio. Following his […]
Source: The Washington Post