Friday, March 10, 2006

It's nail-bitin' time again...

The shiny new Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is supposed to arrive in Mars orbit today. SpaceflightNow has their usual minute-by-minute status page, so anyone who doesn't mind a little temporary high blood pressure can follow along.

Maybe I'm just being cynical here, but I have to wonder whether the word "Reconnaissance" in the name was the key to getting budgetary approval. It's hard to imagine a name that'd be a safer bet, given the Bushies' well-known inclinations. "Mars Petroleum Explorer", anyone? Or maybe a "Mars BibleBot 1", to look for evidence of Noah's flood on Mars, and convert the heathen Martians (if they exist) into good churchgoing Southern Baptists.

Anyway, while we're waiting, here are a couple of perspectives on yesterday's big Enceladus announcement. The Christian Science Monitor has a piece titled "Water discovery vs. NASA budget cuts". I had a few words to say about GWB's budget cuts myself a couple of days ago. And the Sydney Morning Herald has an article "Does it contain new forms of life or just a few old geysers?" (what is it with these long titles?)

It's quite a cool discovery, although (as usual) it wasn't entirely unexpected. The moon orbits within the "E ring", a faint, diffuse band of ice crystals. The leading theory for many years has been that the ice was coming from the moon somehow. And the twin Voyagers in the early 80's showed that much of the moon's surface looks relatively fresh and uncratered, which is usually taken to mean that some sort of crater-erasing geological process has occurred there, possibly on an ongoing basis. You put two and two together, and geysers don't seem that outlandish of an idea. So as cool as this is, it's really a confirmation of an existing hypothesis, not a startling and unexpected new revelation.

As an alternate form of stress relief, here are two more beer blogs I came across yesterday: Appellation Beer and Making Homemade Wine & Beer. There's also a current beer article over at Prague Style, which isn't at all surprising given what I've heard about the city. More surprising is another blog's post about Taybeh Beer, the only beer currently brewed in the Palestinian territories. Don't miss the directions to the brewery, complete with army checkpoints and everything. And just last year, the town of Taybeh celebrated its very first Oktoberfest. Huh. Who would've thought?

technorati tags:

No comments :