Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Chaplet of Divine Mercy in Song (complete) by St.Faustina of Poland - for your Lenten meditation

Stepping Stones to the Solar System:NASA Shares Details of its Deep Space Gateway Concept

Without fanfare,an article was posted on NASA's website a few days ago that crystallised the Orion Program more than had previously been done.The agency revealed its intentions for exploring cislunar space,the vicinity of the Moon,as a proving ground for missions to the Mars system and other solar system destinations:
1.The first phase of cislunar exploration will use current technologies and allow us to gain experience with extended operations farther from Earth than ever before.Such missions will enable NASA to develop new technologies and apply innovative approaches to solving problems in preparation for longer-duration missions far from Earth.Integral to this phase of the early Orion flights that will occur at a pace of one a year will be the construction of a relatively small orbiting spaceport,the gateway.The spaceport will have a power bus;a small habitat to expand mission length;docking capability;an airlock;and several logisitics modules to facilitate research.It will move among a family of orbits calibrated according to the requirements of various missions,such as close-in orbits for deploying lunar robotics or high orbits for support of long duration missions to other parts of the solar system.The gateway project is made possible by the expansive SLS cargo capacity plus the Orion spacecraft's crewed deep space capability.This spaceport will be developed,serviced and utilised in collaboration with commercial and international partners.*
2.The second phase will confirm that the agency's crewed capabilities can perform long duration missions beyond the Moon.For such missions,NASA plans a new deep space transport spacecraft that is reusable and runs on high power electric/chemical propulsion.This spacecraft will be specifically designed for crewed missions to Mars and other celestial bodies.It will take crews to their destinations and return to the gateway for servicing and eventual reuse.This transport,like the gateway spaceport itself,will take advantage of the large volumes and mass that that the SLS can launch,as well as the advanced exploration technologies now being developed and demonstrated on the ground and on ISS.
This second phase will culminate in the 2020s with a one year crewed mission in cislunar space to validate the readiness of the system to travel beyond the Moon and safely conduct missions independent of Earth.It will enable explorers to identify and pioneer solutions to technical and human challenges discovered or engineered in deep space,NASA explained.The agency states that it will look to partners for potential contributions of spaceflight hardware and the delivery of supplemental resources.The gateway and transport could potentially support multiple missions,representing several countries and agencies with partners from both government and private industry.NASA is open to both technical and programmatic ideas as it develops,matures and implements the Deep Space Gateway plan.*
In charge at NASA today:Robert Lightfoot is Acting Administrator pending President Donald Trump's permanent appointment;Dr.William Gerstenmeier is NASA's Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations;Astronaut Christopher Cassidy is Chief of the Astronaut Office;Julie Robinson is NASA Chief Scientist for the ISS.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Mattis Meets With NATO Secretary General - DOD

SecDef Mattis Meets with NATO Secretary General at the Pentagon

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis met with NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg at the Pentagon on 21 March 2017.In his welcoming remarks,Mr.Mattis said:
We have a very strong trans-Atlantic bond.It's getting stronger.Relationships don't stay the same.They're always changing.In this case,the bond is getting stronger.It's built on a legacy of common commitments and common defence,and we never forget that in this building.*
In his reply,Secretary General Stoltenberg responded by saying:
It's great to be here in Washington and to meet with you.And I also commend you for your strong personal support and leadership when it comes to NATO and the trans-Atlantic bond.I think we really saw that when you met with all the defence Allies during the Defence Ministerial meeting in Brussels.Then you expressed a strong support for the trans-Atlantic unity,the trans-Atlantic bond,and the NATO Alliance.And we are very grateful for that.
I think that in times of turmoil,in times of uncertainty,the need for strong international institutions such as NATO is even greater.So therefore we need to adapt.We need to strengthen NATO in response to the challenges and the unpredictability we see surrounding us today.*
Following their talks,Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis,US Navy,shared a readout of the meeting.The two leaders discussed the key role the Alliance plays in trans-Atlantic security and to review preparations for the upcoming special meeting of NATO heads of state and government,Captain Davis noted.They also discussed ways to encourage Allies to assume a more equitable share of Alliance security and defence responsibilities.Mr.Mattis thanked Mr.Stoltenberg for his leadership on this issue,and applauded those Allies already meeting the benchmark of spending two percent of their countrys' GDP on defence.
The two leaders also discussed NATO's role in fighting terrorism and defeating ISIL,as well as NATO's missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo.Both pledged to consult in the coming months and said they look forward to meeting again at the next NATO Defence Ministerial conference,Captain Davis added.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Ukrainian Prime Minister Praises Patriarch Bartholomew

On 15 March 2017,Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman visited the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople/Istanbul as part of an official visit to Turkey.He was accompanied by a number of other officials,including Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Kistion;Minister of Agriculture Taras Kutovoy;Minister of Education Liliya Hrynevych;and Ukrainian Ambassador to Turkey Andrii Sibiha.Mr.Groysman was welcomed in the Patriarchate courtyard by Archimandrite Vissarion,archivist of the Ecumenical Patriarchate,in accordance with protocol.*
The Prime Minister was then received by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,with whom he had a long and cordial discussion.Also in attendance were His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of France;His Eminence Metropolitan Bartholomew of Smyrna,Chief Secretary of the Holy and Sacred Synod;and His Eminence Archbishop Daniel of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA (Ecumenical Patriarchate).*
Prime Minister Groysman praised His All-Holiness for supporting the steps leading to a unified Ukrainian Orthodox Church:
Ukrainians aspire to a single Church,and your role is very important,he told the Patriarch.We have deep respect for Your Holiness and for your support in the efforts leading to the unified Ukrainian Orthodoxy.*
Currently there are three branches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church;but only one,the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate),is recognised by the other Orthodox Churches.*
For his part,Patriarch Bartholomew thanked the Ukrainian people for their deep faith and fidelity to the Church:
We pray that the Ukrainian people will be united in one Church.Mother Church of Constantinople will help you to receive such a united Church.We can be optimistic about the future.We greet the entire beloved Ukrainian nation from the headquarters of the Ecumenical Patriarchate not as foreigners;but as beloved spiritual children of the Mother Church.Spiritual relations that unite the Mother Church with Ukrainians never disappeared.We are close to you,especially when it is hard.We accompany you with our prayers and blessings,the Ecumenical Patriarch said.*
Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate have made several recent visits to Ukraine to further the quest for Church unity.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

ISIL Stages Barbaric Attack in Afghan Capital Kabul

Four militants with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant stormed the biggest military hospital in the Afghan capital Kabul on Wednesday,killing more than 30 people and wounding over 50 others.The Islamist extremists were disguised as doctors for the assault which began when a militant detonated a bomb at a gate of Sardar Daud Hospital,killing himself in the process.The three others ran through the gate and started firing Kalashnikov automatic weapons indiscriminately and armed with hand grenades as well.*
The hospital is located in the Wazir Akbar Khan area of Central Kabul,just blocks from the US Embassy.*
In response,Afghan Special Operations Forces rappelled to the hospital roof from a helicopter.The militants then took up positions on the upper floors and a six-hour firefight ensued which cost the terrorists their lives.At one point,ISIL even fired into an operating room.It was perhaps their most sophisticated attack yet in Afghanistan,showing a higher degree of military training and planning than other efforts.Although the government claims to have cleared ISIL out of several villages,the militants maintain strongholds in the mountains.They claim parts of Eastern Afghanistan and Western Pakistan as their Khorasan Province.*
In February,ISIL claimed the attack on the Supreme Court in Kabul that killed 22.Being on the losing end of several battles in Iraq and Syria lately,ISIL may be trying to compensate for these losses by waging a terror campaign in Afghanistan and Pakistan.Afghan Chief Executive Dr.Abdullah Abdullah pledged to avenge the blood of the Afghan people.
General John Nicholson recently told the US Congress he needs a few more thousand troops to help the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces fend off militants from the Taliban,al-Qaida and ISIL.It doesn't matter to him whether they are American or from other NATO or partner nations.These reinforcements would be on top of the 300 US Marines headed back to Helmand Province,in the Taliban heartland,in the spring to help stabilise the situation there.The US has about 2100 counterterrorism troops in Afghanistan presently,out of its 8400 total commitment to Operation Freedom's Sentinel,with the rest detailed to train,advise and assist.US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is to forward his own recommendation on US involvement in Afghanistan to President Donald Trump shortly.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Of Pressure and Risk:NASA Considers the Trump Proposal to Speed Up the Orion Program

A NASA official,Dr.William Gerstenmaier,Associate Administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate,has spoken to the media via teleconference about the White House request that NASA consider making Exploration Mission-1 of the Orion Program,currently slated to be an unmanned mission in 2018,to be the first crewed mission as well as a test mission for the integrated Orion spacecraft and new Space Launch System rocket,in order to speed the development process up and preserve American leadership in space exploration:
We don't need the full capability of the Exploration Upper Stage to do this revised mission EM-1.What changes do we need to make?We think we can still protect the crew.We didn't do a test of the cargo flights to International Space Station.We might add micrometeorite protection for the high Earth orbit.The mission would be in 2019.We're going to do an altitude abort test to make sure it works.
Does this really advance our ability to get to the Moon?It will be a risks analysis.We can notionally pull the altitude abort test forward to early in 2019,ahead of revised EM-1.
We recognise this is an increased risk,and we have to decide whether it's worth it with astronauts included in the discussion.What do I really gain from putting a crew on board?When you look at STS-1,the first Space Shuttle mission,which also added crew to a test flight,it's not as big a step as what we did with Shuttle technology.*
From my perspective,I don't see this as pressure.It's better if I don't have a preconceived notion.They gave us freedom to delay EM-1 and extra funding.I think it's great if we have a chance to look at this.We make some changes to give us a better system overall,even if we don't add crew to EM-1.It's going to take a significant amount of money-and pretty quickly-to do what we have to do.We will still have a pretty exciting mission without a crew on EM-1;but a very successful Exploration Flight Test-1 helps give us confidence in adding new things to EM-1.We hit 85 of 87 flight tests successfully on EFT-1,except for the crew uprighting at splashdown.We were looking at this on our own to see what we could do.We added crew seats and dummies and radiation testing.To make this faster,the carbon dioxide removal has been tested on ISS.The waste management system will be going to ISS.*
I don't consider this a ton of extra work for us.I've picked team members for this evaluation not directly associated with Orion so the Orion team could stay focused on EM-1/EM-2.We don't have a specific schedule about getting information.If we go beyond 2019,we might as well go fly EM-2 instead.In the next month or so,we hope to have some of our preliminary findings briefed within the agency.We want to have a pretty polished format in about a month,Dr.Bill Gerstenmaier explained to the media.*
Priniciple contractors for the Orion Program include Lockheed Martin (LMT);Boeing (BA);United Launch Alliance (LMT/BA partnership);and Aerojet Rocketdyne (AJRD).