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Today President Obama will speak at the Kennedy Space Center and unveil his updated vision for space exploration to the public and to NASA. The original plan he put forth in Feb. was met with harsh criticism because it canceled the entire Constellation program and left the job of getting astronauts to the International Space Station and low-earth orbit entirely in the hands of private industry after the scheduled termination of the Space Shuttle program in 2015. A few days ago intentionally-leaked information hit the blogosphere and rumors abound about what his updated plan will look like. The biggest rumors are that he’ll be injecting an additional $6 billion over the next few years specifically targeted at development of a heavy-lift launch vehicle. This rocket would primarily be for getting parts of a larger spacecraft into orbit, and no doubt that larger spacecraft will be intended to take humans to Mars and other solar system destinations. The other big rumor is that he wants to bring back one component of the gutted Constellation program- the Orion crew capsule. Instead of being the primary method of getting US astronauts to the ISS, however, it will simply serve as a US escape capsule attached to the ISS. This would alleviate the problem of US astronauts relying on the Russian Soyuz capsule as an escape pod. More on these rumors can be found at Universe Today and Space.com.

I will be watching the live coverage of Obama’s speech on NASA’s website. The streaming video starts at 12:30pm CDT, and Obama’s speech is scheduled for 1:40pm CDT. I’m looking forward to seeing just what he has in mind and how well he sells the idea to the skeptics and naysayers.

For the record, as I’ve said before, I’m totally behind his plan, and not just because I’m a liberal and I voted for him. NASA has gotten into a rut ever since the Apollo era, mostly due to political bullshit. They’ve done some awesome stuff, but the drive to explore new horizons has largely been lost. With the budding new private spaceflight industry there’s no reason why NASA can’t utilize them to do the simple, routine tasks of getting us to the ISS and low-earth orbit. NASA would be spinning its wheels and wasting money to focus on that task. To fulfill its original purpose, NASA need to focus its efforts getting us further into our solar system- Mars, asteroids, and robotic explorations to places like Saturn’s moons Titan and Enceladus, and Jupiter’s moon Europa, all of which have exciting potential as homes for microbial extraterrestrial life.

So tune in to Obama’s speech at 1:40 today, and in the meantime, check out astronomer Neil Degrasse Tyson’s comments on NASA’s future, from a recent Q & A session at the University of Buffalo.

(Via Bad Astronomy)

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Two good updates from space via Space.com:

Ever since last November, astronauts on the International Space Station have been working out glitches in their new urine/wastewater recycling system. Yesterday they finally were able to successfully test it and drink water made from their own urine. It’s a bit uncomfortable to think about drinking the water from your own urine, but it may eventually be necessary for people even here on Earth if the population keeps expanding exponentially. The problem isn’t that water itself is in short supply, it’s that the vast majority of it is either undrinkably saline (the oceans) or located too far away from the people who need it. So far there’s not an energy-efficient or cost-effective method of desalinization of ocean water.

The astronauts onboard Space Shuttle Atlantis are scheduled to land tomorrow at Kennedy Space Center at 10:01 AM EDT. They’ve been given the all-clear on the heat shield inspection and are currently getting the shuttle ready for re-entry. As always, nasa.gov will have live coverage and video of the landing.

In other space-related news, former astronaut Scott Parazynski finally reached the summit of Mount Everest yesterday. He’s been at it for a few years now, and last year an injury forced him to delay his climb. This time he made it, and brought along some “moon rocks and remembrances of fallen astronauts.” He was also doing research and collecting samples for various other scientific endeavors. Read more at this Universe Today article.

From NBN showcase at SXSW 2009.

Turbo Fruits: NBN showcase at SXSW 2009.

The Next Big Nashville website is still the 2008 version, but according to this post on Nashville Cream (which is about sonicbids, not NBN), NBN 2009 will feature a Friday evening of events that will take over the honky-tonks on lower Broadway, as well as an outdoor event on Saturday. This is all good news because those bars are all conveniently located close to each other, much like the bars/venues in Austin for SXSW. It makes it much easier to hop between shows, especially if bands you want to see are playing at nearly the same time, but different venues. I would hope the outdoor event on Saturday is the grand finale throwdown, like the one at Cannery last year.

Please do yourself a favor and go browse through Photos that Changed the World. These are truly magnificent images. Some are very graphic and difficult to look at, but everyone needs to see these photographs. Via Kottke.org.

Click image to see bigger version

This has been popping up in a few places around the interwebs for a couple days now, and I should’ve posted about it earlier, but I’ve fallen victim t0 post-SXSW sickness and laziness. A team of physicists have discovered a brand new subatomic particle, which they’re calling “Y(4140).” Ironically this particle was not discovered at the Large Hadron Collider, which is still not operational due to repairs from the catastrophic helium leak last fall; it was discovered at Fermilab, right here in the USA. This new information will be valuable in future mathematical models of the universe, as well as in the experiments conducted at the LHC later this year. You’d think they could come up with a cooler name for a completely new type of subatomic particle… something like “megaquark” or “quarktron.” Lazerquark…

The space shuttle undocked from the ISS yesterday and did a fly-around, capturing the first images of the fully symmetrical, full-length ISS. Universe Today has the space porn, including video of part of the fly-around.

According to Space.com, NASA has decided to go ahead with the Hubble repair mission, despite the increased risk of debris impact due to the satellite collision on Feb. 10th. I’m glad, but kinda scared for the crew. The danger is heightened by the fact that they won’t have the ISS as a lifeboat. Instead, NASA will have Space Shuttle Endeavour on a different pad, ready to launch and be used as a lifeboat should Atlantis be damaged.

Several different time-lapse videos of plants growing. These things are always fun to watch. Via kottke.org.

This has been showing up on almost every blog I read, but it’s definitely worth posting- the first trailers for the Spike Jonze-directed, Arcade Fire-loaded, live-action version of Where the Wild Things Are has been posted. The best place to view it is on apple.com. They have gorgeous HD versions that are true eye candy.

Camera Obscura @ SXSW 2009 Photo: Steve Cross

Camera Obscura @ SXSW 2009 Photo: Steve Cross

I was quite pleased yesterday to find out that Camera Obscura will be kicking off their north American tour in Nashville at the Mercy Lounge on May 27th. To my knowledge, they have never played here, and they’re one of my favorites. Even though I just saw them at SXSW, I will be there enthusiastically. Their new album My Maudlin Career drops April 20th via 4AD. Check out the rest of their tour dates at their myspace.

Another upcoming show I’m looking forward to is The Pains of Being Pure at Heart @ the End on May 2nd. Like C.O., I saw this band at SXSW and they did not dissappoint. But I really look forward to seeing full length sets from both bands, as all the shows at SXSW are showcases with 5 or so bands, thus each band has less time to setup and a shorter set length than normal. POBPAH are definitely one of those “blog-buzz” bands, but I honestly think they will have more staying power and are on an entirely different level than say, Vampire Weekend or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

haleygwen-blogWell, they never really broke up officially, but No Doubt will be “reuniting” for a tour this summer. It’s a big one, too, with none other than TN’s own Paramore, kicking off at NJ’s Bamboozle Festival. Via Stereogum.

Jensen Sportag got mentioned on Pitchfork yesterday via a Max Tundra remix of the track “Cocktease” that they posted. Go get it now. Pretty awesome that Nashville’s electronic scene is getting such national attention. And here’s another treat for your hard drive via Nashville Cream:
Jensen Sportag-Jackie

The Fucking Weather. Simplicity is amazing. Via Yewknee.

Have you noticed that new skyscraper going up in downtown Nashville and wondered what it’s for, who’s occupying it, etc?? I thought so. Here’s an article from NewsChannel 5 that will answer all your questions about it.

The opening chord to the Beatles’ Hard Day’s Night has been somewhat of a mystery to musicians for 40 years. No one could quite figure out just what was being played…. until last October, when mathematician Jason Brown gave a whole new meaning to the phrase “math rock” by using a calculation called the Fourier transform to breakdown and analyze each tone present in the recording. Through this process Mr. Brown deduces that there’s a piano chord present, along with Harrison’s 12-string guitar, Lennon’s 6-string, and McCartney’s bass. This part was probably played by producer George Martin. Via Daily Galaxy.

After several delays, NASA has finally targeted March 12th as the launch date for the Space Shuttle Discovery on a mission to continue construction on the International Space Station. Let’s hope they keep this one.

NASA is also holding an online poll to determine what the official name of the next US-built space station node should be. Right now “Serenity” is winning by a landslide. I’m inclined to agree with the majority vote.

And The Relatives, a local indie rock trio featuring my friend and fellow Scene contributor Patrick Rodgers on drums, have released their first proper EP “Animals.” Their EP release show was this past friday at the 5 Spot, but I was unable to attend due to a huge conference at work. I highly recommend checking them out this thurs. Nov. 20th (I may be there- it’s my birthday afterall) at the End with The Ettes, The Howlies, and Mean Tambourines. For a couple of free mp3’s, head over to Out The Other. They are part of a new collective of bands/artists known as Holly House. I’ve heard this name a few times over the past year or so, and recently I checked out their website to find that they have quite a lineup of bands associated with them. They seem to be onto something good here- a collective of bands just trying to make good music and help each other out with booking, etc… Basically it’s like Movement Nashville, but not so focused on the commercial/business aspect. The artists/bands associated with MN are very commercial sounding (and sometimes acting), and I think that leaves a bad taste in many mouths amongst local bands who really just want to make good music, regardless of the commercial appeal. I have nothing against a band trying to make a little money doing what they love, but sometimes it’s just too blatantly obvious that they’re making their art fit into a certain formulaic mold, at which point I usually say “no thanks.”

This is slightly old news by now, but the Space Shuttle Endeavour blasted off from Kennedy Space Center Friday night at 7:55pm EST and successfully docked with the International Space Station at 5:01pm EST Sunday. You can watch live footage from the mission at NASA TV. While we’re talking about NASA, there’s a little speculation about the future of NASA under the new Obama Administration. Current NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has said that he will stick around only if Obama wants to keep things going steady on the current course of developing the new Constellation program, and retiring the Shuttle in 2010. For more info see the full story at Universe Today.

Some random links:
10 fascinating last pictures of famous people before they died.
Obama plans to begin doing weekly YouTube video updates. FDR 2.0 maybe?
Plasma plants may vaporize garbage while generating power.
Photographs of female body builders. Not for the faint of heart….

And finally I’ll leave you with this bit of inspiration, thanks to the Holly House website:

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