It’s all about priorities
August 20, 2008
Popular Mechanics September 2008 issue contains an article that outlines a new NASA plan to bomb the moon in an attempt to discover a source of water there. And Australia’s Herald Sun reported last week that a pill to cure the common cold has been developed by Australian scientists and is currently being tested. Debate over whether a cure to the common cold is more important than creating large explosions in space, is warming up like a guy with a bad sinus infection with no water to keep him cool and hydrated.
“Exploration and discovery has always been more important to the human race than health, safety and financial security. That’s why Europeans didn’t worry about spreading small pox to Native Americans when they trekked west across the North American plains, and astronauts risk fiery death on space flights, and U.S. voters are considering Barack Obama for the next president of the United States,” said Astro Fisics, a notorious gambler and Israeli nuclear scientist, whose secret work for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gives him a real rush. “The common cold is boring and having one or curing one doesn’t do anything for anybody. But blowing holes in the moon’s surface, whether it’s to find water or just blast the hell out of something in space; now that’s cool. Almost makes me think twice about giving Iran the bomb and watching them blow the shit out of everything down here.”
Not everyone is comfortable with Astro Fisics perspective. “The Aussies are doing something practical with science by curing the common cold, a nasty nasal infection that has plagued humankind for centuries,” said someone claiming to be Angelina Jolie, a part-time actress, activist, adoption agency and silicon investor. “Science needs to spend more time curing and fixing things and less time blowing stuff up. There are so many ills in today’s world that need a cure; it seems like such a shame that we don’t spend more time focused on them. Do you like my lips and boobs? Most guys do. They’re one of my contributions to beautifying the world and making it a better place. And I didn’t even use explosives to make them look this way. A little science sure, but no bombs. See how science can be used for good?”
Popular Science reported that NASA, short on time and tight on money, is aiming to solve the mystery of lunar ice in late winter—by crashing a low-budget kamikaze spacecraft into a crater on the moon. The agency plans to return astronauts to the lunar surface in 12 years as the first step in establishing a permanent outpost. The base could be an ideal location for manufacturing processes best suited for low gravity, or for helium-3 mining to fuel future fusion reactors. The agency also sees the moon as the perfect construction site and launch pad for eventual manned journeys to Mars. Water is a key ingredient in these grand schemes, because it can be broken down into oxygen for lunar bases and fuel for rockets.
The Popular Science article said a bare-bones spacecraft, dubbed the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), would sit beneath the LRO atop an Atlas rocket. After launch, with the LRO safely bound for the moon, LCROSS would remain attached to the Atlas’s spent upper-stage rocket, known as the Centaur. Using the moon’s gravity, LCROSS would maneuver the Centaur—”like a VW steering a school bus,” Dan Andrews of NASA says—into an elongated orbit around Earth that assures a collision with one of the moon’s poles. Nine hours before impact, 24,000 miles above the lunar surface, LCROSS and the Centaur would separate. The 5000-pound Centaur would crash into a dark crater at twice the speed of a rifle bullet, kicking up a plume of debris more than 6 miles high. Four minutes later, the heavily instrumented LCROSS would ride the plume, checking for water and relaying data to Earth until it, too, slammed into the lunar surface.
The Herald Sun reported that a pill to cure the common cold has been developed by scientists at Australia-based Biota Holdings. The drug, which is known as BTA798, latches on to cold-causing human rhinoviruses (HRV), preventing them from breaking into the body’s cells and causing infection. BTA798 could be used to clear up sniffles in healthy people and prevent life-threatening infections in asthma and cystic fibrosis sufferers. Effective against the bugs that cause half of colds in adults and almost all colds in children, it could net its Australian creators billions of dollars a year.
The Sun article said Peter Cook, Biota Holdings chief executive officer, hailed the BTA798 results as a significant milestone in the development of what could be a world-first anti-viral treatment for HRV in high-risk patients. In a double-pronged attack, BTA798 stops any infection that has taken hold from spreading. In lab tests, the drug killed large quantities of cold virus within a couple of hours. Larger-scale trials are now under way to determine whether it can actually prevent people from catching a cold.
In other news, WPIX Pittsburg reported Monday that an 85-year-old great-grandmother from Lake Lynn, Fayette County kept an alleged burglar at bay using a .22-caliber pistol. According to police, a 17-year-old suspect was attempting to burglarize Leda Smith overnight. That’s when Smith grabbed her gun and told the teen that she would shoot him if he moved, police said.
“I had the gun on him before he turned around and said, ‘you’ve had it,’ ” Smith told Channel 11-News. According to police, Smith ordered the boy to dial 911 and then gave him some advice. “Dial 911 and don’t attempt to throw the phone at me, or do anything bad or I’ll just shoot you,” Smith said. When police arrived, they took the teen into custody. No word on how the 85-year-old feels about blasting holes in the surface of the moon or battling the common cold, but chances are, she’s prepared for both.
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