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This is not a boat accident. It’s a space station.

By Roxanne Cooper
Saturday, January 12, 2013 0:47 EDT
A Death Star embossed with the Obama logo. Photo: Flickr user Meng Bomin, creative commons licensed.

Following a petition that reached the White House’s We The People threshold for response, the Obama administration issued the following to a request that the U.S. government build a Death Star. Enjoy!

This Isn’t the Petition Response You’re Looking For

By Paul Shawcross

The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn’t on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:

The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We’re working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

However, look carefully (here’s how) and you’ll notice something already floating in the sky — that’s no Moon, it’s a Space Station! Yes, we already have a giant, football field-sized International Space Station in orbit around the Earth that’s helping us learn how humans can live and thrive in space for long durations. The Space Station has six astronauts — American, Russian, and Canadian — living in it right now, conducting research, learning how to live and work in space over long periods of time, routinely welcoming visiting spacecraft and repairing onboard garbage mashers, etc. We’ve also got two robot science labs — one wielding a laser — roving around Mars, looking at whether life ever existed on the Red Planet.

Keep in mind, space is no longer just government-only. Private American companies, through NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO), are ferrying cargo — and soon, crew — to space for NASA, and are pursuing human missions to the Moon this decade.

Even though the United States doesn’t have anything that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, we’ve got two spacecraft leaving the Solar System and we’re building a probe that will fly to the exterior layers of the Sun. We are discovering hundreds of new planets in other star systems and building a much more powerful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that will see back to the early days of the universe.

We don’t have a Death Star, but we do have floating robot assistants on the Space Station, a President who knows his way around a light saber and advanced (marshmallow) cannon, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is supporting research on building Luke’s arm, floating droids, and quadruped walkers.

We are living in the future! Enjoy it. Or better yet, help build it by pursuing a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field. The President has held the first-ever White House science fairs and Astronomy Night on the South Lawn because he knows these domains are critical to our country’s future, and to ensuring the United States continues leading the world in doing big things.

If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field, the Force will be with us! Remember, the Death Star’s power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system, is insignificant next to the power of the Force.

Paul Shawcross is Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget

Ravi Shankar: a short journey and a music sampler

By Roxanne Cooper
Wednesday, December 12, 2012 3:18 EDT

One of the most influential musicians of the 20th Century has left us. RIP, Ravi Shankar. In the summer of 2001, my husband and I escaped to India for ten-day journey that included visits to Delhi, Dharamsala and Shimla. One of the things that made traveling in India different than traveling elsewhere, is that India –for me– had a soundtrack. The colors the women of the Himalayas wore. The odd questions the retired journalist asked…


Exciting news from Mars! Nothing ‘Earth-shaking’!

By Pete Goldie
Tuesday, December 4, 2012 3:39 EDT

(Playing The Martian Guessing Game – Addendum #2) The American Geophysical Union 2012 Annual Meeting, a San Francisco December tradition, is one of the premier settings for presenting the latest in planetary science.  The first day was no exception.  Heard today, in order of scientific importance: 1)  Mars Science Laboratory…


The election over? Not hardly…

By Hal Robins
Monday, December 3, 2012 19:52 EDT

I’ve been discouraged, if not surprised, to see so many postings expressing relief that “the election is finally over.” Because it’s not really over– the struggle embodied by the election is certainly nowhere near over. Oh, it was scary indeed, the menace of the Republicans. Writing in Harper’s magazine before…


No ‘Little Green Men’ on Monday (?)

By Pete Goldie
Friday, November 30, 2012 0:16 EDT

(Playing The Martian Guessing Game – Addendum #1) Now this is unusual: NASA has taken the extraordinary step of issuing a 2nd strong denial in a formal press release Thursday afternoon (11/29/12) and tamped down expectation of any major news announcements at Monday’s American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San…


Playing the Martian guessing game

By Pete Goldie
Tuesday, November 27, 2012 12:50 EDT

The Martian Guessing Game is in full swing.  Triggered by an interview with Mars Curiosity Rover P.I. John Grotzinger, NPR’s Joe Palca reported on Tuesday (11/20/2012) that a very exciting result has been returned from the Sample Analysis at Mars instruments (SAM), the onboard miniature chemistry laboratory.  With such loaded…


Save the ‘tree lobsters’ hiding on Ball’s Pyramid!

By Hal Robins
Monday, November 26, 2012 1:35 EDT

I have hopes that the better angels of our nature as a species will prevail. On a strange island, a fantastic, isolated rock in the remote South Pacific, under a single bush, a few years ago certain curious-looking giant insects were found, of a kind thought to have been exterminated…


Secret Emails From Resigned CIA Director David Petraeus To His Mistress by John Shirley

By John Shirley
Wednesday, November 14, 2012 2:16 EDT

– as imagined by John Shirley… My darling winky dinky pretty puss-puss, how this new job weighs on me, everyone is “oh we have to be so secret”, even more than when I was a General, what are they worrying about? Is it that damn new particle beam destruction device we’re…


The 2nd Presidential Debate: Obama and Romney Cut a Very Red Rug

By Earl Yazel
Thursday, October 18, 2012 16:52 EDT

The two Presidential candidates danced around in front of an audience this Tuesday last on an extremely red carpet at New York’s Hofstra University. In High Definition television that carpet really wasn’t too easy on the eyeballs, now, was it? Literally, they danced around, all but circling one another, walking…


Phoning it in: Obama-Romney-Crowley debate boring as f*ck

By Roxanne Cooper
Tuesday, October 16, 2012 22:39 EDT

I grew up in Los Angeles. So, I’m going to do a “company town” thing on you. Tonight’s much-anticipated presidential debate was THIS: …meets THIS: I’m hard-pressed to recall a more lazy, impotent and disingenuous exchange on the problems confronting our country and our world today. I felt like I…