Dear Congress: We Need Money. Love, NASA.
Hope was in the air at NASA last month, when, in addition to celebrating the 40th anniversary of landing the first man on the moon, the agency also got a new boss: former astronaut Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden. At his confirmation hearing before a Senate committee, Bolden embraced a bold plan to go beyond Earth orbit and maybe as far as Mars. But even then the cloud of reduced funding hung over NASA.
The cloud darkened last week. The committee leading the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans, charged by President Obama to review the options for where human exploration could and should go, said there just isn't enough money to send astronauts back to the moon or on to Mars by President Bush's target date of 2020, and probably not in any time soon thereafter.
Despite nominating a four-time shuttle pilot in Bolden to lead NASA, Obama never seemed sure about continuing his predecessor's ambitious human space exploration plans, and the White House had trimmed NASA's share of the federal budget. In a recession full of bank bailouts and car company takeovers, it appears, there's just too little money to fly to Mars. Instead, the panel recommended sending people to less ambitious targets—a near-Earth asteroid, or the LaGrange points where the Earth's and the sun's gravitational fields cancel each other out.
Space flight isn't the only area where NASA has been charged with an ambitious goal and given too little money to achieve it. Another report, this one by the National Academy of Sciences, recently found that the agency also lacked the funds to complete its near-Earth object project. Congress asked NASA to locate 90 percent of the NEOs bigger than 140 meters in diameter by 2020, but according to the report, we won't get there.
That's not to say the government has totally shafted science; Fermilab and others got millions through the federal stimulus package for their research. But the kind of inspiring, ambitious projects that catapulted NASA to prominence in its heyday of the 1960s require a sustained, large investment. Without it, they'll always be another 5, or 10, or 20 years away.
Don't underestimate the power of play when it comes to problem-solving.
- As we get older, the work we consistently do builds "rivers of thinking." These give us a rich knowledge of a certain kind of area.
- The problem with this, however, is that as those patterns get deeper, we get locked into them. When this happens it becomes a challenge to think differently — to break from the past and generate new ideas.
- How do we get out of this rut? One way is to bring play and game mechanics into workshops. When we approach problem-solving from a perspective of fun, we lose our fear of failure, allowing us to think boldly and overcome built patterns.
Controversial map names CEOs of 100 companies producing 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.
- Just 100 companies produce 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.
- This map lists their names and locations, and their CEOs.
- The climate crisis may be too complex for these 100 people to solve, but naming and shaming them is a good start.
The surprising results come from a new GLAAD survey.
- The survey found that 18- to 34-year-old non-LGBTQ Americans reported feeling less comfortable around LGBTQ people in a variety of hypothetical situations.
- The attitudes of older non-LGBTQ Americans have remained basically constant over the past few years.
- Overall, about 80 percent of Americans support equal rights for LGBTQ people.
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