By Jeffrey D. Sachs, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jeffrey D. Sachs is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and author of To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace. The views expressed are his own. This is the first article in a series on America’s identity and image since the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
We celebrate John F. Kennedy a half-century after his death for the confidence he gave us in meeting great challenges. “Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man,” he told us. And we believed him. At a moment when the U.S. government seems unable even to launch a website, we recall Kennedy’s boldest commitment: to launch a man to the moon and bring him back safely to Earth within the decade. That remarkable moment in American history, one that virtually defined my own childhood years, still inspires us to shake off our dour pessimism today.
While it’s all too easy to believe in government failure today – what with the failed Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, NSA spying, the Obamacare rollout, shutdowns, sequesters, and more – the public perception was nearly the opposite a half-century ago. The federal government was friend, not foe. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s government had organized the New Deal, steered democracy through the Great Depression, and then triumphed over fascism in World War II. The federal government had invented the nuclear age in the Manhattan Project, hardly the work of a technological slouch. Most importantly for most Americans in the 1950s and early 1960s, the U.S. government was the bulwark against the aggressive designs of Stalin and the Soviet Union.
"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Fareed speaks with the Frederick P. Rose director of the Hayden Planetarium, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, about the implications of the meteor that exploded over the Ural Mountains last month. To see this or other interviews, download the show at iTunes.
The laws of math are that the probability is one of these things will hit...
Globally, what deeply concerns you is the asteroid strong enough so you have to restart civilization. And then, at another level, you risk extinction. Fortunately, those are large and we have a plan in place. NASA has a plan in place to detect and map and track every single asteroid that’s large enough to disrupt civilization. The one that exploded over Russia was not large enough to disrupt civilization. And so they’re dangerous and they'll hurt and they can kill, but the fact that we can’t track them is not as bad as not being able to track the big ones that could really destroy us. So once you know where they are, your next question would be, perhaps, do we have a plan to do something about it?
And the answer is no. It's all just on paper how to do it.
From the Mayan calendar and a runaway planet called "Nibiru," from killer asteroids and theories about galactic alignments: The internet is full of talk about the world ending on December 21.
NASA scientists recently addressed some of the most pervasive of these rumors around the dubious date. Take a look:
The Mayan calendar began somewhere around 3,114 years before the current era, and is set to end on December 21 or 23 (depending on the translation). NASA scientist Mitzi Adams describes what the Mayans would have done had their civilization lasted and why there is no cause for alarm.
When the shuttle program ended almost a year ago, America became unable to send a man to space, so now the U.S. has to rely on others, and that means the Russians. And that can be a little scary.
In the past year Russia's space program has had a series of close calls and even crashes. So before a recent liftoff, Russia invoked a higher power. OK. But that is far from the only superstition that comes into play at Russia's Cosmodrome.
Tradition says that the crew gets haircuts two days before launch and they drink a glass of champagne on launch day. And the final superstition, as Yuri Gagarin did before he became the first man in space in 1961, they relieve themselves on the wheels of the bus that carries them to the launch pad.
Let's see if it works.
Related: Unmanned private rocket launches
As Star Trek reminds us, space is the final frontier. But is it the "final frontier"' of earthbound conflict - perhaps a power struggle between the United States and China?
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson spends a lot of time looking and thinking about space. He is the author of Space Chronicles and director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York. Neil and I spoke about geopolitics and space.
Here's the transcript:
By Fareed Zakaria, CNN
When you think of Switzerland, the image that comes to mind is pristine, clean, unlittered. In fact, no one dares litter in Switzerland for fear of a huge fine.
Well, now they've taken their cleanliness to a new level - out of this world, you might say. The Swiss have decided they are going to clean up outer space.
Clean Space One announced this week by the Swiss Space Center will be a "janitor satellite" whose mission will be to tidy up the upper atmosphere.
There are said to be more than 500,000 pieces of space junk up there. When they're done with space, I'd love for them to pay a visit to my office.
By Micah Zenko
In late June, six astronauts living on board the International Space Station (ISS), which orbits some 200 miles above the earth’s surface, received notice that a piece of space debris travelling 29,000 miles per hour would pass dangerously nearby. NASA officials calculated that the probability of the ISS being hit at around one in 360. (One in 10,000 is NASA’s nominal threshold for which it will authorize a “collision avoidance maneuver.”)
Normally, the ISS receives ample notice so that it can maneuver out of the pathway of potential space debris. However, with less than fifteen hours’ warning, the astronauts were forced to relocate to Soyuz space capsules for only the second time in the ISS’s thirteen-year history.
While the debris missed the space station by 1,100 feet, orbital space debris is a growing threat to civil, military, and commercial satellites in space.
By Tiffany Lam, CNNGo
"Getting away from it all" may be a travel marketing cliché, but the phrase might take on a whole new meaning come 2016.
Russian firm Orbital Technologies plans to open the first space hotel in history in five year's time. The space hotel, or "Commercial Space Station," as it's officially called, will float 250 miles above Earth.
The hotel can accommodate a maximum of seven people at a time. To check in, tourists will have to undergo special training that can take up to three months, depending on the type of spacecraft they fly to the hotel. The firm says that stays can range from three days to six months. FULL POST
Editor's Note: The following is an edited excerpt from a transcript of Fareed Zakaria answering viewer questions online.
We need to re-think the purpose of space missions.
For years the U.S. shuttle program has basically sent people up into the inner atmosphere, spun them around for a while, and then brought them back. We’ve been doing this now for 15 or 20 years. It’s not entirely clear what the point is. We’re not learning much more and it’s incredibly expensive at $1.5 billion per shuttle flight.
What we need to say to ourselves is: “The purpose of the space program is to learn more about the universe and to learn more about space and that is going to be the goal, not necessarily to have manned flight, not to necessarily to say we touched down on Mars.”
The goal has to be to figure out what is going on in the universe: Is there life out there? What can we learn about different galaxies? FULL POST
Editor's Note: Elliot Pulham is chief executive officer of the Space Foundation. The following is reprinted from the Space Foundation with the permission of the author.
By Elliot Holokauahi Pulham
Today is scheduled to be the final Space Shuttle launch. It is the end of an era. It is not the end of the world.
I'll be the first to say that I am not happy that the United States is going into a "blackout" period whereby we will not be able to launch our own astronauts into space. But, I also think it's important to keep what's happening in perspective.
While it is true that the ultimate explorer is the human being, most of what goes on in space today does not involve - nor require - human passengers. In fact, in the entire space age thus far, fewer than 600 people have escaped our atmosphere, while hundreds of thousands of people earn a living through space endeavors every year. FULL POST