Posts Tagged ‘ Mars ’

The Disturbing Truth About The Food You Eat

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Standing in the supermarket’s food section aisle you’re confronted with hundreds of different products compounded by the happy proliferation of subcategories. You have a wide choice of grocery items at your fingertips. Or have you?

A 2013 study by the U.S. consumer rights group, Food and Water Watch, examined the market share of 100 common grocery items and unearthed a disturbing trend: you’re actually down to 2-4 big companies when buying most grocery items. This is certainly a global trend, extremely valid in modern Ireland. Continue reading

News in Brief – Water Scandal Breaks As Kemp Fears Dublin Death

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50, 85, 100, 180, not the winning Lotto numbers but the ever climbing bill for Irish Water. Imagine. We’ve been paying for our water through our tax contributions for years, so surely now paying a fee for it shouldn’t incur extra cost, if anything it should just be cash in the bank shouldn’t it? Wrong. Actually, water, the thing that falls freely from the sky a lot, is going to cost us a fortune in IT systems. And it was necessary for a lot of consultants to consult on this before consulting with the Government about how much more consultations and cash were needed. If only the Government had “consulted” NIB, we could have told them it would cost a lot and basically sounds like a crap plan, all for a pint and a packet of Tayto. NIB thinks it was Phil Hogan that said; ‘You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.’ An awful lot of expensive consultancy eggs. Continue reading

Landing on Mars Breathes New Life Into Space Exploration

It’s not the first time we humans have made contact with Mars, but an air of occasion and sheer human triumph was in the air at 6.30am Irish time on August 6th, as the newest Mars rover, Curiosity, touched down on the dusty surface of the Red Planet’s Gale crater.

“Touchdown confirmed” said one member of mission control at Pasadena, California. “We are wheels down on Mars. Oh my God,” he continued, as the room around him erupted in a cacophony of pure and utter relief and joy. Curiosity is the most expensive roving laboratory to be sent to another planet. Powered by a nuclear battery and equipped with six robust wheels and an array of devices for scientific analysis, its job for the next two years is to roam the red giant collecting samples and data to be sent back to Earth. Seven feet high and nine feet long, and almost 2000 lbs, its landing in and of itself was a huge success. A combination of retro rockets, a parachute and a sky crane slowed the rover’s descent through Mars’ atmosphere from 13,200 mph to a more suitable 1mph before descending slowly to the planet’s surface via four spindly cables from the sky crane. Some had feared this untested system, worrying that Murphy’s Law would be proven right once more, that something would go wrong and the $2.5 billion mission’s chances of success scuppered before Curiosity even had a chance to explore. But it succeeded, the engineers were vindicated, and first pictures from that other world began to filter through.

NASA, as well as mankind, are the clear winners here. For the landing of the curious metal beast was the make or break moment for an organisation struggling to remain relevant to the highest echelons of the US administration and facing huge cutbacks in an era where anything deemed frivolous or surplus to needs will be savagely cut back, national assemblies excluded, of course. Having already seen the cancellation of the manned space programme and the retiring of the space shuttles, disaster here would surely have been the death knell for the organisation for decades to come.

And, of course, a death knell for those millions of people for whom space travel and knowledge of the stars is a beautiful thing. Sure, commercial enterprises are investigating possible manned trips to Mars, and even the establishment of colonies but with NASA, you could always tell everything was about the love of space and the desire to find out more about the universe we live in, rather than expensive tickets for a novelty trip outside our atmosphere. For millennia, humankind has been captivated by the stars and the secrets they hold, from the ancient astronomer who tracked the progress of Venus through the heavens to the small child today who peeks through a plastic telescope and searches for the man on the moon. The depth of the Great Beyond has an inexorable pull on our heartstrings and imaginations and the loss of NASA, which continues in the vein of Ptolemy, Copernicus, Galileo and Newton, would be a step backwards and a loss for all of us who dream of those places beyond Earth’s boundaries.

Instead, however, NASA can hold their head up ever higher. “The successful landing of Curiosity,” proclaimed Barack Obama, “the most sophisticated roving laboratory to land on another planet, marks an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future.” And over the course of the following months and years, scientists and civilians the world over can enjoy the fruits of their labour as we begin to study our distant neighbour in far more vivid colour than ever before.