I Am Not Ashamed

Too many Christian films I’ve seen have been very disappointing, with poor acting, weak writing, and dodgy theology.

I Am Not Ashamed is an exception.

It focuses on the faith of Rachel Scott, a student at Columbine school at the time of the shootings in 1999.

Like many normal teenage Christians, she faced difficulties balancing her faith with the societal pressures of peer acceptance: until she chose to not be ashamed of her faith in Jesus, whatever the cost.

The film shows the various relationships, the loyalties, the prejudices, the cliquiness, and the bullying within the school, but without making any individuals, even the eventual perpetrators of the violence, into one dimensional characters.
It even gets the Christian characters right. They come across as real people, facing real life struggles, with faith but no instant, glib solutions to the problems they face.

Belief? Based on Politics or Reality?

Climate change denial.

Based on Politics or Reality?

Christian climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe:

 

Recently in the comments section of my blog, a video was posted that made an extraordinary comparison.
While the video was primarily about the early space program, the interview guest, clearly wanting to defend the contribution of former Nazi rocket expert Werner von Braun, insisted the rocket scientist’s help of the Nazis was self-preserving pragmatism.
That is quite possibly the case.
However, the guest continued with a comparison: that von Braun’s pragmatism was the same as scientists today having to endorse climate change to avoid being ostracised by the wider scientific community.

How do we count the problems within that comparison?

The man making that comparison was William Federer, a professing Christian who I’ve seen described as “a nationally known speaker, best-selling author, and president of Amerisearch, Inc., a publishing company dedicated to researching America’s noble heritage”.

Putting aside the ignorant offensiveness of his comparison, the suggestion that climate change deniers are being pressured to conform, when denial is the expressed stance of the current White House administration, is at odds with examples like this:

 

I was a climate scientist in a climate-denying administration – and it cost me my job

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jul/25/trump-administration-climate-crisis-denying-scientist

The US President chooses not to believe in climate change while 97%+ of scientists are reported as recognizing its reality.

1) Depending on exactly how you measure the expert consensus, it’s somewhere between 90% and 100% that agree humans are responsible for climate change, with most of our studies finding 97% consensus among publishing climate scientists.
2) The greater the climate expertise among those surveyed, the higher the consensus on human-caused global warming.

https://skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus-intermediate.htm

Those denying that percentage tend to have links to the fossil fuel industries, or see political advantage (fossil fuel $$$) from climate change denial (refer to Donald Trump at the beginning of the video above)

I have to wonder why so many “evangelicals” choose to climb into bed with fossil fuel industry interests?

Why do Christians reject scientific evidence in favour of political, money focused dogma?

 

CRS-18, resupply mission launch.

This is the launch of SpaceX’s eighteenth Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-18) to the ISS.

I start the coverage just under two minutes prior to launch, bypassing a lot of the preamble.
SpaceX always have impressive coverage, with an abundance of cameras and good commentary describing what is happening.

The recovery of the spent rocket stages is always a spectacular part of the launch process, as they are brought back to land with precision, either at landing site on land, or at sea on a drone ship named “Of Course I Still Love You”.

This time there is only a single stage returning. Other launches I’ve seen have had up to three.

SpaceX is clearly an enthusiastic workplace, as can be heard from the response of its staff at each stage of the journey.

Charlie Duke, moonwalker.

Charlie Duke was the NASA Capcom during the Apollo 11 landing. The Capcom (capsule communicator) is the sole contact between NASA mission control and the mission crew in space.

Only seconds away from depleting their fuel, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin advised they had landed the Lunar Module on the moon’s surface, and Duke acknowledged the achievement:

“Roger, Tranquility, we copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot!”

Almost three years later, Charlie Duke also landed on the moon as part of the Apollo 16 mission, becoming the 10th man to step onto the moon’s surface.

 

Charlie Duke’s biography.

moonwalker.png

50 Years Ago Today

Fifty year’s ago, one of those “where were you when” events took place.

That is, one of those defining events that sticks in the minds of those old enough to be aware of them when they happened.

I can immediately think of three other events of my life time that I can put into that category.
I can recall where and when I first heard of the following:

1) The assassination of Robert Kennedy (I was too young to be aware of JFK)
2) The Challenger space shuttle disaster
3) Sept 11 2001

Using those events as examples, it seems that tragedy often lingers in the memory more than things of a more positive nature.
However 20th July 1969 stands out as one of those rare, non-tragic days to remember. It was when men first landed and stepped onto the surface of the moon.

I lived in England. It was a weekend during the summer and my dad had been playing cricket. Every weekend the family would accompany him to watch him play, and afterwards to the post game drinks enjoyed by the competing teams.

That particular time was a home game, and afterwards everyone adjourned to the local Catholic Club.
Because of the historic event, the club provided a television broadcasting the progress of the final parts of Apollo 11’s journey to the moon.
Everyone sat around the screen until it was broadcast, via white text on a black background: “Eagle Has landed”. I recall no film of the landing, just those words.

And then everyone went back to their business; the adults drinking and chatting, and the children, playing, or otherwise amusing themselves.

I don’t recall seeing any more of the that moon-landing, or the moon walk until years later. The latter must have happened during the middle of the English night, so it would have been missed at the time by me as an eleven year old.

A year or two later, at a more reasonable broadcast time, my school class was taken to the school assembly hall to watch another moonwalk, as it happened, on TV.

Having grown up around the time of the race to the moon, and being a month or two older than NASA, I’ve always had an interest in the space program and for some time now I’ve collected mission patches. These two are significant today.

apollo 11

Designed by crew member Michael Collins, the mission insignia includes the bald eagle, the national bird of the United States, with an olive branch in its talons representing their peaceful mission.

Initially placed in the beak, the branch was moved to soften the aggressive impression of the bird’s talons.
The insignia also includes a lunar foreground with the Earth in the distance. Portraying the view from the mission’s destination.
Unlike other mission insignia, it excludes the crew names, to make it more representative of everyone who had worked on the mission, and not only the three crew.

50 years later to the day, another space mission is scheduled to begin. The 60th expedition to the International Space Station.

To commemorate the timing link between the two missions, The expedition 60 insignia was designed to reflect the achievement half a century ago. The position of the moon and the earth in the design have been switched to reflect  the relative locations of the missions (the ISS being in earth orbit with a distant moon).

exp 60.jpgA constellation of three stars with the Moon superimposed forms the letter “L,” the Latin symbol for 50. The Moon is depicted as a waxing crescent, as it was on July 20, 1969.
The yellow silhouette of the International Space Station is visible, flying across the night sky.

Stars form the shape of an eagle in the same pose as on the iconic patch of the Apollo 11 mission. The sunrise represents the fact that we are still in the early stages of humanity’s exploration of space.

The hexagonal shape of the patch represents the main viewing window in the space station’s cupola, with the six points of the hexagon also symbolizing the six crewmembers of Expedition 60. The names and nationalities are not present, as on the original Apollo 11 mission patch, to highlight that space missions – then, now, and in the future – are for Earth and all humankind.

(Exp 60 description adapted from text here)

While there was some distance between myself and the Apollo 11 landing, brought only a little closer via very limited TV coverage, I feel a slightly closer link to the ISS missions, as mentioned in previous posts, frequently being able to watch the station pass over head when conditions are right.

When we look back over the past 50 years, its easy to see some amazing technological advances, and yet, when it comes to the space program I have to ask whether it reflects that same rate of technological advance.

Of course, it could be pointed out that today’s astronauts have far greater computer power than those of the Apollo era could have dreamt of. It has been noted that Apollo era spacecraft had less computer power than today’s phones. I recall reading somewhere that my very first computer, in the early 90s (a commodore 64) had more memory.

Surely with those improvements more could have been achieved than being limited to close earth orbit? And yet, since the return of Apollo 17 at the end of 1972, that has been the limit of all manned missions. It’s nothing like the speculated rapid progression to Mars that was anticipated after the success of Apollo.

Why hasn’t the same kind of progress been made in space travel as we’ve seen in other areas of mankind’s technological achievements?

Surely it can’t be entirely due to a lack of political will, considering a series of  Presidential administrations have announced intentions to return to the moon.

It’s clearly not because technology is lacking. In most other fields, the successes of Apollo would have been continued and advanced.

My own suspicions don’t look to technology or politics for the answer. Ultimately the boundaries of our achievements aren’t set by human ability and ambition, but by the God who created both mankind and those places away from earth that we might wish to explore.

__________

Moon landing:

20:17 UTC 20 July 1969

06:17 AEST 21 July 1969

 

Christian Astronaut Jeff Williams

The sound quality of the ISS portion of the first video below isn’t always the best – but consider that the signal has to travel via satellites positioned 22,300 miles above the earth.

The ISS itself is only 250 miles above us, so the video/audio signal has a long round trip between the earth, the satellites to the ISS and back again.

The sad state of some people’s belief systems is reflected in the comments following the video on the YouTube site, where flat earthers deny the reality of space travel, because the testimony of astronauts and the space program would show their flat earth beliefs are false. Even more disturbing is that many who believe that laughable lie are professing Christians who claim their belief is established upon scripture.
Their ridiculous commentary is also seen across most of NASA’s twitter accounts.

See William’s twitter account for examples of his photography.

Below are the NASA patches from Williams’ most recent mission, expeditions 47/48, in which fellow ISS crewmates included British astronaut Tim Peake and current ISS commander (as of July 2019) Aleksey Ovchinin.

williams.jpg

Political Push: Back to the Moon

As someone who grew up during the height of the 1960s “space race”, I’m excited by the thought of a return to the moon. In particular the plan for the first woman to set foot on the lunar surface. The woman who will get the honour will be among NASA’s dozen or so currently active female astronauts, so to a degree I can say that she won’t be unknown to me.  .

My excitement about a proposed return to the moon is significantly tempered by some reservations. I’m not surprised that some of those concerns have also been expressed by someone with far more understanding and knowledge of the matter than myself.

Australian astronaut warns of future risk of deaths in space race

Andy Thomas, Australia’s most accomplished astronaut, who is in the country from the US to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, has expressed severe concerns about the new international space race.

Dr Thomas, the first Australian to walk in space and who lived on the Mir space station for five months, says politics is driving the US to have men back on the moon by 2024, which risks a repeat of past spectacular tragedies.

“The very big risk that I see NASA is facing is that it is under incredible pressure from the administration, the White House, to bring the human return to the moon way earlier than perhaps the engineering should demand,” he said.

“The 2024 date is driven by politics, not by the engineering and that’s a very dangerous thing to do because you can’t change engineering to suit politics. You can change politics to suit engineering.

“We run the risk of killing further astronauts if we have unrealistic schedule pressure”.

I think the following political rhetoric shows that Thomas’s concerns aren’t without foundation.

US Vice-President Mike Pence in March this year said if NASA couldn’t put astronauts on the moon by 2024, “we need to change the organisation, not the mission”.

https://www.smh.com.au/national/australian-astronaut-warns-of-future-risk-of-deaths-in-space-race-20190715-p527d8.html

Mike Pence’s message in that video is clear. A space program that for years has been International in nature, with co-operation between many countries associated with the International Space Station – that for a decade has relied entirely on Russian transport of astronauts between earth and the ISS, and participants from Europe, Canada, Japan, Russia as well as the USA, is soon to be cast aside for American glory.

Just as the United States was first to reach the moon in the 20th Century, so too will we be the first nation to return astronauts to the moon in the 21st Century.

It is the policy of this administration and the United States of America to return American astronauts to the moon within the next five years.

Let me be clear. The first woman and next man on the moon will both be American astronauts, launched by American rockets from American soil

Such nationalistic, backward thinking, cold war era jingoism can only be detrimental to a space program that for the past decade has NEEDED international co-operation. Since the end of the shuttle program, the US has been incapable of putting its own astronauts into space and had to rely on Russian help to do it.

The rush to the moon, presented with clear nationalistic ambition has the potential to end the American manned space program. Such an outcome is potentially only one tragedy away, particularly with super-hyped expectations being raised, mainly for political rather than scientific or technological reasons.

This fast-tracked moon landing program now becomes the priority, bypassing the previous plan for the Gateway,  a type of lunar space station (see illustration below), with international input and co-operation, from which possible future moon landings could be conducted in a more practical and sustainable way.

It seems instead that a risk-laden rush is now being conducted in the hope of achieving an historic moon landing within a possible (probable?) second term Trump presidency.

 

gateway_configuration_concept_5march2019_final.jpg

 

In Memory of Rick Husband

It’s still several months away the anniversary of the loss of Columbia and its crew, but the following is a continuation of the previous posts about Rick Husband starting with the one marking the date of his birth.

The first video relates to the 16 anniversary of the shuttle loss.