While not exactly a magazine snob, (I recently bought a Mad Magazine, for pete's sake) I have usually avoided Popular Science because much of what they cover seems unlikely to ever actually happen. A superstrong cable reaching all the way into space, kept taut by the earth's rotation, capable of getting people to a space station like getting into the world's coolest elevator? Not likely in my book. That is the sort of thing I associate with Popular Science, while us cereberal types read Scientific American and pretend we know what the hell they are talking about. Even if they have an article about the same said cable, and go into detail about what sort of material it would be made of.
The last time I wandered past the magazine rack at the grocery store, they had a hook I couldn't resist, however. THE LOST SATELLITE: Who killed the Deep Space Observatory? It is, according to the author, Bill Donahue, it is the only satellite we ever built and never launched. It now sits in a warehouse in Maryland, perhaps next the the Lost Ark of the Covenant.
It was supposed to be placed in a 'gravity neutral' spot a million miles from Earth, always facing the sunlit side of the our planet. It would allow the whole Earth to be observed as a single entity, and let us measure exactly how much light is being aborbed, and how much is being reflected. One additional benefit would be that, from its fixed point in the sky, it would be able to see every other satellite in low Earth orbit and give them a fixed point to calibrate how far they had drifted from their proper positions, and so make the information they collect more consistent. Also, since the moon's has no atmosphere, it could use the moon's reflectivity, or albedo, as a constant, to be sure it's own instruments hadn't drifted out of calibration, and, for the first time give us an accurate measure, over time, of the earth's reflectivity. Much of the argument about global warning would be settled, once and for all.
In 2001, just a few months after Dubya was inaugurated, while it was being prepared for transport to the launch site, it was put on hold. One problem was that Al Gore was a little to closely associated with it to suit Republicans. Fellow Texan Dick Armey said it was supposed to be a dream of Al Gore's to launch this thing and "I once dreamed I caught a ten foot bass, but I didn't call up the Fish and Wildlife service and ask them to spend $30 million to make sure it happened." I only got through one or two community college classes devoted to science, but I'm pretty sure that is about the dumbest analogy ever.
It still sits in Maryland, recently checked out and ready to roll on short notice, but neither NASA nor NOAA wants to claim it, and it is still on the ground. The Ukraine at one point offered to launch it for free, but the idea was nixxed as being 'too risky' My own IQ is nothing to write home about, but something stinks to high heaven.
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