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International Call to Youth: “The Age of Reason Is in the Stars!”

Helga Zepp-LaRouche
Founder and President of the Schiller Institute
zepp-larouche@eir.de

PDF of this statement

There is really good news: Man is capable of reason and therefore limitless intellectual and moral perfectibility! We can do something that neither the donkeys nor the monkeys can do: we can discover new scientific principles of the universe in which we live, without limits! And these qualitative discoveries mean that, unlike donkeys and monkeys, we can constantly redefine what resources are, therefore making them unlimited, and that we can continue to improve the livelihoods of humanity!

We are experiencing unprecedented, fascinating scientific revolutions: the Chinese are exploring the dark side of the Moon with their Chang’e Moon missions, planning to mine helium-3 as fuel for the coming fusion economy on Earth, and next year a Mars mission will investigate the conditions for terraforming the red planet. With their Chandrayaan-2 mission to the south pole of the Moon, the Indians will explore the ice in the craters there, which are always in the shade, and thus one of the essential prerequisites for life on the Moon. The European Space Agency is working on concrete plans for international cooperation on a permanent Moon village! The U.S. is building upon the Kennedy Apollo program with its Artemis program, and Russia, the U.S., and China all see nuclear-powered spaceships as the right choice for future flights to Mars and deep into space!

The great thing about space travel is that it proves that we are not living in a closed system where raw materials are limited and the murderous views of Thomas Malthus, Julian Huxley, Bertrand Russell, and Prince Philip would be correct, but on the contrary, we live an anti-entropic universe. Space travel is the irrefutable proof that the universe “obeys” an adequate hypothesis of the human mind, that there is therefore absolute coherence between the immaterial ideas produced by reason, and the physical laws of this universe, and that these ideas are the spearhead of the anti-entropic dynamics of the universe.

There have been groundbreaking proofs recently: around 100 years after Einstein’s theses on the existence of gravitational waves and black holes, the change in space-time has now been proven, and shortly thereafter, with the help of eight radio telescopes distributed all over the world, images were made of the area around a black hole whose mass is 6.5 billion times larger than that of the Sun, 55 million light years away at the center of the M87 galaxy. There is still so much to discover in our universe, where, according to the Hubble telescope, there are at least two trillion galaxies! Space exploration opens up a deeper insight into how the laws of our universe work, and what role we humans play in it!

This is the life-affirming cultural optimism that comes with the idea of humanity as a space-faring species, in complete contrast to the contrived doomsday atmosphere which is spread by the apostles of the coming apocalypse—such as Prince Charles and the hedge-fund cover girl Greta Thunberg. Behind the Greta hype are quite vile interests: the trans-Atlantic financial system is facing a more serious crash than in 2008, and the financial sharks and locusts of the City of London and Wall Street are trying one final big deal, to steer as much investment into “green” technology as possible, before the systemic crisis hits.

A closer look at the sponsors of Greta’s extremely ambitious and well-funded agenda, the Extinction Rebellion (XR) and Fridays For Future (F4F), reveals that this movement is being funded by the richest people on Earth, including Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, George Soros and Ted Turner. The fact is that the beneficiaries of the climate hype and the Green New Deal are the banks and hedge funds.

The target of this unprecedented manipulation is you, the children and teenagers of this world! Shouldn’t it make you stop and think, when your alleged “rebellion” is supported by the whole spectrum of mainstream media and the entire liberal establishment? Yet the vile idea that manipulating the paradigm shift of an entire society must begin with the indoctrination of children is nothing new. As early as 1951, Lord Bertrand Russell wrote in his article “The Impact of Science on Society”:

“I think the subject which will be of most importance politically is mass psychology. … Its importance has been enormously increased by the growth of modern methods of propaganda. … It may be hoped that in time anybody will be able to persuade anybody of anything if he can catch the patient young and is provided by the State with money and equipment. The social psychologists of the future will have a number of classes of school children on whom they will try different methods of producing an unshakable conviction that snow is black. …not much can be done unless indoctrination begins before the age of ten.”

The goal of the apocalyptic scaremongering by people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (“We have only 12 years left!”), or the head of the British Commonwealth, Prince Charles (“We only have 18 months left!”), is an induced radical change in way of life of mankind. Everything that we have understood as progress during the last 250 years should be abandoned, and we should return to the technological level that existed before the Industrial Revolution. But this also means that then the number of people who can be sustained at that level will drop to about a billion or less.

It would mean that developing countries would have no prospects for ever escaping poverty, hunger, epidemics and a shortened lifespan; it would be a genocide of an unimaginably large number of people! If “climate scientist” Mojib Latif thinks that the Western lifestyle can not be transmitted to all people in the world, and if Barack Obama is outraged that many young people in Africa want a car, air conditioning and a big house, then behind that lurks the inhuman arrogance of members of the totally privileged upper class. It is precisely this view by the colonial rulers that is responsible for the fact that Africa and much of Latin America are still underdeveloped, and many hundreds of millions of people have died early unnecessarily.

For the developing world, the pseudo-religion of anthropogenic climate change means genocide, but for the soul of the young people of the world, the cultural pessimism it induces is a poison that destroys confidence in human creativity. When everything becomes a problem and is suddenly laden with guilt—eating meat, or eating at all, driving a car, flying, home heating, clothing, and indeed life itself—it destroys any enthusiasm for discovery, any enthusiasm for that which is beautiful, and all hope for the future. And if every human being is just another parasite that destroys the environment, then quite a few come to the misanthropic conclusions of the mass shooters of Christchurch and El Paso, who in their “manifestos” cited environmental reasons for their actions.

Conversely, the scientific and technological advances associated with space travel are the key to overcoming all apparent limitations of our present existence on Earth. “Terraforming”—the creation of human conditions—then becomes possible not only on the Moon and Mars, but also here on Earth, and in the future on many heavenly bodies in our solar system and perhaps beyond.

In his “Anthropology of Astronautics,” the German-American space pioneer Krafft Ehricke writes:

“The concept of space travel carries with it enormous impact, because it challenges man on practically all fronts of his physical and spiritual existence. The idea of traveling to other celestial bodies reflects to the highest degree the independence and agility of the human mind. It lends ultimate dignity to man’s technical and scientific endeavors. Above all, it touches on the philosophy of his very existence. As a result, the concept of space travel disregards national borders, refuses to recognize differences of historical or ethnological origin, and penetrates the fiber of one sociological or political creed as fast as that of the next.”

Today, we need this culturally optimistic image of mankind, and the passionate love for humanity associated with it as the only creative species known to date! The fact that we can venture into space means that we can overcome the narrow, Earth-bound mindset. “There, in the stars, lies mankind’s entry into the long-awaited Age of Reason, when our species sheds at last the cultural residue of the beast,” as Lyndon LaRouche put it.

It is an incredible privilege to be young now, to reach for the stars and help shape an epoch of humanity that, for the first time in history, can unleash the unlimited potential of our species!

 


Houston Community Meeting Mobilizes for Project Artemis and Beyond

by Kesha Rogers and Brian Lantz

”Houston, Shackleton Base Here: Artemis 3 has landed!” You may be saying, “What? What is Shackleton Base? Isn’t it Tranquility? Artemis 3 has landed? I thought it was the Eagle.” Yes, it was the Eagle, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin becoming the first men to walk on the Moon. Armstrong declared, “Houston, Tranquility Base here: The Eagle has landed.”

That extraordinary accomplishment of American astronauts landing on the surface of the Moon for the first time—“in peace for all mankind”—was followed by twelve more astronauts, participating in another six missions. The last mission was in 1972. That was the Apollo program, a program to go to the Moon and explore the lunar surface. The Apollo 17 astronauts would be the last to walk on the surface of the Moon. Following that last mission, despite several additional planned missions, the program was unceremoniously ended and funding for the future Apollo missions was cut. However, the cutbacks didn’t start abruptly in 1972; the mission was being chipped away at even as the Apollo program was getting started—the peak in funding was in 1966.

“Have you heard? We are going, not back, but forward to the Moon again! This time to stay!” The Shackleton Crater is the proposed landing site for the next Moon mission. Shackleton is an impact crater that lies at the lunar South Pole.

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In December 2017, President Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1, calling for the return of American astronauts to the surface of the Moon before the end of the next decade. In March of this year the plan and the timeline were accelerated, and it was announced by Vice President Pence, on behalf of the President, that NASA and its administrator, Jim Bridenstine, would be charged with a new mission to launch American astronauts to the surface of the Moon—they will be the first woman and the next man to walk on the lunar surface since 1972. This time, they will build a sustainable presence, and will develop the platform, technologies, and resources required to prepare the way for American astronauts to the land on the surface of Mars.

The bold and exciting new mission to return American astronauts to the surface of the Moon is Project Artemis, named for Apollo’s twin sister Artemis, the goddess of the Moon. Well, you may ask, this all sounds very exciting and optimistic, but how will it be done? We haven’t been back in nearly 50 years. What will be different now? How will we guarantee that we not only achieve the goal of returning to the Moon and go to Mars, but build a commitment and a policy with lasting impact for several generations to come?

Houston Meeting, Shooting for the Moon

audience

The Schiller Institute is hosting conferences and seminars around the world, not only to educate people on the requirements for returning Americans to the lunar surface in 2024 and building a lunar base by 2028, but going beyond—setting forth a vision for the next two to three generations of space exploration.

In Houston, Texas on July 25, just one day after the 50th anniversary of the splash down of the Apollo 11, the Schiller Institute had its most recent such event. The theme of the community meeting was, “50 Years After Apollo: NASA’s Project Artemis, A New Generation of Space Explorers Emerges.” The meeting, held at the Bayland Community Center, was a major outreach effort with broad attendance and participation. The audience included blue collar families from the Houston neighborhood, university students, a high school science club, friends of the Fabrication and Innovation Laboratory at a local college, robotics club members, families with NASA ties, members of several local AARP chapters who had previously invited the Houston Schiller Institute Chorus to their meetings, and longtime Schiller Institute activists. There was great excitement following the presentations.

The environment was electric from the start! Attendees were greeted with a fascinating “Fabrication Lab” exhibit on 3D printing, overseen by the lab’s supervisor. 3D printing in its industrial applications is known as additive manufacturing and will be a crucial feature of building cities on the Moon and Mars.

21-century-fusion

There were also NASA memorabilia and models of a scramjet and a Space Shuttle. Also on display was an exhibit from the Houston Robotic Club, which brought a working robotic Moon/Mars Rover, built to NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) specifications. Discussion was continuous around the tables, including the Schiller Institute’s table and a display of Fusion and 21st Century Science and Technology magazines. Attendees got a direct idea of breakthrough work in 3D printing and robotics applications that are relevant for use here on Earth and in space travel and exploration. A group of high school students, all members of a robotics club, had a great time at both exhibits. Many people saw a 3D printer and a robot, up close, for the first time, and were able to talk to experts about the technologies involved.

Attendees also gained greater insight into international cooperation in space by seeing material from a project called “United in Space.” The project’s mission is to promote space cooperation between the United States and Russia. It is involved in creating and placing a statue of Neil Armstrong in Russia. The United in Space display included a scale model of the statue of Armstrong and announced that ground had been broken in Russia for the placement of a life-size statue. The Russian-American founder of United in Space has already placed a statue of Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human to fly in space, in Houston, Texas.

Project Artemis and International Cooperation

The program was opened by Kesha Rogers, Lyndon LaRouche’s representative in Houston, speaking for the Schiller Institute. She presented a dramatic overview of the Artemis Project, opening with a 3-minute NASA film titled, “We Are Going,” which drew applause and shouts from the entire room. Rogers outlined the Artemis Project with detailed slides drawn from NASA and NASA contractors, including the project’s phased development, emphasizing NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and President Trump’s declarations that international cooperation would be required for Project Artemis to succeed.

kesha

We need cooperation with Russia, Europe, India, Japan and China, and the more so because Trump has committed the United States to use the Moon as a jumping off place to go to Mars, Rogers explained. She made clear that this perspective had been laid out by economist and statesman Lyndon LaRouche, inspired by his collaboration with German-American rocket engineer Krafft Ehricke and many other scientists who worked with the Fusion Energy Foundation in the 1970s and 1980s.

A video except from a 2009 speech by LaRouche was shown, in which LaRouche outlined a future Mars mission as a “science driver” project for the United States, which would simultaneously require cooperation with Russia, China, and other nations, and thereby contribute to securing peace on Earth. Rogers then introduced a special guest, the Vice Consul of the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Houston, Dr. Viacheslav Levchick, PhD, who received a warm greeting from the audience.

The View From Russia

Vice-Consul Levchick outlined some of his country’s work in space, stressing that he thought that cooperation between Russia and the U.S. had “a solid basis,” based on his visits to Johnson Space Center and the cooperative work on the International Space Station. He talked about some of Russia’s recent contributions, including the “Single Pass” delivery of astronauts to the Moon, which shortens the trip from six hours to two hours, saving astronauts and cosmonauts from exhausting trips as well as saving on costs and equipment. This drew audible agreement from the audience.

He also underscored the important breakthroughs in astronomy that are expected from the Specter RG telescope satellite, launched in July. Russia has its own lunar program, but the Vice-Consul wanted to stress the importance of ongoing cooperation, saying, “In 1998 when the first models of the ISS were launched, it was the U.S. and Russia who did it.”

Now there is a rapidly growing private space sector in many countries. “This is like the dreams of our fathers—or my grandfathers,” the youthful Vice Consul added, drawing chuckles. “It is important that we can talk casually about such huge projects,” he said. All nations are going to the Moon’s South Pole, adding that helium-3, along with ice water, are the major resources being sought. Russia, he reported, plans a manned landing on the Moon by 2030 and a permanent presence by 2040, adding that India and China have similar plans. Vice Consul Levchik’s relaxed and humorous remarks were warmly received by the audience and elicited numerous questions.

The Last Time We Went to the Moon

The next speaker was retired NASA and TRW scientist F. Don Cooper, who began working at the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama in 1962. Cooper, an Oklahoma native, was soon assigned, as a young physicist and mathematician, to develop the targeting equations for Trans-Lunar Injection (TLI), which guided the Apollo projects to the Moon. Then from Houston, Cooper worked on eight Apollo missions, including Apollo 11 and Apollo 13. He also worked on the Atlas Centaur, the Air Force Dyna-Soar space plane, and the early planned Mars mission NOVA rocket. Cooper gave a very exciting presentation, which took his audience to the Moon, landed on the Moon, and back to Earth with Apollo 11, with a model Saturn V rocket, astronaut voice recordings, graphics, and whiteboard sketches, all making it come alive.

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Since his retirement, Don Cooper has found a new calling—that of encouraging a new generation of students to pursue a future in the physical sciences. He enjoys speaking to youth groups, among others, hoping to inspire the technology leaders of the future with his first-hand account of the events as they actually happened. “Of the seven primary people who did this, I am the last one alive,” said Cooper recently. “Students do not know much about Apollo since it all happened before they were born. My objective is to show them how it happened, emphasize that education is essential, and show how math and physics solve real-world problems.” Cooper makes the point that “Apollo 13 was saved by thousands of nerds.”

Mars and Beyond

Brian Lantz, Schiller Institute spokesperson in Texas, addressed the audience on the need for a science driver perspective to realize the full potential of a Moon-Mars colonization over the next 50 years, as developed by the great visionaries, Krafft Ehricke and Lyndon LaRouche. He made clear that a Moon-Mars program is needed for transforming human civilization. A program to fully colonize the Moon and Mars will require major breakthroughs in science and technology, including a crash program for the development of thermonuclear power and fusion propulsion systems for space travel. The ability to sustain a long-term human presence requires the building of major infrastructure and the building of functional and beautiful cities on the Moon and Mars. This will require construction from the Moon’s regolith.

lantz

Cutting-edge technologies will have to be further developed, including robotic machines for mining and the production and assembly of habitats on the Moon and Mars. More powerful lasers and other electromagnetic plasma beam systems will be required for communications, for additive construction and manufacturing, and the mining of helium-3. Lantz presented LaRouche’s idea, made famous in the 1988 “Woman on Mars” television broadcast, that we require a telescope with the aperture of the Mars orbit, a concept that drew surprised gasps from the audience. As Lyndon LaRouche outlined in 1986, we will build a civilization on Mars, with cities of hundreds of thousands of productive human beings, because that is what will be required.

What will such an investment cost us? A Moon-Mars project, over two or three generations, will cost us nothing, Lantz emphatically stated. The importance of the American System of economics and the re-creation of a credit system and National Bank, as was understood and developed by our nation’s first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, and used effectively by Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt will be necessary. We know this from the Apollo program, which returned 10 cents back for every penny we spent. How is that possible? The source of wealth is human creativity. We must unleash human creativity and reorganize the financial side of things accordingly. After all, we have done it before.

President John F. Kennedy launched one of the greatest economic recovery and national credit programs the nation has ever seen, through the unleashing of the creativity of the population through the Apollo program. Indeed, a Moon-Mars colonization program—advancing through the long-term success of the Artemis program and the advancement of mankind in the Solar system—will multiply the productivity of our civilization while it uplifts mankind, as every human being’s capacities will be required.


Webcast: Could Man’s Future in Space Be the Key to Defeat the Deadly Pessimism of Empire?

Helga Zepp LaRouche opened today’s webcast by discussing “bright spots” in the strategic situation, coming from the diplomacy at the G20 summit and the Trump-Kim DMZ meeting. Yet the potential which is emerging to break from the unipolar world of geopolitics is threatened by the enemy of mankind, the British Empire, which is engaged in military provocations, against Iran and China, but more significantly, through its role in spreading pessimism about the future, through the imposition of anti-human Green ideology.

As the West is destroying itself, Asia is rising, and a key feature of Asia’s emergence is the emphasis on space exploration. China and India are both engaged in lunar projects, and Trump’s intent for the U.S. to be back on the Moon by 2024, defines a potential for broad scientific cooperation. This is the antidote to the pessimism of “limits to growth”, etc., around which the Green movement was launched—human creativity can always open new horizons, she emphasized, as Krafft Ehricke emphasized, with his visionary idea of the “extraterrestrial imperative”, and Lyndon LaRouche demonstrated in his writings.

We can use the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing to bring renewed optimism to people, something which is greatly feared by the neo-liberal imperial networks centered in London.


Schiller Institute Invited to 2nd Wanshou Dialogue for Global Security

by Ulf Sandmark, ulf.sandmark@nysol.se

Because of the disorder in international relations many new formats for discussion and dialogue are developed to figure out what to do about the dangerous world security situation. The Wanshou Dialogue for Global Security was started last year by the Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament, which is an organization founded in 1985 and is by far the largest civil society organization in China dedicated to Peace. It has a membership of 25 mass organizations in China and maintains contact with 350 international peace organization and institutes for strategic studies.

The Wanshou Dialogue is organized in coordination with the International Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee whose Minister Song Tao and Vice Minister Wang Yajun were the highest Chinese representatives in the Dialogue. There were 27 International guests and 23 Chinese participants in the Dialogue which had the form a closed round table discussion.

The opportunity to participate in this very prestigious conference about Global Security came out of the blue, as a side effect of the activities of the Swedish Schiller Institute to promote BRI in Sweden. It was a great opportunity to meet and become friends with leaders of top Think Tanks in many important countries. Only a few of them had met or knew of the International Schiller Institute on other occasions.

Ulf Sandmark presents the Schiller Institute's report, The New Silk Road Becomes the World Landbridge II to Yu Hongjun, Vice-President of the Chinese people´s Association for Peace and Disarmament and Former Vice-Minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee

Ulf Sandmark presents the Schiller Institute’s report, The New Silk Road Becomes the World Landbridge II to Yu Hongjun, Vice-President of the Chinese people´s Association for Peace and Disarmament and Former Vice-Minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee

The Schiller Institute expertise was called upon to contribute to the Panel 3 about “Emerging and New Technologies and Global Security.” Among those technologies are ABM, ASAT, UAV, Cyberwarfare and Artificial Intelligence. Here several speakers warned against the militarization of space and the plan from President Trump to unilaterally deploy space weapons. It was an opportunity to bring those technologies that could uplift the dialogue to a level where the Common Aims of Mankind would show the way out of the disastrous global security dilemmas.

Lyndon LaRouche’s Strategic Defense Initiative and the Strategic Defense of Earth were the obvious starting points for this intervention by the Schiller Institute and then also Space Exploration and Fusion Power development that would make it possible for a policy of Global Raw Materials Security. Also, the Chinese Belt & Road Initiative was brought in from the physical economic standpoint of developing a new infrastructure platform as a new international logistics machine. This made it possible to link up the development of the economy as a stabilizer of the Global Security and to bring in the Four Laws of LaRouche as the absolute strategic necessity to be implemented through a Four Powers agreement for a New Bretton Woods.

The Russia-India-China cooperation was brought into the Dialogue by a Russian scholar as the s.c. RIC-format (as in BRICS). Also, at the G20 meeting President Trump had had meetings individually with the other three leaders who also had their special RIC meeting on their own. These developments opened up for launching the Four Power proposal at the Wanshou Dialogue, which is to ask President Trump to join the leaders of the RIC Powers to form a group strong enough to challenge the currently dominating financial power of London and Wall Street which under its leadership of the modern form of the British empire is the force behind the disastrous policy geopolitical wars bringing the world to brink of nuclear war. Finally, the necessity for the immediate global security to bring into the international strategic discussion these strategic proposals by Lyndon LaRouche, made the call for his exoneration appropriate to bring into the 2nd Wanshou Dialogue.

This ten minute presentation was well received. Another participant responded about SDI in a very positive way and asked if the SDI negotiations could move out of the US – Russian format and also bring in other powers. Ulf Sandmark got the opportunity for a very short reply saying that the first step would be to immediately start the process for implementing the SDE, as it it is civilian and can build trust. Secondly the SDI proposal should be studied and updated by all leading powers in the world. Thirdly a fully implementable counterproposal should be proposed to President Trump as an alternative to his proposal for a Space Force.

Sandmark said that SDI was developed by Lyndon LaRouche and further promoted by the Schiller Institute. If we as private institute could develop the SDI proposal, then any other institute, certainly leading national security organizations, would be able to fully develop the concepts necessary to bring forward the SDI as a solution to eliminate the danger of nuclear extinction.

Also, this intervention was received well. The Chinese chairman of the panel half jokingly introduced the need for an “SDF” – a Strategic Defense of Face. He took up the example of a recent video where the face of President Trump had been manipulated and put into a video saying that he was immediately attacking Iran. These types of videos, although false, could if they were spread, trigger a real war, the chairman said. This warning against the new technologies that could be used in this way, had the effect to further familiarize the conference with the concepts of SDI, which then became a reference point in the later discussions.

The 2nd Wanshou Dialogue brought up many other questions and concerns for evaluation among the participants and for sure will continue to be a platform for discussion about Peace and Development also in the future.


Webcast—Brits Panic grows; Will Trump’s Missile Defense Plan Become LaRouche and Reagan’s SDI?

While one of the Empire’s favorite leak sheets, Buzzfeed, exposed itself with its latest lying story targeting President Trump, he opened the prospect that LaRouche’s design for the SDI might be back on the agenda. And while May and Macron continue in their vain attempts to prop up the collapsing neo-liberal model, the Italians continue to forge ahead.

This week’s Schiller Institute’s webcast with Helga Zepp LaRouche presents an optimistic perspective on what it will take to finish off the era of British imperial geopolitics.


Webcast—The Underlying Positive World Dynamic the British Empire is Trying to Hide from You

Listening to the Western news media, you would think the world is all chaos, no ordering principle whatsoever. However, stepping back and putting U.S. and European ‘current events’ in context of what’s occurring worldwide, it is easier to see what’s going on in the West is an establishment reaction to the positive forces of change shaping up across the globe. Xi-Kim talks are moving forward, foreshadowing a possible second Trump-Kim summit, potential progress in U.S.-China trade talks, Trump decision to pull U.S. out of Syria, in conjunction with Astana process, China’s successful Chang’e 4 landing on the far side of the Moon, and more.

Hear Schiller Institute founder Helga Zepp-LaRouche, and Harley Schlanger discuss all the things the media is trying to hide from you!


China Is Preparing for Manned Missions to the Moon

Jan. 27 -In 1971, the Apollo 15 crew left a retro-reflector on the Moon. It is a passive instrument, and just reflects laser pulses from Earth back to Earth. The time–very precisely measured–of he return pulse, indicates the distance between Earth and its nearest neighbor. In all, three reflectors were left on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions, and one by the Soviet Lunokhod 2 over. They are still used by scientists for research in astrodynamics, Earth-Moon system dynamics (the Moon is slowly moving away from the Earth), and lunar physics. The technique is called Lunar aser Ranging (LLR), and now Chinese scientists are using the Apollo 15 reflector for LLR experiments, in preparation for their future missions to land astronauts on the Moon.

On Jan. 22, Xinhua reported yesterday, an applied astronomy group at the Yunnan Observatories in Kunming carried out China’s first Lunar Laser Ranging experiment, to obtain precise measurments of he distance between the Earth and the Moon.

While it was an interesting scientific experiment, the technique also has important practical applications. Landing an unmanned vehicle on the Moon requires using detailed orbital photographs to define a safe and interesting general landing region, where the engineers aim the lander. For a robotic spacecraft, the landing ellipse can be a relatively wide area to aim for. But or a manned mission, a more precise targetting is preferable. China can now use the laser ranging technique for its manned lunar program.

Until now, only the U.S., France, and Italy have successfully deployed laser ranging technology. It is reported that on a future mission, China will place its own retro-reflector on the Moon.

Chinese scientists are also studying the human factor itself, and technology to support crew on the Moon. Chinese student volunteers have just completed 200 days in Beihang University’s “Lunar Palace.” The two men and two women are biomedicine students and are the second group to work in the simulated space lab. A main capability needed to live off Earth is regenerative life-support ystems, where waste is recycled, and in the advanced phase, virtaully no materials have to be suppplied from the outside. The “mission” also entailed study of the social interactions and sychological condtion of the crew.

Chief designer Liu Hong said that her team would apply to have a mini-life support system on a lunar or Martian probe, with another system as a ground control. NASA and its partners have used the International Space Station to test closed-cycle life support systems, and the station itself recycles various waste products to reduce the amount of material that has to be delivered from the ground.


India “Creates History” With Successful Mars Mission

India’s Mission control center for the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) received confirmation that the spacecraft was in Mars orbit at 10:30 PM EDT yesterday, eliciting cheers from the scientists and engineers, and congratulations from Prime Minister Narenda Modi, who witnessed the historic moment with them. This is the first time a fully successful mission to Mars has been carried out on a nation’s first try. It is the first spacecraft launched from Asia that arrived safely at the red planet.

PM Modi described it as a “National Pride Event.”

Referencing the spacecraft’s 650 million-kilometer trip to Mars, Modi said,

“We have gone beyond the boundaries of human enterprise and imagination…We have navigated our craft through a route known to very few…The success of our space program is a shining symbol of what we are capable of as a nation…Let us push our boundaries. And then push some more, push more…Let today’s success drive us with even greater vigor and conviction. Let’s set ourselves even more challenging goals—this too must become a basis for challenging the next frontier.”

Modi stated that the mission is

“a leap into the dark. Humanity would not have progressed, if we had not taken such leaps into the unknown. And space is indeed the biggest unknown out there.”

Addressing the scientists directly, the Prime Minister said:

“Every generation of your scientists has groomed the next home-grown lot. Through your achievements, you have honored our fore-fathers, and inspired our future generations! You truly deserve all the love and respect you get from a grateful nation.”

Modi’s remarks yesterday expressed the same optimism and focus on the future of all mankind, that he emphasized in his remarks at the July 15, 2014 BRICS Summit in Brazil, where he said:

“The uniqueness of BRICS as an international institution. For the first time, it brings together a group of nations on the parameter of ‘future potential’, rather than existing prosperity or shared identities. The very idea of BRICS is thus forward- looking… Excellencies, we have an opportunity to define the future of not just our countries, but the world at large…. I take this as a great responsibility.”

Fully cognizant of how the majority of the missions sent to Mars by the U.S., Russia, Europe, and Japan have failed, M. Pitchaimani, deputy director of the control center, told the Washington Post in a telephone interview:

“…this has come after intense study of others’ failures and the reasons for failure, and building our satellite accordingly. We also had gained their accumulated knowledge about the gravity field of the planet, and we built robust instruments based on that data.”

curiosity

NASA’s Curiosity rover sent via Twitter:

Namaste @MOMOrbiter! Congratulations to @ISRO and India’s first interplanetary mission upon achieving Mars orbit.”

MOMOrbiter replied,

“Howdy @MarsCuriosity. Keep in touch. I’ll be around.”

MOM

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying also extended congratulations:

“This is the pride of India and the pride of Asia, and is a landmark progress in humankind’s exploration of outer space so we congratulate India on that.”

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission has now met its primary mission objective, which is as a technology demonstrator, to successfully orbit Mars. It is also expected to collect scientific measurements during its orbital mission. NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft arrived at Mars three days ago, and scientists from both projects have discussed sharing the data that each spacecraft will send back to Earth.


Planetary Defense: Threat Assessment

It is difficult to gain a visceral sense of the immensity of energy involved in an asteroid or comet impact on Earth. Although asteroids and comets can range anywhere from meters to many kilometers in diameter[ref]All sizes of comets or asteroids will be given in the length of the diameter of the object, unless otherwise noted. E.g., a “1 km asteroid” refers to an asteroid with a diameter of 1 km across.[/ref] (imagine Mt. Everest falling from the sky!), the actual effect of an impact is greatly enhanced by the enormous speeds involved. The total kinetic energy released in such a collision is the product of the mass of the impactor multiplied by the square of the velocity, and the impact speeds range from 10 to 70 km/second, or 20,000 to 150,000 miles per hour![ref]For comparison, a typical passenger jet travels at around 500-600 mph (~250 m/s); the speed of sound (at sea-level) is about 770 mph (343 m/s); and the fastest jet ever flown (unmanned) was NASA’s X-43A scramjet, which reached mach 9.8, which is 7,500 mph or 3.1 km/s.[/ref]

For example, take two notable cases: 1) the impact of an extremely large object, ~10 km, creating the 180 km diameter Chicxulub crater in the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, formed around 65 million years ago, which may have helped put an end to the dinosaurs; and 2) the Tunguska event in Siberia, Russia, in 1908, which, though believed to have been caused by a much smaller object, only about 30-50 meters across, resulted in local devastation. These two significant cases will help provide a sense of a range of possible scenarios.

Based on studies of Mexico’s Chicxulub crater, it has been estimated that a roughly 10 km object, hurtling at around 20 km/s (~45,000 mph), slammed into the Earth ~65 million years ago. Though the exact details of the effects are left to models and simulations, we can certainly get an idea of the scale of destruction: mega-tsunamis[ref]Megatsunami is a term used to describe a tsunami that has wave heights which are much larger than normal tsunamis. They originate from a large scale landslide or collision event, rather than from tectonic activity. A recent example is the 1958 Lituya Bay megatsunami, near Alaska, which resulted in a wave hundreds of meters high, the largest known in modern times.[/ref] thousands of meters high; an expanding cloud of boiling dust, vapor, and ash; rock and other surface material ejected out of the atmosphere, raining back down over a huge area, redhot from its atmospheric re-entry; and shock waves that trigger volcanic eruptions and earthquakes around the entire globe.

To give a rough sense of scale, the energy released by such an impact is estimated to be in the range of 100 million megatons of TNT, 20,000 times larger than public estimations of the entire global thermonuclear weapons stockpile (see table I). In addition, besides the immediate effects of collision, an impact this large would launch so much dust and debris into the atmosphere that a dust cloud would cover the entire planet, blocking out the Sun for years: the impact winter, only one of many possible long-term, global effects.

Fortunately, the Chicxulub case represents an extreme, and relatively rare threat. Such large impacts, though more destructive, are much less frequent than smaller impacts. As will be expanded shortly, our neighborhood in the Solar System is populated with many asteroids and comets; however, the frequency of impact by these objects, generally, is inversely proportional to their size. Nevertheless, while a big object, in the range of 1 km or larger, can create massive global damage, even a relatively small object, can cause significant damage.

One often-cited example of an impact thought to be caused by a smaller object is the Tunguska event, in which a sudden explosion leveled roughly 80 million trees over an area of 2,150 square kilometers in Siberia, Russia. Though some mystery and debate still surrounds this 1908 case, the most well-supported theory is that the blast was due to a comet or asteroid exploding as it impacted the atmosphere, disintegrating before it could hit the Earth’s surface, and generating a massive blast wave.[ref]Though the Tunguska event drew and has continued to draw intense interest and study, no unambiguous, single impact crater has been found. For example, there is some evidence that it could have been generated by a massive release and explosion of natural gas from underneath the Siberian crust. In any case, we investigate the asteroid-impact theory in this report.[/ref]

Setting aside any lingering debates on the subject, studies have been conducted to determine what size asteroid or comet could have flattened 80 million trees over a region the size of a major metropolitan area. The results of these studies have shown that an object only 30-50 meters across could have generated such a blast wave.[ref]See, Comet/Asteroid Impacts and Human Society: An Interdisciplinary Approach, Peter T. Bobrowsky, Hans Rickman, Springer, Feb 21, 2007 – 546 pages.[/ref]

In order to put the range of threats further into perspective, this table presents a comparison of the levels of energy released from various types of events, both manmade and natural.

Structure and Composition

It is also highly important that we determine the physical composition of the interplanetary bodies. Some of the deeper implications of this will be discussed in the sections on defense options and exploratory missions, but here we must note that not all of these objects are structurally similar. Some are almost solid iron-nickel, some solid rock, while many others are loose piles of smaller objects held together by their gravity (sometimes referred to as flying rubble piles).

The Objects

The next question is, where do these objects come from? Our solar neighborhood is much more populated than you may realize. Here, we concentrate only on two specific classes of objects: near-Earth objects and long-period comets. The classical image of our Solar System, four inner planets, then the asteroid belt, followed by four outer planets, while true, does not present the full picture. As Johannes Kepler indicated, and as Karl Gauss proved, there is a major discontinuity between Mars and Jupiter separating the inner from outer planets, which is the home of the majority of the asteroids in our Solar System. However, in addition to this “main belt” of asteroids, there are other populations of asteroids and comets. Some share Jupiter’s orbit. Some dwell in between Saturn and Uranus. Many populate the area of the inner planets, including around Earth.

The most successful way to further investigations of the ordering of the entire Solar System will be an elaboration of the methodological approach of Kepler and Gauss, the great minds who discovered the ordering of the Solar System. Instead of starting from pairwise interactions, we must investigate the Solar System as a single, harmonic system, taking a top-down view of the orbital systems and subsystems. Ultimately, applying those methodological considerations will be the key to improving our understanding of the orbits, and determining well into the future what bodies may threaten our planet.

Consider, first, a class of objects known as near-Earth objects (NEOs). This class of potentially threatening objects are mostly asteroids, but include some short-period comets.[ref]The comets included in the near-Earth objects grouping (sometimes referred to as short-period comets) have dramatically different orbits than the long-period comets mentioned above. Some of these short-period comets can have orbits that are similar to that of asteroids, and constitute a small part of the total near-Earth object population.[/ref]

The defining character of NEOs is that they orbit the Sun in paths that are either in the same general region as the Earth’s orbit, or can even cross the Earth’s orbit on a regular basis, raising the possibility of a collision with the Earth at some point in the future.

Though not all NEOs pose a threat to the Earth, a large number could. Of these, a number have orbits which come within 0.05 AU of the Earth’s orbit, and are large enough to cause damage to the Earth. These are referred to as potentially hazardous objects (PHOs).[ref]AU stands for astronomical unit, the average distance from the Earth to the Sun. It is used as a standard measure of distance in the Solar System. Also don’t be fooled by the image above, as bodies in the Solar System orbit within a thin volume, not a flat plane. Two orbits that may look like they intersect, when drawn on paper, may not, because one could be above the other.[/ref] This particular class of objects are of great concern for government agencies and scientific organizations all over the world, who have set out to find and track them, in order to identify potential threats, and to give advanced warning time to prepare defensive actions if needed.

Before going into the current estimations of the NEO population, how to observe and track them, as well as defense options, we must first identify a second class of potentially threatening objects, long period comets (LPCs). The orbits of these comets are completely different from those of NEOs. Whereas NEOs spend their entire life in the inner Solar System, long period comets spend the vast majority of their lifetime out in the farthest depths of the Solar System (often well beyond the orbit of Pluto.) The extreme ellipticity of some of these distant creatures can take them on rapid trips through the interior of the Solar System, and possibly across Earth’s orbit.

These create a number of significant problems for defending the Earth. First, the key to planetary defense is early detection. While we have had success in detecting NEOs which populate the inner region of the Solar System, it is basically impossible, with present technology, to see the vast majority of these long period comets when they are farther away. Not only does this dramatically shorten warning times, but, since the majority of these comets take hundreds of thousands of years to complete a single orbit around the Sun (some even take millions of years), we know little to nothing about the nature of the long period comet population. In addition, from what we do know, they are often very large, and can have impact speeds of up to about 70 kilometers per second (over 150,000 mph), significantly greater than asteroids.[ref]Remember that the energy released on impact goes up with the square of the speed. To give one example, the 70 km/second impact speed of a comet, going three and a half times faster than the 20 km/second impact speed of an asteroid of the same size, would deliver over 12 times more energy.[/ref]

Currently, compared to NEOs, we see far fewer long period comets passing our region of the Solar System, so it is expected that their impacts with the Earth are much less frequent. However, they have hit the Earth in the past, and if one were on a future impact trajectory, its great speed, large mass, and undetectability until close to the Earth would make it a particularly dangerous global threat. These are the type of bodies that could eliminate all human civilization with one impact.

There is also reason to believe that the population of long period comets which pass into the interior of the Solar System is not completely random. The current hypothesis is that these long period comets may originate from an extremely distant spherical structure surrounding the Sun, at the farthest reaches of the Solar System, known as the Oort cloud. Presently we do not have the observational capability to see comets that far away (a 10 km object at 10,000 times the distance of the Earth from the Sun is hard to spot), but it is thought that the number of large comets (larger than 1 km) in the Oort cloud is in the range of trillions.

Since they extend so far beyond the Solar System, these comets become sensitive to galactic factors. Other stars coming close to our Solar System can perturb the Oort cloud, changing the orbits of potentially millions of comets. Beside individual influences, at these distances, the gravitational effect of the Sun is less dominant and the general gravitational field of the galaxy begins to have an influence—an effect which varies as the galaxy evolves, and as our Solar System travels through it.

Even though our current scope of understanding regards these galactic processes as having slow, long-term effects, they are the type of considerations that mankind must begin to take into account at this stage. First and foremost, there is still little in the way of solid knowledge about these outer regions of the Solar System, and much less known about our Solar System’s relationship with our galaxy and how those galactic changes affect us here on Earth. There are many theories and models, but as we are reminded by the fact that recent readings from the two 35-year old Voyager spacecraft continue to surprise the scientific community, we cannot assume that we understand these neighboring regions, or the solar-galactic interactions, until we go out and investigate.

If there is some doubt as to why mankind has an imperative to understand our solar and galactic environment, let long period comets draw for us a larger neighborhood.

While our current capability to defend against the threat of long-period comets is limited, the state of our knowledge of near-Earth objects is less uncertain.

Population and Impact Frequency Estimations

Due to their close orbits, near-Earth objects can be observed and tracked with Earth-based and space-based telescopes. Following on a few decades of observation programs, astronomers have developed a significant catalogue of known near-Earth objects. Depending on how well and for how long each individual NEO is observed, computer models can be used to extrapolate each NEO’s orbit and trajectory, years or decades into the future.[ref]Obviously, the more observations of an object we have, and the better those observations are, the better the forecast will be. Still there are certain subtle effects which require greater investigation, such as composition, spin rates, and non-gravitational effects, such as an uneven heating/emission action referred to as the Yarkovsky effect. Moreover, there are questions about the methodology of the computer models themselves: they generally rely on only a few dozen large bodies to model the field through which the others pass.[/ref] These multi-decade extrapolations are crucial, since the key to defense against a potentially threatening asteroid is having as much advanced warning time as possible.

Presently, we are far from having discovered and tracked every NEO, and that must be done. The limited population that has been characterized by current surveys has been used to extrapolate statistical estimations of the expected total NEO populations. For example, in September 2011, a NASA-led team published updated estimations of NEO populations based on the data obtained from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) space telescope.

Since then, various estimates continue to be refined as increasing amounts of data from Earth-based telescopic surveys are received. One of the more recent available estimates was released in April of 2012, and presented by the head of NASA’s NEO program, Lindley Johnson, at a May 2012 Workshop on Potentially Hazardous Asteroids.[ref]http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/neo/2011_AG5_LN_intro_wksp.pdf ; April 17, 2012, Alan B. Chamberin (JPL).[/ref]

As is clear in table 2, we have been rather successful in identifying most of the larger NEOs. Of the discovered populations, some fit the specific category of potentially hazardous objects, meaning that their orbits come close to or even directly cross the Earth’s orbit. Currently, 152 of the discovered 850 near-Earth asteroids larger than 1 km are classified as PHOs, although none are expected to collide with Earth over the coming century. This is important, since 1 km is a rough division line between objects which would create truly global effects if they struck the Earth, and objects whose impact would produce a local or regional effect.

Still, this leaves the vast majority of medium and small-sized objects undiscovered: ~80% (over 21,000) of the middle-sized NEOs, ranging from 100 to 1000 meters; and ~99.5% of smaller NEOs, 30-100 meters (recall that the Tunguska-sized event is associated with objects in the range of 30-50 meters).

Any of these undiscovered objects could already be on a short-term collision course with Earth, unbeknownst to us. Some are guaranteed to be, at some point in the future. We are still essentially flying blind through our populated region of the inner Solar System.

Further analysis has provided estimations of the frequency with which various sized NEOs and comets impact the Earth.[ref]For example see, Catastrophic Events Caused by Cosmic Objects; 2008, Springer; Chapter 2, “Size-frequency distribution of asteroids and impact craters: estimates of impact rate.”[/ref] As implied by the NEO population estimates referenced above, and as indicated in the graph on the preceding page, there is a direct relationship between the size of the NEO, the population level, and the impact rate.

These estimations of NEO populations and impact frequencies are still approximations, and should only be taken as temporary reference points, paving the way for more rigorous investigations. We cannot entrust human lives, or potentially human civilization, to betting on statistics which purely extrapolate from past events. They can be utilized in limited applications where useful, but only on the path to obtaining a principled—causal—understanding of the system. This requires both a dramatic expansion of our observational systems and our space-faring capability generally, as well as renewed methodological approaches to understanding the organization of the Solar System, and its relationship with the galaxy. Reliance on statistical extrapolations from the past leaves mankind completely blind to unexpected shifts away from present trends, driven by the development and evolution of the Solar System and galaxy—a process driven by future changes.