Trail of a Minotaur

Click to enlargeChris Cook Photography

Star trails arc above a moonlit beach and jetty in this serene sea and night skyscape. Captured on November 19, the single time exposure looks south down the Atlantic coast from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA. But the longest and brightest trail is a Minotaur 1 rocket, a stage separation and exhaust plume visible along the rocket’s fiery path toward low Earth orbit.

The multi-stage Minotaur was launched from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility at 8:15 pm Eastern Time in Virginia, about 400 miles away. On board were a remarkable 29 satellites destined for low Earth orbit, including a small cubesat built by high school students…

Lovely photo, great technique, praiseworthy mission.

Cape Cod school drill uncovers pot brownie biz

A routine safety drill at Falmouth High School uncovered a student-run pot brownie operation, police said.

Law enforcement officials from Falmouth and the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office swarmed the school with the help of police K-9 units, as part of a “lockdown” drill performed twice a year, police said.

One of the dogs got a “hit” on a student’s backpack, police said, at which point 18-year-old Matthew Montella was escorted to the principal’s office by officer and school officials.

When they opened the bag they found a container full of marijuana brownies, which Montella allegedly admitted to making, police said.

A police dog also hit on Montella’s car. When officers and school officials opened the trunk, there were four trays of similar brownies…

During questioning, Montella told police he was selling the brownies for $10 each during school hours. He had $129 in cash on him at the time of his arrest, along with a handwritten ledger showing all of his receipts, police said…

The lockdown drills and K-9 inspections at the high school are held twice a year with cooperation from law enforcement officials. Dupuis said they have been taking place for the past four years, and are meant to prepare students and staff for an emergency situation such as a school shooting.

Or an emergency situation like the coppers making a truly unimportant drug bust.

I hope the kid gets credit for home economics.

Interior secretary Salazar approves Cape Wind

In a groundbreaking decision that some say will usher in a new era of clean energy, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said today he had approved the nation’s first offshore wind farm, the controversial Cape Wind project off of Cape Cod.

“This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic coast,” Salazar said at a joint State House news conference with Governor Deval Patrick. The decision comes after nine years of battles over the proposal.

America needs offshore wind power and with this project, Massachusetts will lead the nation,” Patrick said.

The decision had been delayed for almost a year because of two Wampanoag Native American tribes’ complaints that the 130 turbines, which would stand more than 400 feet above the ocean surface, would disturb spiritual sun greetings and possibly ancestral artifacts and burial grounds on the seabed. The ocean floor was once exposed land before the sea level rose thousands of years ago…

“I am convinced there is a path we can take forward that both honors our responsibility to protect historical and cultural resources and at the same time meets the need to repower our economy with clean energy produced from wind power,” he said…

George Bachrach, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, hailed the decision, saying it was “a critical step toward ending our reliance on foreign oil and achieving energy independence. ”

“Those who continue to resist and litigate are simply on the wrong side of history,” he said.

I have a personal past that shares in this decision. I grew up with subsistence fishing on the New England coast.

I understand those who assign primacy to viewscape, nature. But, New England tradition included folks who were daring enough to sail halfway round the world in search of new economies. That tradition accepted the inclusion of new ideas into the commercial and social life of old communities – from steam power to the abolition of slavery.

Those who see only mutually exclusive conflicts in renewable energy and their view of the horizon, those who believe their religion trumps the needs of the greater modern society – are stuck in the wrong century.

Windfarm site is sacred ground – screw everyone else!

Officials from two federally recognized Indian tribes say they are frustrated in their attempts to protect what they consider a sacred site from becoming part of an offshore wind farm…

Both the Mashpee Wampanoag and the Wampanoag of Gay Head (Aquinnah) have two main objections to the Cape Wind project:

* It would destroy a sacred site where ancestors fished, hunted and possibly were buried.
* It would obstruct their view of the horizon, thus interfering with their spiritual well-being.

In letters to federal officials, both the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and the Mashpee Wampanoag are critical of the federally mandated consultation process and object to the final environmental impact statement…

“The Minerals Management Service continues to work in good faith with the American Indian tribes around Nantucket Sound during the Section 106 consultation process,” an agency spokesman said in a prepared statement. “It would be inappropriate and not in good faith to disclose the details of our communications while discussions are still ongoing…”

The tribes are particularly miffed that MMS officials canceled plans to attend the “Legend of Maushop” pageant scheduled for Saturday on Martha’s Vineyard. The oral history, passed down from generation to generation of Aquinnah Wampanoag, tells the story of how Maushop, the giant Wampanoag leader, walked to Noepe, the island known today as the Vineyard, she said…

Mark Rodgers declined to comment on specific issues raised by the tribes but did point out that no burial site has been detected in the area proposed for Cape Wind.

“There were no human artifacts found,” he said. “Just some matter that could have been remains of trees…”

Though Aquinnah is on the opposite side of the Vineyard from Nantucket Sound, both tribes consider an unobstructed view of the horizon essential to their spiritual well-being as “People of the First Light.”

Forgive my cynicism, for that’s what rules my analysis of this situation. I’ve been through beaucoup dialogues over cultural and religious hurt feelings over many decades. Unless we are all prepared to redress the just grievances of all First Nation people and turn over running the country to tribal councils – whatever remains is money, a slice of the pie, something to compensate superstition.

This is not worthy of support in a democratic republic founded on keeping religion separate from state.