“Project Horizon” – another Cold War latrine hole filled with taxpayer dollar$

❝ The following article is from the new book Uncle John’s Uncanny Bathroom Reader.

Believe it or not, in the 1950s the U.S. seriously considered building a military base on the Moon. Why? As Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson later put it, so that Americans would never have to go to bed “by the light of a Communist Moon.”

❝ Just before 10:30 p.m. on the evening of October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite, into orbit around Earth. Sputnik was just a metal sphere with some antennas attached, not much larger than a basketball. All it did was send radio signals beeping back to Earth. But it passed over the United States several times a day, and there was nothing the government could do about it. The implications were obvious: Russian missiles that carried satellites like Sputnik into orbit might someday be used to launch nuclear weapons against America.

The Russians didn’t stop there: One month later they commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution by launching a dog into orbit aboard Sputnik 2. They boldly predicted that Soviet cosmonauts would celebrate the Russian Revolution’s 50th anniversary, in 1967, on the Moon.

❝ U.S. intelligence analysts who studied the secretive Soviet space program feared that the Russians might indeed be capable of landing on the Moon by 1967. That raised some disturbing possibilities for American military planners: What if the Soviets claimed the Moon as Russian territory? Even worse, what if they established a military base on the Moon, perhaps even a nuclear missile base with its missiles pointed back at Earth? The United States would have no way to defend itself. The only answer, at least as far as planners in the U.S. Army were concerned, was to get to the Moon first and build a lunar base before the Russians did.

…the Army’s chief of research and development, Lieutenant General Arthur Trudeau, in March 1959…directed the army’s chief of ordnance to “develop a plan…for establishing a lunar base by the quickest means possible.” Two months later the three-volume report for “Project Horizon” landed on General Trudeau’s desk.

The article is long and looney. Still worth a read. I think you can look around at some of the nutballs inhabiting our government nowadays who learned “everything they know” from the kind of people who came up with Project Horizon.

For myself, embarrassing enough to see one of the most dangerous weapons I ever worked on. Dangerous, mostly, to anyone who tried to use the piece of crap called the Davy Crockett Rocket.

Steven Chu warns of “Sputnik moment” in technology race


Steven Chu’s favorite Energy Cupcakes
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

The United States faces a “Sputnik moment” in the global clean energy race and risks falling far behind advances by China and other countries, the US energy secretary, Steven Chu, warned today.

Hours before the opening of the United Nations climate summit in Cancún, Chu said that the US urgently needed to invest in research and innovation – much as it responded to the Soviet Union’s launch of the world’s first space satellite in 1957 – if it wanted to remain a leader of innovation.

“We face a choice today. Are we going to continue America’s innovation leadership or are we going to fall behind?” Chu said in a speech to the National Press Club in Washington.

Chu, a Nobel prize winner in physics, said his own career had been shaped by the orbit of that first space satellite. But, he said, over the last 15 years the US had steadily been losing ground to China and India in research and hi-tech manufacturing.

For the first time last year, the majority of US patents were awarded to inventors based outside America.

Meanwhile, China had emerged as the world’s largest producer of wind and solar power, and was breaking ground on 30 new nuclear reactors. It now has the fastest high-speed trains in operation, with running speeds of 220mph.

Gao Guangsheng, a senior Chinese official for climate change policy, told a conference in California this month that China was gearing up for even bigger investment in clean energy technology in its next five-year plan.

Gao went on to tell the conference, which was hosted by California’s governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, that China had reached its goal for wind power 10 years ahead of schedule.

The only goals our Congress is good at establishing are those for fund-raising for political campaigns.

In 1957 we had a Republican president who recognized the military-industrial complex as a danger to American culture and commerce. Republicans and Democrats still occasionally worked in bi-partisan fashion to accomplish tasks which benefitted ordinary citizens to some extent.

Eisenhower accepted a significant challenge in rolling back the fascist-minded thugs clustered around Senator Joe McCarthy – much like today’s crusading, populist, teabaggers.

Steven Chu – thinks that version of America still exists.

Some of you need all the help you can get – to find your way

A report presented recently to the US Congress warned that sat-nav – satellite navigation – systems could start to fail from next year as the US Air Force’s satellites deteriorate. It is yet another episode in our long and fraught relationship with in-car navigation – a phenomenon that is more ancient than you might think.

Today’s sat-navs are really a number of older inventions cobbled together. In fact, mechanical in-car navigation stretches back further than most people would think – 100 years to be precise.

Honda’s Electro Gyrocator was the first computerised in-car navigation system. Developed in Japan, it was…a solid-state system that could not respond to the changing narrative of the drive. So if you went wrong the errors soon stacked up and, unlike a broken watch, it would not even be right some of the time.

However, unbeknown to most motorists, the technology for a real-time system already existed. The US Defense Department had developed GPS (global positioning by satellite) in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that President Reagan made it available for civilian use.

The other technological piece of the sat-nav jigsaw was digital mapping, which was pioneered by a tiny British firm, NextBase, which grew out of a circle of friends who met as teenagers, programming some of the earliest home PCs at a school holiday computer camp in Northampton…

The technology for sat-nav, in other words, was around for several years before it was developed. All these different inventions simply needed to be brought together…

We still don’t quite trust the electronic voice to get us where we want to go. Since before even the arrival of the car, people have worried that maps sever us from real places, render the world untouchable, reduce it to a bare outline of Cartesian lines and intersections. Sat-nav feeds into this long-held fear that the cold-blooded modern world is destroying local knowledge, that roads no longer lead to real places but around and through them.

You can sense it in all those fearful newspaper headlines about motorists guided by their sat-navs to the edges of cliffs or deposited in village ponds. We may have grown to rely on in-car navigation, but it will be a long while before we learn to love it.

Cripes. If I was still on the road, I’d have one in my car in an instant.

I’ve used my old handheld GPS – in conjunction with Google Earth – to retrace trails that go back 500 years. We build tools to aid our lives, our knowledge.