NASA rover finally bites the dust on Mars after 15 years
By MARCIA DUNN
AP Aerospace Writer
Thursday, February 14
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA’s Opportunity, the Mars rover that was built to operate for just three months but kept going and going, rolling across the rocky red soil, was pronounced dead Wednesday, 15 years after it landed on the planet.
The six-wheeled vehicle that helped gather critical evidence that ancient Mars might have been hospitable to life was remarkably spry up until eight months ago, when it was finally doomed by a ferocious dust storm.
Flight controllers tried numerous times to make contact, and sent one final series of recovery commands Tuesday night, along with one last wake-up song, Billie Holiday’s “I’ll Be Seeing You,” in a somber exercise that brought tears to team members’ eyes. There was no response from space, only silence.
Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s science missions, broke the news at what amounted to a funeral at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, announcing the demise of “our beloved Opportunity.”
“This is a hard day,” project manager John Callas said at an auditorium packed with hundreds of current and former members of the team that oversaw Opportunity and its long-deceased identical twin, Spirit. “Even though it’s a machine and we’re saying goodbye, it’s still very hard and very poignant, but we had to do that. We came to that point.”
The two slow-moving, golf cart-size rovers landed on opposite sides of the planet in 2004 for a mission meant to last 90 sols, or Mars days, which are 39 minutes longer than Earth days.
In the end, Opportunity outlived its twin by eight years and set endurance and distance records that could stand for decades. Trundling along until communication ceased last June, Opportunity roamed a record 28 miles (45 kilometers) and worked longer than any other lander in the history of space exploration.
Opportunity was a robotic geologist, equipped with cameras and instruments at the end of a mechanical arm for analyzing rocks and soil. Its greatest achievement was discovering, along with Spirit, evidence that ancient Mars had water flowing on its surface and might have been capable of sustaining microbial life.
Project scientist Matthew Golombek said these rover missions are meant to help answer an “almost theological” question: Does life form wherever conditions are just right, or “are we really, really lucky?”
The twin vehicles also pioneered a way of exploring the surface of other planets, said Lori Glaze, acting director of planetary science for NASA.
She said the rovers gave us “the ability to actually roll right up to the rocks that we want to see. Roll up to them, be able to look at them up close with a microscopic imager, bang on them a little bit, shake them up, scratch them a little bit, take the measurements, understand what the chemistry is of those rocks and then say, ‘Oh, that was interesting. Now I want to go over there.’”
Opportunity was exploring Mars’ Perseverance Valley, fittingly, when the fiercest dust storm in decades hit and contact was lost. The storm was so intense that it darkened the sky for months, preventing sunlight from reaching the rover’s solar panels.
When the sky finally cleared, Opportunity remained silent, its internal clock possibly so scrambled that it no longer knew when to sleep or wake up to receive commands. Flight controllers sent more than 1,000 recovery commands, all in vain.
With project costs reaching about $500,000 a month, NASA decided there was no point in continuing.
Callas said the last-ditch attempt to make contact the night before was a sad moment, with tears and a smattering of applause when the operations team signed off. He said the team members didn’t even bother waiting around to see if word came back from space — they knew it was hopeless.
Scientists consider this the end of an era, now that Opportunity and Spirit are both gone.
Opportunity was the fifth of eight spacecraft to successfully land on Mars, all belonging to NASA. Only two are still working: the nuclear-powered Curiosity rover, prowling around since 2012, and the recently arrived InSight, which just this week placed a heat-sensing, self-hammering probe on the dusty red surface to burrow into the planet like a mole.
Three more landers — from the U.S., China and Europe — are due to launch next year.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the overriding goal is to search for evidence of past or even present microbial life at Mars and find suitable locations to send astronauts, perhaps in the 2030s.
“While it is sad that we move from one mission to the next, it’s really all part of one big objective,” he said.
The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Protecting human heritage on the moon: Don’t let ‘one small step’ become one giant mistake
February 15, 2019
By Michelle Hanlon, Professor of Air and Space Law, University of Mississippi
Disclosure statement: Michelle Hanlon is a co-founder of For All Moonkind.
Why did the hominin cross the plain? We may never know. But anthropologists are pretty sure that a smattering of bare footprints preserved in volcanic ash in Laetoli, Tanzania bear witness to an evolutionary milestone. These small steps, taken roughly 3.5 million years ago, mark an early successful attempt by our common human ancestor to stand upright and stride on two feet, instead of four.
Nearly 50 years ago, Neil Armstrong also took a few small steps. On the moon. His bootprints, along with those of fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin, are preserved in the lunar soil, called regolith, on what Aldrin described as the “magnificent desolation” of the moon’s surface. These prints, too, bear witness to an evolutionary milestone, as well as humankind’s greatest technological achievement. What’s more, they memorialize the work of the many individuals who worked to unlock the secrets of space and send humans there. And those small steps pay homage to the daring men and women who have dedicated – and those who lost – their lives to space exploration.
The evidence left by our bipedal ancestors are recognized by the international community and protected as human heritage. But the evidence of humanity’s first off-world exploits on the moon are not. These events, separated by 3.5 million years, demonstrate the same uniquely human desire to achieve, explore and triumph. They are a manifestation of our common human history. And they should be treated with equal respect and deference.
I’m a professor of aviation and space law and an associate director of the Air and Space Law Program at the University of Mississippi School of Law. My work focuses on the development of laws and guidelines that will assist and promote the successful and sustainable use of space and our transition into a multi-planet species. During the course of my research, I was shocked to discover that the bootprints left on the moon, and all they memorialize and represent, are not recognized as human heritage and may be accidentally or intentionally damaged or defaced without penalty.
Heritage gets no respect
On Earth, we see evidence of this type of insensitivity all the time. The Islamic State has destroyed countless cultural artifacts, but it’s not just terrorists. People steal pieces of the Pyramids in Gaza and sell them to willing tourists. Tourists themselves see no harm in grabbing cobblestones that mark roads built by ancient Romans or snapping the thumbs off terra cotta warriors crafted centuries ago to honor a Chinese emperor.
And, just last year, Sotheby’s auctioned off a bag – the first bag that Neil Armstrong used to collect the first moon rocks and dust ever returned to Earth. The sale was entirely legal. This “first bag” ended up in the hands of a private individual after the U.S. government erroneously allowed it to be included in a public auction. Rather than return the bag to NASA, its new owner sold it to the highest bidder for US$1.8 million. That’s a hefty price tag and a terrible message. Imagine how much a private collector would pay for remnants of the first flag planted on the moon? Or even just some dust from Mare Tranquilitatis?
The fact is if people don’t think sites are important, there is no way to guarantee their safety – or the security of the artifacts they host. Had the first bag been recognized as an artifact, its trade would have been illegal.
Introducing ‘For All Moonkind’
That’s why I co-founded the nonprofit For All Moonkind, the only organization in the world committed to making sure these sites are protected. Our mission is to ensure the Apollo 11 landing and similar sites in outer space are recognized for their outstanding value to humanity and protected, like those small steps in Laetoli, for posterity by the international community as part of our common human heritage.
Our group of nearly 100 volunteers – space lawyers, archaeologists, scientists, engineers, educators and communicators from five continents – is working together to build the framework that will assure a sustainable balance between protection and development in space.
Here on Earth, the international community identifies important sites by placing them on the World Heritage List, created by a convention signed by 193 nations. In this way, the international community has agreed to protect things like the cave paintings in Lascaux, France and Stonehenge, a ring of standing stones in Wiltshire, England.
There are no equivalent laws or internationally recognized regulations or even principles that protect the Apollo 11 landing site, known as Tranquility Base, or any other sites on the moon or in space. There is no law against running over the first bootprints imprinted on the moon. Or erasing them. Or carving them out of the moon’s regolith and selling them to the highest bidder.
Between 1957 and 1975, the international community did dedicate a tremendous amount of time and effort to negotiating a set of treaties and conventions that would, it was hoped, prevent the militarization of space and ensure freedom of access and exploration for all nations. At the time, cultural heritage in outer space did not exist and was not a concern. As such, it is not surprising that the Outer Space Treaty, which entered into force in 1967, doesn’t address the protection of human heritage. Today, this omission is perilous.
Because, sadly, humans are capable of reprehensible acts.
Back to the moon
Currently there are a comparative trickle of companies and nations with their sights on returning to the moon. China landed a rover on the far side in January. An Israeli company hopes to reach the moon in March. At least three more private companies have plans to send rovers in 2020. The U.S., Russia and China are all planning human missions to the moon. The European Space Agency has its sights on an entire Moon Village.
But as history shows, this trickle of explorers could soon become a rush. As we straddle the threshold of true space-faring capability, we have an extraordinary opportunity. We have time to protect our common heritage, humanity’s first steps, on the moon before it is vandalized or destroyed.
If our hominin ancestor had a name, it is lost to history. Conversely, English novelist J.G. Ballard suggested that Neil Armstrong may well be the only human being of our time remembered 50,000 years from now.
If we do this right, 3.5 million years from now, not only will his name be remembered, his bootprint will remain preserved and the story of how Tranquility Base became the cradle of our space-faring future will be remembered forever, along with the lessons of tumultuous history that got us to the moon. These lessons will help us come together as a human community and ultimately advance forward as a species.
To allow anything else to happen would be a giant mistake.
Stan Mrak, logged in via Facebook: The U.S. has had a Secret Space Program that has been active since the 1950’s. There have been operational bases on the moon, and elsewhere in space, ever since then, and they are they to this day, as well as much more! We are being lied to about our capabilities in space travel. There are multiple military whistleblowers, former members of this space program, who are sharing their experiences today after decades of sworn secrecy. William Tompkins is one who recently passed away, but had certifiable classified military documents from the 40’s and 50’s to back up his claims. Others witnesses include Emery Smith, Corey Goode. Look them up. We are not alone.
Rich Gadson: I have been considering donating money to keep this site alive. But, if the silliness of the type expressed by “Mr. Mrak” is where it’s going to go I won’t be throwing it down this rathole.
February 15, 2019
Patrol Announces 2018 Leadership Awards
COLUMBUS – The Ohio State Highway Patrol announced the recipients of their 2018 Leadership Awards today. The ceremony recognizes dozens of state and district award winners for their valuable contributions to our state and communities.
Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper of the Year – Trooper James E. Hutchinson
Trooper James E. Hutchinson, of the Hamilton Post, earned top honors as the 2018 State Trooper of the Year. He was selected from nine District Troopers of the Year across the state. Trooper Hutchinson exemplifies what it means to be a trooper and is a leader among his peers.
Trooper Hutchinson has established himself as a resource to the Patrol and the community he serves. He prides himself in professional service and treats everyone with respect. Trooper Hutchinson makes it a priority to arrest impaired and drugged drivers. For the last two years, Trooper Hutchinson has worked a dedicated road patrol assignment in the city of Middletown where he has built impeccable relations with the police department, courts and other government officials. He gives back to his community by participating in the backpack program which provides school supplies for underprivileged kids. He regularly volunteers at the Lifehouse Church where he and his family attend.
Trooper Hutchinson joined the Patrol in April 2012 as a member of the 139th Academy Class. He earned his commission in October of that year and was assigned to the Xenia Post. In 2015, he earned the Certificate of Recognition. In 2017, he earned the Criminal Patrol Award. As a trooper, he also served at the Batavia, Hamilton and Cincinnati posts; the Patrol Training Academy; and the Southwest Ohio Motorcycle Unit.
Ohio State Highway Patrol Dispatcher of the Year – Dispatcher Tara J. Barnhart
Dispatcher Tara J. Barnhart, of the Bowling Green Dispatch Center, earned statewide honors as the 2018 Dispatcher of the Year. She was selected from nine District Dispatchers of the Year across the state. Her calm demeanor, positive attitude and commitment to service distinguished her from the other nominees.
Communications professionals are often the first point of contact for the public when need arises. Dispatcher Barnhart strives to provide the highest level of service to the public, her co-workers and the troopers on her shift. She garnered praise for her teamwork.
Dispatcher Barnhart joined the Patrol in March 2006 as a member of the 146th Academy Class. She earned her commission in October of that year and was assigned to the Defiance Post. As a trooper, she also served at the Findlay Post. In 2015, she transferred to the Findlay District Headquarters as a dispatcher. In 2017, she earned the Gold Star Award. As a dispatcher, she also served at the Bowling Green Dispatch Center.
Blue Max Award (Patrol’s top auto larceny enforcer) – Trooper Matthew D. Boyer
Trooper Matthew D. Boyer, of the Akron Post, earned the Blue Max Award for recovering the most stolen vehicles of any trooper in 2018. Throughout the year, he recovered 24 stolen vehicles valued at $182,500, resulting in the apprehension of 28 suspects.
Trooper Boyer joined the Patrol in March 2015 as a member of the 158th Academy Class. He earned his commission in September of that year and was assigned to the Lisbon Post. He also served at the Canfield and Canton posts. In 2017, he earned the Ace Award for excellence in auto larceny enforcement. He also earned the Criminal Patrol Award three times.
State Criminal Patrol Award – Trooper Ryan M. May
Trooper Ryan M. May, of the Delaware Post, earned the State Criminal Patrol Award for conducting the most felony case investigations with 101, which led to 131 felony arrests in 2018. The majority of his cases were drug related. Throughout 2018, his criminal seizures included 1,339 grams of marijuana, 50 grams of cocaine, 353 grams of heroin, 47 grams of fentanyl, 38 grams of methamphetamine, 371 pills and four firearms.
Trooper May joined the Patrol in April 2012 as a member of the 152nd Academy Class. He earned his commission in August of that year and has been assigned to the Delaware Post throughout his career. In 2014, he earned the Criminal Patrol Award.
Robert M. Chiaramonte Humanitarian Award – Trooper Willie E. Richardson
Trooper Willie E. Richardson, of the Bowling Green Post, was honored with the Robert M. Chiaramonte Humanitarian Award, which recognizes officers dedicated to humanitarian causes on the highway and in their communities.
Trooper Richardson is involved in educational endeavors and serves as a presenter for the Ohio State Bar Association’s Continuing Legal Education Program on commercial transportation law. He volunteers and is an active faculty member with Nationwide’s Trail Division Trucking School. The school teaches lawyers from across the United States about the DOT commercial motor vehicle inspection process.
Trooper Richardson’s heart is entrenched in service to others, which is often displayed through his selfless acts. He has purchased spare tires, tanks of gas and bus tickets for individuals who were having financial issues.
His deep faith is exhibited in his missional membership in Cedar Creek Church where he regularly serves as a leader of security during weekend services. He serves as a Ministry Leader of Cedar Creek’s West Campus Celebrate Recovery Program – a Christian based 12-step recovery program that helps anyone that is having issues with hurts, habits and hang-ups.
Trooper Richardson joined the Patrol in May 1990 as a member of the 120th Academy Class. He earned his commission in March of the following year and was assigned to the Swanton Post. In 2007, he earned the Criminal Patrol Award. In 2012, he was selected as Commercial Motor Vehicle Inspector of the Year. As a trooper, he also served at the Granville, Toledo and Bowling Green posts, and Findlay District Commercial Enforcement Unit.
Colonel Thomas W. Rice Leadership Award – Sergeant Thomas Halko
Sergeant Thomas Halko, of the Sandusky Post, was honored with the Colonel Thomas W. Rice Leadership Award, which is presented to one sworn supervisory officer for outstanding leadership. The award is sponsored by the Ohio State Highway Patrol Retirees’ Association and is in honor of former Patrol Superintendent Thomas W. Rice.
Sergeant Halko’s leadership and enthusiasm was immediately apparent from his first day at the Sandusky Post, and has been instrumental to the growth and success. His level of commitment to his people’s success is evident in everything he does. Under his leadership, the Sandusky Post’s OVI arrests went from average to having the second largest increase in the state. The morale at the Sandusky Post has been significantly improved due to Sergeant Halko’s leadership. In addition to his duties as a sergeant, he makes annual monetary donations to his local school system and donates clothes to the district’s needy children.
Sergeant Halko began his Patrol career in May 2007 as a member of the 148th Academy Class. He earned his commission in December of that year and was assigned to the Norwalk Post. In 2014, he earned the Criminal Patrol Award. He was selected as Post Trooper of the Year three times. In 2016, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant and transferred to the Sandusky Post to serve as an assistant post commander.
Motor Carrier Enforcement Inspector of the Year – Motor Carrier Enforcement Inspector Anthony R. Lester
Motor Carrier Enforcement Inspector Anthony R. Lester, of the Jackson District Commercial Enforcement Unit, was selected as Motor Carrier Enforcement Inspector of the Year.
MCEI Lester began his career with the Patrol in May 1997 as a Maintenance Repair Worker 2 at the Jackson Post. In April 1998, he was promoted to a Motor Carrier Enforcement Inspector and transferred to the Chillicothe Post. In 2012, he was selected as State Motor Carrier Enforcement Inspector of the Year. He was also selected as District Motor Carrier Enforcement Inspector of the Year 13 times. As a Motor Carrier Enforcement Inspector, he also served at the Jackson District Commercial Enforcement Unit.
Electronic Technician Award of the Year – Electronic Technician 3 Eric T. DeVoe
Electronic Technician 3 Eric T. DeVoe, of the Electronic Technician Unit, was selected as Electronic Technician of the Year. An Electronic Technician 3 supports the Division by testing, maintaining, aligning and programming many types of communications and electronic equipment. Such equipment consists of radios, radars, lasers, facility video security systems and all electronic related equipment within a facility or vehicle.
Electronic Technician 3 DeVoe joined the Patrol in November 1996 as an Electronic Technician 1 assigned to the Central Installation Unit. As an Electronic Technician 1, he also served in the Technology Communications Unit. In 1999, he was promoted to an Electronic Technician 2 and transferred to the Central Installation Unit. In 2003, he was promoted to an Electronic Technician 3 and transferred to the Technology Communications Unit. As an Electronic Technician 3, he also served in the Electronic Technician Unit.
Ohio Trooper Recognition Award – Trooper Justin E. Daley
Trooper Justin E. Daley, of the Cleveland District Criminal Investigations, earned the Ohio Trooper Recognition Award. He was selected from nine district recipients across the state. The award recognizes excellence among troopers who are assigned to specialty positions.
He joined the Patrol in October 2001 as a member of the 138th Academy Class. He earned his commission in April of the following year and was assigned to the Fremont Post. He earned the Criminal Patrol Award three times. As a trooper, he also served at the Medina Post, Cleveland District Criminal Patrol Unit, Special Response Team, and the Cleveland and Bucyrus district criminal investigations.
Trooper Daley served in the United States Marines from 1994 to 2003.
Employee Recognition Award – Administrative Professional 1 Beth Stewart Bullinger
Administrative Professional 1 Beth Stewart Bullinger, of the Van Wert Post, received the award presented annually to recognize excellence by a professional employee.
She began her state career in May 2014 as an Administrative Professional 1 and has been assigned to the Van Wert Post throughout her career. She earned the District Employee Recognition Award three times.
Administrative Professional 1 Stewart Bullinger earned a Bachelor of Science degree in athletic training in 2006 and Bachelor of Arts degree in communications in 2011 from Ohio Northern University.
Ohio Investigative Unit Agent of the Year – Christopher J. Moyers
Christopher J. Moyers, of the Cincinnati District Office, was selected as State Agent of the Year out of six District Agents of the Year across the state.
Agent Moyers joined the Ohio Investigative Unit in May 2003 and has been assigned to the Cincinnati District Office throughout his career.
Police Officer of the Year – Police Officer 2 Stacy S. Rainey
Police Officer 2 Stacy S. Rainey, Logistics and Security, was selected as Police Officer of the Year. Officer Rainey joined the Patrol in December 2012 and has been assigned to Capitol Operations throughout her career.
Family Member Recognition Award – Cera J. Prather, Piqua District
Distinguished Retiree Award – Retired Captain Brenda S. Collins, Bucyrus District
Below are District honors for: District Trooper of the Year, District Dispatcher of the Year, District Trooper Recognition and District Employee Recognition.
Findlay District – Trooper Brandon P. Schreiber, Lima Post; Dispatcher Tara J. Barnhart, Bowling Green Dispatch Center; Trooper David J. Schultz, Findlay District Investigations; Beth Stewart Bullinger (Administrative Professional 1), Van Wert Post.
Bucyrus District – Trooper Richard L. Anderson, Sandusky Post; Dispatcher Joshua J. Wright, Mansfield Dispatch Center; Trooper Tyler P. Carr, Bucyrus District Investigations; Darl D. Snader (Maintenance Repair Worker 2), Mansfield Post.
Cleveland District – Trooper Tara L. Worner, Akron Post; Dispatcher Genell L. Campbell, Cleveland Dispatch Center; Trooper Justin E. Daley, Cleveland District Investigations; Linda M. Barnes (Administrative Professional 1), Akron Post.
Warren District – Trooper Charles E. Hoskin, Ravenna Post; Dispatcher Michelle D. Higgins, Warren Dispatch Center; Trooper Seth T. Howard, Warren District Investigations; Julie L. Szeker (Administrative Professional 1), Chardon Post.
Piqua District – Sergeant David G. Slanker, Springfield Post; Dispatcher Renee M. Kohl, Springfield Dispatch Center; Trooper Jeremiah J. Smith, Piqua District Headquarters; Stacy L. Mullen (Administrative Professional 4), Piqua District Professional Staff.
Columbus District – Trooper Spencer A. Large, Circleville Post; Dispatcher Dustin R. Magill, Lancaster Dispatch Center; Trooper Jennifer A. Delong, Columbus District Investigations; Lindi M. Miller (Administrative Professional 1), West Jefferson Post.
Cambridge District – Trooper Jonah C. Carson, Zanesville Post; Dispatcher John C. Ceculski, Cambridge Dispatch Center; Trooper Brian W. Hawkins, Cambridge Criminal Patrol; Joseph C. Simonson (Maintenance Repair Worker 2), Cambridge Post.
Wilmington District – Trooper James E. Hutchinson, Hamilton Post; Dispatcher Rebel L. Martin, Batavia Dispatch Center; Trooper Cristian Perrin, Wilmington Criminal Patrol; Monica L. Ray (Administrative Professional 1), Hamilton Post.
Jackson District – Trooper Nathan E. Lawson, Portsmouth Post; Dispatcher Garrick B. Payne, Jackson Dispatch Center; Trooper Marlin E. Folden, Jackson District Investigations; Joshua M. Henry (Infrastructure Specialist 2), Jackson District Professional Staff.
GHQ – Dispatcher Megan R. Howard, Columbus Communications Center; Trooper Andrew J. Edinger, Aviation Unit; Erin L. Lintz (Public Safety Intelligence Analyst), Intelligence Unit; Bradlee C. Berry (Maintenance Repair Worker 2), Training Academy; Tammie A. Wallace (Customer Service Assistant 3), Central Records.
Ohio Investigative Unit – Agent Steven V. Vassallo, Akron District; Agent Gerald J. Ferguson, Athens District; Agent Christopher J. Moyers, Cincinnati District; Agent Kevin J. Cesaratto, Cleveland District; Agent Courtland R. Price, Columbus District; Agent Brian C. Sargent, Toledo District.
The following awards are for the Patrol’s Auxiliary members who are an all-volunteer force that provides assistance to troopers.
William J. Duffy Award of Excellence – Lois J. Lust
The William J. Duffy Award of Excellence requires a minimum of 300 volunteer hours per year over three consecutive years.
Retired Auxiliary Major Lois J. Lust joined the Ohio State Highway Patrol Auxiliary in April 1995 and was assigned to the Marion Post. While at the Marion Post, she was promoted to the rank of auxiliary captain in 1998 and auxiliary major in 2013.
During the last three years, she has volunteered an average of 1,156 hours per year which includes riding on patrol, assisting at the Ohio State Fair, The Ohio State University football game details, sobriety checkpoints, shield details and working at the Academy store.
State Auxiliary Officer of the Year – Thomas G. Dittoe
Auxiliary Lieutenant Thomas G. Dittoe joined the Patrol Auxiliary in July 2008 and has been assigned to the Lancaster Post throughout his career.
In 2011, he earned the Williams J. Duffy Award of Excellence. In 2012, he was promoted to auxiliary sergeant and earned the Ulmer Award. In 2014, he was promoted to the rank of auxiliary lieutenant.
In 2018, Auxiliary Lieutenant Dittoe volunteered 1,611 hours of his time in assistance with Patrol duties. This time included riding on patrol, assisting at the Ohio State Fair, The Ohio State University football game details, sobriety checkpoints, shield details and working at the Academy store.