Tag: "nasa"

04/22/20

  04:19:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 607 words  
Categories: Ranting

Happy Earth Day - Fifty Years On!

It is hard to believe, but the First Earth Day was fifty years ago! A lot has changed since then, but too much hasn’t! Here’s our take…

Earthrise - Apollo 8 - 1968

Earthrise from Apollo 8 - 1968. (NASA photo.)

I’m giving away my age here, but I was a high school student on that first Earth Day and was heavily involved in environmental causes, so the notion that people around the world would come together to raise consciousness about the damage we were causing to the environment was an eye-opening moment for me.  The need for change was so dire - air quality in Los Angeles was unhealthy much of the year, a river in Ohio was so polluted it caught fire, toxic chemicals were released into the atmosphere without concern for their secondary effects - that the task ahead seemed nearly insurmountable. 

The EPA did not yet exist (it was founded eight months later), nor did the Clean Air Act (also later that year), nor the Clean Water Act (1972).  On this day fifty years ago, we were practically starting from square one.

Space flight in general, and the Apollo program in particular, had helped spur the environmental movement, as those first images of Earth from lunar orbit captured the public imagination in a way nothing else ever had.  Truly we were a small, fragile planet in the vast darkness of space, and with no Planet B - certainly not the Moon - people started to realize that we needed to change what we were doing if we were to live in a sustainable world.

In the decades that followed, much progress was made.  California pioneered the way in reducing smog-forming emissions from automobiles, and tough regulations eliminated the indiscriminate dumping of toxins into the air and water.  Air and water quality slowly began to improve, even as the population of the country increased by more than 50%.

To be sure, there were times of lapse, particularly when the economy went into a downturn.  In the early 1990’s I was working as an air quality environmental advocate while California was experiencing a recession.  The constant refrain from the polluters - counterfactual but persistent - was that environmental regulations were “job killers” and that we needed to rollback standards to spur economic growth.  That argument was counterfactual because, as numerous studies proved, environmental standards actually were a net job creator, spurring innovation and job growth.

Fast forward to today.  Despite our progress, we have a long way to go, and for today’s generation the threat of climate change dwarfs the challenges that were confronted fifty years ago.  

Added to that challenge is the sudden, virus-induced economic calamity that we are just starting to comprehend.  Already we are seeing anti-regulation forces and climate-change deniers try to use this crisis as a way of eroding the progress that we have made toward a more sustainable society.  The solar industry is not immune from that attack and we will have more to say on that in the coming days.  Suffice it to say that the forces of greed are never vanquished, and though, at times, we make progress against them, they are biding their time, looking for an opportunity to reassert themselves.  If we are not vigilant, this may well be such an opportunity. There will be time enough to write about where those alarm bells are clanging. 

Today, however, it is important to look back over these past fifty years, just as the Apollo 8 crew looked back toward Earth, and put into perspective what we have accomplished.  It took guts, perseverance, and maybe a little luck to achieve what we have.  With more of the same, we will overcome the challenges of this era.

Happy Earth Day!

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10/13/14

  08:00:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 172 words  
Categories: Climate Change

2014 - Warmest Year Ever?

The folks over at NASA are reporting something that folks out here in the West will not find at all surprising: 2014 is on track to contend for the title of warmest year ever.  (No doubt this will come as a shock to folks who regularly watch Fox News.)  (H/T Climate Crocks.)

Warmest year ever?

The chart shows the temperature anomaly for 134 years with the zoom in on the five warmest. 2014 is the heavy grey line; 2010 (the hottest year on record) is in red.  (Oh, and contrary to the Fox canard about a global cooling trend, in fact of the five warmest years ever, two were in the past five - 2010 and 2013.)

Of course, 2014 isn’t over yet so the dotted lines provide a number of possible scenarios.  To give you a sense of how far “ahead” we are so far this year, if the remaining months simply hit their 21st century averages, 2014 will tie 2005 for the second warmest year ever.

Hang on to this link, you may need to refer to it next month over Thanksgiving dinner!

08/25/12

  06:16:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 511 words  
Categories: Ranting

Neil Armstrong, American Hero - Rest in Peace

This isn’t a solar story, but I cannot let the death of Neil Armstrong, a true American Hero, pass without comment. Like many of my era, I grew up on the Space Program, getting up at the crack of dawn to watch my heroes sit on top of a missile - a missile that had had an annoying tendency to explode on the launch pad - and listen to them  tell the “control boys” to “light this candle".  These were the men of “The Right Stuff” and their courage and can-do attitude was a huge inspiration to me.

Neil Armstrong was special.  Amongst a cadre of chest-thumping fly boys, Neil was a self-described “nerdy engineer".  But he could fly - oh how he could fly.  His first mission into space, on Gemini 8 featured a docking maneuver with the melodiously named Augmented Target Docking Adapter.  It looked a bit like a crocodile in space.  Docking was a key task to master on President Kennedy’s march to the moon, and the ATDA was an early test of that ability.  Except that when Armstrong completed the docking maneuver, a thruster on the ATDA started firing, uncontrollably.  As a result, the combined spacecraft started to tumble out of control - an episode that could have easily resulted in severe damage to the Gemini module, and possibly the death of the two astronauts.  But Neil managed to disengage, arrest the tumble and restore control to the mission.  He was the epitome of grace under pressure.

It prepared him well for the moon.  On final descent, with fuel running low, Neil did not like what he saw out the Lunar Module windows - boulders big enough to jeopardize the landing.  Armstrong overrode the computer and landed the LM manually - and the rest is history.  Most remember what he said that night and marvel at his poise at an indisputable historical moment - but few realize that without his quiet heroics a few hours earlier, the entire mission could have ended in tragedy.

I watched Neil (and his tormented colleague Buzz Aldrin) cavort on the moon from a restaurant in Pasadena - we were there celebrating my sister’s birthday - and always ached for solitary Michael Collins as he orbited a scant few miles overhead - so close, but yet so far.  I suspect that none of us who watched that event live will ever forget it.  I mourn for the fact that my own daughter has never known the thrill that I routinely experienced as a child following those exploits, and most especially that one, famous night.

In the years that followed, Armstrong eschewed the spotlight and refused to accept the mantle of hero.  Yet a hero he was, to me and most of the 600 million people who are estimated to have watched him step out of the LM and into history.

Yet I do believe that his spirit lives on - look at the amazing things that his engineering colleagues at JPL just accomplished with Curiosity - and no doubt they were inspired by his nerdy heroism so long ago.

Rest in Peace, Neil Armstrong - well done.

08/09/12

  07:48:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 396 words  
Categories: Climate Change

News Item: July Hottest Ever!

This just in - if you think July was hot, you’re right and you’re not alone!

WASHINGTON — July was the hottest month in the contiguous United States since record-keeping began in 1895, government scientists have said, a trend that meteorologists attribute to climate change.

The searing July heat contributed to a widening of troubling drought conditions, now affecting 63 percent of the nation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Wednesday.

The average temperature in the contiguous United States – excluding Hawaii and Alaska – was 77.6 degrees Fahrenheit (25.3 Celsius), 3.3 degrees higher than the average for the entire 20th century, NOAA said.

The previous hottest July on record was July 1936, when the average temperature was 77.4 degrees.

The warm temperatures in July helped make the last 12 months the hottest on record in the United States, and contributed to a record-warm first seven months of the year, according to NOAA statistics.

The extreme heat and record dryness have created conditions ripe for wildfires, with more than two million acres (800,000 hectares) consumed in July, notably in Colorado.

California meanwhile had its fifth wettest July on record, and heavy rains were also seen in Nevada and along the western Gulf coast.

Kevin Trenberth, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, told AFP he was struck by how long the extreme heat had lasted.

“The fact that we are breaking records by so much and sustained for so long indicates that global warming is playing a role,” Trenberth said.

He said the El Nino and La Nina climate patterns were also to blame.

A recent analysis of the past six decades of global temperatures by a group of scientists from the US space agency NASA showed a “stunning increase in the frequency of extremely hot summers,” said one of the authors, James Hansen.

Hansen, who directs the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has said human-driven climate change is to blame for a series of increasingly hot summers and the situation is already worse than was expected two decades ago.

“My projections about increasing global temperature have been proved true. But I failed to fully explore how quickly that average rise would drive an increase in extreme weather,” Hansen wrote in the Washington Post last week.

Hansen said the European heat wave of 2003, the Russian heat wave of 2010 and massive droughts in Texas and Oklahoma last year can each be attributed to climate change.

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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