James D. Livingston

The evolution of life

Matt Damon in "The Martian"

Pluto's surface as seen by New Horizons

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket

Size comprison of the Earth, the moon, and Pluto (lower left)

Aerial view of Spaceship Two crash in Mohave Desert

Close-up of nucleus of comet 67P taken by ESA spacecraft Rosetta

Wernher Von Braun & engines of Saturn V

Steven Swanson (left) and Russian colleagues

Yutu, Chinese rover, on the moon

Comet ISON and its green tail

International Space Station, where NASA will continue to support the astronauts during the shutdown

Artist's version of Mars One colony (Bryan Versteeg)

Kepler Space Telescope (artist's version)

Pluto - the Former Ninth Planet

Virgin Galactic space plane over New Mexico's Spaceport America

Saturn - Lord of the Rings

Arizona's Meteor Crater

Radar view of the surface of Venus as seen by Magellan orbiter

Use of Terra, a spin-off of CheMin (instrument on Curiosity), in King Tut's tomb

Streambed found on Mars by Curiosity (compared to dry streambed on Earth)

Self-portrait of the rover Curiosity on Mars.


Humans to Mars?

July 9, 2013

Tags: Mars, Mars One, Bas Lansdorp, Inspiration Mars, Dennis Tito, Charles Bolden, asteroid retrieval mission, Spiro Agnew, President Obama

Published in The Patriot Ledger June 22, 2013:

In 1969, when Neil Armstrong made the “giant leap for mankind” by stepping onto the moon, Vice President Spiro Agnew said that our “next major space goal should be a manned landing on Mars by the end of the century.” That didn’t happen. For over 40 years now, no humans have even ventured beyond low earth orbit, about 200 miles up, where the international space station now flies and the space shuttles formerly flew. (more…)

Is Anyone Out There?

July 9, 2013

Tags: exoplanets, Kepler space telescope, Kepler-62, Goldilocks zone, SETI, Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter

Published in The Patriot Ledger May 17, 2013:

When I was a boy, I read many science fiction stories featuring alien civilizations on our neighboring planets, such as “A Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs, in which John Carter travels to Mars and meets a beautiful red Martian princess who falls in love with him. But over the last half-century, NASA has sent space ships to study all the planets and their moons, and although we’ve learned lots about the history of the solar system, we’ve found no signs of alien life. There seems to be no one out there. (more…)

Poor Little Pluto

July 9, 2013

Tags: Pluto, Hayden Planetarium, definition of planet, Clyde Tombaugh, International Astronomical Union, New Horizons, Eris

Published in The Patriot Ledger April 13, 2013:

My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas. That was never literally true in my case, but when I was young, that mnemonic helped us remember the sequence of the planets – Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. What do we do now that Pluto is no longer officially a planet? Does my mother just serve us Nachos, or perhaps Nothing? (more…)

Space Adventures - for the Rich

July 9, 2013

Tags: Kazakhstan, Baikonaur, Borat, Space Adventures, Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson, XCOR Aerospace, Sacha Baron Cohen

Published in The Patriot Ledger March 16, 2013:

Many of us were first introduced to Kazakhstan in the highly successful 2006 spoof film “Borat,” in which the Asian republic is portrayed as extremely backward. Despite the crude and primitive image of the country presented to the world in “Borat,” Kazakhstan has long had an honored place in the space community as home of the Baikonur spaceport from which Sputnik, the first manmade satellite, was launched in 1957, igniting the space race. (more…)

Saturn - Lord of the Rings

July 9, 2013

Tags: Saturn, Cassini, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Chapsticks, Huygens, Titan, Enceladus

Published in The Patriot Ledger February 16, 2013:

Aside from Earth, which we all feel very close to, Saturn is the most popular planet – because of its beautiful rings. The rings aren’t visible to the naked eye, but can be seen with a modest telescope or high-power binoculars. And we’ve been getting many beautiful close-up shots of the rings ever since NASA’s Cassini probe (named for Giovanni Cassini, a seventeenth-century astronomer) went into orbit around Saturn in 2004. (more…)

NASA Guarding Us from Killer Asteroids

July 9, 2013

Tags: asteroids, comets, impact craters, Meteor Crater, Tunguska, Apophis, Spaceguard, Armageddon, Bruce Willis

Published in The Patriot Ledger January 3, 2013:

In the 1998 movie Armageddon, a huge asteroid is zooming towards Earth, threatening to annihilate the human race. But disaster is avoided at the last minute when Bruce Willis ignites a nuclear bomb that splits the asteroid, the pieces narrowly missing Earth. Space experts criticized lots of technical details in the film, but not the basic premise of an asteroid hitting the earth and destroying living species – because it has happened before. (more…)

Venus - Some Like it Hot!

July 9, 2013

Tags: Venus, Mariner 2, Magellan orbiter, alchemy symbols, male, female

Published in The Patriot Ledger December 14, 2012:

Fifty years ago today, NASA’s Mariner 2 flew by Venus. In the early days of the space race, the Soviets had all the firsts, including the first satellite (Sputnik, 1957), first unmanned moon landing (Luna 2, 1959), and the first human in orbit (Yuri Gagarin, 1961). Mariner 2, the first successful interplanetary probe, was our first “first.” (Mariner 1 and several Soviet probes to Venus launched earlier, but failed.) (more…)

NASA and The Fiscal Cliff

July 9, 2013

Tags: NASA, spin-offs, satellites, Hubble, lunar lander, CheMin, Terra, King Tut

Published in The Patriot Ledger November 19, 2012:

With the fiscal cliff looming, many expect deep budget cuts in “non-defense discretionary programs,” a broad Washington term that includes, among other things, all our science programs. All science needs defending, but NASA may be especially vulnerable, since few realize that much of NASA’s science has direct impact back here on Earth. (more…)

Life on Mars?

July 9, 2013

Tags: Mars, Curiosity, streambed, Gale Crater

Published in The Patriot Ledger October 27, 2012:

It has now been forty years since we last landed men on the moon, but there’s excitement in space again. NASA’s rover Curiosity recently discovered an ancient streambed on Mars – an array of rounded rocks that clearly had been shaped by tumbling action in flowing water. This must have been an important discovery, because it received a few seconds of coverage on ABC News and other news outlets, almost as much as the day’s campaign news. (more…)

Space Shorts

July 9, 2013

Tags: NASA, Mars, Curiosity, STEM

My blog "Space Shorts" features occasional articles of op-ed length (about 600 words) on space exploration published in The Patriot Ledger, a newspaper published in Quincy, MA. It started with a letter to the editor published October 6, 2012. Editor Amy MacKinnon liked the letter and from then on published my occasional articles. My goal in writing these articles for a general audience was to promote public interest in science in general and space exploration in particular. The letter that started it:

This is in response to a letter last week that, in view of all the other financial needs of the country, questioned the wisdom of spending money to send the rover Curiosity to Mars, a multi-year project estimated to cost about $2.5 billion. There are many justifications to include space exploration in our national budget.

First there are of course jobs, the key word nowadays. There are many thousands of jobs involved with NASA projects, including many jobs in industry and academe across the country as well as government jobs.

Second, it is well established that highly technical projects like Curiosity often provide spin-offs that advance other technologies, including communications, manufacturing, and medicine.

At least equally important, space projects are exciting to the imagination, and increase interest among the young in considering careers in the STEM fields - science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In our globally-competitive environment, that's an important and worthy goal on which NASA focuses.

The long-term scientific goals of the Mars projects are to improve our understanding of the origin of the planets and of life.

Perhaps the strongest justification for such projects is that they provide sustenance to the basic human instinct that drives all of science and much of human progress - curiosity.

Selected Works

A brief sequel to Arsenic and Clam Chowder, in which Mary Alice travels north on the Klondike Gold Rush
A sensational murder trial set in 1890s New York
Popular Science
The first review of the many and varied forms of magnetic levitation written for a general audience.
A entertaining treatment of the history, legends, science, and technology of magnets for a general audience.
Historical Biography
The dramatic life story of an early feminist and abolitionist who was both witty and wise.
Undergraduate Textbook
A lively introduction to the electrical, optical, and magnetic properties of solids.

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