State Of The Spam Report

At the moment the spam folder contains 38,416 spam messages. That’s about 1,280 per day!

I needed to respond to someone on For some reason my direct message to her didn’t go through so I left my email address out in the open. A few minutes later another user sent me a private message.

You posted your email address and I would say that it would probably be best if you removed it – there are people on here and also a lot of bots that will pick it up and you’ll have spam coming for the rest of your life.

Too late on that. The horses are already out of the barn.

My address is hosted by Google/Gmail. Their spam filters are mainly great. Anything spammy goes into its own bin for thirty days. After that it’s automatically discarded.

At the moment the spam folder contains 38,416 spam messages. That’s about 1,280 per day!

I seldom look at it, but did now for research purposes. Scary!

Spam trends change often to try and evade filtering. At the moment there are dozens of messages claiming to be from Pfizer the maker of Viagra. Right.

There are phishing messages that say they’re from AARP. They’re not. This only establishes I am now in an age group too trusting for the net!

At one point spam used to contain lots of porn. Guess you have to search that out on-your-own nowadays. “Naked college girls who want to meet you” have been replaced by ads for those disappointed with their size. In fact the vast majority of my spam is for pharmaceuticals of all type.

Most of my spam is sad. I feel bad for the people who buy.

Challenger – 20 Years Ago Today

Today is the twentieth anniversary of the Challenger disaster, January 28, 1986. I still have that morning indelibly etched in my mind.

Helaine and I were living in Branford. Steffie wasn’t quite a twinkle in our eye. We went to sleep late and woke up later.

From bed, we turned on CNN. I’m not sure we had any anticipation of seeing a space shot that morning, but as the set came to life, the countdown was in its final two minutes. There was no way we were going to turn away.

We watched what happened live. James Oberg writing on MSNBC today said that was the exception not the rule. I knew something was wrong right away. No one had to tell me.

Twenty years ago, the bloom was already off NASA’s rose. Few people cared the shuttle was being launched. From time-to-time on previous launches, I’d run a few seconds of tape. But really, there’s was little news value. I was indulged because it fit so well with my TV personna.

On January 28, 1986 only CNN had a live reporter at the Cape&#185.

Christa McAuliffe, the New Hampshire school teacher was onboard to help NASA drum up some good publicity – the mother’s milk of funding. It doesn’t seem fair, considering the risk she faced.

Should NASA have known the shuttle was in danger that cold January morning? Was there a push to launch no matter what the circumstances? Truth is, it makes no difference.

Even if this explosion hadn’t happened then, there were other dangers hidden. Everything that brought Columbia down was already in place long before Challenger. There are other hidden perils we’ll see when the shuttle flies again… if it ever does.

Challenger came before my stint as host of Inside Space. I knew a little, not a lot about the space program when I started. The more I hung out where ‘spacemen’ hung out, the more I learned. This was my first step in deciding manned spaceflight was, and is, a hugely dangerous waste of money, resources and time.

Climbing onto a missile and having someone light the fuse is in and of itself dangerous. I have commented to astronauts on more than one occasion, it’s a job that can kill you when you’re just practicing. That’s what happened with Apollo One.

Today, everything that can be done on the shuttle can better be done robotically. There’s really no need to put people at danger. Anyway, even when the shuttle was flying, there wasn’t much science being performed.

NASA would like you to think otherwise, but what I’m saying is so. Look back at what was aboard Columbia – it’s embarrassing. I’ve heard talk of metallurgy and pharmaceuticals in space for decades – but it’s never happened in a way that would lead to the promised commercial applications.

Don’t get me wrong, the astronauts and NASA’s scientists are dedicated people. It didn’t take long to figure that out. I have met more brilliant minds at NASA facilities than anywhere else I’ve ever been. They are not the problem.

Flying people into space is a macho thing. It somehow seems more significant and worthy if a person is at the controls and not a machine. Until that mindset changes we will accomplish little and endanger many.

&#185 – I’m not sure who it was, though probably the late John Holliman, a very nice guy and space enthusiast.

Our Place In Space

I wrote earlier today about the setback for Rover Opportunity. It is stuck in some sand as it scoots around the surface of Mars. It has now been operating nearly a year beyond its expected Martian lifetime. It owes us nothing at this point.

Those in charge feel confident it will extricate itself. Good luck. I hope they’re right.

Also today, NASA announced they were pushing back the next launch of the space shuttle. What was scheduled for May will now go off during the summer.

The problem relates to ice. Much of the propellant for the shuttle is incredibly cold and any exposed area of its plumbing or tanks will cause ice to form, even on a warm Florida day. If the ice breaks off… Well, you remember what happened on the last shuttle flight.

The shuttle program started in the early 70s. It was a good idea at the time, but 30+ years later, it’s obvious we need to go a new way.

The shuttle is bulky, expensive, labor intensive and extremely dangerous. Close your eyes for a second and think how your car differs from the one you drove in the 1970s. We are flying a 1970s shuttle fleet.

The shuttle program was predicated on many promises, such as advances in pharmaceuticals, metallurgy and the like. In reality, shuttle related progress in those field has been minimal.

Certainly there have been benefits, like communications satellites, integrated circuits and computer chips. Today, it seems like the shuttle is without a real mission. The International Space Station, one of the reasons for continuing shuttle flights, is doing less than the shuttle did!

On the other hand, our two robotic Martian missions have been astounding successes. They have lasted longer than expected&#185. More importantly, they are doing real science on a real mission.

We can take chances… even get stuck in the Martian sand, because no lives are at risk.

We are using robotics more and more to replace humans, especially in dangerous situations. Unmanned drone airplanes fly recon over Iraq (and probably other places our military doesn’t admit to). Even portions of the New York City subway system are scheduled to be operated robotically.

The state-of-the-art in robotics is well beyond anything imagined in the early 70s. Yes, NASA gets some credit for that. But now it’s time to take advantage of that technological edge and move our space program into the 21st Century.

There might be a time in the future when men, again, will be necessary for space exploration. They aren’t now. Another space disaster would be devastating to our nation. Along with the human toll, that bit of national vanity must be considered.

It’s time to ditch the shuttle and start flying smarter.

&#185 – I suspect, based on past experience, that NASA timelines are always conservative, making every success look that more successful.