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A composite image of three launches: Antares (Oct. 17, 2016), Shenzhou 11 (Oct. 17, 2016), Soyuz (Oct. 19, 2016)

Week in Geek: All space, all the time edition

10/23/16 12:11PM

There were so many things going on in space this week I almost forgot about Earth! There were three rocket launches (two crewed), a mission to Mars, and all sorts of space science results announced at the Division of Planetary Sciences and the European Planetary Science Congress that took place this past week in Pasadena, CA.

Let's begin with things that started on Earth and went to space. The only uncrewed launch of the week was Orbital ATK's long awaited launch of their Antares rocket carrying a Cygnus resupply module to the International Space Station. Orbital ATK (along with Space X) are the two major resuppliers of the space station since the retirement of the Space Shuttle. This launch was the highly anticipated return for Antares after the rocket exploded on the launch pad just under two years ago. Luckily this time, everything went smoothly and Orbital ATK demonstrated they had gotten the Antares back on track.

The two crewed launches were both to space stations in orbit around our planet, one by the Chinese and one by the Russians. Last Sunday, China launched two astronauts aboard Shenzhou-11 which then rendezvoused with their space station, Tiangong-2, where they will stay for the next month. The second crewed launch took place in Kazakhstan where three astronauts, two Russians and one American, headed to the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz rocket, joining another three astronauts who have been aboard the station since July. In less than a week, the latter three will return to Earth also aboard a Soyuz.

Moving farther afield, the European Space Agency put a spacecraft in orbit around Mars and attempted to land one as well as part of its ExoMars program. Sadly, the landing didn't go so well, but the orbiter was the primary mission so all is still well.

If you're not spaced out yet, here are some fun results from that planetary science meeting:

Here's some more geek from the week:

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Rev. Pat Robertson, center, talks to attendees at a prayer breakfast at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. on Jan. 16, 2010. (Photo by Clem Britt/AP)

This Week in God, 10.22.16

10/22/16 08:28AM

First up from the God Machine this week is a story about Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump continuing to focus attention on the religious right movement as Election Day draws near.

The GOP nominee has already appeared at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, which axed an anti-Trump piece from the student newspaper this week, and today, the candidate will appear at the other major university founded by a Virginia televangelist: Regent University, created by TV preacher Pat Roberson. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported:
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is returning to Virginia this weekend for a rally at Regent University in Virginia Beach, the strongest signal yet that his campaign has not given up on Virginia.

The rally at the Christian university is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday, according to Trump’s official schedule.
It's not clear what role, if any, Pat Robertson will play at the event, but the radical televangelist has made no secret of his support for Trump. As Right Wing Watch explained, "Robertson has emerged as one of Trump’s most stalwart defenders on the Religious Right, claiming that the business mogul is facing satanic attacks and dismissing the tape of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women as simply 'macho' talk."

It may seem odd to think prominent evangelical leaders from a social-conservative movement would be so enthusiastic about a secular, thrice-married adulterer and casino owner who'd never really demonstrated any interest in, or knowledge of, matters of faith. But Robertson has long prioritized partisan politics over theological principles. In fact, in the 2008 Republican presidential primaries, the TV preacher threw his support behind Rudy Giuliani -- another secular, thrice-married adulterer.

There is, however, a generational problem that's emerged this year between the religious right movement's politically connected elite -- Robertson, Falwell, Tony Perkins, et al -- and many principled, rank-and-file evangelicals who have no use for partisan expediency.

The fissure has already emerged as a problem at Liberty University; it'll be worth watching to see if a similar dynamic unfolds at Regent University.

Also from the God Machine this week:
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Friday's Mini-Report, 10.21.16

10/21/16 05:31PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Bridgegate: "The former aide to Chris Christie who prosecutors say sent the "time for some traffic problems" email that started the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal said Friday that she knew only of a planned traffic study, not an alleged political retribution plot, and described the Republican governor as a bully who once threw a water bottle at her in a fit of rage."

* They really shouldn't do stuff like this: "In scenes that haven't been common since the end of the Cold War, Russian warships sailed through the English Channel early Friday in a theatrical display of Russian military might."

* Filipino voters did not choose wisely: "Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced that his country is separating from the U.S. in a speech before a Beijing economic forum on Thursday, after handing China a major diplomatic victory, agreeing to resume dialogue on their South China Sea territorial dispute following months of acrimony."

* On a related note: "Duterte did not detail how he planned to sever ties with the U.S. But the ramifications could be far-reaching, impacting everything from trade to military support to a deep cultural connection with the West."

* Fourth Circuit: "A federal court of appeals on Friday reinstated a case brought by four Iraqis who allege they were tortured by employees of CACI while they were held at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison during the Iraq War."

* Trouble online today? "Major websites were inaccessible to some East Coast users in the United States Friday morning and to people across the country in the early afternoon after a company that serves as an internet switchboard said it was under attack."

* The truth is largely the opposite of what voters are hearing from Trump: "More than seven years after the recession ended, black workers' earnings are accelerating sharply. Median usual weekly earnings for full-time black workers rose 9.8% in the third quarter from a year earlier, the fastest rate of growth on records back to 2000, according to data the Labor Department released Thursday."
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Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter works with his group to promote civics education in New Hampshire schools during a meeting in Concord, N.H., Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009.

Souter warned of a Trump-like candidate in prescient remarks

10/21/16 04:39PM

Former Supreme Court Justice David Souter has maintained a very low public profile since retiring from the bench nearly eight years ago, but Rachel highlighted a 2012 appearance Souter made in New Hampshire, and his remarks on "civic ignorance" are striking in their foresight.
"I don't worry about our losing republican government in the United States because I'm afraid of a foreign invasion. I don't worry about it because I think there is going to be a coup by the military as has happened in some of other places. What I worry about is that when problems are not addressed, people will not know who is responsible. And when the problems get bad enough, as they might do, for example, with another serious terrorist attack, as they might do with another financial meltdown, some one person will come forward and say, 'Give me total power and I will solve this problem.'

"That is how the Roman republic fell. Augustus became emperor, not because he arrested the Roman Senate. He became emperor because he promised that he would solve problems that were not being solved.

"If we know who is responsible, I have enough faith in the American people to demand performance from those responsible. If we don't know, we will stay away from the polls. We will not demand it. And the day will come when somebody will come forward and we and the government will in effect say, 'Take the ball and run with it. Do what you have to do.'

"That is the way democracy dies. And if something is not done to improve the level of civic knowledge, that is what you should worry about at night."
Souter couldn't have known about Donald Trump's rise in Republican politics, but that only makes his fears in 2012 that much more prophetic.
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First Lady Michelle Obama speaks to a crowd of supporters as she campaigns for the Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at the Convention Center, in Phoenix, Ariz., on Oct. 20, 2016. (Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty)

Trump's newest misstep: turning his attention to Michelle Obama

10/21/16 04:01PM

By most measures, President Obama is the second most popular political figure in the country. Who's first? His wife, First Lady Michelle Obama.

For Democratic candidates, that's good news. Not only is Michelle Obama an active campaigner as Election Day draws closer, she's also demonstrated an ability to deliver some of the year's most compelling and poignant addresses.

For some reason, this combination of factors gave Donald Trump a very bad idea, which he put into practice this afternoon.
Donald Trump took a rare swipe at First Lady Michelle Obama Friday, reminding voters of a snide comment she had made about Hillary Clinton eight years ago that he called "vicious."

Mr. Trump, speaking at a rally in North Carolina, criticized Mrs. Obama's frequent campaigning for the Democratic nominee, and quoted a crack she had made during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary contest between Mrs. Clinton and President Barack Obama.
"We have a president, all he wants to do is campaign. His wife, all she wants to do is campaign. And I see how much his wife likes Hillary," Trump said. "But wasn't she the one that originally started the statement, if you can't take care of your home -- right? -- you can't take care of the White House or the country."

First, it's largely true that the First Lady maintains an active campaign schedule, but that's apparently because she really wants Hillary Clinton to win and Donald Trump to lose. Criticizing her for hitting the campaign trail because she feels passionate about the race hardly seems wise.

Second, Trump apparently wants voters to believe Michelle Obama doesn't really like Clinton, and as proof, the Republican nominee is pointing to a quote from nine years ago: "[I]f you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House."

Did Michelle Obama actually say that? Sort of, but the context suggests Trump is trying to deceive.
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About The Rachel Maddow Show

Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.



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