It appears that the Obama Justice Department killed—or at the very least intervened in—a potentially explosive espionage investigation involving the illegal transfer of American weapons technology to China and other foreign countries.
Those who get their news from the mainstream media would never know it, though the scandalous details have been reported in several aerospace trade publications as well as Washington D.C.’s conservative newspaper. Read about this unbelievable occurrence—and the administration’s apparent cover-up—at the nation’s space agency (National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA) here, here and here.
The story involves a large-scale federal probe into unauthorized foreign nationals, including Chinese engineers, getting access to protected U.S. space weapons technology that’s crucial to homeland security. The secretive technology, handled at a San Francisco California NASA facility, is reportedly capable of operating from space to defend the country against international ballistic missile attacks.
Among the technologies that are believed to have been leaked are designs for high-performance rocket engines, fuel and oxidizer tanks from an “ASAT” (anti-satellite weapon), guidance and terrain-mapping systems from the Tomahawk cruise missile and a radar altimeter from the F-35. The information comes from a whistleblower quoted in one of the aerospace publications monitoring the case.
After a lengthy FBI probe, federal prosecutors in the northern California district handling the matter sought indictments. This clearly indicates that there was sufficient evidence to criminally charge the parties involved in the breach. Instead, the federal prosecutor in charge of the case, assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Fry, was abruptly transferred and powerful forces at the Department of Justice (DOJ) reportedly ordered the case closed.
Fortunately, two senior members of Congress that serve on the committee that oversees and funds NASA have launched an investigation of their own. They’re pushing the Obama administration for answers and have formally requested that the DOJ Inspector General launch a probe, asserting that “political pressure” may have been a factor in dropping the charges.
In a letter to its watchdog the congressmen write that the DOJ denied the northern California U.S. Attorney’s request for permission to proceed with indictments. This happened “without explanation” and “despite the backing of both the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office,” the letter says. The lawmakers also express concern that security safeguards have been ignored for years while “large numbers of foreign nationals” worked at the San Francisco NASA facility.
In the midst of all the grim news about manic government spending and higher taxes comes a comforting story that’s sure to provoke lots of warm and fuzzy feelings among Americans; the nation’s space agency spent $5 million on a special telescope that took pictures of the sun for around five minutes.
As the price tag clearly indicates, this isn’t just any telescope. It’s a very sophisticated device that’s able to do what no other has managed; take high resolution images of the sun’s atmosphere. This is critical because it unravels a decades-old mystery surrounding the huge temperature discrepancy between the sun’s most outer layer and surface.
This is important stuff, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), because scientists have long wondered why the sun’s outer layer is up to 800 times hotter than its surface. Apparently, it was the $5 million question in scientific circles. So the space agency built a High Resolution Coronal Imager (Hi-C) and launched it into space for a few minutes to take snapshots.
It captured 165 images of an active region in the sun’s corona and demonstrated the evolution of the magnetic field by showing the repeated release of energy through sun activity at temperatures of 2 to 4 million degrees. Scientists then observed, for the first time ever, small bands of magnetism near the surface twist turn and essentially braid together before snapping apart releasing heat and energy flares that heat up the atmosphere.
“Scientists have tried for decades to understand how the sun’s dynamic atmosphere is heated to millions of degrees,” said Hi-C principal investigator Jonathan Cirtain, a NASA heliophysicist “Because of the level of solar activity, we were able to clearly focus on an active sunspot, and obtain some remarkable images. Seeing this for the first time is a major advance in understanding how our sun continuously generates the vast amount of energy needed to heat its atmosphere.”
As impressive as this may seem to the science community, the big question for many taxpayers might be; was it worth $5 million? NASA officials assert that it’s a “low-cost means to conduct space science and studies of earth’s upper atmosphere.” They further point out that, compared to a typical space mission (that can cost up to $1.6 billion), the $5 million price tag on this project is a “relative bargain.” Remember that next time Uncle Sam digs into your paycheck.
In the midst of the nation’s dire financial crisis, the U.S. government has given a former astronaut half a million dollars to launch a seemingly delusional idea to send “explorers” to another star system.
By the government’s own account it’s a “dream” that may never come true considering these facts published in the mainstream newspaper that reported the grant; trips to the moon take three days each way and Mars, the next planet over, takes a robotic flier nine months to reach. Based on those speeds the journey to the nearest neighboring star would take tens of thousands of years. In five decades of space exploration scientists have not been able to make a dent on that figure.
To actually reach stars, a starship would need giant engines that draw more power than mankind knows how to produce, according to a top National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientist quoted in the news story. He says that “maybe if we get creative in our engineering we can do this.” The question is does this dream and exercise in creativity deserve taxpayer dollars?
The cash is being doled out by an agency that most Americans may not be familiar with. It’s called the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and it was established in 1958 to maintain the technological superiority of the U.S. military and prevent technological surprise from compromising national security. To fulfill this crucial mission as the Pentagon’s primary innovation engine, DARPA relies on research that creates lasting revolutionary change.
How that applies to this particular project may escape a huge chunk of the civilian population. Here is an indicator of the reasoning behind the government allocation from the mainstream newspaper linked above; the former NASA astronaut who got the cash, Mae Jamison, was the “first woman of color to leave earth on the space shuttle” in 1992. She’s also a physician, engineer, entrepreneur and champion of science education.
Indeed Jamison’s credentials are impressive, but does that justify $500,000 for her self-described mission to “generate excitement for a grand human adventure?” Sounds more like an amusement-park thrill ride. A technology magazine puts it mildly by calling it an “ambitious project” that will, among other things, be open to “socio-cultural consideration” and “opportunities to the stars.”
Jemison describes it as a “monumental” project with “global aspiration.” The former astronaut assures that each step of the way, its progress will benefit life on earth. “We’re embarking on a journey across time and space,” she said. “Our team is both invigorated and sobered by the confidence DARPA has in us to start an independent, private initiative to help make interstellar travel a reality.”