Tales from the Trail

Mark Kelly says he’ll leave NASA and the Navy to be by Gabrielle Giffords’ side

Three weeks after he landed space shuttle Endeavour at the end of its final voyage, Captain Mark Kelly said he’ll be retiring from NASA and the U.S. Navy to be with his wife, U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, as she recovers from gunshot wounds suffered in January.

“As life takes unexpected turns we frequently come to a crossroads,” Kelly wrote in a post on Facebook. “I am at this point today. Gabrielle is working hard every day on her mission of recovery. I want to be by her side. Stepping aside from my work in the Navy and at NASA will allow me to be with her and with my two daughters.”

Giffords returned to her Tucson home last week for the first time since the shooting that severely injured her and killed six others on January 8.

Kelly said his retirement from the Navy and NASA would take effect October 1.

He mentioned possibilities for his own future — perhaps a return to some kind of public service — and expressed confidence in NASA’s.

“I know that as our space program evolves, there are those who will question NASA’s future. I am not among them. There isn’t a group more dedicated to its mission or more capable than the outstanding men and women of NASA. Exploration is a critical component of what makes our country great. We will continue to explore and NASA will continue to lead that effort,” Kelly wrote.

from Environment Forum:

Appropriately enough, it’s National Tsunami Awareness Week

The U.S. government has announced this as National Tsunami Awareness Week, starting just days after a disastrous tsunami powered over Japan's northeast coast. Not that anyone necessarily needed reminding.

This week's advisory, which urges U.S. residents to be prepared for a damaging series of waves, was scheduled before the March 11 Japanese catastrophe, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This is the second annual observance of Tsunami Awareness Week. It's too soon to tell if there might be a pattern emerging: last year's observance came not long after a giant wave hit the Chilean port of Talcahuano following an 8.8 magnitude quake along Chile's coast.

Here's how the Japanese tsunami spread its force across the Pacific:

While the United States may not seem like a prime tsunami target, the Hawaiian Islands and Alaska have long been susceptible. NOAA notes the United States has more coastline than any country on Earth and is in proximity to several major fault lines. Any coastline is potentially in a tsunami's path.

Obama on the Moon: “been there” (done that)

The moon is old news as far as President Barack Obama is concerned.

USA/Landing humans on asteroids and Mars and eventually living indefinitely in space is the future for the American people of Earth.

That’s the vision of  the president who was born in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy declared that the United States would send a man to the Moon.

But that was then.

“Now, I understand that some believe that we should attempt a return to the surface of the Moon first, as previously planned,” Obama said at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “But I just have to say pretty bluntly here:  We’ve been there before.”

The First Draft: What was the Nobel committee thinking?

OBAMA/Even before sunrise in Washington, tongues were wagging over the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s choice of President Barack Obama to receive this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. And the big question — aside from whether a first-term president in his ninth month in office has done enough to deserve the award — was, what was the committee thinking?

We know what they say they were thinking. Geir Lundestad, director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, told ABC’s “Good Morning America”: “When we have a person whose ideals are so close to the ideals of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, we wanted to give whatever support we could to continued action in these fields.”

But if you read the official announcement, it sure sounds like it translates to: Obama isn’t George W. Bush.

Obama to the moon for healthcare… er not so fast

SPACE SHUTTLEPresident Barack Obama is so determined to get healthcare reform done that he would go to the moon, his spokesman says.

Well here’s the thing…

A presidential review panel has determined that there isn’t enough money in NASA’s budget to send American astronauts to the moon by 2020, so unless Obama wants to wait…

Obama has basically been dodging asteroids over his healthcare plan recently.

So when his spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked if the president might go to Capitol Hill in September to rustle up some votes, he replied: ”I think the president would orbit the moon if he thought it would help.”

The First Draft: Obama heads for the Hill

It’s not an official State of the Union speech, but President Barack Obama’s Tuesday night address to Congress is showing all the signs of a major event. The pre-game show started late Monday, with an extraordinary free-wheeling question-and-answer session at the White House with U.S. senators and members of the House of Representatives. It continued on morning television, where Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs managed to hit ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN.

USA/

Obama plans to offer “a sober assessment about where we are and the challenges that we face,” Gibbs told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Does Obama favor nationalizing U.S. banks? No, he told NBC’s “Today”: “Our banking system has always been private but regulated.” To all questioners, he gave some version of what he told “Today” — “We understand there are brighter days ahead.”

Before he heads for Capitol Hill for the 9 p.m. EST address, Obama has a morning meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso. The global economic crisis tops the agenda, with other key topics expected to include Afghanistan and North Korea.