NASA is having one wacky week.
The space agency is under renewed pressure in recent months to return to the moon, so much so that abrupt, high level staffing changes have been making headlines around the nation.
Less than 24 hours after being named head of human exploration at NASA, former astronaut Ken Bowersox said the agency is trying to speed up decision-making in its quest to reach the moon by 2024.
“The key is we need to fly when we’re ready, but if we don’t shoot for 2024 we have zero chance,” Bowersox said Thursday at the American Astronautical Society’s John Glenn Memorial Symposium. “Our attitude is to get as much of this going as we can — to move as fast as we can, as long as we can.”
Then there’s the case of a mysterious, low-flying NASA plane that has residents of Southern California spooked.
A large jetliner spotted flying low over the foothills Monday belonged to NASA, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The large DC-8, painted white with a blue stripe and the NASA logo on the tail, was spotted flying over Altadena at the height of afternoon rush hour in the San Gabriel Valley.
NASA did not respond to calls to find out why the plane was flying so low. The plane evidently took off out of Palmdale and flew a 2,359-mile meandering path into Central California and across Nevada. It landed in Boise, Idaho at about 7 p.m. local time.
Now, as if this weren’t enough, the space agency has dropped a bombshell about the rotational speed of our planet and the disasters that could arise from such a shift.
Earth’s rotation is slowing as our planet uses energy to keep the tidal bulge ahead of the Moon’s orbit. The Moon’s gravity keeps Earth’s rotation in check, and to do this the lunar satellite’s orbit must be slightly ahead of Earth’s. As the Moon attempts to regulate Earth’s rotation and slow it down, the Moon moves slowly away.
According to Matthew Funke, solar system ambassador for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who wrote on Q+A website Quora: “The Moon’s gravity creates a tidal bulge on the Earth. This bulge attempts to rotate at the same speed as the rest of the planet.
“As it moves ‘ahead’ of the Moon, the Moon attempts to pull it back. This slows the Earth’s rotation down.
Just how dangerous could this be?
A slower rotating globe leads to stronger and more frequent earthquakes – exactly why this is the case is unclear, but experts believe it could be down to changes in the Earth’s core which ultimately has an effect on the surface.
Given the recent rattling of the west coast, this news could have many in California, Oregon, and Washington heading for the hills.