NASA just can’t seem to get away from controversy this week. First there was the cease-and-desist sent to actress Gwyneth Paltrow for advertising stickers on her Goop wellness website that she claimed contained "a crystalline, carbonized radio-frequency material" made from NASA spacesuits that will "fill in the deficiencies in your reserves, creating a calming effect, smoothing out both physical tension and anxiety." Former NASA chief scientist Dr. Mark Shelhamer gave this very non-chief-scientist response:
"Not only is the whole premise like snake oil, the logic doesn't even hold up. If they promote healing, why do they leave marks on the skin when they are removed. What a load of BS this is."
“What a load of BS this is” seems to be a common NASA response these days. It was given in a more refined form to a video posted last week by Anonymous claiming NASA is about to announce it has definitive proof of the existence of alien life. Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, had this to say:
“Contrary to some reports, there’s no pending announcement from NASA regarding extraterrestrial life. Are we alone in the universe? While we do not know yet, we have missions moving forward that may help answer that fundamental question.”
Then there was the controversy this week about NASA-sponsored child labor camps (and worse) on Mars made by a guest on Alex Jones’ InfoWars talk show. This trend of issuing statements on wild claims against it continued as NASA denied the accusations on the Daily beast website.
“There are no humans on Mars. There are active rovers on Mars. There was a rumor going around last week that there weren’t. There are. But there are no humans.”
That brings us to those blue lights in the sky over the east coast of the U.S. on them morning of June 29th. It must have been a relief of sorts for NASA to actually take credit for something as it announced that the long-delayed Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket – an instrument carrying sub-orbital rocket – was successfully launched from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, reached an altitude of 118 miles and then released 10 beer-can-sized canisters filled with chemicals. Aw, NASA … chemicals? This announcement was going so well up until that point.
NASA assures that the chemicals – called vapor tracers – are as harmless as fireworks. In fact, in the mix of barium, lithium and trimethylaluminum in the vapor tracers are the same ingredients found in fireworks. Could NASA putting “fireworks” in the sky so close to the Fourth of July be a cover for more nefarious purposes of said chemicals?
Oh, you conspiracy theorists. NASA has publicized that creating and tracking these artificial ionized clouds is a harmless way to test models of how the ionosphere moves and changes. It's also a test of the “multiple vessel ejection system” that is supposed to allow scientists to collect data from a much larger area than previously possible.
It all makes scientific sense. Then again … there was a time when cigarette smoking did too. Are these NASA-created ionized clouds scientific smoke or a smokescreen?