Mountain Views News, Sierra Madre Edition [Pasadena] Saturday, May 19, 2018

MVNews this week:  Page A:11



Mountain Views-News Saturday, May 19, 2018 


 NASA is sending a helicopter to Mars.

 The Mars Helicopter, a small, autonomous 
rotorcraft, will travel with the agency’s Mars 2020 
rover mission, currently scheduled to launch in July 
2020, to demonstrate the viability and potential of 
heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet.

 Started in August 2013 at JPL as a technology 
development project, the Mars Helicopter had to 
prove that big things could come in small packages. 
It weighs in at four pounds. Its fuselage is about 
the size of a softball, and its twin, counter-rotating 
blades will bite into the thin Martian atmosphere 
at almost 3,000 rpm—about 10 times the rate of a 
helicopter on Earth.

 The helicopter also contains built-in capabilities 
needed for operation at Mars, including solar cells 
to charge its lithium-ion batteries, and a heating 
mechanism to keep it warm through the cold 
Martian nights. But before the helicopter can fly at 
Mars it has to get there. It will do so attached to the 
belly pan of the Mars 2020 rover.

 “The altitude record for a helicopter flying here 
on Earth is about 40,000 feet. The atmosphere of 
Mars is only one percent that of Earth, so when our 
helicopter is on the Martian surface, it’s already at 
the Earth equivalent of 100,000 feet up,” said Mimi 
Aung, Mars Helicopter project manager at JPL. “To 
make it fly at that low atmospheric density, we had 
to scrutinize everything, make it as light as possible 
while being as strong and as powerful as it can 
possibly be.”

 Once the rover is on the planet’s surface, a suitable 
location will be found to deploy the helicopter down 
from the vehicle and place it onto the ground. The 
rover then will be driven away from the helicopter to 
a safe distance from which it will relay commands. 
After its batteries are charged and a myriad of tests 
are performed, controllers on Earth will command 
the Mars Helicopter to take its first autonomous 
flight into history.

 “We don’t have a pilot and Earth will be several 
light minutes away, so there is no way to joystick 
this mission in real time,” said Aung. “Instead, we 
have an autonomous capability that will be able to 
receive and interpret commands from the ground, 
and then fly the mission on its own.”

 The full 30-day flight test campaign will include 
up to five flights of incrementally farther flight 
distances, up to a few hundred meters, and longer 
durations as long as 90 seconds, over a period. 
On its first flight, the helicopter will make a short 
vertical climb to 10 feet, where it will hover for 
about 30 seconds.

 As a technology demonstration, the Mars 
Helicopter is considered a high-risk, high-reward 
project. If it does not work, the Mars 2020 mission 
will not be impacted. If it does work, helicopters 
may have a real future as low-flying scouts and 
aerial vehicles to access locations not reachable by 
ground travel.

 Mars 2020 will launch on a United Launch 
Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch 
Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in 
Florida, and is expected to reach Mars in February 

 The rover will conduct geological assessments of 
its landing site on Mars, determine the habitability 
of the environment, search for signs of ancient 
Martian life, and assess natural resources and 
hazards for future human explorers.

 You can contact Bob Eklund at: b.eklund@


A Weekly Religion Column by Rev. James Snyder




[Nyerges is the co-author 
of “Extreme Simplicity: 
Homesteading in the City,” 
and other books. For more 
information about his 
books and classes, contact 
him at Box 41834, Eagle 
Rock, CA 90041,, or]

 During a climate-change symposium back in 
May, the U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said 
that the Obama administration wants everyone 
to paint their roofs white. White roofs would 
keep the houses naturally cooler, he said, and 
would reduce the need for air conditioning, and 
if all houses had white roofs, it would have the 
equivalent energy savings of removing all cars in 
the world from use for 11 years! 

 Wow, that would be quite an energy savings, 
though I’m not certain how Chu came up with 
that statistic.

 Nevertheless, this is one of those old-fashioned 
ideas which should have caught on decades 
ago. When I moved into a new home in 1987, I 
struggled to pay the mortgage and just didn’t have 
the money for the needed new roof. When it 
rained those first years, we had pans all over the 
living room collecting the water. 

 Our short-term solution to the bad roof was to 
purchase a white “liquid rubber” product which I 
brushed on over the failing asphalt shingles. This 
cost a fraction of the cost of a new roof, sealed all 
the leaks, and left the roof brilliant white, which 
meant that our home would probably be highly 
conspicuous to any helicopter passing through 
the neighborhood. We learned that this product 
was ideal for sealing up all the small leaks, and was 
specifically manufactured for trailer dwellers who 
have metal roofs which get very hot in summer.

 It turned out that our overall inside temperature 
dropped a minimum of 15 degrees in the summer. 
Whereas the beastly inside summer heat required 
a few weeks of using the air conditioner, we found 
that once the roof was white, we barely turned on 
the air conditioner all summer. Since then, we 
have strongly recommended such a roof to anyone 
wanting to naturally keep cool in the summer. 
It really works. There are several products 
currently available for this use, made by Henry’s 
and available at Home Depot and other home 
improvement stores.

 We wrote about this white roof experiment 
in our 2002 book, “Extreme Simplicity: 
Homesteading in the City,” which I assume all 
readers of this paper already possess. Though 
our experiment taught us that a white roof 
definitely reflects heat from the roof, and keeps 
the house cooler, we found that many visitors 
found the white color unattractive. Still, such 
a simple solution to one aspect of our energy 
problem should be given much more attention by 
our current administration, and should be taken 
to heart by home-owners


 I have never been a big fan of lawns. Though 
on certain rare occasions they can provide a 
place to play ball with family members, they are 
typically a patch of soil in which we toil to create 
what we regard as an aesthetically pleasing area, 
but which is otherwise not usable. When I moved 
into a new home in 1987, one of my first tasks 
was to have a tree pruner dump an entire truck-
load of wood chips onto what was the lawn area. 
We gradually turned the area into a combination 
wild food, fruit orchard, and fragrant plant area. 
It requires minimal maintenance, and produces 
food and herbs for daily use. Water from our 
washing machine drained into that area, and one 
of our kitchen-scrap composter was also located 

 We have noted over the past decades that more 
and more people are wisely recognizing that the 
front lawn area is far more useful for vegetables, 
fruit trees, and drought-tolerant native plant 
gardens that can be left alone to survive on their 

 If you are undecided about the use of your lawn, 
the water and power companies are trying to 
convince you to give up your lawn. Drought or no 
drought, we live in an area where here is enough 
local water for one in four residents. We must live 
a drought-tolerant life-style, all the time.

 Let’s face it. We’ve got way too many people 
trying to use a limited resource here in this coastal 
desert plain. So you should consider converting 
your lawn area to drought-tolerant plants – things 
like jade, cactus, Peruvian mint, etc. 

 Most of the first chapter of the “Extreme 
Simplicity” book is about how we converted our 
lawn into a mini-self-sustaining eco-system. We 
did it because it was right to do so, and it made so 
much sense, ecologically and economically. We 
did it then – 30 years ago – because it was the right 
thing to do. Today, it’s still the right thing to do, 
and by so doing, there will be more precious water 
to use for the things that are really important.

Sometimes I cannot help being a grouch. I guess it 
is what happens to a person when they get older. 
They get older, grouchier and grumpier. With that 
in mind, I guess I qualify for being an old geezer.

 The past several weeks I was grouchy about the 
weather. What else is there to grouch about these 
days? I would grouch about politics, but it is a 
world of craziness. I suppose good people go to 
Washington, DC, but they don’t stay good for long. 
Therefore, I have given up grouching about politics 
and politicians and such.

 One of the good things about grouching about 
the weather is it there is nothing you can do about 
the weather. You may not like the weather. You may 
want a different kind of weather. However, there is 
actually nothing you can do to change the weather 
on the outside.

 Through the years, I have realized that if I 
wanted to bet on which day it was going to rain, 
it would be the day I wash my car. When I am out 
there washing my car, Mother Nature is looking 
down on me grinning one of her sarcastic grins, 
knowing that she is going to send rain my way that 

 I still like grouching about the weather. After all, 
you need to grouch about something and I would 
rather grouch about something that I had nothing 
at all to do with then something I could change.

 The other day I started downtown and the sky 
was bright and sunny. Twenty minutes later, it was 
raining cats and dogs.

 Three weeks ago at the church, we bought a 
brand-new lawnmower. We have not been able to 
use it yet so we do not know if it really works or 
not. The rain has come down for three weeks.

 Thinking about the rain condition, we are in I 
often wonder about how Noah felt about the rain 
in his day. He built an ark and there was not a drop 
of rain to be found. He told everybody that it was 
going to rain; nobody had ever seen rain before 
and did not know what he was talking about.

 For 100 years, Noah was building his ark and 
telling people that the rain was coming soon. They 
laughed at him and probably he was the first person 
called The Rainman. They were not laughing so 
much when the rain actually did come.

 I was sitting in my easy chair, looking out the 
glass door, watching it rain and rain and rain. 
Just when I thought it was about over, there was a 
crackling thunder and the rain came down worse 
than before.

“When will this rain,” I said in a very disgusted 
attitude, “stop so I can go outside?”

 My wife looked at me and said, “What do you 
want to go outside for?”

 Well, she had me there. Because there is nothing 
for me to do outside and furthermore, I am not 
permitted to do any repair work on the outside by 
decree of the Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage. 
No matter how bad something is broken, five 
minutes with me and it will be worse than before. 
That is, according to her estimation.

 I tried to keep quiet for a few more minutes, but 
lo and behold, out came more grouchiness. I guess 
a person my age has a lot of grouchy to come out, 
but there is never an appropriate time.

 “I’m getting so tired,” I said, “of this rain coming 
and not stopping. When will the rain ever stop? I 
can do without all this rain.”

 At that moment, my wife came into the room 
where I was sitting and stared at me for a few 
moments. She has those stares that penetrate 
directly to the soul and back out again. I was afraid 
to say anything at that time.

 Then, putting both hands on her hips, she said, 
“What would we do without rain?”

 I did not know if that was a rhetorical question 
or if she was grilling me about our situation. She 
then turned around and went back to the kitchen 
to her work.

 It did, however, caused me to think a little bit 
about that. Where in the world would we be if it 
did not rain when it was supposed to rain?

 If it were not for rain, we would not have the 
beautiful land we now have. The farmer’s fields 
would not grow. The gardener’s vegetables would 
not grow. The florist’s would lose all their flowers.

 Thinking along these lines, I came to a 
conclusion. It is important in this world for it to 
rain. Rain has a way of making everything grow 
and be healthy.

 David saw rain in a very different matter. “Sing 
unto the Lord with thanksgiving; sing praise upon 
the harp unto our God: Who covereth the heaven 
with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who 
maketh grass to grow upon the mountains” (Psalm 

 A rainy day is somewhat like life. You cannot 
make it rain and you cannot make it stop. However, 
every rain has a positive effect on the world around 

 I cannot control the rain, neither can I control 
much of the elements in my life but I can have a 
thankful heart like David, knowing that after the 
rain the flowers will bloom.


 The Rev. James L. Snyder is pastor of the Family 
of God Fellowship, 1471 Pine Road, Ocala, FL 
34472. He lives with his wife, Martha, in Silver 
Springs Shores. Call him at 352-687-4240 or e-mail The church web site is www.

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