We need to shield the US space program from election cycle chaos

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Space exploration is a long-term endeavor. It takes many years and boatloads of money to get a single spacecraft off the ground and out of Earth’s atmosphere. Getting it to destinations outside the planet’s orbit is even trickier. And if the plan is to send humans along for the ride, you can expect development to take longer than most US presidential terms.

That’s a problem, given that the executive office is in charge of shaping the US space program and its overall goals: when different administrations have different ideas on what to prioritize, the space program faces whiplash that creates chaos and slows projects down. In just this century, NASA has seen its focus shift from the moon to Mars and back to the moon. In 2005, President Bush said we were gearing up to go to the moon with the Constellation program. In 2010, President Obama said we were headed to Mars. In 2017, President Trump decided it was actually the moon again.

With less than a month to go until an election that could lead to a new administration under Joe Biden, the space community is bracing itself for yet another possible pivot. The circumstances once again highlight the need to stabilize the US space program so it has the support it needs to pursue projects and achieve goals, secure that they won’t be abruptly upended by the whims of a new president. 

The next four years are critical. Under Artemis, NASA’s program to return humans to the moon, we’re seeing the development of technologies like lunar spacesuits, lunar habitation modules, landers, rovers, Gateway (a lunar space station designed to enable human exploration in deep space), and tons of other new technologies meant to make moon missions work. Only some would be immediately suitable for a Martian environment,


Big Ten football tiebreaker scenarios must also adjust to coronavirus chaos: College football Monday Madness

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Big Ten Conference believed its division champion tiebreaker scenarios accounted for every possible logjam.

Two teams tie with the same number of wins and losses? No problem. Three or more teams tied? Child’s play. The Big Ten set up an eight-factor process to break the tie. Only after all possible comparisons are exhausted does the last resort — random draw — come into play.

Even that carefully prepared, multistep document could not account for the biggest threat to well-laid plans in 2020 — the coronavirus pandemic. The Big Ten’s eight-games-in-as-many-weeks regular season, followed by the crossover championship weekend, allows no room for postponements. If a team can’t play one week, it will not make that game up.


• Two divisional foes end the season with the same number of losses, but a different number of wins because one of them had to cancel a game due to positive COVID-19 tests. Does that count as a tie for the division championship?

• What about three teams tied in the loss column, all playing a different number of games, some of them not playing all of their divisional opponents?

• Here’s a true brain-breaker for Big Ten bigwigs: Ohio State and Penn State cancel their Week 2 game. Both go undefeated in their other games. Who goes to the Big Ten championship game? (Or if you prefer, imagine OSU and Michigan going 7-0 and then having to cancel The Game.)

I can confirm the Big Ten has pondered that “oh crap” moment and the others above. As of today, it does not have answers. But from what I’ve heard from a league source, a policy that governs these doomsday scenarios will be in place by opening day.

When that document comes out, expect something more complicated than


Newsweek College Football Rankings, SEC’s Power Shift and Big 12 Chaos

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One week after Mississippi State went into Baton Rouge and upset the defending national champs, the Bulldogs went home to Starkville and came back to Earth with a thud. Mississippi State lost to Arkansas, as the Razorbacks snapped a 20-game losing streak in SEC play.

That’s a microcosm of college football this weekend.

Texas looked to be the frontrunner in the Big 12, but the Longhorns lost at home to TCU. The Oklahoma Sooners lost at Iowa State for the first time since 1960. The Sooners are 0-2 in the Big 12 and tied for last place with Kansas and Texas Tech.

TCU Horned Frogs
Max Duggan #15 of the TCU Horned Frogs celebrates after rushing for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on October 03, 2020 in Austin, Texas. TCU knocked off the Longhorns, 33-31, moving both teams to 1-1 in the Big 12 Conference.
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Tennessee surprisingly has the nation’s longest winning streak at eight games, which is tied with Notre Dame.

With the way 2020 has happened, it’s no surprise that this has already been a wacky college football season so far. There seems to be a shift in power in the SEC from the West to the East, the Big 12 is a total mess right now and Notre Dame and Miami are emerging in the ACC. North Carolina and Virginia Tech are also undefeated in the ACC, and they will square off this Saturday in North Carolina for a rematch of last year’s six-overtime game—which the Hokies won.

And how about this upcoming game on Saturday: Coastal Carolina (3-0) at Louisiana (3-0).

One thing that has remained constant, though, is that Clemson and Alabama are still clearly the best teams in college football, and