Guest: Margot Paez, formerly of 'BradCast' and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Also: TX crisis spikes oil, gas prices; Sparks int'l ire...
By Brad Friedman on 2/18/2021, 6:33pm PT  

Well, now things are just getting ridiculous. But at least we have a nice reminder on today's BradCast that, despite all of the idiocy of the past four years or so, the U.S. can still do great and wondrous things. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

First up, with that other guy finally out of our White House, Fox "News" is quickly returning to form as the GOP's go-to corporate propaganda mouthpiece.  It took no time at all for them this week to turn on the fossil fuel industry after-burners to pretend that "windmills" --- not the predictably disastrous Texas deregulation and privatization of the state's fossil fuel industry --- were the cause for widespread blackouts and water outages across the state amid a nearly week-long winter cold snap. The Lone Star State's deadly failure to ensure reliable power to millions of its residents amid a deep freeze as oil and gas wells, pipelines, power plants and refineries froze up for lack of winterization, led its Republican Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday try and block contracted gas shipments out of state. That has angered Mexico, among others, as they're now also facing power outages thanks to Texas. But the shortage has spiked prices for the oil and gas industry after recent record lows. So..."free market" accomplished! Sorry about all the death and destruction.

In related news, after helping to incite the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and embarrassing himself with a tweet that attacked California last summer for rolling blackouts to keep the power on during a heat wave, Texas' buffoonish junior Senator Ted Cruz is now reaping a whirlwind after trying escape the crisis in his own home state with a trip to sunny Cancun!  But after he got caught on the way out, things didn't go well for him today. That, just days after an interview with a San Antonio-based radio host in which he advised people to stay home through this week's series of dangerous storms. "Don’t risk it,” Cruz hypocritically advised. “Keep your family safe, and just stay home and hug your kids.” Or...take them to Cancun, suckers!

With idiocy like this at home (and there was much more we didn't have time for), is it any wonder that we welcomed a chance today to check out what was happening elsewhere in the universe?

As luck would have it, there is quite a bit going on elsewhere, especially on Mars today, where NASA's latest rover, Perseverance, stuck its landing on the Red Planet after years of development, more than six months of travel over 300,000 miles and "7 minutes of terror" during its complicated landing sequence. It was no easy feat for NASA's largest and heaviest rover to date, weighing in about a ton and the size of an SUV. But it brought a well-deserved sigh of relief and huge cheers to Mission Control and the folks at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) just before airtime today, for those who made it happen.

One of them joins us on today's show, and she may be familiar to long time listeners. Our former Super-Duper Associate Producer MARGOT PAEZ left us some years ago (shamefully!) to work at JPL in Pasadena, where she spent several years on the team who developed the SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals) instrument, one of several key tools central to "Percy's" mission of hunting for microbial life that may once have inhabited Mars. Its the first such mission to do so, and will help, among other things, to both send back rock core samples from the planet (though it may take about 10 years to get those samples back to Earth once they find what they're looking for) and to run a number of important tests to help determine if humans can safely survive the radiation in the planet's thin atmosphere.

"So, yeah, I was crying when I saw it made it safely," our old friend Paez explains on today's show, "because it meant that all this hard work paid off and now we can start doing the really fun stuff, which is the science." She describes that science, the decades long process it takes to make it all happen, and speaks to the other two missions --- one from China and another from the United Arab Emirates --- which have also now arrived at about the same time.

As a PhD candidate at George Tech, where she researches climate modeling and water resources with respect to climate change adaptation and mitigation, Paez also speaks today to the criticism from climate activists like Greta Thunberg, who would prefer we spend our limited resources on saving this planet from ruin before worrying about travel to others. As a years-long political activist, JPL worker and now climate change expert, Paez has some clarifying thoughts on all of the above in response to Thunberg and other critics of both private and public space travel.

For what it's worth, it's kinda nice to step off of this messed up planet for a short time today!

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for a special coverage edition of our Green News Report on the deadly power crisis in Texas, and the GOP wingnuttery that both helped to cause it and is now being employed to avoid all accountability for it...

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