The largest, most advanced rover NASA has sent to another world touched down on Mars Thursday, after a 203-day journey traversing 293 million miles (472 million kilometers). Confirmation of the successful touchdown was announced in mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California at 3:55 p.m. EST (12:55 p.m. PST).
Packed with groundbreaking technology, the Mars 2020 mission launched July 30, 2020, from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The Perseverance rover mission marks an ambitious first step in the effort to collect Mars samples and return them to Earth.
On July 20th, 1969, humans first stepped onto the Moon with Apollo 11’s mission. That was 49 years ago and it’s been 46 years since Apollo 17’s final landing. We haven’t been back since.
Today, the US space program is in shambles. Much of it has been given over to private entrepreneurs. It’s a global embarrassment that humans haven’t been back, and 2019 will be the 50th anniversary of that first Moon landing.
Two weeks ago, Sidd Bikkannavar flew back into the United States after spending a few weeks abroad in South America. An employee of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Bikkannavar had been on a personal trip, pursuing his hobby of racing solar-powered cars. He had recently joined a Chilean team, and spent the last weeks of January at a race in Patagonia.
Bikkannavar is a seasoned international traveller — but his return home to the US this time around was anything but routine. Bikkannavar left for South America on January 15th, under the Obama Administration. He flew back from Santiago, Chile to the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas on Monday, January 30th, just over a week into the Trump Administration.
Bikkannavar says he was detained by US Customs and Border Patrol and pressured to give the CBP agents his phone and access PIN. Since the phone was issued by NASA, it may have contained sensitive material that wasn’t supposed to be shared. Bikkannavar’s phone was returned to him after it was searched by CBP, but he doesn’t know exactly what information officials might have taken from the device.
My conspiracy theory/guess is that it wasn’t his name (as the rest of the article supposes) that caused the detention. The detention was just a tool getting more access to JPL and NASA through the CBP even if it was temporary. The CBP has defied court orders in order to continue enforcing Trump’s constitutionally illegal ban on Muslims from seven countries. It wouldn’t be surprising if the CBP were being used to access information from (and intimidate) reality-based agencies of the government that won’t collaborate with Trump’s administration.