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Joel Achenbach

For Joel Achenbach's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:

Budget limits trim NASA's plans for big projects

Dec 26, 2013

Budget limits trim NASA's plans for big projects

The Cassini spacecraft is in splendid shape as it circles Saturn. Conceived in the 1980s and launched in 1997, Cassini arrived at the gas-giant planet in 2004 and has continued to deliver stunning images of the jewel of the solar system. The unmanned probe ...

Space industry faces choice for next direction

Nov 25, 2013

Space industry faces choice for next direction

The air is so clear the mountains in the distance look almost fake, as if added digitally. The desert floor is runway-flat, with a few Joshua trees popping up randomly, like lost cowboys. The dominant feature is the sky, preposterously vast, beckoning test pilots, ...

Dealey Plaza: birthplace of a mystery that still reverberates

Nov 23, 2013

Dealey Plaza: birthplace of a mystery that still reverberates

Dealey Plaza is a depression. It is a shallow basin on the western edge of downtown, framed by concrete structures called pergolas and peristyles that were built in the late 1930s by the Works Progress Administration. Designed as a gateway to the city, the ...

Social polarization dated back to Stone Age

Oct 11, 2013

Social polarization dated back to Stone Age

Social polarization wasn’t invented yesterday. Ask the scientists studying the bones of prehistoric Europeans. Hundreds of skeletal remains, many from a newly discovered cave in Germany, have produced a startling reminder of the power of social boundaries. When farmers showed up from the Near ...

2013: A space conundrum

Sep 15, 2013

2013: A space conundrum

Long ago, in a dreamier era, space stations were imagined as portals to the heavens. In the 1968 movie “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the huge structure twirled in orbit, aesthetically sublime, a relaxing way station for astronauts heading to the moon. It featured a ...

Remembering the awe that is Gettysburg

May 6, 2013

Remembering the awe that is Gettysburg

It was the biggest battle of the war, unequaled in scale and violence by anything seen before or since in North America. Two immense armies collided in the fields and orchards and woods around Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 1, 1863, and fought for three ...