Tag Archives: Moon

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 9th August 2015

Greece hopes to conclude bailout talks by Aug. 11


Greece hopes to conclude negotiations with international creditors by early Tuesday at the latest, a Greek official said as talks continued in Athens on a new multi-billion euro bailout.

Greece’s finance and economy ministers were locked in negotiations with representatives of creditors on Sunday. Greek officials have previously said they expect the bailout accord to go to the country’s parliament for approval by Aug. 18.

“Efforts are being made to conclude the negotiations, the horizon is by Monday night or early Tuesday,” said a Greek official who declined to be named.

“When the new bailout comes to parliament for a vote it will be one bill with two articles – one article will be the loan agreement and the MoU (memorandum of understanding) and the second article will be the prior actions,” the official said, referring to measures Greece needs to take for the bailout accord to take effect.

The negotiations began on July 20. A senior Greek finance official told Reuters the aim was for a meeting of euro zone finance ministers to review the accord on Friday, Aug. 14.

Athens is negotiating with European Union institutions and the International Monetary Fund for up to 86 billion euros ($94 billion) in fresh loans to stave off economic collapse and stay in the euro zone. The bailout must be in place by Aug. 20, when Greece has a repayment falling due to the European Central Bank.

Twenty Irish care centres facing closure


Some twenty care centres across the country face closure, affecting hundreds of people with intellectual disabilities.

The Sunday Business Post reports that health watchdog Hiqa has issued 20 HSE-run care homes with notices to cancel or refuse applications for registration unless they make drastic improvements or immediate changes.

According to the newspaper, only two of the residential homes said they were resolving the issues.

The Áras Attracta care home in Swinford, Co Mayo (pictured), which was at the centre of a Prime Time investigation, is one of the affected 20 centres.

Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on disability and mental health deputy Colm Keaveny said the closure notices could have been prevented, and claimed the situation was much worse than had been reported.

He said there had been a lack of investment over a number of years.

“The Government has secretly and silently warehoused people with intellectual disabilities (in a) most blatant abuse of equality,” he said.

“It’s an absolute scandal (and) the situation is much worse than has been reported. The Government has, if any thing, deprioritised disability.”

Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2015: ‘biggest Irish trad music festival’ launched in Sligo on Sunday

 Sligo is set to shine during the Fleadh 

The Sligo event is a magnet for ‘larger Irish family’ and those with no Irish links, says President Higgins.

  The website of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2015, taking place in Sligo.

Sligo was full of people dragging wheelie suitcases and musical instruments through its streets on Sunday as Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann , “the biggest traditional Irish music festival on the planet”, was launched by PresidentMichael D Higgins.

Just a few hundred enthusiasts attended the first Fleadh Cheoil in Mullingar in 1951 when, according to President Higgins, “Ireland’s traditional culture was at a low ebb”.

  On Sunday, when he launched the eight-day 2015 Fleadh at the “Wild Atlantic Way gig rig” in the centre of Sligo, the President pointed out that over 350,000 people are expected to attend this year.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú was predicting closer to 400,000, and as someone who has attended “probably about 50” fleadhanna he is something of an expert.

Comhaltas praised

Praising the “heroic” work of Comhaltas Ceoltoirí Éireann in reviving Irish music, the President pointed out that the Fleadh was a magnet for the “larger Irish family” and also for people with no links to Ireland.

Mr Higgins welcomed visitors with “ neither ancestral nor geographic links to Ireland but who, with a curiosity that we all welcome, have developed a kinship with the Irish through culture and our folk traditions”.

A lot has changed since 1951. Fleadh hoodies and T-shirts are the attire of choice for many young musicians in Sligo. The official Fleadh cheoil website is encouraging them to “play music, make new friends and take music selfies (tweeted using #sligofleadh2015)”.

The elite of the traditional music world will arrive in the coming days and will be warmly welcomed, judging from the number of signs outside pubs declaring “musicians welcome”. “Sterling welcome” was another popular notice.

If people thought WB Yeats was going to even briefly step out of the limelight for the week of the Fleadh, they reckoned without the Drumcliffe-based Cos Cos dance group.

Under Bare BenBulben’s Head

They presented a pageant entitled “Under Bare BenBulben’s Head” billed as “an artistic interpretation of an imaginary meeting between two of Sligo’s best known historical figures, WB Yeats and St Colmcille”.

It was an apt pairing. Not only has the 6th century missionary close links with Drumcliffe, but the history books show that after being buried on the island of Iona off Scotland, his remains were disinterred many years later and moved to Downpatrick where he was laid alongside St Patrick and St Brigid.

With the serious business of Scoil Eige now getting into gear for thousands of young competitors, Irish Rail has laid on extra services between Sligo and Carrick-on-Shannon for those staying in outlying towns and villages .

The company is also mindful of those hoping to enjoy “a good evening out without the stresses of driving home afterwards”.

Another popular transport initiative is the John LennonEducational Tour Bus, which Music Generation Sligo and the Fleadh Cheoil have organised .

Supported by Yoko Ono Lennon, the bus boasts a fully equipped music studio and on Wednesday a lucky group of young musicians will be aboard for a masterclass in how to record and produce original music and make a video.

For others there will be busking opportunities on every corner.

The “Wild Atlantic Way” is a big success for Irish tourism


Projects such as the Wild Atlantic Way have led to a significant boost to tourism here according to Tourism Ireland.

They also say that more people now consider Ireland good value for money.

Figures released this week show that over 400,000 more visitors came to Ireland in the first half of the year.

CEO of Tourism Ireland Niall Gibbons said projects including the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East were proving to be a big draw for tourists.

“It really worked in the international marketplace,” he said. “We have a very compelling story to tell (but) it’s important we don’t get complacent.”

Anti-smoking breakthrough drug eats nicotine like Pac-man!


A new breakthrough research reveals a promising enzyme therapy that would help smokers quit for good.

A new study reveals a nicotine-eating bacteria that takes mental high and fun out of smoking.

The research was conducted at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) who were searching for an alternate, and effective, solution for people who wanted to quit smoking but needed help, according to NYC Today.

The nicotine-eating bacteria has an enzyme that would prevent the nicotine from ever reaching the brain, which in turn, who rob the smoker of any mental pleasure in the activity. The bacterial enzyme is called NicA2 is geared to make smoking less rewarding for smokers, in turn, internally encouraging them to quit.

The lead of the study, Kim Janda, is a chemistry professor and member of the Skaggs Institute for chemical biology at TSRI. Janda said that the experiment is promising, but still in the early stages. They hope that it will soon become one of the most successful therapies for smoking cessation.

The study to create this breakthrough therapy has been under the microscope for many years in the lab. The process has proven to work as they have been able to extract the enzyme from bacterium Pseudomonas putida.

The therapy is predicted to help about 80-90 percent of smokers who choose to use it. When used, the enzyme has effectively dropped the half-life of nicotine from hours down to minutes once added into the bloodstream. They also predict that at higher doses, the effect could be even more powerful.

Janda added, “The bacterium is like a little Pac-Man. It goes along and eats nicotine. Our research is in the early phase of drug development process, but the study tells us the enzyme has the right properties to eventually become a successful therapeutic.”

The enzyme was originally discovered in the soil from a tobacco field. The bacterium naturally consumes nicotine as a main source of nitrogen and carbon. The testing continued there in the lab where researches happily found the enzyme to be stable, which Janda says was an amazing sign.

“The enzyme is also relatively stable in serum, which is important for a therapeutic candidate,” said Song Xue, a TSRI graduate student.

NASA releases two Online tools for exploring Mars to the public


On the three-year anniversary of the Mars landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover, NASA is unveiling two new online tools that open the mysterious terrain of the Red Planet to a new generation of explorers, inviting the public to help with its journey to Mars.

Mars Trek is a free, Web-based application that provides high-quality, detailed visualizations of the planet using real data from 50 years of NASA exploration and allowing astronomers, citizen scientists and students to study the Red Planet’s features.

Experience Curiosity allows viewers to journey along with the one-ton rover on its Martian expeditions. The program simulates Mars in 3-D based on actual data from Curiosity and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), giving users first-hand experience in a day in the life of a Mars rover.

A NASA team already is using Mars Trek to aid in the selection of possible landing sites for the agency’s Mars 2020 rover, and the application will be used as part of NASA’s newly announced process to examine and select candidate sites for the first human exploration mission to Mars in the 2030s.

“This tool has opened my eyes as to how we should first approach roaming on another world, and now the public can join in on the fun,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division in Washington. “Our robotic scientific explorers are paving the way, making great progress on the journey to Mars. Together, humans and robots will pioneer Mars and the solar system.”

Mars Trek has interactive maps, which include the ability to overlay a range of data sets generated from instruments aboard spacecraft orbiting Mars, and analysis tools for measuring surface features. Standard keyboard gaming controls are used to maneuver the users across Mars’ surface, and 3-D printer-exportable topography allows users to print physical models of surface features.

Mars Trek was developed by NASA’s Lunar Mapping and Modeling Project, which provides mission planners, lunar scientists and the public with analysis and data visualization tools for our moon.

Experience Curiosity also uses real science data to create a realistic and game-ready rover model based entirely on real mechanisms and executed commands. Users can manipulate the rover’s tools and view Mars through each of its cameras.

“We’ve done a lot of heavy 3-D processing to make Experience Curiosity work in a browser. Anybody with access to the Web can take a journey to Mars,” said Kevin Hussey, manager of the Visualization Applications and Development group at NASA’sJet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which manages and operates the Curiosity rover.

Curiosity’s adventures on the Red Planet began in the early morning hours of August 6th, 2012, Eastern time (evening of August 5th, Pacific time), when a landing technique called the sky-crane maneuver deposited the rover in the 96-mile-wide (154-kilometer-wide) Gale Crater. From there, the rover began investigating its new home, discovering it had landed near an ancient lakebed sprinkled with organic material. Billions of years ago, fresh water would have flowed into this lake, offering conditions favorable for microbial life.

“At three years old, Curiosity already has had a rich and fascinating life. This new program lets the public experience some of the rover’s adventures first-hand,” said Jim Erickson, the project manager for the mission at JPL.

NASA has been on Mars for five decades with robotic explorers, and August traditionally has been a busy month for exploration of the planet. Viking 2 was put into orbit around Mars 39 years ago on August 7th, 1976, making NASA’s second successful landing on the Martian surface weeks later.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched on August 12th, 2005, and still is in operation orbiting Mars. And Tuesday, August 4th, marked the eight-year anniversary of the launch of the Phoenix mission to the north polar region of the Red Planet.

NASA’s orbiters and rovers have changed the way we look at Mars and enable continued scientific discoveries that one day will pave the way for astronauts to explore the Red Planet.


News Ireland daily BLOG by DONIE

Thursday/Friday 9th & 10th October 2014

Irish banks conclude ECB stress tests talks


It is believed that the Irish banks have concluded their meetings with the ECB to discuss the comprehensive assessment of the banking system.

The heads of AIB, Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB, Ulster Bank and Merrill Lynch’s Dublin operations were all in Frankfurt over the past few days and held individual meetings which lasted roughly three hours with ECB officials, according to people familiar with the situation.

The comprehensive assessment of the banking system consists of an asset quality review and stress tests, which will determine if banks are sufficiently well capitalised to withstand future losses.

The results of the comprehensive assessment will not be disclosed until the last weekend in October. The purpose of the meetings was to discuss the methodology used for each bank’s stress test and asset quality review.

If a bank is unhappy at how certain potential losses were calculated, then there will be a short period of consultation, said a source. They will also get a sense of how well they performed during the tests, but they will not receive any actual results.

If a bank fails the comprehensive assessment, then they will be expected to raise fresh capital to plug any shortfall. In the case of AIB and Permanent TSB, which are both state-owned, if they cannot raise capital from private investors, then the Government would have to stump up the funding.

None of the banks would comment as this process is subject to strict confidentiality rules.

“Any discussions at this stage are based on preliminary and partial information. No final results or information has been provided to the banks, so any information on potential outcomes of the comprehensive assessment at this stage is speculative and not based on final outcomes,” said the Irish Central Bank in a statement.

Under proposals for EU banking union, 85% of banks across the eurozone by value of assets will be supervised directly by the single supervisory mechanism. However, banks have to complete an intrusive health check before the SSM becomes operational.

The future of the banking system in the EU hinges on the credibility of this comprehensive assessment. Similar stress tests carried out in 2010 were seen as too soft.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar secures €500 million budget boost for battered department


“But we have fragilities, we don’t have money for everything.”

Health Minister has been in crunch talks with the Department of Public Expenditure and Finance for weeks in a bid to fix the hole in his budget

Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar pictured this evening at the removal of former Sunday Independent editor, Aengus Fanning at St. Joseph’s Church, Glasthule.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has secured an extra €500million for his battered department, the Irish Daily Mirror has learned.

Mr Varadkar had been in crunch talks with the Department of Public Expenditure and Finance for weeks in a bid to fix the hole in his budget.

And speaking this morning, Brendan Howlin said the Economic Management Council has signed off on the final details of the package.

The Public Expenditure Minister said he expected this mornings Cabinet meeting to be the last one before the announcement on Tuesday.

Mr Howlin said there would not be no further cuts but insisted it wasn’t time to start blowing cash again.

Mr Varadkar has promised in return to bring next year’s Budget in line and get the free GP care for under-sixes over the line.

The Economic Management Council met yesterday before the final Cabinet meeting today to sign off on the final details of the package. Meanwhile, Finance Minister Michael Noonan briefed his Fine Gael backbenchers yesterday and told them the tax cuts had been signed off on.

As revealed in this paper, he is expected to raise the income band by up to €2,000 and increase the Universal Social Charge to take tens of thousands out of the net.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Budget would not be a “blank cheque” but would show the economic sacrifices people made, have paid off. He said a stimulus package would be unveiled next week with a focus on social housing.

Mr Kenny said: “We’re now deemed to be one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe.

“Minister Noonan has pointed out we should be able to sustain this competent management of the finances over the next number of years, which will be great for our country, with a great deal of job opportunities being created.

New plans to create 93,000 start-ups in Ireland as economy improves


Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton

Women, young people and immigrants will be targeted in a new plan aimed at increasing the number of new businesses being set up.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton’s proposals aim to create an extra 93,000 jobs in start-up companies over the next five years.

The entrepreneurship plan will include distinct measures to promote female entrepreneurship, including:

l promotion of female role models;

l targeted events and awards;

l support for female entrepreneur networks;

l promotion of a dedicated area on corporate websites.

The plan also includes education programmes to promote entrepreneurship as a career option for young people, in schools, third level, fourth level and apprenticeships.

It also contains measures to promote entrepreneurship as an option among the young unemployed, including micro-loans and mentoring.

Central Bank research shows start-up companies in the first five years of existence account for two-thirds of all new jobs created in the country.

The new plan follows on from and draws on the report of the expert Forum on Entrepreneurship, chaired by successful businessman Sean O’Sullivan and published earlier this year.

It says doubling the amount of funds available to start-ups in Ireland from angel investment is key.

Angel investors are successful entrepreneurs who invest private funds in start-up businesses.

Analysis of successful start-up areas around the world, in places such as Silicon Valley, in California, point to the existence of angel networks.

A total of €90m is currently available in formal angel networks in Ireland.

But the plan also sets out a range of proposals for the taxation system to boost the prospects for start-ups, including changes to:

l share-based remuneration in private companies;

l seed capital scheme and employment and investment incentive;

l capital gains tax;

l income tax.

However, decisions on these changes will have to be made by Finance Minister Michael Noonan in Budget 2015 and into the future.

To encourage an entrepreneurship culture, Mr Bruton’s department wants to see new business competitions on TV.

The producer of Dragon’s Den and Celebrity Masterchef, Shinawil, is in discussions with RTE about recording and broadcasting a TV series which would track the finalists and broadcast the live final of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur competition.

The competition attracted 1,000 applications and is aimed at promoting entrepreneurship as a career option for young people.

The programme is being pitched as a cross between The Voice and Dragon’s Den.

The key target in the new plan is to double the number of jobs coming from start-ups over the next five years, by increasing the number of start-ups by 25%, the survival rate by 25%, and the capacity to grow to scale by 25%.

Number of mortgages in arrears declines in August


New Department of Finance figures also show a rise in number of split mortgages

The Department of Finances figures are compiled from the six main banks operating in the State which between them represent about 90 per cent of the mortgage market here

The number of mortgage accounts in arrears for 90 days for more fell by 2% to 69,865 at the end of August, according to new figures published by the Department of Finance.

Total mortgage accounts in arrears also declined when compared to July, falling by 2 per cent or 2,089 to 100,132, the data show.

The total number of mortgage accounts in Ireland totalled 693,832 at the end of August, of which 593,700 were not in arrears.

At the end of August, the number of permanent mortgage restructures rose by 3,800 or 5% to 79,405.

However, almost 50,000 of the mortgages in arrears for 90 days or more have not yet been restructured. This is equivalent to 71% of all such mortgages in arrears. In addition, a further 5,237 accounts, equivalent to 7 per cent of such mortgages had been temporarily restrucutred.

During the month of August, the number of split mortgages – where part of the mortgage is put aside for a fixed term – also rose, up 6 6% to 16,198. This represents an increase of 950 on the previous month.

The Department of Finance’s figures are compiled from the six main banks operating in the State, which between them represent about 90% of the mortgage market here.

Comet is going to pass Mars closer than the Moon is to Earth


It might sounds like 87,000 miles is a long-distance trip but in space terms it’s a near miss.

Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring will make a close flyby of Mars on Sunday and at just 87,000 miles apart the comet will be less than half the distance between the Moon and Earth.

It’s so close that Nasa kit currently in orbit around Mars is being moved behind the Red Planet in a ‘duck and cover’ procedure to shield them from any comet debris.

Siding Spring’s nucleus will come closest to Mars on Sunday evening, when it hurtles past at about 126,000 mph.

It will be less than one-tenth the distance any known comet flyby of Earth and the event will be keenly-observed as an “unprecedented opportunity for researchers to gather data on both the comet and its effect on the Martian atmosphere”.

“This is a cosmic science gift that could potentially keep on giving, and the agency’s diverse science missions will be in full receive mode,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for Nasa’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

“This particular comet has never before entered the inner solar system, so it will provide a fresh source of clues to our solar system’s earliest days.”

Scientists already know that Siding Spring came from the Oort Cloud – a giant swarm of icy objects believed to be material left over from the formation of the solar system.

A Nasa spokesman added: “Siding Spring will be the first comet from the Oort Cloud to be studied up close by spacecraft, giving scientists an invaluable opportunity to learn more about the materials, including water and carbon compounds, that existed during the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.”

In preparation for the comet’s flyby Nasa has manoeuvred its Mars Odyssey orbiter, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN), in order to reduce the risk of impact with high-velocity dust particles coming off the comet.

Mars rovers Opportunity and Curiosity will be protected from comet dust by the Mars atmosphere, should any reach the planet. Both rovers are scheduled to make observations of the comet.

Donie’s Ireland daily news BLOG

Central Bank to impose limits on home loans

  • Regulator said to be preparing to publish a consultation paper on its proposals


The Central Bank plans to impose limits for the first time on how much banks can lend home buyers as property values in Ireland soar, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

The Central Bank plans to impose limits for the first time on how much banks can lend home buyers as property values in Ireland soar.

The regulator is said to be preparing to publish a consultation paper on its proposals within weeks.

Banks and lobby groups will have a chance to comment on the plans, which center on introducing loan-to-value and loan-to-income restrictions.

A spokesman for the Central Bank declined to comment.

House prices are surging even as banks grapple with the aftermath of mortgage crisis that forced the government to bail out most of the nation’s lenders.

A quarter of the country’s owner-occupier home loans are in arrears or had their terms eased.

Loans granted during the boom for more than 85 per cent of the property value were most likely to default in the wake of the crash, central bank economists said today.

“There is no evidence the current price increases are credit driven, but the number of mortgage approvals, a potential measure of new mortgage credit demand, rose sharply in the first seven months of 2014,” said central bank economists Niamh Hallissey, Robert Kelly and Terry O’Malley in a report published today.

“This is therefore a key time to investigate the tools available to policy makers to safeguard future lending.”

Irish home prices soared 15 percent in the year through August, driven by a 25 per cent jump in Dublin values amid a shortage of properties in the Irish capital, the Central Statistics Office said on September 24.

Still, values remain 41 per cent off their 2007 peak both for Dublin and nationally. Any limits would particularly affect first-time buyers, according to one of the people.

Irish mortgage approvals rose by 54 per cent in value to €462 million in July compared to the same month last year, according to Banking and Payments Federation Ireland.

In 2006, mortgage lending surged to €40 billion. Davy, Ireland’s largest securities firm, said that some lenders are beginning to relax lending criteria as the property market recovers.

“It appears some banks are willing to lend 4.5 times combined income to higher-rated borrowers, but this is at the upper end of what is typically deemed responsible internationally,” Davy said in a report yesterday.

“Typically a limit of 3-4 times is considered a more acceptable level. The onus is on the central bank to put limits on the amount of money that can be borrowed to help keep house prices in check.”

Thirteen children have died on our roads so far this year,

  • 7 were killed in the whole of 2013


Deaths on Irish roads have remained high this year, after increasing for the first time since 2005 last year.

140 people have been killed so far this year  on Irish roads.

The Road Safety Authority has expressed concern about the high numbers of vulnerable road users being killed.

Thirteen children under the age of 14 have died in road traffic accidents so far this year, compared to seven children who were killed on the roads in the whole of 2013.

Moyagh Murdock, CEO of the Road Safety Authority said: “This year, for the second year in a row, we are seeing a marked increase in deaths on our roads when compared with previous years, where great strides were made to reduce deaths.

Vulnerable road users are most at risk this year – the old and the young, cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists.

“We really need to redouble our efforts to try and reduce what was the worst year on our roads in seven years last year.”

Irish Road Safety Week is on from October 6 to 12, the RSA is urging people to get involved in this national drive to save lives.

Sharp fall in number of critical care hospital beds

  • The number of Irish Hospital critical care beds has fallen from 289 to 233


An intensive care unit: none of the Republic’s 19 maternity units has an intensive care unit

The number of critical care hospital beds has fallen sharply over the past six years despite a recommendation to double capacity.

The shortage of intensive care beds was highlighted this week at the inquest of Dhara Kivlehan, who died in September 2010 after giving birth a week earlier in Sligo Regional Hospital.

Ms Kivlehan was moved to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast after no bed could be found in the intensive care units of three hospitals in the Republic.

A year before her death a HSE-commissioned report recommended a 45 per cent increase in the number of critical care beds from 289 to 418. Prospectus Consultants said a further increase to 579 beds was needed in the years up to 2020. However, far from increasing, the number has fallen from 289 to 233 at the present time.

The HSE sought to provide an extra 10 critical care beds in the service plan for this year, at a cost of €3 million a year, but was forced to scrap the plan because of funding cuts in last year’s budget, correspondence between the HSE and the Department of Health shows.

Bed occupancy

The HSE says it is implementing a “critical care bed bureau” to optimise utilisation of beds nationally by providing live information on bed occupancy in all units.

However, Ms Kivlehan’s husband Michael said an internal report a few weeks after his wife’s death in 2010 recommended such a national system be put in place.

The HSE was unable to say yesterday why there was such a delay in implementing this recommendation.

None of the Republic’s 19 maternity units has an intensive care unit.

Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said while Ireland needed more obstetricians than the 120 available, this was more per head than Canadaand New Zealand.

Staff Lieut Gen. Surprise at soldiers sleeping in cars claim

Says Lieut Gen Conor O’Boyle


Lieut Gen Conor O’Boyle: “I would encourage any soldier that has had to sleep in his or her car to talk to the officer in charge in the barracks they’re working in. We do have accommodation”

Defence Forces Chief of Staff Lieut Gen Conor O’Boyle has said he was surprised at Pdforra’s suggestion this week that some soldiers were sleeping in their cars at barracks because they did not have the money for the fuel needed to drive home and back the following morning.

He said anyone sleeping in their car should bring it to the attention of the chain of command and accommodation would be provided for them in their barracks.

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney said he planned to establish the full facts.

“If people are sleeping in their cars, I am very uncomfortable with that and it shouldn’t be happening.

“I would encourage any soldier that has had to sleep in his or her car to talk to the officer in charge in the barracks they’re working in. We do have accommodation . . .

“If there’s one thing the Defence Forces do very well it’s they stick together, they work together and they look after each other.”

Moon’s hidden valley system now revealed


The Moon as we see it (L), in terms of height variation (C), and from surface gravity variations (R)

Scientists have identified a huge rectangular feature on the Moon that is buried just below the surface.

The 2,500km-wide structure is believed to be the remains of old rift valleys that later became filled with lava.

Centred on the Moon’s Procellarum region, the feature is really only evident in gravity maps acquired by Nasa’s Grail mission in 2012.

But knowing now of its existence, it is possible to trace the giant rectangle’s subtle outline even in ordinary photos.

Mare Frigoris, for example, a long-recognised dark stripe on the lunar surface, is evidently an edge to the ancient rift system.

“It’s really amazing how big this feature is,” says Prof Jeffery Andrews-Hanna.

“It covers about 17% of the surface of the Moon. And if you think about that in terms relative to the size of the Earth, it covers an area equivalent to North America, Europe and Asia combined,” the Colorado School of Mines scientist told BBC News.

“When we first saw it in the Grail data, we were struck by how big it was, how clear it was, but also by how unexpected it was.

“No-one ever thought you’d see a square or a rectangle on this scale on any planet.”

The full Moon as seen from the Earth, with the Procellarum border structure superimposed in red

So how was this extraordinary feature produced?

Andrews-Hanna and colleagues note that the Procellarum region contains a lot of naturally occurring radioactive elements, such as uranium, thorium and potassium.

On the early Moon, these would have heated the crust, which, when it cooled would have contracted.

Mare Frigoris is evidently an edge to the ancient rift valley system

This shrinking, they propose, would have ripped the surface, opening deep valleys. The geometry is the giveaway.

On Earth, cooling and contraction will preferentially produce hexagons containing 120-degree angles.

The famous Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland is a classic example on the small scale, but even in bigger settings, such as in East Africa’s rift valleys, geological lines tend to intersect in this way.

Procellarum’s giant rectangle does the same, too – because the entire feature is draped over a sphere. This means the angles at the corners are wider than 90 degrees.

“What we’re seeing is a clever trick of spherical geometry. For structures on this scale, a polygon with 120-degree angles at the corners actually has four sides instead of six,” explained Prof Andrews-Hanna.

The team cannot tell when the rifting occurred, but the dating of Moon rocks brought back by Apollo would suggest the valleys were filled by volcanic lavas about 3.5 billion years ago.

Giant’s Causeway: Cooling basaltic rock naturally fractures into hexagons

The Grail satellites sensed very subtle variations in the pull of gravity across the Moon’s surface

The new study goes some way to resolving arguments over the origins of Procellarum, which looks different to other, more circular mare (dark regions) on the Moon’s surface.

For these regions, big asteroid impacts were more important in sculpting their forms.

The study is also further proof of the value of the Grail mission, led from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

This comprised two, near-identical satellites that chased each other around the Moon over the course of a year.

They mapped changes in the pull of gravity as they flew over areas of differing mass.

Big mountains will have a different signal to deep depressions, obviously. But the data also reveals those locations that have different rock types and densities.

In the case of Procellarum, the pair sensed an excess of mass stemming from the presence of all the basaltic lava filling the rift valleys.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 18th January 2014

NAMA chief says property crash is over

 Two of the four properties are situated close to Grand Canal Square

The property crash is now officially over and that’s according to NAMA chairman Frank Daly.

House prices, which went on a freefall after the heady heights of the boom, are now rising steadily once again.

And now the head of the National Asset Management Agency, tasked with acquiring ‘bad’ property loans, says that we are back on track once again.

Frank Daly told a business breakfast briefing in Cork that the recovery is occurring quickly in Dublin in particular.

And he said that he expected the recovery will spread to places such as Cork and then to other parts of the country.

“We are going to see this steady trend of greater confidence returning to the Irish property market,” Mr Daly said.

He added that there will be strong demand for prime properties, and growth in the residential property market.

He also confirmed that NAMA would be funding the construction of up to 4,000 houses over the next few years.

However, he said that there would be no return to the reckless approach of speculating on property during the Celtic Tiger.

Meanwhile, the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) has pledged to create 10,000 jobs as demand for new housing in some urban areas rises.

BOOM: This year is the first time since the height of the property boom that there are reasons to be optimistic, Tom Parlon, CIF director general, says.

“We are expecting to see a strong increase in construction activity during the course of the coming year,” he said

The CIF said building work to the value of €11bn will be carried out in Ireland during the year – up more than one billion euro compared to last year.

“You can see a wide variety of reasons why we expect the industry to grow on a macro level in the next 12 months,” said Mr Parlon.

China buys into Irish recovery “investing in technology firms”


Ireland Finds New Funding source to Boost its Economy

China has agreed to help fund Ireland’s fast-growing technology firms as the former Celtic Tiger strives to find new sources of financing to kick-start its economic recovery as it emerges from its debt crisis.

Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan said Friday the sovereign-wealth funds of China and Ireland together will provide $100 million for the purchase of stakes in Irish technology companies, adding that he hoped this would be the first of several such joint-initiatives by the two countries.

The agreement was reached after a memorandum of understanding was signed in March 2012 during a visit by Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny to China.Under the pact, China Investment Corporation, the country’s sovereign-wealth fund, and Ireland’s national pension fund will between them provide $100 million for a new China Ireland Technology Growth Capital Fund to invest in Irish technology firms. China-based WestSummit Capital and Atlantic Bridge in Dublin will together manage the fund to buy minority stakes in such companies.

In early 2012, China’s president Xi Jinping, who was then the country’s vice president, had traveled to Ireland for a three-day visit, which the Dublin government said at the time was an exceptional vote of confidence in Ireland’s economy.

Asked whether the Chinese government would consider buying Irish government bonds, Mr. Noonan said that he hoped that in time Chinese and other Asian funds would invest in Irish debt.

Ireland slid into a financial crisis when its property market collapsed six years ago, wrecking its banks. The country last month formally exited its 2010 bailout with the European Union and International Monetary Fund and now plans to fully fund itself via international bond markets.

The government says the country is on the mend, but it needs the economy to grow strongly in the coming years, if it is to reduce its high level of public debt, a legacy of the country’s crisis.

Excercise for a fraction of the time regularly give fast results


Many of us have been following the example of Jennifer, Madonna and Gwyneth, sweating it out for hours in the gym, but Peta Bee says it takes just a matter of minutes each day to make a difference to your weight and shape.

Take a fresh look at your workout routine with new kid on the block,

Fast Exercise.

I have been writing about fitness, I have witnessed every conceivable workout drift in and out of popularity. Until now, there has been one constant, one underlying principle of the fitness industry that was never doubted: the more time you exercised, the better. 
Only people who dedicated themselves to lengthy workouts could expect their body fat to plummet, their muscles to become exquisitely defined.

Tracey Anderson, trainer to actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Lopez, said she expects devotees of her method to exercise for 90 minutes a day.

Madonna set the benchmark higher, reportedly exercising for two hours a day with her trainer. If you wanted an athletic-looking body, then you needed to make an Olympian effort.

That was until the discovery of HIT, or high-intensity training, the concept that exercise need only last a fraction of the traditional time.

In recent years, countless studies by sports scientists have spurned the biggest workout trend of the last two decades.

Now, wherever you work-out, even the most diligent exercisers are asking not how much they should do, but how little exercise they can get away with.

There is a growing realisation — among coaches, personal trainers, gym owners, and anyone with a hint of an interest in fitness — that you can make huge differences to your weight and health in minutes per day. It was the scientific proof that it works that led BBC Horizon TV presenter, Dr Michael Mosley, and myself to write the book, Fast Exercise.

Two years ago, while filming an episode, Dr Mosley — a self-confessed sloth — had been concerned that his risk of diabetes was elevated due to a genetic vulnerability. Tests showed that, despite being relatively slim, his blood-glucose levels were borderline diabetic.

He began fasting two days a week (the principle behind the bestselling book, Fast Diet, which he wrote last year), but was also prescribed a HIT workout by Professor Jamie Timmons, now a researcher at Loughborough University.

This simple regime required Dr Mosley to perform 2 x 20-second flat-out sprints, with plenty of recovery, on an indoor bike three times a week. He was sceptical, but within weeks his weight had dropped, his fitness had improved, and his blood glucose levels were more favourable.

Dr Mosley was convinced that it worked, especially when he stopped HIT for a brief period, in 2012, and his blood glucose levels deteriorated back to their original, risky point.

The scientific evidence is compelling. Scientists have long known that pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, albeit for short periods, is key to fitness progression. Your body expends more calories powering along than it does ambling.

Back in 2005, studies at McMaster University, in Ontario, showed that 30-second bike sprints, for two minutes, led to the same muscle-cell adaptations as two hours of long, steady bike riding. Since then, dozens of research papers have concluded that a few minutes of strenuous activity are sufficient to improve various measures of fitness.

To date, most studies on short, high-intensity exercise have been small and carried out predominantly on young men.

However, Dr John Babraj, from the University of Abertay’s School of Social and Health Sciences, and author of The High Intensity Workout, has recently completed a paper on the effects of two of the 60-second workouts on a group of middle-aged people.

His results showed that, on average, people lost 1kg of fat over the two-month trial, even though the subjects were asked not to change their usual diet or activity habits.

Measures of blood-sugar control showed improvements almost matching those of younger people doing more of the same exercise, and the middle-aged subjects also had significantly better cardiovascular function, an important marker of heart disease, after eight weeks.

“This opens up the possibility of one-minute exercise sessions having real importance in older people’s lives,” Babraj says.

Unlike Dr Mosley, I am a lifelong exerciser. But my own fitness levels and enthusiasm for working out have also been transformed by HIT.

My induction to HIT started when I took up athletics at primary school — several times a week, I would sprint-jog my way around a track, a practice I have kept up with varying degrees of effort over the years.

Now, at 45, and a busy working mum, I no longer have the hours a day to dedicate to workouts that I did in my 20s and 30s.

Yes, I want to offset middle-age weight gain and look as good as I can. And I want a body that performs well. But I want it fast.

That is the greatest appeal of HIT to me. It works, in barely the time it takes to get changed into your gym clothes and lace up your trainers.

* Fast Exercise, by Dr Michael Mosley with Peta Bee, Short Books, €11.50.

Just skip the gym
You don’t need to join a gym to get fit. Indeed all of our Fast Fitness and Fast Strength workouts can be done at home or outdoors. There is also a selection of workout times to choose from. Most HIT studies have been done on indoor cycling — Michael’s favourite form of Fast Exercise, (although he’s also partial to stair running).
I prefer running, but the indoor rower and cross trainer, swimming, skipping or walking are all suitable. How long you spend working out is up to you, but choose from the selection of workouts below to get started.


Michael’s favourite. Here’s how he does it: 

  • 1. Put the kettle on. Get on the exercise bike or rower and do a couple of minutes of gentle exercise to get going. 
  •  2. After about two minutes start pedalling fast, cranking up the resistance to a level high enough to cause your thighs to burn after about 15 seconds of a 20 second ‘sprint’. 
  •  3. Pedal at a gentle pace for a few more minutes. 
  •  4. Repeat the 20 second ‘sprint’ 
  •  5. Relax! It’s over. Finish with a couple of minutes gentle cycling.

At work:
You don’t need to wear sports gear to do HIT — you can do it in a suit. Find a staircase. Bound up the stairs and walk down. Repeat as many times as you can in three minutes. As you get fitter, work up to five minutes of stair bounding.

Two-minute sprinter:

From studies at Birmingham and Liverpool’s John Moore Universities, exercise scientists showed that three weekly sessions of two-minute workouts produced similar improvements to five weekly sessions of 40-60 minutes of traditional, steady paced activity.

To do this session, just perform four flat-out 30-second sprints on indoor /outdoor bikes or while running or rowing, interspersed with 4.5 minutes recovery. That’s it.

Four-minute pelter:
This is a bit different because you do it in one go. Norwegian researchers found that a single four-minute burst at a hard pace, three times a week, was enough to boost the health and fitness of previously sedentary middle aged men significantly. At the end of their 10-week trial the men had improved their aerobic capacity by 10% or more, lost a couple of pounds of fat, lowered their blood pressure and had better blood sugar control.

Three-minute skip:
Warm up, skip as fast as you can for 60 seconds, rest for two minutes and repeat twice more. Cool down.

80-second power walk:
Walk or jog for three minutes at a moderate pace. Then ‘sprint’ for 20 seconds (at a speed that makes your thighs burn after 15 seconds). Revert to moderate pace for 2 minutes and repeat three times. Cool down.

Choroideremia Blindness new gene therapy means I don’t trip over things any more


Researchers in Oxford say they have improved the vision of patients that would otherwise have gone blind.

BBC News reported the start of the trial two years ago – the results of which have now been published in the Lancet.

The so-called gene therapy is for a rare form of blindness called Choroideremia, but the doctors say it could potentially be used to treat the more common form of age-related blindness which affects 300,000 people in the UK and millions across the world.

Jonathan Wyatt was on the verge of losing his sight when he received the treatment two years ago. He told BBC News how his vision has improved.

Mystery object spotted  on moon asks if this an alien structure or a secret human base?


A mystery object spotted on the surface of the moon has sent conspiracy theorists into overdrive.

The bizarre wedge-shaped structure with rows of seven light-like dots along its edge appears on the lunar surface.

It was discovered on the Google Moon viewer at coordinates 22042’38.46N and 142034’44.52E.

Speculation has exploded over the images of the anomaly that UFO websites have likened to an alien lunar base or spaceship.

There are also theories that it is an alien spaceship nestled under the dust of the moon or even a secret moon base occupied by humans.

The two-sided, triangular feature was uncovered by paranormal researcher WowForReeel and posted in a new video.

The finder claims to have spotted a similar mystery structure in Antarctica

‘Is is just a weird looking crater? or is it something else?,’ he asks.

‘It is really there, not faked and I have no clue what it is. I found nothing else like it in any of the other craters.’

According to website Tech and Gadget News: ‘The gigantic shape actually looks like the leading edge of an immense, triangular space ship, similar to, so far, super secret stealth aircraft technology, but is much larger than any airplane ever built on Earth.

‘To date, no other feature has ever been discovered which matches this shape on the moon, or any other planet observed by satellite or exploratory rover.

‘The anomaly is so huge, it’s possible it is some sort of moon base used as a facility for storing and launching alien UFO spacecraft.’

The same YouTube user also claims to have found a similar mystery structure on Earth, nestled under the ice in Antarctica.

‘It is also a triangular shape, measuring 125 by 90mtres.

‘It is unique in the area,’ he said.

Google Moon, which works in a similar way to Google Earth, was launched in 2009 on the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.

News Ireland daily BLOG Friday

Friday 6th December 2013

John Gilligan warned his life in danger after gunman failed to find & shoot him dead


Gardaí chase gunman on motorbike through Dublin suburb and recover pistol

Gardaí have warned convicted drug dealer John Gilligan that his life is in immediate danger after what they believe was a failed attempt to shoot him dead when gunmen went to the wrong pub.

A senior Garda officer said providing him with an armed escort to prevent any future attempt on his life did not arise.

While the Garda at times provided protection to people under threat from gangs, such as witnesses in court cases or journalists, it did not offer that service to convicted criminals.

Dubliner Gilligan (61) was drinking in the Hole in the Wall pub on Blackhorse Avenue beside Dublin’s Phoenix Park on Thursday afternoon when two armed men arrived at the Halfway House in Ashtown less than 1km away.

After they were unable to find him they left on a motorbike. They were chased by gardaí and threw their gun away. It has since been recovered.

Garda sources said they were treating the incident as an attempt to murder the gang leader, adding that, aside from the information on Mr Gilligan’s whereabouts being wrong, the planning was elaborate.

“You’re talking about robbing a bike, sourcing a gun and getting the money to pay two guys willing to do it. A lot of work went into that,” said one source.

Other sources said it was unclear if the motive behind the botched attack was related to a dispute Mr Gilligan had while in Portlaoise Prison or whether he had crossed rival drug dealers since his release in mid-October after 17 years in jail.

Gardaí were alerted to Thursday’s incident when both customers and staff in the Halfway House rang 999 to report that a man wearing a black motorcycle helmet had walked into the pub with a handgun just before 4pm. He shouted “where’s Gilligan”, before being challenged by a staff member and fleeing on realising his intended victim was not in the pub.

The armed man got back on a waiting motorbike outside driven by an accomplice, and as they drove away they were seen by armed detectives in an unmarked car who had sped to the scene.

They chased the two men on the motorbike down River Road towards Finglas, and at Ratoath Road in the north Dublin suburb they failed to bring the bike to a stop. A 9mm pistol was thrown or fell from the motorbike, and the two men managed to escape. The gun was found and has since been taken for ballistic and forensic analysis.

Mr Gilligan was in the High Court in Dublin yesterday for a hearing related to the seizure of land and houses the Criminal Assets Bureau claims are the proceeds of his crimes.

Gardaí approached him in the precincts of the courts and formally warned him his life was in danger, as they are legally obliged to do in such circumstances.

Irish Banks given June deadline over mortgage arrears problem


Central Bank tells lenders to have ‘sustainable solutions’ to 75 per cent of cases

The Central Bank of Ireland has told lenders that it expects them to have provided “sustainable solutions” to 75 per cent of their mortgage arrears customers by the end of June and “concluded solutions” to 35 per cent of them by that date.

These targets form part of the regulator’s attempt to address the significant mortgage arrears problem that exists with Irish banks.

The targets apply to AIB (including EBS), Bank of Ireland(including ICS), Permanent TSBKBC Bank Ireland, Ulster Bank and ACC, which is withdrawing from the retail market here, and apply to customers who are 90 days or more in arrears.

The regulator announced its first set of targets in March his year and has been ratcheting them up since then.
Potential problemsFigures published last week showed that lenders have succeeded in meeting the Central Bank’s most recent targets for dealing with mortgage arrears, but potential problems have emerged in the nature of some of the solutions proposed, according to an audit.

The Central Bank review identified “issues” in checking facts such as a borrower’s income or the value of a property, and in following up so-called “legal” cases. The number of mortgage accounts for principal dwelling houses (PDH) in arrears, fell from 142,892 (18.5 per cent of total stock) to 141,520 (18.4 per cent) in the three months to the end of September.

PDH accounts in arrears of more than 90 days at the end of September amounted to 99,189, an increase of 1,315 on the previous quarter. This increase was driven entirely by accounts in arrears over 720 days, with all other maturity categories declining.

The number of these accounts in early arrears of less than 90 days declined by 6 per cent during the quarter. There was a total stock of 80,555 PDH accounts classified as restructured at the end of September, reflecting a quarter-on-quarter increase of 1.5 per cent.

Investigation into intellectual disability services body


Concerns of neglectful or abusive practices raised by students on placement at Stewart’s

The HSE said last night that its head of operations of disability services of its social care division had been in discussion with Stewarts Care on the issue.

An organisation providing services for persons with intellectual disability in the eastern region confirmed last night it has established an investigation into allegations made about the standard of care provided to some of its clients.

The Stewarts-Care organisation said that it was “in receipt of reports/observations that contain allegations of neglectful or abusive practices in relation to the way services are delivered to a number of service users”.

Stewarts provides services for persons with intellectual disability and has a main campus in Palmerstown in Dublin as well as other ancillary facilities in west Dublin, Kildare and Meath.

It is understood concerns were raised by a number of students from Trinity College Dublin who had been on placement in its intellectual disability services that some of the situation’s they witnessed could constitute abuse.

Highly placed sources said that allegations made by the students included shower doors not being closed while a person was being showered, persons being locked out of their bungalows and clients being spoken of as if they were not present.

It is understood the incidents highlighted by the students were alleged to have taken place at the end of last year and in the early part of 2013.

In a statement issued to The Irish Times last night Stewarts said its management had informed the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa)and the Health Service Executive it had received reports of alleged neglectful or abusive practices.

It is understood that some parents of young people with intellectual disability have also been told by Stewarts about the allegations which have been made.

Stewarts confirmed in its statement that “an investigation process has been initiated and further developments will be predicated on the outcome of this”.

The HSE said last night that its newly appointed head of operations of disability services of its social care division,Marion Meany, had been in discussion with the service provider (StewartsCare) yesterday on the issue regarding the concerns raised by the placement students “and has been fully briefed as to their action plan”.

Stewarts was established in 1869 in Dublin to provide for the education, training, and maintenance of children with a mental handicap from across the island of Ireland.

Stewarts provides extensive on-site and community-based services for clients.

The organisation supports over 300 residents, and provides wide-ranging services for some 600 clients including children and adult day attenders.

Stewarts also offers a full range of pre-school services for two- to five-year-old children with a developmental delay.

Minister Noonan hopes Moody’s may lift Ireland from Junk status in Early 2014


Ireland’s Finance Minister Michael Noonan said he hopes Moody’s Investors Service will raise the nation’s credit rating from non-investment grade as the country exits its bailout program and plans debt sales.

“We’re hopeful that Moody’s will have another look at us early in the New Year,” Noonan, 70, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in London. “The mood from all the rating agencies is positive at present.”

Ireland’s Finance Minister Michael Noonan said, “We’re hopeful that Moody’s will have another look at us early in the New Year.” Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) — Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan talks about the country’s banking system and the planned exit from its bailout program. He speaks with Guy Johnson and Francine Lacqua on Bloomberg Television’s “The Pulse.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Ireland is preparing to exit the 67.5 billion-euros ($92 billion) aid program it entered in 2010, after its financial system almost collapsed. Irish government bonds, which slumped as the nation took a bailout, have returned 11.5 percent this year, amid signs the economic outlook is improving.

Moody’s, which gave Ireland its top Aaa grade in 1998 before the euro was introduced, cut its rating on the nation to non-investment grade, or junk, in July 2011 after a real-estate market collapse.

“Moody’s difficulty seems to be with the European Union and the euro zone, rather than with Ireland specifically,” Noonan said. “That’s what they’ve told us.”

A junk rating cuts out some money managers, whose investment criteria stop them buying low-rated securities. Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings, rank Ireland at BBB+, three levels above non-investment grade.

Cash Buffer

The yield on Ireland’s 10-year bonds was little changed at 3.56 percent at 1:30 p.m. London time, leaving the yield difference, or spread, over similar-maturity German bunds at 1.70 percentage points.

Noonan said Ireland will exceed its budgetary targets this year and the government has a cash buffer of more than 20 billion euros.

“We’re in a good place,” he said in a speech after the interview. “We decided to exit the bailout and do it cleanly without any precautionary programs or any dedicated credit lines. We’re not jumping out of the plane without a parachute. We have cash buffers in excess of 20 billion. That funds up to the second quarter of 2015 if we never entered the market.”

Anglo Irish

The Irish government injected 64 billion euros into lenders including Anglo Irish Bank Corp. and Allied Irish Banks Plc. This week, the state sold 1.3 billion euros of preferred shares in another firm — Bank of Ireland — to investors at a 4.75 percent premium. That was beyond Noonan’s expectations, he said.

“A lot of people want to buy our paper,” Noonan said. “We’re not junk, we’re doing fine.”

There’s no evidence that the country’s lenders need more capital, Noonan said. He’ll “take time and see” what to do with Ireland’s 99.9 percent stake in Dublin-based Allied Irish, which is probably worth between 5 billion euros and 7 billion euros, he said. He said he’s still “hopeful” on the government’s campaign to win retroactive recapitalization of the banking system.

Private firm plans the first controlled landing on lunar surface in 40 years

its Back to the moon


  • MX-1 will blast off in 2015 on a mission ahead of plans to mine the moon
  • Designed by Moon Express, it was unveiled in Las Vegas last night
  • It will scoop up rock samples from lunar surface to be ferried back to Earth 
  • Moon is a gold mine of titanium and platinum and other rare minerals
  • The last time America landed on moon was with
  • Apollo 17 in 1972
  • America is to pay the moon a visit for the first time since Apollo 17 touched down there more than 40 years ago.
    • The privately-owned MX-1 will blast off in 2015 on a reconnaissance mission ahead of plans to mine the moon for minerals.
    • The unmanned spacecraft, unveiled last night at the Autodesk University show in Las Vegas, will scoop up rock and dust samples from the lunar surface to be ferried back to Earth for testing.

The moondirt brought back by mankind’s first moonwalkers, Gene Cernan, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, contained an abundance of titanium, platinum and other rare minerals and Moon Express plan to plunder that gold mine ‘for the good of humanity’.

‘The MX-1 is the ‘iPhone of space,’ said Bob Richards, co-founder and CEO of manufacturer Moon Express. ‘[It’s] a platform capable of supporting many apps including our core plan of exploring the Moon for resources of benefit to humanity.’

Fuelled by hydrogen peroxide, the ‘microlander’ can deliver up to 130 pounds of cargo to the surface of the moon, or act as a sample return vehicle or a ‘space-tug’, he said.

Moon Express is introducing the MX-1 as the first of a series of robotic space vehicles based on a scalable patent pending design to operate in Earth orbit and deep space destinations.

The last time a U.S. spacecraft touched down on the moon was on December 17 1972 when astronauts brought home 110kg of moon rock.

Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt spent about 75 hours on the Moon in the Taurus-Littrow valley, while colleague Ronald Evans orbited overhead.

Apollo 17 was the sixth and last Apollo mission and the last time that humans walked on the surface.

The mission returned to earth on December 19, 1972.

The team carried out a series of experiments including seismic profiling, atmospheric composition analysis and lunar sampling, orbital and biomedical experiments.

The crew spent 22 hours on the lunar surface in total.

Last year Nasa released an image taken by Cernan as he and Schmitt roamed the valley floor.

The image shows Schmitt on the left with the lunar rover at the edge of Shorty Crater, near the spot where geologist Schmitt discovered orange lunar soil.

The Apollo 17 crew returned with 110 kilograms of rock and soil samples, more than was returned from any of the other lunar landing sites.

Now forty years later, Cernan and Schmitt are still the last to walk on the Moon.

Moon Express is just one of many private companies planning space missions.

Tourism, orbiting hotels are among the areas explored so far – but none has exploded more than the moon. Astrobiotic Technology is also vying to mine the moon.

Meanwhile, Bigelow Aerospace wants to sell property there, a Japanese firm suggested a solar panel power ring, and on Monday China launched the Chang’e 3 lander, which should touch down on the moon in mid-December.

It has even been claimed China wants to turn the moon into a ‘Death Star’ by planting missile silos on its surface.

It will be the first controlled landing since the Soviet Union’s Luna-24 mission in 1976.

‘Nine billion. That’s how many people will be alive on the Earth as soon as 36 years from now,’ Dennis Wingo, a space entrepreneur and author of the book MoonRush, told Fox News. ‘The moon and beyond is an extension of our earthly society, with vast resources in metals and a place to expand human activity.’

Moon Express is yet to pick a place to land in 2015.

Richards said he is considering a spot in the Southern Hemisphere, near Surveyor 7 – the last robotic mission, which the U.S. soft-landed on the moon in 1968.

‘It’s iconic to have the first private robotic lander resting next to the last government robotic lander,’ he added.