John McCaslin

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards couldn't wait to get "home" to South Carolina, where he's banking on his first primary season victory next Tuesday (Feb. 3).

And how helpful will Democratic Sen. Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina be to the first-term senator-turned-presidential candidate?

"I know he was born here (in South Carolina) and he and I are good trial lawyers together, but he doesn't have nearly the experience to go all the way and really take that White House," Hollings told the Greenville News.

KINDER AND GENTLER

Holding court in a corner of JD's Tavern in Manchester, N.H., MSNBC host Chris Matthews managed a few grins as a "Saturday Night Live" rerun aired over the pub's three television sets - mainly a sketch of impersonator Darrell Hammond lampooning the usually feisty "Hardball" host.

But the host appeared "chagrined," according to our source, when at the conclusion of the skit JD's patrons erupted in applause. After all, in broadcasting from Iowa and New Hampshire, Matthews has made a concerted effort to tone down his brusque demeanor, actually permitting some of his guests - or at least the men - to finish their sentences.

D.C. MISSION

Researchers from George Washington University associated with NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., played a major role in Sunday's successful landing of the Opportunity rover on Mars by studying atmospheric entry and trajectory data from the earlier landing of Spirit.

GW researchers analyzed accelerometer and gyro readings from Spirit's trip through the Martian atmosphere and found NASA's temperature predictions for the Martian atmosphere to be "right on track" in the hope of duplicating conditions the second time around.

"These are two very significant tasks, obviously, getting Spirit and now Opportunity safely on Mars (was) critical to the Mars Exploration Rover mission," says Bob Blanchard, lead research scientist for the GW group.

The phase in which GW researchers were involved is the entry, descent and landing portion of the mission. It begins when the spacecraft reach Mars' atmosphere at approximately 80 miles above the surface of the planet and ends when the landers are safely on the surface.

The descent takes approximately 6 minutes, during which time the spacecraft slows from approximately 12,000 to zero miles per hour.

GRIM EITHER WAY

No wonder it's so icy in Washington - the world, or at least a good chunk of it, is headed into an ice age. And get a load of the culprit.


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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