Space porn: These images are (quite literally) out of this world
Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is preparing to announce yet another landmark change in military policy, senior officials say. Only weeks after lifting the ban on women in combat, the Pentagon is set to extend certain benefits to the spouses of gay military personnel.
But the full medical, dental and housing allowances gay military couples have been fighting for will likely remain out of reach, at least for now.
Members of the military are federal employees, and extending equal benefits to gay personell would first require the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. That means that even gay couples who have legally recognized marriages in other states still fall under federal jurisdiction at the Pentagon — and under the rules and restrictions of DOMA.
While the two-tiered system of benefits for gay and lesbian service members remains largely intact, experts believe the Pentagon’s latest move toward fairness could help do away with DOMA, eventually:
“If you provide benefits to individuals seen as the most deserving and the social fabric doesn’t tear, that does make it easier down the line to do away with DOMA,” Tammy S. Schultz, the director of the National Security and Joint Warfare Program at the Marine Corps War College, told the Washington Post. “It could be a flanking maneuver to keep chipping away at it.”
The Supreme Court is set to rules on the constitutionality of DOMA this year.
The new benefits introduced by the Pentagon may include granting military IDs to gay spouses, extending some housing privileges, and opening access to base recreational facilities. This is Panetta’s third landmark policy change during his tenure, including the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011 and, most recently, lifting the ban on women in combat.
The Pentagon’s announcement also comes on the heels of a controversy at Fort Bragg, N.C., in which the wife of a female lieutenant colonel was denied membership at the officers’ spouses organization. The incident received national attention, prompting the Marine Corps to issue a memo saying that groups could not reject prospective members on the basis of sexual orientation.
NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins
On December 28, 2013, Expedition 38 crew member Mike Hopkins participating in the second of two space walks to replace a degraded pump module on the International Space Station. (NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio is reflected in his helmet!)
The Soyuz TMA-10M
The Soyuz TMA-10M headed towards the International Space Station with crew members from Expedition 37 onboard.
40 years ago the Apollo 8 mission flew up to the moon, orbited it ten times and then returned to Earth. This picture was taken from that flight and shows the Earth as it seemingly rises in similar fashion to a sunrise.
Sunrise from Expedition 36
NASA Flight Engineer Karen L. Nyberg of Expedition 36 took this photo of the sun rising -- a sight they saw nearly 16 times per day due to the speed of the International Space Station's orbit around the earth.
A pair of NanoRacks CubeSats -- nanosattelite spacecrafts carrying experiments -- were launched by Expedition 38.