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U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05), at right, and Lonnie Lawson, second from left, president and CEO of The Center for Rural Development, met with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler to discuss broadband expansion in Eastern Kentucky. Wheeler met with area leaders at a roundtable discussion at Hazard Community and Technical College as part of SOAR’s (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) “Broadband and Business Series.”U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05), at right, and Lonnie Lawson, second from left, president and CEO of The Center for Rural Development, met with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler to discuss broadband expansion in Eastern Kentucky. Wheeler met with area leaders at a roundtable discussion at Hazard Community and Technical College as part of SOAR’s (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) “Broadband and Business Series.”

The Center for Rural Development—a regional leader in technology—is leading the efforts to bring reliable, high-speed Internet to Eastern Kentucky.

U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05), Lonnie Lawson, president and CEO of The Center, and other area leaders met with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler on a recent trip to McKee and Hazard in Eastern Kentucky to discuss SOAR’s (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) efforts at reducing the rural digital divide.

The “digital divide” is a term that refers to the gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology, and those that don’t or have restricted access.

Rogers invited Wheeler to meet with local leaders about innovative projects that are already underway to utilize the anticipated connection to high-speed, high-capacity fiber optic cable in the region.

“Chairman Wheeler shared a wealth of insight and expertise on a broad range of telecom issues,” Rogers said. “His visit comes during a critical time in Eastern Kentucky, as our local communities pave the way for broadband access that can transform the way we do business, administer healthcare, and educate our young people.”

“Broadband is the greatest asset of the 21st Century,” Wheeler added. “We are teaching kids how to harness all of the benefits of broadband-enabled technologies; how to have the skills to use this network to not only obtain a job some day, but to grow jobs here.”

More than a dozen panelists discussed the benefits of broadband and how to address the rural digital divide at a roundtable discussion at Hazard Community and Technical College as part of SOAR’s “Broadband and Business Series.”

According to Lawson, The Center began looking at this growing digital disparity in the SOAR region several years ago. “We became very concerned with the increasing frequency of complaints being expressed by businesses, communities, and individuals seeking to actively engage with the digital world,” he said. “If the SOAR region is to participate in national discussions and in the global economy, we simply could not allow these barriers to stand.”

Under Lawson’s direction, The Center has taken a prominent role in addressing the issue of access to affordable high-speed Internet connections in Eastern Kentucky. Along with its own initiatives, The Center has been an active partner with the Commonwealth of Kentucky on the KentuckyWired project.

“What began as a fiber-optic infrastructure project for Eastern Kentucky alone, the Kentucky Super I-Way was quickly recognized and adopted as a model for building a statewide KentuckyWired network,” said Lawson, committee chair of the SOAR Broadband Working Group. “Although these two projects are distinct in purpose, the coordinated and combined efforts of The Center and the Commonwealth, to provide a consolidated solution for all of Kentucky, is a winning approach.”

Kentucky currently ranks 46th in broadband availability and 47th in broadband speed. Approximately 23 percent of rural areas in Kentucky do not have access to broadband.

In the coming months, The Center will be providing free strategic planning sessions to help communities learn how to connect to the new network and will be working to coordinate local efforts with regional planning as the Super I-Way portion of KentuckyWired is deployed.

For more information on broadband expansion, contact Larry Combs, director of business services and technology at The Center, at 606-677-6000.

Study: Mountaintop-removal coal mining has made parts of Central Appalachia 60 percent flatter

Mountaintop removal over the past 40 years has made parts of Central Appalachia 60 percent flatter than before the process began, says a study by Duke University published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. Researchers, who say this is the first study "to examine the regional impact of mountaintop mines on landscape topography and how the changes might influence water quality," compared pre- and post-mining topographic data in southern West Virginia.

Headwaters of the Twentymile Creek watershed before and
after mountaintop-removal coal mining (Duke Univ. maps)

"By comparing digitized topographic maps from West Virginia before mountaintop mining became extensive with elevation data collected by aircraft in 2010, the researchers found that the mines and valley fills could range anywhere from 10 to 200 meters deep," Kara Manke reports for Duke Today. "Across the region, the average slope of the land dropped by more than 10 degrees post-mining."

Emily Bernhardt, a professor of biology at Duke and co-author of the study, told Manke, “We tend to measure the impact of human activity based on the area it affects on a map, but mountaintop mining is penetrating much more deeply into the earth than other land use in the region like forestry, agriculture or urbanization.

The depth of these impacts is changing the way the geology, water, and vegetation interact in fundamental ways that are likely to persist far longer than other forms of land use.” (Read more)

Written by Tim Mandell Posted at 2/05/2016 12:33:00 PM



MOREHEAD, Ky.---Morehead State University’s Space Probe Lunar IceCube, flying as secondary payload on the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, will investigate the location, distribution and movement of water ice on the lunar surface.

The first flight of NASA’s new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), will carry 13 CubeSats to test innovative ideas along with an uncrewed Orion spacecraft in 2018.

These small satellite secondary payloads will carry science and technology investigations to help pave the way for future human exploration in deep space, including the journey to Mars. SLS’ first flight, referred to as Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), provides the rare opportunity for these small experiments to reach deep space destinations, as most launch opportunities for CubeSats are limited to low-Earth orbit.

“The 13 CubeSats that will fly to deep space as secondary payloads aboard SLS on EM-1 showcase the intersection of science and technology, and advance our journey to Mars,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman.

The secondary payloads were selected through a series of announcements of flight opportunities, a NASA challenge and negotiations with NASA’s international partners.

“The SLS is providing an incredible opportunity to conduct science missions and test key technologies beyond low-Earth orbit," said Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This rocket has the unprecedented power to send Orion to deep space plus room to carry 13 small satellites – payloads that will advance our knowledge about deep space with minimal cost.”

NASA selected two payloads through the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) Broad Agency Announcement:

Skyfire - Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Denver, Colorado, will develop a CubeSat to perform a lunar flyby of the moon, taking sensor data during the flyby to enhance our knowledge of the lunar surface.

Lunar IceCube - Morehead State University and its partners, Kentucky, will build a CubeSat to search for water ice and other resources at a low orbit of only 62 miles above the surface of the moon.

Three payloads were selected by NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate:

 Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, or NEA Scout will perform reconnaissance of an asteroid, take pictures and observe its position in space.

BioSentinel will use yeast to detect, measure and compare the impact of deep space radiation on living organisms over long durations in deep space.

Lunar Flashlight will look for ice deposits and identify locations where resources may be extracted from the lunar surface.

Two payloads were selected by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate:

CuSP – a “space weather station” to measure particles and magnetic fields in space, testing practicality for a network of stations to monitor space weather.

LunaH-Map will map hydrogen within craters and other permanently shadowed regions throughout the moon’s south pole.

Three additional payloads will be determined through NASA’s Cube Quest Challenge – sponsored by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and designed to foster innovations in small spacecraft propulsion and communications techniques. CubeSat builders will vie for a launch opportunity on SLS’ first flight through a competition that has four rounds, referred to as ground tournaments, leading to the selection in 2017 of the payloads to fly on the mission.

NASA has also reserved three slots for payloads from international partners. Discussions to fly those three payloads are ongoing, and they will be announced at a later time.

On this first flight, SLS will launch the Orion spacecraft to a stable orbit beyond the moon to demonstrate the integrated system performance of Orion and the SLS rocket prior to the first crewed flight. The first configuration of SLS that will fly on EM-1 is referred to as Block I and will have a minimum 70-metric-ton (77-ton) lift capability and be powered by twin boosters and four RS-25 engines. The CubeSats will be deployed following Orion separation from the upper stage and once Orion is a safe distance away. Each payload will be ejected with a spring mechanism from dispensers on the Orion stage adapter. Following deployment, the transmitters on the CubeSats will turn on, and ground stations will listen for their beacons to determine the functionality of these small satellites.

“The Lunar IceCube mission along with the other EM-1 CubeSats will usher in a new era of space exploration based on innovative nanosatellite technologies,” according to the program manager Dr. Benjamin Malphrus, chair of MSU’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences.  “Morehead State and its partners, the NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center, JPL, the Busek Company and Vermont Tech, have an extraordinary opportunity to be a part of this historical flight and involved in the beginning of this new “age of space exploration.”

For more information about NASA’s Journey to Mars  (

 For additional information on Lunar IceCube ( visit or call MSU’s Space Science Center at 606-783-2381.