Falcon 9 launch puts Dragon in orbit

The competition heats up: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket has successfully put its fifth Dragon cargo freighter into orbit, with a docking at ISS scheduled for Tuesday.

Spaceflight Now’s status update above also noted that this is the 13th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010. All these flights have successfully put their primary payloads into orbit as promised, an amazing track record for a new rocket built by a new company only in existence for less than a decade.

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Antarctic sea ice extent largest on record

The uncertainty of science: Even as global warming protesters gather in New York to push their political agenda and fear-monger the threat of global warming, the Antarctic ice cap has set a record for its greatest extent ever measured.

No one really has a convincing explanation for why the south pole ice cap is so large even as the north pole ice cap remains relatively small (though recovering from the record lows from earlier in this century).

Global warming advocates finally admit their focus is politics, not science

In writing a propaganda piece selling a global warming protest planned for Sunday in New York, this so-called journalist noted that if the crowd exceeds 100,000 “then the ‘People’s Climate March’ will likely mark the moment when global warming transitions from being a science and policy issue into a full-fledged social movement.

The writer goes on to rave about the diversity of the expected protesters, even while noting the following:

The People’s Climate March is backed by an unprecedented coalition of 45 major labor groups, including heavy hitters such as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) — a group that Henn said “doesn’t mess around” — along with prominent grassroots environmental organizations like 350.org as well as religious organizations.

In other words, it is a union/leftist coalition and isn’t diverse at all.

Regardless, after reading that first quote highlighted above, words fail me. This is an outright admission that this movement has no interest in the data and in fact doesn’t want anyone else to have interest in the data either. They want to impose a political agenda on society, and are using a made-up scientific crisis to do it. Worse, a whole generation of climate scientists have abandoned the pursuit of science in order to help them.

Ocean surface wind speeds declining

The uncertainty of science: Data now shows that surface wind speeds over the oceans have declined in the past three years, and that August 2014 has the lowest average since 1989.

The author of the article says that these low wind speeds might explain why ocean surface temperatures have recently been high, He also admits he really has no idea. And are these variations because of global warming? No one has the slightest idea. To claim otherwise is to be an advocate not a scientist. As far as we know with the available data, these variations could simply be result of natural cycles.

Ohio teachers threaten strike because they are being switched to Obamacare

Finding out what’s in it: Teachers in Reynoldsburg, Ohio have announced that they will go on strike rather than accept a school contract offer that takes them off employer health insurance and forces them onto Obamacare.

The school board says it wants to give cash payments to teachers to buy their own health insurance on the “new state insurance market.” Ohio did not set up a state exchange which means teachers would need to purchase their insurance through the federal exchange under this plan.

That federal exchange is Obamacare.

The comments at the link are entertaining, as they all recognize the irony of this story: These teachers and this union almost certainly supported Obamacare and Obama. They did it brainlessly, for partisan reasons, without considering for one second the real life consequences of the law their Democratic lords were writing and passing, consequences that conservatives desperately tried to explain to them. Now they have to live with it, and they don’t like it.

The sad part of this, however, is that you can safely rely on them to still vote Democrat in the next election. If you are brainless once, what will make you have a brain later?

Tennessee cheerleaders defy a ban on pregame public prayers

Despite a ban on any pregame prayers at a Tennessee high school, forced on the school to avoid court suits, the school’s cheerleaders led the crowd in prayer anyway.

Prayer organized by school officials is inappropriate and unconstitutional. Prayer organized by students, however, is completely appropriate and constitutional. I would hope more students do this kind of defiant behavior, because the anti-religious organizations that threatened lawsuits are increasingly challenging the rights of the students, and that effort must be resisted.

The next week in space

For the next week there are going to be a number of important events that will determine the success or failure of a number of important space missions. I thought I’d lay out the schedule in a quick post, just to make it clear.

  • Falcon 9 launch: SpaceX is hoping to launch its Dragon capsule to ISS tonight at 2:14 am (eastern). If they are successful, it will be the fourth Falcon 9 launch since July 14. That is a very fast-paced launch schedule, as good as any other launch company’s, and more evidence that SpaceX is an effective competitor in the resurgent launch market.
  • Mavin orbital insertion: NASA hopes to place this Mars mission into orbit on Sunday at around 9:50 pm (eastern).
  • India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also known as Mangalyaan: There are two important events this week for this mission. First, on Monday, September 22, engineers will do a test firing of the spacecraft’s engine, which has been inactive for the last several months during its cruise to Mars. If that firing is successful, they will do the orbital insertion burn on Wednesday, September 24.

So, stay tuned this week for some fun stuff. And as I’ve been saying, this is only the beginning.

The disaster and ensuing coverup of the Obamacare website

New reports reveal significant corruption in the Obama administration’s botched effort to create the Obamacare website.

The Government Office of Accountability released a report earlier this week detailing the security flaws in the site, but a report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released yesterday is even more damning. Titled, “Behind the Curtain of the HealthCare.gov Rollout,” the report fingers the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversaw the development of the site, and its parent Department of Health and Human Services.

“Officials at CMS and HHS refused to admit to the public that the website was not on track to launch without significant functionality problems and substantial security risks,” the report says. “There is also evidence that the Administration, to this day, is continuing its efforts to shield ongoing problems with the website from public view.” Emphasis mine]

The evidence includes emails that show Obamacare officials more interested in keeping their problems from leaking to the press than working to fix them. To me, that demonstrates both a coverup and incompetence.

But hey, this must all be the fault of George Bush! We have got to vote Democratic so that they can do more of this for us!

Obamacare could leave 2 million families without insurance

Finding out what’s in it: Because of the way Obamacare is written, two million family members might not be able to get health insurance at affordable rates and will lose the insurance they presently have.

Essentially, the problem is this: Obamacare allows employers to offer insurance to their employees but not their families. However, because the employee has what Obamacare considers “affordable” health insurance in this situation, the employee cannot get any subsidies to pay for the cost of insurance for his or her spouse or children. Thus, the kids and spouse are left in the lurch.

But that’s okay. The Democrats and Obama care about you, even if the policies they force down our throats bankrupt us and ruin our lives. What matters is they care. And that of course means we must all blindly vote for them again and again and again until society falls apart (as it did in cities like Detroit).

Why is Wikipedia deleting all references to Neil Tyson’s quote fabrications?

Link here. Key quotes:

Judging by many of the responses to the three pieces I wrote detailing Neil Tyson’s history of fabricating quotes and embellishing stories, you’d think I had defamed somebody’s god. It turns out that fanatical cultists do not appreciate being shown evidence that the object of their worship may not, in fact, be infallible.

And this:

These lovers of science don’t actually love science, because science requires you to go where the evidence takes you, even if it goes against your original hypothesis. What many of Tyson’s cultists really like is the notion that one can become more intelligent via osmosis — that you can become as smart and as credentialed as Tyson by merely clapping like a seal at whatever he says, as long as what he says fits the political worldview of your average progressive liberal.

The author, Sean Davis, provides some juicy quotes from these individuals, who all seem unable to appreciate the importance of honesty, accuracy, and reliability when it comes to science and journalism.

Using government funding to finance antisemitism at UCLA

A three year study has found that federal funds are underwriting “one-sided, antisemitic programming that masquerades as scholarship,” at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Criticizing Israel in scholarship is perfectly legitimate. It appears here that much of this criticism has morphed into hatred for Jews in general, paid for by the federal government.

A giant black hole in a tiny galaxy

The uncertainty of science: Astronomers have unexpectedly discovered a supermassive black hole in the center of a nearby tiny galaxy, comprising almost 18% of the galaxy’s entire mass.

To weigh the beast, the researchers measured the velocity of stars whipping about the galaxy’s centre using an infrared spectrometer on the Gemini North telescope atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. The high velocity of the stars is best explained by a central black hole that tips the scales at 21 million times the Sun’s mass, concluded Seth’s team. That is more than five times heavier than the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way — even though M60-UCD1 has an estimated diameter of about one-six-hundredth that of our home galaxy.

Previously astronomers had believed that the size of a galaxy would predict the size of its central black hole, and that a galaxy this small would not house such a supermassive object. This find upsets those theories.

Extending ISS to 2024

An inspector general report released today has outlined some issues that NASA needs to address in order to keep ISS operational through 2024.

In this audit, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that while NASA has identified no major obstacles to extending ISS operations to 2024, it must address several areas of risk to ensure continued safe operations. Specifically, the ISS faces a risk of insufficient power generation due in part to faster-than-expected degradation of its solar arrays. Second, although most replacement parts have proven more reliable than expected, sudden failures of key hardware have occurred requiring unplanned space walks for repair or replacement. Third, with the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet NASA has a limited capacity to transport several large replacement parts to the Station should they be needed. While the ISS Program is actively working to mitigate these risks, anticipating the correct amount of replacement parts and transporting them to the ISS present major challenges to extending Station operations 10 or more years beyond its original expected service life.

The report also noted concerns about the budget and the lack of commitment from NASA’s international partners.

Falcon 9 still go for launch on Saturday

Reports indicate that Wednesday’s Falcon 9 prelaunch static fire test was a success and that all systems are go for a September 2:14 am launch of Dragon to ISS.

If this launch happens has planned, it will occur only 13 days after the previous Falcon 9 launch in Florida, the shortest turnaround by SpaceX yet.

Judicial Watch demands right to cross-examine IRS officials

Citing the apparent IRS cover-up, Judicial Watch has asked a federal court for the right to cross-examine IRS individuals under oath.

Judicial Watch is also seeking information about missing documents from as many as eight additional IRS officials involved in targeting Tea Party and conservative groups. Judicial Watch argues that the IRS’s unwillingness to provide this and other crucial information: “information that the IRS was ordered to disclose to this Court, under oath, more than two months ago – demonstrates that the only way the information is ever likely to be provided is if discovery is allowed and Judicial Watch is permitted to cross-examine agency witnesses…”

More computer crashes and lost emails at the IRS.

Cover-up: In testimony at House hearings on Wednesday, IRS chief John Koskinen admitted that computer crashes continue at the IRS.

“Hard drive crashes continue as we speak,” Koskinen admitted at a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing when asked if any computers had recently crashed under his watch. Koskinen admitted that destroying records would be an act “not consistent with the law,” but maintained that there’s no evidence that the IRS intentionally destroyed records. [emphasis mine]

The simple fact that the IRS proceeded with the destruction of Lois Lerner’s hard drive and Blackberry, even as the investigation was on-going, is direct evidence that the IRS did intentionally destroy records. They, and Koskinen, are breaking the law, and spitting in the face of Congress and the American people as they do it.

Dawn’s arrival at Ceres delayed one month

Though engineers have solved the problems caused when a radiation blast disabled Dawn’s ion engine and put it into safe mode for a week, the fix will cause a one month delay in its arrival at the asteroid Ceres.

Controllers discovered Dawn was in safe mode Sept. 11 after radiation disabled its ion engine, which uses electrical fields to “push” the spacecraft along. The radiation stopped all engine thrusting activities. The thrusting resumed Monday (Sept. 15) after controllers identified and fixed the problem, but then they found another anomaly troubling the spacecraft.

Dawn’s main antenna was also disabled, forcing the spacecraft to send signals to Earth (a 53-minute roundtrip by light speed) through a weaker secondary antenna and slowing communications. The cause of this problem hasn’t been figured out yet, but controllers suspect radiation affected the computer’s software. A computer reset has solved the issue, NASA added. The spacecraft is now functioning normally.

Blue Origin to build rocket engine for Atlas 5

The competition heats up: Jeff Bezos’s company Blue Origin has signed a contract with the United Launch Alliance to build a rocket engine for the Atlas 5 rocket so that it will no longer have to depend on Russian engines.

Neither executive [of either company] would discuss a dollar figure, although it’s likely somewhat less than $1 billion. Bruno said a typical liquid-fueled rocket engine takes seven years and $1 billion to develop, but Blue Origin is already several years along on the BE-4. Bruno said the engine could be ready within four years to serve as the main engine on the company’s Atlas V rockets.

This is excellent news, because it shows that ULA is being pro-active in solving this problem, rather then waiting for Congress to act.

Neil deGrasse Tyson under attack for fabricating quotes

A series of recent articles have attacked Neil deGrasse Tyson for fabricating quotes and other facts in this lectures and presentations. This article provides a good summary.

The article also notes how Tyson’s behavior is quite typical for too many modern scientists, especially those who have been touting human-caused global warming these past two decades.

In related news, climate scientist Judith Curry gave a talk at the National Press Club this week in which she outlined very cogently the real scientific debate and how politics is distorting that process. Unlike Tyson, Curry does not mince words about the data, and considers the fabrication of information to be a terrible thing for scientists to do.

And then there’s this: The Lonesomest Mann in Town.

Another contest where you can win a ticket to space

Spaceship Earth Grants (SEG) has launched a contest where it will give away one space flight ticket to fly on any available launch service for every 50,000 applications it receives.

The winner (or winners) will receive a trip aboard a spaceflight provider flight available at the time of the award announcement. In other words, should the likes of space tourism companies like Virgin Galactic or Space Adventures be capable of offering trips into space at the time, then the winning candidate would be booked aboard one of their flights. Subject, of course, to availability and the various restrictions one or all of these companies may impose, along with the rider that no promise is made to be able to fly on a particular carrier.

Be warned however, the application is not free. SEG will charge you from $15 to $90, the amount “dependent upon the relative wealth of the nation in which you live.”

Death Valley’s moving rocks

An evening pause: The detective story that solved the mystery of the moving rocks of Death Valley.

For a century, these eerie rocks and their long, graceful trails have stumped visitors and scientists. The boulders of black dolomite appear to move on their own, sliding uphill across the playa’s flat lakebed. The trails are the only evidence the rocks move. No one has ever seen them set sail.


NASA has chosen Boeing and SpaceX to build manned spacecraft to ferry crews to ISS

The competition heats up: NASA has made a decision and has chosen two companies to ferry astronauts to and from ISS, and those companies are Boeing and SpaceX.

I am watching the press conference on NASA television. Some quick details from NASA here.

This is a reasonable political and economic decision. It confirms that SpaceX is ready to go and gives the company the opportunity to finish the job, while also giving Boeing the chance to show that it can compete while also giving that pork to congressional districts.

Some details: After NASA has certified that each company has successfully built its spacecraft they will have then fly anywhere from four to six missions. The certification process will be step-by-step, similar to the methods used in the cargo contracts, and will involve five milestones. They will be paid incrementally as they meet these milestones.

One milestone will be a manned flight to ISS, with one NASA astronaut on board.

One more detail. Boeing will receive $4.2 billion while SpaceX will get $2.6 billion. These awards were based on what the companies proposed and requested.

I will have more to say about this tonight on Coast to Coast, as well as on the John Batchelor show.

Air Force to decide SpaceX certification on December 1

The competition heats up: The Air Force has set December 1 for its deadline for certifying SpaceX as qualified to launch military satellites.

“I root for SpaceX to come into the competition,” Gen. John Hyten, head of Air Force Space Command, said during a speech Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s annual conference. But he warned that the company may not be ready in time. “The most important thing for this nation is assured access to space that works all the time,” he said. “That’s why the certification for SpaceX, hopefully by Dec. 1, is a big event. But if they’re not ready on Dec. 1, we have to stand up and say that, and that’s going to be difficult because I want competition.”

It sounds like the Air Force is setting this date as when it will decide one way or the other, regardless of anything SpaceX has done. I also suspect that, because of politics, this decision will hinge on what NASA decides today concerning its commercial crew contract.

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