XCOR layoffs, ending Lynx?

In the heat of competition: XCOR has laid off the staff working on its Lynx suborbital spaceplane.

The company has apparently decided to focus on those things that are generating revenues. Lynx was years behind schedule, unfinished with no prospect for profit, as it was only a prototype, not the spaceplane that could be used to fly tourists.

As much as I am not surprised (I have been skeptical of XCOR’s Lynx suborbital project since they announced it in 2008), I am saddened, because I really did want them to succeed.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

More enraged anti-American protests against Trump

Feel the hate: Though there was less violence than previous anti-Trump protests, the protesters yesterday in San Diego, as shown by this report, illustrated several things about what they stand for.

First, they hate the United States. Just look at the plethora of Mexican flags, as well as the signs, including one that proudly reads, “America was never great,” with the word America made of dripping blood.

Second, they hate Trump. Once again, their signs and behavior, including attacking any Trump supporters that happened walk by, prove this.

Three, they hate knowledge. In this case the sign that reads “We are all women! Mexican! Muslim! Love trumps hate!” illustrates this, since it incoherently supports women and Islam at the same time, somehow forgetting that Islam is probably the world’s most aggressive oppressive of women.

Four, they hate whites, demonstrated by the signs that read “Brown power will rise!!!” and “Black and Brown lives matter” (found here).

I could go on. What I really want to note is that these people, who also make very clear their leftwing agenda, simply hate. The anger and intolerance of those they disagree with or have a skin color (white) they don’t like, is obvious and disgusting. What I find interesting is the left has always been this way, but for some reason they no longer feel a need to disguise it.

High speed Falcon 9 first stage camera view

SpaceX has released a high speed version of the camera view taken from the camera mounted on the Falcon 9 first stage that successfully landed on a barge on Friday.

I have embedded that video below the fold. Quite entertaining, though it emphasizes how much the flight resembles a high speed roller coaster ride.
» Read more

Russia tests a missile designed to take out satellites

According to one press report tonight, Russia has successfully tested a new anti-satellite missile designed to destroy orbiting satellites.

There are a lot of unknowns here, including the fact that the report provides little information, including any data to explain how they know that it is an anti-satellite missile.

NASA to try module expansion again on Saturday

NASA will try again on Saturday to expand the privately built BEAM module on ISS.

They think the reason the module didn’t inflate as planned the first time is because it has been packed ready for launch for more than fifteen months, ten months longer than originally planned.

That extra time in a tight squeeze might explain why the first inflation attempt didn’t go as planned. BEAM’s Kevlar-like fabric “layers have a memory to them,” Lisa Kauke, BEAM deputy program manager at Bigelow Aerospace, said during today’s teleconference. “The longer they’re packed, the more they’re compressed, and then it takes a little while for the shape to return.” This interpretation is bolstered by the fact that BEAM continued to expand overnight Thursday into Friday morning, even though no more air was being pumped in, Crusan said.

Want to buy your own 747?

You can!

Virgin Atlantic’s first-ever Boeing 747 jumbo jet has been listed for sale on eBay with a starting bid of more than a quarter million dollars and a ‘buy it now’ price of $900,000 (£615,000). The retired double-decker plane, called Lady Penelope, was taken out of service last year and is gathering dust at an aircraft boneyard, but it could see new life as a hotel or restaurant, depending on the buyer’s intentions.

Here is the ebay listing.

Sadly, it can no longer fly as its engines have been removed. You will have to take it apart and ship it yourself.

SpaceX does it again!

SpaceX is beginning to make the landings of its Falcon 9 first stage routine. They just successfully landed another first stage on their drone ship, even though this was once again a difficult geosynchronous satellite launch with high speeds and limited available fuel.

It also appears that they will also successfully place the commercial satellite in orbit.

Rosetta finds organic compounds at Comet 67P/C-G

Rosetta’s scientists have detected the amino acid glycine as well as other organic molecules in the atmosphere of Comet 67P/C-G.

Glycine is very hard to detect due to its non-reactive nature: it sublimates at slightly below 150°C, meaning that little is released as gas from the comet’s surface or subsurface due to its cold temperatures. “We see a strong correlation of glycine to dust, suggesting that it is probably released from the grains’ icy mantles once they have warmed up in the coma, perhaps together with other volatiles,” says Altwegg. At the same time, the researchers also detected the organic molecules methylamine and ethylamine, which are precursors to forming glycine. Unlike other amino acids, glycine is the only one that has been shown to be able to form without liquid water. “The simultaneous presence of methylamine and ethylamine, and the correlation between dust and glycine, also hints at how the glycine was formed”, says Altwegg.

New Horizons’ best Pluto close-up

Pitted nitrogen ice plains on Pluto

The New Horizons science team has released the highest resolution image across Pluto’s face, taken by the spacecraft during its flyby last year.

This mosaic strip, extending across the hemisphere that faced the New Horizons spacecraft as it flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, now includes all of the highest-resolution images taken by the NASA probe. With a resolution of about 260 feet (80 meters) per pixel, the mosaic affords New Horizons scientists and the public the best opportunity to examine the fine details of the various types of terrain the mosaic covers, and determine the processes that formed and shaped them.

The view extends from the “limb” of Pluto at the top of the strip, almost to the “terminator” (or day/night line) in the southeast of the encounter hemisphere, seen at the bottom of the strip. The width of the strip ranges from more than 55 miles (90 kilometers) at its northern end to about 45 miles (75 kilometers) at its southern end. The perspective changes greatly along the strip: at its northern end, the view looks out horizontally across the surface, while at its southern end, the view looks straight down onto the surface.

Go to the full image, go to its top, center your browser on the image, and then pan down slowly to see it in all its glory. The image above is cropped from about two-thirds of the way down, about when the terrain is transitioning from what they call cellular nitrogen ice plains to pitted non-cellular nitrogen ice plains. It includes what looks like a cluster of cave pits on the left.

They have also provided a video which does the same as panning down yourself, but adds a scale and labeling.

Microsoft and Facebook to lay Atlantic cable

Microsoft and Facebook have announced plans to lay a trans-Atlantic communications cable from Virginia to Spain.

Running from Virginia Beach, Virgina to Bilbao, Spain, MAREA (which is Spanish for “tide”), it will be the first cable to connect the US to southern Europe, over a distance of 6,600 km (4,100 miles). From Blibao, it will connect to network hubs in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia, with the goal of improving speed and reliability. For Microsoft this means improvements for users of its cloud services, such as Bing, Office 365, Skype, Xbox Live, and Microsoft Azure, while for Facebook it means improvements for users of its eponymous social network.

I find this story very puzzling. The whole reason communication satellites exist is because they have historically been far cheaper to build and launch with far greater capacity than ocean cables. Thus, the decision of these companies to go with an undersea cable instead of satellites suggests that something has changed in that equation, though I can’t see what. Have undersea cables improved so much that they have a bigger capacity than satellites, so much bigger that it compensates for the higher cost of installation and maintenance?

Health insurance premiums to rise 24% because of Obamacare

Finding out what’s in it: Because of Obamacare, health insurance companies across the nation are requesting rate increases next year ranging from 8 to 65%, with the average increase running about 24%.

Too bad no one predicted this, except for every conservative think tank, every Republican politician, and the entire Tea Party movement. Luckily, President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party had our backs, and ignored those predictions. Otherwise, where would we be?

Belize and Guatemala

During my caving trip to Belize last week, we reserved one day off to do some sightseeing. The goal that day was to visit the Mayan ruins of Tikal, across the border in Guatemala about three hours from our resort in Belize.

Arranging this trip was not straightforward. We couldn’t simply get in our rental car and drive off. Locals have found it a bad idea to drive Belizean vehicles in Guatemala, as they are more likely to be attacked. So, the resort arranged for a Belizean driver to take us to the border, where it also arranged for us to be met by a Guatemalan tour guide with her own car.

On the way, we drove through several small towns of both Guatemala and Belize, as shown by the two photos below, with Santa Elena, Belize on top.
» Read more

Planetary Resources has raised $21 million

The competition heats up: Planetary Resources, the company that claims its goal is to mine asteroids, has raised $21 million to build and launch an Earth resources satellite.

They plan to create a 10-satellite constellation to provide this data commercially.

While everything this company is doing will eventually make asteroid mining easier and more effective, nothing they are doing now has anything to do with mining asteroids. Their first project was to build a prototype orbiting telescope to look for asteroids. This second project will sell data about the Earth.

Jupiter exoplanet around baby star

The uncertainty of science: Astronomers have discovered a Jupiter-class exoplanet orbiting a very young star, something their models of planetary formation told them shouldn’t happen.

“For decades, conventional wisdom held that large Jupiter-mass planets take a minimum of 10 million years to form,” said Christopher Johns-Krull, the lead author of a new study about the planet, CI Tau b, that will be published in The Astrophysical Journal. “That’s been called into question over the past decade, and many new ideas have been offered, but the bottom line is that we need to identify a number of newly formed planets around young stars if we hope to fully understand planet formation.”

CI Tau b is at least eight times larger than Jupiter and orbits a 2 million-year-old star about 450 light years from Earth in the constellation Taurus.

In other words, a planet that, according to the present models for planetary formation, supposedly needs 10 million years to form is orbiting a star only 2 million years old. In other words, the models are wrong. We simply don’t know enough yet about planetary formation to create any reliable models.

Another look at what President Trump would likely do

Link here. The author tries to thoughtfully predict what Trump will do should he win the Presidency, based on his record. This quote at the article’s beginning however describes Trump quite accurately:

My biases are clear up front: I don’t trust Trump. I don’t trust his promises, because he has shown no willingness to hold to them. I don’t trust his ideology, because he proclaims that his guiding star is his own self-assurance. I trust Trump to be Trump: a man of convenience, a thinker of no great depth, a reactionary with no constitutional understanding and a willingness to maximize executive power.

The analysis is fair, however, and notes some smart things Trump might do, based on his past record, as well as the dumb things we can expect from him.

I post this not to suggest I prefer Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. I do not. Clinton is a corrupt, power-hungry leftwing ideologue who will magnify all the bad things Barack Obama has done, supported by a corrupt, power-hungry leftwing Democratic Party that likes everything Barack Obama has done. We need to do everything we can to prevent her election.

At the same time, we mustn’t blind ourselves to the problems we will face should Trump win. This article is a warning. Prepare yourself, because things are not going to be much better under a Trump presidency, and the best option for minimizing that damage is to make sure Congress is as conservative as possible.

IRS steals millions from people for depositing the wrong amount of money

Theft by government: IRS has confiscated $43 million from more than 600 innocent individuals merely because they did large cash transactions just under $10K.

The law in question forbids people from purposely breaking up deposits so that they are under $10,000 in order to avoid reporting the deposit to the government, and was originally written to target drug dealers. Instead, the government has been using it as a convenient way to steal people’s money.

After issuing a Freedom of Information Act request to the IRS, the Institute for Justice found 618 cases from 2007 to 2013 where the IRS seized funds without evidence of underlying criminal wrongdoing. When the Institute for Justice requested more information about these cases, the IRS said the group would have to pay a quarter million dollar fee because the request fell into the category of “commercial use.”

According to [Robert Johnson, lawyer for one individual whose bank account was seized], the IRS is still harassing small business owners because of their bank deposits despite the 2015 rule change [that supposedly required evidence of criminal activity before confiscation]. “Shockingly, when the IRS engages in such tactics, it can use the money that it takes to pad its own budget,” Johnson said. “When the IRS uses civil forfeiture to take money for structuring violations, the money is deposited in the Treasury Forfeiture Fund. In other words, the money that the IRS takes from hardworking Americans can be put back to work to seize money from additional Americans,” he said.

Read it all. The IRS has admitted that the individuals from whom they seized this money had committed no crime. Yet they still refuse to return the money.

D.C. ignores 2nd amendment court order

The law is such an inconvenient thing: In denying a reporter a concealed carry permit, police officers told him that attorney general of D.C. had ordered them to ignore the court order requiring the city to issue permits.

The attorney general has since denied this illegal policy, but the reporter still doesn’t have his permit.

TMT calls for removal of official supervising permit process

The University of Hawaii has filed a motion to have the hearing officer in charge of the new permitting process for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) removed.

What the lawyers for TMT appear to be doing is trying to prevent further delaying tactics by those opposing the telescope. Their motion describes these delaying tactics, which involve questioning the objectivity of various officials involved, but doing it piecemeal in order to slow the permitting process down as much as possible. The officer in question has membership in an astronomy center, and though the anti-TMT forces have not yet questioned this, TMT lawyers want to act now to remove that possibility later.

Once again, I think TMT officials are spinning their wheels. Hawaii will never give them permission to build TMT. Read the ten-point plan of Hawaii’s governor for protecting Mauna Kea and you will agree. They should move the telescope to a more friendly location as soon as possible.

Bigelow’s ISS module expansion halted

Engineers called a halt today to the expansion of Bigelow’s BEAM module on ISS when the procedure did not go as planned.

Originally, the plan was to use air from tanks located inside BEAM to inflate these bladders, however analysis showed that this could cause expansion to occur too fast and potentially place damagingly high loads on the ISS in the process, so instead the air will be supplied from the station in a more controlled manner. It was not actually known precisely how the inflation dynamics would occur, as it has only ever been done twice before (Genesis I and II), neither of which were viewable from external cameras such as those found on the ISS.

This proved to be a learning curve, as after two hours of adding a few seconds of air into the module, only the width expanded, as opposed to the length. Mission controllers decided it would be best to defer operations for the day to allow them to evaluate the next steps.

1 2 3 472