ISS data lowers radiation risk for humans in space

Good news: Data collected on ISS for the past decade now suggests that the human body does a better job of shielding its internal organs from space radiation than previously believed.

For an astronaut working inside the space station, the overestimate was about 15 percent — a fairly close correlation given that the station’s exterior shell provides much of the protection needed.

But for astronauts working outside the station, the radiation absorption measured was substantially less than what had been registered by the personal dosimeters worn by astronauts. “Measurements of a personal dosimeter dramatically overstate the exposure of an astronaut, in the worst case by a factor of three,” according to a summary of the results by a Euro-Russian team. “[I]n an outside exposure the self-shielding of the human body is very effective. … [T]he effective dose equivalent is less than 30 percent higher than in an inside exposure.”

In other words, humans could fly 30 percent longer in space with the present shielding and suffer far less exposure than expected. Though this data is for operations in low Earth orbit, it still provides a strong counter to the bad news recently released about the high amounts of dangerous radiation expected in interplanetary space due to the Sun’s recent low sunspot activity. Even if radiation levels are higher, the human body is more resilient than expected. Interplanetary space travel is still possible.

Lawsuit could delay Cygnus cargo flight in April

A lawsuit between Orbital Sciences and one of its subcontractors threatens to delay the planned April launch of Antares/Cygnus to ISS.

The lawsuit, filed Oct. 21 with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, centers around a roughly $2 million contract Orbital Sciences awarded in 2013 to defendants Integrated Systems and Machinery of Smithtown, New York, and its owner, Kevin Huber. The contract called for Huber’s company to build new gimbals and cylinders for the hydraulic system used by the slow-moving, truck-like Transporter Erector vehicle that hauls Orbital’s Antares cargo rocket and Cygnus space freighter out of their Wallops Island, Virginia, hangar and raises them vertical at their Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport launch pad over a kilometer away.

Orbital’s third cargo run to the ISS — which at press time was still slated to launch Oct. 27 — can proceed without the withheld hardware. However, Orbital is obligated under an agreement with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s host state to upgrade the Transporter Erector before launching its fourth contracted cargo run, the debut of a bigger, heavier Cygnus cargo tug.

I don’t really expect this dispute to delay the April launch. What we have here is a case of hardball negotiations, with the subcontractor using the situation to try to squeeze more money out of Orbital Sciences. In the end they will come to an agreement and the upgrade will be installed.

Falcon 9 first stage to land on floating platform

The competition heats up: During an event at MIT on Friday Elon Musk revealed that SpaceX will to try to land first stage of the next Falcon 9 launch on a floating platform.

“We actually have a huge platform that’s being constructed in a shipyard in Louisiana right now,” Musk said in the interview, which was webcast live. He described the platform as about 90 meters long by 50 meters wide. “We’re going to try and land on that on the next flight.”

If the stage successfully lands on the platform, Musk said, it could potentially fly again. He put the odds of success at no greater than 50 percent for this particular attempt, but was more optimistic about the company’s chances of landing on the platform on a future mission. “There’s at least a dozen launches that will occur over the next 12 months,” Musk said. “I think it’s quite likely — probably 80 to 90 percent likely — that one of those flights will be able to land and refly.”

Based on everything this company has promised and later actually delivered, I would be willing to bet that they will do exactly as Musk says, and that sometime in the next year they will successfully recover the first stage of their rocket, an achievement that will shake the entire launch industry to its foundations.

Democrats demand the right to regulate internet speech

Fascists: The Democrats on the Federal Election Commission on Friday called for the heavy regulation of speech on the internet.

In a surprise move late Friday, a key Democrat on the Federal Election Commission called for burdensome new rules on Internet-based campaigning, prompting the Republican chairman to warn that the Left wants to regulate conservative political sites and even news outlets like the Drudge Report.

Democratic FEC Vice Chair Ann M. Ravel announced plans to begin the process to win regulations on Internet-based campaigns and videos, currently free from most of the FEC’s rules. “A reexamination of the commission’s approach to the internet and other emerging technologies is long over due,” she said.

And if you vote for these thugs, you identify yourself as someone supporting fascism.

New sky-diving record by Google executive

The competition heats up: A Google executive successfully set a new sky-diving record on Friday, diving from 135 thousand feet as part of an engineering effort to build “a self-contained commercial spacesuit that would allow people to explore some 20 miles above the Earth’s surface.”

After nearly three years of intense planning, development and training, Eustace began his ascent via a high-altitude, helium-filled balloon just as the sun was rising. It took more than two hours to hit a record altitude of 135,908 feet, from which he separated himself from the balloon and started plummeting back to Earth.

Wearing his specially designed spacesuit, Eustace hit a top velocity of 822 mph during a freefall that lasted 4 1/2 minutes. Jim Hayhurst, director of competition at the United States Parachute Association, was the jump’s official observer. He said Eustace deployed a drogue parachute that gave him incredible stability and control despite the massive Mach 1.23 speed reached during the freefall. Eustace didn’t feel it when he broke the sound barrier, but the ground crew certainly heard the resulting sonic boom, Hayhurst said.

This flight suggests that the technology for doing these kinds of sky-dives from the very edge of space is beginning to mature, and might even be available soon for passengers on tourist flights.

Heath insurance premiums skyrocketed because of Obamacare

Finding out what’s in it: A new study has confirmed that Obamacare caused dramatic cost increases in health insurance premiums in 2014.

Read the article. Its facts are indisputable and quite depressing. Obamacare is destroying the health insurance industry, which in turn will eventually destroy the health care industry.

Why anyone would vote for the people that gave us this law is beyond my comprehension. Unfortunately, millions are going to, and based on my analysis of the trends of recent polls, the Republicans might get a majority in the Senate but just barely. In a sane world (as used to happen in the past), this would instead have been a landslide election, the voters kicking the Democrats out of power and thus forcing that party to clean house and find better people to run as their candidates.

Sadly, too many Americans instead seem to be as disconnected from reality as their leaders, and increasingly choose party over reality and bankruptcy over competence when they vote.

More brainlessness from Ebola experts and government operatives

Disconnected from reality: A liberal doctor, having just returned from Guinea where he was frequently exposed to ebola, wandered about New York City for days, thus ignoring government protocols that required him to limit his contact with outsiders.

Lo and behold, 9 days after his return he is diagnosed with Ebola. But that’s okay, he meant well! He cared!

However, this isn’t the worst of it. The police, after securing the doctor’s apartment, removed their gloves and masks used to protect them and dumped them in an ordinary street trash container on a public street.

Check out the pictures at the website. As stupid and unbelievable as it seems, it’s true. Don’t they see how insane this is, how completely disconnected from reality they are? Sadly no, they don’t. Expect more madness like this in the coming days.

Sierra Nevada announces an X-37B version of Dream Chaser

The competition heats up: In a press release today, Sierra Nevada has announced plans to build a version of Dream Chaser optimized for science research.

The Dream Chaser for Science, or DC4Science, spacecraft is designed to fly independently for short and extended durations to provide customers in such fields as biotech and pharmaceuticals, biology and life science, and material and fluid science with a flexible and evolvable vehicle easily suited for individual mission requirements.

More details here.

I call this version of Dream Chaser a variation of the X-37B because that is essentially what it would be, an unmanned reusable robot vehicle capable of taking experiments into space for periods of time and then bringing them safely back to Earth on a runway.

What Sierra Nevada is doing by announcing this now, shortly after the landing of the X-37B, is selling the concept in an effort to drum up customers who will then invest in the vehicle and thus help fund its construction.

India’s manned space program

This short article gives us a short but detailed look at India’s plans for manned space, describing both the first test flight of a engineering version of their manned capsule in a little more than a month and the program’s overall goals.

The test flight:

“The first test trial, that of the crew module, will be undertaken in November last week or December first week on the GSLV MK-III,” [Isro chairman K Radhakrishnan told Deccan Herald.] The crew module will be injected into orbit by the GSLV at a height of 110-120 km in space from where it will fall towards the earth and be recovered from sea. Isro will examine how the crew module and thermal shield around it handle the heat and temperatures during re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere.

Their eventual goal is to put two astronauts in orbit for seven days. To do that they will first have to complete at least four to six test launches of their new GSLV MK-III rocket, which has only completed one successful launch after literally two decades of failures. If successful, the test flight described above will be GSLV’s second successful launch.

Note that because of poor writing the article gives the improper impression that the test flight will be manned. It will not. Also, the article states incorrectly that the space shuttle Columbia broke up during re-entry because “the thermal heat shields could not withstand the heat.” This is false. The heat shield would have worked fine, as it had done on numerous previous launches, except that there were gaping holes in it that were put there by pieces of foam during launch.

Chinese lunar mission launches

The competition heats up: The Chinese have launched their next lunar mission, a fly-by around the Moon to test their return-to-Earth engineering in anticipation of a future sample return mission.

Chang’e 5-T1, one of the test models for Chang’e-5, was developed using a Chang’e 2 type spacecraft (acting like a service module) featuring the Chang’e-5 return capsule. This return capsule is very similar to the Shenzhou manned return technology, so it is assumed that it was developed using the Shenzhou as a baseline model. The service module will be used for trajectory corrections, power supply using two solar panels and batteries, along with telemetry and commands transmission to and from the control center.

Following launch, Chang’e 5-T1 will be injected into a lunar free-return orbit, loop behind the Moon once and return to Earth to test the high speed atmospheric reentry of a capsule returning from the translunar voyage at 11.2 km/s.

This launch marks the start of this nine day mission. Stay tuned for updates.

Comet 67P/C-G smells!

Instruments on Rosetta have determined that the various molecules coming off Comet 67P/C-G have a strong aroma.

You might expect a rock that spends all its time in a vacuum to be fairly inoffensive, but in fact exposure to sunlight is causing it to give off quite an aroma: hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, and other caustic gases would make it smell “suffocating,” like a cross between a filthy barn, an embalming room, and a rotten egg.

55,000 Connecticut citizens to lose their health plans

Finding out what’s in it: Because of Obamacare, tens of thousands in Connecticut are expected to lose their health plans this year.

For about the past week or so, health insurance broker Stephen Hunt has been getting phone calls from unhappy clients. “They just keep building up and up and up and up and up,” Hunt said.

The calls are coming from clients who have been notified by their insurer that their policy expires at year’s end and most will have to purchase plans with much higher premiums and much higher deductibles, he said. “We’re not talking about a minor difference in premium. We’re talking about a mortgage payment difference in premium for a lot of people,” Hunt said.

How can this be? Obama and the Democratic Party promised us that under Obamacare, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. Period.” They couldn’t have been so stupid as to propose a law that would do exactly the opposite of what they promised, could they? They wouldn’t lie, would they?

Problems at the National Weather Service?

According to this news report, since Tuesday the National Weather Service has lost access to some of its satellite data.

The story is very unclear and might not be accurate. For example, it does not state where the problem is. Has a specific satellite failed? Or is the problem on the ground, preventing the NWS from processing data from any of its satellites? It also seems puzzling for such a significant failure to occur on Tuesday and only now on Thursday does anyone notice. I have seen no other news stories about this outage.

Next Angara test flight in December

The competition heats up: According to one Russian official, the next test flight of Russia’s new Angara rocket will take place before the end of December.

Another Russian news story says that the Angara test program will involve ten flights and that the target cost for the rocket’s most powerful configuration will be around $100 million. Depending on how much payload this configuration can put in orbit, this price makes it very competitive with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.

Orion ready for launchpad!

Be still my heart! NASA has completed the assembly of the Orion capsule stack, prior to installing it on its rocket on the launchpad.

I remain decidedly unexcited by this upcoming test flight, which will send Orion up to 3,600 miles and then bring it back to Earth at about 20,000 miles per hour to test the spacecraft’s heat shield.

For example, the exaggerations and overstatements in this one short article tell you a great deal about how oversold the SLS/Orion program is.
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Increasing activity at Comet 67P/C-G

Data from Rosetta in the past month has been showing a steady and gradual increase in dust emissions from the surface.

While images obtained a few months ago showed distinct jets of dust leaving the comet, these were limited to the ‘neck’ region. More recently, images obtained by Rosetta’s scientific imaging system, OSIRIS, show that dust is being emitted along almost the whole body of the comet. Jets have also been detected on the smaller lobe of the comet. “At this point, we believe that a large fraction of the illuminated comet’s surface is displaying some level of activity,” says OSIRIS scientist Jean-Baptiste Vincent from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany.

The last two images at the link compare the same location with one image overexposed to make the jets visible. What is interesting is that the source of the jet is not evident in the other normally exposed image. It is almost as if surface material is simply heating up and then using that extra energy to simply throw itself off the surface. Why that then forms jets however is puzzling.

More info here.

Titan’s atmosphere is unexpectedly unbalanced

The uncertainty of science: New data from the ground-based telescope ALMA suggest that certain organic molecules in Titan’s atmosphere are not evenly distributed through the atmosphere as expected.

At the highest altitudes, the pockets of organic molecules were shifted away from the poles. These off-pole concentrations are unexpected because the fast-moving, east-west winds in Titan’s middle atmosphere should thoroughly mix the molecules formed there. The researchers do not have an obvious explanation for these findings yet.

I would not take these results too seriously, as the data are very sketchy. With better data many of these questions will vanish, replaced by new questions that are better based on reality.

Another failure for Russia’s Proton rocket?

Unconfirmed sources today are suggesting that Tuesday’s Proton launch of a Russian communications satellite placed the satellite in the wrong orbit.

A report appearing on NASASpaceFlight (NSF) has indicated that while the initial phase of the launch of the Russian Ekspress AM-6 telecommunications satellite might have gone off as planned – the later stages of the mission were less than perfect. NSF’s Chris Bergin reported via Twitter that, although the spacecraft had been placed into the wrong orbit – it should be able to be placed into the correct orbit over time. How much time and what the exact cause as to why the satellite may have been placed into an improper orbit – have yet to emerge. In fact, officials within the Russian space industry have stated that the spacecraft is, in actuality, in the correct orbit.

If these sources are correct it will be a very bad problem for Russia’s aerospace industry, now consolidated into a single giant corporation run by the central government. Proton has had numerous failures in the past three years, all caused by serious quality control problems in Russia’s entire space industry. Another failure here will only add weight to this conclusion.

Voter fraud in Colorado

A new undercover video reveals numerous Colorado Democratic operatives eager and willing to take advantage of the state’s new Democratically written and passed mail-in voter law to encourage voter fraud.

The law is so leaky that almost anyone can commit voter fraud, voting multiple times.

Colorado secretary of state Scott Gessler, along with several county election clerks, have raised warning flags that a new state law that automatically mails a ballot to everyone is an engraved invitation to commit fraud. “Sending ballots to people who did not even ask for them or have moved out of state is asking for trouble” he told me. For example, little can stop someone who collects discarded ballots from trash cans, fills out the ballots, and mails them in. Election workers are supposed to compare signatures on registration records with signed ballots. But if a person has a “witness” who signs the ballot on the witness line, then the signatures do not have to match and the vote is counted. … Gessler had futile arguments with Democratic state legislators last year who insisted on ramming a bill through that mandated Colorado become the only state in the nation with both all-mail balloting and same-day registration.

The new video shows numerous Democrat and liberal activists thrilled with the idea of using the law to vote multiple times for their candidates.

India begins tests of larger rocket engine

The competition heats up: Indian engineers have successfully completed their first tests of a new more powerful upper stage engine for their biggest launch rocket.

Taking a big step forward in the development of bigger and more powerful locally-built rocket engines, the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) on Monday successfully conducted the first ‘cold flow test’ on the CE-20 cryogenic engine, which will power the upper stage of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mk III (GSLV-Mk III). “It’s a milestone,” LPSC director Dr K Sivan told ‘Express’ here on Tuesday, confirming that the test had gone as planned at the LPSC facility in Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu. The first ‘hot test’ – where the engine will be fired for a few seconds- will be performed in three weeks’ time, Sivan said.

In a cold test, the propellants are not ignited. On Monday, the fuel, Liquid Hydrogen (LH2), and the oxidiser, Liquid Oxygen (LOX), were injected into the chambers for the checking of various parameters.

In related news, Mangalyaan has taken another global view of Mars.

California orders churches to fund abortions

Fascists: In a sudden change to its health insurance regulations, leftwing California is now requiring churches to fund abortions.

California’s Department of Managed Health Care has ordered all insurance plans in the state to immediately begin covering elective abortion. Not Plan B. Not contraceptives. Elective surgical dismemberment abortion. At the insistence of the American Civil Liberties Union, the DMHC concluded that a 40-year-old state law requiring health plans to cover “basic health services” had been misinterpreted all these decades. Every plan in the state was immediately ordered, effective August 22, to cover elective abortion. California had not even applied this test to its own state employee health plans (which covered only “medically necessary” abortions). But this novel reading was nevertheless quietly imposed on every plan in the state by fiat.

… Several other California churches have received similar notices from their insurers, and others will follow. While California (like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS) exempts churches from its contraceptive mandate, there is no exception to this bureaucratic abortion mandate. This leaves California churches in the illogical and impossible position of being free to exclude contraceptives from their health plan for reasons of religious conscience but required to provide their employees with abortion coverage.

This is clear proof that the left’s long claim that it is the champion of freedom and religious liberty is quite hollow, and if any speech or religion happens to believe something different than the left, the left is going to aggressively move to deny it its freedom.

A Mandelbrot set zoom animation out-take

An evening pause: The creator of this computer animation calls this an out-take and explains why:

What is a Mandelbrot zoom blooper? It’s what happens when you commit 6 months of computing time on three computers to create something that doesn’t turn out the way you expect! The color rotations that begin at 1:36 were unintentional. However, the side effect is that the animation is much more psychedelic than expected due to the color cycling and also brings out details that are not apparent with still images.

I just find it fascinating how this illustrates the endlessly deep and infinite complexity of existence.

Hat tip tdub.

Court allows work on commercial crew to go forward

The court today ruled that NASA’s contract awards to SpaceX and Boeing for manned ferries to ISS can continue despite Sierra Nevada’s protest.

The decision on the protest itself is still pending.

A citizen pulls over a cop and issues him a warning

Watch the video below the fold. The citizen saw a cop on patrol in an unmarked car, which is illegal in Washington, and flagged him down to tell him that he was in violation of the law.

Seim then went through all the normal steps of a traffic stop: taking the officer’s name and asking to see his license. Then after a lengthy discussion about the law, Seim let him off with a warning. He urged the officer to speak with his bosses about their illegal patrol cars.

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