Category Archives: Behind The Black

Another intriguing pit on Mars

pit on Mars

Cool image time! In the June release of images from the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, I came across the image on the right, cropped slightly to post here, of a pit in a region dubbed Hephaestus Fossae that is located just at the margin of Mars’s vast northern plains.

Below and to the right is an annotated second image showing the area around this pit. If you click on it you can see the full resolution image, uncropped, and unannotated.

wider view of pit

The scale bar is based on the 25 centimeter per pixel scale provided at the image link. Based on this, this pit is only about ten to fifteen meters across, or 30 to 50 feet wide. The image webpage says the sun was 39 degrees above the horizon, with what they call a sun angle of 51 degrees. Based on these angles, the shadow on the floor of the pit suggests it is about the same depth, 30 to 50 feet.

The shadows suggest overhung walls. This, plus the presence of nearby aligned sinks, strongly suggests that there are extensive underground passages leading away from this pit.

For a caver on Earth to drop into a pit 30 to 50 feet deep is nowadays a trivial thing. You rig a rope (properly), put on your vertical system, and rappel in. When you want to leave you use that same vertical system to climb the rope, using mechanical cams that slide up the rope but will not slide down.

On Mars such a climb would be both easier and harder. The gravity is only one third that of Earth, but the lack of atmosphere means you must wear some form of spacesuit. Moreover, this system is not great for getting large amounts of gear up and down. Usually, people only bring what they can carry in a pack. To use this Martian pit as a habitat will require easier access, preferable by a wheeled vehicle that can drive in.

The pit’s location however is intriguing. The map below shows its location on a global map of Mars. This region is part of the Utopia Basin, the place with the second lowest elevation on Mars.
» Read more

Share

California outlaws same day laundry and showers

Fascist California: A new draconian law in California makes it a crime to shower and do laundry on the same day.

Essentially, the law limits water use to levels that make it impossible to shower/bathe and do laundry on the same day. It also threatens fines of $1,000 and $10,000 per day, and requires water utilities to track customer use to find violators. And not surprisingly for a fascist state, it provides a method for allowing waivers to its inner circle:

Oh, and don’t worry, rich people. There will be “provisions for swimming pools, spas, and other water features.” So you can still have your pretty fountains and pools while the rest of the peons take 2 showers a week. One might wonder if ‘variances” will apply to the wealthy for their landscaping needs. “The State Water Resources Control Board, which will oversee local agencies’ progress, will also consider possible ‘variances’ for some districts that need additional allowances due to specific local circumstances.”

There’s more. Read it all. The author also makes the important point that this law will likely raise the cost of food nationwide, or cause some shortages because it will make life hell for California’s farmers.

More and more, it appears that the leftist Democrats in control in California are working to turn the Golden State into Venezuela.

Share

Homeland Security to track bloggers and journalists

You gotta have your KGB: Homeland Security has revealed that it is putting together a program to track bloggers, journalists, and what it calls “Social Media Influencers.”

[T]he Department of Homeland Security has just announced that it intends to compile a comprehensive list of hundreds of thousands of “journalists, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, bloggers etc.”, and collect any “information that could be relevant” about them.

So if you have a website, an important blog or you are just very active on social media, the Department of Homeland Security is going to put you on a list and will start collecting information about you. The DHS has already announced that it will hire a contractor to aid in monitoring media coverage, and they will definitely need plenty of help because it is going to be a very big job…

The article above then quotes from another news story describing this Orwellian plan:

As part of its “media monitoring,” the DHS seeks to track more than 290,000 global news sources as well as social media in over 100 languages, including Arabic, Chinese and Russian, for instant translation into English. The successful contracting company will have “24/7 access to a password protected, media influencer database, including journalists, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, bloggers etc.” in order to “identify any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event.”

This is quite vile, but no surprise. From its very inception after 9/11 Homeland Security was designed to violate numerous rights listed in the Bill of Rights. We are now seeing those violations play out. Worse should certainly be expected as well.

I hope they track Behind the Black. If they try to squelch me the publicity might do the site good.

Meanwhile, where is Trump in this? That this program is going forward under his watch illustrates once again that Trump really is not that much different than the swamp in Washington he claims a desire to drain. He has undeniably forced a lot of positive change in DC, but his lack of understanding of the philosophical battle allows him to permit this kind of abuse. This program centers power in the executive branch, something that Trump doesn’t really mind.

Share

Anti-spam filter for comments fixed!

Readers: After a intense and much appreciated effort, my new anti-spam filter, Anti-Spam by CleanTalk, has solved the commenting problem that has plagued the website for the past two months. It seems the re-Captcha plugin was interfering with every anti-spam filter I tried, thus throwing all comments into the spam folder.

As they have advised, I have deactived re-Captcha (something I think my readers will like anyway), and comments now appear to be properly screened, with legitimate comments posting immediately and spam getting blocked.

Thank you CleanTalk! I must further add that in my effort to fix this problem, I tried five different anti-spam filters. Only CleanTalk was willing to work with me. All the other filters were typical software operations, treating the customer as an annoyance that they wished would go away.

CleanTalk’s personal support was refreshing and very much appreciated. If only more software operations would do the same.

Share

NASA administrator in talks about commercializing ISS

In a wide-ranging news article today, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine revealed that the agency is in discussions with many private corporations about the possibility of privatizing ISS.

Bridenstine declined to name the companies that have expressed interest in managing the station, and said he was aware that companies may find it “hard to close the business case.” But he said there was still seven years to plan for the future of the station, and with the White House’s budget request “we have forced the conversation.”

Bridenstine’s approach to ISS’s future seems reasonable to me. At some point the federal government needs to face the station’s future, and now is a better time to do it then later.

The article however confirmed my generally meh opinion of Bridenstine. First, he reiterated his born-again new belief in human-caused global warming, a belief that seemed to arrive solely for him to gain the votes to get him confirmed in the Senate.

Second, he said this about LOP-G, NASA’s proposed international space station that would fly in lunar space.

Known as the Lunar Orbiting Platform Gateway, the system would be built by NASA in partnership with industry and its international partners, he said.

“I’ve met with a lot of leaders of space agencies from around the world,” he said. “There is a lot of interest in the Gateway in the lunar outpost because a lot of countries want to have access to the surface of the moon. And this can help them as well and they can help us. It helps expand the partnership that we’ve seen in low Earth orbit with the International Space Station.”

But the first element of the system wouldn’t be launched until 2021 or 2022, he said. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words illustrate why Bridenstine seems like a lightweight to me. LOP-G might be flying near the Moon, but nothing about it will provide anyone any access to the lunar surface. Not only will it not be operational in any manner for more than a decade, at the soonest, but it doesn’t appear designed to make reaching the lunar surface any easier. Instead, it mostly seems designed to justify SLS and Orion, and provide that boondoggle a mission.

Still, Bridenstine has in the past been generally in favor of commercial space, and that position appears to be benefiting NASA’s commercial crew partners. Prior to Bridenstine’s arrival the decisions of NASA’s safety panel acted to repeatedly delay the launch of the manned capsules being built by SpaceX and Boeing. Now that safety panel seems to have seen the light, and is suddenly more confident in these capsules. I suspect Bridenstine might have had some influence here.

Share

No giant planet needed in Kuiper Belt to shape orbits of outer known planets

Using computer models astronomers have found that the tiny objects in the Kuiper Belt could be sufficient, instead of one giant undiscovered planet, to provide the gravity necessary to explain the orbits of the solar system’s outer planets.

They call theorized giant planet “Planet Nine,” which seems silly since Pluto really still fills that role. Nonetheless, this work also might explain the process that flung some surprisingly large objects so far out into the Kuiper Belt.

They ran supercomputer simulations of how bodies might interact in the outer Solar System far beyond Pluto, in the icy region known as the Kuiper belt. They found that a flock of Moon-sized worlds could do many of the same things as Planet Nine.

Over millions of years, the collective gravity of these smaller worlds would nudge the orbits of distant objects. The worlds would jostle one another like bumper cars and, occasionally, cause an object to move into a very distant orbit. Their simulations suggest that more-massive objects would be flung into the most distant orbits — as some observations have suggested.

We must also remind ourselves that this conclusion is based on a computer model, and is filled with uncertainty. We also do not yet have a full census of objects in the Kuiper Belt, which means this model required many assumptions.

Share

Russia announces plans to build reusable rocket

I’ll believe it when I see it: Russia announced this week new plans to build a reusable smallsat rocket where the first stage would fly back and land vertically.

According to preliminary estimates, the reusable system will cut the cost of payload delivery by 1.5 or 2 times compared to traditional rockets. Every self-guided booster will be designed to fly 50 missions without replacement of its main engines burning a mix of cryogenic liquid oxygen and liquid methane. The system was expected to be based on mobile launchers and its maiden flight was scheduled for 2022, the FPI press release said.

If this project actually does happen, it will be because there has been a political shift within Russia’s government-run space industry. I suspect this because last week they cancelled plans to build a lightweight but expendable smaller version of Proton. Now they are aiming to build a reusable rocket instead. It appears that they have realized they need to cut their costs to compete, and the expendable Proton wasn’t doing it, while a reusable rocket might.

If this is true, then this is good news for Russia’s space future. At the same time, the slowness at which they have made this shift illustrates the disadvantage of their centralized government-run system. Instead of competition within Russia pushing many different independent companies to move forward quickly, all decisions must be made through political maneuvering within Roscosmos, a process that is always slower and more cumbersome.

Share

New Horizons awakened to begin preparations for January 1 2019 flyby

The New Horizons engineering team has brought the spacecraft out of hibernation to begin preparations for its January 1 2019 flyby of Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, which they have dubbed Ultima Thule.

New Horizons will begin its approach phase of the MU69 flyby on August 16, 2018, when it will begin imaging MU69 and the area around it to begin acquiring data about the KBO and its surroundings. Also, New Horizons will look for potential debris that could pose a hazard to itself, such as moons or rings.

Should any potential dangers be found, New Horizons has four planned opportunities to make trajectory changes from early October to early December 2018. The backup trajectory has a distance from MU69 of 10,000 kilometers (around 6,200 miles). Using the backup trajectory would lead to less and/or lower-quality science data gathered due to the probe flying by MU69 further away than planned.

The approach phase will last from August 16 to December 24, 2018, after which the core phase will begin.

The core phase begins just one week before the flyby and continues until two days afterward. It contains the flyby and the majority of the data gathering.

Based on this schedule, we should begin to get some interesting pictures of Ultima Thule by the fall.

Share

China launches weather satellite

The juggernaut of China’s 2018 launch effort marches on, with the launch of a weather satellite today.

The article also notes that China will do at least two more June launches.

In June we can expect at least two other orbital launches from China. From Xichang, a Long March-3B/Y1 will launch of a new pair of navigation satellites and China is also preparing the launch of the PRSS-1 (Pakistan Remote Sensing Satellite) that will take place from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center using a Long March-2C/SMA, together with the PakTES-1 satellite.

The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:

17 China
11 SpaceX
5 Russia
5 ULA

This launch once again puts China in a tie with the U.S. in the national rankings, 17 launches each.

Share

Smallsat rocket company Firefly gets contract

Capitalism in space: The smallsat rocket company Firefly Aerospace had gotten a six-launch contract from Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL).

Firefly Aerospace, Inc. (Firefly), a developer of orbital launch vehicles for the small to medium satellite market, announced today the execution of a Launch Services Agreement (LSA) with Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) for use of the Firefly Alpha launch vehicle.

“Firefly is pleased to enter into an LSA with SSTL to provide up to six Alpha launches from 2020 through 2022,” said Firefly CEO Dr. Tom Markusic. “The Alpha launch vehicle allows for deployment of SSTL satellites as a primary payload to their preferred orbit, rather than flying as a secondary payload on a larger launch vehicle.”

This company had been driven into bankruptcy by a Virgin Galactic lawsuit. It has now risen from the dead. Its rocket has not yet flown, but that it got a launch contract indicates some confidence in them by Surrey. The company says it will do the first launch late in 2019, and become operational by 2020.

Share

Curiosity’s new drilling technique declared a success

In order to bypass a failed feed mechanism in the rover’s drill, Curiosity’s engineering team has declared successful the new techniques they have developed for drilling and getting samples.

They had successfully completed a new drill hole two weeks ago, but are only now are satisfied that the new method for depositing samples in the laboratories will work.

This delivery method had already been successfully tested at JPL. But that’s here on Earth; on Mars, the thin, dry atmosphere provides very different conditions for powder falling out of the drill. “On Mars we have to try and estimate visually whether this is working, just by looking at images of how much powder falls out,” said John Michael Moorokian of JPL, the engineer who led development of the new sample delivery method. “We’re talking about as little as half a baby aspirin worth of sample.”

Too little powder, and the laboratories can’t provide accurate analyses. Too much, and it could overfill the instruments, clogging parts or contaminating future measurements. A successful test of the delivery method on May 22 led to even further improvements in the delivery technique.

Part of the challenge is that Curiosity’s drill is now permanently extended. That new configuration no longer gives it access to a special device that sieves and portions drilled samples in precise amounts. That device, called the Collection and Handling for In-Situ Martian Rock Analysis (CHIMRA), played an important role in delivering measured portions of sample to the laboratories inside the rover.

I suspect that they still need to do more tests, and that the new method of shaking off material from the drill itself will not always work. At the same time, it reopens the option of using the drill and getting samples from it, which is a very good thing.

Share

Sunspot update for May 2018: Solar activity hangs on

NOAA yesterday posted its monthly update of the solar cycle, covering sunspot activity for May 2018. As I do every month, I have annotated the graph and posted it below.

The small uptick in sunspots that we saw in April after the low in March continued.

» Read more

Share

Narrow victory for religious freedom

The Supreme Court today ruled narrowly in favor of the Christian baker who had refused to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual wedding.

A nice win that’ll hopefully provide the foundation for a more sweeping victory later, but this isn’t the home run righties were hoping for. Conservatives wanted the Court to hold that business owners have a First Amendment right to free exercise of religion that trumps antidiscrimination laws, at least with respect to catering gay weddings. What the Court actually held is that *in this particular case* Colorado’s antidiscrimination commission was so openly hostile to Jack Phillips’s religious claims, dismissing his beliefs as insincere and holding him to a double standard that pro-gay business owners weren’t held to, that they violated his particular right to free exercise.

Though the decision’s interpretation was narrow, the court ruled 7-2 in favor of the baker. As the article notes,

[This narrow] ruling may have been as far as Anthony Kennedy (who’s written all of the Court’s landmark gay-rights rulings over the past 25 years) was willing to go. It’s so narrow, in fact, that it produced a not-so-narrow majority: Breyer and Kagan felt comfortable joining the conservatives because all the Court ended up deciding here, really, is that business owners’ free-exercise rights should at least be *considered* when applying antidiscrimination laws against them. In that sense the decision is a solid win for the right.

In other words, the leftist judges were forced to admit that religious people have a right to their beliefs. What a concept!

Share

Globular clusters not as old as universe?

The uncertainty of science: A new computer model, based on binary star systems found in globular clusters, now estimates that those clusters are far younger than previously believed.

Comprised of hundreds of thousands of stars densely packed into a tight ball, globular clusters had been thought to be almost as old as the Universe itself – but thanks to newly developed research models it has been shown that they could be as young as 9 billion years old rather than 13 billion. The discovery brings into question current theories on how galaxies, including the Milky Way, were formed – with between 150-180 clusters thought to exist in the Milky Way alone – as globular clusters had previously been thought to be almost as old as the Universe itself.

Designed to reconsider the evolution of stars, the new Binary Population and Spectral Synthesis (BPASS) models take the details of binary star evolution within the globular cluster into account and are used to explore the colours of light from old binary star populations – as well as the traces of chemical elements seen in their spectra. The evolutionary process sees two stars interacting in a binary system, where one star expands into a giant whilst the gravitational force of the smaller star strips away the atmosphere, comprising hydrogen and helium amongst other elements, of the giant. These stars are thought to be formed as the same time as the globular cluster itself.

Through using the BPASS models and calculating the age of the binary star systems the researchers were able to demonstrate that the globular cluster of which they are part was not as ancient as other models had suggested.

All this study really does is demonstrate again that we really don’t know enough to make a very accurate estimate of the ages of globular clusters. They are very old, but determining precisely how old will require a lot more knowledge.

Share

Boulder-sized asteroid discovered just before it hit Earth

The Catalina Sky Survey, designed to find asteroid with the potential of hitting the Earth, discovered a boulder-sized such asteroid this past weekend just hours before it burned up in the atmosphere.

Although there was not enough tracking data to make precise predictions ahead of time, a swath of possible locations was calculated stretching from Southern Africa, across the Indian Ocean, and onto New Guinea. Reports of a bright fireball above Botswana, Africa, early Saturday evening match up with the predicted trajectory for the asteroid. The asteroid entered Earth’s atmosphere at the high speed of 10 miles per second (38,000 mph, or 17 kilometers per second) at about 16:44 UTC (9:44 a.m. PDT, 12:44 p.m. EDT,6:44 p.m. local Botswana time) and disintegrated several miles above the surface, creating a bright fireball that lit up the evening sky. The event was witnessed by a number of observers and was caught on webcam video.

When it was first detected, the asteroid was nearly as far away as the Moon’s orbit, although that was not initially known. The asteroid appeared as a streak in the series of time-exposure images taken by the Catalina telescope . As is the case for all asteroid-hunting projects, the data were quickly sent to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which calculated a preliminary trajectory indicating the possibility of an Earth impact. The data were in turn sent to the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where the automated Scout system also found a high probability that the asteroid was on an impact trajectory. Automated alerts were sent out to the community of asteroid observers to obtain further observations, and to the Planetary Defense Coordination Office at NASA Headquarters in Washington. However, since the asteroid was determined to be so small and therefore harmless, no further impact alerts were issued by NASA.

The video at the link makes it appear that the asteroid has hit the ground, but that is not what happened.

Share

SpaceX successfully launches commercial satellite

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has successfully launched a commercial satellite using a previously flown first stage.

They did not attempt to recover the used first stage as it was one of their older stages, which they are clearing out as they move to the final Block 5 version of the Falcon 9.

The top leaders in the 2018 launch race:

16 China
11 SpaceX
5 Russia
5 ULA

In the national standings the U.S. has moved back ahead of China, 17-16.

Share

Stratolaunch still lacks a launch vehicle

In a news interview today about their plans for the next year or so, the CEO of Stratolaunch danced around the lack of a committed and appropriate rocket to act as a second stage for the giant airplane.

At the first flight event, we are going to talk a little bit about what is our suite of product offerings in terms of launch vehicles. We haven’t really talked much about that up until this point, but once we get the plane flying, we want to reveal to everyone exactly what we’re talking about. We have talked about the Pegasus system [from Orbital ATK] and we are going to launch the Pegasus on our first launch. It’s a very small rocket, but it’s a very good rocket, very reliable, which is one of the reasons we want to launch that first.

But it’s a 50,000 pound rocket. This plane can carry 550,000 pounds, so it’s an undersized rocket for the capabilities we’re talking about.

They hope this first launch will occur by summer of this year.

Share

Reuseability lowers SpaceX launch price to $50 million

Capitalism in space: Reuseability lowers SpaceX launch price to $50 million.

The article is mostly about tonight’s commercial launch of an SES communications satellite. In it however it notes this comment by Musk:

SpaceX is in the process of flying and discarding older, less advanced Block 4 first stages to clear inventory – the company will likely fly just one more before moving its entire manifest to the Block 5 iteration, which CEO Elon Musk says can fly up to 10 times with minimal refurbishment between missions. Beyond that, the boosters could launch up to 100 times with moderate inspections and changes.

The next-generation vehicles feature improved reusability, upgraded thrust, retractable black landing legs that can reduce time between launches, a new black interstage and a slightly larger payload fairing, to name a few. It will also help SpaceX reduce costs from $60 million to about $50 million per launch, Musk said in May. [emphasis mine]

This price is about a third less than what both Arianespace and ULA have estimated they will charge for their new rockets, Ariane 6 and Vulcan respectively. This is also about half the price that the Russians had been charging for their Proton, which used to be the lowest price in town.

I’ll make a prediction: The drop in prices has only just begun.

Share

The upcoming Falcon Heavy schedule

Link here. After the estimated October launch of an Air Force technology demonstration satellite, the next launch is a communications satellite for Saudi Arabia set for the December/January time frame.

After that there are no scheduled Falcon Heavy launches, though three companies, Intelsat, Viasat, and Inmarsat, have options for launches.

In related SpaceX news, the company came within 200 feet of catching one half of the fairing from last week’s launch. The picture of the fairing coming down by parachute is very cool, and indicates that SpaceX is very close to recovering them.

Share

Certain microbes survive in clean rooms by eating the cleaning fluids

Researchers have found that the reason certain microbes seem to survive in all spacecraft clean rooms is that those microbes actually live off the very cleaning fluids used to scrub the rooms.

Despite extensive cleaning procedures, however, molecular genetic analyses show that the clean rooms harbor a diverse collection of microorganisms, or a spacecraft microbiome, that includes bacteria, archaea and fungi, explained Mogul. The Acinetobacter, a genus of bacteria, are among the dominant members of the spacecraft microbiome.

To figure out how the spacecraft microbiome survives in the cleanroom facilities, the research team analyzed several Acinetobacter strains that were originally isolated from the Mars Odyssey and Phoenix spacecraft facilities.

They found that under very nutrient-restricted conditions, most of the tested strains grew on and biodegraded the cleaning agents used during spacecraft assembly. The work showed that cultures grew on ethyl alcohol as a sole carbon source while displaying reasonable tolerances towards oxidative stress. This is important since oxidative stress is associated with desiccating and high radiation environments similar to Mars.

The tested strains were also able to biodegrade isopropyl alcohol and Kleenol 30, two other cleaning agents commonly used, with these products potentially serving as energy sources for the microbiome.

With this information, the space engineering community will be able to refine their clean room operations to eliminate these microbes so as to better sterilize spacecraft heading on life-seeking missions.

Share

Cubesats heading to Mars complete first course correction

The two cubesats, MarCO-A and MarCO-B, that were launched with NASA’s InSight Mars lander, have both completed their first course corrections, the first ever done in interplanetary space by cubesats.

While MarCO-A corrected its course to Mars relatively smoothly, MarCO-B faced some unexpected challenges. Its maneuver was smaller due to a leaky thruster valve that engineers have been monitoring for the past several weeks. The leak creates small trajectory changes on its own. Engineers have factored in these nudges so that MarCO-B can still perform a trajectory correction maneuver. It will take several more weeks of tracking to refine these nudges so that MarCO-B can follow InSight on its cruise through space.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that MarCO-B can follow MarCO-A,” said Joel Krajewski of JPL, MarCO’s project manager. “But we wanted to take more time to understand the underlying issues before attempting the next course-correction maneuver.”

Once the MarCO team has analyzed data, they’ll know the size of follow-on maneuvers. Several more course corrections will be needed to reach the Red Planet.

Since these two cubesats are an engineering test, even MarCo-B’s fuel leak issue provides valuable information that will make future interplanetary missions more likely and viable.

Share

The surface properties of 122 asteroids revealed

Using archive data produced by the Wide-field Infrared Explorer telescope (WISE, renamed NEOWISE) astronomers have been able to estimate the surface properties of 122 small asteroids located in the asteroid belt.

“Using archived data from the NEOWISE mission and our previously derived shape models, we were able to create highly detailed thermophysical models of 122 main belt asteroids,” said Hanuš, lead author of the paper. “We now have a better idea of the properties of the surface regolith and show that small asteroids, as well as fast rotating asteroids, have little, if any, dust covering their surfaces.” (Regolith is the term for the broken rocks and dust on the surface.)

It could be difficult for fast-rotating asteroids to retain very fine regolith grains because their low gravity and high spin rates tend to fling small particles off their surfaces and into space. Also, it could be that fast-rotating asteroids do not experience large temperature changes because the sun’s rays are more rapidly distributed across their surfaces. That would reduce or prevent the thermal cracking of an asteroid’s surface material that could cause the generation of fine grains of regolith. [emphasis mine]

If this conclusion holds, it means that mining these asteroids might be much easier. Dust can be a big problem, as it can clog up equipment and interfere with operations. It also acts to hide the underlying material, making it harder to find the good stuff.

Share

Customs steals $58K, a man’s life savings

Theft by government: U.S. Customs stole $58,000 from a man traveling to Albania, his life savings, though they charged him with no crime.

“This is to notify you that Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) seized the property described below at Cleveland, OH on October 24, 2017: $57,330 in U.S. Currency,” the notice states. “Enforcement activity indicates that the currency was involved in a smuggling/drug trafficking/money laundering operation.”

The first thing the Kazazis noticed was that the dollar amount listed was $770 less than the amount that Kazazi said he took with him. The family said that the cash was all in $100 bills, making it impossible for it to add up to $57,330.

Customs might claim this had to do with “smuggling/drug trafficking/money laundering” but they found no evidence of such when they strip-searched the man, and have followed up with no charges. And that $770 of the cash that appears missing suggests strongly that several Customs agents pocketed the difference, a nice illegal bonus for these despicable thieves.

Civil forfeiture on its face violates the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which clearly states that citizens are not to “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” These Customs agents, the Custom managers, and everyone else involved with this crime should be fired immediately.

It won’t happen, unfortunately. Our corrupt federal government no longer follows the Constitution. It follows its own corrupt power games, for its own benefit. And the people who should act to stop this, our elected officials, are part of the game.

Share

Heavier astronauts more likely to have vision issues in zero-G

An analysis of the physical characteristics of astronauts who develop vision problems after long missions in weightlessness has found that heavier body weight increases the risk.

The research team examined data collected by NASA from astronauts who had made long-duration space flights (averaging 165 days). The data included the astronauts’ sex and pre-flight height, weight, waist and chest size, as well as information about post-flight eye changes. The findings were related to body weight, not body mass index. They found that none of the female astronauts analyzed—who weighed less than the males—returned to Earth with symptoms of SANS. To rule out sex differences as a cause for the disparity, the researchers also examined the men’s data separately. “Pre-flight weight, waist circumference and chest circumference were all significantly greater in those who developed either disc edema or choroidal folds. This was still true when only the male cohort was analyzed,” the researchers wrote. “The results from this study show a strong relationship between body weight and the development of ocular changes in space.”

That such small differences in weight can make such a difference suggests again that adding just a small amount of artificial gravity, rather than 1g, might mitigate these issues. No tests of this however have ever been done, mostly because the engineering is complex and expensive. For humans we would need to build a vessel large enough that any rotation would be unnoticed. If the vessel is small it must rotate faster and the body’s inner ear gets confused. However, if we only need to simulate a tiny amount of gravity the spin rate can be reduced, simplifying the engineering.

Share

Proposed new FCC regulations would shut out student cubesats

We’re here to help you! Proposed new FCC regulations on the licensing of smallsats would raise the licensing cost for student-built cubesats so much that universities would likely have to shut down the programs.

In a move that threatens U.S. education in science, technology, engineering and math, and could have repercussions throughout the country’s aerospace industry, the FCC is proposing regulations that may license some educational satellite programs as commercial enterprises. That could force schools to pay a US$135,350 annual fee – plus a $30,000 application fee for the first year – to get the federal license required for a U.S. organization to operate satellite communications.

It would be a dramatic increase in costs. The most common type of small satellite used in education is the U.S.-developed CubeSat. Each is about 10 inches on a side and weighs 2 or 3 pounds. A working CubeSat that can take pictures of the Earth can be developed for only $5,000 in parts. They’re assembled by volunteer students and launched by NASA at no charge to the school or college. Currently, most missions pay under $100 to the FCC for an experimental license, as well as several hundred dollars to the International Telecommunications Union, which coordinates satellite positions and frequencies. [emphasis mine]

If these new and very high licensing fees are correct I find them shocking. As noted in the quote, building a cubesat costs practically nothing, only about $5,000. The new fees thus add gigantic costs to the satellite’s development, and could literally wipe the market out entirely. They certainly will end most university programs that have students build cubesats as a first step towards learning how to build satellites.

These new regulations appear to be part of the Trump administration’s effort to streamline and update the regulatory process for commercial space. It also appears that the FCC has fumbled badly here in its part of this process.

Share
1 2 3 600