Category Archives: Points of Information

Dump Obama’s asteroid mission says advisory council

NASA’s Advisory Council today joined a growing chorus of critics asking NASA to dump Obama’s commitment to send astronauts to an asteroid, or more precisely, to a boulder that NASA has taken from an asteroid.

They want the agency to instead focus on developing ion engine designs in conjunction with an orbital mission to Mars.

90% of New Yorkers defy the state’s new gun registration law

Rebellion: A report in New York strongly suggests that more than 90% of the population is refusing to register their weapons as required by the new gun control law rammed through the legislature after the Sandy Hook massacre.

The article also notes that sheriffs and the rank-in-file have no intention of enforcing the registration part of the law either.

This story illustrates why it is essential we take great care in the laws we pass. If we write bad laws, we not only oppress innocent law-abiding citizens, we foster contempt for the law, which in the end can cause the collapse of civilized society and even more oppression.

Tank tests for launch abort rocket

The competition heats up: This week SpaceX conducted at Vandenberg a tank test of the booster rocket that will be used for its Dragon in-flight launch abort test later this year.

That they are doing these tank tests at Vandenberg is interesting. I would think the actual abort test would take place at Kennedy, where astronauts will be launched. Either the company is taking advantage of its second launchpad to save time while Kennedy is in use for Monday’s Dragon launch, or they will actually do this launch abort test out west. In truth the test can be done from Vandenberg. The flight path will be different, but the technical requirements will be essentially the same.

Note that this booster is for the in-flight launch abort flight, scheduled at this moment for July, not the launchpad abort test, scheduled at this moment for May 2.

Also, it is interesting to compare the pictures of SpaceX’s Vandenberg launchpad in this article with the pictures I took when I visited Vandenberg two weeks ago. Then, the pad was quiet, with no rocket visible (though it is likely that this booster stage was inside the building being prepared). Now it is quite busy.

Rosetta team adopts new approach strategy

Because of the problems Rosetta experienced during its last close fly-by of Comet 67P/C-G the engineering team has worked out a new approach strategy for future observations.

Essentially, they are postponing any close fly-bys for the near future. Instead, they will observe from farther away, while reassessing the situation and planing for later opportunities.

Meanwhile, on April 12 the next opportunity to listen for Philae begins.

Cubesat satellite industry booming

The competition heats up: In 2014 more cubesats were launched than during the industry’s first ten years.

Without doubt the concept of cubesats is now taking the satellite industry by storm, mainly because of the advent of new electronic miniaturization. However, the most fascination part of this story was how the concept was born:

In 1999, Puig-Suari met with Bob Twiggs, at the time an aerospace engineer at Stanford University, to discuss ways of getting more student projects into space. “We had to do something to get more opportunities to launch these things,” recalls Twiggs, now at Morehead State University in Kentucky. They focused on slimming down the spacecraft, because weight drives up the cost of reaching orbit.

Over lunch at a sandwich shop in San Luis Obispo, Twiggs and Puig-Suari sketched out options on a napkin. They thought hard about the potential capabilities of a 10-centimeter cube with a mass limit of 1 kilogram—the size and weight of a liter of water. Clad in solar cells, the cube would eke out perhaps a watt of power, enough to power a small computer and a radio: “a Sputnik,” Puig-Suari says. Back at Stanford, Twiggs found the perfect life-size demonstration model: a plastic box used for storing the insanely popular stuffed animals known as Beanie Babies. A standard was born.

Read the whole thing. The low cost of these tiny satellites is about to revolutionize the entire unmanned space industry.

SpaceX to try a first stage recovery again on April 13

The competition heats up: In its next launch on Monday, SpaceX will once again try to safely land its first stage on an ocean barge, allowing it to reuse that stage on later flights.

Monday afternoon is certainly going to be an exciting day for space cadets. First, at 4 pm (Eastern) the head of ULA will reveal the design of that company’s new rocket. Then, at 4:33 pm (Eastern), SpaceX will launch Dragon to ISS while attempting to return the first stage safely.

ULA to reveal design of new rocket April 13

The competition heats up: ULA has scheduled a press conference on April 13, during a space conference, to reveal their design for their next generation rocket to replace the Delta and Atlas 5 rockets.

It is clear that the company is not wasting time getting this new rocket underway. They recognize the competitive threat placed on them by SpaceX, and they are responding correctly.

Airbus Safran demands full ownership of Ariane 6

The competition heats up: One of the heads of Airbus Safran that is offering to build Europe’s next rocket, Ariane 6, has said that they must have full control of the rocket and project or they won’t do it.

“We are now a few weeks from the submission of a bid, and of course at this stage everyone defends his camp,” Lahoud said. “It is said that industry needs to make a financial contribution. We have said it’s possible we will contribute, but on condition that [development] not be conducted under the former system.

“We want responsibility for the design, the production, the commercialization and operations to be in the hands of industry, and not in a sort of mixed-economy creation that borrows more from the United Nations than from what our competitors do. Under these circumstances, and only under these circumstances, will there be a business case that allows us to invest, and to defend before our boards of directors the fact that corporate cash needs to be spent.”

In other words, they will not build something that will be under the complex bureaucratic control of the many-headed European Space Agency. Under that framework, they don’t think they can compete, so why bother?

The day frozen pudding-pops destroyed Boris Yeltsin’s faith in communism

Link here, with lots of photos of the event.

Yeltin also wrote about his visit to this American supermarket in his autobiography, which I describe as well in my book, Leaving Earth. It unquestionably shattered his belief in communism and led him to become the upstart revolutionary who helped bring the Soviet Union out of communism in the 1990s.

Destroy a building rather than let a charter school use it

A Michigan school district, strapped for cash, preferred demolishing an empty school building rather than sell it to a private charter school for several million.

The district eventually backed down to public pressure and made the sale, but this story is very instructive. You have to watch the video report at the link to find out who really led the opposition to this sale, and why. I wonder if you can guess.

The fascist state of the modern American university.

Link here. The opening paragraphs should chill your bones;

“I can’t have you participate in class anymore.”

I was on my way out of class when my social welfare and policy professor casually called me over to tell me this. The friendliness of her tone did not match her words, and I attempted a shocked, confused apology. It was my first semester at the Hunter College School of Social Work, and I was as yet unfamiliar with the consistent, underlying threat that characterized much of the school’s policy and atmosphere. This professor was simply more open and direct than most.

I asked if I had said or done anything inappropriate or disrespectful, and she was quick to assure me that it was not my behavior that was the problem. No: It was my opinions. Or, as she put it, “I have to give over this information as is.”

I spent the rest of that semester mostly quiet, frustrated, and missing my undergraduate days, when my professors encouraged intellectual diversity and give-and-take. I attempted to take my case to a higher-up at school, an extremely nice, fair professor who insisted that it was in my own best interest not to rock the boat. I was doing well in his class, and I believed him when he told me he wanted me to continue doing well. He explained to me that people who were viewed as too conservative had had problems graduating in the past, and he didn’t want that to happen to me. I thought he was joking .  .  . until I realized he wasn’t.

Read it all. It cites numerous examples in academia where students with dissenting views are threatened with punishment and even expulsion if they dared express those views.

It will also raise the question: Why does anyone send anyone to these schools anymore? The last thing the students are getting is an education.

Russian hunters find frozen carcass of extinct whoolly rhino

In September Russian hunters accidentally discovered the frozen remains of an adolescent whoolly rhinoceros.

Larger than modern-day rhinos and more suited to extreme cold and harsh environments, the woolly rhino first appeared about 3.6 million years ago. Weighing up to an estimated 4,000 pounds and equipped with 24-inch-long horns, these intimidating creatures co-existed with early humans and were often hunted. Yet for all their strength, the woolly rhino became extinct over 10,000 years ago. Unlike the woolly mammoth, little is known about this species since few specimens have ever been retrieved. Those that have were often mummified to a point where study was impossible, and up until now, no calf has ever been found.

RT reported that experts at the Yakutsk academy will attempt to extract DNA from the calf’s remains and try to come up with a more accurate date on when the creature died. Nicknamed “Sasha,” researchers say the calf died at least 10,000 years ago and may have been 18 months old when it perished.

Global Warming advocates debunk their own theory

Climate models vs climate reality

The statements and data provided by advocates of human-caused global warming themselves provide strong evidence that their theory of human-caused global warming is wrong.

The article is detailed and includes a lot of hard but easy-to-digest data, such as the graph on the right, which shows how all the computer models predicting global warming have failed to predict the lack of warming for the past eighteen years. (The models predicted the rising colored lines. Actual global temperatures are shown by the black line.) This quote however is a nice summation:

Allow us to cite one more example out of many that could be brought to bear. On June 6, 2007, the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition published an analysis of seasonal climate predictions made by the New Zealand Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) showing that the Institute did not even achieve 50 percent accuracy. Director Dr. Jim Renwick’s response was telling. “Climate prediction is hard, half of the variability in the climate system is not predictable, so we don’t expect to do terrifically well,” he told the New Zealand Herald. Dr. Renwick, who is an IPCC lead author and a member of the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Commission for Climatology Expert Team on Seasonal Forecasting, stated on New Zealand Radio, “The weather is not predictable beyond a week or two.”

This is huge! Phil Jones, a top AGW guru, admits “we don’t know what natural variability is doing,” and Judith Curry says that the climate models are “imperfect and incomplete” and natural causes “dominate” human effects on global temperatures. And IPCC/WMO bigwig Jim Renwick concedes his organization’s climate predictions are wrong more than half the time — and they can’t predict the weather more than two weeks out. Yet, we are supposed to empower national and international politicians and bureaucrats to completely regulate, re-engineer, tax, and regiment human civilization on a planetary scale, based upon the same faulty computer models that have universally, spectacularly failed — over and over again.

I hate to say this, but it appears that the only “deniers of reality” we have in this debate are the political advocates of human-caused global warming, people like Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Al Gore, who continue to refuse to recognize the reality that there has been no warming during the past eighteen years.

New studies struggle to explain the origin of the Moon

The uncertainty of science: Three new studies on the mystery of the origin of the Moon all appear to better confirm the theory that it was created when the Earth collided with a Mars-sized planet.

It is important to be aware of the uncertainties here. All these studies were done to try to address problems with the impact theory, and though they kind of answer the questions, they leave behind some important doubts.

NASA to use giant SLS rocket to launch cubesats

The giant SLS rocket that NASA is building for billions will be used to launch eleven tiny 30 pound cubesats into deep space.

With room for 11 small shoebox-sized CubeSats on the first test flight of NASA’s behemoth Space Launch System, agency officials have turned to scientists, industry and students to fill the slots in time for launch in 2018. NASA has selected three CubeSats developed by internal government teams for flight on the SLS demonstration launch, and officials announced last week two more top candidates that could be manifested on the mission.

These will be the first cubesats ever sent beyond Earth orbit. Using SLS to get them into space, however, is very incongruous, since the very concept of cubesats is small and cheap, while SLS is everything but.

ULA to trim working launchpads from 5 to 2

The competition heats up: In order to lower its fixed costs, ULA plans to reduce the number of launchpads it maintains from 5 to 2, one at Kennedy and Vandenberg respectively.

Right now they need to maintain three separate launchpads to operate the Delta 2, Delta 4, and Delta Heavy, which is the main reason the Delta family of rockets is so expensive. This is also the reason that the Delta 2 and Delta Heavy only launch from Vandenberg, as ULA has retired their launchpads at Kennedy.

It appears that ULA’s plan is to design their next generation rocket much like SpaceX’s Falcon 9, with as simple as system of launch facilities as possible.

Indiana pizza parlor to reopen despite violent threats

The owners of the pizza parlor in Indiana whose owners have said they will not cater a homosexual wedding have announced that they are about to reopen.

The article quotes both the father and daughter extensively about this controversy. Read it. It will once again reveal who the real bigots are in this story, and it is not these people.

One detail from the story is very interesting. The owners plan to donate some of the money raised for them to the Washington florist who is under attack for the same reasons.

Rosetta team asks for help from amateur astronomers

Want to help the Rosetta science team study Comet 67P/C-G? If you are an amateur astronomer, you can!

They are asking amateurs with larger telescopes to observe the comet as it makes its close approach to the Sun and report their observations. The science team will compare their observations with the amateurs. This will teach us how to interpret future comet events when seen from afar.

Governor orders one week shut down of Thirty Meter Telescope project

Bowing to the demands of about two dozen protesters, the governor of Hawaii has ordered a one week halt in the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea.

You can read statements from the governor, the protesters, and the telescope’s project manager here. Make sure especially you read the statement by the telescope manager, as it outlines in great detail the negotiations over the past seven years between the telescope and the local community. This project was not forced upon them. They discussed it and agreed to it. As the statement notes,

Following an appeal of the permit and further contested case proceedings, the TMT project has proceeded in full compliance with the law. The TMT site was selected with great care and respect. There are no archaeological shrines or burial sites within TMT’s project site. Comprehensive research by expert hydrologists confirm there is no threat to the aquifer.

This is the same story we’ve seen for the past half century with every telescope that has been built in territories where the local native population has some say in construction. Years of negotiation are ignored just as construction is about to begin by a small number of protesters demanding a halt. The protesters always claim a combination of religious and environmental concerns. In every case, these so-called passionate demands somehow vanish after they are promised some additional cash.

It would a terrible tragedy for Hawaii, and the human race, if this $1.4 billion telescope ends up getting canceled because of the complaints of a handful of people who to my mind are behaving like extortionists. It will also be unfortunate if the government bows to this extortion and rewards them for this behavior.

3D printed items made in space come back to Earth

NASA today released a video of engineers unpacking a box of 3D parts that had been printed on ISS and then returned to Earth for testing.

Some more details here.

The goal, Bean continued, is for NASA to develop a database of mechanical properties to see if there’s any difference in mechanical strength between identical items made in space and on Earth. During the interview last month, Bean said that while NASA didn’t yet have any hard data, there had been initial indications from videos made on the space station, that the plastics used in the 3D printing there had “adhered differently” than those in the terrestrial test. “The astronauts trying to get the parts off the plate,” Bean said, found that the plastic “seemed to be a little more stuck than on the ground.” He said that while it was too early to tell if that was actually true, his guess was that if so, “it may be due to a lack of convection in zero-gravity.”

Understanding the engineering issues of 3D printing in space will make it possible for crews to carry far less cargo on long interplanetary journeys. Instead, they would carry a much smaller amount of raw material, which they could use to manufacture items as needed, then recycled.

Congress moves to require NOAA to use private weather satellites

The competition heats up: The House Science Committee has approved a bill that would require NOAA to begin using private satellites to gather weather data.

NOAA officials, most recently at a Feb. 12 hearing of the House Science environment subcommittee, have long said the agency is open to buying space-based weather data from aspiring commercial providers, so long as the companies can certify their data are up to NOAA standards. Currently this is impossible because NOAA has published no standards.

That would change if the Weather Research and Forecast Innovation Act of 2015 (H.R. 1561) becomes law. The measure sets a legal timetable for NOAA to publish the standards and competitively select at least one provider to sell the agency data to determine whether it can be easily folded into the National Weather Service’s forecasting models.

Watch what they do, not what they say. NOAA might claim it would use private providers, but without providing those standards it has given itself an easy way to reject everyone, which is exactly what they have done for years. This bill would force the issue.

Blue Origin to begin flight tests of new rocket engine

The competition heats up: The rocket engine that Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin company has been building is now ready for suborbital flight tests.

Blue Origin says the BE-3 is the first new hydrogen-fueled engine to be developed in the United States in more than a decade. It can be continuously throttled between 20,000 and 110,000 pounds of thrust. “Liquid hydrogen is challenging, deep throttling is challenging, and reusability is challenging,” Bezos said. “This engine has all three. The rewards are highest performance, vertical landing even with a single-engine vehicle, and low cost. And as a future upper-stage engine, hydrogen greatly increases payload capabilities.”

They hope to begin flight tests by the end of the year. Even as they develop this suborbital hydrogen engine, they are also developing an bigger engine for orbital flights in ULA’S next generation rocket that will replace the Atlas 5 and Delta.

Another global warming advocate demands the arrest of skeptics

Fascist: Continuing in what is becoming a pattern for the left, another global warming advocate has called for the arrest of anyone who dares question the existence of human-caused global warming.

You can read his entire rant here. This quote is especially telling:

Those denialists should face jail. They should face fines. They should face lawsuits from the classes of people whose lives and livelihoods are most threatened by denialist tactics.

Let’s make a clear distinction here: I’m not talking about the man on the street who thinks Rush Limbaugh is right, and climate change is a socialist United Nations conspiracy foisted by a Muslim U.S. president on an unwitting public to erode its civil liberties.

You all know that man. That man is an idiot. He is too stupid to do anything other than choke the earth’s atmosphere a little more with his Mr. Pibb burps and his F-150’s gassy exhaust. Few of us believers in climate change can do much more—or less—than he can.

This is why, at this time especially, I refuse to cede any further power to government and its allies. A significant percentage of our population is in favor of using that power to oppress their opponents. Give them any more power and they will do it.

Rising sales of US Constitution put Homeland Security on alert!

Heh.

A surge of book sales that pushed the US Constitution into the top ten best seller list of the Conservative Book Club has caused federal officials to put the Department of Homeland Security on “full alert.”

“This is just the type of abnormal behavior that should trigger a high state of vigilance,” Secretary Jeh Johnson declared. “We expect a few loud-mouthed right-wing politicians to repeatedly harp on whether some action taken by the government is constitutional. But we can’t afford to overlook tens of thousands of ordinary citizens reading such seditious literature.”

The site calls itself “Semi-News/Semi-Satire”. It is tragic how accurate that title is.

Brontosaurus returns!

The uncertainty of science: The popular but unofficial and rejected dinosaur name “Brontosaurus” has been resurrected by paleontologists.

A new study has found that the bones that had been assigned to Apatosaurus, the term that paleontologists in the 1970s chose over the more popular term Brontosaurus, actually appear to come from two distinct but different species, and they have chosen the more popular term for one of these species.

Brontosaurus was always easy to pronounce, which has probably contributed to its popularity as a general term for dinosaurs. When it was officially rejected in the 1970s there were a lot of unhappy fans of paleontology. I suspect the modern generation of scientists, children in the 1970s, had a warm spot in their heart for the term and have thus found a way to bring it back.

ALMA captures the rotation of the large asteroid Juno

The large ground-based telescope ALMA has captured a series of images of the large asteroid Juno, allowing scientists to estimate its rotation and overall shape.

Linked together into a brief animation, these high-resolution images show the asteroid rotating through space as it shines in millimeter-wavelength light. “In contrast to optical telescopes, which capture the reflected light from the Sun, the new ALMA images show the actual millimeter-wavelength light emitted by the asteroid,” said Todd Hunter, an astronomer with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Charlottesville, Va.

…The complete ALMA observation, which includes 10 separate images, documents about 60 percent of one rotation of the asteroid. It was conducted over the course of four hours on 19 October 2014 when Juno was approximately 295 million kilometers from Earth. In these images, the asteroid’s axis of rotation is tilted away from the Earth, revealing its southern hemisphere most prominently.

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