Philae might have bounced

Data from the Philae lander suggests that, when the spacecraft’s harpoons failed to fire, the probe might have bounced and then settled to the surface.

[T]elemetry from the craft suggested it might have drifted off the surface after landing and started to turn. This subsequently came to an end, which the German Space Agency official interpreted as a possible “second landing” on Comet 67P. This “bounce” was always a possibility, but had been made more likely by the failure of the harpoons to deploy, and the failure of a thruster intended to push the robot into the surface.

More than 200 colleges slash work hours to avoid Obamacare

Finding out what’s in it: More than 200 colleges have capped student and faculty work hours below 30 hours per week to avoid the costs of Obamacare.

Those who have seen their paychecks shrink as a result of the Affordable Care Act include students who work on campus at restaurants, bookstores or gyms, teaching assistants, Residence Advisers, officer workers, student journalists, and a variety of other workers, such as part-time maintenance crews and groundskeepers. Educators’ work hours have also been cut due to the mandate, including part-time instructors and adjunct professors.

I guarantee that 70% or more of these individuals voted for Obama and the Democrats, as the political beliefs of the academic population is almost all partisan liberal. I wonder if they now have the intellectual honesty to assign blame for their woes to Obama and the Democrats .

A comet picture taken by Philae on the way down

Comet 67P/C-G as seen by Philae during its descent

I am not sure if the actual landing site is visible in this image. I don’t think so as nothing seems to match what was on the earlier close-up. Moreover, the Rosetta website does not say.

No images on the surface have yet been released. There are also issues that could prevent a full success.

However, while the lander has touched down on the comet using its harpoons, scientists said that it had not yet deployed its anchors which meant that it was not completely attached to the surface. The surface was much softer than they expected, so there were some concerns that it was not securely fixed on the comet – although from a software point of view things seemed to be fine. Engineers will attempt to fire the anchors again soon in order to keep Philae attached to the surface of the comet.

More penalties from Obamacare

Finding out what’s in it: The Obamacare penalty for not having health insurance is about to triple.

Uninsured Americans who decide not to enroll will face a penalty of $325 per person, more than tripling the $95 penalty those who did not enroll had to pay the first time around. Children under the age of 18 will be fined $162.50. The maximum amount an uninsured family will be penalized is $975 under the flat-rate method. “The penalty is meant to incentivize people to get coverage,” Laura Adams, senior analyst of InsuranceQuotes.com, told CBS News. “This year, I think a lot of people are going to be in for a shock.”

Nor is this the end. According to how the law was written, the penalties will continue to rise in the coming years. Just in time for the next election in fact!

When the law first passed I had said that Obamacare was going to be an election millstone around the necks of Democrats for years, and that is definitely turning out to be true. Expect more Democratic election losses in future elections, unless they change course and join the Republicans in getting this law repealed.

Philae has landed successfully!

Philae has landed successfully on Comet 67P/C-G.

Philae is on the surface, its harpoons have fired and the landing gear has been moved inside, and Philae is in contact. It’s incredible! Massive smiles on everyone’s faces. The room went mad. Twice — when we first had the hint, and then when Stephan Ulamec and Andrea Accomazzo confirmed it. Unbelievable.

More information and data will be coming in a few hours. Stay tuned.

More crushing Obama regulation to come

Despite the just completed elections, where the voters clearly indicated their disinterest in the additional environmental rules supported by Democrats, Obama is gearing up for an “onslaught” of new regulations.

The Obama administration is set to roll out a series of climate and pollution measures that rivals any president’s environmental actions of the past quarter-century — a reality check for Republicans who think last week’s election gave them a mandate to end what they call the White House’s “War on Coal.”

Tied to court-ordered deadlines, legal mandates and international climate talks, the efforts scheduled for the next two months show that President Barack Obama is prepared to spend the remainder of his term unleashing sweeping executive actions to combat global warming. And incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will have few options for stopping the onslaught, though Republicans may be able to slow pieces of it.

If anyone has any doubt left that this president, and the left, doesn’t care what the American public wants, this story lays that doubt to rest forever. Barack Obama dislikes the idea of democracy, of following the will of the people. Instead, he wants to rule as a dictator, dictating the rules that he thinks are right. And the left that supports him supports this tyrannical approach.

A third video of Obamacare’s creator found, insulting Americans

Finding out who wrote it: A third video of Obamacare’s architect, Jonathan Gruber, has been discovered in which he bluntly insults the American public.

“It’s a very clever, you know, basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter,” Gruber, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said during a speech at the University of Rhode Island in November 2012. He was discussing what is known as the Cadillac tax and how it came into being.

Video has also been found where Gruber saying, “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to get the thing to pass.” Other video shows him saying “the American people are too stupid to understand the difference” between various components of Obamacare.

Philae is go for separation, despite problem

Engineers have given a go for the separation of the Philae lander from Rosetta, despite the failure of a thruster to operate.

During checks on the lander’s health, it was discovered that the active descent system, which provides a thrust upwards to avoid rebound at the moment of touchdown, cannot be activated.

At touchdown, landing gear will absorb the forces of the landing while ice screws in each of the probe’s feet and a harpoon system will lock Philae to the surface. At the same time, the thruster on top of the lander is supposed to push it down to counteract the impulse of the harpoon imparted in the opposite direction. “The cold gas thruster on top of the lander does not appear to be working so we will have to rely fully on the harpoons at touchdown,”says Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager at the DLR German Aerospace Center. “We’ll need some luck not to land on a boulder or a steep slope.”

Update: Separation has occurred and signal reacquired from Philae. We wait for landing.

Police seize $100K without a warrant

Theft by government: Two men who were detained, their car searched without a warrant, and had more than $100K in cash seized illegally, have now filed suit claiming their constitutional rights were violated.

By the time the encounter was over, the gamblers had been detained for more than two hours. Their car was searched without a warrant. And their cellphones, a computer and $100,020 of their gambling “bankroll” were seized under state civil asset-forfeiture laws. The troopers allowed them to leave, without their money, after issuing a traffic warning and a citation for possession of marijuana paraphernalia that carried a $65 fine, court records show.

Months later, an attorney for the men obtained a video of the stop. It showed that the motorists were detained for a violation they did not commit — a failure to signal during a lane change — and authorities were compelled to return 90 percent of the money.

Now the men are questioning the police tactics in an unusual federal civil rights lawsuit. In the suit, filed Sept. 29, William Barton Davis, 51, and John Newmer­zhycky, 43, both from Humboldt County, Calif., claim their constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and seizures were violated. They also contend the stop was part of a pattern connected to the teachings of a private police-training firm that promotes aggressive tactics.

I hope they win big, very big. As far as I can tell, there is nothing legal about this police action. Nothing. It is theft, pure and simple, and thieves are supposed to be punished if caught.

Russia rolls Angara 5 to the launchpad

The competition heats up: Angara 5, the most powerful member of the Angara family of rockets, has arrived at the launchpad for its inaugural December test flight.

Russia’s eventually goal is to replace Proton with this rocket. Angara is also designed to be cheaper to launch, which makes it more competitive with SpaceX’s Falcon 9.

Musk hints at a team-up with space-based internet provider

The competition heats up: Elon Musk yesterday revealed that he is in negotiations to team-up with a venture that would put in orbit a constellation of 700 satellites to provide low-cost internet access.

The venture was originally linked with Google, but that partnership has faded. Musk meanwhile said that his deal will be announced within the next three months.

Italian appeals court overturns convictions of earthquake scientists

An Italian appeals court on Monday overturned the manslaughter convictions of six Italian earthquake scientist for the deaths of over 300 people during the L’Aquila earthquake of 2009.

Only one of the seven experts originally found guilty was convicted today: Bernardo De Bernardinis, who in 2009 was deputy head of Italy’s Civil Protection Department and who will now serve 2 years in jail, pending any further appeals.

De Bernardinis had been the guy who had publicly said that the swarm of tremors prior to the quake had released energy and thus reduced the chance of an earthquake, a claim that geology scientists do not support.

O boy! Obama wants to regulate the internet!

On Monday the Obama administration declared its desire that the FCC should increase its regulation of the internet, embracing White House proposals for something progressives like to label “net neutrality.”

By backing a policy commonly referred to as Net Neutrality, President Barack Obama is advocating for that the internet to be regulated like any other public utility. “To put these protections in place, I’m asking the [Federal Communications Commission] to reclassifying internet service under Title II of a law known as the Telecommunications Act,” Obama said in a statement on Monday.

Since the issue of “net neutrality” became a hot button progressive issue several years ago, I have tried to figure it out, all to no avail. The issue is so complex that my first instinct is that the government should simply leave well enough alone, since any action the government takes is usually harmful.

Now, however, with Obama putting his brilliant support behind it I have no doubts — these regulatory proposals should be doused with gasoline, burnt to a crisp, then buried in a hole so deep no one will ever be able to dig them up.

I say this not because of any personal hatred of Obama, but because I have seen the disaster of Obama’s biggest regulatory effort, Obamacare. Why should anyone with any brains at all ever trust him again with any future regulatory effort in any area of public policy? No one should. He and the present generation of Democrats proved with Obamacare that their ideas about government regulation are bankrupt. They should quietly sit down and shut up, and let some adults who know how to think run things.

Obamacare enrollments far below government predictions

Finding out what’s in it: The Obama administration admitted today that enrollments in Obamacare in 2015 will be 30 percent below their initial predictions.

Federal officials on Monday sought to lower expectations for upcoming enrollment in Obamacare, announcing that they now believe that only between 9 million and 9.9 million people will be enrolled in Affordable Care Act health insurance plans by the end of 2015. That is well below the 13 million people that the Congressional Budget Office has projected for Obamacare enrollment by the end of 2015. Open enrollment for 2015 plans resumes Saturday.
The new projection, more than 30 percent reduced from the CBO estimate, comes from the Health and Human Services Department, which oversees the Obamacare health reform program.

HHS also said it now appears that it will take longer—perhaps quite a bit longer—than 2017 to reach a “steady state” of 25 million Obamacare enrollees that CBO had been projecting for 2017 enrollment. The reduced projection is due to recent data showing “mixed evidence” about how quickly—and how dramatically—people will shift from employer-sponsored health insurance and non-Obamacare plans into insurance plans sold on government-run marketplaces such as HealthCare.gov, according to HHS. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted sentence once again illustrates how blatantly Obama was lying when he said, “If you like your plan you keep your plain. Period.” The goal was always to force people from the plans they had to government-run healthcare.

Speaking of lies, video from 2013 of the man who designed Obamacare for Obama shows that the Democrats knew they were lying when they described Obamacare in 2009 and 2010, and that they were doing so because they consider the American people “stupid.”

Of course, this story should surprise no one. Lying to the public has been the Democratic/leftwing method of operations since Bill Clinton arrived on the political scene. In fact, it amazes me that anyone is surprised by this.

Close-up image of Philae’s landing site


Agilkia landing site for Philae

Inset of landing site

In the preparation to Wednesday’s landing of Philae on Comet 67P/C-G, Rosetta’s science team has released a great image of the landing site, shown above. To the right is a higher resolution inset of the site itself, with the smallest object visible about 8.5 feet across.

Looking at this inset, there are some obvious worries that we all should be aware of prior to the landing attempt. Though the Agilkia landing site is generally more smooth than most of the comet’s surface, it still has significant hazards. The lower part is strewn with boulders and rocks, many of which are quite large. Any one of these could do serious harm to Philae should it land on them.

Even more interesting is the upper part of the landing site. Though very smooth, the image suggests to me that this is a very thick pile of softly packed material. Philae might land there and quickly sink below the surface, where its cameras will be able to see nothing.

Nonetheless, the science team has also released this outline of Philae’s science timeline after landing. The lander will also be taking images of both Rosetta and the comet during its descent, so even if the landing is a failure we will still get some worthwhile data.

Comet Siding Spring’s fly-by of Mars changed the planet’s atmosphere

Data obtained by the various Mars orbiters during the close fly-by of Comet Siding Spring of Mars has revealed that the comet created a new temporary layer in the planet’s atmosphere.

The European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft detected an increase in electrons in Mars’ upper atmosphere, partly ionising it. This was attributed to fine cometary dust penetrating the atmosphere, which led to a meteor storm of thousands of meteors per hour. The increase in electrons led to the creation of a temporary new layer of charged particles in the ionosphere, which runs from an altitude of 120 kilometres to several hundred kilometres above. This is the first time such an event has been seen, even on Earth the extra density of electrons was measured to be five to ten times higher than normal by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Another NASA spacecraft, MAVEN, which also observed the new layer in the ionosphere, will monitor for any long-term events as it goes about its regular duties of studying Mars’ atmosphere.

MAVEN’s Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph was able to ascertain the species of ions that flooded into the ionosphere from the comet, the first time a comet that has come direct from the distant Oort Cloud has been sampled in this way. It detected the signal of magnesium, iron and sodium ions following the meteor shower, a signal that dominated Mars’ ultraviolet spectrum for hours afterwards, taking two days to dissipate.

The chemistry that MAVEN detected appears superficially somewhat similar to the chemistry that Rosetta is detecting at Comet 67P/C-G, though there are differences.

China’s struggle to compete with SpaceX

This Aviation Week story provides a detailed update on China’s effort to build a new family of Long March rockets that are less expensive to operate and can effectively compete with SpaceX.

Two main take-aways from the article. First, the first flight of the Long March 7, a direct competitor with the Falcon 9, has been seriously delayed. Originally expected to fly in 2013, that first flight has apparently been pushed back to 2015.

Second, even with extensive cost savings, the Long March 7 will still cost a customer more than a Falcon 9, $70 million vs $61 million.

Police officer suspended for slapping citizen for refusing a warrantless search

This story demonstrates why it is becoming essential for every citizen to begin recording their interactions with the police every single time.

Yesterday police were contacted in regard to a video posted online which appeared to show an inappropriate interaction between an on-duty member of the Sheriff’s Office and a civilian, resulting from a suspicious vehicle complaint in the Town of Halfmoon.

The Sheriff’s Office has identified and interviewed all parties involved in the interaction and as a result, the police officer has been suspended without pay effective immediately, pending the outcome of the investigation and possible disciplinary action.

Make sure you watch the video. It is very clear that the officer did not know he was being recorded. It is also clear to me that his behavior in this situation was not unusual, that this police officer is quite used to using violence to get his way, regardless of the law. Had the recording not existed, however, he would not have been suspended, and would not be likely to lose his job.

The recording did exist, however, which has forced the Saratoga police force to take action.

Alternative rockets and 2015 launch dates for Cygnus

The heat of competition: Orbital Sciences has pinpointed available launch slots and alternative rockets for getting Cygnus into orbit in 2015.

[Orbital CEO David] Thompson said Wednesday the company has narrowed its options to three launch providers which have openings as early as the second quarter — between April 1 and June 30 — of next year. Two of the launch providers are based in the United States. Orbital could also launch Cygnus missions with a European-based company, Thompson said. The contractors under consideration are presumably United Launch Alliance, SpaceX and Arianespace.

Unlike Virgin Galactic’s claims in my previous post, I find Thompson’s prediction here quite likely. His main problem is not technical but political. He has to convince his competitors to help him, and this story is his first shot across the bow in that negotiation. By making these facts public, Thompson applies pressure on these other companies to agree. And though the request is unstated, he is also enlisting NASA’s aid, since the agency is certain to back him in this negotiation and apply its clout in his favor.

Virgin Galactic vows to fly again by April

The heat of competition: During a press tour of its Mojave facilities this week Virgin Galactic’s CEO revealed that the company expects to begin flying its replacement to SpaceShipTwo by April.

George Whitesides, the company’s chief executive, said construction of the second spaceship is already 65 per cent complete. Like its doomed predecessor, Enterprise, the new spaceship’s name is a tribute to both Nasa and Star Trek. It will be called SS Voyager, the Sunday Times reports.

Whitesides also said that LauncherOne, designed to put very small payloads into orbit, is 18 months away from its first flight.

I hope this predictions are true, but coming from Virgin Galactic I think I can be forgiven if I am very skeptical. Nonetheless, in referring to the new ship I will make it a policy to call it Voyager from here on out to distinguish it from the first ship.

Bringing Dream Chaser home

The competition heats up: At an space industry conference this week Sierra Nevada outlined the ability of Dream Chaser to land at almost any airport, including the many financial and safety advantages of that flexibility.

The story notes that because Dream Chaser would not need an unusually long runway, it could land at most airports. Also, because it would have no hazardous materials on board, removing it from the runway after landing would be simple and straightforward. You would simply tow it away. The biggest advantage of this, howevr, is that if the spacecraft was docked at ISS and there was an emergency that required immediate evacuation, bringing Dream Chaser and its passengers home to a runway will be possible any time.

This presentation is part of Sierra Nevada’s sales effort to find new backers for their spacecraft, now that NASA has begged out. I think they make a good sales pitch. I hope someone with money agrees.

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