Mangalyaan sends its first Mars pictures

Mangalyaan's first image of Mars

Indian engineers have posted Mangalyaan’s first image on the spacecraft’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as presented the photo to their nation’s leader.

My first reaction when I looked at the image above was an immediate flashback to 1969, when the American probes Mariner 6 and Mariner 7 flew past Mars, taking images of its cratered southern hemisphere and thus making scientists think for several years that Mars was not much different than the Moon. The Indian image is of about the same quality, and shows lots of moon-like craters.

Image if this was the first close-up image of Mars anyone had ever seen. It would be very easy to assume that Mars is pockmarked with craters everywhere, just like the Moon.


Europe struggles to contain costs on its next generation rocket

New budget estimates for replacing Arianespace’s Ariane 5 rocket now say that they will have to include the construction of an entirely new launchpad, raising costs.

Nonetheless, Europe is trying to keep its per launch cost down and competitive.

ESA and the Airbus-Safran joint venture that proposes to manage Ariane development also floated per-launch costs that were lower than previous estimates. The lighter-version Ariane 62, with two solid-rocket boosters, could be built for as little as 65 million euros assuming a nine-per-year launch rhythm, officials said. The heavier Ariane 64, intended mainly for the commercial market and capable of carrying two satellites weighing a combined 11,000 kilograms into geostationary transfer orbit, could be built for 85 million euros each, again assuming a nine-per-year production rate.

These numbers are tiny compared to what they have charged in the past, and though higher than SpaceX’s, are within a price range that will keep them in business, assuming they can achieve them.

Why India’s Mars probe was so cheap

Alan Boyle has some interesting thoughts on why it cost India so little, less than the budget of the movie Gravity, to build and send its probe Mangalyaan to Mars.

The $74 million Mars Orbiter Mission, also known by the acronym MOM or the Hindi word Mangalyaan (“Mars-Craft”), didn’t just cost less than the $100 million Hollywood blockbuster starring Sandra Bullock. The price tag is a mere one-ninth of the cost of NASA’s $671 million Maven mission, which also put its spacecraft into Mars orbit this week. The differential definitely hints at a new paradigm for space exploration — one that’s taking hold not only in Bangalore, but around the world. At the same time, it hints at the dramatically different objectives for MOM and Maven, and the dramatically different environments in which those missions took shape.

Read it all. It gives us a hint at the future of space exploration.

Taking a close look at the peaceful nature of Islam in Great Britain

Want to get a real look at Islam, rather than the peaceful and tolerant politically correct version pushed on us by the bankrupt elite intellectual culture of our time? Take a gander at the video below the fold of a young British woman attending an Islamic demonstration in Great Britain. It will chill your bones.
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Taking a close look at the political leanings of a global warming rally

Want to get a feel for the politics of the environmental movement? Take a gander at this detailed report, with numerous pictures, of a global warming rally that took place in San Francisco this weekend.

It was the same in New York at the People’s Climate Rally. Anyone who thinks it is the Earth these people want to save is incredibly naive. It is power they crave, and the ability to use it for their own ends.

Russia announces plans to fund its share of ISS through 2025

In a somewhat unexpected development today, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin revealed today that Russia intends to spend $8.2 billion (321 billion rubles) on research and development at the International Space Station through 2025.

“The 2016-2025 draft of the target federal program provides for allocating 321 billion rubles for the ISS development and operation, including the creation of new modules for unmanned spacecraft,” Rogozin said during a visit to a cosmonaut training center. “Russia channels considerable funds into development of this area of Russian space science. We are now thinking of research projects designed to explore outer space, as well as new projects in manned cosmonautics,” Rogozin said.

Up until now the Russians have been unclear about what they intend to do at ISS. NASA had asked them to extend the partnership to 2024. Their initial response was almost hostile, with Rogozin even threatening to stop flying American astronauts to ISS on Russian Soyuz rockets/capsules. Now it appears that they have decided to up their participation with new modules and agree to the extension.

Moreover, Rogozin’s statement suggests they are going to take a more independent position when it comes to human research in space. Up until now, they have allowed NASA a veto on flying any long manned missions on ISS, which is why no yearlong expeditions prior to next year’s have taken place. NASA kept saying no. This report suggests that once we have our own methods for getting astronauts to ISS they are going to go their own way and begin flying their own long term missions to ISS. We will fly our astronauts there on our schedule, and they will fly their astronauts there on their schedule.

Should make for some interesting news stories, eh? Will Russian and American astronauts even be allowed in each other’s modules? I am reminded of stories of messy divorces where the couples still had to live in the same house.

Success for India’s Mars Orbiter Mission

The competition heats up: On Wednesday morning India’s Mars orbiter Mangalyaan successfully fired its engines and attained Mars orbit.

More here.

There are probably three dozen stories in the India press today extolling this success. And there should be. As described in detail in the second link above, India did this mission smart, simple, and fast, showing everyone else that a science mission doesn’t have to take a decade and a billion dollars to be get built.

I expect that this success will quickly lead to the Indian manned flight tests their space agency ISRO has been advocating for the past few years.

Forest Service clamps down on free speech

The Bill of Rights is such an inconvenient thing: The U.S. Forest Service has instituted rules requiring journalists to get a permit before they can take pictures or videos on federal land.

Under rules being finalized in November, a reporter who met a biologist, wildlife advocate or whistleblower alleging neglect in any of the nation’s 100 million acres of wilderness would first need special approval to shoot photos or videos even on an iPhone. Permits cost up to $1,500, says Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers, and reporters who don’t get a permit could face fines up to $1,000.

First Amendment advocates say the rules ignore press freedoms and are so vague they’d allow the Forest Service to grant permits only to favored reporters shooting videos for positive stories.

The fascist nature of these new rules is revealed by this quote near the end of the article:

[T]he Forest Service is giving its supervisors discretion to decide whether a news outlet’s planned video or photo shoots would meet the Wilderness Act’s goals. “If you were engaged on reporting that was in support of wilderness characteristics, that would be permitted,” [said Liz Close, the Forest Service's acting wilderness director].

But if you are reporting on something the Forest Service disagrees with they obviously believe they have the right to deny you a permit to film or videotape.

The IRS versus the Constitution

Working for fascists: The IRS did not just harass conservatives, it also targeted groups whose only focus was to teach the Constitution.

It is now well known that the IRS targeted tea party organizations. What is less well known, but perhaps even more scandalous, is that the IRS also targeted those who would educate their fellow citizens about the United States Constitution.

According to the inspector general’s report (pp. 30 & 38), this particular IRS targeting commenced on Jan. 25, 2012 — the beginning of the election year for President Obama’s second campaign. On that date: “the BOLO [‘be on the lookout’] criteria were again updated.” The revised criteria included “political action type organizations involved in … educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.” [emphasis mine]

Note that the targeting was aimed at educational groups, not political groups, which were simply working to teach Americans about the founding documents of our country. That the Obama IRS could somehow consider this activity political or partisan and subject to increased investigation is quite disturbing. Since when is teaching about the Constitution a Democratic or Republican issue? Or has it become one, with the Democrats now hostile to the principles of freedom for which these documents were written to defend?

The Great Space Race

Yesterday the private commercial launch company SpaceX broke ground on its own private spaceport near Brownsville, Texas.

“This feels great. It feels like the future,” [SpaceX founder Elon] Musk said at the ground-breaking. … He intends to have the first launch in late 2016, with an initial 12 launches a year. Ultimately, “thousands of launches,” he projected. Furthermore, “when we start doing commercial crew activities, I would expect us to launch a crew from here,” he said.

The significance of this construction is not trivial. This will be the first spaceport built by a private company that will be used to launch its privately-built commercial rockets, and will do it for profit. Other spaceports have been established in the last decade for the purpose of private space tourism, but none have seen anything fly, and all those spaceports were some form of quasi-government operation.

SpaceX’s Brownsville spaceport, rumored to be dubbed Mars Crossing, is not a government-run operation, however. It will be wholly owned and operated by the company, and is being built to allow them to launch commercial satellites unconstrained by the rules that make launches from the government controlled spaceports at the Kennedy Space Center as well as Vandenberg Air Force Base in California difficult and complicated.

This ground-breaking also comes on the heels of last week’s announcement that SpaceX and Boeing have been chosen by NASA to build spacecraft to ferry human astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

It also comes at the same time the Russian government has reorganized its entire aerospace industry to place it under government control, committed billions for the accelerated construction of a new spaceport on Russian territory, and launched the first test flight of its own new rocket, Angara, designed to compete for commercial market share while also reenergizing the entire Russian space effort.

Nor is that all.
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Obamacare enrollment plunges

Finding out what’s in it: At congressional hearings yesterday health insurance experts described how the numbers of people actually enrolled and paying for Obamacare is dropping.

“They’ve deteriorated quite a bit, this was anticipated to some degree, but I think it’s exceeded expectations in some cases,” said Jim Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. For instance, state officials in Florida say their enrollments are now 220,000 lower than the administration’s count in April, going from some 983,000 to just over 762,000, a drop of more than 20 percent. A state official said some may have been duplicate enrollments because of website problems on The others, he said, just didn’t pay their premiums and lost their coverage, a problem insurance companies are also reporting.

Robert Laszewski, of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, said, “I’ve talked to a number of insurance companies around the industry and they’re indicating that they’re down as low as 70 percent of the original enrollments they had.”

We must remember that the original announced numbers were far lower than had been hoped for to begin with. Now we are finding that even those who did enroll decided at some point that the coverage imposed on them by the law wasn’t worth the money and stopped paying for it.

But the Democrats care. They want to help. So what they their efforts are at best ineffectual and at worst destructive. We’ve got to vote for them anyway!

The People’s Climate March leaves New York a mess

“Their love for the Earth is so real, they couldn’t even use a trash can.”

The images of the trash left scattered on the streets of New York is striking, especially when compared to the very clean remains after the 2010 Tea Party march in DC, and provide more evidence that the loud cries of “Save the Earth” by these demonstrators were quite shallow and insincere.

Nonetheless, this apparent hypocrisy to me is less significant than the actual agenda of these fascists as stated by them, before, during, and after the march. They want to imprison their opponents and than impose their will by force on everyone else. It is far more important to note this fact than the fact that these demonstrators are sloppy hypocrites.

SpaceX breaks ground on new spaceport

The competition heats up: At a ceremonial ground-breaking today in Brownsville, Texas, SpaceX officially began construction on the company’s own private spaceport for launching commercial satellites.

I will have more to say about this tomorrow. Regardless, this is a big deal, a private company building its own private spaceport.

The planet debate continues

In a public debate about the scientific definition of a planet, the IAU’s definition, imposed about eight years ago to expressly prevent Pluto from being called one, was soundly defeated when the votes were counted.

Science historian Dr. Owen Gingerich, who chaired the IAU planet definition committee, presented the historical viewpoint. Dr. Gareth Williams, associate director of the Minor Planet Center, presented the IAU’s viewpoint [which is the definition that is presently considered official by scientific bureaucrats]. And Dr. Dimitar Sasselov, director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative, presented the exoplanet scientist’s viewpoint.

Gingerich argued that “a planet is a culturally defined word that changes over time,” and that Pluto is a planet. Williams defended the IAU definition, which declares that Pluto is not a planet. And Sasselov defined a planet as “the smallest spherical lump of matter that formed around stars or stellar remnants,” which means Pluto is a planet.

After these experts made their best case, the audience got to vote on what a planet is or isn’t and whether Pluto is in or out. The results are in, with no hanging chads in sight.

According to the audience, Sasselov’s definition won the day, and Pluto IS a planet.

Notice that two of the three debaters considered Pluto a planet even before the vote was taken. Notice also that the first debater, Gingerich, was on the very committee that the IAU had created to come up with a definition and then ignored completely when its definition decided that Pluto was a planet.

In the end, it will be the people who speak the language that will decide, not IAU bureaucrats. This little public relations event and vote tells me that the bureaucrats will lose.

“They want to start taking — now.”

The two stories linked below, describing what it was like at Sunday’s People’s Climate March in New York, confirm for me what I had surmised from earlier reports prior to the march, that the march was a leftwing get-together with its central goal to use the climate as an excuse to impose leftist and communist redistributionist policies on the free citizens of America.

My headline is a quote from the second article. The full quote:

Put it all together — all the justice demanders, the tax Wall Streeters, and the spirit of Occupy symbolized by the angry pacifist — and the People’s Climate March was one long, loud, loosely organized demand that vast sums of money be taken from the wealthy and given to the clients of the coalitions and alliances and networks and task forces that make up today’s environmental justice movement. They’ve had enough of debating climate models. They want to start taking — now.

Lord help us, in that we have already tragically allowed many of these people to wield significant amounts of power, and they are using that power to impose their agenda on us all.

Obamacare forces Alaskan doctors to close their practices.

Finding out what’s in it: “It is an unsustainable system.”

“Within the last month, Fairbanks has lost three other much respected physicians for the same or similar reasons,” Dr. Wennen wrote. ”I am not the first and certainly will not be the last of the exodus of physicians from active practice because of all of this.” Dr. Wennen is far from alone in his stark opposition to the health-care law. A recent survey from the Physicians Foundation found that 46 percent of doctors in the U.S. would give Obamacare a “D” or an “F,” the Washington Examiner reported.

But the Democrats care. They want to help. They aren’t mean like those Republicans and tea party conservatives, who simply predicted that these kinds of disasters would happen if Obamacare was passed.

The disasters are happening, and the people to blame for it are the Democrats in Congress and in the White House that pushed this monstrous law through without any negotiation or discussion. Think about that when you vote in November.

MAVEN enters Mars orbit

Upon completion of its engine burn this evening at 10:10 pm (eastern), MAVEN successfully entered Mars orbit.

Stephen Clark’s status updates on Spaceflight Now were accurate, informative, and right on the money. The live telecast on NASA-TV was confusing, idiotic, distracting, and uninformed. They never once announced when the engine burn had started, ignored the reactions of the people in the control room when they cheered some important event, and spent a lot of time discussing facts that were irrelevant to this event, which is “Will MAVEN achieve orbit!?” Worst of all, the male “anchor” was clearly ignorant of the mission while the female “anchor” spoke in a sing-song manner as if her audience were kindergarten toddlers who needed careful herding. All in all, it was embarrassing to watch.

They did manage to shut up just in time to catch the announcement from mission control that telemetry had confirmed that MAVEN had reached orbit. They then went back to chattering about irrelevant stuff. As I said, embarrassing.

Obamacare to cut tax refunds in April

Finding out what’s in it: After comparing the annual income and the amount of health credits received, the IRS is expected to take the tax refunds from a significant number of Americans who it determines received an overpayment of credits.

Your solution? You have to be able to predict with complete accuracy exactly how much you will earn. This of course is impossible for people like me, who is a freelancer, or for owners of businesses that depend upon sales to determine their income. Such people haven’t the slightest idea what their income will be from year to year.

Also, if you read the article above I dare you to then tell me Obamacare hasn’t made everyone’s lives more complicated. Just trying to figure out what this whole issue is about glazes the mind. Trying to figure out how to avoid a mine buried in Obamacare itself is practically impossible.

But remember, the Democrats and Obama care. That’s all that matters, even if that caring bankrupts us all.

India inks space deal with China

The competition heats up: India has signed a cooperative agreement with China to work together on several space projects.

Asked about the areas of focus, [Isro chairman K Radhakrishnan] said: “Right now, broadly speaking, it will be natural disasters and remote sensing, which are natural choices. But by March-April 2015, the joint working team would have prepared a roadmap, chalking out various options and opportunities for concentrated efforts in space exploration.”

This article is among a lot of articles from India this week about space and the upcoming orbital insertion of their Mars Orbiter Mangalyaan. As I’ve said repeatedly, this emerging prosperous and capitalist nation is space happy!

Also, when you click on the link make sure you scroll down to read the secondary sidebar piece at the bottom titled “After Mars, Kathakali beckons Isro chief.” There they describe the other culture interests of the head of India’s space agency, and how he plans to spend his time after he steps down in December. It will give you a flavor of India’s culture and how it differs from ours, even as it strives to emulate us.

Falcon 9 launch puts Dragon in orbit

The competition heats up: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket has successfully put its fifth Dragon cargo freighter into orbit, with a docking at ISS scheduled for Tuesday.

Spaceflight Now’s status update above also noted that this is the 13th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010. All these flights have successfully put their primary payloads into orbit as promised, an amazing track record for a new rocket built by a new company only in existence for less than a decade.

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