Dubai of the UAE and its push for science, space, and technology

Link here. The article provides some context for the various stories I have posted recently about the UAE’s ambitions in both space and other hi-tech projects.

They are without doubt thinking big, and the article gives their effort a strong positive spin. However, this quote seemed significant to me:

If Dubai’s future is as a knowledge hub, it will have to fulfill the dreams of more than just the Emiratis. With rare exceptions, only they are allowed to be citizens, and since visas are based on employment, deportation isn’t so much an extreme consequence as an everyday worry. That may have mattered less to the Emiratis when labor was expendable. But to compete for global talent, Dubai needs to transform from a transitory polyglot society to a permanently cosmopolitan one—an ambition that has become a talking point of Sheikh Mohammed. “The uniqueness of Dubai is the fact that it is a melting pot of the world’s cultures, ethnicities, and minds in one city,” he said in a statement.

Al Gergawi acknowledges the challenge of that transition in his own vague way. “I’m saying we’re not perfect,” he says. “We are young kids on the block, if you look at the block as the world. Every day we say: ‘How can we improve? How can we move to the next step in every single aspect?’”

Maybe it is necessary to grade Dubai on a curve. By the standards of a liberal democracy, Dubai remains retrograde. There is no democratic representation, poor freedom of the press, and homosexuality remains illegal. But compared with the rest of the Arab world, Dubai is a beacon of openness and modernity. Thirty percent of the cabinet members are female (compared with 0 percent in Saudi Arabia and 6 percent in Jordan), as is 66 percent of the government workforce.

Then there was this quote, by Sarah Amiri, the 30-year-old science lead for the UAE’s Mars mission, dubbed Hope.

“We get told by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed that the most important part is the scientists and engineers who are going to come out of this,” she explains. Accordingly, the mission staff skews young. Everyone is under 35, the average age is 27, and 30 percent are female. Amiri speaks passionately about inspiring the youth of the Arab world. “We need to give them monumental challenges to solve.” [emphasis mine]

“Get told.” This is still a top-down society. Sheikh Mohammad might have wonderful dreams, but such dreams cannot easily be imposed on a society by one man. I remain skeptical, though I readily admit that they have done remarkably well in a very short period of time.

At the same time, I cannot help wondering if they would welcome any Israeli scientists or engineers. Somehow I doubt it, no matter how much they claim that they are a melting pot.

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Beethoven – Turkish March

An evening pause: Arranged for 8 (!) pianos. From the youtube webpage:

2 successive performances of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Turkish March from “Die Ruinen von Athen”, arranged by Richard Blackford for 8 pianos. Played by Gina Bachauer, Jorge Bolet, Jeanne-Marie Darré, Alicia De Larrocha, John Lill, Radu Lupu, Garrick Ohlsson and Bálint Vázsonyi at a Gargantuan Pianistic Extravaganza in London, 1974.

Please note that the 2nd performance is NOT a shredding video – these great pianists were actually playing what you hear!

Hat tip Jim Mallamace.

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A former leftist sees the light

Link here.

I have been wondering why more people on the left are not speaking up against violence, in favor of free exchange of ideas and dialogue, in favor of compassion. But I know why. I was in the cult. Part of it is that you are a true believer, and part of it is that you are fearful of being called an apostate — in being trashed as a sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, fascist, white supremacist nazi. A friend recently wrote to me privately to say they find my latest posts “refreshing,” and that they believe in free speech, but as someone who works in entertainment, they can’t say anything that might cause them to lose their job. As someone who has gone through and is still going through a change in my underlying systems of belief, I can say this: when you finally get past fear, it is so liberating. After a lot of self-reflection, I eventually came to the opinion that if I lose friends or jobs over trying to speak and find the truth in situations, and to do so in a way that reflects my belief in compassion, then perhaps those were not friends or jobs that were healthy for my growth.

There is a lot more. Read it all. The key is that the violence, thuggery, and outright viciousness of the modern left is actually doing nothing to persuade anyone. If anything, it is offending people, turning them off, and making people like the writer above rethink their assumptions. Suddenly, she finds herself listening to conservatives, and discovering that they are actually not fascists, but believe in freedom, tolerance, justice, and treating people with respect, ideas that have increasingly disappeared from the leftist community.

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GAO: Cost and scheduling problems with many big NASA projects

A new Government Accountability Office audit [pdf] that reviewed 22 major NASA projects, including Orion and SLS, has found that many of them have significant scheduling and cost problems.

Let’s just go through them all:

  • SLS: “The SLS program’s schedule is deteriorating and it is at increased risk of exceeding its cost baseline and missing its November 2018 launch readiness date.”
  • Orion: “The Orion program is increasingly at risk of missing the November 2018 launch date for its first uncrewed exploration mission.”
  • Mars 2020: “The Mars 2020 project has not met key best practices for reducing product development risk.”
  • Asteroid Redirect Robot Mission (ARRM): “In August 2016, the ARRM project entered the preliminary design and technology completion phase with a higher cost and longer schedule than previously estimated.”
  • Europa Clipper: “At the project’s most recent decision review, its independent review board stated that it was at risk of exceeding its preliminary cost and schedule ranges unless its scope or complexity was reduced.”
  • Ground Systems (EGS) upgrade: “The EGS program’s schedule is deteriorating and it is at increased risk of exceeding its cost baseline and missing its November 2018 launch readiness date.”
  • ICESat-2: “The ICESat-2 project has encountered problems with the flight lasers in its sole instrument—the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS)—that will likely cause it to miss its committed launch date and could cause it to exceed its current cost baseline.”
  • InSight: “The InSight project missed its committed launch date of March 2016 and exceeded its cost baseline due to technical issues with its primary science payload—the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument—which is contributed by the French space agency (CNES).”
  • Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICE): “The ICON project has experienced technical issues and delays in system integration and testing, but it still on track to launch in July 2017—3 months earlier than its committed launch date.”
  • James Webb Space Telescope: “In December 2016, we found that the primary threat to the JWST project continues to be the ability of the observatory development and integration contractor, Northrop Grumman, to control its costs.”
  • Radiation Budget Instrument (RBI): “NASA’s joint cost and schedule confidence level analysis indicated that the likelihood of the project meeting the date is low and the project’s independent review board described the schedule as optimistic when compared to similar instruments. … The RBI project’s prime contractor Harris continues to experience cost overruns.”
  • Space Network Ground Segment Sustainment (SGSS): “The SGSS project has exceeded the new cost and schedule baseline NASA set for it in June 2015 and further cost and schedule growth is likely.”

Not all the projects audited were a disaster. GRACE-FO, Landsat-9, NISA, Solar Probe Plus, SWOT, TESS, and WFIRST have few significant problems, though even with these there have been delays with each project still facing significant cost and scheduling risks.

As for Commercial Crew, the audit notes delays and problems, but these appear to be mostly linked to the bureaucratic and somewhat unjustified demands by NASA for increased safety, such as the agency’s refusal to accept the use of the Atlas 5 with a Russian first stage engine and its concerns about SpaceX’s plans to fuel the rocket with astronauts on-board (even though astronauts have been aboard fueled rockets with every other manned launch for the entire history of space exploration).

Overall, this audit does not speak well of either NASA’s management or the contractors with whom the agency has routinely worked. Space engineering is hard, but many of these problems seem more related to either incompetence or a willingness of NASA to forgive bad work too often. The number of contractors or government agencies listed here who have failed entirely at their jobs is appalling.

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Islamic expert Robert Spencer poisoned by leftist protester

Fascists: Islamic expert Robert Spencer was apparently poisoned by a leftist protester during a visit to Iceland last week.

It happened after the event, when my security chief, the organizers of the event, and Jihad Watch writer Christine Williams, who had also been invited to speak, went with me to a local restaurant to celebrate the success of the evening. At this crowded Reykjavik establishment, I was quickly recognized. A young Icelander called me by name, shook my hand, and said he was a big fan. Shortly after that, another citizen of that famously genteel and courteous land also called me by name, shook my hand, and said “F*** you.”

We took that marvelous Icelandic greeting as a cue to leave. But the damage had already been done. About fifteen minutes later, when I got back in my hotel room, I began to feel numbness in my face, hands, and feet. I began trembling and vomiting. My heart was racing dangerously. I spent the night in a Reykjavik hospital.

What had happened quickly became clear, and was soon confirmed by a hospital test: one of these local Icelanders who had approached me (probably the one who said he was a big fan, as he was much closer to me than the “F**k you” guy) had dropped drugs into my drink. I wasn’t and am not on any other medication, and so there wasn’t any other explanation of how these things had gotten into my bloodstream.

They have identified the culprits. Spencer appears to be recovering, though he, as I and others have noted, is appalled by the rising level of intolerance and violence coming from the left.

I learned my lesson. The lesson I learned was that media demonization of those who dissent from the Leftist line is direct incitement to violence. By portraying me and others who raise legitimate questions about jihad terror and Sharia oppression as racist, bigoted Islamophobes, without allowing us a fair hearing, the media in Iceland and elsewhere in the West is actively endangering those who dare to dissent. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Center for American Progress and the rest who devote so much money, time and attention to demonizing “Islamophobes” are painting huge targets on our backs.

Of course, they think they’re doing something noble. Not only does the Left fill those whom it brainwashes with hate, but it does so while portraying its enemies as the hatemongers, such that violent Leftists such as the young man who drugged me feel righteous even as they victimize and brutalize conservatives.

There is no doubt about it: I’m certain that whoever poisoned me in Iceland went away feeling happy over what he had done. If he told anyone what he did, I’m sure he was hailed as a hero. I’m also aware that many who read this will be thrilled at the fact that I became seriously ill. That in itself is a sign of how degenerate and evil the Left has become.

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SpaceX launches commercial satellite

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully launched a commercial communications satellite, only two weeks after its previous launch.

They hope to launch again in two weeks, and then two weeks after that, and then two weeks after that, again. In fact, they presently have four launches listed for June. If they succeed, they will be well on the way to clearing their launch backlog.

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Another California speaking event shut down by students

Fascist California: Protesters from the student chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) shut down another speaking event at a University of California campus, this time at Irvine.

A group of roughly 30 protesters descended upon the event when it was about halfway through, initially engaging civilly but quickly turning to insulting the speakers and shouting over them as they attempted to answer questions.

Video footage of the proceedings, chronicled by former UCI professor Gary Fouse, shows the protesters leading chants of “Israel, Israel, you can’t hide/we charge you with genocide” and “Israel, Israel, what do you say?/how many people have you killed today?” for nearly five minutes, eventually leaving after the police were called. “You people are colonizers or occupiers and you should not be allowed on this f*****g campus,” one of the protesters exclaimed, shouting “**** you” before leaving the venue with her applauding peers.

Kevin Brum, the founder and sole member of Students Supporting Israel at UCI, told The Algemeiner that members of the school’s police department were scheduled to be present for the duration of the “high-risk program,” but didn’t arrive on the scene until ten minutes after they had been called. “After not showing up when we first needed them, UCIPD took us out not by a safe alternate route or by clearing a path [through the corridor], but they decided to take us through a path of protesters who posed a high likelihood of violence,” Brum added.

It appears once again that the authorities in California support this violence, and are willing to aid these protesters in their jackbooted acts of intimidation.

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Mars rover update: May 15, 2017

This update could also be entitled, “Up and down into Martian gullies,” as that is what both rovers, Curiosity and Opportunity, are presently focused on doing.

Curiosity

Curiosity's position, Sol 1696 (May 12, 2017)

For the overall context of Curiosity’s travels, see Pinpointing Curiosity’s location in Gale Crater.

In the past month, since my previous April 21, 2017 update, Curiosity has been working its way up the dry wash, frequently stopping to inspect the rocky surface terrain within. As they note,

As we climb up Mount Sharp, recently over slopes of 4-6 degrees, we have seen more varied outcrop structures and chemistries than the rest of the Murray formation, and such changes catch the collective eye of the team.

Only in the last week have they shifted to the east, as planned. Their near term goal is the lighter, yellowish layer of rock, dubbed the Hematite Unit, that sits higher up the slope of Mount Sharp. As they have been traveling on the Murray Formation now for more than a year, since March, 2016, I am certain the science team is even more eager to get to this different layer of geology to find out what it is made of and why it is there.

You can get an overall view of the geology Curiosity is traversing from this October 3, 2016 press release. Below is a version of the traverse map shown at that site that I posted as part of my October 6, 2016 rover update, updated to show Curiosity’s present location. It is apparent that Curiosity is finally moving out of the foothills below Mount Sharp and beginning its climb up the mountain’s actual slopes.
» Read more

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Engine test of Blue Origin BE-4 engine goes bad

Capitalism n space: Blue Origin today revealed that an engine test of its BE-4 rocket engine, intended for sale to ULA as well as the basis for their own New Glenn rocket, went wrong.

In a rare update, the Blue Origin space venture founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos reported that it lost a set of powerpack test hardware for its BE-4 rocket engine over the weekend, but added that such a setback is “not unusual” during development. “That’s why we always set up our development programs to be hardware-rich,” the company tweeted today. “Back into testing soon.”

The announcement was via a tweet, and they have released no additional details.

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Rocket Lab sets May 21 for first test launch of its Electron rocket

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab today announced that it has scheduled the first test flight of its Electron rocket for May 21.

The company is setting expectations for a test launch that may suffer delays and could end in failure. “During this first launch attempt it is possible we will scrub multiple attempts as we wait until we are ready and conditions are favorable,” Beck said in the statement.

The launch, as the company’s name for it emphasizes [“It’s a test], is a test flight, with no satellite payload on board. The launch is the first of three such test flights Rocket Lab plans before beginning commercial launches later this year.

Rocket Lab plans to carry out the launch largely out of public view. The company said a press kit about the mission that there will be no public viewing sites in the vicinity of its New Zealand launch site for this mission. There are also no plans to webcast the launch, although the company said it will provide video footage “following a successful launch.”

Although Rocket Lab is launching from New Zealand, the company is headquartered in the United States, and thus will require a launch license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration for this and future Electron missions. As of May 14, the FAA had not published a launch license for this flight. [emphasis mine]

I have highlighted the last paragraph above because it is to me the most interesting part of this entire story. What happens if Rocket Lab never gets its U.S. launch license and launches anyway? They are launching on foreign soil. It really is none of the FAA’s business, even if the company is based in the U.S. Will they fine them? Call them names?

I suspect that one reason they have made the announcement first, before getting their license, is to pressure the FAA bureaucrats to get off their duffs and get moving. In the past both Virgin Galactic and SpaceX have done the same thing, and got their licenses very quickly thereafter.

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North Korea completes ballistic missile test

North Korea today successfully completed a ballistic missile test.

The unidentified ballistic missile was launched at 5:27 a.m. Sunday Seoul time (4:27 p.m. Saturday ET), off Kusong north of the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, a South Korean military official told NBC News. The missile flew around 30 minutes and landed in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary said.

The missile is not believed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile, U.S. Pacific Command said. Defense officials said the U.S. is assessing whether it was a success of failure. “Right now it sure looks successful,” one U.S. defense official said.

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The press begins to turn against SLS

This report by Eric Berger of Ars Technica, describing the press teleconference today where NASA announced that they would not fly humans on the first SLS flight in 2019, reveals a significant political change.

In the past, most mainstream reporters would routinely accept NASA’s announcements about SLS. If the agency said it was great, their stories would wax poetic about how great it was. If NASA said its greatness was causing a delay, their stories would laud NASA had how well it was doing dealing with SLS’s greatness, even though that greatness was forcing another delay. Never, and I mean never, would NASA or these reporters ever talk about the project’s overall and ungodly cost.

This press conference was apparently quite different. The press had lots of questions about SLS and its endless delays. They had lots of questions about its costs. And most significant, they had lots of questions for NASA about why the agency is having so much trouble building this rocket, when two private companies, SpaceX and Blue Origin, are building something comparable for a tenth the money in about half the time.

During the teleconference, Ars asked Gerstenmaier to step back and take a big-picture look at the SLS rocket. Even with all of the funding—about $10 billion through next year—how was the agency likely to miss the original deadline by as much as three years, if not more?

“I don’t know,” Gerstenmaier replied. “I don’t know—I would just say it’s really kind of the complexity of what we’re trying to go do, and to build these systems. We weren’t pushing state-of-the-art technology, like main engines sitting underneath the rocket or new solid rocket boosters. But we were pushing a lot of new manufacturing, and I think that new manufacturing has caused some of the delays we’ve seen. No one welds the way that we’re welding material at the thicknesses we’re welding.”

…Later, the NASA officials were asked about private companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin, which are also building heavy-lift rockets but at a very limited cost to taxpayers. What would they have to say about just buying those vehicles off the shelf, at significantly lower cost than an SLS launch, and preserving NASA’s funds to execute in-space missions?

Gerstnmaier’s explanations for SLS’s delays and costs, that it is a very complex and advanced piece of rocket engineering, is total bunk. This was supposed to be an upgraded Saturn 5, but it will only be able to lift about 70% of the payload. It is using the actual shuttle engines, and upgraded shuttle solid rocket boosters. While new engineering was required to refit these for SLS, none of that should have been so hard or expensive.

The key here is that members of the press are finally aware of this, and are asking the right questions. With Falcon Heavy about to launched multiple times before SLS even launches once, the continuation of this boondoggle is becoming increasingly difficult to justify.

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NASA nixes plan to fly humans on first SLS flight

Common sense prevails! In a joint decision with the White House, NASA announced today that they will not fly humans on the first test flight of SLS, now scheduled for sometime in 2019.

Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said that the study turned up fewer technical issues with putting a crew on EM-1 than he originally expected. “What I was surprised by was that I thought there would be a whole lot of really negative work that would actually maybe make this not very attractive to us,” he said. “But when [acting NASA administration Robert Lightfoot] and I look at this overall, it does add some more risk to us, because it’s the first crew on the vehicle,” he said. The work to add crew to EM-1 would have cost NASA an additional $600–900 million, and delay the launch likely to the first or second quarter of 2020.

“The culmination of changes in all three of those areas said that overall, probably the best plan we have is actually the plan we’re on right now,” Gerstenmaier said. “When we looked at the overall integrated activity, even though it was feasible, it just didn’t seem warranted in this environment.”

The announcement also included an admission by Gerstenmaier that the first manned SLS flight, now set for 2021, will likely be delayed.

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American colleges: Today’s blueprint for tomorrow’s totalitarian state

Link here.

I could quote almost every line. Greenfield successfully says what I have been thinking and noting (but not very successfully) for the past several months, that today’s American colleges have become oppressive places, run by violent leftist and racist mobs, and that this vision provides us a peek into the future of America. As he concludes:

Colleges have always been the training ground for the leaders of tomorrow. The blueprints for a new society begin there. If you wanted to know what leftist ideas would be going mainstream in a decade, you went to a fashionable college. The leftist idea that is going mainstream [today] is a totalitarian state.

… Imagine what tomorrow’s leaders would be like if they all got an education in North Korea. That’s the crisis we face today. The leaders of tomorrow are coming of age in the totalitarian campus states of today. When one of those polls emerge showing that 7 out of 10 college students want to ban offensive speech, it’s not a generational phenomenon so much as it is environmental indoctrination.

The left’s experiment in college totalitarianism has normalized an environment in which free speech and individual rights don’t exist, in which truth and facts were invented by imperialists, and in which a single cultural misstep can have shattering consequences for anyone who isn’t part of the right identity clique.

Today’s campus is unsafe for America. Taxpayers have invested enormous amounts of money into funding an educational system that rejects everything that makes our society work. If that does not change, then our society will be destroyed by the consequences.

The battle over freedom on campus is the battle for freedom in America. [emphasis mine]

If we do not cease funding this vicious oppressive culture, it will come back soon and bite us, and bite us hard.

Update: Said by a California professor: “College campuses are not free speech areas.” He said this as he and his students, under his instruction, were attempting to wipe out chalked opinions (placed on the sidewalk with the school’s approval) he did not like

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Assistant principal who harassed pro-life protesters resigns

The assistant principal of a Pennsylvania high school who harassed several teenage pro-life demonstrators has turned in his resignation.

The key here is the teacher’s admission that he was totally wrong:

Last Friday the administrator appeared at a school district hearing after which he was suspended without pay. The district said Ruff indicated at the hearing that he might resign but requested more time to review the charges, which included violating the protesters First Amendment rights, said Michael Levin, the attorney representing the district.

“Dr. Ruff has acknowledged that the demonstrators had a right to be on a public sidewalk,” the news release said. “He acknowledged that his conduct cannot be defended or condoned, and he deeply regretted his actions as displayed on the video. This school district will not interfere with the rights of anyone to express themselves.”

He might have been a very good teacher. He might still become a very good teacher. What is important is that if and when he teaches in the future, he does so respecting the opinions of others. As Cromwell said, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”

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Propellers by the dozens

Propellers

Cool image time! The latest image releases from Cassini, taken during its recent close fly-by campaign of the rings of Saturn, focus on the propeller features produced in the rings by larger ring objects. The image on the right, reduced to show here, reveals dozens of propellers of all shapes and sizes.

The original discovery of propellers in this region in Saturn’s rings … was made using several images taken from very close to the rings during Cassini’s 2004 arrival at Saturn. Those discovery images were of low resolution and were difficult to interpret, and there were few clues as to how the small propellers seen in those images were related to the larger propellers Cassini observed later in the mission….

This image, for the first time, shows swarms of propellers of a wide range of sizes, putting the ones Cassini observed in its Saturn arrival images in context. Scientists will use this information to derive a “particle size distribution” for propeller moons, which is an important clue to their origins.

The parallel pattern of rings in the center of the image is a series of density waves in the ring structure, caused by an interaction with one of Saturn’s larger nearby moons.

They have also released the best view we can now expect of a propeller by Cassini.

This is the third and final propeller to be targeted for a close flyby observation during Cassini’s ring-grazing orbits (the period from Nov. 2016 to April 2017 when Cassini’s orbit passed just outside the main rings). …Because propellers are seen in the outermost parts of the main rings, the ring-grazing orbits provided Cassini’s best opportunity to see them up close.

Cassini is now diving between the rings and the planet, so the propellers are farther away.

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Irreplaceable plant specimens destroyed by Australian customs.

Do the paperwork! Because the proper paperwork was not completed, and then mailed to the wrong address, Australian customs officials destroyed six daisy specimens, some collected in the 1700s.

Earlier this week, many botanists learned about the destruction of six type specimens of daisies—some collected during a French expedition to Australia from 1791 to 1793—which the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) in Paris had mailed along with 99 other specimens to the Queensland Herbarium in Brisbane, Australia.

After the package arrived in Brisbane in early January, the specimens were held up at customs because the paperwork was incomplete. Biosecurity officers asked the Queensland Herbarium for a list of the specimens and how they were preserved, but the herbarium sent its responses to the wrong email address, delaying the response by many weeks. In March, the officers requested clarification, but then incinerated the samples. “It’s like taking a painting from the Louvre and burning it,” says James Solomon, herbarium curator at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.

According to Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, which enforces biosecurity rules, part of the problem was that the samples had a declared value of $2—and its agents routinely destroy low-value items that have been kept longer than 30 days. Michel Guiraud, director of collections at NMNH, says his museum’s policy is to put minimal values on shipments. “If it is irreplaceable, there is no way to put an insurance value on it,” he says.

It appears that the fault here is not entirely limited to Australian customs. Both the Paris and Brisbane museums appear to have been very sloppy in this matter.

The result, for now, is that some research organizations are now ceasing all shipments to Australia.

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UAE reveals details on its 100 year Mars colonization plan

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has unveiled some of the reasoning behind its plan to colonize Mars by 2117, including an overall outline of its long term approach.

“In the UAE, we live in a rough neighborhood,” Al Gergawi added. “Our neighborhood has over 100 million youth, with over 35 percent unemployment.”

This high rate of youth unemployment in the region has a well-known negative impact such as radicalisation and even terrorism, Al Gergawi explained. One of the rationales for the Mars 2117 programme, however, is to turn the circumstances of young people in the Middle East into a positive impact that engages them in meaningful goals involving education in science and technology. “This is the impact we’re betting on,” said Al Gergawi. “We want to enable the youth to play an active role in advancing the global efforts toward enhancing the Red Planet and other planetary bodies.”

…“The Mars 2117 Project is a long term project, where our first objective is to develop our educational system so our sons will be able to lead scientific research across the various sectors. The UAE became part of a global scientific drive to explore the space, and we hope to serve humanity through this project,” Abu Dhabi Crown Prince His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan added.

I wish them well. The aims and approach seem to be right, though the hill they need to climb is quite steep.

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Air Force agreement with ULA expires

The 2005 agreement between the Air Force and ULA that established the ULA launch monopoly that was only broken by SpaceX in the past two years has apparently expired.

David Hardy, associate deputy under secretary of the Air Force for space, and the deputy director, principal Defence Department space advisor staff, said on 9 May that he was the compliance officer for the agreement and that the Pentagon no longer has oversight duties now that the agreement has expired. He told Jane’s these oversight duties included compliance requirements to what communications and relationships the two parent companies, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, could have with ULA, their joint venture.

It is very unclear how this will effect ULA. Will it continue to get the $800 million subsidy, as outlined by the agreement? It even appears from the article that the partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin might be dead.

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Two Dragon Mars missions in 2020?

It appears that SpaceX is considering flying two test Dragon capsules to Mars in 2020.

NASA’s manager of science missions, Jim Green, said on Tuesday that the 2020 launch window when Earth and Mars are in favorable alignment for relatively short transits is getting crowded. Speaking Tuesday at the Humans to Mars conference in Washington, DC, Green said, “Every 26 months, the highway to Mars opens up, and that highway is going to be packed. We start out at the top of that opportunity with a SpaceX launch of Red Dragon. That will be followed at the end of that opportunity with another Red Dragon. Those have been announced by SpaceX.” NASA plans to launch a Mars lander in 2020 as well.

Two Red Dragon missions in 2020 have not yet formally been announced by SpaceX. Company spokesman John Taylor told Ars he would have to look into the question of sending two Dragons to Mars in 2020. However, other industry sources told Ars this is definitely under consideration by SpaceX, although no final decisions have been made.

That would mean two Falcon Heavy launches that year, just for this. And it would happen long before NASA manages its first launch of a complete SLS rocket.

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Aetna leaves last two Obamacare exchanges

Finding out what’s in it: Aetna has pulled out of its last two Obamacare exchanges, in Delaware and Nebraska.

Aetna projected more than $200 million in losses from its exchange plan businesses this year following a loss of $700 million for 2014 through 2016. The insurer attributed the losses to “marketplace structural issues, that have led to co-op failures and carrier exits, and subsequent risk pool deterioration.” Aetna said it had 964,000 individual commercial plan members as of the end of 2016, but that number dropped to 255,000 at the end of March.

Essentially, Obamacare is destroying the health insurance industry, because no insurance company can afford to offer insurance when anyone can simply wait until they are sick — “a pre-existing condition” in the politically stupid parlance of the time — before buying insurance. This also means that the Republican plan, in whatever form it will be take when it finally reaches Trump’s desk, will do nothing to save the industry either, since it appears that the Republicans are terrified of being called mean and will thus keep the requirement that insurance companies sell insurance to anyone, whether they are sick or not.

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New multi-wavelength image of Crab Nebula

Crab Nebula

Cool image time! The image on the right, reduced and cropped to show here, was created in November 2012 using a number of different telescopes, both on the ground and in space, to image the Crab Nebula in as much of the entire electromagnetic spectrum as possible.

This image combines data from five different telescopes: The VLA (radio) in red; Spitzer Space Telescope (infrared) in yellow; Hubble Space Telescope (visible) in green; XMM-Newton (ultraviolet) in blue; and Chandra X-Ray Observatory (X-ray) in purple.

Be sure to check out the full image at the Hubble website. It is packed with fascinating details you need to zoom in to to see.

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SLS oxygen tank dome dropped and damaged

You can’t make this stuff up. The dome for the oxygen tank for NASA’s SLS rocket has been accidently dropped and has been damaged beyond repair.

No details yet. It appears they can build another dome from available parts, but this will likely cause additional delays to the SLS launch schedule.

Update: More information here.

The damage was limited to the one dome section of the tank, which was not yet welded to the rest of the tank. “Assessments are ongoing to determine the extent of the damage,” she said. Henry said that the incident was classified as a “Type B” mishap. Such a mishap, according to NASA documents, covers incidents that cause between $500,000 and $2 million in damage. No one was injured, she said.

The liquid oxygen tank involved in the incident was a qualification model, intended for testing, and not flight hardware. Henry said it wasn’t immediately clear how long the investigation would take.

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