Tag Archives: New Mexico

Back from a weekend underground

Bob Zimmerman underground

The picture on the right will explain why I have been silent posting since Friday. I have just returned with five friends from three days of caving in New Mexico, doing some wild caving plus my first visit to Carlsbad Caverns since 1992, guided by a local caver who has been helping me with my cave survey project in Arizona.

New Mexico probably has the largest concentration of truly large and spectacularly decorated caves in the entire world. I’ve caved there previously, but this was my first trip driving from Arizona. We went to two wild caves, one of which I had never visited before and a second that I had seen during my 1992 trip. The picture shows me in the latter, standing above a large clear pool near the back of the cave with some giant flowstone speleothems all around me.

The new cave contained a room dubbed Speleogasm, because every formation there, of which there are too many to count, is completely festooned with helectites and sodastraws in a mad protrusion that no geologist can as yet explain. Nor is there any way to describe it adequately or photograph it successfully. To witness it you need to go, requiring the specialized caving skills that include the techniques and equipment required to rappel and climb a 40 foot rope.

As always, the advantages of learning how to do this successfully is the reward of seeing things that few ever see. It is why engineers and scientists strive so hard to get planetary probes to distant planets. And why humans want to travel to the planets. For me, getting inside a remote and beautifully decorated cave will just have to do.

New Mexico legislature advances spaceport sale bill

A state bill to sell Spaceport America, New Mexico’s spaceport built to service Virgin Galactic’s oft-delayed space tourism business, has advanced out of its first committee.

The bill still needs to clear two more committees before it gets a floor vote, but considering the lack of progress at Virgin Galactic, I would not be surprised if it passes. The high hopes that created this spaceport a decade ago have now faded into a boondoggle that New Mexico probably can no longer afford.

New Mexico wants out of the spaceport business

A state law-maker in New Mexico has introduced a bill to sell off the state’s spaceport, Spaceport America.

New Mexico spent $220 million to build it and Senator Munoz now says the state has come up short. “It’s not a revenue stream and they don’t know how to get that revenue stream and that’s what needs to change,” he said. He said a private company would do a better job behind the controls and believes there is a buyer out there.

The heart of the problem here is the long delayed first flight by Virgin Galactic. Spaceport America essentially has this one customer, and Virgin Galactic has simply failed to get off the ground with its commercial flights.

Virgin Galactic and the FAA on Friday reached agreement allowing the company to fly its suborbital flights from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

The competition heats up: Virgin Galactic and the FAA on Friday reached agreement allowing the company to fly its suborbital flights from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

I suspect that Virgin Galactic wants to hurry its debut in New Mexico in order to help quell the doubts that have been building about the company’s future.

The Forest Service has seized the property and cattle of a New Mexico rancher.

The Forest Service has seized the property and cattle of a New Mexico rancher.

Read the story. It will remind you of the Bundy fight in Nevada, with the same elements of government overreach to destroy a rancher. The Forest Service might have the law on its side, but it sure sounds like the law is quite unjust in this case.

A reporter takes a close look at Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America in New Mexico and comes away very skeptical.

Failure to launch? A reporter takes a close look at Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America in New Mexico and comes away very skeptical.

Read it all. The view might be pessimistic, but it is important to keep an open mind. Richard Branson’s effort, as sincere as I think it is, might not succeed.

The man who was forced by police to undergo multiple invasive surgeries after a traffic stop — and billed for the abuse after nothing illegal was found – has won a $1.6 million legal settlement with New Mexico local authorities.

Pushback: The man who was forced by police to undergo multiple invasive surgeries after a traffic stop — and billed for the abuse after nothing illegal was found –- has won a $1.6 million legal settlement with New Mexico local authorities.

He is also suing the hospital involved. I hope he wins millions more.

New Mexico is being sued by the ACLU over a third case of an intrusive medical probe, this time without a warrant.

New Mexico is being sued by the ACLU over a third case of an intrusive medical probe, this time without a warrant.

The ACLU is representing a New Mexico woman in her fifties who was subjected by federal agents to a two-handed (!) vaginal and anal examination, an involuntary X-ray and CAT scan, and was forced to defecate in front of strangers. The woman was suspected of being in possession of drugs, on the basis of a drug-dog alert at the Juarez/El Paso border-crossing. No drugs were found. The federal agents — it’s not clear what agency they were with — did not obtain a warrant. The doctors at University Medical Center in El Paso performed the procedures without the victim’s consent, including the CT scan, which subjects people to a high dose of potentially harmful radiation. [emphasis mine]

As I said earlier today, more victims of this abuse are going to be found.

It appears that the police in Deming, New Mexico have done forced medical procedures on more than one person.

It appears that the police in Deming, New Mexico have done forced medical procedures on more than one person.

Armed with what police said was probable cause and a search warrant, officers took Young to the Gila Medical Center in Silver City, N.M. The name of the hospital may sound familiar because it’s the exact same hospital Eckert was taken for the invasive hunt for drugs in his body that lasted more than 12 hours. Young was then reportedly subjected to X-rays and an anal exam. They found no drugs. Young, just like Eckert, says he did not consent to any of the procedures, which were performed in a county not covered by the search warrant obtained by police.

I suspect that more victims of this type of police abuse are going to be found.

A man in New Mexico was illegally subjected to a cavity search, including a colonoscopy, without his permission and without a legal warrant as the result of a simple traffic stop.

A man in New Mexico was illegally subjected to a cavity search, including a colonoscopy, without his permission and without a legal warrant as the result of a simple traffic stop.

As he was being detained and probed, Kennedy said Eckert never gave doctors his consent to perform the procedures and protested his treatment, which all arose from the simple traffic violation. The entire ordeal lasted for roughly 12 hours. TheBlaze has reached out to the Deming Police Department. This story will be updated should the department respond. ,,,

Kennedy [the man’s lawyer] also said the search warrant — in which there were legal concerns anyway — was carried out illegally because it was only valid in Luna County, N.M. The anal cavity search and other procedures were performed at the Gila Regional Medical Center, in Grant County. Further, she said the search warrant was only good through 10 p.m., but medical records show the preparation for the colonoscopy started at 1 a.m. the next morning. In theory, even if the search warrant were completely legal and compliant, it was no longer valid.

The man is suing the city of Deming, New Mexico, the specific officers who detained him, as well as the medical center and the doctors who performed the procedures against his will. I hope their careers are destroyed by this horrible act.

The next test flight of a version of SpaceX’s Grasshopper could occur in New Mexico in December.

The next test flight of a version of SpaceX’s Grasshopper could occur in New Mexico in December.

The story says this test will be with Grasshopper, but I think that is a mistake. Unless SpaceX is using this name for all its vertical landing test vehicles, the company had said the test vehicle to fly in New Mexico would be a full scale Falcon 9 first stage, with nine Merlin engines, not one as has Grasshopper.

A remotely operated Russian telescope, located in New Mexico, on Wednesday discovered a kilometer wide Near Earth asteroid.

Boom! A remotely operated Russian telescope, located in New Mexico, on Wednesday discovered a kilometer wide Near Earth asteroid.

The asteroid, believed to be the 704th largest with an orbit that comes relatively near Earth, does not pose a danger of crashing into our planet, said the head of the observatory that made the discovery. “It’s a big asteroid, but it poses no danger for us,” Leonid Elenin, who lives in the Moscow Region, told RIA Novosti on Friday.

Finding a new asteroid like this illustrates that there might be other such large objects out there undiscovered. Also cool is how the Russians discovered it, using equipment in the United States!

Posted from Midland, Texas, the center of the world for the American oil industry.

SpaceX is moving its Grasshopper test program to New Mexico’s spaceport.

SpaceX is moving its Grasshopper test program to New Mexico’s spaceport.

The move confirms big plans for the test bed. Flights to date have been conducted at SpaceX’s engine test site in McGregor, Texas. SpaceX received a waiver from the FAA to fly Grasshopper up to 11,500ft from McGregor, but Spaceport America is an FAA-certified spaceport where no where no waivers are required. “Spaceport America offers us the physical and regulatory landscape needed to complete the next phase of Grasshopper testing,” says SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell.

The Democratic Party leaders in New Mexico have announced that an agreement over spaceport liability has been reached with Virgin Galactic.

The Democratic Party leaders in New Mexico have announced that an agreement over spaceport liability has been reached with Virgin Galactic.

This might be good, but with no details released and all the statements coming from politicians of only one party it is reasonable to wonder how serious it is and whether this announcement is merely a bargaining ploy.

A (new) Mexican standoff at the old spaceport.

A (new) Mexican standoff at the old spaceport.

Messier not only provides a detailed analysis of the negotiations on-going between Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America over liability issues, he also provides context, much of which is not encouraging. For example,

SpaceShipTwo is set to begin its first powered test flights later this year using a “starter motor” that will be smaller than the full-scale hybrid engine that will be used for flights into space. The motor will allow pilots to test the space plane in the transonic flight region, which would be a major step forward.

Whether the full-scale RocketMotorTwo engine, powered by nitrous oxide and rubber, will be ready to fly this year is an interesting question. There have been stories for years – persistent, consistent and never really denied – that the motor just doesn’t work very well. Hybrid motors can function effectively for smaller vehicles, such as the smaller SpaceShipOne vehicle that flew in 2004, but are difficult to scale up. SpaceShipTwo is three times larger than its predecessor.

Meanwhile, there are the liability questions which might force Virgin Galactic, and all other private space companies, to flee New Mexico. The analysis suggests that the taxpayers of New Mexico might have paid for a very expensive spaceport that might never pay for itself.

The Whitewater-Baldy wildfire in New Mexico is now the largest in that state’s history, covering 266 square miles.

The Whitewater-Baldy wildfire in New Mexico is now the largest in that state’s history, covering 266 square miles.

I flew over this fire on my way from Tucson to Chicago on Tuesday. The smoke cloud itself was astonishingly large, extending eastward far beyond the fire itself.