Monthly Archives: January 2012

Orbital Sciences has once again delayed its first launch of Antares, the rocket that will lift its Cygnus cargo capsule to ISS.

Orbital Sciences has once again delayed its first launch of Antares, the rocket that will lift its Cygnus cargo capsule to ISS.

A hold-down test of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket, a prerequisite for the launch vehicle’s maiden flight, likely will not be completed before April because of ongoing tests and certification work on the vehicle’s launch pad at Wallops Island, Va., a launch official said.

As much as I am a fan of these private companies (Orbital and SpaceX), I also recognize the great risks. Both companies are building new rockets and capsules, and have many enemies. If they fail, those enemies will jump on their effort like sharks, ready to shut them down and move all government funding to NASA’s big heavy-lift program. Thus, they have to succeed. Better to delay and get things right then hurry and have them blow up in everyone’s face.

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The Supreme Court has refused to block a court suit against the San Francisco cops who entered a home and killed a resident without a warrant

Good: The Supreme Court has refused to block a court suit against the San Francisco cops who entered a home without a warrant and ended up killing one of its residents.

If the police invade a home without a warrant they are no different than thieves. Get a warrant, however, and everything changes.

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Skyscrapers As Spaceships

Skyscrapers as spaceships.

As we spend more of our lives in cyberspace, we come to expect its primary characteristics (convenience, efficiency, abundance) to define our off-screen lives as well. And supertall, mixed-used skyscrapers are currently the most potent physical approximations of the virtual world we have. They’re environments designed for maximum convenience and efficiency, with elevators functioning like hypertext, taking you almost instantly from one mode of existence to the next. Push a button and you’re at work. Push another button, you’re at home.

There’s a lot more. Read the whole thing.

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On Tuesday the Treasury Department began using pension funds to keep the federal debt below the debt limit.

The day of reckoning looms closer all the time: On Tuesday the Treasury Department began using pension funds to keep the federal debt below the debt limit.

This action is, at this time, only a stop-gap until the debt ceiling is raised $1.2 trillion as per Obama’s request. Nonetheless, it signals the federal government’s increasingly dire debt problems.

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In a visit to Pope Benedict last month, Britain’s chief rabbi spoke out against the persecution of Christians in Islamic countries, and defended the free market values of Judeo-Christian culture.

In a visit to Pope Benedict last month, Britain’s chief rabbi spoke out against the persecution of Christians in Islamic countries, and defended the free market values of Judeo-Christian culture.

What I found most disturbing in this article is highlighted below:

Separately, in a speech to the British House of Lords, Sacks denounced increasing persecution of Christians by radical Islam, warning that the “fate of Christians in the Middle East today is the litmus test of the Arab Spring.” In Rome and in London, he was more outspoken than are many of Europe’s often muted church officials, who typically fear to defend their faith, their culture, or their persecuted brethren. [emphasis mine]

How tragic that European church officials no longer have the courage to condemn persecution by Islamic radicals.

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It looks like there will be no manned Soyuz missions launched from South America.

It looks like there will be no manned Soyuz missions launched from South America.

An ESA study conducted between 2002 and 2004 found that because the Soyuz has not been designed to land in the sea, a French Guiana launch that had to be aborted would endanger the spacecraft and its crew as it would likely have to ditch in the Atlantic Ocean. The Soyuz spacecraft have always landed on land in the former Soviet territory of Kazakhstan.

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The Obama administration formally announced today that it is joining Europe in writing an international code of conduct for space.

What could go wrong? The Obama administration formally announced today that it is joining Europe in writing an international code of conduct for space.

The State Department announcement describing the administration’s intentions notes the U.S. will not agree to anything “that in any way constrains our national security-related activities in space or our ability to protect the United States and our allies.” However, it is also so vague about what they will agree to that I wonder what the point is. Either this whole effort is a waste of time, or it carries the risk that our government will agree to a treaty with unintended consequences that cannot be predicted.

In such a circumstances, it seems to me that the wiser thing to do would be to do nothing.

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The satellite communications company Intelsat has backed out of a deal to have a robot refuel some of itsr orbiting satellites.

Bad news: The satellite communications company Intelsat has backed out of a deal to have a robot refuel some of its orbiting satellites.

Apparently Intelsat would rather rake in the cash by launching new satellites rather than take a risk at a new technology that could save its customers a lot of money.

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Russia is now claiming that a U.S. military radar might have disabled Phobos-Grunt.

Looking for scapegoats: Russia is now investigating whether a U.S. military radar signal might have disabled Phobos-Grunt.

The state news agency RIA Novosti quoted Yury Koptev, former head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, as saying investigators will conduct tests to check if a U.S. radar emissions could have impacted the Phobos-Ground space probe, which became stuck in Earth’s obit for two months before crashing down. “The results of the experiment will allow us to prove or dismiss the possibility of the radar’s impact,” said Koptev, who is heading the government commission charged with investigating causes of the probe’s failure.

The current Roscosmos head, Vladimir Popovkin, previously said the craft’s malfunction could have been caused by foreign interference. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin acknowledged U.S. radar interference as a possible cause but said it was too early to make any conclusions. “This version has the right to exist,” Rogozin said Tuesday. “There is evidence indicating that frequent disruptions in the operation of our space technologies occur in that part of the flight path that is not visible to Roscosmos and is beyond its control.”

Though this might be technically possible, it is incredibly unlikely. For Russian politicians to focus on this issue indicates serious problems in both their space engineering community and their political culture.

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Private-sector experience? Oh, no!

Private-sector experience? Oh, no!

People have started to learn some disturbing facts about likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney: He once worked for Bain Capital — which is what’s known as a private-sector business. Harmless as the term sounds, it’s much scarier once you understand how such outfits operate.

A private-sector business doesn’t even pretend to make decisions based on how to best help people or what creates the most jobs or even on what will most equally distribute income. It makes decisions based only on what creates a profit.

Yes, it’s frightening to think that something so mercenary even exists — even worse that someone who worked for something like that could actually become president. Of course, the only people who should lead our country and manage our economy are those who remain unsullied by the private sector’s for-profit mentality: career politicians.

Read the whole thing. Once again, Frank Fleming hits the nail on the head.

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Geothermal energy developers plan to pump 24 million gallons of water into a dormant volcano in Oregon this summer to demonstrate a new way to generate electricity.

Geothermal energy developers plan to pump 24 million gallons of water into a dormant volcano in Oregon this summer to demonstrate a new way to generate electricity.

The irony I glean from this article is this: Pumping water underground to produce energy from geothermal sources (a source liked by the environmental movement) is good. However, pumping water underground to produce energy from gas or oil (energy sources hated by the environmental movement) is bad. And yet, what difference really is there between either effort?

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Occupy Wall Street Thugs Confiscate Man’s Home

Thugs: Occupy Wall Street has stolen a man’s home.

The real property owner is livid because he could be raising his two little girls, Imani, 3, and Kwazha, 10, in the two-story home instead of in a meager, two-bedroom rental in Brownsville while he tries to sort out his mortgage nightmare. … “[OWS] told me not to talk to them [reporters] because they [OWS] had an offer for me,” he said.

At a second meeting after the press conference, however, organizers said they would not pay him for the house. At that point, he told them to leave. Inside the house the walls are knocked down and all of his belongings, including a stove, refrigerator and bedroom furniture, have been moved to the basement.

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Scientists have found that the structure of Titan’s atmosphere appears to change daily and seasonally, much like the Earth’s.

Scientists have found that the structure of Titan’s atmosphere appears to change daily and seasonally, much like the Earth’s.

“The most interesting point is that their model shows the presence of two different boundaries, the lower one caused by the daily heating and cooling of the surface – and varying in height during the day – and the higher one caused by the seasonal change in global air circulation,” commented Paulo Penteado from the Institute of Astronomy, Geophysics and Atmospheric Science at the University of São Paulo in Brazil. According to [Benjamin Charnay from the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris], this link between the lower atmosphere’s layers and the moon’s daily and seasonal cycle has never been seen on another moon or planet besides the Earth.

One caveat: the results are based upon a computer climate model. Though this model was tweaked based on actual data, that data remains slim and incomplete.

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Phobos-Grunt due to crash to Earth anytime in the next ten hours

path of Phobos-Grunt's reentry

Updated and bumped. An updated prediction from Aerospace now calls for Phobos-Grunt to come down sometime between 9 and 3 pm (Eastern). This puts the U.S. now out of danger, though Europe, South America, Africa, Australia, and the southern half of Asia all remain in the spacecraft’s path.

Watch your heads! Phobos-Grunt is due to crash to Earth anytime in the next ten hours. And unfortunately, this new prediction has it flying over both North America and much of Europe and Africa during that time period.

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