Monthly Archives: December 2012

The GAO is concerned about the future budget and schedule of the James Webb Space Telescope.

O goody: The GAO is concerned about the future budget and schedule of the James Webb Space Telescope.

This is very bad news if true for NASA’s astronomy program. Webb was originally budgeted at $1 billion and scheduled to launch in 2011. Its budget is now $8.8 billion and its launch is now set for October 2018. And until it launches there is little money to build any other space telescope.

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A federal appeals court today expressed strong reservations about Obama’s non-recess recess appointments in January.

A federal appeals court today expressed strong doubts about Obama’s non-recess recess appointments in January.

How dare they question our savior and lord Obama? What does it matter he wasn’t following the Constitution when he made his appointments when the Senate was not in recess? He has to get things done, no matter what the law is.

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The real fiscal cliff

The real fiscal cliff.

But no one … at this point seems to have grasped that [nothing will be solved] unless the avoidance of the fiscal cliff includes measures that radically cut the deficit and end the unspeakable fraud of 70 percent of the country’s $1 to $1.5 trillion federal deficit being covered by phony notes cyber-clicked into existence from the Treasury’s 100 percent subsidiary, the Federal Reserve. No test of psychological confidence will be passed by this charade, nor any test of Grade 3 arithmetic either. The administration swaddles itself in a few weeks of a record-breaking rise in economic-growth and tax-collection rates. But this is only three weeks, and applies to a built-in annual budget deficit of $1.5 trillion on top of an accumulated national debt that took 232 years to get to $10 trillion in 2008 and made it to $16 trillion this year. (And there are still 5 million fewer people working in the U.S. than there were four years ago.) [emphasis mine]

This fake political term, “The fiscal cliff”, is an unmitigated lie, created by politicians to disguise their failure to actually deal with the debt. They are using it to avoid even cutting spending levels back to 2008 numbers, a reduction in spending that would hardly be noticed in the bloated, overweight, and increasingly oppressive federal bureaucracy.

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The Pentagon has decided to buy its launch services from more than just Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

The competition heats up: The Pentagon has decided to buy its launch services from more than just Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Under the new plan, the Air Force can buy as many as 14 launches over the next five years from possible bidders such as Space Exploration Technologies Corp, or SpaceX, and Orbital Sciences Corp . The service may also buy as many as 36 launches from United Launch Alliance, the Lockheed-Boeing venture, with an option to purchase the other 14 launches if the competitors haven’t been certified to launch military and spy satellites that can cost up to $1 billion each.

Originally the military planned to purchase all of its launches from Boeing and Lockheed. Political pressure from SpaceX has now forced them to widen the competition, or at least, make noises that they are doing so. If you read the above paragraph closely the plan still favors the original two companies and is strongly stacked to hand all the launches over to them anyway.

Update: My pessimism above was premature. SpaceX has been awarded a contract for two launches under this new policy.

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NASA announced yesterday plans to launch by 2020 a twin rover of Curiosity to Mars.

NASA announced yesterday plans to launch by 2020 a twin rover of Curiosity to Mars.

Though it makes sense to use the same designs again, saving money, I must admit a personal lack of excitement about this announcement. First, I have doubts it will fly because of the federal government’s budget woes. Second, it is kind of a replacement for the much more challenging and exciting missions to Titan and Europa that the Obama administration killed when they slashed the planetary budget last year.

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The press lets Curiosity get the better of them

The big news is out. Today the eagerly awaited press conference at the American Geophysical Society meeting in San Francisco on the recent results from the Mars rover Curiosity was finally held. The announced results had been hyped like crazy when rumors began to spread a few weeks ago that Curiosity had discovered something truly spectacular.

Well, here are some of the headlines heralding the results.
» Read more

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New data suggests that the icy crust of Titan is twice as thick as previously estimated.

New data suggests that the icy crust of Titan is twice as thick as previously estimated.

“The picture of Titan that we get has an icy, rocky core with a radius of a little over 2,000 kilometers, an ocean somewhere in the range of 225 to 300 kilometers thick and an ice layer that is 200 kilometers thick,” [said Howard Zebker of Stanford University]. Previous models of Titan’s structure estimated the icy crust to be approximately 100 kilometers thick.

This means that the methane lakes and rivers of Titan are flowing across a bedrock of ice, which at the cold temperatures there would be as solid as rock is here on Earth.

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The Sun’s weak sunspot maximum continues

NOAA’S latest monthly update of the Sun’s ongoing ramp up to solar maximum has just been published and, as I do every month, I have posted the latest graph, with annotation, below the fold.

As the Sun had been somewhat active in November, I had expected the graph line to rise. It has, but not by very much.
» Read more

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The head of the Interior Department has ordered the shutdown of a century-old California oyster company.

We’re here to help you: The head of the Interior Department has ordered the shutdown of a century-old California oyster company.

Two key quotes from the article illustrate the foolishness and oppressive nature of this decision:
» Read more

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Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, will be eliminating healthcare coverage to its parttime employees due to Obamacare.

Finding out what’s in it: Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, will be eliminating healthcare coverage to its part time employees due to Obamacare.

Essentially, the company is trying to avoid the high costs imposed by Obamacare by dropping coverage for anyone working 30 hours or less, and then moving more employees into that category when possible. As I noted before, this idiotic law is forcing us to be a nation of part time workers.

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Changes in the levels of sulphur dioxide since Venus Express arrived in orbit around Venus in 2006 now suggest strongly that the spacecraft has detected volcanic activity on the planet.

Changes in the levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2) since Venus Express arrived in orbit around Venus in 2006 now suggest strongly that the spacecraft has detected volcanic activity on the planet.

The SPICAV data show that the concentration of SO2 above the main cloud deck increased slightly to about 1000 parts per billion by volume (ppbv) between 2006 and 2007, but then steadily decreased over the next five years, reaching only 100 ppbv by 2012. This is very reminiscent of a pattern observed by Pioneer Venus during the 1980s, the only other multi-year dataset of SO2 measurements.

One of best explanations for these changes is a volcanic eruption back in 2006, which would have inserted a great deal of SO2 into the upper atmosphere. Since then, ultraviolet radiation from the sun has steadily destroyed it.

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North Korea has placed the first stage of its own rocket on the launchpad in preparation for a test flight later this month.

North Korea has placed the first stage of its own rocket on the launchpad in preparation for a test flight later this month.

Japan, South Korea, the United States, and the United Kingdom (as indicated in the article above) have protested this launch, as well as Russia and China. Interestingly, no one has objected to the South Korea’s effort to build its own orbital rocket, which tells us a great deal about the differences between the two Koreas.

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William Butler Yeats – The Second Coming

An evening pause: In memory to the 20,000 or so violent attacks committed by Islamic radical since September 11, 2001, I think this poem by William Butler Yeats is appropriate. Written it 1920, it somehow sensed the the coming conflict.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

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The ATF has taken action against the agents involved in running the illegal gun-running operation dubbed “Fast-and-Furious.”

Better than nothing: The ATF has taken action against the agents involved in running the illegal gun-running operation dubbed “Fast-and-Furious.”

Most of these guys will still receive their full pensions. Moreover, this action suggests that they were in charge, something I doubt. Shouldn’t we know who inside the Obama administration actually conceived this illegal smuggling operation?

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