Monthly Archives: November 2013

Cuirosity has resumed science operations after experiencing a short circuit and voltage drop.

Cuirosity has resumed science operations after experiencing a short circuit and voltage drop.

Though the press release notes that engineers have apparently pinpointed the source of the voltage drop, it does not explain why the drop has disappeared. I wish they provided more information.

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China next lunar mission, set to launch next month, will have a rover named “Yutu”.

China’s next lunar mission, set to launch next month, will have a rover named “Yutu”.

In Chinese folklore, Yutu is the white pet rabbit of Chang’e, the moon goddess who has lent her name to the Chinese lunar mission. Legend has it that, after swallowing a magic pill, Chang’e took her pet and flew toward the moon, where she became a goddess, and has lived there with the white jade rabbit ever since.

Chang’e 2 is the name of the entire mission.

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SpaceX has scrubbed today’s first geosynchronous launch of its Falcon 9 rocket.

SpaceX has scrubbed today’s first geosynchronous launch of its Falcon 9 rocket.

The scrub occurred after the third unplanned hold. There was an issue with the first stage, but more information has not yet been released, though they also said that they have rescheduled the next launch attempt for Thursday, 5:38 pm, on Thanksgiving.

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In an interview Richard Branson says that Virgin Galactic is working to replace SpaceShipTwo’s hybrid engine.

In an interview Richard Branson says that Virgin Galactic is working to replace SpaceShipTwo’s hybrid engine.

So for instance, the initial rocket which I’ll be flying on to space will be thrown away afterward. Within six to nine months, we will be using rockets that will have capability of being used maybe up to 1,000 times, but definitely up to 100 times. That will bring the cost of space travel down dramatically.

This timing fits with their new schedule for the first commercial flights of SpaceShipTwo sometime late in 2014. I suspect they are hoping to fly the ship a few more times with the troublesome hybrid engine, partly for engineering research and partly to keep interest up in the company, and then switch over to a new engine.

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“The entry of SpaceX into the commercial market is a game changer. It’s going to really shake the industry to its roots.”

“The entry of SpaceX into the commercial market is a game changer. It’s going to really shake the industry to its roots.”

As said by the chief technology officer of one of the world’s largest satellite communications company, in reference to today’s scheduled 5:37 pm (Eastern) launch of Falcon 9’s first geosynchronous satellite payload. As this man and Elon Musk also added,
» Read more

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The Washington Times and the journalist whose confidential files were taken illegally during a house search on an unrelated matter are suing Homeland Security.

The Washington Times and the journalist whose confidential files were taken illegally during a house search on an unrelated matter are suing Homeland Security.

The suit is also demanding that they be allowed depose the Homeland Security agent “who attended the raid and was involved in collecting the reporter’s materials to determine how widely information from the newspaper’s documents was distributed within the government.” That agent appeared to be on a fishing expedition to get these files, containing the names of several Homeland whistle-blowers, and then pass that information along to higher-ups in the agency.

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MSNBC, the cable network of hate.

MSNBC, the cable network of hate.

MSNBC was the outlier. Fully 85 percent of its airtime was devoted to commentary — virtually all of it left-leaning — while only 15 percent went to news reporting. Even allowing that this approach is driven by business considerations (newsgathering being more expensive than bloviating), there are a couple of intrinsic problems with this approach.

The first is that relentless partisan criticism invariably leads to name-calling. It’s like a drug addiction — you need more and more. Once you’ve called George W. Bush stupid a hundred times, audiences want something a little different, so you graduate to “worst president in history,” and finally, as Olbermann often did, a demented war criminal. Sometimes on that network, conservatives are labeled “Hitlerian.”

Sarah Palin starts out in 2008 as someone who can’t tell Katie Couric what newspapers and magazines she reads and is then spoofed as a provincial by Tina Fey for saying something she never said (“I can see Russia from my house!”). She ends up last Friday, at least in Martin Bashir’s telling, as “America’s resident dunce” with a reputation as a “world-class idiot” — all as a buildup to that weird riff on defecation.

The stream of angry, vicious, and hateful stuff that pours out from MSNBC anchors on a daily basis is quite shameful. That the left tolerates it and actually seems to relish it also tells us a great deal about the left itself.

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The Obama administration has delayed next year’s enrollment deadline under Obamacare.

The law is such an inconvenient thing: The Obama administration has delayed next year’s enrollment deadline under Obamacare.

Some of the buzz about this delay is that it pushes it to after the elections. This isn’t significant, and might even be worse for the Democrats, as everyone will still find out about the higher premiums just before the election. What is significant is how nonchalant this administration is about rewriting legislation without going through Congress. I thought Obamacare was the “law of the land” and that the Republicans were terrorists, racists, and bomb-throwers for suggesting changes during the government shutdown debate in October. Yet, Obama and the Democrats see nothing wrong with his administration rewriting laws at his whim, without getting the law changed by Congress.

In other words, the Republicans were not only right about the disaster that is Obamacare, they have been trying to fix it the correct and legal way.

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A new Chinese suspension bridge, set to open November 25, has won top honors for being such a long three-tower/two span bridge.

A new Chinese suspension bridge, set to open November 25, has won top honors for being such a long three-tower/two span bridge.

When it opens on Nov. 25, Taizhou Bridge will carry six lanes of traffic (plus two maintenance lanes) nearly 3-km across the Yangtze River. Though the total length of 2,940 m is an awfully long way, the bridge has two main spans using three towers rather than the norm of one main span using two support towers.

The two spans are each 1,080 m (3,540 ft) long, which individually is less than the main span of the Golden Gate Bridge at 1,280 m (4,200 ft), and much less than the 1,990-m (12,830 ft) span of the Akashi Kaikyō Bridge, the longest main span of any suspension bridge on Earth. Two end spans of 390 m (1,280 ft) connect Taizhou Bridge with the banks of the river.

But in using two spans the Taizhou Bridge is a major breakthrough in structural engineering. The design requires the perfect balance of flexibility and rigidity in its 192-m (630-ft) steel central tower in order to withstand changing and imbalanced loads to either side. The complementary side towers are 178 m (584 ft) tall, and are made of concrete. The two main cables supporting the bridge are 3,110 m (10,200 ft) long and 72 cm (28 in) in diameter.

Think about it. The central tower is going to be pulled from both directions. Similarly, the outside towers must have incredible strain pulling them towards the center. Balancing it all is an amazing architectural achievement.

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SpaceX successfully completed a countdown dress rehearsal and launchpad hot fire engine test in preparation for the next commercial launch of its Falcon 9 rocket on November 25.

SpaceX successfully completed a countdown dress rehearsal and launchpad hot fire engine test yesterday in preparation for the next commercial launch of its Falcon 9 rocket on November 25.

This was the first such fueling at Kennedy of the Falcon 9.

Update: This article gives some details about why the second engine burn of the upper stage rocket did not occur on the previous Falcon 9 launch, and what SpaceX has done to fix the problem. That failure caused speculation that the engine exploded at the attempt.

It is essential that engine functions in space on the November 25 launch in order for SpaceX to deliver its commercial satellite to its proper geosynchronous orbit.

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Tito noted today that if the U.S. doesn’t partner with him to send a couple to fly past Mars, he’ll partner with Russia or China instead.

Dennis Tito noted today that if the U.S. doesn’t partner with him to send a couple to fly past Mars, he’ll partner with Russia or China instead.

That’s nice, but how does he know they’ll partner with him? Based on his proposal, I would expect Russia especially to laugh him out of the room.

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Construction of Russia’s new Vostochny spaceport is essentially back on schedule.

Construction of Russia’s new Vostochny spaceport is essentially back on schedule.

“I think we have reduced the lag and are getting back to the initial schedule,” Spetsstroy Director Alexander Volosov said on Thursday, November 21. While in July 2013, the lag was about three months, now it has been reduced to ten days. “Funding is provided on time and in sufficient volumes,” Volosov said. The first stage of the project – construction of roads at the cosmodrome – has been completed. The second stage is proceeding as scheduled and is to be completed in December 2014.

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India’s Mangalyaan Mars probe has returned its first image, a picture of Earth.

India’s Mangalyaan Mars probe has returned its first image, a picture of India on Earth.

Though you can always learn something from any image, what is significant here is that before even leaving Earth orbit engineers have proven that the spacecraft’s camera works.

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How not to get to Mars

Yesterday the world’s first space tourist, Dennis Tito, testified before Congress about the plans his organization, Inspiration Mars, has put together to make possible a manned fly-by of Mars by 2018.

The flyby mission would require two launches in quick succession. In the first liftoff, an SLS would loft four payloads to Earth orbit: an SLS upper-stage rocket; a 600-cubic-foot habitat module derived from Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus cargo vessel; a service module that would support the habitat module with power, propulsion and communications systems; and an Earth re-entry pod, which would be based on NASA’s Orion capsule. The second launch — this one likely using a commercial rocket — would deliver the two astronauts to orbit aboard a yet-to-be-selected private spaceship. The crewmembers would then transfer to the habitat module, and the SLS upper stage would propel them on toward Mars.

In making this announcement Tito and his organization challenged Congress and NASA to make it happen. They also admitted that they had initially thought this manned fly-by could be done entirely with private resources, but have looking at it closely realized it needed NASA money and hardware.

What a pipe dream. As much as I support Tito’s effort to accelerate the United States’ space effort, neither Tito’s original ideas as well as this new proposal are realistic. At no time do these dreamers show the slightest understanding of the challenges involved in flying humans in weightlessness for more than a year and as far away as Mars.
» Read more

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In a launch today a Russian Dnepr rocket sent 32 satellites into orbit, breaking the record of 29 set less than a week ago by a Minotaur rocket.

The competition heats up: In a launch today a Russian Dnepr rocket sent 32 satellites into orbit, breaking the record of 29 set less than a week ago by a Minotaur rocket.

This is the future. Satellites are going to get smaller, and thus cheaper to launch.

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In undercover tapes, the communications director of Enroll America, an organization that helps sign people up for Obamacare, is seen agreeing to help get confidential personal data of enrollees for political purposes.

Working for the Democratic Party: In undercover tapes, the communications director of Enroll America, an organization that helps sign people up for Obamacare, is seen agreeing to help get confidential personal data of enrollees so that it can be used for political purposes.

From the beginning I have always thought the most vile aspect of Obamacare was how it made your private and personal medical records available to hordes of government workers in multiple government agencies, a situation that is very vulnerable to corruption and abuse. Not surprisingly, it hasn’t taken long for Project Veritas to uncover such political corruption.

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And it ain’t your doctor!

Finding out what’s in it: It ain’t your doctor!

As Americans have begun shopping for health plans on the insurance exchanges, they are discovering that insurers are restricting their choice of doctors and hospitals in order to keep costs low, and that many of the plans exclude top-rated hospitals. The Obama administration made it a priority to keep down the cost of insurance on the exchanges, the online marketplaces that are central to the Affordable Care Act. But one way that insurers have been able to offer lower rates is by creating networks that are far smaller than what most Americans are accustomed to.

In other words, because of Obamacare, you will either have to pay for your doctor up front and without any help from insurance, or you won’t be able to keep your doctor at all. So much for that promise.

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On Sunday Curiosity suffered an electrical problem that has caused a pause in operations while engineers troubleshoot it.

On Sunday Curiosity suffered an electrical problem that has caused a pause in operations while engineers troubleshoot it.

At the moment the rover has ceased its travel. Though they are trying to make this sound as if it isn’t that big a deal, it does not sound good to me.

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An update on the arrest of a father for wanting to pick up his kids and walk them home from school.

An update on the arrest of a father for wanting to pick up his kids and walk them home from school.

Key quote from the boss of the thuggish police officer, Avery Aytes, who made the arrest:

Aytes’s boss, Cumberland County Sheriff Butch Burgess is described as saying he “hasn’t seen the video and doesn’t need to, because it won’t tell the whole story. He says Aytes was just doing his job.”

One point I didn’t make yesterday about his story. Exactly what crime was the father committing that justified his arrest? If you watch the video, all he was doing was expressing his disagreement with the school’s policy. And he was doing it quite calmly. Since when is that a crime?

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The federal budget deficit for October was “only” $91 billion.

The day of reckoning looms: The federal budget deficit for October was “only” $91 billion.

The AP article makes a big deal about how much lower this deficit is compared to past Octobers, but at this level, we would still have an annual deficit over $1 trillion. Even it ends up as half that, the numbers are still terrible.

The budget deal that ended the government shutdown ends on January 15. Be prepared for another shutdown. I expect some Republicans are going to once again tie that shutdown to repealing Obamacare.

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On Tuesday NASA issued a solicitation for bids on providing the agency a manned ferrying capability to and from ISS.

On Tuesday NASA issued a solicitation for bids on providing the agency a manned ferrying capability to and from ISS.

The new solicitation asks for proposals for final design, development, test, evaluation and certification of a human space transportation system, including ground operations, launch, orbital operations, return to Earth and landing.

The article is unclear how this solicitation fits in with the commercial crew program that already exists and is funding the manned upgrade of SpaceX’s Dragon and the development of Boeing’s CST-100 and Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser.

Update: This article makes things much clearer, outlining how this solicitation is the next phase in development and is open to all bidders.

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