A second experiment on the next X-37B flight revealed

NASA has outlined the materials research it will be conducting on the next X-37B flight, scheduled to launch on May 20.

Known as the Materials Exposure and Technology Innovation in Space, or METIS, the investigation on the X-37B will expose nearly 100 different materials samples to the space environment for more than 200 days, NASA says. METIS is building upon data obtained by several missions of the Materials on International Space Station Experiment (MISSE), which flew more than 4,000 samples in space from 2001 to 2013. For both MISSE and METIS, small samples the size of quarters are used. METIS will fly a variety of materials including polymers, composites and coatings.

Not only does this information, plus earlier information about an Air Force ion engine thruster experiment, probably describe a great deal of what the X-37B is carrying, it also tells us the probable duration of the flight.

I have no doubt there are other classified Air Force experiments on board, but like these, they are likely to be test articles, since the X-37B provides the perfect testbed for exposing new technology to space to see how it fares.

DEA steals life savings of innocent man

Theft by government: In another example of civil forfeiture, DEA agents confiscated the life savings of a man heading to California based on no evidence.

There was no evidence of a crime, the man was never charged, but three weeks later he still has not gotten his money back.

Sean Waite, the agent in charge for the DEA in Albuquerque, said he could not comment on the Rivers case because it is ongoing. He disputed allegations that Rivers was targeted because of his race. Waite said that in general DEA agents look for “indicators” such as whether the person bought an expensive one-way ticket with cash, if the person is traveling from or to a city known as a hot spot for drug activity, if the person’s story has inconsistencies or if the large sums of money found could have been transported by more conventional means.

“We don’t have to prove that the person is guilty,” Waite said. “It’s that the money is presumed to be guilty.” [emphasis mine]

Read the whole article. This is entirely unconstitutional. The fifth amendment to the Bill of Rights expressly forbids the taking of private property “without just compensation.”

But hey, the obvious solution is to give the federal government more power! That’s what Obama and Al Sharpton want. They must be right!

Freedom speaks: An interview with Pamela Geller

Muhammad bomb cartoon

Link here. As she bluntly notes right at the start of the interview:

We incited no one. We didn’t call for violence, justify violence, or approve of violence. The people who were inciting were the ones saying that we should be killed for exhibiting Muhammad cartoons. There is no automatic or unavoidable response to being insulted. No one is forced to kill for being insulted. Those who choose to do so are responsible for their actions. No one else is.

When asked about the criticism that pundits and reporters on both the left and the right have been leveling at her for provoking the attacks, she was equally blunt, though she saved her harshest criticism for the quislings on the right.

This is the problem with the conservatives. This is why we can never nominate qualified, brave, true conservative candidates. The conservative movement has trimmed to accommodate the leftist media so much that they’ve trimmed themselves out of principle. They attack me because they’re desperately afraid that the leftist media will smear them by association with me. It is an act of sheer cowardice.

It has been disgusting these last few days watching the so-called intellectuals of our society, including many reporters who should know better, rush over themselves to blame Pamela Geller and the victims in this Islamic terrorist attack, merely because they exercised their first amendment rights.

The Islamic State has not only claimed credit for the attack, it says it plans to do more, targeting people in as many as 15 states, with Geller as one of those named to its kill list.

And we should blame Geller for the violence? How divorced from reality has our society’s intellectual class become?

Dragon launchpad abort test a success

The competition heats up: SpaceX’s first abort test of its Dragon capsule was completed successfully this morning.

The test not only demonstrated the capsule’s ability to escape the launchpad and land safely in the ocean nearby, it proved that its SuperDraco thrusters have the power to lift the spacecraft off the pad, which also means they have the power to lower the capsule to a soft landing on land.

Video embedded below.

Federal government demands NY strip Times Square of billboards

We’re here to help you: Federal officials have ordered New York to remove the billboards that make Times Square famous or else the state will lose $90 million in federal highway funds.

The edict comes from a 2012 law that makes Times Square an arterial route to the national highway system. And that puts it under the 1965 Highway Beautification Act, which limits signs to 1,200 square feet. It took the feds until now to realize that Times Square was included.

Conservative journalist obtains evidence the IRS audited him because of his political views

Working for the Democratic Party: A conservative journalist and strong critic of the Obama administration has obtained evidence through a Freedom of Information request that strongly suggests the IRS audits against him were ordered by the Obama administration and possibly a Democratic senator because of his political views.

My IRS auditor wrote into the margin of my file that he spent hours researching my political views. How chilling is that revelation? It sounds like the KGB, Stasi or even the Gestapo.

An IRS audit that required researching my political views clearly wasn’t a “normal random audit.” I was targeted for my political views. My civil rights were clearly violated.

The reason it may have taken the IRS fourteen months to turn my IRS files over to Judicial Watch [despite being required to do so in 30 days] is that they state a United States senator from Oregon was involved. At the time both senators from Oregon were Democrats. But only one, Ron Wyden, was chairman of the Senate Finance Committee with oversight over … the IRS. Could Ron Wyden have been the Democrat senator involved in my case?

There is a lot more at the link. Read it all.

Scientist abandons research due to protests and lack of support

The fascists win again: Tired of the constant abuse from animal rights activists as well as the unwillingness of his institution and colleagues to support him, a researcher has decided to abandon his neurology work.

The researcher was cleared of any wrong-doing in his treatment of his research monkeys. Nonetheless, he has written a letter to a number of scientists who did support him, explaining his decision.

“I am no longer willing or able to accept the never-ending stream of abuse from animal activists toward myself and my co-workers while seeing them encouraged to increase their aggressive activities by the tolerance and very slow reactions of scientific organizations. There is a clear lack of consequences for illegal actions such as infiltration, violation of privacy, theft of documents, and even intentionally caused distress to animals in order to film supposed animal torture or abnormal behavior,” the letter states.

Logothetis’s letter also faults his scientific colleagues in Tübingen for distancing themselves from the controversy. The neighboring Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology posted a disclaimer on its website emphasizing that there are no monkeys at the institute, he notes, and colleagues at the nearby Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research refused to issue a declaration of support.

The letter was not intended to be made public, Logothetis told ScienceInsider, and he regrets that it has been circulated beyond the people to whom he addressed it. He stresses that the problem of inaction is not specific to the Max Planck Society. “In my view organizations worldwide must change strategy immediately. Filing charges against infiltrators should be a ‘must’ whether or not radical activists manage to escape consequences in the first trials. In our case, there was more than enough evidence to support a number of accusations,” he says.

This kind of reminds me of a lot of situations these days, where obvious law-breakers — from minority rioters to feminist rape accusers to Islamic terrorists — are allowed to get away with abuse and illegal behavior simply because their “cause” is considered righteous in some way by our modern leftwing state religion.

A review of what little we know of Pluto prior to New Horizons’ arrival

The principle investigator of the New Horizons mission to Pluto gives us an overview of what is known, and what we might find, when the spacecraft does its fly-by on July 14.

Pluto has very distinct surface markings, including apparent polar caps, and it has an atmosphere (mostly nitrogen). We know that Pluto’s interior is primarily made of rock — about 70% by mass. Also, Pluto-Charon constitute a true binary planet, with a barycenter (center of mass) situated in the open space between them. We know Charon is a “rising star” among the solar system’s icy bodies, with evidence for recently created surface ices, possible internal activity (hinted at by the spectroscopic discovery of ammonium hydrates a few years ago), and some likelihood of an atmosphere itself — perhaps gas that was siphoned off Pluto! As for the small satellites — Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra — we know very little about them beyond their orbits and crude colors. Soon all six of those points of light, planet and moons, will be real worlds thanks to NASA’s New Horizons.

He also admits that trying to guess what we might find is quite hazardous, and likely will end up wrong.

Mysterious X-rays at the center of the galaxy

The uncertainty of science: The x-ray space telescope NuSTAR has detected high energy x-rays at the center of the Milky Way coming from no obvious source.

In and of themselves, X-rays from the galactic center aren’t unusual. But the X-rays NuSTAR detects don’t seem to be associated with structures already known to exist. For example, a supernova remnant named Sgr A East emits low-energy X-rays but not high-energy X-rays. The high-energy blotch doesn’t correlate with structures seen in radio images either, such as the dust and gas clouds of Sgr A West that are falling toward the supermassive black hole.

Instead, Perez and her colleagues propose that thousands of stellar corpses could be responsible for the high-energy X-rays: massive (and still-growing) white dwarfs, spun-up pulsars, or black holes or neutrons stars feeding on low-mass companion stars.

All of their proposed solutions, however, have serious problems explaining all of the data.

Five things to know about the Dragon launchpad abort test

The competition heats up: In anticipation of its Wednesday, May 6, launchpad abort test of its Dragon capsule, SpaceX has put out a press release providing an overview of the test and what will happen.

The launch window opens at 7 am (Eastern), but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen then. They have a very long launch window, and could do it almost anytime during the day.

The Sun drifts downward

NOAA today posted its monthly update of the solar cycle, showing the Sun’s sunspot activity in April. As always, I am posting it here, with annotations to give it context, as I have done since 2010.

April 2015 Solar Cycle graph

The graph above has been modified to show the predictions of the solar science community. The green curves show the community’s two original predictions from April 2007, with half the scientists predicting a very strong maximum and half predicting a weak one. The red curve is their revised May 2009 prediction.

Though sunspot activity increased in April, it remained well below the predicted numbers from the 2009 prediction, as has sunspot activity generally done for this entire solar cycle.

Note that if you extrapolate the red curve of the 2009 prediction down to its end you find that the solar minimum was predicted to occur sometime after 2020. Based on the rate of activity we have seen for the past year, it is very possible that the minimum will occur sooner, and will likely last longer.

But then again, the sun does what the sun wants to do. We don’t exactly understand the root causes of the solar cycle, and can only watch it unfold time after time as we try to peel back its mysteries.

An exoplanet that shouldn’t exist

Worlds without end: Astronomers have discovered an exoplanet that is too big for its tiny host star.

Present theory says that a Jupiter-sized planet should not have formed around this M-class dwarf star. But it has. In addition, the planet has the mass of Saturn but has been puffed up to the size of Jupiter. Yet, the star doesn’t provide it enough heat to cause it to puff up in this manner.

Obamacare exchanges in trouble

Finding out what’s in it: Nearly half of the Obamacare exchanges that were set up by state governments are in financial trouble.

Many of the online exchanges are wrestling with surging costs, especially for balky technology and expensive customer-call centers — and tepid enrollment numbers. To ease the fiscal distress, officials are considering raising fees on insurers, sharing costs with other states and pressing state lawmakers for cash infusions. Some are weighing turning over part or all of their troubled marketplaces to the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, which is now working smoothly.

Note how the only solution suggested is to raise fees, which will end up raising the costs for consumers. These exchanges cost billions to set up, and even now do not have enough money to work right? I am not surprised, as they are a government monopoly, just like the entire Obamacare law, with no competition or incentive to do better. The result is increased cost of medical treatment, with no benefits for anyone.

Indecision at Virgin Galactic over engine design

In the heat of competition: Sources at Virgin Galactic suggest that the company has still not made up its mind on the type of engine it will use on SpaceShipTwo.

Messier sums up the situation perfectly:

The lack of clarity about SpaceShipTwo’s main propulsion system is highly unusual. It’s difficult if not impossible to think of another space project that was uncertain about its primary propulsion system after nearly a decade of development.

Increasingly I do not see this spaceship ever flying, which saddens me. They had a ten year head start over everyone else, and have squandered it.

Hawaii agency withdraws support for TMT

Maybe it is time to get out: The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), which had approved the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) in 2009, has formally withdrawn its support.

I think the testimony to OHA by the opponents of the telescope says it all:

Thursday’s vote followed a day of emotional testimony at OHA’s offices in Honolulu.

“We have compromised and negotiated 13 times already, and enough is enough,” said testifier Mehana Kihoi. She said scientists did not understand the significance of the mountain to Hawaiian people. “These are people with no sacred place, no connection, no culture,” she said. Kihoi had spent more than 28 days occupying the mountain with other protesters and choked back tears as she described the spiritual experience of being there. “When you place your hands and your bare feet into the soil, you feel that warmth, you feel her heart. At 3 a.m., when … you feel her breath come down and sit on your bones, you know that she is alive.” She called on trustees to oppose the project: “Money comes and goes; our aina [land] is forever.”

Longtime Native Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte said stopping the TMT was no longer enough and that Hawaiians needed to take a stronger stand on the mismanagement of the mountain summit. “They’ve misused it to the point that they need to get all of those telescopes off Mauna Kea,” he said. “It’s a matter of principle.” [emphasis mine]

The comments of the first woman reveal an underlying bigotry and hatred of non-Hawaiians. The comments of the second person reveal a hostility to science and the advancement of knowledge that is most striking.

My instinct is to tell them to go to hell and to pull out all the telescopes, and financial support, to the islands. Maybe a tourist boycott should be started, since they obviously find non-Hawaiians and Western culture so offensive. We’d suddenly discover that these self-righteous claims are as shallow as I’ve described, bigoted and small-minded. Suddenly Hawaiians would be begging Westerners to return to the island.

My second and stronger instinct is to also tell them to go to hell, and to push through construction so that we do not bow to this kind of bigotry.

Unfortunately, our society no longer has the courage to do either. We will bow to these demands, and bigotry will win again.

An update on Sarah Brightman’s astronaut training

The competition heats up: New detailed photos of Sarah Brightman’s training for her September tourist trip to ISS have been released.

The photos appear to dispel the rumors that Brightman might be replaced with her backup tourist for the flight to ISS.

Some might consider this flight nothing more than a publicity stunt. While it surely is that, for Brightman it also is a dream come true. And the publicity will not simply be good for her career, it will do wonders to sell the idea of space tourism and space exploration.

In fact, there is never really any downside to freedom and allowing people to follow their dreams, and this tourist flight to ISS will prove it.

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