Monthly Archives: August 2018

Democratic Congressman to immigration officials: “When the worm turns you will not be safe.”

They’re coming for you next: An Arizona Democratic congressman yesterday threatened immigration officials for any work they might do to enforce the immigration laws passed by Congress.

“If you are a US government official and you are deporting Americans be warned,” the tweet read. “When the worm turns you will not be safe because you were just following orders. You do not have to take part in illegal acts ordered by this President’s administration.”

Not surprising, this was done on that sewer of brainlessness called Twitter.

First of all, no Americans have been deported. The Trump administration has simply been doing exactly the same thing that both the previous Bush and Obama administration had done, demand a verification that certain individuals near the Mexican border are really American citizens before issuing a passport, as per the law.

I repeat, they’re coming for you next. Comments like this only reveal what these fascists really want to do, destroy whoever might stand in the way of their obtaining of power.

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Democrat calls for boycott of company for donating to GOP

They’re coming for you next: The chairman of the California Democrat Party yesterday called for boycott of the fast food company In-N-Out Burgers because had donated money to the Republican Party.

His exact words, posted on the cesspool that is Twitter:

Tens of thousands of dollars donated to the California Republican Party… it’s time to #BoycottInNOut – let Trump and his cronies support these creeps… perhaps animal style!

In other words, anyone who is a Republican or expresses any support to that party is now unacceptable to this California Democrat, and should be hounded out of society.

Soon after he posted this tweet a local spokesman for the California Democratic Party issued a weak backtrack, indicating that the tweet was only their chairman’s personal opinion, though they understand his perspective entirely.

Remember, this is really only the start. They’re coming for you next.

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Audiobook of Genesis: the story of Apollo 8 now available

I am pleased to announce the release of the audiobook edition of Genesis: the story of Apollo 8. From the official press release:

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of one of mankind’s boldest adventures, the first manned flight to another world. To mark the occasion, an audio version of the first book about the mission of Apollo 8 has been released, narrated by Grover Gardner, a legend in the ears of fans of audiobooks all over the planet.

Says Valerie Anders, wife of Apollo 8 crew member Bill Anders, “When I first read this excellent account, published before the end of the space shuttle era, I was delighted.”

Now, with the advent of high quality audio books and online merchants like iTunes and Audible, and the resonant and expressive voice of narrator Grover Garner, everyone can enjoy this recording of this pivotal moment in space history.

While more recent books have been published on the mission of Apollo 8 (most of which rely heavily on Zimmerman’s work), none has captured the impact the Apollo program had on the families of the astronauts nearly so well as “Genesis – the story of Apollo 8.” The new forward to “Genesis,” by Valerie Anders, contains a moving tribute to those pilots who never returned from their missions – not as faraway as the moon, but just as dangerous and far more frequent.

This audio presentation also includes a preface and afterward recorded by the author, Robert Zimmerman, noted science journalist, a member of the National Association of Science Writers, and winner of numerous awards. Grover Gardner has been the narrator of more than 500 books, including many of the most popular audio books ever recorded, including the three part biography of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro and Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton. AudioFile magazine refers to him as “one of the best voices of the century.”

“Genesis – the story of Apollo 8” was produced for audio distribution by space fan and Army Lt Colonel William Hartel, who spends his work days as a professor of dentistry at the University of Tennessee. It is available wherever audiobooks are sold and runs 9 hours and 33 minutes.

Contact info: William Hartel, whartel123@aol.com 314-402-5227

You can listen to Grover Gardner’s reading of the foreword by Valerie Anders here.

The audiobook can be purchased directly from all the standard vendors. Or you can get it free with a 30-day trial membership in Audible for $19.99. This costs $2 more than buying the book direct, but this free trial deal will give me a much bigger cut per sale. If you support what I am doing, consider it.

And as always, for those who prefer to read, the ebook edition is also available.

Genesis cover

The ebook edition of Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8 includes a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 

Available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the publisher, Mountain Lake Press.

 

“Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America’s quest for the moon… Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America’s greatest human triumphs.”
–San Antonio Express-News

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The upcoming very busy planetary probe season

The next few months are going to be very busy and exciting for the planetary science community. Seven different probes will be either flying past or landing on four different solar system objects, with interesting events happening every few weeks:

  • September 21: One of Hayabusa-2’s mini-landers, Minerva-II-1, will land on the asteroid Ryugu
  • October 3: Another Hayabusa-2 mini-lander, MASCOT, will land on Ryugu
  • Late October: Hayabusa-2 itself will land and grab a sample of Ryugu
  • November 26: The U.S. lander InSight will land on Mars.
  • December 3: OSIRIS-REx will arrive at the asteroid Bennu.
  • December: Chang’e-4 will land on the Moon’s far side.
  • January 1: New Horizons will fly past the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule.

In addition, another Hayabusa-2 mini-lander will also land on Ryugu, sometime after Hayabusa-2’s landing. Moreover, as OSIRIS-REx and New Horizons approach their targets we shall see daily new and increasingly sharper images of both Bennu and Ultima Thule, prior to their arrival.

I expect from September to January there will be many many very cool images coming from space, on almost a daily basis.

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Hollywood once again reveals its distaste for America

The just released new Hollywood movie detailing the life of Neil Armstrong, First Man, has so far gotten rave reviews.

Sadly, however, there is one detail about the Apollo 11 mission that the filmmakers decided they couldn’t include, even though it was in many ways the entire point of the mission. They made a conscious decision to exclude any mention of the planting of the American flag on the surface of the Moon.

Star Ryan Gosling, who plays Armstrong, defended director Damien Chazelle’s decision to omit the star-spangled moment when asked about it in Venice. “I think this was widely regarded in the end as a human achievement [and] that’s how we chose to view it, ” Gosling said per the Telegraph. “I also think Neil was extremely humble, as were many of these astronauts, and time and time again he deferred the focus from himself to the 400,000 people who made the mission possible.”

The Canadian actor added that based on his own interviews with Armstrong’s family and friends, he doesn’t believe the pioneering astronaut considered himself an American hero. “I don’t think that Neil viewed himself as an American hero,” Gosling said. From my interviews with his family and people that knew him, it was quite the opposite. And we wanted the film to reflect Neil.” [emphasis mine]

This is bunk. All the astronauts who flew to the Moon were very aware that they were warriors in the Cold War against the Soviet Union and communism, and did it very consciously so that the U.S. could win that space race, for the U.S. Planting the flag was thus for them a very important aspect of the mission, maybe in many ways the most important.

That these Hollywood filmmakers purposely excluded that moment only illustrates to me once again the hostility, even hate, that the modern elitist culture has for the United States and everything it has stood for since 1776: freedom, blind justice before the law, and individual responsibility. Here it appears they are making an effort to separate that very decidedly American culture, which made the lunar landing possible, from that achievement. They want to honor Armstrong as an individual, but do not want to give any credit to the country and culture that sent him to the Moon. Instead, they want to claim that the Apollo landings were merely “a human achievement.”

For shame.

This makes me very unwilling to spend any money to see this movie. Why should I support the work of such intellectually dishonest people?

I must add that I have already been emailed by several readers who are similarly outraged. I wonder therefore if this will turn into something that will actually hurt ticket sales. I suspect not, as too many Americans today do not care very much about these issues. They will go to be entertained, and many will buy into the lie that the Apollo missions was an achievement not of America but of the entire global world, working together in love and peace.

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How the Curiosity science team found soft rock for drilling

Link here. They very much wanted drill samples on Vera Rubin Ridge, but had twice found the rock too hard for Curiosity’s drill. So how did they pinpoint the spot, dubbed Stoer, where the drill finally worked?

In the absence of direct data on rock mechanical properties, we came up with three criteria that we could use to try to find a softer rock. (1) Did the bristles of the DRT brush leave scratches on the rocks’ surfaces? While not necessarily a direct indicator of what the rock strength would be when we drilled into it, we could at least say rocks that got scratched with the DRT had a softer surface than those that didn’t. (2) How well exposed are the white calcium sulfate veins? On some rock targets, like Stoer, we clearly see veins. On other targets, like Voyageurs, the veins are recessed into the rock. Recessed veins erode much faster than the surrounding bedrock because the surrounding bedrock is harder. Non-recessed veins tells us the bedrock may be similar in strength to the veins, or, if the veins stick out, the bedrock may be lower in strength. (3) What does the large-scale topography tell us? Broadly, Vera Rubin Ridge is a ridge because it is composed of hard rocks that are more resistant to erosion than their surroundings. We realized we might use this same logic to find softer rocks within the ridge by trying to drill in local topographic lows or at bases of scarps where the bottom of the scarp is eroding more quickly than the hard rocks on top.

The successful drill hole, Stoer, was thus down somewhat from to top of the ridge. As they prepare to move on, it appears they want to try again to drill at the top of the ridge. It also appears that the work described above has maybe found another location there where the rock might be soft enough for the drill.

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As Mars dust storm clears, Opportunity remains silent

The Opportunity science team today provided a new update on the rover, noting that it remains silent even as the Martian dust storm is clearing.

With skies clearing, mission managers are hopeful the rover will attempt to call home, but they are also prepared for an extended period of silence. “If we do not hear back after 45 days, the team will be forced to conclude that the Sun-blocking dust and the Martian cold have conspired to cause some type of fault from which the rover will more than likely not recover,” said Callas. “At that point our active phase of reaching out to Opportunity will be at an end. However, in the unlikely chance that there is a large amount of dust sitting on the solar arrays that is blocking the Sun’s energy, we will continue passive listening efforts for several months.”

The additional several months for passive listening are an allowance for the possibility that a Red Planet dust devil could come along and literally dust off Opportunity’s solar arrays. Such “cleaning events” were first discovered by Mars rover teams in 2004 when, on several occasions, battery power levels aboard both Spirit and Opportunity increased by several percent during a single Martian night, when the logical expectation was that they would continue to decrease. These cleaning dust devils have even been imaged by both rovers on the surface and spacecraft in orbit (see https://mars.nasa.gov/resources/5307/the-serpent-dust-devil-of-mars/).

It appears however that if nothing is heard from Opportunity by sometime in mid-October, they will be very prepared at that time to begin shutting down ground-based operations here on Earth.

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Vostochny manager accused of overbuying cables

Russian investigators have now clarified the charges against one of the Vostochny managers, accusing him of overbuying unnecessary cables, manufactured by a company his family owns, so that they could pocket an extra $1.5 million in cash.

According to the investigators, Volkodav – by abusing his power as a head of General Military Works Department №6 – overbought cables that were unnecessary in the further construction of the spaceport at Vostochny Cosmodrome. The cables were bought in a Tsvetlit company (owned by his relatives) for the purposes of its enrichment. In fact, the bought-in goods were never used and are not an object of the contract signed by the General Military Works Department and the company. The former head’s actions caused losses to the tune of 104 million rubles ($1.5 million).

Volkodav’s lawyers have also noted that the actual amount involved is really about half a million dollars, as the contractor has paid back about a million.

While this might be a lot of money in Russia, the amounts and activities correspond roughly to the typical corruption that exists throughout the Putin government. I suspect that they are prosecuting this guy not to clean up corruption but to use him as a scapegoat for the overall problems the government has had building the Vostochny spaceport, including gigantic cost overruns, worker strikers, and endless schedule delays.

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Scotland’s first commercial rocket test flight

Capitalism in space: A private smallsat rocket company, Skyrora, has successfully completed a suborbital test flight, the first commercial rocket test flight in Scotland.

Skyrora saw its 2.5 metre (9ft) projectile reach altitudes of almost four miles after taking off at the Kildermorie Estate in Ross-shire. Known as Skylark Nano, it accelerated to Mach 1.45 – more than 110mph.

One could also describe Skylark Nano as nothing more than a big model rocket. Nonetheless, the company is using this test flight to improve its chances to win the competition for some of the money the UK government will award to private companies in connection with the establishment of its new spaceport in Sutherland, Scotland.

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Luxembourg announces creation of space agency

The new colonial movement: Luxembourg today announced that it will officially launch its own space agency as of September 12, 2018.

Unlike US space agency Nasa, Luxembourg’s agency will not carry out research or launches. Its purpose is to accelerate collaborations between economic project leaders of the space sector, investors and other partners.

The agency will back an investment fund to invest in promising projects. Head of space affairs Marc Serres told Delano in May 2018 that financing was one of the department’s five pillars. Serres said at the time the fund would be a public private initiative with the state as anchor investor and private investors running it.

As eccentric as Luxembourg’s overall philosophy to tax dollars might be (treating it all as investment capital to invest for profit), this approach in terms of its space agency is right on the money. Not only will their investments bring profits back to their taxpayers (who are really being treated here as investors), they are using this tax money investment as a way to draw private enterprise to their country.

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Dates set for first landings on Ryugu

The science team for the Japanese probe Hayabusa-2 have set the dates for the first two landings on the asteroid Ryugu.

On 21 September, it will despatch the first of these piggybacked packages. A 3.3kg container known as Minerva II-1, which is mounted on the spacecraft, will deploy two robots known as Rover 1A and Rover 1B.

The 1kg “rovers” will actually move by hopping under the asteroid’s low gravity. Each one contains a motor-powered internal mass that rotates to generate force, propelling the robot across the surface. The rovers are equipped with wide-angle and stereo cameras to send back pictures from Ryugu.

Then, on 3 October, the mothership will deploy a lander called Mascot, which has been developed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in conjunction with the French Space Agency (CNES). Mascot, otherwise known as the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout, is a 10kg instrument package that will gather a range of scientific data from the surface. It carries a wide-angle camera, a microscope to study the composition of minerals, a radiometer to measure temperature and a magnetometer to measure the magnetic field.

After it reaches the surface, Mascot can move its position only once, by jumping.

An earlier report had said that Hayabusa-2 would itself land late in October, but this report today leaves that landing date unstated.

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Update on the leak on ISS, its cause and repair

Link here. The article provides a lot of good details, including the contingency plans should the Soyuz itself be unsafe for astronauts to use to return to Earth. As for the repairs:

Shortly after finding the hole, the crew took photos for ground crews to review. At the same time, the Russian crewmembers used Kapton tape to temporarily seal the breach/leak – a band-aid until a more permanent solution was found and a temporary fix that at first only slowed the leak rate.

After the tape was applied, reports varied regarding ISS pressure – with some reports from the crew noting a stabilization of pressure inside the international complex and others continuing to show a slower leak.

Within hours, the Russians had devised a permanent fix using sealant, tape, and medical patches.

There was some initial disagreement among the crew (as well as between NASA and Roscosmos) in terms of implementing the permanent fix so quickly, with ISS Commander Drew Feustel (NASA) wanting to hold off on the permanent fix until the ground could review the idea while Roscosmos wanted to proceed with the sealant/patch/tape fix immediately.

Ultimately, Roscosmos and the Russian crew proceeded with the fix.

The sealant – as of writing – appears to have worked and stopped the leak completely. However, application of the final aspects of the repair (the application of patches and tape) have been left until tomorrow to allow the sealant of fully set and harden during the crew’s “overnight” sleep period.

The disagreement about when to do the final repair probably revolves around a desire of NASA to pinpoint the exact cause of the holes, including the possibility that it was caused by a fundamental problem with the manufacture of the Soyuz itself. The Russians in turn don’t like air leaks (having lost three astronauts from one at the end of the Salyut 1 space station mission in 1971), and would also not like outsiders to be uncovering a problem with the Soyuz capsule, unlikely here as that is.

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Fat Cat Staying Alive 10 Hours

An evening pause: This pause is a bit more than a pause, since it is ten hours long. I don’t expect anyone to watch it all, as the first three minutes makes the point, quite hilariously, and well worth a few minutes of entertainment. As the filmmaker notes, “Fat cats are always funny…”

Hat tip Jim Mallamace.

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Pollster: Elitists still refusing to listen

Link here. Key quote:

Elites simply don’t understand these voters and find their voting behavior unfathomable because they rarely really interact with them, socialize with them, and, most important, listen to them. And people know it. To quote one voter’s attitude toward elites: “They think that because they’re [so] smart, that their opinion matters more than yours, because you’re not as smart as them.”

Frankly, Washington ought to remember that there is an America west of the Hudson and east of the San Andreas Fault, and for people there, dealing with getting by paycheck to paycheck is a bigger priority than the political spat of the week or the latest media preoccupation.

People’s views of elites isn’t a passing fad. It is an existential threat to government, political parties, the media and even business and academia, because people are fundamentally questioning the motivations and usefulness of so-called experts.

He calls the experts “elites”, but that implies a superior status that the power structure in Washington and modern academic circles no longer deserve. I prefer “elitists,” which instead describes someone who thinks they are superior but are really quite inferior to everyone else. This conclusion is based on forty years of interacting with them. See for example my conclusions after visiting a Washington think-tank conference in 2016:

Nor has Trump’s success as a candidate made them wonder or question their assumptions. Instead, his name was generally mentioned with derision or contempt (most often by Republican Senator Graham), followed by scattered laughter from the audience.

While I might actually agree with many of Graham’s conclusions about Trump, unlike Graham I also recognize that Trump is no fool, that he has proposed some worthwhile policy proposals, and that the reason he won the Republican nomination is because the public is very unhappy with many of the policy decisions being made by the very people at this conference. The public is aware of the wider issues, and wants their government to consider them.

Rather than ask why Trump has been successful, however, this crowd was ready to dismiss him, and the people who voted for him. To give another example, consider the first panel, “The Case for Inclusivity”, where four national security leaders expounded the importance of guaranteeing gender equality in the workforce, even on the battlefield. At one point one of the panelists noted that some of the gender policies that Hillary Clinton created in the State Department during her tenure as Secretary of State are now permanent and will never go away, no matter who gets elected in the future. Neither the rest of the panel nor the audience saw anything worrisome about this statement. In fact, it appeared to me that they clearly supported it.

So much for democracy and following the wishes of the electorate.

The elitists in power today are close-minded, refuse to consider other points of view, and routinely dismiss anyone who dissents from their generally liberal mindset. And their contempt for ordinary people not of their ilk is often awe-inspiring, especially because they have so little self-awareness of it.

The worst part is that they have shown absolutely no effort to reexamine their assumptions, even now almost two years after Trump was elected. If anything, the leftist elitists in politics and academia have doubled down, becoming even more hostile and close-minded to other perspectives.

If something doesn’t change soon, some very bad things are going to happen.

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Trump cancels federal employee pay raise

President Trump today used his power under federal law to cancel this year’s scheduled federal employee pay raise of 2.1% as well as a 25% increase for “localities”.

In a letter to House and Senate leaders, Trump wrote that he’d decided “across-the-board” pay raises as well as locality pay raises for civilian federal workers in 2019 would be frozen. “I have determined that for 2019, both across‑the‑board pay increases and locality pay increases will be set at zero,” he wrote. “These alternative pay plan decisions will not materially affect our ability to attract and retain a well‑qualified Federal workforce,” Trump added.

In the letter, Trump said a 25.7-percent pay raise for localities, as well as a 2.1-percent pay increase for across-the-board pay, both scheduled for January 2019, would add billions to the federal deficit. Specifically, he pointed to the scheduled locality pay raise as costing $25 billion. “We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” Trump wrote in the letter.

This is what has made Trump different than every president since Reagan. He is willing to do things that shake up the status quo that are also falsely considered risky by the Washington political class. This will not hurt him politically in the least, despite what you will hear the pundits on the bankrupt mainstream media say. If anything, it will strongly help him and his political allies, as the American taxpaying public has been for many years disgusted with the overpaid federal workforce that has an amazing ability to regularly screw up any job they are given.

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First private patents filed for manufacturing materials on ISS

Capitalism in space: Two private companies, Proctor & Gamble and Made in Space, have filed the first private patents for the manufacture of either materials or supplies on the International Space Station.

These patents are very important, as they specifically describe doing manufacturing in space of objects that can be used in space. There have been many previous patents for research in space, but all have usually related to research for use on Earth.

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Air leak on ISS

An air leak on ISS was detected yesterday, and pinpointed to cracks found in the spherical habitation module of one of the Soyuz capsule’s docked to the station.

According to Russian sources, the problem was found in the Habitation Module of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft, where the crew detected two small cracks, reaching 1.5 millimeters in size. Alexander Gerst apparently first discovered the leak.

The cosmonauts photographed the affected area and sent it to mission control for analysis. The first estimates indicated that the holes could be caused by meteor or debris strikes which punctured the hull of the spacecraft. Head of the Roskosmos State Corporation Dmitry Rogozin confirmed the incident but said that the problem had been resolved. According to Rogozin, the crew had to close off various sections of the station to isolate the leak.

According to ESA sources, the area of the leak was temporarily sealed with tape, while Russian cosmonauts were working on a permanent sealing patch. After some drop during the night, the air pressure inside the ISS was reported as stable near sea level. In the meantime, mission control informed the crew that all scheduled activities for August 30 had been cancelled.

The cracks do not pose a problem for using the Soyuz for returning to Earth, as the habitation module is discarded before de-orbit. The descent module appears unharmed.

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The aurora of Saturn

Cool movie time! Using the Hubble space telescope scientists have compiled an animation showing the changes in Saturn’s north pole aurora over time.

In 2017, over a period of seven months, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope took images of auroras above Saturn’s north pole region using the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph. The observations were taken before and after the Saturnian northern summer solstice. These conditions provided the best achievable viewing of the northern auroral region for Hubble.

…The images show a rich variety of emissions with highly variable localized features. The variability of the auroras is influenced by both the solar wind and the rapid rotation of Saturn, which lasts only about 11 hours. On top of this, the northern aurora displays two distinct peaks in brightness — at dawn and just before midnight. The latter peak, unreported before, seems specific to the interaction of the solar wind with the magnetosphere at Saturn’s solstice.

The animation of all the images is embedded below. At the link is a second video showing the aurora in close-up

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Lunar scientist Paul Spudis had passed away

R.I.P.: Paul Spudis, lunar scientist and strong advocate for the human exploration of space, passed away yesterday at the age of 66.

Spudis was one of the best lunar scientists we have had. He also saw past petty budget battles and his personal planetary research to recognize the need for human exploration and settlement on the Moon and elsewhere. This is a premature loss for us all.

Leonard David at Space News has written a fine obituary, which gives only a hint at how important Spudis was to the recent resurgence of the U.S. in the exploration of space.

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Looking for Marsquakes

After eight and a half years of study of one particular very young fault system on Mars using high resolution images from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists have found no evidence that any quakes occurred there in that time.

The team studied images of Mars’s surface over nearly a decade to look for changes that might have been caused by marsquakes. The researchers used images of Mars’s surface from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) and applied Co-registration of Optically Sensed Images and Correlation (COSI-Corr)—software that has been validated to track terrestrial glaciers, landslides, and quakes on Earth, as well as dune movement on Mars itself—to hunt for signs of displacement near fault zones.

The researchers focused on the Cerberus Fossae fault system, the youngest fault system on the Red Planet and thus the most likely to still be active. They used the average coregistration performance of each study image to determine that this method should be able to detect fault slip rates of 0.1–10 millimeters a year.

The team identified only one displacement signal that could have been interpreted as evidence of a marsquake—but dismissed it as the result of a topographic artifact. Their results suggest that no seismic movement occurred in the Cerberus Fossae area over the course of the study, which spanned 8.5 Earth years’ worth of images from the planet.

This suggests, but does not prove, that Mars has very few quakes. We shall know more when InSight lands on Mars on November 26.

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Ukraine test flies winged cruise missile

Ukraine announced today that it has successfully test flown Neptun, a new cruise missile with wings.

[Neptun] is a subsonic weapon developed to hit maritime targets, but can also be deployed against land targets, said Ukrainian defense expert Serhiy Sguretz. “The trajectory is standard for a cruise missile, the cruising flight altitude is 10 to 30 meters (33 to 100 feet), and in the final approach phase, it descends to four to five meters. The missile is equipped with a high-explosive fragmentation warhead. Guidance system details have not been published, but it is capable of hitting different targets, including enemy radar stations. When attacking maritime targets, Neptun has a range of approximately 280 km, increasing to 300 km when launched against land targets. “With a little help, it could fly up to Moscow,” added Sguretz.

The cruise missile is scheduled to be built in three different versions—sea-launched, land-launched, and air-launched—targeting sea and land objects. A picture published by the RNBO shows that the Neptun’s mobile transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) has some similarity to that of the S-300 Soviet/Russian air defense system.

Neptun could be integrated onto not only the Ukrainian air force’s Soviet/Russian aircraft but on some NATO aircraft.

Obviously, this is designed to give Russia pause about any further aggression against the Ukraine.

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India’s manned flight schedule revealed

The new colonial movement: K. Sivan, the head of India’s space agency ISRO, announced yesterday the planned flight program that will lead up to that nation’s first manned spaceflight in 2022.

The Indian Space Research Organisation will conduct two flights of unmanned space capsules about 30 months and 36 months from now in preparation for the country’s first manned space mission by 2022, space agency officials announced on Tuesday.

The manned space capsule will be designed for a five-to-seven day mission about 300km to 400km above the Earth, officials said, adding that Isro has for over a decade been developing key technologies for human space flight.

Isro has designed a three-person space capsule but how many astronauts will be sent in the first mission has not been decided yet, they said. Only Russia, the US and China have until now sent astronauts into space aboard their own spacecraft.

This entire program hinges on the repeated successful use of India’s most powerful rocket, the GSLV Mark 3, which has only flown once so far. Two more launches are scheduled through January, including one that will take India’s first lunar lander to the Moon.

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Virgin Orbit performs more flight tests of 747

Capitalism in space: Virgin Orbit has completed a series of flight tests of the 747 airplane that will be used to launch its LauncherOne smallsat rocket.

The flights of the company’s Boeing 747 aircraft, nicknamed “Cosmic Girl,” were the first since the company installed a pylon on the plane’s left wing that will be used to carry the LauncherOne rocket on future flights of the air-launch system.

The company disclosed few details about the test flights, but flight tracking services such as Flightradar24 list three flights of the aircraft in recent days, most recently Aug. 27, taking off from the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California. The flights ranged in duration from one and a half to three and a half hours in airspace over the Mojave Desert and over the Pacific Ocean off the California coast.

The company appears to be making progress, though its also appears that their promised first rocket flights are not happening this summer, as previously announced.

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Launch schedule shuffles for SpaceX

Link here. A combination of payload issues, scheduling conflicts, and rocket refurbishment demands has forced SpaceX to shuffle and delay many of its remaining launches scheduled for the rest of 2018.

The biggest conflict appears to be between the first manned Dragon test flight, and the second Falcon Heavy flight, both of which are now listed for a November launch. Since both will use the same launchpad, there must be some space between them.

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Russian medics have approved UAE’s astronaut candidates

The new colonial movement: Russian medics have now narrowed the candidates for the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) first spaceflight.

Nine candidates were sent to Russia for testing. The article does not say how many candidates were given medical clearance. Further training in September will narrow the choices further, followed by a final decision by the UAE naming the one person who will fly to ISS.

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Dragon/Starliner schedules firming up

At a meeting at NASA this week a status update of SpaceX’s manned Dragon and Boeing’s manned Starliner capsules indicated that their proposed flight schedules, with the first manned flights occurring next year, are increasingly firm.

Overall, the updates were quite positive with most of the flight hardware nearing completion. The two companies must each execute two test flights to the International Space Station (ISS) in order to be certified to perform operational crew rotation missions.

On the SpaceX side, the company will first execute an uncrewed test flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft called Demonstration Mission 1 (DM-1) – currently scheduled for this coming November. It will then be followed by a crewed test flight designated Demonstration Mission 2 (DM-2). In between the two missions, SpaceX will also execute an in-flight abort test.

In terms of Boeing, they will perform an uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT) with the CST-100 Starliner followed by a Crewed Flight Test (CFT). A pad abort test will be also conducted between the two missions.

While Boeing’s schedule for these flights is somewhat uncertain as they investigate the recent failure of several valves to close during an engine test, SpaceX’s schedule has become very solid. Assuming nothing goes wrong on the unmanned test flight in November and the in-flight abort test, they will fly humans in April, 2019.

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