Monthly Archives: November 2018

Annual Space Show fund-raising campaign

The Space Show has begun its annual fund-raising campaign.

As someone who has appeared on David Livingston’s show more times than anyone else, I hope my readers will consider supporting the Space Show with some generous donations. David was one of the few people, along with I, advocating commercial space back when the idea was considered insane. In many ways it was his effort with the Space Show that helped drive the revolution toward private space that is now remaking the entire aerospace industry and thus making the exploration and colonization of the solar system finally possible.

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FBI raids home of Clinton whistleblower

Working for the Democratic Party: Despite being protected under whistleblower laws, and despite his demonstrated cooperation with congressional committees, the FBI raided the home of Clinton whistleblower on November 19, spending six hours rummaging through his house.

FBI agents raided the home of a recognized Department of Justice whistleblower who privately delivered documents pertaining to the Clinton Foundation and Uranium One to a government watchdog, according to the whistleblower’s attorney.

The Justice Department’s inspector general was informed that the documents show that federal officials failed to investigate potential criminal activity regarding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Foundation and Rosatom, the Russian company that purchased Uranium One, a document reviewed by The Daily Caller News Foundation alleges.

The delivered documents also show that then-FBI Director Robert Mueller failed to investigate allegations of criminal misconduct pertaining to Rosatom and to other Russian government entities attached to Uranium One, the document reviewed by TheDCNF alleges. Mueller is now the special counsel investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.

“The bureau raided my client to seize what he legally gave Congress about the Clinton Foundation and Uranium One,” the whistleblower’s lawyer, Michael Socarras, told TheDCNF, noting that he considered the FBI’s raid to be an “outrageous disregard” of whistleblower protections.

Sixteen agents arrived at the home of Dennis Nathan Cain, a former FBI contractor, on the morning of Nov. 19 and raided his Union Bridge, Maryland, home, Socarras told TheDCNF.

There is significantly more at the link. It appears most obviously that the FBI here was used to harass and intimidate this man, simply because he has taken action that threatens Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.

I wonder once again if our legally elected president, mandated by the Constitution to run this agency, is really in charge, or if we have an agency run by its employees for political purposes, completely out of control. To me it sure looks like the latter. If Trump was the fighter he portrays himself to be, there would be wholesale firings over this raid, today.

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Astronomers get best and earliest view of supernovae ever

Using ground-based telescopes as well as the space telescope Kepler astronomers have obtained their best and earliest view of a Type Ia supernova.

The supernova, named SN 2018oh, was brighter than expected over the first few days. The increased brightness is an indication that it slammed into a nearby companion star. This adds to the growing body of evidence that some, but not all, of these thermonuclear supernovae have a large companion star that triggers the explosion.

Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO), based in Goleta, California, is a global network of 21 robotic telescopes that obtained some of the best data characterizing the supernova in support of the NASA mission. Wenxiong Li, the lead author of one of three papers published today on the finding, was based at LCO when much of the research was underway. Five other LCO astronomers, who are affiliated with the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), also contributed to two of the papers.

Understanding the origins of Type Ia supernovae is critical because they are used as standard candles to map out distances in cosmology. They were used to discover Dark Energy, the mysterious force causing the universe to accelerate in its expansion. Astronomers have long known that a supernova is the explosion of a dense white dwarf star (A white dwarf has the mass of the sun, but only the radius of the Earth; one teaspoon of a white dwarf would weigh roughly 23000 pounds) What triggers the explosion is less well understood. One theory holds that the explosions are the merger of two white dwarf stars. Another is that the second star is not a white dwarf at all, but a normal-sized or even giant star that loses only some of its matter to the white dwarf to initiate the explosion. In this theory, the explosion then smashes into the surviving second star, causing the supernova to be exceedingly bright in its early hours.

Finding that Type Ia supernovae can be brighter than previously believed throws a wrench into the results that discovered dark energy, since those results made assumptions about the brightness and thus the distance of those supernovae. If the brightness of these supernovae are not as reliable as expected, they are also less of a standard candle for estimating distance.

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Moon rocks sell at auction for $855K

At a Sotheby auction of space memorabilia yesterday three Moon rocks brought back by a Soviet-era robot ship sold for $855K.

This was the second time these rocks have sold at auction, with their sale price more than doubling with yesterday’s sale. Though their value has apparently gone up a lot, I think the seller here made a very wise decision. Right now, practically all the rocks are controlled by NASA and are not for sale, thus creating a shortage and forcing the value of the available rocks to rise. Their value will drop however once private companies start hauling them back to Earth.

A number of other interesting space items sold during auction, including several unused spacesuits and several paintings by Chesley Bonestell, Alan Bean, and Norman Rockwell.

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Russia launches three military communications satellites

Russia today used one of its three remaining Rokot rockets to launch three military communications satellites.

They no longer make Rokot because it uses Ukrainian equipment.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

33 China
18 SpaceX
12 Russia
9 Europe (Arianespace)
8 ULA

China remains ahead of the U.S. 33 to 30 in the national rankings.

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Google considered burying conservative outlets in search results

Evil: After Trump’s 2016 election victory, Google management seriously considered rigging search results so that conservative news outlets would not show up.

They never did it, but instead created a short-lived fact check feature that was clearly aimed at discrediting conservative sites.

“We’re working on providing users with context around stories so that they can know the bigger picture,” chimed in David Besbris, vice president of engineering at Google. “We can play a role in providing the full story and educate them about all sides. This doesn’t have to be filtering and can be useful to everyone,” he wrote. Other employees similarly advocated providing contextual information about media sources in search results, and the company later did so with a short-lived fact check at the end of 2017.

Not only did the fact-check feature target conservative outlets almost exclusively, it was also blatantly wrong. Google’s fact check repeatedly attributed false claims to those outlets, even though they demonstrably never made those claims.

Google pulled the faulty fact-check program in January, crediting TheDCNF’s investigation for the decision.

Forgive me if I remain suspicious about how they rig search results these days. There are too many indications that the culture at this company is tyrannically liberal and willing to destroy anyone who dissents from that political position.

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NASA commits $2.6 billion for commercial lunar exploration

NASA today announced that it has committed $2.6 billion over the next ten years to buy delivery services to the Moon for its unmanned scientific missions, provided from nine different private companies.

The companies selected — Astrobotic Technology, Deep Space Systems, Draper, Firefly Aerospace, Intuitive Machines, Lockheed Martin Space, Masten Space Systems, Moon Express, Orbit Beyond — cover a range of companies from the well established to new companies not yet proven. This announcement essentially permits them all to bid on providing NASA delivery services to the moon for small unmanned probes. The press release states that:

These companies will be able to bid on delivering science and technology payloads for NASA, including payload integration and operations, launching from Earth and landing on the surface of the Moon. NASA expects to be one of many customers that will use these commercial landing services.

More information here. UPDATE: Doug Messier has published the press releases from most of the above companies, describing their individual projects, and I have added links to each.

The program appears modeled after NASA commercial cargo and crew programs, whereby the companies will own and control the orbiters, landers, and rovers they build, allowing them to market them to others for profit. It also appears designed to keep costs low, as did commercial cargo program. NASA is merely the customer.

This is good news. It suggests that the American space industry is continuing to transition away from big government programs, controlling everything, to a robust private industry that is in charge with the government merely one out of many customers.

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More ice cliffs found on Mars!

Another ice cliff

In my review of the November image download from the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), I am, as a cave explorer and cartographer, naturally attracted to any image with “pit” in the title. The image to the right, cropped, rotated and reduced to post here, was released with the title “Pit in Mid-Latitude Mantle”. That immediately caught my eye, and in looking at it I was at first unimpressed. The three apparent collapses are interesting in that they all have south-facing sharp cliffs, but other than that I wasn’t sure why they were of interest.

Then I took at look at this image’s location. It is somewhat far south on Mars, at latitude -60 degrees, sitting south of Hellas Basin, the deepest basin on Mars. This location is in the same general area where scientists announced in January the discovery of eight cliffs with visible exposed ice layers. The white horizontal bar below Hellas Basin on the map below and to the right shows the region where seven of those ice cliffs were located. To quote the January press release:

The location of known ice scarps on Mars

These eight scarps, with slopes as steep as 55 degrees, reveal new information about the internal layered structure of previously detected underground ice sheets in Mars’ middle latitudes.

The ice was likely deposited as snow long ago. The deposits are exposed in cross section as relatively pure water ice, capped by a layer one to two yards (or meters) thick of ice-cemented rock and dust. They hold clues about Mars’ climate history. They also may make frozen water more accessible than previously thought to future robotic or human exploration missions.

Researchers who located and studied the scarp sites with the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on MRO reported the findings today in the journal Science. The sites are in both northern and southern hemispheres of Mars, at latitudes from about 55 to 58 degrees, equivalent on Earth to Scotland or the tip of South America. “There is shallow ground ice under roughly a third of the Martian surface, which records the recent history of Mars,” said the study’s lead author, Colin Dundas of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. “What we’ve seen here are cross-sections through the ice that give us a 3-D view with more detail than ever before.”

In an email correspondence today with Dr. Dundas, he confirmed that the image to the right was of ice cliffs not included in the January paper. The image was a follow-up of an earlier MRO image and was taken to confirm the ice cliff’s existence.

What I noticed in reviewing the January paper was that these three new ice scarps were actually outside the white bar on the map above, located at -60.7 degrees latitude, 83.5 degrees longitude.
» Read more

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Electric cars routinely transmit info to Chinese government

The Big Green government: Manufacturers of electric cars design the cars so that they routinely transmit information about the car’s status and position to the Chinese government.

More than 200 manufacturers, including Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan, Mitsubishi and U.S.-listed electric vehicle start-up NIO, transmit position information and dozens of other data points to government-backed [Chinese] monitoring centers, The Associated Press has found. Generally, it happens without car owners’ knowledge.

The automakers say they are merely complying with local laws, which apply only to alternative energy vehicles. Chinese officials say the data is used for analytics to improve public safety, facilitate industrial development and infrastructure planning, and to prevent fraud in subsidy programs.

Outside of China the information is also gathered, but by private companies. Car owners can opt out, but that seems to me to be the unethical way to arrange this. Owners should instead be asked if they want to opt in.

In fact, the gathering of this data, privately or by governments, without the permission of the car owner, is entirely unethical and immoral. That these companies and their managers see nothing wrong with this is another illustration of the abandonment of morality in modern culture. It is also another reason why I want my hi-tech equipment to be as dumb as possible. Above all, I do not want it linked electronically beyond itself.

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Blue Origin reveals more details about New Glenn

Capitalism in space: Blue Origin’s release of a payload user guide has provided space geeks a wealth of new information about the design of its New Glenn orbital rocket.

Numerous other items of interest are mentioned on the Guide, with launch vehicle specific elements such as a large common bulkhead being employed on the second stage and common tooling on the second stage and that is also aluminum orthogrid material in its construction. The rocket will use autogenous pressurization for both stages.

The large 7 meter fairing has the ability to launch very large payloads such as space telescopes, but also dual payloads – not unlike Ariane 5 regularly conducts.

The Guide refines some performance numbers, with 1060 kN (240,000 lb) total thrust cited for the second stage, which is slightly down from the 125,000 lb per BE-3U – the second stage engine-performance previously stated by Blue Origin’s online resources.

The article at the link also provides some updates on the status of the construction of the rocket’s launchpad, landing barge, and manufacturing facility.

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South Korea test flies its first home-built rocket engine

The new colonial movement: South Korea yesterday successfully completed a suborbital test flight of its first home-built rocket engine.

The 75-ton-thrust engine was fired up and launched the first-stage rocket at the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province, at 4 p.m., as part of the country’s long-term project to launch the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-2 (KSLV-2), dubbed Nuri, in 2021.

The Ministry of Science and ICT said it achieved an engine burn-time of 151 seconds, which exceeded its goal. It earlier said the test launch would be considered a success if the engine maintained a burn-time of about 140 seconds. The test rocket also reached a maximum altitude of 209 kilometers, 319 seconds after liftoff, and safely landed in international waters southeast of Jeju Island.

The planned orbital launch in 2021 makes this one of many new rockets, from both countries as well as private companies, set to become operational in the early 2020s. It looks like that decade will be especially exciting for space.

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Analysis of InSight’s landing site

Link here. It appears they landed within a small crater filled with sand.

InSight landed in what’s called a hollow, a crater that has been filled in with soil and leveled flat. In images taken from the elbow of the lander’s stowed robotic arm, the edge of the crater is visible. Once the team determines the diameter of the crater—it could be meters, maybe tens of meters—researchers can infer its depth and the amount of sand blown into it. Either way, this bodes well for the heat probe instrument, called HP3, which should penetrate the material with ease. “This is about as good news for HP3 as you could possibly hope,” he says.

Landing in the hollow was fortunate for another reason. InSight didn’t quite hit the bull’s-eye of its target landing zone, and ended up in terrain that, overall, is rockier than desired. But the hollow is mostly devoid of rocks. One, about 20 centimeters across, sits close to the lander’s feet, whereas three smaller ones lie farther away—but none poses a threat to placing the instruments. The hollow is flat and lacks sand dunes, and small pebbles indicate a surface dense enough to support the weight of the instruments. “We won’t have any trouble whatsoever,” Golombek says.

They still need to pin down exactly where the lander is, on the surface. They know, within a few kilometers, but it will take more work to narrow that down to a precise location.

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Successful launch tonight for India’s PSLV rocket

The new colonial movement: India’s PSLV rocket successfully placed 31 satellites into orbit, including an Indian Landsat-type satellite plus 30 commercial smallsats.

This ties India with Japan at six launches for the year. With one more launch scheduled for this year, they should end up ahead of Japan.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race remain unchanged.

33 China
18 SpaceX
11 Russia
9 Europe (Arianespace)
8 ULA

At 95 total successful launches so far this year, 2018 now matches the total from 1993, the last time the global aerospace industry accomplished that many. That year, China and Japan had one launch each, Europe seven, with the rest by Russia and the U.S. Now the wealth is much more widely spread, and has a strong potential to grow significantly in the next few years.

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The lava tubes and canyons of Cerberus Fossae

Cerberus Fossae rock falls

Cool image time! In the November image release from the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) I found the image on the right (cropped to post here), dubbed “Possible Rock Falls on Steep Slopes in Cerberus Fossae.” You can see the full image by clicking on the photo on the right.

The cropped section focuses on the steep cliffs of this deep canyon, formed when lava flowed down from the giant volcano Elysium Mons almost like water, following the faults created by the bulging volcanoes to carve a long series of parallel canyons more seven hundred miles in length. Not only can individual boulders be seen piled up on the base of the canyon, you can see on the lower right a large section of cliff that has broken off and partly fallen, propped now precariously on the cliff’s steep slope. I would not want to be hiking below it at the base of this canyon.

Elysium Mons and Cereberus Fossae

This photograph itself made me more interested in looking at other MRO images of Cerberus Fossae. The context map on the right shows that MRO has taken numerous images along the length of these faults, indicated by the red boxes. The location of the above image is shown by the white cross, at the western end where the canyons tend to be steep, deep, and pronounced. In taking a look at the many images of Cerberus Fossae, I found a variety of canyons, plus pit chains, lava tube skylights, and one especially intriguing image, posted below, that shows what appears to be an extended collapse along the length of what was once an underground lava tube.
» Read more

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Weather delays SpaceX launch

Capitalism in space: Weather has delayed a SpaceX launch from Vandenberg.

This launch is significant because once launched the first stage will become the first to have flown three times. It also will be the first to have launched from all three of SpaceX’s operating launchpads and to have landed on both of the company’s drone ships. And it will have done all this in less than seven months.

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Scientists to pollute atmosphere to stop global warming

The coming dark age: In order to stop global warming a team of scientists plan a first test of a method designed to block sunlight by injecting aerosols (the scientific term for pollution) into the upper atmosphere.

If all goes as planned, the Harvard team will be the first in the world to move solar geoengineering out of the lab and into the stratosphere, with a project called the Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (SCoPEx). The first phase — a US$3-million test involving two flights of a steerable balloon 20 kilometres above the southwest United States — could launch as early as the first half of 2019. Once in place, the experiment would release small plumes of calcium carbonate, each of around 100 grams, roughly equivalent to the amount found in an average bottle of off-the-shelf antacid. The balloon would then turn around to observe how the particles disperse.

The test itself is extremely modest. Dai, whose doctoral work over the past four years has involved building a tabletop device to simulate and measure chemical reactions in the stratosphere in advance of the experiment, does not stress about concerns over such research. “I’m studying a chemical substance,” she says. “It’s not like it’s a nuclear bomb.”

Nevertheless, the experiment will be the first to fly under the banner of solar geoengineering. And so it is under intense scrutiny, including from some environmental groups, who say such efforts are a dangerous distraction from addressing the only permanent solution to climate change: reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. The scientific outcome of SCoPEx doesn’t really matter, says Jim Thomas, co-executive director of the ETC Group, an environmental advocacy organization in Val-David, near Montreal, Canada, that opposes geoengineering: “This is as much an experiment in changing social norms and crossing a line as it is a science experiment.” [emphasis mine]

The number of stupid and ill-documented conclusions mentioned in this article are so many it would be hard to list them all. For one, it assumes the climate is warming in a disastrous manner, an assumption that remains entirely unproven. For another, the last paragraph in the quote above illustrates how much politics dominates this scientific field. Science has nothing to do with this experiment.

Third, the risks involved in doing this kind of geoengineering are impossible to measure. They very easily could be very negative, for us and the environment. Fourth, the only objections to this experiment quoted in the article come from activist groups who believe in global warming, but would rather impose political restrictions on freedom and property rights than do geoengineering. Skepticism of the global warming theory is merely mentioned as an aside, coming from “the occasional conspiracy theorist.”

I could go on. The worst part of this article and the scientists proposing this work is their utter refusal to consider the gigantic amounts of research that has shown the many benefits of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide and warming for agriculture and plant growth. Global warming, should it happen, could have negative consequences, but the data so far is very far from conclusive.

Let me add one more side note: The same environmentalists who generally support geoengineering to halt global warming are also likely to agree with this infantile op-ed: Richard Branson and Elon Musk threaten the purity of space.

Despite all the money the US and Russia have spent attempting to show who has the biggest balls, space remains pure. But, while Nasa re-engages and fuels up for another go, so-called space pioneers and entrepreneurs are already selling seats.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want space to be commercialised, owner [sic] by Richard Branson or Elon Musk. For me, this would ruin something very special.

I’d suggest you read it all, but I would fear your level of education and ability to think will be seriously damaged.

For these anti-human environmentalists, manipulating the Earth’s atmosphere, based on weak scientific theories, is perfectly okay. Having humans and private enterprise in space, however, is evil and must be prevented at all costs.

The empty-headed lack of thought and ignorance required to come to these conclusions, simultaneously, boggles my mind.

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Investigators uncover extensive corruption in Roscosmos

An investigation of Roscosmos by Russian prosecutors has revealed extensive violations of law, all of which occurred in only the last year and a half.

The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office has detected systemic legal violations in the work of State Space Corporation, Roscosmos, between 2017 and the first half of 2018. In total, 1,700 violations had been revealed, Official Spokesman Alexander Kurennoy said, adding that 16 criminal cases had been launched.

“During the period between 2017 and the first six months of 2018, documents on the activities conducted by the previous management of Roscosmos had been reviewed. Systemic violations of the law had been detected, particularly regarding the state’s defense procurement, with research and development work having been conducted improperly. This also concerns the area linked to state-of-the-art engineering, and where work on registering patents on intellectual property is carried out, they had been often disrupted. This includes the deadline of defense missions, where evidence of poor-quality products being supplied had been revealed,” he told reporters.

Furthermore, prosecutors had revealed violations of procurement legislation, namely when it comes to pricing and import substitution. “Also, the situation in the rocket and space industry in general was deemed unsatisfactory since the corporation hadn’t enacted the required controls for the appropriate expenditure of budget funds by all of the enterprises’ branches,” Kurennoy stressed.

I expect this situation in Russia will get far worse, as the corruption is a feature, not a bug, in their government-run centralized aerospace industry.

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A cubesat communications satellite for the Moon

Capitalism in space: The smallsat company Surrey Satellite Technology is designing a cubesat communications satellite set for launch in 2021 designed to test technology for providing communications in lunar space.

Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has today announced that it is designing a low cost 35kg lunar communications satellite mission called DoT-4, targeted for a 2021 launch. DoT-4 will provide the communications relay back to Earth using the Goonhilly Deep Space Network, and will link up with a rover on the surface of the Moon. SSTL is currently in discussions with a number of parties for the lunar mission, and expects to disclose further information on mission partners and funding early in 2019.

Sarah Parker, Managing Director of SSTL, said “SSTL has led the way in pioneering the use of small satellites for over 30 years and we are now raising our sights to change the economics of space around the Moon, and beyond.”

DoT-4 will be the pre-cursor mission for a larger lunar communications satellite to follow in the 2023 timeframe which will carry a more robust payload and which will also have the potential for navigation services. SSTL’s ultimate aim is to launch a full constellation of lunar communications satellites offering full service capability to enable new and regular opportunities for science and exploration and economic development of the space environment beyond Earth’s orbit.

It appears that Surrey is trying to grab the market for providing communications services for both NASA’s Gateway project as well as the number of private small lunar rovers that are expected to launch in the coming years.

I should add that this project probably only exists because Surrey and its investors know that it will have affordable access to space, using the new smallsat rockets coming from Rocket Lab, Vector, and Virgin Orbital.

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Hundreds gather at Flat-Earth conference

The coming dark age: Hundreds of believers in the idea that the Earth is flat and not a sphere have gathered for a conference in Colorado this week.

“Was there ever any debate when you were in first grade and you were learning about cosmology? Was there anyone who disputed it ever in your whole life but now?” said Dorothy Novak, a flat-Earth believer.

As science — and common sense — have proven, the world is not flat. However, flat-Earth believers say otherwise. “Look with your own eyes. Go out to the beach on a cloudy day. Are the clouds curved?” asked Novak.

About 800 are expected to attend. More important, their conference is getting good press, as indicated by this article itself.

Anyone who has read my writings at any depth know that I honor the concept of skepticism as the first premise of all science, and even of our civilization. However, one mustn’t have so open a mind that all your brains fall out. For so many people to advocate something that has been demonstrated in innumerable ways — including sending humans around the Moon — to be obviously false, says much about the sad state of our civilization.

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The MarCo cubesat success

Mars as seen by MarCo-B

The two MarCO cubesats that successfully relayed data from InSight to Earth during its landing yesterday continue to function, with one even sending back images. The photo on the right, cropped and reduced slightly to post here, was taken by MarCo-B.

Neither of the MarCO CubeSats carry science instruments, but that didn’t stop the team from testing whether future CubeSats could perform useful science at Mars. As MarCO-A flew by, it conducted some impromptu radio science, transmitting signals through the edge of Mars’ atmosphere. Interference from the Martian atmosphere changes the signal when received on Earth, allowing scientists to determine how much atmosphere is present and, to some degree, what it’s made of.

“CubeSats have incredible potential to carry cameras and science instruments out to deep space,” said John Baker, JPL’s program manager for small spacecraft. “They’ll never replace the more capable spacecraft NASA is best known for developing. But they’re low-cost ride-alongs that can allow us to explore in new ways.”

As a bonus, some consumer-grade cameras aboard MarCO provided “drive-by” images as the CubeSats sailed past Mars. MarCO-B was programmed to turn so that it could image the planet in a sequence of shots as it approached Mars (before launch, MarCO-A’s cameras were found to be either non-functioning or too blurry to use).

This engineering test proves that we don’t need to build billion dollar spacecraft every time we wish to send an unmanned scouting ship to another world. Cubesats will soon do the job quite well, and for a tenth the cost.

And there will be a lot of money to be made. Governments and private entities of all types will be eager to buy the services of the garage-built planetary cubesats that private companies are going to soon be building, in large numbers.

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Supreme Court limits government’s attempt steal land for endangered species

The Supreme Court today ruled against the federal government’s attempt to designate private land as a habitat for an endangered species, even though that endangered species doesn’t even inhabit that land.

In a unanimous ruling the justices rejected the federal government’s attempt to designate roughly 1,500 acres in Louisiana as critical space for the dusky gopher frog. “Only the ‘habitat’ of the endangered species is eligible for designation as critical habitat,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in the opinion.

The frog hasn’t lived on the land in five decades, having shifted to neighboring counties. But the government, fearing future events might push the frog back, sought to designate the land, which would have imposed severe restrictions on what the owners could do with it.

Consider the chutzpah of the federal government in attempting to do this. If the court had ruled in their favor, it would have allowed them to designate any piece of property anywhere in the country as a habitat for any species, and thus negate all property rights, forever.

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Moon rocks for sale!

Several rocks brought back from the Moon by a Soviet unmanned spacecraft will be auctioned off on November 29, and you can buy them legally!

The lunar samples were originally presented by the Soviet government to Nina Ivanovna Koroleva, the widow of Sergei Korolev, the “Chief Designer” of the Russian space program. Under Korolev’s direction, the Soviet Union successfully put the world’s first satellite into Earth orbit and launched the first human into space. His unexpected death in 1966 came before he could see the outcome of the space race to the moon.

Four years after Korolev died, the Soviets launched Luna 16, the first of three robotic lunar sample return missions. Touching down after the U.S. Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 astronauts had come and gone from the moon, Luna 16 deployed an extendable arm to drill and extract a core sample 14 inches (35 centimeters) deep. The 3.5 ounces (101 grams) of soil and rocks that it collected were then deposited into a capsule for their return to Earth.

The display gifted to Koroleva contains three grains of the Luna 16 material, weighing about 0.0007 ounces (0.2 grams). The central fragment is basalt, typical of the moon’s mare (or “seas”) terrain while the adjoining two larger fragments are regolith with glass coatings caused by an micrometeoroid impact, according to Sotheby’s.

…In 1993, the lunar samples were estimated to sell for $30,000 to $50,000 before commanding eight times the higher valuation. The display, which has been held in the same private American collection for the past quarter century, is now expected to sell for $700,000 to $1 million.

I will not be surprised if this item sells for considerably more than $1 million.

Hat tip Wayne DeVette.

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The war against our failed cultural elitists

Link here. The author outlines quite nicely the source of today’s vicious war against Trump.

Today a well-entrenched class of professional thinkers largely understands expertise as the product of formal education and relationships to elite universities: You become an expert, or start to, by acquiring academic credentials. Extra points for grad school, and more points still for being a professor like Paul Krugman or Jonathan Gruber. Like the administrative class in Vichy France, or the scholar-officials of imperial China, you’re smart if you go to school a lot and excel on your exams, so you get to be in charge of some piece of the political or cultural mechanism.

But is it working? Are our credentialing instruments producing people who are capable of practical action? To borrow a question from firefighters, can our credential-holders put the wet stuff on the red stuff?

Nearly a decade ago, Angelo Codevilla noticed the calcification of the American ruling class, a thing we sometimes pretend not to have. Our elites, he wrote, are “formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits.” Thoroughly enculturated, the American elite gathers itself around a “social canon” that one does not question. Speaking of societal controversy with the wrong words puts a person outside the circle, out there in flyover country with the deplorables.

Considering the disaster that the federal government has become in the past half century, run as it is by this “class of professional thinkers,” I will say unequivocally that this system is not working. In the past half century this elitist culture has brought us bankruptcy, unmanageable debt, corruption, and a government unable to accomplish anything except to over-regulate and oppress the private citizen.

Read it all. The author describes well the situation we are in, as well as the reasons why there is so much hysterical opposition to Trump. This president poses a direct threat to the power of that elitist culture, and they are doing everything they can to stop him.

Their problem: They don’t know how to really accomplish anything, and for this reason Trump keeps running rings around them. To quote the article again:

For 40 years, with gathering uniformity of purpose, our credentialing institutions have taught postures rather than skills, attitudes rather than knowledge. This isn’t invariably true, and many fine scholars have taught many excellent practitioners, especially outside of the humanities and social sciences. But the overarching trend is toward training in intellectual and psychological uniformity, toward the world of excellent sheep.

The hollowing out of our credentialing institutions has been abundantly clear for years, in well-known examples like the discussion of rape law at Harvard and the “it is not about creating an intellectual space!” tantrum over Halloween costumes at Yale. What credentialing institutions teach is mental rigidity, intellectual cowardice, and the fear of disagreement. They narrow the mind and constrain the ability to act. Our elites largely can’t put the wet stuff on the red stuff, because it’s triggering and unsafe to mention that the red stuff is there, and why are you being so hurtful when I don’t want to talk about this?

But they have great power, and are doing whatever they can to hold onto that power. And worse, it appears that too many Americans support them.

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Local opposition might delay UK spaceport

The United Kingdom’s first spaceport, proposed for the northern tip of Scotland, faces strong opposition from the local community as well as within the organization that owns the land.

The land is controlled by the Melness Crofting Estate (MCE), a company that represents about 56 local crofters. Three of its seven directors have resigned over how the plans have been handled.

George Wyper, one of those who stepped down, claimed that much of the community had been kept in the dark. In a ballot, 27 crofters voted to press ahead with talks to lease land to the spaceport while 18 voted against. Ten failed to vote and one ballot was rejected. Mr Wyper believes that important details were not shared. ‘Some people did not know what they were voting for,’ he said. ‘It’s getting quite vicious here — with Facebook and things. It’s causing a split in the community.’

He told the Highland Press & Journal: ‘There is quite a split in the community and a lot of bad feeling about this. It could go to the Scottish Land Court, which could take years to resolve.’

While in many ways some aspects of the opposition here reminds me of the opposition in Hawaii to the Thirty Meter Telescope, the difference is that that here it a large percentage of the landowners protesting. They have real standing, and thus are in a much stronger position to shut the spaceport down.

From what I can gather, the source of the problem here falls to the UK government, which apparently has done a very bad job in negotiating this deal.

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InSight’s solar panels have opened

InSight engineers have now reported that solar panels have opened and are functioning properly.

NASA’s InSight has sent signals to Earth indicating that its solar panels are open and collecting sunlight on the Martian surface. NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter relayed the signals, which were received on Earth at about 5:30 p.m. PST (8:30 p.m. EST). Solar array deployment ensures the spacecraft can recharge its batteries each day. Odyssey also relayed a pair of images showing InSight’s landing site.

“The InSight team can rest a little easier tonight now that we know the spacecraft solar arrays are deployed and recharging the batteries,” said Tom Hoffman, InSight’s project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

This was the last major event in the landing sequence, and with it they can now shift to the slow deployment of instruments over the next few weeks. Results from this spacecraft will not be sudden or spectacular. It is going to take time to get the spectrometer placed and than time to gather quake data.

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