Monthly Archives: March 2019

Cruz’s Space Frontier Act reintroduced; extends ISS to 2030

This week a bi-partisan group of senators reintroduced Senator Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) Space Frontier Act.

The bill closely follows last year’s version of the Space Frontier Act, which Cruz and then-Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) shepherded through the Senate. Most of the bill covers efforts to reform commercial launch and remote sensing regulations in parallel with rulemaking activities currently underway by the Commerce and Transportation Departments. The bill also authorizes an extension of the International Space Station from 2024 to 2030 and elevates the Office of Space Commerce within the Commerce Department to the Bureau of Space Commerce.

They have changed one item that caused the House to reject the bill last year, one that exempted space-related bureaucracies from “the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which sets requirements for public meetings by such committees.” I suspect the exemption was an attempt to keep the job simple for these bureaucracies. At the same time, allowing them to function in the dark as they make regulations is not good either.

I have read through the bill [pdf], and my impression is that it really won’t change much. That it mandates the extension of ISS to 2030 however is important, as this means this big government project will continue to be funded, whether or not it makes sense to do so. Many in the space station private sector have said that it would be better that ISS was gone so that their efforts would not have to compete with it. I’m not sure this is true, however. All NASA really has to do to make ISS more commercially viable is to allow more commercial activities on it, including allowing private companies to attach their own modules that they own and control. Should NASA do this, the objections of the private space station community would become moot.

On a positive note, forcing NASA to continue to support ISS — which does have great value — will make it harder for NASA to find money for its Lunar Gateway boondoggle, a project that to my mind has far less obvious value, especially because it will cost far more than ISS to build and operate.

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André Rieu – Hava Nagila

An evening pause: From the Wikipedia page:

Havah Nagilah…was composed in 1915 in Ottoman Palestine, when Hebrew was being revived as a spoken language after falling into disuse in this form for approximately 1,700 years, following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE and the Bar Kokhba revolt in 132–136 CE. For the first time, Jews were being encouraged to speak Hebrew as a common language, instead of Yiddish, Arabic, Ladino, or other regional Jewish languages.

The lyrics reflect these events:

Let’s rejoice
Let’s rejoice
Let’s rejoice and be happy
Let’s sing
Let’s sing
Let’s sing and be happy
Awake, awake, my brothers!
Awake my brothers with a happy heart
Awake, my brothers, awake, my brothers!
With a happy heart

May we all sing with as much joy.

Hat tip Edward Thelen.

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A look at the March 31 Ukrainian election

Link here. It appears to be a race between a Trump and two established politicians of mixed qualities.

The choice is stark.

Stay the slow and not-quite-steady course with a deeply unpopular but seasoned leader [incumbent President Petro Poroshenko] who knows the ropes and has taken Ukraine westward despite foot-dragging on reforms and a failure to tackle entrenched corruption.

Go with another veteran [former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko], a political survivor with a dodgy past twice imprisoned by opponents who has lost two presidential elections but is banking on public disappointment and populist promises to carry her to victory.

Or take a chance on a comedian [Volodymyr Zelenskyy]with no experience in politics and governing but who has managed to tap into an antiestablishment mood similar to what’s brought unconventional leaders to power in the West by appealing directly to them for answers.

Right now, the comedian leads in the polls, and in looking at the videos at the link, it sure looks like he is trying to duplicate Trump’s success.

If no one gets 50% in the March 31 election, they will hold a run-off on April 21.

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UK lawmakers reject all Brexit deals

The British parliament today rejected for the third and probably last time the deals negotiated by prime minister Teresa May in connection with her country’s exit from the European Union.

Right now it looks like the UK will leave the European Union on April 12, with no deal. While this possibility is causing heartache and terror among establishment politicians in Europe and Britain, it would honor the will of the voters, who voted to leave, period. The deals that have been offered have generally been a maneuver to nullify that vote.

Those establishment politicians have offered several new options to nullify the voters’ choice, including delaying the exit by a year to allow time for new negotiations, or offering a do-over election. Right now it looks like neither will happen, and Great Britain will leave.

Will an exit be good or bad? It is hard to say, but my sense is that it will be generally good for Great Britain, with most of the suffering focused among the establishment, who have used the EU as a means to power. An exit will strip them of this.

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Scientists propose widespread deep groundwater on Mars

In a new study, scientists are now suggesting that widespread deep groundwater exists on Mars, and is the cause of the recurring slope lineae seen on many Martian slopes.

Previous theories for the cause of lineae proposed both dry and wet processes, all related to either near surface or atmospheric phenomenon. This new hypothesis is different, as it proposes deep groundwater as the source.

“We propose an alternative hypothesis that they originate from a deep pressurized groundwater source which comes to the surface moving upward along ground cracks,” Heggy says. “The experience we gained from our research in desert hydrology was the cornerstone in reaching this conclusion. We have seen the same mechanisms in the North African Sahara and in the Arabian Peninsula, and it helped us explore the same mechanism on Mars,” said Abotalib Z. Abotalib, the paper’s first author.

The two scientists concluded that fractures within some of Mars’ craters, enabled water springs to rise up to the surface as a result of pressure deep below. These springs leaked onto the surface, generating the sharp and distinct linear features found on the walls of these craters. The scientists also provide an explanation on how these water features fluctuate with seasonality on Mars.

This conclusion is most intriguing, but it is far from certain. Scientists have found a lot of lineae. For all of them to come from deep groundwater rising under pressure through fractures seems unlikely.

Nonetheless, this research indicates the growing belief among Mars researchers that water exists everywhere on Mars, and is accessible.

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Mars helicopter completes first test flight

The small helicopter that will fly autonomously as part of the Mars 2020 rover mission has successfully completed its first test flights here on Earth.

“We only required a 2-inch (5-centimeter) hover to obtain all the data sets needed to confirm that our Mars helicopter flies autonomously as designed in a thin Mars-like atmosphere; there was no need to go higher. It was a heck of a first flight,” [said Teddy Tzanetos, test conductor for the Mars Helicopter at JPL.]

The Mars Helicopter’s first flight was followed up by a second in the vacuum chamber the following day. Logging a grand total of one minute of flight time at an altitude of 2 inches (5 centimeters), more than 1,500 individual pieces of carbon fiber, flight-grade aluminum, silicon, copper, foil and foam have proven that they can work together as a cohesive unit.

This helicopter drone is a technology experiment, more focused on testing helicopter flying on Mars that doing science. If it proves to work, it will open up a whole new unmanned option for exploring the Martian surface. Imagine a helicopter that takes short hops from point to point. It will be able to reach locations a rover never could, and do it faster.

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Beresheet to win $1 million if it succeeds in lunar landing

Capitalism in space: The X-Prize Foundation today announced that it will award the Israeli company SpaceIL a million dollar award should its privately-funded spacecraft Beresheet successfully soft land on the Moon on April 11.

The foundation also stated that it is considering offering other similar awards for similar private achievements. In that context, this article in Science today gives a nice summary of the private companies now working to buiild and launch private planetary probes.

Two companies, Moon Express and TeamIndus, appear ready to fly their lunar landers in 2020. Four others have announced plans, but their schedules and status are less firm. In all cases, these companies are establishing themselves as commercial alternatives to the expensive, government-built planetary probes of the past. Rather than build their own spacecraft, scientists in the future will hire these companies, and attach their instruments to their spacecrafts. And get things build faster and for less money.

Moreover, NASA itself has been encouraging this transition.

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Parker about to do its second close fly-by of Sun

The Parker Solar Probe is now approaching its second close fly-by of the Sun, set to occur on April 4.

During this solar encounter phase, which lasts until April 10, the spacecraft’s four suites of science instruments are fully operational and storing science data collected from within the Sun’s corona. As designed, Parker Solar Probe will be out of contact with Earth for several days during the solar encounter. This allows the spacecraft to prioritize keeping its heat shield, called the Thermal Protection System, oriented towards the Sun, rather than pointing its transmitter towards Earth. Science data from this second solar encounter phase will downlink to Earth over several weeks later in spring 2019.

This fly-by the spacecraft will match the record of 15 million miles set during the first orbit as the closest any human spacecraft has ever gotten to the Sun. Future orbits however will get closer.

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Rocket Lab launch a success

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab today successfully placed a DARPA technology satellite in orbit using its smallsat Electron rocket.

Expect there to be an increase in the pace of launches from this company in the coming months.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race remain the same however:

3 SpaceX
3 China
3 Europe (Arianespace)
2 Russia

The U.S. however now leads in the national rankings, 6 to 3, over China and Europe. I list Rocket Lab as an American company because that’s what the company calls itself, even though it launches from New Zealand and right now builds the bulk of its rockets there.

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An explanation of the on-going Israeli elections

Link here. The video at the link is very much worth watching, as it clearly and quickly explains the nature of the on-going Israeli election, while also giving a sense of the present election trends.

Bottom line is that the conservative coalition led by Netanyahu remains solidly in the lead, reinforced by a new poll today.

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Live feed of today’s Rocket Lab Electron launch

The countdown to Rocket Lab’s first launch in 2019, to place a DARPA technology demo satellite in orbit, is proceeding without problems, with the four hour launch window beginning at 6:30 pm (Eastern) today. The launch itself is presently set for 7:27 pm (Eastern).

The link will include the company’s live stream of the launch, when it begins about fifteen minutes before launch.

Should this launch succeed, Rocket Lab has said it would begin more regular launches, aiming for monthly and even bi-monthly launches before the end of the year.

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White reporters barred from press event in Savannah mayoral race

The new bigotry: White reporters were barred from entering or reporting on a press event involving black challengers to the present white Savannah mayor.

Race was front and center on Wednesday night during a meeting coordinated to garner support for just one black candidate in Savannah’s mayoral election.

With signs stating “Black press only” on the doors of the church where the meeting was held, white reporters were barred from entry, while black reporters for at least two television stations were permitted inside.

The event was coordinated by the Rev. Clarence Teddy Williams, owner of the consulting firm, The Trigon Group, who declined to discuss the entry policy.

The black reporters who did attend appeared to be working to coordinate their activities with the candidates in order to help pick a candidate who could win, something that it is totally inappropriate for reporters to do.

The article conveniently does not mention the party to which the candidates all belonged, but since these are all challenging the present Republican mayor, it seems reasonable to assume they were all Democrats. This conclusion is also reasonable considering the bigoted nature of that party these days.

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Saturn’s rings desposit material on its tiny nearest moons

Pan

A new analysis of data from Cassini has confirmed that the tiny moons orbiting close to Saturn’s rings are repeatedly coated by material from those rings.

The new research, from data gathered by six of Cassini’s instruments before its mission ended in 2017, is a clear confirmation that dust and ice from the rings accretes onto the moons embedded within and near the rings.

Scientists also found the moon surfaces to be highly porous, further confirming that they were formed in multiple stages as ring material settled onto denser cores that might be remnants of a larger object that broke apart. The porosity also helps explain their shape: Rather than being spherical, they are blobby and ravioli-like, with material stuck around their equators. “We found these moons are scooping up particles of ice and dust from the rings to form the little skirts around their equators,” Buratti said. “A denser body would be more ball-shaped because gravity would pull the material in.”

This result is not a surprise. It has been hypothesized since the first images of these weirdly shaped moons (as illustrated by the picture of Pan from March 2017 above) were first beamed back by Cassini. This new analysis just helps confirm it.

I will add that searching through Behind the Black for that image of Pan made me realize how much I miss Cassini. I used to post lots of its images, always spectacular and breath-taking. With it gone, the images from Saturn have stopped, and will not resume for decades to come.

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How fast do things change on Mars?

Looking for dune changes on Mars

On Earth, it is assumed that in a period of a dozen years a sand dune would change significantly. Wind and rain and the yearly cycle of the seasons would work their will, reshaping and moving the dune steadily from one place to another.

On Mars, we would be reasonable to expect the same. Yet, this might be a mistake, as illustrated by the two images on the right, taken by cameras on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) a dozen years apart of the same large dune located in a crater far to the south in the planet’s southern highlands. Both images have been cropped and reduced in resolution to show here. For the full images, go here for 2007 and here for 2019.

The top image was taken October 31, 2007 by MRO’s context camera. The bottom image was taken on January 29, 2019 by MRO’s high resolution camera. Though the context camera does not have the resolution of the high resolution camera, the difference is of less significance in this context.

Have things changed? Putting aside lighting differences, it does appear that the white patches have changed slightly in a variety of places. There also might be changes in the small dunes on the left of the image, at the base of the large central dune.

The white patches are probably what interests the scientists who requested the second image. Could this be snow or frost, as is thought to exist in other places? There are studies [pdf] that expect ice to exist inside craters near the south pole. Identifying changes here would help answer this question.

Overall, however, not much is different. Though dunes definitely change on Mars, they do so much more slowly than on Earth. And in some cases what look like dunes are not really dunes at all, but a form of cemented sandstone, exhibiting even fewer changes over long time spans.

I do not know if these dunes are of sand or sandstone. What the two images reveal is that in either case, things do not change on Mars at the same pace as they do on Earth. Even after three Martian years, the thin Martian atmosphere simply doesn’t have the same energy as on Earth, even though it can move things easier in the weak gravity.

While the pole caps of Mars change a lot seasonally, the rest of the planet evolves very slowly. Mars is no longer an active planet like the Earth. It is, in many ways, a dead planet, once alive with activity but now silent and relatively quiet.

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Rivers on Mars?

The uncertainty of science: A new study of Martian geology suggests that rivers ran on the surface are longer and later in the planet’s history than previously thought.

Seeking a better understanding of Martian precipitation, Kite and his colleagues analyzed photographs and elevation models for more than 200 ancient Martian riverbeds spanning over a billion years. These riverbeds are a rich source of clues about the water running through them and the climate that produced it. For example, the width and steepness of the riverbeds and the size of the gravel tell scientists about the force of the water flow, and the quantity of the gravel constrains the volume of water coming through.

Their analysis shows clear evidence for persistent, strong runoff that occurred well into the last stage of the wet climate, Kite said.

The results provide guidance for those trying to reconstruct the Martian climate, Kite said. For example, the size of the rivers implies the water was flowing continuously, not just at high noon, so climate modelers need to account for a strong greenhouse effect to keep the planet warm enough for average daytime temperatures above the freezing point of water.

The rivers also show strong flow up to the last geological minute before the wet climate dries up. “You would expect them to wane gradually over time, but that’s not what we see,” Kite said. The rivers get shorter—hundreds of kilometers rather than thousands—but discharge is still strong. “The wettest day of the year is still very wet.”

They also found that these rivers had been wider than those seen on Earth, which would make sense if there were few if any plant life to fix the banks in place, as on Earth. The lower Martian gravity probably plays an even larger role in this.

You can read the paper here. The study confirms many other previous studies of Martian surface features, which have repeatedly found evidence that liquid water once existed on Mars. That it found the water flowed later and more extensively only makes more difficult the deeper and probably biggest mystery of Martian geology, however, which is that scientists have not been able to come up with a historic atmospheric model that would allow that liquid water to exist. Mars today is too cold and its atmosphere is too thin for liquid water to flow, and the evidence from the past does not suggest an atmosphere different enough to change that.

It must have been different, but we don’t know how that was possible, based on the data we presently have. And this study makes solving that mystery even more difficult.

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Update on the upcoming second Falcon Heavy launch

Link here. The rocket’s three first stages will be Block 5 versions. A static fire dress rehearsal countdown is set for April 1, with the launch scheduled for April 7.

Though the article does not say so, it hints at a number of serious engineering issues discovered during the first Falcon Heavy launch, suggesting to me once again that the success of that launch was somewhat fortuitous. SpaceX has spent the last year correcting those issues in preparation for this launch. Based on the company’s track record, the odds are very high the April 7 launch will be successful.

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Fresh crater in Martian northern lowlands

Fresh impact crater in northern lowlands
Click for full image.

Today’s cool image could be a sequel to yesterday’s. The image on the right, cropped to post here, was one of the many images released from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s (MRO) high resolution camera in March. The release, uncaptioned, calls this a “fresh impact crater.”

In many ways it resembles the craters I posted yesterday, with a splashed look and a crater floor with features that favor the north. Why that divot exists in the northern half of the floor is to me a mystery. The crater floor looks like a sinkhole to me, with material slowly leaking downward at that divot to cause this surface depression. Yet the rim screams impact. And yet, why the double rim? Was this caused by ripples in wet mud when the bolide hit?

Location of fresh impact crater

The crater itself is all by itself deep in those northern plains. You can see its location as the tiny white rectangle slightly to the left of the center in the overview image to the right. The giant Martian volcanoes can be seen at the image’s right edge, almost a quarter of a planet away. This is at a very low elevation on Mars, almost as deep as Hellas Basin.

For some fun context, this location is very close to where Viking 2 landed in 1976. The Mars 2020 rover meanwhile will land at this overview image’s left edge, on the western shore of the oval cut into southern highlands at about the same latitude as Olympus Mons, the largest volcano on the right. And InSight and Curiosity sit almost due south, with Curiosity in the yellow in the transition from green to orange, and InSight to the north in the green.

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Senate rejects Democratic New Green Deal 57-0

The Senate yesterday rejected the Democratic New Green Deal proposal by a vote of 57-0, with 43 Democrats (including Bernie Sanders) voting present.

No senator voted to begin debate on the legislation, while 57 lawmakers voted against breaking the filibuster. Democratic Sens. Doug Jones of Alabama, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona joined 53 Republicans in voting “no.” Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who caucuses with the Democrats, also voted “no.”

The vote had been teed up by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in a bid to make Democratic senators — including several 2020 presidential candidates — go on the record about the measure. McConnell had called the proposal “a radical, top-down, socialist makeover of the entire U.S. economy.”

The speech that Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) gave prior to the vote is worth watching for every one of its 13 minutes. He describes the substance of this bill quite accurately, and he does so in a most amusing manner.

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Scientists horrified that Trump wants to require universities to honor free speech

This is not a Babylon Bee story. An article today in the science journal Nature actually expressed outrage and concern about President Trump’s executive order last week tying the grants a university gets to its willingness to protect the free speech of all its students and teachers.

What evil thing did Trump’s order require of these universities? To quote the Nature article itself,

US President Donald Trump signed an executive order on 21 March that requires universities to certify that they protect free speech, or risk losing federal research funds.

Public institutions will have to certify that they are following free-speech protections laid out in the First Amendment of the US Constitution, and private institutions must promise to follow their stated policies on free speech, a White House official told reporters on 21 March.

The order applies to 12 research agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and NASA. It affects only money for research, not financial aid for students.

O the horror! The universities will have to show that they support free speech! What a travesty!

The Nature article then proceeded to find quotes from a number of scientists and organizations who oppose Trump’s action. One even claimed that Trump was not trying to protect free speech, “but the enhancement of conservative voices.”

In other words, to these scientists, there is plenty of free speech in academia. Liberals and leftists are all free to say whatever they want. However, any attempt to allow conservatives the right to speak is clearly a biased threat to freedom and must be stopped at all costs. And to threaten their funding because of this? The nerve of that bad orange man!

The intellectual dishonesty exhibited here is mind-boggling. And for it to come from scientists, whose entire field is built on the need for brutal intellectual honesty at all times, is quite appalling.

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Russians routinely disrupt GPS data in sensitive areas

According to one report, in the past three years the Russians have routinely and successfully fed fake GPS data to units at locations the Russians consider sensitive or of high priority.

The report — published by the Center for Advanced Defense (C4ADS), a nonprofit intelligence firm focused on worldwide security issues — found that at least 9,883 instances of spoofing occurred near sensitive areas in Russia and Crimea and during times when high-ranking officials, such as President Vladamir Putin, were present. In addition, the data showed that spoofing regularly occurred near Khmeimim Airbase in Syria during Russian operations there.

The findings underscore the dangers of relying on global positioning data, such as that provided by the global positioning system and similar technology across the globe, because the service can be disrupted or co-opted to deliver false data, says one author of the C4ADS report, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the topic.

The story also described one case where researchers at the University of Texas in Austin:

were able to build a device for less than $1,000 to spoof the position of a ship and cause it to change course. “The ship actually turned, and we could all feel it, but the chart display and the crew saw only a straight line,” said Todd Humphreys, assistant professor of the department of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics, at the time.

None of this should surprise anyone. It does however underline the need for there to be alternative navigational systems available. Ship’s crews should have a sextant available and should know how to use it. Missiles and airplanes similarly should have a backup system to check their GPS against.

And hikers and drivers should never totally rely on their GPS. Use it as a map, for guidance, but always verify its suggestions with common sense.

Hat tip reader Stephen Taylor.

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The National Space Council’s full recommendations

Yesterday’s meeting of the National Space Council resulted in a number of recommendations beyond vice-president Mike Pence’s announcement that the Trump administration is quite willing to dump SLS if it doesn’t get its act together.

First, see this statement by NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. He outlines the tasks that NASA has now been given, including getting astronauts on the Moon by 2024. Those tasks also require NASA to “[s]tay on schedule for flying Exploration Mission-1 with Orion on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket next year, and for sending the first crewed mission to the lunar vicinity by 2022.”

This article at SpacePolicyOnline outlines those tasks in more detail, stating that:

NASA will create a Moon-to-Mars Mission Directorate and make all necessary efforts to achieve Exploration Mission-1 no later than 2020 and Exploration Mission-2 no later than 2022. [emphasis mine]

These announcements inadvertently reveal two facts. First, the establishment of a new directorate at NASA is Bridenstine’s attempt to shake up and take control of NASA’s bureaucracy. This will allow him to put people in place that support his agenda.

Will this work? I doubt it. I have watched NASA administrators do this time after time in the past twenty years, with nothing really changing. In a sense, it is really nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Second, they are admitting here (as indicated by the highlighted words) that the first SLS unmanned launch will not happen in June 2020. They have reviewed everything and realized the fastest way to get this launch off is to allow SLS to launch it, but they have also realized that the June date can’t be met. This announcement gives NASA and Boeing an extra six months, to the end of 2020, to get the mission off the ground.

The recommendations also included the release of major suggested changes to streamline how both the State Department and the FAA regulate commercial space. Neither appear to streamline things much. For example, the FAA’s new rule [pdf] on federal commercial space transportation requirements is only 580 pages long. My eyes glazed over as soon as I started reading it. Similarly, the new State Department procedures appear as complex. I haven’t digested either yet, so my pessimism might be unfounded. We shall see.

All in all, the significance of these policy announcements is not so much in the details, all of which illustrate the continuing incompetence and failures of the federal space bureaucracy. What these announcements instead tell us is that the Trump administration is finally attempting the first baby steps for gaining some measure of control over that federal space bureaucracy. It is telling that bureaucracy that it had finally has to do something, or face the consequences.

Whether the administration’s efforts will succeed however remains very questionable. Many in that bureaucracy and in Congress will oppose this effort. They like things as they are, where billions get distributed throughout the country to their friends, and no one is ever required to accomplish anything. And they have managed for the past twenty years to maintain this status quo. It will not be easy to force a change now.

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India claims it has successfully destroyed a satellite using an anti-sat missile

The new colonial movement: In a speech to his nation today, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that they have successfully completed their first anti-sat test, using a missile to destroy a satellite in low Earth orbit.

The Indian ASAT test is believed to have destroyed either the Microsat-R or the Microsat-TD satellite, likelier the former according to some sources. They were both built by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). ISRO launched the Microsat-R on January 24 this year and the Microsat-TD a year before that.

Prime Minister Modi declared the test, codenamed Mission Shakti, a success and claimed that an ASAT missile had destroyed the satellite in its low-Earth orbit.

The missile in question is described as a kinetic kill vehicle, which means it does not carry any explosives or other devices. Instead, its ‘kill’ capability arises simply from the fact that it smashes into the target satellite and shatters it using its kinetic energy.

At this altitude, about 300 km, experts said that debris from the collision would fall back to Earth, burning up in the atmosphere in a matter of weeks instead of posing a threat to other satellites. As a result, Mission Shakti is called a controlled ASAT test.

What this anti-sat test really demonstrates is India’s ability to to hit a very tiny target that is moving more than 17,000 miles per hour with a missile shot from Earth, which proves they can hit any target on Earth, with great accuracy. And it thus a blunt message to both Pakistan and China. Don’t attack us, because if you do, we have the capability to do you great harm.

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Children benefit more when parents read to them from printed books

A new study has found that parent-child interactions are more enhanced when parents read to them using printed books rather than ebooks.

The results were starkly clear, with verbal interactions between parent and child decreasing when using either form of e-book. The study revealed e-books and enhanced e-books altered both the activity of the parent and the child’s response to the experience. Parents using enhanced e-books, for example, asked fewer prompting questions to a child while reading, and what conversation there was tended to more frequently be about the device and the technology, instead of the story and characters.

“Parents strengthen their children’s ability to acquire knowledge by relating new content to their children’s lived experiences,” says lead author in the study Tiffany Munzer. “Research tells us that parent-led conversations are especially important for toddlers because they learn and retain new information better from in-person interactions than from digital media.”

The study is not an outright condemnation of ebooks. It is instead a first guidepost for reworking the electronic medium to make it function better, in all cases.

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OneSpace orbital launch fails

Capitalism in space? The first orbital launch attempt by China’s smallsat company OneSpace failed today.

No information about the cause of the failure or what happened has been released as yet.

I’m going to say this again: While OneSpace is financed through private capital, like a private company, it is also supervised closely by the Chinese government. It is hardly a private company as we in the West would define it.

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Pence reiterates Trump administration’s willingness to abandon SLS

Turf war! At today’s National Space Council meeting, vice-president Mike Pence reiterated the Trump administration’s willingness to replace SLS with commercial rockets, if that is what it will take to get Americans back to the Moon by 2024.

Pence said the schedule for completing SLS must be accelerated, but also opened the door to using rockets built by a commercial spaceflight company for the lunar mission. “We’re not committed to any one contractor. If our current contractors can’t meet this objective, then we’ll find ones that will,” he said. “And if commercial rockets are the only way to get American astronauts to the moon in the next five years, then commercial rockets it will be.”

It is very clear now that the Trump administration is beginning the political war necessary for shutting down the SLS boondoggle, something that cannot happen easily considering how its large workforce is scattered in so many states and congressional districts. To make it happen, they need to publicly illustrate its failure, repeatedly, but do so in a manner that does not overly antagonize SLS’s supporters. This is why both Pence and NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine have been careful to express support for SLS, even as they hint at its replacement.

The battle is joined, however, and that could be a very good thing for the American space industry, in the coming years.

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