Monthly Archives: August 2020

Revisiting Mars’ glacier country

Glacial cracks or pits on Mars
Click for full image.

With today’s cool image we return to what I have labeled glacier country on Mars, though this time the image shows a Martian glacial feature that while resembling vaguely such features seen on Earth, has an alienness to it that requires some explanation.

The photo to the right, cropped to post here, was taken on March 24, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The section I have focused on is the floor of a depression with a number of parallel pits, more or less aligned with the packed north-south ridges that cover the entire floor.

Normally, the north-south ridges would suggest repeated glacial flows moving to either the west or to the east. Such movement could over time, cause the ridges to separate, creating the cracks or pits that we see here. The trouble is that the slope of this depression is very unclear. In fact, the wider view below shows that this depression appears mostly enclosed, or if not it does not seem to be flowing in any particular direction.
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What really happened this past weekend in American rocketry

SpaceX's first Starship prototype
SpaceX’s first Starship mock-up,
January 2019

Three days ago it appeared that the past weekend would see four private Americans companies attempt to launch six different times with five different rockets from four different spaceports, all in less than two days.

Not surprisingly, things didn’t happen as planned. Of the six launches, three were rescheduled because of poor weather. First, bad weather in Kodiak, Alaska forced the new startup Astra to cancel its first attempt to complete an orbital flight with its Rocket 3.0, rescheduling to no earlier than September 10th.

Then, in Boca Chica, Texas, SpaceX twice tried on August 30th to launch its sixth Starship prototype on a 500 meter hop, both times scrubbing because of high winds. They are going to wait a few days before trying again.

Finally, in Florida SpaceX scrubbed its first Falcon 9 launch on August 30th for the same reason, rescheduling it for tomorrow, September 1st.

A fourth cancelled launch, by ULA using its Delta 4 Heavy rocket, occurred when the rocket did an automatic launch abort three seconds before liftoff. The company has not yet rescheduled as they try to figure out what caused the problem.

Two launches however did get off this weekend. both on August 30th. First the weather at Cape Canaveral cleared enough by evening for SpaceX to successfully launch a Falcon 9 rocket, putting an Argentinian satellite into orbit. Next that same evening Rocket Lab returned to flight after a July failure with the launch of its Electron rocket from New Zealand.

So, only two of six launches lifted off. While some of today’s fear-mongers and fans of misfortune would call this a sign of failure, it is nothing of the sort. If anything, it illustrates the slow maturing of American rocketry, from a technology that once only rarely could launch to one that now has the potential to dominate the world with multiple companies competing aggressively in an open free market, assuming of course that our increasingly fascist society doesn’t decide to shut it down.
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Rocket Lab successfully launches a commercial radar satellite

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab tonight successfully resumed launches after its launch failure last month by placing a a commercial radar satellite into orbit.

This was Rocket Lab’s third successful launch in 2020, so they don’t make the leader board. The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

20 China
14 SpaceX
9 Russia
4 ULA

The U.S. now leads China 23 to 20 in the national rankings.

SpaceX successfully launches Argentina satellite

Capitalism in space: SpaceX tonight successfully launched an Argentinian radar satellite into polar orbit, the first such launch from Cape Canaveral since the 1960s.

The company also successfully landed the first stage at the Cape, completing that stage’s fourth flight. As I write this they still have two more smallsats to deploy, but it is very unlikely they will have an issue doing so.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

20 China
14 SpaceX
9 Russia
4 ULA

The U.S. now leads China 22 to 20 in the national rankings. With a scheduled launch by Rocket Lab from New Zealand later tonight, these numbers could change again before the day is out.

SpaceX scrubs Starship prototype hop

Capitalism in space: Though it appeared twice today that SpaceX engineers were on the verge of executing their second Starship prototype hop, the first for prototype #6, in both cases they stood down.

It appears according to road closures in Boca Chica they will try again tomorrow. The live stream is available here. The closures go from 8 am to 8 pm (Central), within which the hop could occur at almost any time, but likely not before 9 am.

SpaceX scrubs first launch today due to weather

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has scrubbed its first planned launch for today, putting 60 Starlink satellites into orbit, due to poor weather.

Assuming they get range permission, they will try again on September 1st at 9:29 am (Eastern).

Their second launch today remains on their schedule, with the weather presently giving them a 40% chance of launch.

Problem with InSight’s weather station

Engineers are troubleshooting a problem with the weather sensors on the InSight lander on Mars that has prevented them from collecting data since August 16th.

[The weather system] is in safe mode and unlikely to be reset before the end of the month while mission team members work toward a diagnosis. JPL engineers are optimistic that resetting the control computer may address the issue but need to investigate the situation further before returning the sensors to normal.

Overall InSight has turned out to be of mixed success. The seismometer has worked as planned, but the mole designed to drill the heat thermometer sixteen feet into the ground has so far failed to work, and now the weather station has shut down, though hopefully only temporarily.

Confirmed: SpaceX plans two launches for tomorrow

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has now confirmed that it will attempt two Falcon 9 launches tomorrow at its launch facility at Cape Canaveral, the first to launch 60 Starlink satellites at 10:12 am (Eastern) and the second to launch an Argentinian radar satellite at 7:18 pm (Eastern).

In the first launch the first stage, used once before, will attempt to land on the drone ship in the Atlantic. On the second launch the first stage, used three times previously, will return to Cape Canaveral for its landing attempt.

The live stream for both will be available here.

SpaceX will also tomorrow attempt a 500 meter hop of its sixth Starship prototype. The live stream of that can be seen here.

Meanwhile Rocket Lab has shifted its launch this weekend in New Zealand from tonight to tomorrow night at 11:05 pm (Eastern). The live stream will be aired here.

That means on August 30, 2020 there could be three American launches as well as another test flight of a new reusable rocket.

Note: Astra has delayed the first orbital test flight of its rocket to no early than September 10th due to poor weather in Kodiak, Alaska.

ULA’s Delta 4 Heavy: Launch abort at T-3 seconds tonight

Delta 4 Heavy immediately after engine shutdown

UPDATE: It appears ULA will need at least a week to analyze the situation before attempting another launch. It also appears that SpaceX is going forward with its two launches on August 30.

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Tonight’s attempt by ULA to launch a National Reconnaissance Satellite on its Delta 4 Heavy rocket was aborted at T-3 seconds when the rocket’s main engines did an automatic abort. The image to the right shows the rocket immediately after the engines shut down, the smoke clearing and the rocket still sitting on the launch pad.

They are presently unfueling the rocket and will not launch tonight. They have not set a new launch date, and there is also no word on whether this launch delay will force delays in the two SpaceX launches set for August 30th. My guess is that the issue tonight will take time to assess, so they will give up their place in line and let SpaceX proceed as planned.

In watching ULA’s broadcast tonight, as well as reviewing the issues that prevented launch two days ago, I was struck by several things. First, ULA’s promo films to tout the wonders of the Delta family of rockets actually made them seem incredibly clunky and complex. There seemed to be too many pieces and complex operations to get the rocket ready for launch, which makes sense as Delta rockets are very costly and not competitive with today’s market. This is the exact reason ULA is in the process of retiring the entire Delta family. They will complete the already purchased and scheduled launches, but in the future will use their new Vulcan rocket for similar future bids.

Second, the number of minor and major technical issues during both countdowns reinforced my impressions above. This is a very complex rocket to launch, and that complexity apparently leads to many issues that make launch difficult.

For the scrub on August 26 they first had two blown fuses in a launchpad heater that had to be replaced, then a pneumatics system issue that was apparently not solved during the countdown. When they scrubbed, however, they said they did it because of “several problems,” not just this one.

On tonight’s launch they first had an issue with a fuel valve, then several fuel sensor alarms gave them problems, requiring them to disable them to proceed, then the temperatures in the payload electronics posed an issue that after some analysis was considered acceptable. These issues caused the launch to be delayed by about an hour and a half.

Finally, the rocket’s main engines shut down at the rescheduled lift-off time.

It might not be fair, but in comparing this ULA launch effort with the numerous countdowns by SpaceX the differences were stark. SpaceX has had comparable few issues during recent launches, with only one launch recently scrubbed due to a technical issue in July. Moreover, the company’s launch team has several times had similar launch aborts at T-0, and still were able to recycle everything and proceed to launch immediately.

All these impressions once again suggest that ULA is making the right decision to retire Delta. That it is going to take them several more years however to launch several more government surveillance satellites raises questions about the decisions of our government to pay for such a unwieldy and expensive rocket. There now are better and cheaper options available.

Another Chinese national arrested for spying

The Department of Justice on August 25th arrested a Chinese national as he was trying to leave the country with classified military computer software.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped Hu Haizhou, a researcher from the University of Virginia’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering [who] also work[ed] for a Chinese military-linked university too, before he could board a flight to Qingdao, China, from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Tuesday, said an FBI special agent in an 11-page affidavit filed on Friday in federal court in Virginia.

According to the agent, Matthew Rader, CBP investigators questioned Hu and searched his electronic devices, which revealed UVA-research-related files stored on his laptop, including “bio-inspired research simulation software code” developed by “Professor 1.” Bio-inspired research relates to studying the complexities of flying and swimming creatures in nature and applying that to manned flight or submersibles — often with military applications.

Hu “did not have lawful, authorized access to this material, and he admitted that Professor 1 would not want him to have it and would be upset to learn that HU possessed it,” the FBI said. The professor, who runs the multiuniversity Flow Simulations Group, has been developing this code over the last 17 years and is sponsored by the U.S. government’s National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research. The FBI special agent said that probable cause existed to charge Hu federally with fraud-related illicit computer intrusions and the theft of trade secrets.

More here.

These stories are beginning to sound repetitious, as they keep happening on almost a weekly basis. It appears that until the Trump administration the swamp in Washington had absolutely no interest for decades in protecting this nation from spying and the theft of military secrets from China or from anyone else.

Seems par for the course. At best our so-called elites are incredibly incompetent. At worst they have shown themselves to be traitors, with their loyalties aligned more with foreign powers than with the United States.

AI software beats real pilot in simulated dogfight

The Terminator is coming: In a DARPA competition between a number of AI software teams, the finalist AI team, called Heron Systems, went up against a real F-16 pilot in a simulated dogfight and went undefeated, beating him five times in a row.

Heron Systems, a company with just 30 employees, had beaten out Aurora Flight Sciences, EpiSys Science, Georgia Tech Research Institute, Lockheed Martin, Perspecta Labs, PhysicsAI, and SoarTech to claim the top spot in the last of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) AlphaDogfight Trials. This three-day event had started on Aug. 18, 2020.

The software then beat the real pilot.

There is a lot of blather on the website, though there is this interesting analysis by F/A-18 Squadron commander that in the end concludes that we are only a generation or two away from making all fighter pilots obsolete.

Or to look at it from another perspective, we are only a short time away from putting the ability to fight war entirely into the hands of computers and software, with abilities that humans will not be able to match.

Does no one but me see the potential problems with this? Have all of these military experts never seen any science fiction movies or read any science fiction novels?

Hat tip Tom Biggar.

Boeing’s CEO vows to hire based on race, not qualifications

The coming dark age: Boeing’s CEO today vowed to raise the number of blacks working at the company by 20%, apparently with no regard to qualifications.

Boeing is seeking to increase black US employees throughout the company by 20 percent and mandate benchmarks for hiring people of color, Chief Executive Dave Calhoun told employees in a memo on Friday reviewed by Reuters.

…The changes at Boeing, a stalwart defense contractor with its corporate headquarters in Chicago and largest factories in Washington state and South Carolina, appeared to mark the first concrete steps by the planemaker to address the issue. “We understand we have work to do,” Calhoun said in the memo, which was released on the 57th anniversary of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech and included references to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin on Sunday.

Boeing declined to provide its current number of black employees or a timeline for the new target.

The planemaker separately has had to lay off thousands of workers as it grapples with the financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and the 17-month-old grounding of the 737 MAX after two fatal crashes.

In the memo, Calhoun said the company would establish an internal Racial Justice think-tank to guide its policies.

As a company, Boeing’s bad performance in almost every area in the last year is bad enough. If they are going to lay off thousands and then replace some with workers based merely on racial quotas the company’s future will be worse, since their ability to produce quality airplanes and spacecraft is certain to go down.

And for those hate-mongers who will immediately try to accuse me of saying blacks are not as smart, go to hell. The goal should be to hire the best, instead of members of a specific race. If you favor one race over another you simply prove yourself to be a bigot, as this company’s CEO is now amply doing.

I also hope a lot of fired Boeing employees sue Boeing for racial discrimination.

Cracks and scallops on the lowland plains of Mars

Utopia Basin cracks and scallops
Click for full image.

Cool image time! To the right is some of the strange terrain seen in the northern lowland plains of Mars. The photo, cropped to post here, was taken on May 4, 2020 by the high resolution camera of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) of an area in the northwest part of Utopia Planitia.

Next year China’s first attempt to soft land a rover on Mars will occur somewhere in Utopia Planitia. Utopia Planitia, also called Utopia Basin, is quite large, however, and in fact is the largest recognizable impact basin on Mars, with a diameter of more than 2,000 miles or about two thirds the width of the United States. If this strange spot was put near Seattle, Tianwen-1 is expected to touch down somewhere near Houston, Texas.

The MRO science team labeled the image “Scalloped terrain in Utopia Planitia.” The curved cliffs in the image illustrate those scallops, found frequently in Utopia. Their formation is believed related to the sublimation of underground ice, changing directly from ice to gas. The theories of this process however are somewhat uncertain at this time.

What stuck me about the image were the north-south oriented cracks. They extend through the full image, all oriented in the same direction. I haven’t the faintest idea what caused them, but they are intriguing, are they not?

This terrain is also different than most Utopia Planitia images I have previously posted. Most look squishy and blobby and distorted, suggesting the presence of soft slush and underground ice. This image instead suggests hard bedrock, even though it is farther north than the previous images and should thus be expected to have more ice underground. Quite mysterious.

I suspect the ice is here, but is simply not made obvious by any surface event. Then again, who knows? The geology of Mars is definitely not obvious, no matter how obvious it sometimes seems.

Curiosity captures a dust devil

During its recent and last several-week-long drilling effort in the clay unit in Gale Crater, the rover Curiosity was also able to luckily capture the passing of a nearby dust devil.

It’s almost summer in Gale crater, which puts us in a period of strong surface heating that lasts from early spring through mid-summer. Stronger surface heating tends to produce stronger convection and convective vortices, which consist of fast winds whipping around low pressure cores. If those vortices are strong enough, they can raise dust from the surface and become visible as “dust devils” that we can image with our cameras. The animated GIF shows a dust devil movie we took with Navcam on Sol 2847, covering a period of about five minutes. We often have to process these images, by enhancing what’s changed between them, before dust devils clearly show up. But this dust devil was so impressive that – if you look closely! – you can just see it moving to the right, at the border between the darker and lighter slopes, even in the raw images.

I have embedded the movie below the fold. The dust devil looks like a ghostly white tower moving from the left to the right just above the darkest band of landscape cutting across the middle of the image.
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SpaceX wins launch contract for unmanned lunar lander

Capitalism in space: Masten Space Systems has awarded SpaceX the launch contract for its unmanned lunar lander, being built to carry nine NASA science payloads to the south pole of the Moon.

Launch is tentatively scheduled for late ’22.

NASA will be an anchor customer for the mission but Masten intends to sign up others. “There is a tremendous amount of interest,” he said, including from both the public and private sector, although he didn’t mention any specific potential customers.

Mahoney said the level of customer interest soared after Masten won the CLPS award and had a firm schedule for the mission. “Once the CLPS award was made and we crossed from speculative to having a schedule, the tenor and tone of our conversations have changed dramatically.”

The limiting factor for the lander mission has not been the amount of mass available for payloads, he said, but instead positions on the lander that have views of the surface desired by payloads. “There’s a game of positioning among the various instruments so that they can get the view angles that they need and not interfere,” he said.

However, he said the company isn’t considering major changes in the lander’s design to accommodate payloads. “The design principle is the ‘pickup truck’ that can haul a bunch of different things,” he said. “We’re trying to escape the completely unique, bespoke system that does one job and one mission really well.”

I guarantee that at least one university student-built payload will end up on the lander.

FCC approves expansion of OneWeb constellation to 2,000 satellites

Capitalism in space: The FCC has approved the request by the satellite company OneWeb to increase the size of its satellite constellation from 720 to 2,000 satellites, at 50% of which must be launched by August ’26.

The company, now exiting bankruptcy with its purchase by a partnership of the UK government and an Indian-based communications company, appears gearing up to resume launches.

The FCC’s approval was partly because it would “increase competition for broadband services.” Under the Trump administration the goal is to encourage as many private space companies as possible, to promote innovation and the lowering of costs to the consumer. This decision continues that policy.

NASA’s first Orbiting Geophysical Observatory to burn up in atmosphere

The first of six Orbiting Geophysical Observatories, dubbed OGO-1, is set to to burn up in the atmosphere sometime in the next week.

Launched September 5, 1964, OGO-1 operated until 1969. It along with the five later OGO satellites were designed to study the Earth’s magnetic field as well as the Van Allen Belts across a solar minimum and maximum. Together they proved the magnetosphere was homogeneous, somewhat the same wherever data was obtained.

As the first such observatory, the spacecraft was also a technology test. Thus, the failure of its attitude control system, preventing about half its instruments from gathering data, was not really a failure. It laid the groundwork for all such research satellites to follow over the next half century.

Five American launches in two days!

Capitalism in space: Though the first launches in the string of four American launches that was initially scheduled to begin two days ago and continue through the weekend was delayed because of weather and then technical issues, all these delays have done is pack those scheduled launches into a shorter time period, with the addition of a fifth launch!

If all goes as scheduled (hardly guaranteed), we will see five launches from three spaceports and four private companies in less than two days. The schedule, as of this moment:

August 29th at 2:04 am (Eastern): ULA’s Delta 4 Heavy to launch a military reconnaissance satellite from Cape Canaveral. The company’s webcast of the launch can be seen here.

August 29th at 11:05 pm (Eastern): Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket will launch a commercial radar satellite from New Zealand. The launch can be watched at the company’s live stream channel.

August 30th at 10:08 am (Eastern): SpaceX’s Falcon 9 will launch more of its Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral. All SpaceX launches are live streamed from SpaceX’s website, though the links are not yet up.

August 30th at 7:19 pm (Eastern): SpaceX’s Falcon 9 will launch an Argentinian Earth observation satellite from Cape Canaveral. All SpaceX launches are live streamed from SpaceX’s website, though the links are not yet up.

August 30th at 10:00 pm (Eastern): Astra will attempt the first orbital test launch of its privately built rocket from Kodiak, Alaska. They will not be live streaming their launch, but will provide updates at their Twitter feed.

All times and dates list only the beginning of the launch windows, which means they might launch, but not exactly at the times listed.

Also, SpaceX is aiming to do its second Starship test hop this weekend, the first for its sixth prototype.

Democratic voters swamp CSPAN to say they are switching to Trump

CSPAN's new call lines, eliminating party affiliation

Is this a sign of hope? So many callers on CSPAN’s Democratic Party call line were calling to announce they were either switching to Trump or becoming Republicans after watching the two conventions these past two weeks that CSPAN changed the call lines from “Democrat” and “Republican” to “Support Biden” and “Support Trump.”

I always like to say “It’s the audience that counts.” In this case the audience appears to be making its preference loud and clear, which is to me is truly a sign of hope. Conservatives and supporters of liberty and the rule of law might cheer the speeches and presentations at the Republican convention, but it is how the unaffiliated general public reacts that matters. And at least from this one data point, it appears they are trending to the Republicans.

UPDATE: I stupidly listed the channel incorrectly as CNN in my initial post. This is now corrected.

More glaciers and eroding gullies on Mars

Crater with gullies and glacial fill
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, shows the interior south-facing rim of a small crater in the southern cratered highlands of Mars. Taken on May 30, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), the image release is merely labeled “Gullied Slope”. The photo was taken as part of regular monitoring of these gullies since 2011 to see if they change from season to season. The 2011 image was captioned by planetary scientist Alfred McEwen, who wrote the following about the gullies:

These are erosional features with depositional fans. Some of the gully fans have a bluish color: these are probably quite recent deposits, less than a few tens of years old.

Since they were considered so very young, it makes great sense to look at them frequently. In making a quick comparison between the 2011 and 2020 images however I could not spot any changes, but that might be because the versions I downloaded are not at the fullest resolution.

This crater, at 39 degrees south latitude, is also worthwhile because its floor appears covered with glacial material, what scientists have dubbed concentric crater fill. As McEwen noted in his 2011 caption,

On the floor of the crater (bottom of this image) are ridges that likely formed from the flow of ice, perhaps a few million years ago.

Those glaciers, generally protected by thin layers of dust and debris, are considered inactive at this time in Martian geological history. The many ridges however hint at the many many cycles in the Martian climate, fluctuating between periods when these mid-latitude glaciers were growing while the polar ice caps were shrinking, and periods when the mid-latitude glaciers were shrinking while the polar ice caps were growing.

It is the PARTY of Biden that must lose big in November

Modern Fifth Avenue in New York
Today’s bankrupt New York,
a typical Democrat-run city

With the upcoming November presidential election, only two months away, the major focus continues to be on Trump and Biden. Who should win? Who is better? Do we want four more years of Trump or another four years of a Obama-type rule?

My readers will know immediately where I stand. Biden would be major disaster for the country, especially because it appears he is declining both physically and mentally and seems owned by the most radical leftist elements of his Democratic Party.

This essay, however, is a call for voters to not just vote for Trump. It is a desperate call for voters from both parties and from all ethnic, religious, and racial cohorts to vote for Republicans in every election and at every level of government. Biden is only the figurehead. It is the body of the now very corrupt, anti-American, and radical Democratic Party that must be killed, thoroughly and at all levels, including the House, the Senate, and in every state, city, and local council election.

The riots and looting and the almost willing endorsement and support given to those riots and looting by local Democratic mayors and councils and state governors demonstrates their incompetence to hold office. For the United States to survive as a nation ruled by law that also supports the freedom of its citizens, voters must reject them, unequivocally.
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Hubble maps giant gas halo around Andromeda

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope’s ability to observe in ultraviolet wavelengths have now mapped the giant halo of gas that surrounds the Andromeda galaxy 2.5 million light years away.

The work found that the halo appears to have both an inner and outer shell.

“We find the inner shell that extends to about a half million light-years is far more complex and dynamic,” explained study leader Nicolas Lehner of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. “The outer shell is smoother and hotter. This difference is a likely result from the impact of supernova activity in the galaxy’s disk more directly affecting the inner halo.”

A signature of this activity is the team’s discovery of a large amount of heavy elements in the gaseous halo of Andromeda. Heavier elements are cooked up in the interiors of stars and then ejected into space—sometimes violently as a star dies. The halo is then contaminated with this material from stellar explosions.

The Andromeda galaxy, also known as M31, is a majestic spiral of perhaps as many as 1 trillion stars and comparable in size to our Milky Way. At a distance of 2.5 million light-years, it is so close to us that the galaxy appears as a cigar-shaped smudge of light high in the autumn sky. If its gaseous halo could be viewed with the naked eye, it would be about three times the width of the Big Dipper. This would easily be the biggest feature on the nighttime sky.

Though there is of course uncertainty here, this research is confirming earlier work, making its conclusions more robust.

A side note: Ultraviolet observations can only be done in space, as the atmosphere blocks it. Hubble I think is the only telescope in space right now with this capability. There used to be others, the most noteworthy of all being the International Ultraviolet Explorer, which functioned from 1978 to 1996 but was then decommissioned because neither NASA nor ESA were willing to fund its operation any longer.

No replacements have been launched because the budget for space astronomy has almost entirely been eaten by the overbudget and long delayed James Webb Space Telescope, with future budgets to be eaten similarly by the Roman.Space Telescope.

Canada proposes new global treaty to control mining in space

The globalists at the UN fight back! A Canada-led effort, endorsed by more than 140 academics, politicians, and diplomats, has proposed that the UN and international community create a new treaty to control mining in space.

Signatories to the request for the UN to intervene believe space must be regulated internationally – similarly to Antarctica or the world’s seabeds – and all countries, including non-space-faring ones, get a say in decision-making. The alternative, they warn, could be a splintered approach where companies conduct flag-of-convenience resource extraction in space under whichever country has the least onerous rules. [emphasis mine]

The Trump administration has made it clear that it wants the ability to establish U.S. law on its space operations, both in spacecraft and on its future bases on the Moon and elsewhere, an ability that the Outer Space Treaty forbids. To get around the treaty, the administration has created what it calls the Artemis Accords. The accords require that any nation that wishes to partner in the American-led Artemis program to explore and colonize the Moon must agree to support the establishment of private enterprise and ownership, with the laws of each nation applied to its own operations. To do this the Trump administration is negotiating individual bi-lateral agreements with its Artemis partners.

In essence, the U.S. is using the strategy of dividing and conquering to overcome the Outer Space Treaty’s restrictions.

Canada’s effort is designed to counter the U.S. approach, which is a strong sign that the Trump effort is working. I suspect the battle-lines are now being drawn between China and the many nations that are not operating in space (note the highlighted text), and the U.S. and those space-faring capitalistic nations that wish to partner with it, such as India and the European Space Agency. In fact, Japan and the U.S. today announced continuing negotiations leading to an agreement endorsing their partnership in Artemis, including the Artemis Accords.

Where Russia stands in this battle remains uncertain. They desperately need to partner with someone in the new effort to get to the Moon, since they no longer have the economic resources to do it themselves. The U.S. has made it clear they could join Artemis, but the Putin government opposes the Artemis Accords, preferring that the international community (meaning governments such as them) retain ownership over space resources. They have begun negotiations to partner with China, but it is unclear how much China wishes to partner with anyone.

Regardless, it would be terrible blow to freedom and private enterprise for the U.S. to agree to this Canadian-led effort. Should that approach win, it would make provide ownership and capitalism in space impossible. All power and control will devolve to the global international community, which will then dictate that nothing can happen but what it wants. For example, all the many nations incapable of doing anything in space will want a piece of the action from those nations and companies that are capable, and the result will be that no one will do anything because it simply will not be profitable. Space will simply become another failed communist state, dying before it even becomes born.

Skylab astronaut Gerry Carr passes away at 88

R.I.P. Gerry Carr, the commander of the last and longest Skylab mission in the 1970s, has passed away at 88.

Carr’s first and only spaceflight was as the commander of Skylab 4 (also referred to as SL-4 or “Skylab 3” as appeared on the crew’s mission patch). The third of three crewed stays of increasing duration aboard the orbital workshop, Carr and his Skylab 4 crewmates, Ed Gibson and William “Bill” Pogue, set what was then a record spending 84 days in space.

“We proved, I think, just absolutely, positively that the human being can live in weightless environment for an extended period of time,” Carr said during a NASA oral history interview in October 2000. “But medically, we gathered the data that I think gave the Russians and other people the understanding and the courage to say, ‘Okay, we can stay up for longer periods of time.'”

The obituary at the link includes Carr’s lifelong effort to explain that the crew never “mutinied,” as the press has tried to say for decades. Instead, they spent days and repeated long communications with mission control trying to get it to understand that the crew was being overworked because NASA was micro-managing their workload from the ground. They finally made mission control recognize this, after a long public conversation. Sadly, NASA had to relearn this lesson again in the 1990s during its first long missions on the Russian Mir space station (See chapters 3 and 12 in Leaving Earth).

UAE’S Hope Mars Orbiter images Mars

The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Hope Mars Orbiter has successfully imaged Mars for the first time using its star tracker camera, proving both that the spacecraft is on course and that its pointing capabilities are working as well .

“The Hope probe is officially 100 million km [60 million miles] into its journey to the Red Planet,” Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, prime minister of the UAE, wrote on Twitter on Monday (Aug. 24). “Mars, as demonstrated in the image captured by the probe’s star tracker, is ahead of us, leaving Saturn and Jupiter behind. The Hope probe is expected to arrive to Mars in February 2021.”

The star tracker is designed to keep Hope on course, telling the spacecraft precisely where it is. In addition, the probe carries a more traditional camera for use once it arrives at Mars and begins its science work.

Arrival in Mars orbit will take place in February ’21.

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