Terraced mesas in Martian crater

Terraced mesa in Martian crater
Click for full resolution image.

The cool image to the right, reduced and annotated to post here, was a captioned photo released by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) science team earlier this week. Taken by MRO’s high resolution camera, it shows in color a beautifully stair-stepped mesa located in an unnamed 22-mile-wide equatorial crater in Arabia Terra, the large transitional zone between the lowland northern plains and the southern cratered highlands. As the caption notes,

Several craters in Arabia Terra are filled with layered rock, often exposed in rounded mounds. The bright layers are roughly the same thickness, giving a stair-step appearance. The process that formed these sedimentary rocks is not yet well understood. They could have formed from sand or volcanic ash that was blown into the crater, or in water if the crater hosted a lake.

If volcanic ash, the layers are signalling a series of equal eruptions of equal duration, which seems unlikely. Water is also puzzling because of the equatorial location. Like yesterday’s mystery cool image, water is only likely here at a time when the red planet’s rotational tilt, its obliquity, was much higher, placing this at a higher latitude than it is today.

Regardless, make sure you look at the full image here. This crater floor is chock-full of more such terraced mesas, some of which are even more striking than the sample above.

I have also posted below the MRO context camera photo of the entire crater.
» Read more

Pennsylvania: zero or little evidence open gyms or restaurants spread COVID-19

Chicken Little report: Pennsylvania health officials in one county admitted today that they have found zero evidence that open gyms spread COVID-19, while with restaurants the only evidence of spread is among restaurant workers, not patrons.

[T]wo local government leaders confirm contract tracing shows these businesses had low incidence of spreading the virus. “We were not able to find transmission in gyms, and we had almost no transmission in restaurants,” Montgomery County Chairwoman Dr. Valerie Arkoosh said at a Wednesday press conference.

There is some incompleteness in the contract tracing, but all the tracing they have done has consistently found no justification for closing gyms or restaurants. This data also confirms other data from other states.

But facts don’t matter to Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party governor, Tom Wolf and his cross-dressing health secretary, “Rachel” Levine, a guy who makes believe he is a woman.

Last week, Wolf and Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine issued new rules saying restaurants could no longer continue with in-person dining or alcohol sales, and “indoor operations at gyms and fitness facilities are prohibited.”

Those rules are set to expire on January 4, but that still amounts to three-and-a-half weeks of what the restaurant industry is calling a de facto shutdown. Restaurants are able to continue with take out and delivery services.

What difference the lock down will destroy lives and ruin businesses? The important thing is to demonstrate the power and majesty of these government officials.

First flightworthy BE-4 engine delivery now expected in summer ’21

Capitalism in space: Tory Bruno, the CEO of ULA, revealed yesterday that Blue Origin will finally deliver two flightworthy BE-4 engines for ULA’s Vulcan rocket this coming summer.

ULA, the Pentagon’s top launch contractor for national security satellites, had initially expected the shipment in 2020 for a debut flight in early 2021, but this was delayed by development hurdles.

The installation of Blue Origin’s reusable BE-4 engines into ULA’s next-generation Vulcan rocket will keep it on track for the debut launch of a moon lander dubbed Peregrine at the end of 2021, ULA Chief Executive Tory Bruno said. The Vulcan rocket has won a slate of key U.S. defense missions through 2027.

“That is now our expectation, that Peregrine will go to space in the 4th quarter of 2021,” Bruno told reporters during a call on Thursday.

Peregrine is a commercial lunar lander being built by Astrobotic for NASA.

More information here.

It appears that ULA thinks the long delay in engine development and delivery from Blue Origin will not delay the planned first launch of Vulcan later in ’21. It appears their long range plan to recover and reuse these engines has caused them to design Vulcan so that they can easily swap out engines, which will allow them to complete that new rocket’s development with the test engines that Blue Origin has already provided, and then switch engines and launch within months.

During Bruno’s press briefing he also noted that they have done a thorough refurbish of the Delta launchpads and have instituted a new policy requiring regular launchpad dress rehearsals, in order to make sure the series of problems that delayed the launch of a Delta-4 Heavy earlier this year will not reoccur.

ESA confirms cause of November Vega launch failure

The European Space Agengy (ESA) has now completed its full investigation of a Vega rocket launch failure in November, and confirmed that the initially announced cause of “human error” was correct.

Engineers had installed cables backwards causing the nozzle in the upper stage to go one way when it should have gone the other.

The press release at the link is a wonder of bureaucratic cover-your-behind gobbly-gook, saying much without providing any concrete information about the corrections imposed. For example, the upper stage structure is built by one company, Airbus, the engine is built by two Russian companies, Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash, while a fourth company, Avio, supervises the stage’s assembly. The press release makes it a point to not tell us where the error was made by which company, though by vague implication it suggests the error occurred during final assembly by Avio.

If I was a satellite company thinking of buying a Vega launch I would demand a much more straight-forward explanation. Otherwise I’d go elsewhere.

Russia successfully launches another group of OneWeb satellites

Russia today successfully launched the first group of OneWeb satellites since that company entered and left bankruptcy, and it did it for the first time from its new Vostochny spaceport.

The Soyuz rocket’s flight path (see the map at the link) also took it for the first time northward over Russia, where it dropped its boosters and stages. No word on whether any villages or homes were hit.

The 36 satellites launched raises OneWeb’s constellation to 110 satellites total.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

33 China
24 SpaceX
15 Russia
6 Rocket Lab

The U.S. continues to lead China 39 to 33 in the national rankings. A SpaceX launch, originally set for yesterday, has been delayed until tomorrow due to an tank pressure issue with its upper stage.

Astronomers detect radio signal from an exoplanet’s magnetic field

The uncertainty of science: Astronomers using a Netherlands telescope have detected a radio signal coming from an exoplanet 51 light years away that likely comes from the planet’s magnetic field.

The new research actually began at Jupiter; the researchers had previously studied that planet’s radio emissions and then tweaked those measurements to reflect the effect they expected closeness to the host star and distance from Earth would have had on their observations of an exoplanet.

Then, the scientists consulted observations made in 2016 and 2017 by the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) in the Netherlands. In addition to the potential signal from Tau Boötes b, the researchers also report that they may have picked up a signal from the star Upsilon Andromedae or its planet, but that detection was even fainter than the one from Tau Boötes b.

Obviously, there are many uncertainties with this data. However, if scientists can begin to measure and characterize the magnetic field of exoplanets it will give them an important new data point for studying them.

Lockdowns likely leading to an increase in suicides among the young

According to new research, the lockdowns that have shuttered all school sports are likely leading to an increase in youth suicides, even as the death rate for young people from COVID-19 is virtually nil.

The article at the link refers to a Washington Post article, which stated:

A survey of high school athletes conducted by the University of Wisconsin this summer found that approximately 68 percent of the 3,243 teens polled have reported feelings of anxiety and depression at levels that typically require medical intervention — nearly 40 percent higher than past studies. The study, which also found that physical activity levels were 50 percent lower for kids than before the pandemic, was labeled “striking and concerning” by one researcher.

The lead researcher of the study at Wisconsin, Tim McGuine, said in an interview in August that “the greatest risk [to student-athletes] is not covid-19. It’s suicide and drug use.”

From the earliest available data in March it was clear that there was no medical reason to shut down the schools (some countries never did and their children did not suffer for it). Since then this early data has been confirmed repeatedly.

Thus, the only reason to shut the schools and youth sports was an expression of unbridled power and panic by elected leaders not interested in data but very much interested in having control over everyone’s lives. Furthermore, that expression of power was not really interested in saving lives in the least, because if it was by this time these corrupt leaders would have rethought their policy and not only opened up the schools but would have ended many of their irrational lock down policies. Instead, they have been doubling down.

And if you don’t think these shutdowns are irrational and merely an expression of power, consider this: In Ohio the government has ruled that high school wrestlers can grapple and fight, but if they dare shake hands after the match they will be violating social distancing rules.

But it’s “SCIENCE!” they scream! I say, they are liars, both to us and to themselves.

A splat on Mars

A splat on Mars
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped to post here, was taken on October 31, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Labelled simply as a “Terrain Sample”, it was not taken as part of any specific science research but because the MRO science team need to regularly take pictures to maintain the camera’s temperature. When such engineering images are required they try to pick spots of some interest, but sometimes the resulting picture is somewhat bland.

If you look at the full image, you will see that blandness generally describes it. However, in the upper left corner was a most intriguing-looking crater, which I have focused on above. From all appearances, when this impact happened the ground was quite soft, almost like mud, and thus the ejecta splattered away not as individual rocks and debris but as a flow.

The map below gives a little context, but really doesn’t explain this crater fully.
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Using origami to design spaceship fuel bladders

Capitalism in space: Engineers at Washington State University have developed a new design for a collapsible fuel bladder for spaceships using as its basis the Japanese art of origami.

Washington State University researchers have used the ancient Japanese art of paper folding to possibly solve a key challenge for outer space travel – how to store and move fuel to rocket engines. The researchers have developed an origami-inspired, folded plastic fuel bladder that doesn’t crack at super cold temperatures and could someday be used to store and pump fuel.

The advantages of a fuel tank that will shrink as it empties are numerous. It appears that nothing that has been tried so far has worked as well as this new design. If proven viable, it will change radically how interplanetary spaceships are designed. It will also make interplanetary missions more practical.

The audit in Arizona

My representative in the Arizona house, Mark Finchem, send out an email yesterday outlining in detail the demands of the two subpoenas the state senate has now served on the Maricopa County (covering Phoenix) board of elections. The requirements appear quite thorough:

The first calls for a scanned ballot audit, to collect an electronic ballot images cast for all mail-in ballots counted in the November 2020 general election. The subpoena is narrowly tailored to just Maricopa County. Using the ballot images, the Audit Team will likely utilize extremely sensitive optical scanning software designed to identify phony ballots from legitimate, machine completed versus legitimate voter completed. And. of those ballots that fall into the “suspect” category, the candidate can be identified from the ballot. This means that if a ballot is found to be illegitimate, a count can be made tied directly to the candidate who claimed the vote.

The second subpoena calls for a full forensic audit of ballot tabulation equipment, the software for that equipment and the election management system used in the 2020 General Election. This audit will go deeper than just the elections software written by Maricopa County that was used on the Dominion equipment, wit will include the source code and underlying software that runs the so-called tabulation system.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors must answer the subpoena’s on or before 5:00 pm on December 18, 2020.

The first subpoena will make sure that fake ballots were not scanned, and if they were, they can be invalidated so that a new correct count can be done.

The second subpoena will next look at the Dominion tabulators to see if they were correctly tabulating the count. If it finds that they were counting the ballots scanned correctly, that will be wonderful news. If it is instead found that they were not, than a manual handcount will be required, and this evidence will further confirm the allegations in other states that these machines are unreliable and might even be designed to defraud the vote.

Finchem also noted in the email that if the audits find that any of the allegations are true, than the investigation will be expanded to cover other counties.

Based on this information, it appears that the Arizona state legislature is now serious about investigating the election count to make sure it was legitimate.

United kicks family off plane because 2-year-old won’t wear mask

Insanity: United Airlines last week removed a family from a flight heading to New York because they were unable to get their 2-year-old child to wear a mask.

In a two-minute video posted on Dec. 11, since removed for no apparent reason by Instagram and Twitter, mother and Colorado resident Eliz Orban tearfully describes the experience then inserts footage of her masked husband attempting to put a surgical mask on the little girl while seated in the plane. The girl holds her hands up to her face, cries, and buries her head in his arm to avoid the mask.

As a flight attendant advises passengers over the comms to stow their baggage. A male flight attendant arrives at the aisle and demands the couple “grab their belongings and exit the aircraft,” saying he gave the couple “every opportunity” to get a mask on the child.

“We’re over here holding this mask over her face,” the father objects as he cradles the little girl. The video clearly shows him holding a neck gaiter over his daughter’s mouth and nose with a clasped hand. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he says quietly.

The attendant states firmly that “if there’s non-compliance,” it is United’s policy to remove passengers from the flights. “This is compliance,” the father pleads, as the mother, holding the camera, reiterates their attempts to keep their toddler’s face covered.

You must watch the video to see how crazy and irrational this is. The father is holding her with a mask covering her face, even if it isn’t on her. More important, children don’t get COVID-19. Children don’t infect others. And the child is clearly not sick. To demand a mask on her makes no sense.

And yet, this is what airlines are demanding, even though the article also outlines further the technical reasons that make this policy pointless, including the documented claim by United that the passenger areas are already far more free of any aerosols that might carry the virus than any home or normal indoor space.

It is all empty panic and feel-good nonsense. While it can be argued that used properly in the right circumstances masks can have a limited benefit, this policy, which all the airlines seem to be following, is based on fear, idiocy, and irrationality. If anything, the misuse of masks in this situation (note in the video that the father has to hold the mask with his hands, which are a prime source of infection) might actually be increasing the spread of disease.

Election fraud in Nevada

The testimony embedded below by Jesse Binnall, one of the lawyers for Trump that conducted research into the election in Nevada, is quite shocking if true. He is speaking to the state’s senate’s Homeland Security and Government Committee at a hearing this week.

[Youtube, being a tool of the Democrat Party election machine, has removed the first upload. I have found it elsewhere.]

Part of his testimony is further confirmed by a separate investigation that found almost 4,000 non-citizens voted illegally.

Under a subpoena, the state’s GOP obtained data that showed green card holders and non citizens who had obtained driver’s licenses. From this official data set, the Nevada GOP “compared this detailed information against the county voter records in Nevada” and “discovered that 6,260 non citizens were registered to vote and 3,987 non-citizens had voted.”

The worst aspect of this is that it is consistent with similar stories and evidence in other states. Such allegations must not be ignored or simply dismissed. They must be investigated, hard.

An update on the testing of SLS’s core stage

Link here. The article provides more information on the temperature issue that caused the seventh of eight fueling tests of the core stage to abort early.

The temperature issue arose when NASA transferred superchilled liquid oxygen, to fuel the rocket, from a holding facility to the core stage of the SLS. This procedure has been modeled and verified before, Julie Bassler, SLS stages manager at Marshall, told reporters during the same teleconference. But this was the first time the transfer actually took place.

“We were actually just a few degrees different than what we wanted to see coming in,” she continued, but said the temperature must be precise during the initial phases of filling the tank. The requirement is minus 290.57 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 179.21 degrees Celsius.) But the liquid oxygen was slightly cooler, at minus 296.67 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 182.59 degrees Celsius).

“We filled up [the tank] just enough to pass the phase where we knew we weren’t going to be able to get the temperature to a level that was going to be acceptable to meet the requirement, and that’s when they caught us … in the testing,” Bassler continued.

Despite this issue, NASA still hopes to do the last core stage test, dubbed the Green Run, in the last week in December. During that static fire test they will fuel the core stage entirely and then fire its engines for the full duration of an actual launch — almost ten minutes. If all goes well they will then pack up the stage and ship it to Florida for the planned November unmanned test mission sending Orion around the Moon.

They have no schedule margins, however, because all the components of this very expensive and complex rocket need a lot of time to get anything done. The two solid rocket boosters that will be attached to the sides of the core stage only have a twelve month lifespan once assembled, and they are holding off assembling them pending this test. The core stage itself needs two months to be disassembled, and then two months to be reassembled in Florida. And there remain the issue of a failed power unit in the Orion capsule that could take four to twelve months to repair.

The article however had this telling quote, based on comments from a NASA official, about future launch procedures, that sent a chill up my spine:
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House passes bill that attempts to protect Apollo Moon sites

The House today passed a bill that would require any American business planning a Moon mission to agree to not disturb the Apollo lunar landing sites.

[The bill] requires any federal agency that issues a license to conduct a lunar activity to require the applicant to agree to abide by recommendations in the 2011 NASA report “NASA’s Recommendations to Space-Faring Entities: How to Protect and Preserve the Historic and Scientific Value of U.S. Government Artifacts” and any successor recommendations, guidelines or principles issued by NASA.

All well and good, but this does nothing to stop other nations from touching those sites. Moreover, making all of those sites and whatever the astronauts did there totally sacrosanct is not reasonable. On the later Apollo landings the astronauts used a rover to travel considerable distances. Should every spot the astronauts visited by now considered holy? If anything, scientists will wish to return and gather more data at these locations to better understand the initial Apollo results.

Not that any of this really matters. In the long run the decision on how much these sites should be protected will be made by the people who live on the Moon. I suspect, as pioneers living on the edge of survival, they will have less interest in making memorials to past achievements and be more focused on getting things done, now.

India successfully completes second launch in 2020

Using its PSLV rocket India today successfully placed a communications satellite into orbit.

This was only the second launch by India in 2020. At the start of the year ISRO had predicted they would complete as many as twelve launches. Instead, their panic over COVID-19 shut them down.

The leader board for the 2020 launch race presently stands unchanged, though a SpaceX rocket is on the launchpad and might lift-off in the next 90 minutes. [UPDATE: SpaceX has stood down and will try again tomorrow.]

33 China
24 SpaceX
14 Russia
6 Rocket Lab

The U.S. still leads China 39 to 33 in the national rankings.

Chang’e-5 sample return capsule successfully recovered in China

The new colonial movement: The sample return capsule for China’s Chang’e-5 mission, the first to bring lunar samples back to Earth since 1976, has been successfully recovered in the inner Mongolia region of China today.

Chinese officials confirmed the roughly 660-pound (300-kilogram) capsule landed at 12:59 p.m. EST (1759 GMT) Wednesday, or 1:59 a.m. Thursday in Beijing.

Recovery crews dispatched to the remote landing zone converged on the capsule in helicopters and off-road vehicles, traveling across the snow-covered plains of Inner Mongolia in the middle of the night. Ground teams reached the Chang’e 5 return module within minutes to begin operations to secure the capsule, and planted a Chinese flag in the frozen soil next the spacecraft.

Crews plan to transport the module to Beijing, where scientists will open the sample carrier and begin analyzing the moon rocks.

For China this success is a major milestone for its government-run space program. They have demonstrated superb technical capabilities that will serve them on many more future missions. They have also signaled to the world and the U.S. that they mean business in space, and that their published plans to build colonies on the Moon are serious. They have also made it clear that they will enforce control over any territory they occupy, notwithstanding the rules of the Outer Space Treaty. Any American government that makes light of these facts and refuses to aggressively compete with China is going to quickly discover it shut out of the most valuable locations on the Moon.

InSight: Mars’ crust is thin, and its interior is many layered with a molten core

Scientists yesterday released results from the seismometer on the Mars InSight lander that suggest that the crust of the red planet is thin and that its interior is many layered with a molten core.

[T]wo moderate quakes, at magnitude 3.7 and 3.3, have been treasure troves for the mission. Traced to Cerberus Fossae, deep fissures in the crust 1600 kilometers east of the landing site that were suspected of being seismically active, the quakes sent a one-two punch of compressive pressure (P) waves, followed by sidewinding shear (S) waves, barreling toward the lander. Some of the waves were confined to the crust; others reflected off the top of the mantle. Offsets in the travel times of the P and S waves hint at the thickness of the crust and suggest distinct layers within it, Brigitte Knapmeyer-Endrun, a seismologist at the University of Cologne, said in an AGU presentation. The top layer may reflect material ground up in the planet’s first billion years, a period of intense asteroid bombardment, says Steven Hauck, a planetary scientist at Case Western Reserve University.

At 20 or 37 kilometers thick, depending on whether the reflections accurately trace the top of the mantle, the martian crust appears to be thinner than Earth’s continental crust—a surprise. Researchers had thought that Mars, a smaller planet with less internal heat, would have built up a thicker crust, with heat escaping through limited conduction and bouts of volcanism. (Though Mars is volcanically dead today, giant volcanoes dot its surface.) A thin crust, however, might mean Mars was losing heat efficiently, recycling its early crust, rather than just building it up, perhaps through a rudimentary form of plate tectonics, Mojzsis says.

The thin crust provides a solid basis for explaining the large volcanoes and vast lava plains on the planet. Combined with the light gravity, magma would have found an easier path to the surface. Handed this knowledge, planetary geologists can now make a first stab at outlining more precisely the planet’s early volcanic history.

SpinLaunch expands operations at Spaceport America in NM

Capitalism in space: SpinLaunch, the private launch startup that proposes to fling payloads into orbit rather than launch them in a rocket, has announced that it will be expanding its operations at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

The company already built a $7 million, 10,000-square-foot facility at the Spaceport after announcing plans last year to conduct all testing there on its new technology. Now, the company is doubling down, with plans to hire an additional 59 people and invest another $46 million over 10 years. The state Economic Development Department will support the expansion with $4 million in Local Economic Development Act funding, said EDD Secretary Alicia J. Keyes.

…Under its expansion, the company plans to actually build the centrifuge launch system at the spaceport, with test launches to start next year. “We expect by next summer to begin flight test operations at the spaceport, and we expect to continue to test new flight designs there for the foreseeable future,” Yaney told the Journal. “We see it as a permanent facility for us.”

The idea is fascinating, but I have some doubts. First, the accelerations will be so high that it might limit the company’s customer base, since many satellites will likely not be able to withstand those forces.

If it works, however, the company will have found a truly clever way to eliminate entirely the need for a first stage, and maybe even the second stage.

ESA funds ArianeGroup prototype vertical landing hopper

The European Space Agency (ESA) has now committed 33 million euros for ArianeGroup to develop a prototype vertical landing hopper dubbed Themis that would begin testing first stage landings by ’23.

ArianeGroup and its collaborators in Belgium, Switzerland, France and Sweden offer critical technical knowhow gained through the development of Europe’s next-generation engine – Prometheus – which will power Themis.

ESA’s Prometheus is a highly versatile engine capable of providing 1000 kN of variable thrust and is reignitable which makes it suitable for core, booster and upper stage application. An onboard computer handles engine management and monitoring in real time – a crucial feature for reusability.

ArianeGroup is the private consortium led by Airbus and Safran that is building Ariane 6. This deal suggests that ESA amd ArianeGroup has finally recognized that Ariane 6, built without reusability, is a lemon and is not attracting customers. This new contract starts the process of developing a reusable first stage.

They still might be too late. They will only begin testing the Themis prototype in ’23, with no clarity on when a full scale version will follow. Meanwhile, it is very likely that SpaceX’s fully reusable Starship/Super Heavy will be flying orbital missions by then, and likely charging far less than they presently do for their Falcon 9.

Cones on Mars!

Today’s cool image is actually a bunch, all found recently in the monthly image download from the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

All the photos I post below show pimple-like cones, all of which appear to be a type of small volcano. The cones are found in a wide range of locations, from the northern lowland plains to the cratered highlands to the mid-latitude transition zone between the two. They are also found at the bottom of deep canyons, in the floors of craters, and amidst mountains.

Let us begin.
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Dark storm on Neptune changes direction unexpectedly

Dark storm on Neptune
Click for full image.

Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have found that a dark storm discovered on Neptune in 2018 has been drifting across the gas giant in unexpected ways.

The storm, which is wider than the Atlantic Ocean, was born in the planet’s northern hemisphere and discovered by Hubble in 2018. Observations a year later showed that it began drifting southward toward the equator, where such storms are expected to vanish from sight. To the surprise of observers, Hubble spotted the vortex change direction by August 2020, doubling back to the north. Though Hubble has tracked similar dark spots over the past 30 years, this unpredictable atmospheric behavior is something new to see.

Equally as puzzling, the storm was not alone. Hubble spotted another, smaller dark spot in January this year that temporarily appeared near its larger cousin. It might possibly have been a piece of the giant vortex that broke off, drifted away, and then disappeared in subsequent observations.

The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, shows both storms. The smaller dark spot can be seen faintly to the right of the larger storm.

Since Hubble has been observing Neptune in 1993 it has seen four such storms, all of which have faded away after about two Earth years. What causes the storms as well as their motions in Neptune’s atmosphere remains unknown, and any theories posited (such as those noted at the link) are highly unreliable, considering the paucity of data we have about Neptune’s atmosphere and the meteorology of such gas giants.

Study: Wearing used mask worse than no mask at all

WHO's do's and don't's for mask use
For the full images, go here and here.

The mask of ignorance: A new study has found that wearing a used mask, even an N95 type, is likely more risky to your health than wearing no mask at all.

Wearing a used mask could be more dangerous than not wearing one at all when it comes to warding off COVID-19, a new study has found.

A new three-layer surgical mask is 65 percent efficient in filtering particles in the air — but when used, that number drops to 25 percent, according to the study published Tuesday in the Physics of Fluids.

Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and California Baptist University say that masks slow down airflow, making people more susceptible to breathing in particles — and a dirty face mask can’t effectively filter out the tiniest of droplets.

These results are not only not surprising, they are backed up by more than a century of research into mask use for medical purposes. Using masks improperly is not sanitary, and increases your risk for getting ill, as clearly shown by the WHO graphic to the right. The results also illustrate once again that the purpose of mandating mask use has nothing to do with reducing the spread of COVID-19 (which it decidedly has not), but are instead designed to demonstrate the power of our rulers to muzzle and control the population, for the purpose of obtaining power.

Scientists confirm ample Ryugu material in first Hayabuse sample chamber

Japanese scientists have opened the first chamber that stored the Ryugu asteroid samples obtained during its first touch-and-go sample grab, and confirmed that it holds ample material.

They also noted that the chamber itself contained gas from the asteroid as well.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has confirmed that the gas collected from the sample container inside the re-entry capsule of the asteroid explorer, Hayabusa2, is a gas sample originating from asteroid Ryugu.

The result of the mass spectrometry of the collected gas within the sample container performed at the QLF (Quick Look Facility) established at the Woomera Local Headquarters in Australia on December 7, 2020, suggested that the gas differed from the atmospheric composition of the Earth. For additional confirmation, a similar analysis was performed on December 10 – 11 at the Extraterrestrial Sample Curation Center on the JAXA Sagamihara Campus. This has led to the conclusion that the gas in the sample container is derived from asteroid Ryugu.

They think that this gas must have outgassed from the samples themselves. I suspect it was released either during the long journey or when the samples were subjected to the high accelerations and impact during its return to Earth. Research is going to have to try to pin this down, however.

They plan to open the two remaining sample chambers containing material sometime next week.

Astra test launch almost reaches orbit

The view from space on Astra's Rocket

UPDATE: The rocket came up slightly short of orbit. From Eric Berger:

Rocket was 0.5 km/s short of orbit. With a better fuel mixture in the upper stage it would have orbited. Apogee of 390km. Rocket 3.3 will carry a payload, and there will be no hardware or software changes.

Original post:
Capitalism in space: According to the company’s Twitter feed, the second launch attempt today by Astra of its rocket appears to have reached orbit.

The images to the right were taken by their rocket, which is unimaginatively dubbed Rocket 3.2. I hope they now give this vehicle a more striking name.

If they have succeeded, they will have joined Rocket Lab as one of only two private commercial smallsat startups to launch a rocket to orbit. Two Chinese pseudo-private companies, Galactic Energy and ExSpace, have accomplished this, but I do not count them as real private companies. They might have worked independent of the government and raised investment capital, but nothing they do happens without close government supervision.

We will have to wait for full flight data from the company, but assuming they reached orbit that will be 40th American launch in 2020, the first time the U.S. has topped 40 launches in a single year since 1969, when the country achieved 46 successful orbital launches.

Subpoena issued to audit all Dominion machines in Phoenix area of Arizona

The Arizona state senate today issued a subpoena requiring the election board of Maricopa County, which covers the entire Phoenix area, to allow for a full audit of the Dominion tabulators and software used to count the ballots in that county.

More here.

I will repeat what I have said from the beginning. What I want, and what all voters should want, is a complete reassurance that these machines did not miscount the totals, and that the result as presently certified is correct. If the audit finds this is so, that will actually be a great relief, even if it means Joe Biden to my sorrow has become president. Having a reliable election system is more important than who wins any particular election.

However, if the audit finds the kinds of issues revealed in the audit of the Dominion machines used in several counties in Michigan, then the election for president is unreliable and should not stand. Once might be a fluke, or an example of a poor audit. Twice means the issues are real. Moreover, unlike the audit in Michigan, this one will be performed under the guidance of the legislature, not one specific firm hired by an attorney. It will therefore carry more weight, as it will have the input of the Democrats in that legislature.

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