Tampering and serious discrepancies found in Arizona election audit

The audit of the more than two million votes cast in Maricopa County, Arizona, in November 2020 is not yet complete, but auditors in the past week have revealed that they have already uncovered significant evidence of tampering and major discrepancies that throw great doubt on the victory given to Joe Biden.

First, the auditors forced the county election board to admit that the voting machines were not protected by a password at the administrative level, thus allowing anyone to change anything on every machine, during the vote count.

That doesn’t prove fraud or election tampering, it only proves that it was amazingly easy for it to happen.

Second, it appears from further work that something very fishy was going on. The auditors for example have discovered that Maricopa County officials illegally tampered with the voter database records before turning them over to the auditors, including the deletion of an entire database.
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Today’s blacklisted American: Conservative commencement speakers at all American universities

Today's modern witch hunt
Burning witches: What most colleges want to do to conservatives.

Blacklists are back and academia’s got ’em: Though for years universities have routinely favored leftist or Democratic Party politicians in picking their annual graduation commencement speakers, 2021 is turning out to be a record year in academia’s effort to blackball conservatives.

In its annual survey, Young America’s Foundation [YAF] said that of the 100 top schools that have identified their speaker, 37 are featuring notable and national liberals and one a conservative. By comparison to other years, the group said that 2021 may be the worst-ever showing for conservatives.

You can see the full list here [pdf]. As noted at the YAF announcement,
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Roscosmos announces two commercial tourist flights to ISS

Capitalism in space: Roscosmos, the government corporation that controls of all of Russia’s space industry, announced today that it will be flying two different commercial tourist flights to ISS, both occurring before the end of this year.

The first will take place in October.

Roscosmos [is] sending an actress and a director to the ISS in October with the aim of making the first feature film in space. The film, whose working title is “Challenge,” is being co-produced by the flamboyant head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, and state-run network Channel One.

The second will take place in December, and will fly Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa (the man who has already purchased a Moon mission on SpaceX’s Starship) and his assistant Yozo Hirano in a Soyuz capsule to ISS for twelve days.

Let’s review the upcoming tourist flights now scheduled:
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Senate committee mandates NASA award 2nd lunar lander contract

More crap from Congress: A Senate committee has approved a new NASA authorization that requires the agency to award a second lunar lander contract — in addition to the one given to SpaceX — even though that authorization gives NASA no additional money to pay for that second contract.

This provision was inserted by senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington). Washington state also happens to be the state where one of the rejected companies, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, is located. I wonder how much cash Bezos’ has deposited in Cantwell’s bank account.

This provision not only does not give NASA any cash to build two lunar landers, what NASA dubs the Human Landing System (HLS), it forces NASA to violate other laws.
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Company offers luxurious 3-day astronaut training vacations

Capitalism in space: For those considering spending millions to buy an orbital tourist flight from SpaceX, a new company, Orbite, is now offering for only $29,000 a three day high-end astronaut training vacation that will include a short zero-gravity flight on an airplane.

[CEO Jason] Andrews and Orbite’s other co-founder, French-born tech entrepreneur Nicolas Gaume, have set the schedule for astronaut orientation courses that’ll include virtual-reality simulations, a zero-G flight and a high-G flight — all designed to provide a taste of space without tying the participant down to a particular program.

The first session will take place Aug. 23-27 at La Co(o)rniche, a five-star boutique hotel on France’s Atlantic coast that’s owned by Gaume’s family. Three other sessions will be offered at the Four Seasons Resort in Orlando, Fla., starting on Nov. 11, Nov. 25 and Dec. 2. Each session is limited to 10 participants.

Zero Gravity Corp. and Europe’s Air Zero G by Novespace will fly the participants on airplanes that can provide measured doses of weightlessness, about 30 seconds at a time. Other subcontractors will put them in the cockpits of planes such as P-51 Mustangs or Extra 330LX’s, which can deliver multiple G’s of acceleration.

In essence these training sessions are nothing more than a dressed up expensive vacation, though surely unique.
None of this training will qualify someone to fly in space, but it will give potential orbital and suborbital customers a taste of what to expect, which should help them decide if they want to cough up the bigger bucks necessary for the real deal.

More delays for Webb telescope?

An issue with the fairing release on the last two Ariane 5 launches has not only paused use of that rocket since August 2020, it might cause another delay in the planned October 31, 2021 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope.

In a statement to SpaceNews, Arianespace acknowledged that “post-flight analyses conducted on two recent Ariane 5 launches have indicated the occurrence of a less than fully nominal separation of the fairing, however with no adverse impact on the Ariane 5 flights in question.”

The company did not elaborate on the problem, but industry sources familiar with the issue said that, on both the August 2020 launch and the previous Ariane launch in February 2020, the separation of the faring induced vibrations into the payload stack well above acceptable limits. Neither incident damaged any of the payloads, but raised concerns about the effect on future missions, including JWST.

Moreover, Arianespace has two Ariane 5 launches on its schedule that are supposed to launch before Webb. If those are delayed it puts a further squeeze on the Webb launch date.

Meanwhile, the final checkouts of the Webb telescope have been proceeding, including a successful test of the unfolding of the telescope’s segmented mirror.

After a more than decade of delays and budget overruns — raising this telescope’s budget from 1/2 billion to $10 billion — it appears that Webb’s final schedule delay might occur not because of the telescope but because of the rocket.

In addition, the issue at Arianespace appears to be seriously impacting that company’s ’21 launch schedule, having failed to launch any Ariane 5 rockets so far this year.

Rocket Lab launch on May 15 will attempt a second ocean recovery of 1st stage

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab’s next planned launch on May 15th will attempt a repeat of the ocean recovery of their Electron rocket’s 1st stage, as they did after a November 2020 launch.

The goal of such work is to help transition the two-stage Electron from an expendable vehicle, as it was originally designed, to a rocket with a reusable first stage. And inspection of the recovered booster from “Return to Sender” suggests that this vision is no pipe dream. “We are more kind of bullish on this than ever before,” Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck said during a teleconference with reporters on Tuesday (May 11). “We reentered on a very aggressive corridor, we had no upgraded heat shield, and we still got [the booster] back in remarkable condition.”

Indeed, some parts of that rocket will fly again; the propellant pressurization system from the “Return to Sender” first stage has been incorporated into the “Running Out of Toes” Electron [launching May 15th], Beck said. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words are quite remarkable. As far as I know, SpaceX never reused any part of a Falcon 9 first stage that was recovered in the ocean.

Rocket Lab also hopes to reduce any damage further by using new equipment on their ship for getting the stage out of the water. In addition, they have added heat shielding to the stage that should also reduce damage during its fall back to Earth.

Finally, on the next flight or so they will test something they are calling a “decelerator,” designed to slow the stage down during that fall. They are not saying what this decelerator is, which suggests it is some form of new engineering.

If all goes right, they hope to make the first snatch by helicopter of a first stage before it hits the ocean sometime next year.

Martian glacial run-off?

Mosaic of glacial runoff
For original images click here and here.

Today’s cool image provides us a glimpse at the carved canyons created when the mid-latitude glaciers on Mars were active in the past and slowly flowing downhill into the section of the northern lowland plains dubbed Acidalia Planitia.

The photo to the right is a mosaic of two images taken by the context camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here. The mosaic shows a region at the very edge of Acidalia Planitia at latitude 43 degrees north.

Below is a close-up of the area in the white box, taken by MRO’s high resolution camera on February 28, 2021, as well as a global map marking the location of this image at the very edge of the glacier country found in the chaos terrain of Deuteronilus Mensae.
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Today’s blacklisted American: Mom criticizes school board, gets blacklisted by Facebook & Instagram, fights back and wins

The Bill of Rights cancelled at Facebook and Instagram
Doesn’t exist at Facebook or Instagram.

Blacklists are back and Facebook’s got ’em: When Gordana Schifanelli, a mother in a Maryland school district who is also an immigrant from communist Yugoslavia, created webpages criticizing the pro-Black Lives Matter indoctrination being introduced in the schools by school superintendent Andrea M. Kane, both Facebook and Instagram moved quickly to censor her, while others attempted to destroy her career.

The response from Big Tech and leftists in her community would have made Tito proud, Mrs. Schifanelli said referring to Josip Broz, the late dictator of Yugoslavia.

First they shut down her personal Facebook page.

“So I said, ‘OK, I’ll create my own,” she said. Facebook and Instagram shut down the “Kent Island Patriots” and “Maryland Eastern Shore Patriots” pages, too. When her 17-year-old son tried to start a Facebook page, he was blocked, she said.

The people seeking to censor Mrs. Schifanelli’s opposition to left-wing politics, many of whom did not have children in the public school system, attacked her as a racist. They leveled their accusations with the Maryland Bar Association and at the U.S. Naval Academy, where she teaches economics and law twice a week.

Another target of theirs did lose his job, and he is a plaintiff in a separate lawsuit.

Unlike many of the other stories I have chronicled in this daily column, this one has ended with what looks like a total victory for Mrs. Schifanelli.
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SpaceX to refly Starship prototype #15 next?

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has rolled Starship prototype #15 to the launchpad in an apparent bid to immediately send it on its second flight, only two weeks after its first successfully 30,000 foot flight.

While SpaceX has yet to actually install Starship SN15 on Mount B, the prototype has been attached to a crane and said installation is imminent – possibly just waiting for winds to die down. As of publishing, SpaceX has removed SN15’s six ‘used’ landing legs but hasn’t replaced them – a necessary step before the Starship can fly again.

…It’s worth noting that even after SpaceX reinstalls Starship SN15 on a launch mount, there’s no guarantee that the prototype will fly again. Before any reflight, SpaceX will almost certainly put the rocket through at least one additional tank proof test and static fire its Raptor engines. Issues or damage that escaped initial post-flight inspections could easily arise during that process and it’s more likely than not that one or more of SN15’s three Raptors will be removed for detailed inspection or replaced outright.

If this prototype does fly next, the next question will be how high and how far. My guess would be that they will fly it to a much higher altitude to further refine the spacecraft’s flight capabilities on return. It makes no sense to simply repeat the last flight. Now is the time to push the design again, even if it means the loss of the prototype.

NASA: Commercial demand exceeds supply at ISS

Capitalism in space: According to NASA officials, the number of private commercial tourist flights being proposed exceeds the availability of docking ports at ISS.

“We are seeing a lot of interest in private astronaut missions, even outside of Axiom,” said Angela Hart, manager of commercial low Earth orbit development at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “At this point, the demand exceeds what we actually believe the opportunities on station will be.”

Opportunities for private astronaut missions are limited by what NASA calls the “traffic model” for the ISS, or the schedule of vehicles arriving and departing the station. Commercial crew missions are limited to two docking ports on the station, one of which is occupied by the vehicle that transported the current long-duration crew on the station. The other is used by commercial crew vehicles during crew handovers, cargo Dragon missions and private astronaut missions.

That restricts the opportunities for private astronaut missions. “About two is about all you fit in there with the rest of the traffic,” Dana Weigel, deputy manager of the ISS program at JSC, said.

The solution should be obvious to all. Private launch companies that wish to use ISS have to launch either their own docking ports, or their own modules with docking ports. This is Axiom’s plan, with its own module scheduled to arrive sometime in ’24. A secondary solution would be for private companies to launch their own space stations, independent of ISS. This would not only sidestep the problem of the bottleneck at ISS, it would free such a company from the charges NASA imposes for using ISS.

Meanwhile, it appears that Axiom is countering those new NASA’s charges for its ISS flights. From the article:

Thanks to an exchange of services between NASA and Axiom, it will actually be NASA paying Axiom for the Ax-1 mission. While Axiom is acquiring services such as crew supplies and on-orbit resources, NASA will be purchasing “cold stowage” space on the Crew Dragon spacecraft to return cargo to Earth at the end of the mission. NASA will pay Axiom $1.69 million for the mission, although Hart noted there will be other charges to Axiom for training and launch services, some of which are still being negotiated.

Suffredini said that, on later missions, Axiom will seek to reduce its reliance on NASA services. “We have a goal that, by after our third flight, we will provide all of those kinds of capabilities” that it is currently purchasing from NASA.

I wonder if that third flight will occur after the launch of Axiom’s module.

A crater with wings!

A crater with wings!
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on April 5, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and shows a particularly unusual crater in the southern mid-latitudes on the eastern edge of Hellas Basin.

This region east of Hellas is where scientists have spotted many features that suggest buried glaciers. The terraced material inside this crater, as well as the splattered material surrounding it on three sides, are examples of such glacial material. You can also see similar glacial features, though less pronounced, inside the crater to the north.

The global map of Mars below marks the general location of this crater by a blue cross.
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Today’s blacklisted American: The Catholic Church

Cancelled Bill of Rights
No longer applies to the Catholic Church.

They’re coming for you next: In the past year the schools and churches of Catholic church nationwide have experienced numerous repeated acts of vandalism, violence, and arson, all expressing hate and a desire to deny it and its practitioners the right to express their religious beliefs.

At least 67 incidents occurred across 25 states since May 2020. … Incidents include arson, statues beheaded, limbs cut, smashed, and painted, gravestones defaced with swastikas and anti-Catholic language and American flags next to them burned, and other destruction and vandalism.

The article at the link provides a detailed list of the sixteen attacks from January to April 2021 alone. For a list of the attacks in 2020, go here, which also provides an update adding four more attacks in just the first week of May.

This is all reminiscent again of Kristallnacht in Nazi Germany, when Jewish businesses and synagogues were targeted in much the same way. » Read more

The atomic hydrogen in Mars’ atmosphere

Atomic hydrogen in Mars' atmosphere, as seen by Al-Amal

The two photos to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, were taken by the ultraviolet spectrometer on the UAE Mars orbiter Al-Amal (“Hope” in English) on April 24 and April 25.

During the 10 hours 34 minutes between the images, the Hope probe moved from being over the planet near noon and viewing the entire dayside (top) to being over the planet at dusk and seeing both the day and night side (bottom). These images will be used to reconstruct the 3D distribution of hydrogen and learn more about its production through the process of splitting water molecules by sunlight and its eventual escape to space.

This data will eventually allow scientists to more precisely measure the total water loss to space that Mars’ experiences annually, which will also allow them to determine approximately how much water the planet has lost over the eons.

A look at Ingenuity’s legs

Link here. This update, written by Bob Balaram, the helicopter’s chief engineer at JPL and Jeremy Tyler, senior aero/mechanical engineer at AeroVironment, outlines the engineering that went into building the helicopter’s legs in order to make sure they could withstand the somewhat hard landings required in the Martian environment.

To withstand these firm landings, Ingenuity is equipped with a cushy suspension system, [with a] distinctive open hoop structure at each corner of the fuselage where the landing legs attach. The lower half of this hoop is a titanium spring that can bend as much as 17 degrees to provide 3.5 inches of motion in the suspension, while the upper half is a soft non-alloyed aluminum flexure that serves as the damper or “shock absorber.” By plastically deforming and fatiguing as it absorbs energy, this flexure acts much like the crumple zone structure of a car chassis. However, unlike a car or the crumple-cushioned landing gear of the Apollo moon landers, Ingenuity’s titanium springs rebound after each impact to pull these aluminum dampers back into shape for the next landing.

The aluminum damper gets a little bit weaker with each cycle as cracks and creases develop. While it would eventually break after a few hundred hard landings, with only a few flights scheduled for this demonstration, that’s a problem we could only dream of having.

This is most likely the failure point that will end Ingenuity’s life, though at the present it is a bit in the future.

Also, the post reveals that JPL subcontracted much of the development of Ingenuity to this company.

AeroVironment designed and developed Ingenuity’s airframe and major subsystems, including its rotor, rotor blades, and hub and control mechanism hardware. The Simi Valley, California-based company also developed and built high-efficiency, lightweight propulsion motors, power electronics, landing gear, load-bearing structures and thermal enclosures for NASA/JPL’s avionics, sensors and software systems.

Good ol’ American capitalism does it again.

Virgin Galactic reveals issue with WhiteKnightTwo

Capitalism in space: On the same day that Virgin Galactic unveiled a $130 million loss in its first quarter report, it also announced that it might have to delay the next flight of its Unity suborbital spacecraft because of an undisclosed “wear-and-tear issue” on its carrier airplane.

From the second link:

[Mike Moses, president of space missions and safety], in response to later questions from analysts, did not disclose the specific component of the aircraft that was at the heart of the issue, but described it as a “family of items that relate to fatigue and long-term stress” of the airplane. It was not an issue with the number of flights of VMS Eve, which first flew in 2008 and has made fewer than 300 flights since.

Engineers are currently examining the plane to determine if additional maintenance is needed now to correct that problem, with an update expected next week. Virgin Galactic had planned to perform work on the plane this fall during a downtime that would also include work on VSS Unity, but Moses said engineers are now looking at whether some of that work needs to be moved up.

If maintenance is needed now, it would delay the schedule of flight tests for SpaceShipTwo, but Moses said it was “a little too early” to know how long that would be.

They had previously announced that the next flight would be in May. They will decide in the next week whether to delay it.

Meanwhile, the company’s stock price continues to tumble, dropping from a high of about $62 earlier this year to a low of about $14 today. And I would say that the price is still over-priced. The path to profit for Virgin Galactic has become extremely narrow, with few options and not much margin, especially with Blue Origin now only two months away from its first commercial suborbital tourist flight.

Richard Branson started Virgin Galactic shortly after the SpaceShipOne won the Ansari X-Prize in 2004, promising hundreds of commercial passenger flights per year in only a few years. Seventeen years later no such flights have ever occurred. Worse, not only will Blue Origin likely do the first commercial suborbital flight first, SpaceX and Axiom are likely to complete the first orbital tourism flights before Virgin Galactic.

No harm to Branson however. He has sold off most of his stock in the company, and did it when its price was still high.

OSIRIS-REx on its way back to Earth

OSIRIS-REx today fired its engines and successfully put itself on course for returning its samples from the asteroid Bennu to Earth on September 24, 2023.

The May 10 departure date was precisely timed based on the alignment of Bennu with Earth. The goal of the return maneuver is to get the spacecraft within about 6,000 miles (approximately 10,000 kilometers) of Earth in September 2023. Although OSIRIS-REx still has plenty of fuel remaining, the team is trying to preserve as much as possible for a potential extended mission to another asteroid after returning the sample capsule to Earth. The team will investigate the feasibility of such a mission this summer.

The spacecraft’s course will be determined mainly by the Sun’s gravity, but engineers will need to occasionally make small course adjustments via engine burns.

The science team has already proposed one option, sending the spacecraft on a rendezvous with the potentially dangerous asteroid Apophis shortly after its 2029 close-fly of Earth. It could be that there are other targets as interesting that they need to choose from.

The layers of Mars’ north pole icecap

The layers of Mars' north pole icecap
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken on April 1, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows the high cliff edge of the Martian north polar ice cap, and was taken as part of the springtime monitoring for the numerous avalanches that fall from the icecap’s steep edge every spring.

This particular cliff is probably about 1,000 feet high. I cannot tell if the image captured any avalanches on the very steep north-facing cliff. What struck me about this image however was the terraced layers so visible on the west-facing scarp. You can clearly count about eleven distinct and thick layers, each forming a wide ledge.

Each layer represents a different climate epoch on Mars when the ice cap was growing, with new snow being deposited.
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Today’s blacklisted American: Anyone in Hollywood who is white

A banned race in Hollywood
A banned race in Hollywood.

Blacklists are back and Hollywood’s got ’em: Warner Brothers has decided its next Superman will be super-woke and must star a black Superman.

More important, the studio has decided that in order to make the film the “super-woke” concept they envision it must only hire blacks to make it. Not only has the studio hired a black writer to write the script, it is insisting that the director and crew must be black also.

The Hollywood Reporter proudly makes note of the fact that they are looking for only black people to do it all, and are looking for a black director. The piece unabashedly excludes the film’s producer J.J. Abrams as a candidate purely because it would be “tone-deaf.”

Nor is that all. Hollywood also wants the focus for all its future superhero films to be “diversity” and racial oppression rather those evil and quaint old concepts of “truth, justice, and the American way.”
» Read more

NASA and Axiom finalize contract for private tourism flight to ISS

Capitalism in space: NASA today announced that it has signed the order detailing the first commercial tourism flight to ISS by Axiom, set for no earlier than January ’22.

The spaceflight, designated as Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1), will launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and travel to the International Space Station. Once docked, the Axiom astronauts are scheduled to spend eight days aboard the orbiting laboratory. NASA and Axiom mission planners will coordinate in-orbit activities for the private astronauts to conduct in coordination with space station crew members and flight controllers on the ground.

Axiom will purchase services for the mission from NASA, such as crew supplies, cargo delivery to space, storage, and other in-orbit resources for daily use. NASA will purchase from Axiom the capability to return scientific samples that must be kept cold in transit back to Earth.

SpaceX will transport the four Axiom astronauts to and from ISS in a Dragon capsule, as yet undetermined.

According to yesterday’s Space News article, the contract for this flight had been signed prior to NASA establishing its new much higher prices for the use of ISS.

NASA officially increases prices for commercial use of ISS by 700%

Capitalism in space: Though there were some revisions to the price list that NASA released in March, the revised price list for use of ISS by private companies and released at the end of April did not change significantly, and now officially increases prices for commercial tourist flights to ISS by about 700%.

The price list can be found here.

The result of the new policy is a much higher price charged by NASA to companies conducting private astronaut missions. Under the old policy, the life support and crew supplies for a hypothetical four-person, one-week mission to the ISS would cost $945,000, a figure that doesn’t include stowage, data or power. Under the new policy, the cargo, food and supplies charges for the same mission would be more than $2.5 million at the low end of the quoted cost ranges, plus $10 million in per-mission fees.

These prices will not apply to the Axiom commercial tourist flight scheduled for early ’22 because that contract was signed beforehand. Nor do they apparently apply to any visits to the private module that Axiom is building to attach to ISS.

Nonetheless, these prices will almost certainly drive business away from ISS and NASA, especially because many of these costs, such as the upmass and downmass cost of passive cargo, should really be charged by the private commercial companies, SpaceX and Boeing, that are providing the transportation. NASA has nothing to do with that and is merely skimming some money off the top of other people’s achievement.

Expect therefore more free-flying tourist missions that do not dock with ISS, such as SpaceX’s Inspiration4 flight scheduled for launch in September. We should also expect an acceleration in the construction of private stations that will compete with NASA and likely charge less.

Ingenuity completes fifth flight; lands in new location

On May 7th, 2021 Ingenuity completed its fifth flight on Mars, this time landing at a new location for the first time.

The robot craft took off at ‘Wright Brothers Field’ – the same spot where the it had risen and landed on all its other flights – but landed at an airfield 423 feet (129 metres) to the south. Landing in a new place is another first for the rotorcraft.

This new landing site places the helicopter in a good position to leap frog along with Perseverance as it moves south in this general area studying the floor of Jezero Crater.

SpaceX launches and lands 1st stage for record 10th time

During a launch yesterday of another sixty Starlink satellites, the first stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully completed its tenth flight, a new record for such boosters.

The turnaround time for this booster is noted at the link, and shows that they have been steadily shortening that time to less than two months.

The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

14 SpaceX
12 China
7 Russia
2 Rocket Lab

The U.S. now leads China 19 to 12 in the national rankings.

Long March 5B core stage falls to Earth

Around 10:15 pm (Eastern) the Long March 5B core stage reentered the atmosphere over the Arabian Peninsula, with pieces landing in the Indian Ocean north of the Maldives to the southwest of India.

China has attempted to minimize its behavior here, claiming that most of the rocket burned up and that the chance of any damage was low. Big deal! If you are a responsible spacefaring nation you don’t build rockets that are designed to do this.

Remember, at least three more Long March 5B launches are scheduled in the next the years. As presently designed all will dump that core stage somewhere on Earth in an entirely uncontrolled manner.

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