Make Mine Freedom

An evening pause: A 1948 cartoon, made at the start of the Cold War. It uncannily predicts quite accurately what is happening now, in America, because the Boomer generation and those who followed poo-pooed its lessons. They knew better!

I post it on Memorial Day because I wish to remember what once was.

Hat tip Lazarus Long.

A visit to a crater near the non-face on Mars

Glacial erosion features inside crater
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken on March 12, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It looks down at small six-mile-wide Apt crater in the northern lowland plains of Mars located at about 40 degrees north latitude. The image’s focus were the layers on the crater interior rim as well as the eroded glacial features on the crater’s floor. The color strip suggests [pdf] that the bluish material on the north-facing south interior rim and floor are likely icy, while the tan-colored material seen in the crater’s north half are likely dusty.

While the suggestion of glacial material on the crater’s interior is very typical for many craters in the mid-latitudes, what makes this crater of interest is its location, only a short few miles south of that mesa on Mars that for decades the shallow-minded insisted was a face and proof of an alien Martian civilization.
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Today’s blacklisted American: High school group canceled by Democratic Party for criticizing Chinese government

Blacklists are back and the Dem’s got ’em: A conservative club at an Illinois high school was forced to disband after two local Democratic Party politicians demanded the school silence the club for putting up a poster that criticized the Chinese government.

The political attack, by state senator Lauren Fine and state representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, caused the club’s sponsor to back out, forcing the club to disband.

“Upon learning of the context of the poster that Glenbrook South’s chapter of Turning Point USA submitted it was taken down, recognizing that it wasn’t in compliance with our policies and guidelines,” District 225 administrators told The College Fix via email through a media representative when asked about the Glenbrook South High School situation. “During the course of that investigation, the sponsor elected to discontinue his sponsorship and the District’s policies require there be a sponsor for all active clubs,” the school officials said.

When asked specifically what policies or guidelines were broken, the district said it took down the poster while there was an investigation and then the sponsor quit, meaning the group had to be disbanded.

The poster, at the link, is incredibly mild, but that’s not acceptable because these bigoted Democrats, Fine and Gong-Gershowitz, see everything through a racial lens. The population of China is almost all Chinese, and if you dare criticize them you must be a bigot, according to the modern Democratic Party.

And if they, on their sainted opinion, think you are a bigot they have the right to get you blacklisted, blackballed, cancelled, fired, and silenced.

Do you vote for such people? Then you believe in blacklisting and oppression and tyranny. Congratulations! You have proved to all that you are not an American.

China successfully launches 1st cargo freighter to its space station

On May 29th China successfully launched the first Tianzhou cargo freighter to bring cargo the now-orbiting first module, Tianhe, of its under construction space station, docking there one day later.

They plan to launch the first crew of three to the station in June.
The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

16 SpaceX
14 China
8 Russia
2 Rocket Lab

The U.S still leads China 22 to 14 in the national rankings.

Sorry for the late posting, but I have been off on a cave expedition in a very remote area in Nevada. Needed a break from the news and work. Presently on the long drive home. Posting will resume at full speed later tonight.

A lopsided spiral galaxy

Losided spiral galaxy
Click for full image.

For a change, today’s cool image is not from Mars, but instead goes deep into space. The photo to the right, reduced to post here, was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of the relatively nearby spiral galaxy NGC 2276, located about 120 million light years away. As the caption explains:

The magnificent spiral galaxy NGC 2276 looks a bit lopsided in this Hubble Space Telescope snapshot. A bright hub of older yellowish stars normally lies directly in the center of most spiral galaxies. But the bulge in NGC 2276 looks offset to the upper left.

In reality, a neighboring galaxy to the right of NGC 2276 (NGC 2300, not seen here) is gravitationally tugging on its disk of blue stars, pulling the stars on one side of the galaxy outward to distort the galaxy’s normal fried-egg appearance. This sort of “tug-of-war” between galaxies that pass close enough to feel each other’s gravitational pull is not uncommon in the universe. But, like snowflakes, no two close encounters look exactly alike.

The scientists also note that the bright edge along the galaxy’s north and west perimeter mark regions of intense star-formation. In those same regions astronomers six years ago identified the first medium-sized black hole ever found.

Today’s blacklisted American: Classic philosophy and literature banned at Howard University and across academia

No knowledge of Western civilization allowed!
Banned at Howard University.

They’re coming for you next: Though today’s victims of blacklisting are neither American nor even alive (some having passed away more than two thousand years ago), the decision last month by Howard University (in line with what many other colleges are doing) to dissolve its classics department and send to oblivion such thinkers as Socrates, Plato, Homer, Cato, and Cicero will do more harm than can be measured to Americans today and far into the future.

From the first link the announcement:

Howard University has decided to close the Department of Classics as part of its prioritization efforts and is currently negotiating with the faculty of Classics and with other units in the College as to how they might best reposition and repurpose our programs and personnel. These discussions have been cordial, and the faculty remains hopeful that the department can be kept intact at some level, with its faculty and programs still in place.

The cordiality of these classic scholars reminds me somehow of the Jewish leaders in the Warsaw Ghetto, who cordially worked with the Nazis in order to (paraphrasing the statement above) “keep their Jewish community intact at some level.”
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Canada to build a Moon rover for NASA

Canada has signed an agreement with NASA to build an unmanned lunar rover to launch in 2026.

Like NASA,the Canadian government isn’t going to build the rover but will select private companies to design and build for it.

To get the ball rolling on the project, which will explore a lunar polar region, the CSA will soon select two Canadian companies to develop concepts for the rover and its instruments, agency officials added.

Other Canadian gear will reach the moon in the coming years as well, if all goes according to plan. For example, three commercial technologies funded by the CSA’s Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program are scheduled to get a lunar-surface test in 2022 — an artificial intelligence flight computer from Mission Control Space Services; lightweight panoramic cameras built by Canadensys; and a new planetary navigation system developed by NGC Aerospace Ltd.

All three will travel on the first moon mission of the HAKUTO-R lander, which is built by Tokyo-based company ispace, it was announced on Wednesday.

No word on who will launch this new rover, but then it is probably too early for such a decision.

South Korea signs the Artemis Accords

On May 24 South Korea officially signed the Artemis Accords, joining nine other countries in the agreement designed as a work around of the Outer Space Treaty’s provisions in order to protect property rights in space.

By my count, that makes eight signatories, including Japan, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates and Italy.

Essentially, the space-faring nations of the world are splitting into two groups, those who will follow these accords, and those who won’t, led by China and Russia. In a sense, we are seeing a renewal of the Cold War in space, with the western powers that believe in private enterprise and freedom aligned against those whose cultures are authoritarian and ruled from above.

Ingenuity has issues on sixth flight

On its sixth flight and first intended as an operational scouting mission for Perseverance, the Mars helicopter Ingenuity had problems, requiring an emergency landing.

The trouble cropped up about a minute into the helicopter’s sixth test flight last Saturday at an altitude of 33 feet (10 meters). One of the numerous pictures taken by an on-board camera did not register in the navigation system, throwing the entire timing sequence off and confusing the craft about its location.

Ingenuity began tilting back and forth as much as 20 degrees and suffered power consumption spikes, according to Havard Grip, the helicopter’s chief pilot.

A built-in system to provide extra margin for stability “came to the rescue,” he wrote in an online status update. The helicopter landed within 16 feet (5 meters) of its intended touchdown site.

Engineers are presently trouble-shooting the issue, which they suspect was a “navigation timing error.”

The strange flows in Shalbatana Vallis on Mars

Strange flows in Shalbaltana Vallis
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on March 31, 2021, and shows a series of very distinct arrowhead-shaped sloping ridges interspersed with hollows flowing down from the southern cliff face of Shalbatana Vallis, one of the larger long meandering drainages flowing into the northern lowlands of Chryse Planitia and north of Valles Marineris.

This location is at 5 degrees north latitude, so nothing we see in the picture is likely glacial or evidence of ice.

So what are we looking at? My guess is that the parallel ridges show us a hint of the original slope of alluvial fill. In the past canyon’s south rim or cliff either did not exist, or was much smaller. Instead the ground mostly sloped gently downhill from the plateau to the canyon floor.

Scientists believe that in the far past catastrophic floods of water flowed through Shalbatana. If a massive flood of water off that rim came down that slope of alluvial fill, it could have pushed into that fill and created the hollows, washing the fill down into the canyon floor and leaving behind the ridges in between.

The overview maps below provide the geographical context.
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Today’s blacklisted Americans: No whites allowed during some events in Massachusetts school district

No whites allowed invitation at public school event

The new bigotry: The Wellesley public school district in Massachusetts has organized an event in which it expressly banned — in writing — the attendance of all whites.

A screen capture of the text of the invitation [pdf], taken from the legal complaint by a parents-rights group, is to the right, with the pertinent language highlighted.

Then, when parents complained, the district’s administration doubled down, justifying its racist policy with platitudes and dishonest rationalizations.
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New Chandra mosaic of galactic center reveals spider-web of magnetism

Magnetic field line at the galactic center
Click for full image.

Scientists today released a spectacular panorama of the center of the Milky Way using X-ray data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and radio data from the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa. The panorama reveals a complex web of magnetic field lines emanating out from the supermassive black hole at the center, Sagittarius A* (pronounced A-star).

Below the fold are reduced versions of the full panorama, unlabeled on the left and labeled on the right. The image to the right, reduced to post here, shows just one single example of those magnetic field lines, dubbed G0.17-0.41 and about 20 light years long. This particular filament is the subject of a paper just published in connection with the release of this panorama. From the press release.

A new study of the X-ray and radio properties of this thread by Q. Daniel Wang of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst suggests these features are bound together by thin strips of magnetic fields. This is similar to what was observed in a previously studied thread. (Both threads are labeled with red rectangles in the [full labeled panorama]. The newly studied one in the lower left, G0.17-0.41, is much farther away from the plane of the Galaxy.) Such strips may have formed when magnetic fields aligned in different directions, collided, and became twisted around each other in a process called magnetic reconnection. This is similar to the phenomenon that drives energetic particles away from the Sun and is responsible for the space weather that sometimes affects Earth.

The image below is fascinating to study because of the wealth of detail it includes, not only of magnetic filaments but of other nearby gas clouds and Sagittarius A* itself.
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Starship will fuel a shift of spaceports to the Earth’s equator

Rand Simberg yesterday posted an intriguing essay speculating on how the arrival of Starship is going to vastly change how and where rockets launch from Earth, encouraging the increase in spaceports along the equator while changing the design of satellites launched from that point.

He describes the many advantages for launch from the equator, and suggests it is really the only location that will allow for regular, reliable, and frequent launches, the kind that SpaceX wants to happen using Starship. This is maybe the key point:

You get maximum advantage of earth’s rotation by launching due east at the equator. There are no launch windows to get there; you can launch any time of the day, every day, and you will be in the equatorial orbit plane. There is also little weather risk; hurricanes at the equator are almost unheard of (there’s too little coriolis there to spin things up).

Launching from the equator will make some high inclination orbits more difficult to reach, but he suggests the solution will be to rethink the satellites themselves, designing them differently so that they, not the rocket, get them to the orbit they want.

Read it all. He raises some interesting points that I think Elon Musk has already thought of, suggested by the company’s decision to purchase two oil rigs and refurbish them as launch and landing platforms for Starship.

Lockheed Martin and General Motors partner to design manned lunar rover

Capitalism in space: Lockheed Martin and General Motors announced yesterday that they are partnering to design a manned lunar rover, intended for sale to NASA’s Artemis program as well as any other manned lunar missions anyone else should decide to fly.

Lockheed and GM don’t have a NASA contract to build the LTV [Lunar Terrain Vehicle]; the agency hasn’t awarded any such deals yet. But the companies are positioning themselves to be in the driver’s seat when such decisions are made — and when other customers may come along as well.

Obviously the first customer for this moon buggy would be NASA for Artemis. Nor is this the only manned rover being planned. Toyota and Japan’s space agency JAXA are also partnering to build one.

The decision by NASA to use Starship as its lunar lander however has made such a project much more viable. Unlike the lunar landers proposed by Blue Origin and Dynectics, Starship has the payload capacity to carry such things to the Moon, right off the bat. Thus it makes sense now to start designing them and offering them for sale. We should not be surprised if other car manufacturers start proposing their own manned rovers.

Moreover, Starship’s potential also means these rovers could be purchased by others for work on the Moon. If anyone besides NASA decides to hire SpaceX and Starship for their own lunar missions, the Lockheed Martin/GM LTV can also be sold to them. So can the Toyota rover. So could one built by Ford or Mazarati.

Isn’t freedom and capitalism wonderful? Instead of a half century of the nothing that international cooperation and government control brought us in space, private enterprise is suddenly in a burst opening the entire solar system to the world. And don’t expect the pace to slow.

China creates company to build mega-satellite constellation

The new colonial movement: Late last month China officially created a company to build its own mega-satellite constellation, consisting of 13,000 satellites to provide internet access globally, to compete with the commercial constellations being built by SpaceX, OneWeb, and (someday) Amazon.

Spectrum allocation filings submitted to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) by China in September last year revealed plans to construct two similarly named “GW” [Guowang] low Earth orbit constellations totaling 12,992 satellites. The filings indicate plans for GW to consist of sub-constellations ranging from 500-1,145 kilometers in altitude with inclinations between 30-85 degrees. The satellites would operate across a range of frequency bands.

Currently no details have been released on the contractors to be involved in the constellation. Notably the China Satellite Network Group will exist independent from and parallel to China’s main space contractors, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC), and the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC).

The apparent independence of China Satellite Network Group from CASC and CASIC indicates that other actors, such as other state-owned enterprises and commercial sector space companies could be involved in the construction of the constellation.

Not only does the creation of this company suggest a power-struggle within China’s government, it illustrates the intensifying competition internationally over space. While commercial satellite constellations like SpaceX and OneWeb will be able to provide their services to China, they will also be outside the control of that nation’s dictatorship. If their citizens use them they will have free access to information, something that China’s leaders refuse to allow.

Thus, the political decision in China to build their own constellation. It will also give China the ability to exert its influence worldwide by offering an alternative to the commercial western constellations, one that other dictators can control as well.

Expect more whining from astronomers about how this constellation of satellites will add to their woes. Instead of whining, might they finally decide to at last consider building in-space telescopes, where there is no atmosphere to fog their view and no satellites blocking their vision?

Starship prototype #15 removed from launchpad; likely not to fly again

Capitalism in space: SpaceX engineers have removed Starship prototype #15, the first to successfully land after a test flight, from the launchpad and rolled back towards their assembly building.

They had already removed its three Raptor engines and landing legs for inspection, but taking the ship off the launchpad strongly suggests the company has decided to not fly it again.

The immediate assumption is that they will now fly prototype #16, built and ready for launch. The article however speculates something far more intriguing:

There’s a limited possibility that Starship SN16 – all but finished – could be sent to the launch site instead of heading straight to the scrapyard, but any testing would necessarily delay orbital pad construction and any flight activity would likely have to expend SN16 in the ocean rather than risk a land landing.

Ultimately, it’s looking more and more likely that SpaceX would rather go all-in on Starship’s inaugural orbital launch attempt, even if that means little to no ground or flight test availability for a few months.

Prototype #20 had been assigned that for that first near-orbital flight. Does this mean SpaceX has decided abandon #16 through #19 and to go straight to that orbital flight? To do this would also mean they have decided to forego any separate testing of Superheavy, and will instead fly it the first time with a Starship upper stage attached. It would also be the only possible way they could meet their July target date for that orbital flight.

If #16 does not move immediately to the launchpad and there are no Starship test flights for the next month or so, it will tell us that this is likely their plan.

Leroy Anderson – Syncopated clock

An evening pause: A very well known piece of music from one of the most popular composers of the post-World War II era that you’ve probably never heard of, Leroy Anderson.

Any New Yorker who grew up in the 1960s will immediately recognize it as the theme music used for CBS’s afternoon and late night movie presentations, where they would squeeze two hour movies into 90 minutes slots that were really only about 60 minutes after commercials. (My first impressions as a child of many of Hollywood’s great movies was noticeably distorted because of this.)

Hat tip Diane Zimmerman.

Yutu-2 data suggests Moon’s far side is “bombarded more frequently” than the near side

The uncertainty of science: According to a new paper, based on ground-penetrating radar data obtained by China’s Yutu-2 rover on the far side of the Moon, scientists now think that the Moon’s more heavily cratered far side is that way because it actually gets bombarded more frequently than the near side.

From the paper’s abstract:

The Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR) onboard Yutu-2 can transmit electromagnetic pulses to detect the lunar subsurface structure and properties of the regolith. The relative permittivity, loss tangent and TiO2+FeO content of lunar regolith materials at landing site are constrained with LPR data in this paper. The results indicate that the farside may be bombarded more frequently, leading to different regolith accumulation rates on the lunar nearside vs. farside. [emphasis mine]

The data was accumulated during the rover’s first five months on the surface, during those five lunar days. It found that the regolith at the landing site was about 39 feet thick, much thicker than found at the landing site for Yutu-1 on the Moon’s near side. The difference was partly expected because of the nature of the different locations, but combined with other factors the scientists concluded that a higher bombardment rate on the far side would also help explain the difference.

To put it mildly, this conclusion is uncertain. We only have one data point on the far side, and only a few more on the near side. At the same time, the conclusion is somewhat an example of science discovering the obvious. The very first images of the Moon’s far side, taken The Soviet Union’s Luna 3 lunar probe in 1959, showed the surface much more heavily cratered than the near side, with far less areas of smooth mare. Numerous mapping missions since have confirmed that impression.

And it is also intuitive to come to this conclusion. The near side always faces the Earth, which likely acts to intercept many of the type of meteorite hits that reach the Moon’s far side.

This conclusion however is still intuitive, and an honest scientist will not trust it. That this result from Yutu-2 appears to confirms it is therefore nice.

Glacial flows covering a crater on Mars?

Partially covered crater by glacial flows?

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on March 4, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows an eroded mound that appears to have flows coming off its north and south slopes that fill the surrounding low spots, including half-covering a nearby crater.

The science team for MRO’s high resolution camera chose this picture as their April 28th picture of the day, noting the following:

The objective of this observation is to examine a crater which seems to be in the process of getting covered by flow from a mound. This image, in Protonilus Mensae, may show us characteristics of the covering material: could it be debris-covered glaciers?

Below is a global map of Mars, with this mound’s location in Protonilus Mensae in the northern mid-latitudes indicated by a black cross.
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Today’s blacklisted Americans: Biden administration working to blackball fossil fuel companies from obtaining financial services

Disagree with John Kerry? No more bank services for you!
Disagree with John Kerry?
No more bank services for you!

They’re coming for you next: The Biden administration, under the leadership of its “climate envoy” John Kerry, is apparently working behind the scenes to force banks to blackball fossil fuel companies from obtaining financial services.

Not surprisingly, the initial news stories from the mainstream press in mid-March describing this effort were written to hide the Biden administration’s goals. For example, Politico described a number of meetings arranged by Kerry and the Biden administration both with climate activist groups as well as financial institutes aimed at making those financial institutions “put your money behind your climate PR,” but the article only hinted at what the goals were.

Kerry has pitched banks on creating a U.S. net-zero banking alliance following the climate commitments from six major Wall Street banks, according to two people familiar with the discussions. Citi, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs all set 2050 net-zero goals and JPMorgan Chase has said its lending would be aligned with the Paris agreement although Kerry and his team are pushing for more specific financial commitments as part of this effort.

Kerry also wants clear near-term actions from banks by 2030, which would align with the Biden administration’s timeline for the new emissions target it intends to submit as part of the Paris Climate Agreement process. [emphasis mine]

Doesn’t meeting “net-zero” goals for climate change sound wonderful? But what does it mean?
» Read more

SpaceX successfully launches another 60 Starlink satellites

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully used its Falcon 9 rocket to place another sixty Starlink satellites in orbit, bringing that constellation to over 1,700 in orbit.

The first stage was making its second flight, and landed successfully on the drone ship in the Atlantic. Both fairings were reused, with one making a record fifth flight. Though the rocket has not yet deployed the satellites as I write this, it is expected in about a half hour and based on past history, should proceed with no problems. If there is an issue I will report it immediately.

The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

16 SpaceX
13 China
7 Russia
2 Rocket Lab

The U.S. now leads China 22 to 13 in the national rankings.

Viasat asks FCC to block further launches of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites

Capitalism in space? The geosynchronous communications satellite company Viasat has demanded the FCC freeze any further launches of SpaceX’s quickly growing constellation of Starlink satellites.

The company claims a recent modification of SpaceX’s FCC license should not have been granted without a new environmental review of the 4,000+ satellite constellation’s impact.

Viasat is asking the FCC to hit pause on further launches until federal courts can review the legality of the license modification.

Carlsbad, California-based Viasat, which provides broadband services from geostationary orbit (GEO), had petitioned the FCC to conduct an environmental review before granting the license modification as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which currently categorically exempts satellite systems, but says this did not happen despite megaconstellations bringing new considerations for regulators.

Some astronomers had also requested an environmental assessment, worried about how the constellation’s reflectivity affects ground-based telescope observations.

What is really happening here is that Viasat, having discovered its market share is seriously threatened by a competitor, is trying to use the government to squelch that competition. Viasat doesn’t really give a twit about the environmental issues. It is launching its own new three-satellite geosynchronous constellation next year to provide broadband services globally, and Starlink’s success threatens to cut into its profits.

The article also reveals one interesting tidbit about former NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. During his short three-year tenure heading NASA he aggressively moved to encourage provide competition and private enterprise by transferring the design, construction, and ownership of rockets and spaceships from NASA to the commercial sector.

Now that he is out of the government however he — like most Washington swamp creatures — has discovered his true calling: using his influence to squelch private competition:

In April, former NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine joined Viasat’s board of directors. Bridenstine told SpaceNews in an interview at the time that the threat of megaconstellations to space safety, and the overall space access environment, were among issues on his radar.

Like a ventriloquist’s dummy, Bridenstine upon leaving NASA immediately began mouthing the manufactured concerns of his new patrons at Viasat. To hell with allowing real competition and freedom. It is much more important to manipulate the power of the government to prevent Viasat’s competitors from succeeding. And earn a nice big salary at the same time.

Roscosmos finally approves ISS module Nauka for launch

After successfully completing its last ground tests, Roscosmos announced today that it has finally approved the launch on July 15th of its next module for ISS, dubbed Nauka.

Nauka’s long road to space began more than a quarter of a century ago, in 1995, with this year’s launch about fourteen years behind schedule. An engineer who started working on Nauka after graduation at the age of 25 would now be a grizzled veteran of 51 and looking forward to retirement in only a few years.

The module will provide the Russian half of ISS a second restroom, greater oxygen and water recycling capacity, and room for a third resident, all necessary additions for the planned two commercial tourist launches Russia has scheduled for the fall.

Axiom announces astronaut to command its second commercial manned flight

Capitalism in space: Axiom has announced that retired NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson will command its second commercial manned flight.

Whitson was the first woman to command the International Space Station and the oldest woman to fly in space (57, in 2017). She holds the U.S. record for most cumulative time in space (665 days) as well as the world record for most spacewalks by a woman (10).

Joining her will be 65-year-old John Shoffner, an airplane pilot and a champion car racer.

No word yet on when this flight will take place, but expect them to aim for next year, as soon as possible after Axiom’s first ISS commercial flight in January. Scheduling will also depend on NASA, which is presently working out an ISS scheduling policy to manage the increasing number of private missions being offered.

The flight will likely use a SpaceX Dragon capsule, which means there is room for two more passengers. It is possible that those seats will be filled with the winners of Discovery Channel’s proposed reality show, but they also might be filled by actor Tom Cruise and a movie director, both of whom have expressed interest in filming scenes of a movie on ISS.

Ryugu’s most primitive boulders

In a just published paper scientists reveal how they think they have identified the oldest rocks on the rubble pile asteroid Ryugu, and found them to be distributed across the entire face of the asteroid.

These boulders are light enough that they would float on water.

Ryugu is thought to have initially formed as a fluffy planetesimal that coalesced from accumulated dust in the early Solar System, and subsequently underwent processes such as thermal evolution and compression. This parent body was then later destroyed in a collision and fragments of this reaccumulated into the asteroid. However, planetesimals have never been seen, so whether they really existed or what they may have looked like is one of the biggest challenges in understanding the planet formation process. The boulders discovered in this research are thought to be a material that most strongly retains the appearance of the fluffy planetesimals that triggered the birth of the planets in the Solar System.

Additionally, the data from all the scientific instruments onboard Hayabusa2 that were used to examine the surface of Ryugu revealed that fragments of material similar to those of the ultra-high porosity boulders are globally distributed over the asteroid surface, and may have been collected in the sample taken by Hayabusa2. If highly primitive material with the ultra-high porosity discovered here is also found in the collected samples, it will both clarify the formation and evolutional history of Ryugu’s parent body, and also provide evidence of planetesimal formation in the early stage of the Solar System formation process.

There is no word yet from the scientists studying the Hayabusa-2 samples on what they have found. This paper gives them an idea of what could be the most important type of rock to look for.

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