Eta Carinae: The star that proved Hubble was fixed

The Space Telescope Science Institute, which operates both the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope, today released a wonderful short video summarizing in images the decades of knowledge that Hubble has gleaned of the massive star Eta Carinae.

I have embedded that video below the fold. What makes Eta Carinae special is that when Hubble was pointed at it shortly after the first repair mission in 1993, that photo proved without a doubt that the telescope’s vision had been fixed. More important, the photo proved that Hubble was going to routinely show us things never before seen. In this case, we got our first sharp and unambiguous view of a massive star exploding.
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One doctor’s perspective on COVID

Since the arrival of the Wuhan panic in March 2020 my family doctor, Robert Lending, has been sending his patients a weekly update on what he knows about COVID and its risks to them and to others.

From the beginning he has maintained in these updates a neutral attitude, focusing entirely on facts and data. He has kept his opinions out of his updates, and has generally taken on faith much of the data released by official government agencies.

Nearly two years later, and 88 updates, Lending’s patience has finally worn thin. His 89th and most recent update, released yesterday, was quite blunt. As he told me when he gave me permission to reprint it in full,

I am getting sick of it all so I am starting to opinionate more.

Below the fold is that most recent update. I have edited out Lending’s references to his patients and regular practice, focusing instead on his analysis, based on his detailed long term review of the literature coming from science journals and government agencies. I have highlighted his most pertinent conclusions.

My readers are free to take whatever conclusions they wish from what he writes. My conclusion is that his analysis proves that everything I have written about the Wuhan virus since the beginning of 2020 has turned out to be essentially correct. This virus was never the threat it was ginned up to be, and was instead merely a political tool of fear to increase the power of those in government while oppressing everyone else.

Dr. Lending’s analysis — and his permission to me to republish it — indicates that I am no longer the only person willing to say so, publicly.
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Today’s blacklisted American: Minnesota Bank & Trust closes all accounts of Mike Lindell of My Pillow, because he has opinions

Mike Lindell and My Pillow, cancelled
Mike Lindell and My Pillow, cancelled

The new dark age of silencing: Because Mike Lindell, owner of My Pillow, is very vocal and active in promoting his pro-Trump and conservative beliefs, his bank has suddenly decided he must be blackballed, and is demanding he close all his accounts with it.

The bank, Minnesota Bank & Trust and Heartland Financial, explained in a phone conversation with Lindell that they were doing this out of fear.

The [controller for Lindell’s companies] asked in the call why the bank, a subsidiary of Heartland Financial, is associated with “someone who could be in the news.”

“Not that the FBI is even sniffing and looking, but what if somebody came and said, ‘Do you know what? We are going to subpoena all of his account records, and this and that. And then all of a sudden we make the news,” the [bank] executive said.

“So it’s more of a reputation risk,” he said.

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FTC moves to block Lockheed Martin’s acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne

The Federal Trade Commission has sued to block Lockheed Martin’s purchase for $4.4 billion the rocket engine company Aerojet Rocketdyne.

The FTC apparently believes that the acquisition would give Lockheed Martin an unfair competitive advantage. It could refuse to sell Aerojet’s engines to the competitors who depend on them. It also would be able to obtain some of its competitors’ proprietary information through Aerojet.

This quote from the article however explains this action more accurately:

Over the past year, Lockheed Martin has argued that the merger should follow the same template as Northrop Grumman’s acquisition in 2018 of solid rocket motors manufacturer Orbital ATK. The Northrop-Orbital deal was approved by regulators on condition that the company agreed to supply motors to its competitors.

“The FTC during the Biden administration has taken a different view on market concentration and vertical integration than the last one, which approved the Northrop Grumman-Orbital ATK deal,” noted industry analyst Byron Callan, of Capital Alpha Partners. [emphasis mine]

This appears to be more evidence that Democratic Party control of the White House is resulting in more regulation and greater interference in the private sector. In this particular case that interference might very well cause Aerojet Rocketdyne to shut down entirely, since its customer base has been disappearing. It isn’t garnering any new customers because its rocket engines cost too much. Folded into Lockheed Martin the company might be reshaped and become productive and competitive again. Unfortunately, the Biden administration thinks it knows better, and might prevent that from happening.

Isar Aerospace wins $11.3 million in EU innovation competition

Capitalism in space: The German rocket startup company Isar Aerospace has won the first place $11.3 million prize in the European Innovation Council Horizon Prize in the category of low-cost rockets.

Isar was one of three finalists for the prize announced earlier this month by the European Commission, along with another German small launch vehicle developer, Rocket Factory Augsburg, and Spanish company Payload Aerospace, which is working on a reusable small launcher. Those three came from an initial pool or more than 15 applicants, Breton said at a ceremony during the conference to announce the winner.

Isar hopes to launch its rocket, called Spectrum, late this year.

Whether this contest marks the beginning of an open and competitive launch industry in Europe remains unclear. Apparently the EU is thinking of creating what it calls the “European Space Launcher Alliance,” which — from the vague descriptions of it as well as the reservations expressed by Isar officials — might force independent companies to cater their actions to the needs of the larger rocket companies, like Airbus and ArianeGroup. This quote suggests the thinking of those larger companies:

“We understand how important it is for Europe to grab and keep leadership,” said Morena Bernardini, vice president of strategy at ArianeGroup. “This is possible only if industry is pushing in one direction.” [emphasis mine]

If I was a new startup, the highlighted words from this powerful established big space company would worry me enormously. Who decides what that “one direction” is? And what if different companies want to approach rocketry differently?

Lucy update: cause of solar array issue identified

Lucy solar panel graphic

According to the principal scientist for the Lucy asteroid mission, engineers think they have identified what caused one of Lucy’s two fanlike solar arrays to fail to deploy completely.

The +Y array, rather than unfurling a full 360 degrees, instead went 347 degrees. In that configuration, the spacecraft is still generating more than 90% of its expected power. “Power is not an issue for the spacecraft, nor will it be through the entire mission if we have to fly it like it is.”

The arrays unfurl when a motor pulls on a lanyard, swinging one end of the array around and into place. Levison said that the most likely reason the array did not latch is that, for some reason, there was a loss of tension in the lanyard during deployment. That caused it to fall off a spool and wrap around the motor shaft. About 75 centimeters of lanyard remains to be pulled in.

It appears they in April will turn on the array’s motor to try to pull the lanyard in that last little bit. If that doesn’t work, they will then simply leave things as they are, as it appears the array is open enough to give them sufficient power for their mission.

There are risks to that course, however. Because the array is not latched open, it could begin to close, and thus result in less power to the spacecraft. Furthermore, its unlatched state appears to make some planned engine burns too risky.

Update on the video game Pioneer 2140CC & its February 1st Kickstarter launch

With less than a week before the start of the Kickstarter campaign on February 1, 2022 to raise at least $73,000 to pay for producing the video game Pioneer 2140CC (based on my science fiction book, Pioneer), Aaron Jenkin, the game’s producer, tonight sent out an update to the subscribers of the Kickstarter newsletter.

Besides describing the growing interest from our potential audience as well as his recent successes at marketing, Aaron’s the big announcement was the release of the game’s trailer, embedded below:

I was personally quite impressed with this trailer, which Aaron tells me he created himself. It captures perfectly what I tried to say in the book, and does so while adding intelligently the necessary game elements that any video game must have. Pioneer is about the human spirit, faced with the actual dangers that future space explorers will face, not the typical science fiction faux aliens or artificial cartoon character conflicts that are all too common in many sci-fi movies. Space is deadly and alien, and it will be the noblest achievement of humanity to make it possible for humans to live and work there.

If you are interested in supporting the game (as well as buying it when it is published), go to and subscribe to the newsletter for future updates counting down to the February 1st launch.

You might also want to read Pioneer first. It won’t necessarily help you play the game, but it will put you in the right mindset.

Planetary scientists fight back: “Pluto is a planet!”

A group of eminent and active planetary scientists have just published a new peer-reviewed paper documenting how moons and asteroids were routinely referred to as planets from Galileo until 2006 when a very small number of scientists at an International Astronomical Union (IAU) meeting decided arbitrarily that the definition must be changed.

That IAU definition, which required an object to have a solar orbit and the vague ability of the object to clear that orbit, somehow made Pluto a non-planet. It has also never been accepted by planetary scientists, who consider it inconsistent, vague, and useless in their research as well as in teaching students about planetary science. I know this attitude is real because of what planetary scientists have told me consistently in many interviews since 2006.

The new paper appears to be part of a new aggressive campaign by planetary scientists to get that IAU definition dumped, and replace it with the definition planetary scientists have been using forever, which is that if the object is large enough for gravity to shape it into a spherical shape, it is a planet. This is still the definition they routinely use when discussing large moons like the Moon or the large Galilean moons of Jupiter or the larger moons of Saturn or Pluto itself.

It also appears, based on information at the link, that this campaign is beginning to make headway. To that I say, Hallelajuh!

Yes Prime Minister – The MPs Pay Rise

An evening pause: A nice sequence from the British series that brutally but with great humor described the reality of what goes on in high political circles. This clip comes from the follow-up to the original series, Yes, Minister.

Hat tip Phill Oltmann.

Sorry for the late arrival of this evening’s pause. It didn’t post when it should, and I only just realized it.

Pushback: Class action lawsuit against NY’s racial discriminatory COVID policy

No longer exists in New York
New York voids the Civil Rights Act of 1964

The Democratic Party: “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!”

William Jacobson, the founder of the website Legal Insurrection, has filed a class action lawsuit against New York State’s policy of providing COVID medical treatment not based on health factors but on race.

The suit is specifically against Mary T. Bassett, the Acting Commissioner of the New York Department of Health.

Essentially, Bassett and New York have established the same bigoted policies that have been instituted in states like Texas and Vermont that favor blacks and minorities over whites in determining who should get certain COVID treatments first. Based on the state’s racial criteria, a completely healthy 25-year-old black man would be favored over a 45-year-old white man, even though the latter is at much greater risk of death from COVID.

As stated in the complaint [pdf]:
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Mars’ youngest lava flow

Mars' youngest lava flow
Click for full image.

Today’s cool image is in some ways another version of my last cool image yesterday. Both are in Mars’s volcano country. Both show what appears to be a lava flow.

Yesterday’s image showed the leftover evidence of a confined flow of lava running in a meandering pattern like a river, and was somewhat distant from the biggest nearby volcanoes. Today’s cool image, to the right and rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, is instead located smack dab on the inside of what is thought to be Mars’ youngest major lava event, the Athabasca flood lava plain, and in fact is near its outlet, when about 600 million years ago it belched out enough lava in just a matter of a few weeks to cover an area about the size of Great Britain.

The overview map below illustrates this.

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Ukrainian rocket company signs deal with Portuguese spaceport organization

Capitalism in space: Ukrainian startup rocket company Promin Aerospace has signed an agreement with the Atlantic Spaceport Consortium (ASC), a Portugal organization that is aimed at building launch facilities on Portuguese-controlled islands in the Atlantic.

Promin has raised $500K for what it claims will be “the smallest solid rocket capable of launching a payload into orbit.” ASC meanwhile is presently building a suborbital launch site in the Azores.

How much of this is real is entirely unknown. The reality of both appear to me to be somewhat nebulous. Nonetheless, if successful the partnership will put another new cheap orbital rocket as well as another spaceport on the map.

Axiom awards construction contract for building Houston space station factory

Capitalism in space: Axiom has awarded its first construction contract for building its space station factory at a Houston industrial park dubbed Spaceport Houston.

Phase I of the Houston Spaceport architecture and engineering design contract was awarded to Jacobs by Axiom Space. This 100,000 sq ft facility will be developed on a 400 acre-site, located within Ellington Airport, at the heart of Space City. Axiom Space, the privately funded space infrastructure developer intends to use this new spaceport to achieve its goal of assembling the first commercial international space station and providing access to low Earth orbit.

The choice by Axiom of Houston for this facility is, at first glance, somewhat puzzling. Once built here Axiom’s large station modules and equipment will then have to be transported to some launch facility, likely Kennedy in Florida. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to build them in Florida, close to where they will be launched?

The explanation lies in politics. Axiom’s management has many close ties to NASA and the Johnson Space Center. Furthermore, Axiom’s first modules will be docked to ISS, run by Johnson. Building in Houston will give Axiom brownie points with these government entities, which will in turn grease the wheels for anything Axiom needs to do at ISS.

Strong opposition to new proposed regulation by federal safety board

We’re here to help you! Both the FAA and the rocket industry, led by SpaceX and Blue Origin, have issued detailed written opposition to a proposal by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that it be placed in charge of all future space accident investigations.

The regulations would require companies conducting a launch or reentry under an FAA license or experimental permit to immediately notify the NTSB in the event of a mishap. The NTSB would conduct an investigation to determine the probable cause and provide recommendations to avoid similar events in the future.

The opposition notes that this will merely duplicate what the industry and the FAA already do. The rocket industry also noted that the NTSB’s present investigation responsibilities are aimed at helping the mature airline industry, not “a nascent industrial sector that is still in development, and is appropriately regulated as such.”

It appears that there is also opposition in the halls of Congress, as two congressmen have expressed their own opposition.

Without doubt the NTSB’s action here has been encouraged by the Biden administration. Democrats always want more regulation to enhance the power of government. Since Biden and his Democratic Party handlers took over, the federal bureaucracy’s effort to regulate and hinder space activities has definitely increased, such as its efforts to block SpaceX’s Starship development at Boca Chica.

Had the NTSB tried to propose this during the Trump administration it would have been quickly quashed. For example, when NOAA tried to claim it had the right to regulate all orbital photography and the Trump administration told them no, in no uncertain terms.

Falcon 9 upper stage to impact Moon

A Falcon 9 upper stage launched in February 2015 is apparently now on a course to impact the Moon this coming March.

According to Bill Gray, who writes the widely used Project Pluto software to track near-Earth objects, asteroids, minor planets, and comets, such an impact could come in March.

Earlier this month, Gray put out a call for amateur and professional astronomers to make additional observations of the stage, which appears to be tumbling through space. With this new data, Gray now believes that the Falcon 9’s upper stage will very likely impact the far side of the Moon, near the equator, on March 4.

Grey’s call out for more measurements is because there are uncertainties about this prediction. To prepare for observations of the impact by a variety of lunar orbiters, researchers need better data.

NM legislators propose sales tax on Virgin Galactic tourist flights

We’re here to help you: A bi-partisan proposal by two New Mexico legislators would create a 6% to 9% sales tax on any Virgin Galactic space tourist flights that take off from Spaceport America.

“If the flights really became regular, that could be a nice source of income, not only for the state but also from the GRT shared with the local communities,” [one of] the bill’s … sponsors, Democratic Rep. Matthew McQueen, said.

…”I can’t think of a particularly good reason why we wouldn’t tax this activity,” McQueen said.

McQueen might be too stupid to think of a reason, but I can think of dozens, and they are called the many other airport runways across the globe where Virgin Galactic can launch tourists and bypass this tax. The company already has agreements with several.

The stupidity of this legislative proposal at this time is compounded in that Virgin Galactic, the only customer Spaceport America presently has, is struggling badly. It has yet to fly any commercial flights, and is facing investor lawsuits and an aging fleet. Adding a tax on top of these problems could kill it, thus making this bill a perfect example of killing the goose that laid the golden egg, before the goose is even born. Moreover, it will certainly discourage anyone else from launching from New Mexico, especially as there are so many other spaceport options popping up worldwide with no such sales tax.

Startup building satellite electric thrusters signs deal with startup building refueling tankers

Capitalism in space: Phase Four, a startup building a new electric xenon thruster for use in satellites has signed an agreement with Orbit Fab, a startup building refueling systems for satellites already in orbit.

Under the agreement announced Jan. 24, the companies will work together to evaluate the refueling potential of traditional electric propulsion propellants like xenon for Phase Four Maxwell engines as well as new propellants like Advanced Spacecraft Energetic Non-Toxic propellant or ASCENT, a monopropellant developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Orbit Fab last year launched its first prototype tanker, successfully testing the refueling port which it wants satellite makers to use so that future tankers can refuel them.

Webb successfully inserted in final orbital position at the Sun-Earth Lagrange point

The James Webb Space Telescope today successfully completed a five minute firing of its engines to place it at the Sun-Earth Lagrange point dubbed L2.

Webb’s orbit will allow it a wide view of the cosmos at any given moment, as well as the opportunity for its telescope optics and scientific instruments to get cold enough to function and perform optimal science. Webb has used as little propellant as possible for course corrections while it travels out to the realm of L2, to leave as much remaining propellant as possible for Webb’s ordinary operations over its lifetime: station-keeping (small adjustments to keep Webb in its desired orbit) and momentum unloading (to counteract the effects of solar radiation pressure on the huge sunshield).

Engineers will spend the next three months aligning the segments of Webb’s large primary and secondary mirrors, while they wait for the telescope to cool down to the ambient very cold temperatures required for it to detect the tiny infrared heat emissions from very faint very very very distant objects.

U-shaped meandering Martian ridge

Broad U-Shaped meandering ridge on Mars
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken on December 3, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows what the scientists label a “Broad U-Shaped Ridge”. The two black squares are merely areas where no data was gathered.

Is this a fossilized river, of which scientists have identified more than 10,000 in the Arabia Terra transition region between the northern lowland plains and the southern cratered highlands? Arabia Terra however is literally on the other side of Mars, very far away.

The location, as shown in the overview map below, instead suggests that, if this U-shaped meander is a fossilized river, it isn’t one created by water or ice.
» Read more

Another study says Mars does not have liquid water under its south pole

The uncertainty of science: A new study now claims that the presumed detection of lakes of liquid water under the Martian southern polar ice cap in 2018 was likely wrong, and that the detection was more likely volcanic rock.

The researchers think their conclusion — volcanic rock buried under ice — is a more plausible explanation for the 2018 discovery, which was already in question after scientists calculated the unlikely conditions needed to keep water in a liquid state at Mars’ cold, arid south pole.

“For water to be sustained this close to the surface, you need both a very salty environment and a strong, locally generated heat source, but that doesn’t match what we know of this region,” says the study’s lead author, Cyril Grima, a planetary scientist at The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences.

So my readers know how uncertain all of this is, note that the 2018 discovery of underwater liquid water was later confirmed by other scientists in 2020, then rejected by different researchers in 2021, who claimed it was clay instead.

In other words, the scientists have some inconclusive data that could mean many different things, either water, clay, volcanic rock, or maybe something else that someone hasn’t yet suggested. To really answer the question will require far more data, with some like required in situ on Mars itself.

Today’s blacklisted American: Christian preschool shuttered by California for not keeping masks on two-year-olds at all times

What the California government wants
What California’s petty dictators really want to do with those teachers
and children who don’t do what they order.

Now they’re coming for the children: California health officials, outraged that teachers at Foothills Christian Church Preschool could not keep masks on two- and three-year-olds continuously for nine hours a day, have shut the school down and banned its director, Tiffany McHugh, from ever working with children again.

This bears repeating: These insane health officials demanded that school officials keep the masks on little toddlers at all times, a demand that any normal human knows is impossible. Furthermore, even the slightest amount of research will tell you that there is no reason for the kids to wear masks in the first place, as young kids generally don’t get COVID — just like they don’t get the flu — and if they do it has been shown to be harmless in healthy children.

A closer look at the actions of the health officials reveals what was really going on:
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Pseudo-private rocket company in China raises $200 million from Chinese investors

The Chinese pseudo-private rocket company Galactic Energy has successfully raised $200 million from a number of Chinese investors, money that the company will use to develop a mid-size rocket with a reusable first stage.

Though the company is not directly funded by the Chinese government, it is not an independent private company, which is why I label it “pseudo.” Everything it does is closely supervised and approved by the communist government. Also, some of this investment money apparently came from “state-backed investment vehicles,” which in plain language are fronts used by the government to funnel funding to these companies while maintaining the false appearance the companies are entirely private.

The fake nature of this charade has apparently influenced the decisions of real investors:

Incomplete information on funding in China’s emerging commercial space sector suggested that overall investment was lagging just over halfway through 2021, concentrating in fewer players.

It appears that no one outside China is willing to put money behind these companies, and even within China there is hesitancy.

Nonetheless, by letting many such competing operations that can also make profits for investors, China is successfully encouraging some innovation. That Galactic Energy — as well as several others — are planning on building reusable rockets is evidence of that.

Astra completes 1st static fire dress rehearsal countdown of Rocket-3 at Kennedy

Capitalism in space: On January 22, 2022, Astra successfully completed at Cape Canaveral the first static fire dress rehearsal countdown of its Rocket-3 rocket.

“Successful static test completed. We will announce launch date and time when we receive our license from the FAA,” said Chris Kemp, founder and CEO of the Alamada, California-based company on Twitter. The company, which was formed in 2016, had been targeting this month for the launch.

The FAA apparently required this successful dress rehearsal before it would provide the launch license. Expect the launch to follow almost immediately after the permit is issued. If successful it will be Astra’s second orbital launch, and the first to carry actual satellites for customers, three cubesats from three different universities and one from NASA’S Johnson Space Center.

Confirmed: All debris cleared from Perseverance sample tube

Mosaic showing the clearing of debris
Click here and here for original images.

The Perseverance science team today announced in an update that their effort to clear the sample tube of bits of core sample has succeeded, as indicated partly by the two images above that I posted on January 19th.

According to the report, the two small pieces visible bottom center fell out after two small rotations of the carousal. Other pieces however remained, and these were removed as followed:

On Monday, Jan. 17, the team commanded another operation of the rotary percussive drill in an attempt to dislodge more material from the tube. With the tube’s open end still pointed towards the surface, we essentially shook the heck out of it for 208 seconds – by means of the percussive function on the drill. Mastcam-Z imagery taken after the event shows that multiple pieces of sample were dumped onto the surface. Is Tube 261 clear of rock sample? We have new Mastcam-Z images looking down the drill bit into the sample container that indicate little if any debris from the cored-rock sample remains. The sample tube has been cleared for reuse by the project.

The team is now discussing their next step, which could be drilling a new hole at this spot or moving on.

It is finally time to end the Wuhan panic of the past two years

How governments today determine policy
How governments today determine policy

When looked at dispassionately, the news about COVID in the past few months has consistently proven two very basic points. First, the reasons to fear COVID are now definitely gone, assuming they ever existed at all. Second, the oppressive lockdown and mask policies imposed by most governments were an epic failure.

Rather than write a lot of text, I am going to provide my readers instead a nice linkfest, divided up into a variety of subcategories. Not only do the recent facts prove the failure of the government reaction to COVID, all these stories should be cause for celebration, as they show that not only has the Wuhan flu never been as dangerous as the fear-mongers have claimed, its limited but serious threat to the aged and sickly is now also fading.

The real question is whether the public and governments will actually celebrate, or stick their heads in the sand because they have fallen in love with their fear of COVID.

So, let’s take a look at the recent facts:
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