The annual July fund-raising campaign: Fourth week

This post will remain at the top of the page through July. Scroll down for news updates and commentaries.

It is now the fourth week of my annual July fund-raising campaign to celebrate the eleventh anniversary of Behind the Black. in 2010.

Please consider supporting my work, either with a subscription or donation. Moreover, this year if you donate $35 or more I will send you one of the following ebooks, for free.

You pick the book. And the donation will also get you an email directly from me, the author, arranging electronic delivery. (Note: a number of people have donated enough for a free book, but have not responded to my requests for which book they wish and in what format. I can’t give you this gift if you don’t tell me what you want. Please specify the book and the format (epup or pdf) when you donate.)

I write this webpage because I have had too much bad experience with today’s blacklisting culture. Repeatedly in my life I have found that others will not allow me to write what I thought had to be written. I eventually decided to stop depending on them, and began this page to speak my mind freely. Your support makes that possible. Please help me to remain independent and free as I report on the future of space and science as it fights the intolerant and close-minded censors of our time.

The Oort Cloud: what little is known

Link here. This is one of the best articles on the theorized Oort Cloud, in that right off the bat the author recognizes this important fact:

We know so little about it that its very existence is theoretical — the material that makes up this cloud has never been glimpsed by even our most powerful telescopes, except when some of it breaks free.

The cloud’s existence is extrapolated from the arrival of long period comets, and seems to make sense. Yet, without any direct observations it remains a theory only, and an unproven one at that.

SpaceX wins contract to launch Europa Clipper to Jupiter

Capitalism in space: NASA today awarded SpaceX a $178 million contract to use its Falcon Heavy rocket to launch Europa Clipper to Jupiter.

If all goes according to plan, Clipper will lift off in October 2024 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and arrive in orbit around Jupiter in April 2030. The probe will then study Europa in depth during nearly 50 close flybys of the moon over the course of about four Earth years, mission team members have said.

The award is not really a surprise. Falcon Heavy is really the only operational rocket with the power capable of launching this mission. Because for years Congress had mandated Europa Clipper be launched on SLS, it was designed with more mass than normal for such planetary missions. Delays in the SLS program however finally forced Congress to relax that mandate, but that left NASA with a payload too heavy for all operational rockets except Falcon Heavy, and even that requires this six year flight, with flybys of the Earth and Mars to get it to Jupiter.

The price for the launch is significantly greater than SpaceX normally charges for its Falcon Heavy, but since it was the only game in town, I suspect SpaceX drove a hard bargain.

Ice, lava, quakes, and faults, all in one Martian image

A lot of geology in one picture
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 April 25, 2021. It grabbed my attention because it possibly captures a whole range of Martian geological processes, all in one place, including evidence of quakes, of lava, of faults, and possibly of glaciers.

First, ignore the black rectangle, which is merely a small section of lost data.

The picture itself shows a wide north-south fissure, as indicated by the distinct western cliff and the fainter and less pronounced eastern cliff. This fissure, likely formed along a fault, was created when the crust was pushed and stretched upward by the pressure of underground volcanic magma, part of the long series of eruptions that formed the many similar and parallel north-south fissures south of the shield volcano Alba Mons.

The overview map below illustrates this fissure’s relationship with Alba Mons.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: Democrats introduce Senate bill demanding companies censor social media

Democrats: No soapbox free speech allowed
Democrats: No soapbox allowed! Photo: GeorgeLouis

Blacklists are back and the Democrats got ’em! Two Democrats, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and Ben Ray Lujan (D-New Mexico), yesterday proposed a new law that would force social media companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter to immediately remove any posts on their platforms that includes medical information those Democrats disagree with.

If the companies do not do so, they will be held liable for those posts.

As has become typical of Democrats, they label any information they disagree with as “misinformation.” To make sure their definition is sustained, their bill would have the federal government determine what is correct and not correct. That definition would then be used to justify silencing any other opinions.

Such a law would essentially repeal the First Amendment of the Constitution. Free speech will be banned. Only government-approved speech in connection with health will be allowed. If such a law was upheld by the courts (a very distinct possibility in today’s legal culture), it could quickly be expanded to cover all speech on any subject.

There is some irony in this Democratic Party proposal. » Read more

Nauka issues apparently resolved?

According to a press release for Roscosmos, engineers have successfully fired the engines on Russia’s new large module for ISS, dubbed Nauka, and the module is now on course for rendezvous with the space station.

On Thursday, July 22, 2021 the Nauka Multipurpose Module Flight Control Group specialists at Moscow Mission Control Center conducted two correction maneuvers of the module that had launched to the International Space Station the previous day.

The first maneuver took place at 15:07 UTC with the module engines burn for 17.23 seconds giving an impulse of 1 m/sec. The second burn for 250.04 seconds took place at 17:19 UTC with an impulse of 14.59 m/sec.

No details were released explaining why the first course correction engine burn did not happen as scheduled.

UPDATE: I have added a question mark to the headline because there indications from a variety of sources, all unconfirmed, that the problems might still persist. We shall find out in the next two days.

Global dust storm on Mars brought on an early spring in southern hemisphere

Scientists analyzing the climate effects from the 2018 global dust storm on Mars have found that while it did little to change the seasons in the northern hemisphere, it caused winter to end early in southern hemisphere.

The team found that the 2018 storm had profoundly different effects in each hemisphere. At the south pole, where the vortex was almost destroyed, temperatures rose and wind speeds fell dramatically. While the vortex may have already been starting to decay due to the onset of spring, the dust storm appears to have had a decisive effect in ending winter early.

The northern polar vortex, by contrast, remained stable and the onset of autumn followed its usual pattern. However, the normally elliptical northern vortex was changed by the storm to become more symmetrical. The researchers link this to the high dust content in the atmosphere suppressing atmospheric waves caused by the extreme topography in the northern hemisphere, which has volcanoes over twice as tall as Mount Everest and craters as deep as terrestrial mountains.

These differences are likely also related to the eccentricity in the Martian orbit around the Sun, which is greater than that of Earth and actually has a direct effect on its seasons. As noted in this recently published paper about the activity scientists have now documented on the Martian surface in the past decade,

Because perihelion (the closest approach to the Sun) currently occurs [during summer in the south], southern hemisphere seasons are more extreme, with a longer winter and shorter, warmer summer

This difference is probably a major factor explaining the different effects of the global dust storm. It also is probably why the Red Planet’s two polar ice caps are so different.

This difference between the two hemispheres will also likely help drive the intitial human settlement on Mars to the north. Not only does the northern hemisphere have the flat lowland plains, making those first difficult landings easier and safer, it has a more benign climate year round.

Court rejects Viasat’s effort to stop SpaceX Starlink launches

Capitalism in space? A three-judge panel on July 20, 2021 rejected Viasat’s request for a temporary injunction that would have stopped all SpaceX Starlink launches until Viasat’s lawsuit against that constellation is settled.

While this decision does not settle the lawsuit, it allows SpaceX launches to continue, and likely cause the case to be expedited in the courts. The decision also suggests that the court does not favor Viasat’s claims, which are somewhat dubious on their face, and appear designed merely to shut down a successful competitor through the use of the courts.

Viasat alleged that the FCC did not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it approved SpaceX satellite launches because the commission “refused to conduct any environmental assessment.” Viasat told the DC Circuit court that SpaceX launches should be halted because of potential environmental harms when satellites are taken out of orbit; light pollution that alters the night sky; orbital debris; collision risks that may affect Viasat; and because “Viasat will suffer unwarranted competitive injury.”

The FCC by the way disputes Viasat’s claims, and filed its own brief defending SpaceX.

Viasat’s real concern is that its satellite internet service will be considered inferior to SpaceX’s and will thus lose customers to it. Too bad. Competition means you step up your game and do better, not go to court to try to shut down your opposition.

Scientists refine Martian interior based on quakes detected by InSight

Martian quake map as seen by InSight

Scientists today published three studies in the journal Science outlining their conclusions about the interior of Mars, based on the quakes that have been detected by InSight since it arrived on Mars in November 2018.

Reporting in a trio of studies published in the July 23rd Science, the Insight science team has now analyzed about 10 marsquakes to make the first direct observations of the structure within another rocky planet. The results — a surprisingly thin crust, an undifferentiated mantle, and a larger-than-expected core — will help determine how Mars formed and evolved.

There results are essentially what was described in April by the InSight science team at the annual 52nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (and reported here but no where else), though now more carefully and thoroughly described.

The discovery that the Martian crust is much thinner than expected, either 12 or 24 miles thick, with a core that is still liquid, has ramifications that might help explain both the planet’s formation and its volcanic history and giant volcanoes.

One piece of good engineering news in connection with the lander InSight:

Despite a dust-fueled energy crisis earlier this year, the solar-powered lander has since regained some power-generating capacity. “We are at least safe for this season’s winter and probably far into 2022,” Stähler says.

The wind-swept volcanic ash plains of Mars

Overview map

Cool image time! In Mars’ volcano country lies the planet’s largest ash deposit, dubbed the Medusae Fossae Formation. Scientists believe that this gigantic deposit, with a size comparable to the nation of India, was laid down by muliple volcanic eruptions over several billion years and is the source of most of the dust seen on the Red Planet.

The overview map on the right shows the location of this ash deposit on Mars. The white cross indicates the location of today’s cool image, found below.
» Read more

Russia’s new module for ISS, Nauka, in trouble after launch

The new big Russian module for ISS, dubbed Nauka and successfully launched yesterday, appears to have a serious engine issue, according to these twitter reports by Anthony Zak of RussianSpaceWeb.com.

From his two tweets:

UPDATE: #Nauka’s main engines (pictured in operation) are currently out of commission. Specialists are troubleshooting the issue and developing a backup rendezvous plan. The module has ~30 stable orbits at current altitude.

…one more thing: at this point, there is no information that Nauka’s tank membranes have leaks in orbit. Those rumors in the Russian press might be a garbled echo of my reporting here ;)->

Nauka’s launch came about fourteen years behind scheduled, delayed by many engineering and quality control problems. Its construction began more than a quarter century ago. If Nauka fails to dock with ISS the Russians will face a disaster to their space program that almost cannot be measured. It will certainly make the Chinese much more reluctant to depend on Russia in their supposed partnership to build a base on the Moon or to work together on China’s space station. It should also make the U.S. far more reluctant to depend on Russia in its Artemis program.

Worse, it is questionable the Russians can get anything built in any reasonable time to replace Nauka. How can anyone expect them to build anything in a reasonable time for either of the U.S. or Chinese interplanetary projects?

Today’s blacklisted American: Baltimore’s attorney attempts, and fails, to get FCC to silence and censor local Fox radio station

The Bill of Rights cancelled for conservatives
No first amendment allowed for conservatives,
according to Baltimore’s government attorney.

Blacklists are back and the Democrats got ’em! On May 5, 2021 the office of Baltimore’s state attorney, Democrat Marilyn Mosby, filed a formal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) against a local Fox news station, demanding that the FCC censor and shut down the station because it has repeatedly published stories that were critical of Mosby and her policies.

The May 5 complaint, addressed to FCC acting chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, accuses WBFF (a.k.a. FOX45 News) — the Baltimore-based Fox-affiliate — of partaking in an “intentional crusade against … Mosby, which given today’s politically charged and divisive environment, is extremely dangerous.” It also details what Mosby’s communications director, Zy Richardson, believes to be a “disconcerting and dangerous pattern: beginning with a slanted, rigged, misleading, or inflammatory headline; followed by conspiracy theory; and supported with guest commentary from disgruntled ex-employees or political opponents that[sic] lend false credibility.”

“The truth of the matter,” Richardson says, “is I am deeply worried that if the WBFF’s coverage is not curtailed and ceased, then someone is going to get hurt. I implore and encourage you … to enlist the full investigative and enforcement powers granted to you by the Federal government to take action against the WBFF as soon as possible.” [emphasis mine]

The blatent oppressive nature of this demand — in utter violation of the first amendment of the Constitution and all that America has stood for during its first two hundred plus years — should be somewhat shocking, but sadly it has become so common from Democratic Party politicians and many of their supporters in the past five years that it hardly made the news when it happened in early May.

Think about it however. » Read more

China successfully lands rocket fairings softly

China’s state press today revealed that during the July 19th launch of its Long March 2C rocket it was able to successfully use parachutes and a control system in the rockets discarded fairings to guide them back to Earth more precisely and to land softly.

The technology tested in the fairing was a parachute-control electrical and parachute system to monitor the status of the reentry flight in real-time. With the new technology, when a fairing falls to a certain height and meets the conditions suitable for parachute deployment, the parachute opens to decelerate the fairing.

At a certain height of descent, a fairing will discard its drag chute, open its parafoil, and initiate deceleration a second time. During its slowdown, it will land in a safe area in a controlled manner.

CALVT [China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology] said the technology was able to reduce the fairing’s original projected landing area by more than 80 percent, which significantly improved safety and reduced evacuation pressure in the area.

Does this technology remind you of anything? To me, it appears that China has watched what SpaceX has done and attempted to copy it.

The news release did not say if the fairing was damaged in landing. I suspect that it was damaged, or they would have told us otherwise.

Combined with the previously attempts to use parachutes and grid fins (also very similar to SpaceX’s) to control the landing of abandoned Long March 2C and 3B first stages, China is clearly trying to make their launches from within their country less dangerous to their own citizens. Even if they have not yet succeeded in bringing this rocket debris back intact so it can be reused, they are still gaining control of its re-entry so that they can not only predict more precisely where it will land, they can pick the spot.

Astronomers detect for the first time an accretion disk around an exoplanet

The exoplanet and its accretion disk
Click for full image.

Using the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, astronomers have made the first confirmed images of a moon-forming accretion disk around another a very young exoplanet.

The photo to the right shows this, with the top image the wide view showing the exoplanet in its orbit around the star, in an area inside the star’s own accretion disk (the larger ring) that the planet has apparently cleared of debris as it gathered itself. The bottom image zooms into the planet to show its own disk of material.

From the press release:

The disc in question, called a circumplanetary disc, surrounds the exoplanet PDS 70c, one of two giant, Jupiter-like planets orbiting a star nearly 400 light-years away. Astronomers had found hints of a “moon-forming” disc around this exoplanet before but, since they could not clearly tell the disc apart from its surrounding environment, they could not confirm its detection — until now.

In addition, with the help of ALMA, Benisty and her team found that the disc has about the same diameter as the distance from our Sun to the Earth and enough mass to form up to three satellites the size of the Moon.

The exoplanet’s disk is thus very large compared to our solar system, but that isn’t surprising considering the difficulty of observing it at such distances. Disks comparable in size to our solar system and the Earth-Moon system are simply too small for any telescope to yet image in this way.

The new data also found this interesting fact: The other known Jupiter-like exoplanet in this system does not have its own accretion disk or any visible debris orbiting it. Why one planet still has such debris and the other does not is a mystery related to the formation of solar systems that is at present not understood.

It’s drill time for Perseverance!

The Perservance science team is preparing the rover for its first drill hole and the first collection of a sample to cache so that a future spacecraft can return it to Earth.

They are presently at the general location where they wish to drill, and are looking for the exact right spot.

The sampling sequence begins with the rover placing everything necessary for sampling within reach of its 7-foot (2-meter) long robotic arm. It will then perform an imagery survey, so NASA’s science team can determine the exact location for taking the first sample, and a separate target site in the same area for “proximity science.”

“The idea is to get valuable data on the rock we are about to sample by finding its geologic twin and performing detailed in-situ analysis,” said science campaign co-lead Vivian Sun, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “On the geologic double, first we use an abrading bit to scrape off the top layers of rock and dust to expose fresh, unweathered surfaces, blow it clean with our Gas Dust Removal Tool, and then get up close and personal with our turret-mounted proximity science instruments SHERLOC, PIXL, and WATSON.”

“After our pre-coring science is complete, we will limit rover tasks for a sol, or a Martian day,” said Sun. “This will allow the rover to fully charge its battery for the events of the following day.”

Sampling day kicks off with the sample-handling arm within the Adaptive Caching Assembly retrieving a sample tube, heating it, and then inserting it into a coring bit. A device called the bit carousel transports the tube and bit to a rotary-percussive drill on Perseverance’s robotic arm, which will then drill the untouched geologic “twin” of the rock studied the previous sol, filling the tube with a core sample roughly the size of a piece of chalk.

Perseverance’s arm will then move the bit-and-tube combination back into bit carousel, which will transfer it back into the Adaptive Caching Assembly, where the sample will be measured for volume, photographed, hermetically sealed, and stored. The next time the sample tube contents are seen, they will be in a clean room facility on Earth, for analysis using scientific instruments much too large to send to Mars.

Not all drill samples will be cached in this manner.

With this press release and press conference NASA continued to push the fiction to the press that Perservance’s prime mission is to search for life. That is a lie designed to catch the interest of ignorant journalists who don’t know anything. The rover’s real mission is to study the overall Martian geology in Jezero Crater in order to better under the planet’s present geology as well as the geological history that made it look like it does today.

If the scientists using Perseverance find evidence of life, wonderful, but that is not their prime goal.

July 21, 2021 Zimmerman podcast interview on Pratt on Texas

Today Robert Pratt made available an hourlong podcast interview I did with him earlier this week, devoted entirely to discussing my new book, Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space.

The podcast is available here.

This was my first long interview discussing this book. It is also the first where you can hear the detailed impressions of it from someone else. Robert Pratt is a very educated radio host, with deep knowledge of western history and culture. That he repeatedly noted how Conscous Choice surprised him by teaching him things he hadn’t known and hadn’t even thought of I found very gratifying. I’ll let his closing words in the interview sum up his opinion of my book:

I really do believe that everybody needs to get a copy of Conscious Choice. It is that important a book. It is one of the most important books given today’s social upheaval.

There are lot of good histories out there, but they are mostly just retreads of the primary documents that we’ve read before. I get bored with them.

This book is new. This book is primary source history that will enlighten you and give you knowledge.

If you listen you will find out that I am not spinning his words. Nor is he merely providing a plug for a guest. This is his honest appraisal of Conscious Choice, after reading it.

New studies show that the biggest risk to kids from COVID are the policies of governments

New studies about COVID-19 and its effect on children continue to show that the strigent health policies being demanded by government agencies like the CDC and WHO and many Democrats are actually the biggest health threat for children than the virus itself.

First, a major survey of 48,000 children who had become infected with COVID-19 has found that absolutely no healthy children died from the disease.

Dr. Marty Makary is a medical expert and professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Carey Business School. His research team “worked with the nonprofit FAIR Health to analyze approximately 48,000 children under 18 diagnosed with Covid in health-insurance data from April to August 2020.”

After studying comprehensive data on thousands of children, the team “found a mortality rate of zero among children without a pre-existing medical condition such as leukemia.”

Let me repeat that. They looked at tens of thousands of kids under the age of 18 and could not find one case where a healthy child died. All recovered. None needed a vaccine, as their young and very strong immune systems did what those immune systems have always done, fought off a sickness to give them an immunity for the rest of their lives.

So kids are safe from COVID, even if they are not vaccined and actually catch the virus and get sick.

At the same time, other studies have found that both masks and the vaccines are actually a greater health threat to children than the virus itself.
» Read more

Another “What the heck?” photo from Mars

Isolated clump of mounds on Mars
Click for full image.

The cool image to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken a decade ago, on August 25, 2011, by the context camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), It shows a flat plain with a sudden clump of mounds or hills at the center.

This is one of those pictures from Mars which I like to call a “What the heck?” image. What caused the mounds, and why are they found only in this concentrated clump, with the rest of the terrain around them generally flat?

Though the context image was taken a decade ago, no follow-up high resolution images were taken of this area until very recently.

Below is the one recent high resolution image taken by MRO on May 12, 2021, cropped and reduced to show the bottom half of the mound clump as shown by the white box. It makes the mystery even more puzzling.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: Army chaplin, threatened with punishment for criticizing Biden administration, sues and wins Pyrrhic victory

The Bill of Rights cancelled for conservatives
No first amendment allowed for conservatives.

Today’s blacklist story illustrates a growing trend I am finding in these stories of the modern leftist effort to silence and blackball anyone who criticizes or opposes it. Increasingly, the victims of this intolerance are fighting back, both in public and in the courts. How successful that resistance has been however remains unclear.

In today’s story, a decorated Army chaplin had posted in January on Facebook strong criticism of the incoming Biden administration’s decision to allow men who claim they are women (and vice versa) to serve in the military, and was immediately sanctioned by his superiors for doing so.

[U.S. Army Chaplain (Major) Andrew Calvert] objected to the anticipated government policy change. “How is rejecting reality (biology) not evidence that a person is mentally unfit (ill), and thus making that person unqualified to serve. There is little difference in this than over those who believe and argue for a ‘flat earth,’ despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary,” Calvert wrote in his comment, according to Army Times.

“The motivation is different, but the argument is the same. This person is a MedBoard for Mental Wellness waiting to happen. What a waste of military resources and funding!” he concluded.

Following an investigation, Calvert was issued a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand (GOMOR) on April 22 by Lieutenant General Robert P. White.

In May Calvert obtained legal support and sued. Less than a month later, the Army backed down, ending its persecution of Calvert, clearing his record.

That Calvert fought the effort by the military to reprimand him for his opinions is commendable. Nonetheless, in this case the victory appears somewhat hollow.
» Read more

NASA funds hopper to jump into shadowed lunar craters and find ice

Capitalism in space: NASA has awarded a $41.6 million contract to Arizona State University and the private company Intuitive Machines to build a tiny hopper that will be used to explore the permanently shadowed craters near the Moon’s south pole, looking for water ice.

Micro-Nova can carry a 1-kilogram payload more than 2.5 kilometers to access lunar craters and enable high-resolution surveying of the lunar surface under the flight path. Intuitive Machines’ Micro-Nova, a lunar hopper that will explore permanently shaded regions of the moon.

…“Intuitive Machines’ Micro-Nova is our first-ever chance to explore from within a lunar permanently shaded region (PSR),” said the mission science lead Mark Robinson, of ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. “We will be able to take very high resolution color images near the hopper and black and white images of about half the PSR. What will we see, that is the question!”

This tiny hopper, only 30 inches square, will be built by ASU and launched on Intuitive Machines’ first Moon lander, Nova-C, presently scheduled for launch in December 2022.

Democrat proposes new tax on private manned spaceflight

That didn’t take long! Mere hours after New Shepard completed its first suborbital manned commercial flight, a Democrat in the House of Representatives introduced a bill in Congress to impose a tax on private manned spaceflight.

Oregon Democrat Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, on Tuesday introduced what he is calling the Securing Protections Against Carbon Emissions (SPACE) Tax Act, which would create excise taxes on commercial space flights carrying human passengers for purposes other than scientific research.

“Space travel isn’t a tax free holiday for the wealthy,” Blumenauer wrote on Twitter. “We pay taxes on plane tickets. Billionaires flying into space—producing no scientific value—should do the same, and then some.”

The measure would include a per-passenger tax on the price of a commercial flight to space and a two-tiered excise tax for each launch into space. The first tier would apply to flights between 50 miles and 80 miles above Earth’s surface, while the second “significantly higher” rate would apply to flights more than 80 miles above Earth’s surface.

This typical Democratic Party response to the acheivement of others reminds me of a pertinent quote from Ronald Reagan:

Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

While Reagan was describing many of the actions of politicans from both parties, the Democratic Party is today particularly abusive. Private enterprise has in the past decade done things in space the government and NASA spent years trying to accomplish, with zero success, while wasting billions of taxpayer dollars. The Democrats resent that success, and are very eager to squelch it. Rather than have any American achievement in space, created by the citizens of the nation and independent of their interference, they would rather destroy it. Even as they extort as much money as they can from it.

Russia launches Nauka, its first new ISS module in 11 years

Russia today used its Proton rocket to successfully place in orbit its new ISS module, Nauka, the first new Russian module in eleven years, and fourteen years after it was originally supposed to launch.

After launch and orbit insertion, the module, MLM-U Nauka, is now performing an eight day phase to the Station for an automated docking on July 29 to the nadir docking port of the Zvezda service module, a port currently occupied by the Pirs module.

Upon arrival, Nauka will become the third largest module of the Russian segment of the ISS and will add 70 cubic meters of space to the Station’s internal volume, a third Russian-side sleeping location, an additional toilet, as well as new water regeneration and oxygen production systems — augmenting some of the original systems in Zvezda that are showing their 22 year age.

The main task for the Nauka module will be to conduct scientific experiments. The pressurized compartment of the module contains 21 universal working places (URM), including four locations with sliding shelves, a glove box, a frame with an automatic rotating vibration-proof platform, and a porthole with a diameter of 426 mm for visual and instrumental observations.

The article above provides a very interesting review of Nauka’s complex and difficult history.

The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

23 China
20 SpaceX
12 Russia
3 Northrop Grumman

The U.S. still leads China 29 to 23 in the national rankings.

Israel: Airborne High Power Laser Weapon test

An evening pause: I’m not sure if this fits as an evening pause, but the engineering is startling, and has ramifications both good and bad, for the future. The first half of the video shows the test, the second half explains it.

Israelis are surrounded by neighbors dominated by a culture that wishes to kill them all. They need this kind of defense, especially because the world will no longer defend them against this threat of genocide. In fact, many of our ruling “intellectual” class celebrate that possibility.

That they are forced to develop this technology sadly means that some bad actors will get it soon as well. The dark age is so fast approaching that it takes the breath away. That this is where we are, on the anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon, is tragic beyond words.

Hat tip Jim Malamace.

Ice-filled craters in Mars’ glacier country?

Craters in Protonilus Mensae
Click for full image.

Today’s cool image returns us to the chaos region dubbed Protonilus Mensae, the middle of three adjacent mensae regions in the northern hemisphere that I like to dub Mars’ glacier country because there is so much evidence of buried ice there.

The photo to the right, cropped to post here, was taken on May 31, 2021 by the high resolution camera of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Titled “Layered Feature in Crater in Protonilus Mensae,” the section I have posted focuses on several craters, with the one with the central mesa likely the picture’s target. Based on many similar features found in craters in this region, it is somewhat safe to assume that this mesa is made of buried ice.

The overview map below as always provides the context.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: Catholic hospitals threatened with cancellation by University of California

Religious beliefs banned by University of California
Religious beliefs: Banned by University of California.

The modern dark age: The Board of Regents of the University of California (UC) on June 23, 2021 voted to end its affiliation with all Catholic hospitals if they do not agree to perform “abortions, euthanasia, assisted suicide and the direct sterilization of patients,” in direct violation of their Christian religious beliefs.

The policy states that UC physicians practicing at a sectarian hospital must be permitted to provide any treatment at that location to a patient who can’t be safely transferred to another facility — even if the treatment would violate religious restrictions. Affiliated hospitals will have until Dec. 31, 2023, to comply with the policy, or the affiliation agreement must be canceled.

“We know that transfers are not always in the patient’s interest”, board Chair John A. Pérez, who crafted the key language approved by the board, said after the board’s meeting, conducted remotely Wednesday afternoon. [emphasis mine]

Do you see the lie in the highlighted words? All of these treatments are optional, and can be scheduled. I can see almost no medical issue preventing the safe transfer of a patient from of a Catholic hospital in order to get one of these procedures. In fact, I can’t even see a reason for any patient who wants an “abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, or direct sterilization” to even be in a Catholic hospital.

The only reason the university’s Board of Regents has for imposing such a rule is to either force Catholics to violate their religious beliefs, or to get such religious hospitals blackballed from serving any patients,. and thus in the long run destroy them as institutions.

As noted by the Alliance of Catholic Healthcare,
» Read more

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