December 4, 2022 Quick space links

These links are courtesy of myself, as it is Sunday and want to provide them quickly so I can do other things.



Fieldsports Britain – Rat removal using dogs

An evening pause: Best to play this with the captions on, considering the thick accents. As noted on the youtube webpage:

Andy Crow is clearing the barn of straw which has become home to lots and lots of rats – and he wants them off the farmyard. As a final effort to get rid of as many as possible Andy has enrolled the help of a couple of terriers, a lurcher and a lab/springer cross. As he moves the bales the dogs and sticks start flying.

Hat tip Diane Zimmerman.

December 2, 2022 Quick space links

Courtesy of Jay, BtB’s intrepid stringer, trolling Tweeter so we don’t have to.








  • Major management organization at Astra
  • According to CEO Chris Kemp, the reorganization has four engineering and manufacturing managers reporting directly to him, reducing a layer of management. Of the four managers involved, two once worked at Blue Origin, one at SpaceX, and one at Google.

Pushback: Kroger must pay $180K to two Arkansas workers, fired for refusing to support the queer agenda

Kroger's rainbow heart apron

Bring a gun to a knife fight: To settle a lawsuit Kroeger has agreed to pay $180K to two Arkansas workers whom the company had fired when both asked to be excused from wearing company aprons that included a rainbow heart that they believed endorsed the queer agenda.

Workers at the store got the new uniforms in April 2019 that included a rainbow heart embroidered on the top left portion of the bib, according to court documents. Both of the workers believe the “literal interpretation of the Bible,” held “religious belief that homosexuality is a sin” and “sincerely believed the apron violated (their) religious beliefs,” according to the lawsuit.

One employee asked to wear their nametag over the logo. Another asked for a different apron. Both employees were fired within two months.

The image to the right shows an apron with this rainbow heart. While some suggest this heart has nothing to do with promoting homosexual rights, the company’s strong advocacy of the queer agenda says otherwise. From Kroger’s own website:
» Read more

Martian glaciers below 30 degrees latitude

A Martian glacier below 30 degrees north latitude
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, was taken on September 28, 2022 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). While it shows what looks like a somewhat typical Martian glacial flow pushing through a gap between hills, this glacial flow is not typical. It sits at just under 30 degrees north latitude, closer to the equator than almost any glacial feature on Mars. Moreover, the younger impact crater on top suggests this glacier has been here for some time. Though the impact is younger than the crater, it is not that young, as the dark streaks normally seen in the first years after impact are gone.

Thus, this glacier suggests that not only can near surface Martian ice exist closer than 30 degrees latitude from the equator, it can survive there for a considerable amount of time.

Nor is this glacial flow, so close to the equator, unusual for this region of Mars.
» Read more

Sunspot update: The Sun’s unprecedented pause to maximum continues

It is the beginning of the month, and NOAA has once again published its update of its monthly graph that tracks the number of sunspots on the Sun’s Earth-facing hemisphere. Below is the newest graph, adding November’s numbers to the timeline and annotated by me with some additional details added to provide context.

Sunspot activity dropped in November, though still remained significantly higher than the prediction, a sunspot number of 77.6 compared to the predicted number of 57.4. At 77.6, the Sun continues the pause that began in June in the ramp up to solar maximum. For the past half year the Sun’s sunspot output has essentially stalled at approximately the same level.

» Read more

FCC puts the squeeze on SpaceX’s Starlink

More than two years after SpaceX had first requested regulatory permission to launch its full 30,000 Starlink satellite constellation, FCC (under the Biden administration) has finally made a decision, and in doing so it has arbitrarily reduced the number of satellites SpaceX can launch to 7,500.

On November 29th, 2022, the FCC completed that review and granted SpaceX permission to launch just 7,500 of the ~30,000 Starlink Gen2 satellites it had requested permission for more than 30 months prior. The FCC offered no explanation of how it arrived at its arbitrary 75% reduction, nor why the resulting number is slightly lower than a different 7,518-satellite Starlink Gen1 constellation SpaceX had already received a license to deploy in late 2018. Adding insult to injury, the FCC repeatedly acknowledges that “the total number of satellites SpaceX is authorized to deploy is not increased by our action today, and in fact is slightly reduced.”

That claimed reduction is thanks to the fact that shortly before this decision, SpaceX told the FCC in good faith that it would voluntarily avoid launching the dedicated V-band Starlink constellation it already received a license for in order “to significantly reduce the total number of satellites ultimately on orbit.” Instead, once Starlink Gen2 was approved, it would request permission to add V-band payloads to a subset of the 29,988 planned Gen2 satellites, achieving a similar result without the need for another 7,518 satellites.

In response, the FCC slashed the total number of Starlink Gen2 satellites permitted to less than the number of satellites approved by the FCC’s November 2018 Starlink V-band authorization; limited those satellites to middle-ground orbits, entirely precluding Gen2 launches to higher or lower orbits; and didn’t even structure its compromise in a way that would at least allow SpaceX to fully complete three Starlink Gen2 ‘shells.’ Worse, the FCC’s partial grant barely mentioned SpaceX’s detailed plans to use new E-band antennas on Starlink Gen2 satellites and next-generation ground stations, simply stating that it will “defer acting on” the request until “further review and coordination with Federal users.”

Apparently, the FCC’s decision here was essentially a rubber-stamp of recommendations by Amazon, whose Kuiper constellation (so far entirely unlaunched) would be SpaceX’s direct competitor. In other words, the FCC is now taking sides against Starlink to favor its competitors.

Read the entire article. In every way this FCC decision smacks of politics, partly to help a Democratic ally (Jeff Bezos) and partly to hurt someone the Democrats now see as an enemy (Elon Musk).

Delays threaten Europa Clipper mission

A variety of issues delaying completion of the science instruments on the Europa Clipper mission are now threatening to prevent the spacecraft from meeting its 2024 launch date.

[W]ith less than two years to go before launch, only three of those instruments have been installed on the main spacecraft body, and five haven’t yet arrived at JPL.

Some context: Europa Clipper has been under development since 1997, though actual design work did not begin until 2013, nine years ago. It presently has a budget of $4.25 billion (more than double its first proposed budget of $2 billion). Yet now, less than years from launch, seven of ten instruments are behind schedule?

What is really disgusting about this story is that it is par for the course for NASA, which almost never finishes anything on time or on budget.

Orion fires engine, leaves lunar orbit

After firing its engines yesterday, NASA’s Orion spacecraft has left lunar orbit and begun a long looping route that will zip past the Moon and then head back to Earth.

The burn changed Orion’s velocity by about 454 feet per second and was performed using the Orion main engine on the European Service Module. The engine is an orbital maneuvering system engine modified for use on Orion and built by Aerojet Rocketdyne. The engine has the ability to provide 6,000 pounds of thrust. The proven engine flying on Artemis I flew on 19 space shuttle flights, beginning with STS-41G in October 1984 and ending with STS-112 in October 2002.

The burn is one of two maneuvers required ahead of Orion’s splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 11. The second will occur on Monday, Dec. 5, when the spacecraft will fly 79.2 miles above the lunar surface and perform the return powered flyby burn, which will commit Orion on its course toward Earth.

The spacecraft will splashdown on December 11, 2022, if all goes right.

Allison Williams – Nature Boy

An evening pause: The producers of this video, VideosRecordedLive, describe this as music used as the theme for the television show, Mad Men, to which they added lyrics from a Nat King Cole song. However, Annie Haslam performed this song with these lyrics as far back as 1997.

No matter. They do a beautiful job.

Hat tip Wayne Devette.

December 1, 2022 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer, Jay.


  • Popular Science magazine gives NASAWeb an award!
  • Pure idiocy, and another embarrassment for Popular Science, after it awarded Boeing an award for its magnificent work on Starliner.


  • AST SpaceMobile looks to raise more investment capital
  • It appears the company — which wants to launch a constellation that would provide service to ordinary cell phones — has been squeezed between supply chain delays and FCC deadlines, which could cause it to lose its rights to certain frequencies. The extra cash is aimed at speeding satellite development.

Today’s blacklisted American: Princeton considering blacklisting John Witherspoon, Founding Father and signer of the Declaration of Independence

John Witherspoon: Target for cancellation
John Witherspoon: a target for cancellation

The modern dark age: Princeton University is now considering removing from its campus a statue of John Witherspoon, Founding Father, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and the college’s sixth president, because some students have whined about the fact that in his life he also at one time owned two slaves.

A petition, started by three graduate students in the Philosophy Department, states that the “prominent place on campus of the John Witherspoon statue is inappropriate” and calls on the university to “remove it from its pedestal in Firestone Plaza.”

The petition asks that officials replace the statue with an informational plaque that reflects both the “positive and negative aspects of Witherspoon’s legacy.”

» Read more

Rogozin returns, playing a soldier in the Ukraine!

Dmitry Rogozin, about to go into battle!
Dmitry Rogozin, about to go into battle!

Fired from his job as head of Roscosmos and exiled to the Ukraine, Dmitry Rogozin has returned to the news! He was recently interviewed on Russian television, during which the broadcast showed clips of Rogozin getting a tour from Russian troops.

The screen capture to the left show Rogozin during that tour, dressed in military gear, though most of that gear is apparently Western in make, not Russian. Go Dmitry!

According to Antoly Zak, Rogozin during the interview promised that Russia will soon occupy Kiev, Vienna, Berlin and Budapest. As I say, go Dmitry!

Since Rogozin was sent to the Ukraine in July his work there has mirrored his “successes” at Roscosmos. At Roscosmos he was instrumental in ending Russia’s deal with OneWeb, costing Putin several billion dollars in launch income while destroying any chance for years of Russia getting any international rocket business. In the four-plus months since he arrived in the Ukraine, Russia has been on a steady retreat, losing vast areas it had previously conquered.

Hat tip to BtB’s stringer Jay, who says of Rogozin, “This guy is worse than Baghdad Bob!”

Expanded craters in Martian ice

Expanded craters in Martian ice
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, was taken on August 18, 2022 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It includes a wide variety of geology related to sublimating ice, including expansion cracks as well as several different examples of what scientists call “expanded craters,” impacts that occurred in near surface ice and have been reshaped by the ice’s melting and sublimation at impact and then later. It also shows some obvious glacial fill in the two distorted craters at the center right.

A 2017 dissertation [pdf] by Donna Viola of the University of Arizona outlines nicely what we know of Martian expanded craters. As she notes in her conclusion:
» Read more

Webb and Keck telescopes track clouds on Titan

Clouds on Titan
Click for original image.

Astronomers have used the Webb Space Telescope and the Keck Observatory in Hawaii to take infrared images days apart of the evolving clouds on the Saturn moon Titan.

The false-color infrared images to the right are those observations. From the press release:

As part of their investigation of Titan’s atmosphere and climate, Nixon’s team used JWST’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) to observe the moon during the first week of November. After seeing the clouds near Kraken Mare, the largest known liquid sea of methane on the surface of Titan, they immediately contacted the Keck Titan Observing Team to request follow-up observations.

“We were concerned that the clouds would be gone when we looked at Titan a day later with Keck, but to our delight there were clouds at the same positions on subsequent observing nights, looking like they had changed in shape,” said Imke de Pater, emeritus professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, who leads the Keck Titan Observing Team.

Using Keck Observatory’s second generation Near-Infrared Camera (NIRC2) in combination with the Keck II Telescope’s adaptive optics system, de Pater and her team observed one of Titan’s clouds rotating into and another cloud either dissipating or moving out of Earth’s field of view due to Titan’s rotation.

These images only increase my mourning for a Saturn orbiter. Since the end of Cassini’s mission in 2017, we have essentially been blind to the ringed planet and its many moons. These images, while producing excellent data, also illustrate well what we have lost.

Scientists: Viking-1 might have landed on a field of Martian tsunami debris

The geological history of the Viking-1 Mars landing site

As outlined in their new paper [pdf], a team of scientists now hypothesize that the features that surrounded Viking-1 when it landed on Mars in 1976 were caused by two past Martian tsunamis. Each tsunamis occurred due to an impact in the theorized ocean that is believed to have existed in this part of Mars’ northern lowland plains several billion years ago.

The graphic to the right, figure 8 from the paper, shows the hypothesized sequence of events. From the caption:

(a) Pohl crater forms within a shallow marine environment, (b) triggering tsunami water and debris flow fronts. (c) The wave fronts extensively inundate the highland lowland boundary plains, including a section ~ 900 km southwest of the impact site. (d) The ocean regresses to ~ − 4100 m, accompanied by regional glacier dissection, which erode the rims of Pohl and other craters. (e) The younger tsunami overflows Pohl and parts of the older tsunami. Glaciation continues, and mud volcanoes later source and emerge from the younger tsunami deposit. (f) ~ 3.4 billion years later, the Viking 1 Lander touches down on the edge of the older tsunami deposit.

The overview map below provides the larger context.
» Read more

Soyuz-2 rocket launches Russian military satellite

Russia today successfully placed a military surveillance into orbit using its Soyuz-2 rocket, launching from its Plesetsk spaceport.

Like most launches from Plesetsk, the first stage and fairings landed in the interior of Russia, the drop zones in its far north.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

54 SpaceX
54 China
21 Russia
9 Rocket Lab

The U.S. still leads China 78 to 54 in the national rankings, but trails the entire world combined 85 to 78.

SpaceX postpones launch of Ispace’s Hakuto-R lunar lander

SpaceX tonight canceled the Falcon 9 launch of the private Hakuto-R lunar lander, built by the Japanese company Ispace and carrying the UAE’s Rashid rover.

After further inspections of the launch vehicle and data review, SpaceX is standing down from Falcon 9’s launch of ispace’s HAKUTO-R Mission 1 from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. A new target launch date will be shared once confirmed.

The first stage had flown four times previously. Apparently during their standard dress rehearsal countdown and fueling before launch they detected something that cannot be immediately resolved.

InSight continues to just hold on

InSight's power levels as of November 27, 2022

The InSight science team today posted another update on the daily power levels the Mars lander’s dust-covered solar panels are producing. The graph to the right includes these new numbers.

As of Nov. 27, 2022, InSight is generating an average between 285 and 295 watt-hours of energy per Martian day, or sol. The tau, or level of dust cover in the atmosphere, was estimated at .95 (typical tau levels outside of dust season range from 0.6-0.7).

The atmosphere is definitely clearing from the dust storm that occurred in October. It also appears that not much of this dust is settling on InSight’s solar panels, since the daily power level has not dropped significantly.

Nonetheless, at these very low power levels, InSight’s future remains day-to-day. Unless it finally gets lucky and a dust devil blows the solar panels clear so more power can be generated, the mission will end should two scheduled communications sessions in a row fail to make contact.

November 30, 2022 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay.



  • Boeing says it achieved all goals during second Starliner unmanned demo mission
  • In making this statement Boeing also touted Popular Science giving it the 2022 “Best of What’s New” award. As Jay so correctly notes, “Talk about a rigged vote! Good thing I quit subscribing to PopSci five years ago.” Considering how behind schedule Starliner is, and considering the numerous other new rocket companies flying this year, this award is an embarrassment to Popular Science.

Musk’s success vs Trump’s failure

Elon Musk arrives at Twitter
Musk arrives at Twitter, ready to clean house

While the buzz about Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has mostly focused on his effort to end censorship and the banning of conservatives, none of this constitutes his most important accomplishment there.

Yes, mandating freedom of speech at Twitter is a good thing. And yes, ending the banning of tens of thousands of conservative voices demonstrates Musk’s unwavering commitment to freedom and open debate.

However, it is his action to house-clean — to fearlessly remove from power the thugs and goons at Twitter who created these oppressive policies — that matters the most. By firing the Twitter apparatchiks who had installed that system of censorship and blacklisting, Musk has guaranteed that this censorship and blacklisting will not return easily to Twitter should his other business interests force him to pay less attention in the future.
» Read more

Traveling in the mountains of Mars

Traveling in the mountains of Mars
Click for full resolution. Original images can be found here and here.

Overview map
Click for interactive map.

Cool image time! The panorama above was created by two photos taken by the Mars rover Curiosity’s right navigation camera on November 30, 2022. It looks to the south, into Gediz Vallis, the slot canyon that has been the rover’s major goal since it landed in Gale Crater a decade ago.

The blue dot on the overview map to the right marks Curiosity’s present position, now on its way east after making a short detour to the west towards Gediz Vallis Ridge. The yellow lines indicate the approximate area shown by this panorama. The red dotted line in both images marks the rover’s planned future route. The white arrows indicate what scientists have labeled the marker band, a distinct smooth layer seen at about the same elevation in many places on the flanks of Mount Sharp. According to the most recent update from the science team, the rover’s next drive will place it on that marker band, the second time it has been there.

From here the rover will continue south, climbing up into Gediz Vallis.

China completes construction of world’s largest solar radio telescope array

China has now completed the construction of world’s largest solar radio telescope array, dubbed the Daocheng Solar Radio Telescope (DSRT), made up of 313 separate radio dishes laid out in a giant two-mile wide circle.

DSRT is focused on observing solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) which can interfere with or overload electronics and wreak havoc on and above Earth. CMEs are triggered by realignments in the star’s magnetic field that occur in sunspots, and when directed at Earth, can threaten power grids, telecommunications, orbiting satellites and even put the safety of astronauts aboard the International Space Station and China’s newly-completed Tiangong space station at risk.

Assuming China shares the data from this telescope with the rest of the world, it will function as a back-up to several very old NOAA satellites in orbit that NOAA has failed to replace. If China doesn’t share the data, however, the western world will become very vulnerable should its own satellites finally fail.

ESA’s commitment to launch Franklin rover to Mars by ’28 will require U.S. participation

The Europeans Space Agency’s decision to spend $725 million over the next six years to launch its Rosalind Franklin rover to Mars by 2028 will not only require the United Kingdom to develop a Mars lander, it will require U.S. participation that has not yet been secured, including the donation of a launch vehicle.

The mission’s launch this year was canceled when Russia invaded the Ukraine, thus ending all of its scientific partnerships with Europe.

The mission, now slated for launch in 2028, will primarily replace the Russian components with European ones, with several exceptions. “We have expectations that the U.S. will also contribute to this, with a launcher, a braking engine and the RHUs, the radioisotope heating units,” he said. “But the majority of the future ExoMars mission is European.”

The launch rocket will be the most expensive U.S. contribution, and to get NASA to pay for the launch will require something in return from ESA, most likely guaranteed research use of the Franklin rover by American planetary scientists. Such a deal is similar to what Europe has gotten with both Hubble and Webb, where ESA contributes something and its scientists get a percentage of guaranteed observation time.

With a rover such an arrangement is more complicated, however, which is probably why the deal is not yet settled.

SOFIA finds no phosphine in Venus’ atmosphere

The uncertainty of science: Using NASA’s airborne telescope SOFIA on three of its last flights, astronomers searched and found no evidence of phosphine in the Venus atmosphere, once again throwing cold water on a 2020 study that said it had detected about 20 molecules out of every billion.

Because that 2020 study and the accompanying press releases noted that on Earth phosphine is only seen in life-related processes, the general press stupidly screamed “Life found on Venus!” And as I said at that time:

This discovery is not giving us “a hint of life on Venus.” All these scientists have done is detect a chemical whose formation in Venus’ very alien environment is a mystery. Yes, on Earth this chemical comes from life related activities, but to claim that the presence of biology must explain it on Venus is not science, but witchcraft and the stuff of fantasy. We know practically nothing about the full make-up of Venus’ atmosphere, its chemistry and environment, which makes it impossible to hint at any theories, no less life.

Since then several studies (here and here and here) have suggested the phosphine detection was not what it seemed. This new Sofia data puts the nail in the coffin.

Sophia’s data also shows once again the utter unreliability of the modern mainstream press. Routinely it pushes false or weak stories, consistently showing that its reporters and editors are ignorant or naive about almost every story they cover, from science to politics. To trust its conclusions on any controversial story is to put your faith in fortune tellers.

NASA awards construction company $57 million development contract for lunar construction

Capitalism in space: NASA today awarded a $57 million development contract to ICON, a Texas-based company that specializes in building 3D-printed homes on Earth, to begin work on designing habitats for the Moon.

As noted in this report:

The newly announced NASA contract, granted via the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research program, will help the company mature its tech and procedures. ICON plans to use the money to learn how lunar soil, or regolith, behaves in lunar gravity using simulated samples and real ones brought back by the Apollo missions, company representatives said.

The company will also test its hardware and software on a space mission that simulates lunar gravity. And there will be an even more ambitious trial, if all goes according to plan. “The final deliverable of this contract will be humanity’s first construction on another world, and that is going to be a pretty special achievement,” [CEO Jason] Ballard said in the statement.

ICON has already built a prototype 3D-printed Mars habitat that NASA plans to use to train astronauts for long missions.

China launches military satellites using Long March 2D rocket

China yesterday used its Long March 2D rocket to put, according to Space Force data, three military satellites into orbit, even though China’s state run press says only one satellite was launched.

The Chinese space industry (opens in new tab) and media reports (opens in new tab)suggest that the launch carried a single Yaogan 36 remote sensing satellite. However space tracking by the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Defense Squadron, which focuses on space domain awareness, registered three payloads in orbit in roughly 300-mile-altitude (500 km) orbits.

China’s previous two launches involving Yaogan 36 satellites also saw satellite triplets sent into orbit, meaning Sunday’s launch was a third group of three Yaogan 36 satellites.

China typically describes Yaogan satellites as being designed for uses including gathering scientific data, conducting land surveys and monitoring agriculture. However, the secrecy surrounding the satellites leads analysts outside of China to believe that the satellites also have military capabilities and stakeholders.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

54 SpaceX
54 China
20 Russia
9 Rocket Lab

The U.S. still leads China 78 to 54 in the national rankings, while trailing the entire world combined 84 to 78.

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