Author Archives: Robert Zimmerman

British parliament passes Johnson’s Brexit deal while pushing for more delays

The British parliament yesterday finally for the first time passed a deal for leaving the European Union (EU), but then rejected the timetable created by prime minister Boris Johnson to complete that exit by October 31.

The PM [prime minister] did tonight what Theresa May was unable to do in three years – get a majority in the Commons to actually leave the EU. Boris this evening said it was “joyful” that MPs had finally “embraced a deal”.

But minutes later the PM tonight lost his vote 308 – 322 on the crucial timetable motion, leaving his promise to get us out of the bloc by Halloween in tatters. Furious MPs had claimed they didn’t have enough time to look at the 100 page bill.

The PM revealed he would put the Brexit Bill on ice and hit “pause” while the EU consider what to do.

Whether Johnson will have the UK leave at the end of the month, deal or no deal, remains unclear. It increasingly looks like the EU will not give an extension, so if parliament sticks to its guns on rejecting the timetable then the exit will occur on October 31st with no deal. Johnson in turn might also trigger a general election in response.

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Pence endorses property rights in space

In a speech yesterday at a meeting of the International Astronautical Congress in Washington vice president Mike Pence pushed the importance of property rights in space, noting that the Trump administration is looking for ways to protect those rights.

He made clear that the United States would continue to observe international agreements on space activities — presumably including the Outer Space Treaty, which rules out claims of sovereignty on the moon or other celestial bodies. But Pence also said America’s partners should respect private ownership in space, which is a less settled legal frontier.

“As more nations gain the ability to explore space and develop places beyond Earth’s atmosphere, we must also ensure that we carry into space our shared commitment to freedom, the rule of law and private property,” he said. “The long-term exploration and development of the moon, Mars and other celestial bodies will require the use of resources found in outer space, including water and minerals. And so we must encourage the responsible commercial use of these resources.”

Pence hinted that the United States will be developing new policies relating to the use of space resources. “We will use all available legal and diplomatic means to create a stable and orderly space environment that drives opportunity, creates prosperity and ensures our security on Earth into the vast expanse of space,” he said.

I’m not sure how the U.S. can do this, however, under the limitations placed on us by the Outer Space Treaty. Without the ability to apply U.S. sovereignty to any private operations on the Moon, Mars, or asteroids, it will be impossible to apply U.S. law to those operations.

One avenue that the Trump administration might be considering is an amendment to the treaty that would allow nations to apply their laws to their citizens in space, not the territory on which they land and develop. Such an approach would avoid breaking the treaty’s restrictions on not claiming territory, but it would still achieve essentially the same thing.

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Storms on Saturn baffle scientists

The uncertainty of science: Scientists have identified a new type of storm on Saturn, and they don’t understand the weather processes that produced it.

Until now, astronomers had seen only two kinds of Saturnian storms: relatively small storms about 2,000 kilometers across that appear as bright clouds for a few days and Great White Spots that are 10 times as large and last for months. The newly spotted weather disturbance was a series of four midsize storms. Each was several thousand kilometers across and lasted between about 1.5 weeks and about seven months.

It appears that these midsize storms don’t fit any of their present theories about the formation of storms on Saturn.

However, for any scientist at this time to suggest that any theory about the storms on gas giants like Jupiter or Saturn can explain things is for that scientist to reveal themselves to be arrogant fools. We simply do not know anything about the deep atmospheres and vast climates of such planets. For example, we have yet to send a satellite to either planet devoted entirely to studying their atmospheres. And considering the size of these planets, such research would require a lot more than one orbiter to get a global picture. And it would require decades of coverage to get a long term picture.

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Rocket Lab announces new upper stage for taking satellites beyond Earth orbit

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab yesterday unveiled plans for a new upper stage to their Electron rocket that will allow them to send satellites to lunar orbit.

Rocket Lab will combine its Electron launch vehicle, Photon small spacecraft platform, and a dedicated bulk maneuver stage to accomplish extended-range missions and deliver small spacecraft to lunar flyby, Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO), L1/L2 points, or Lunar orbit. These capabilities can then be expanded to deliver even larger payloads throughout cis-lunar space, including as high as geostationary orbit (GEO).

The satellites involved here would all be very small cubesats, but since these small satellites are increasingly becoming the satellite of choice for unmanned missions Rocket Lab’s timing here I think is excellent. They are putting themselves in position to garner this new market share.

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Liberals in Canada retain control

In tonight’s national election in Canada the leftist Liberal party under Justin Trudeau managed to maintain its control of the government, but without a clear majority, requiring it to form a coalition with one of the smaller parties.

Trudeau appeared to overcome a challenge in Monday’s national elections from the rival Conservatives four years after he channeled his father’s star power to become prime minister. CBC projects Trudeau’s Liberals won’t win the majority of seats in Parliament and will have to rely on another party to pass legislation.

The final numbers are not in, but it doesn’t look like much will change.

I always consider election results the real and true indicator of society’s trends. This result says that the left continues to maintain its hold on western civilization, despite the utter bankruptcy of its ideas and its increasingly totalitarian policies. Apparently a very large percentage of Canada’s population likes what the left is offering.

This also suggests that we will get a similar result in the 2020 U.S. election. We, just like in Canada, have a large population that likes what the Democrats are offering: Free stuff combined with a willingness to impose its will by force if necessary, including the silencing and literal destruction of its opponents.

Not good. Not good at all.

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Large numbers of minorities and Democrats attend Trump rallies

According to statistics issued by the Trump campaign manager, significant numbers of Democratic voters, minorities, and non-voters have been attending Trump rallies.

In Dallas: “The data revealed that nearly 54,000 voters signed up for the event, with almost one in eight (12 percent) who didn’t vote in the last four elections and more than one in five (21.4 percent) who identified as Democrats. Eleven percent of the registrants were Hispanic.”

In New Mexico: “Of the 45,000 who registered, 94 percent were from within the state and 78 percent were matched to voter files. More than one in five voted in one or none of the past four elections, and 40 percent were Hispanic, the data showed. Nearly one in three were Democrats.”

In Minnesota: “More than 42,000 voters were identified in the data, of whom 13 percent voted in none or one of the past four elections. Also, 30 percent were Democrats.”

If these numbers reflect reality even vaguely, they strongly suggest two things. First, that large numbers of Democrats are abandoning that party. Second, that Trump is bringing in voters who had habitually not voted in the past. Both trends, if true, suggest disaster for the Democratic Party in 2020.

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Netanyahu fails to form government

It appears that Benjamin Netanyahu’s present reign as Israeli prime minister, begun in 2008, is about to end. He has given up trying to form a coalition led by his Likud Party, and according to Israeli law, the second largest party, Blue and White, led by Bernie Gantz, will try next.

Whether Gantz can form his own coalition, based on the present break down of Israeli factions, is quite questionable. It would appear that he either can form a government with Likud and Netanyahu, something his party opposes, or he must include the Arab Joint List, something that almost all the other parties oppose.

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Clashes in Hong Kong protests escalate

This link provides a lot of videos of this past weekend’s protests in Hong Kong, all of which suggest that the protesters are responding to the police’s harsher enforcement with their own harsher actions.

It also appears that the protests began with a peaceful march of tens of thousands, and only became violent when the police tried to shut the protest down.

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Polar bear researcher fired for being a global warming skeptic

They’re coming for you next: The academic whose ground-breaking research on the surging population of polar bears disproved the hysterical claims of global warming activists has been fired by her university.

After 15 years as an adjunct assistant professor, Ms. Crockford said the University of Victoria rejected without explanation in May her renewal application, despite her high profile as a speaker and author stemming from her widely cited research on polar bears and dog domestication.

Ms. Crockford accused officials at the Canadian university of bowing to “outside pressure,” the result of her research showing that polar bear populations are stable and even thriving, not plummeting as a result of shrinking Arctic sea ice, defying claims of the climate change movement.

Her dismissal, which she announced Wednesday in a post on her Polar Bear Science blog, has spurred alarm over the implications for academic freedom and the rise of the “cancel culture” for professors and scientists who challenge climate catastrophe predictions. “When push came to shove, UVic threw me under the bus rather than stand up for my academic freedom,” said Ms. Crockford, who earned a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies, specifically biology and anthropology, in 2004.

I have cited her work a number of times previously, as have many others. This article by her on her own website is most pertinent: Baffin Bay and Kane Basin polar bears not ‘declining’ concludes new report.

The 2016 Scientific Working Group report on Baffin Bay and Kane Basin polar bears was released online without fanfare last week, confirming what local Inuit have been saying for years: contrary to the assertions of Polar Bear Specialist Group scientists, Baffin Bay and Kane Basin subpopulations have not been declining but are stable.

It seems the university got a complaint that her work had “a lack of balance” and was therefore not spouting the proper political agenda. She was also attacked by a group of global warming scientists, including Michael Mann, for her work, an attack that former Georgia Tech climate scientist Judith Curry called “absolutely the stupidest paper I have ever seen published.”

Crockford is not the first scientist pushed out of our modern fascist academia for refusing to toe the line. Nor will she be the last. Today’s universities are anything but an intellectual community, and anyone there who tries to express a dissenting view from today’s leftist orthodoxy is almost guaranteed to have his or her head cut off.

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Parliament rejects Johnson’s Brexit deal

A coalition of leftists and former Tories (dumped from the party for being what conservatives in the U.S. call RINOs) today teamed up to reject the deal prime minister Boris Johnson had proposed for leaving the European Union by October 31, as demanded by the voters.

According the vote, Johnson is now required to request a further extension, something he said today he will not do. Instead, reports say he will call Parliament back on Monday to vote again.

Bottom line: The citizens of the UK voted to leave the EU. Parliament is defying the will of the majority by its intransigence and by its effort to water down the exit so much that it will be meaningless. Johnson in turn appears to be trying to represent that majority, which should give him and his now unified Tory party an advantage in the next election. The closeness of the vote, 322 to 306 for rejection, strongly reinforces this conclusion.

UPDATE: Johnson has sent three letters to the EU, one meeting the requirements of the law by asking for an extension but unsigned by him, a second covering letter stating that the first letter was from Parliament, not the prime minister, and a third letter bluntly disavowing the first letter to state that he absolutely does not want an extension.

The article notes that there is now a very good chance the EU will not agree to an extension, which will further benefit Johnson’s political position.

The article also has an interesting side note about how anti-Johnson protesters screamed and threatened an MP and his 12-year-old son as they left parliament, requiring police protection. These protesters are thus allied with the same leftist protesters in the U.S. that have abused Trump supporters. They don’t like democracy, and have repeatedly exhibited a blunt willingness to use force to gain their ends if they lose in the ballot box.

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Scientists propose changes to planetary protection rules

In a new report [pdf], a panel of scientists have proposed major revisions to NASA’s policy for protecting other planets from contamination by Earth biology.

In general, the recommendations seem an effort to streamline the rules (first established in the 1960s), while also making them more reflective of present knowledge. For example, the report says the following,

NASA should also rethink how it classifies the surfaces of the Moon and Mars, the report says. All of the Moon is now classified as potentially of interest to research on the origins of life, meaning NASA doesn’t want to contaminate it with imports from Earth. But few scientists now view the Moon as an important site for studying such questions—except for its poles, where ice that might have helped sustain life exists. Reclassifying much of the Moon’s surface as nonessential for biological studies would simplify exploration for NASA and other space agencies—along with commercial actors. Similarly, the report says, much of Mars has been treated as if microbes that landed on its surface could survive and be transported to regions thought to host water and allow the replication of life. But many scientists think that outcome is unlikely and worth rethinking.

Because it’s possible that humans could return to the Moon, and arrive on Mars, in the next few decades, NASA should also think about establishing two management zones on the bodies, the report adds. The first would create protected astrobiology zones considered essential for the exploration of possible extinct or existing life. The second would be human exploration zones that invariably would be exposed to the zoo of microbes that accompany humans anywhere they go.

The report also recommends changes to the rules governing samples returned from other words that would streamline the process as well as tailor it more closely to present knowledge. It also recommends that the rules be better written to accommodate and encourage private enterprise in space.

All in all this appears to be a remarkably intelligent report, quite unlike what I expected. Almost always such reports from government instituted panels demand more stringent rules and greater governmental power. This report appears to call for exactly the opposite, while suggesting reasonable restrictions to protect both the Earth and any alien life that might be on other worlds.

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Astronauts replace failed unit on ISS

In a quickly planned spacewalk yesterday two astronauts successfully replaced a battery charge/discharge unit (BCDU), the failure of which had cut power on ISS by one-third.

There were dozens of stories about this spacewalk in mainstream press, including a call by Trump to the astronauts during the spacewalk, but most said little about this failed unit and the need to get it quickly replaced. Instead, our leftist and somewhat bigoted media (along with Trump) as always focused on ethnic and identity above all else, making a big deal about the fact that the two astronauts happened to both be women, the first time two women had done a spacewalk as a team.

Their sex however appears to have had little to do with their choice. The unit had to be replaced by hand, and NASA decided to switch the male lead astronaut for this spacewalk, Andrew Morgan, because his experience in this work was not as great as his replacement, Christina Koch.

With the need to manually replace the BCDU, NASA re-evaluated US EVA-58 – which was originally the third spacewalk in the P6 battery replacement sequence. During this re-evaluation, NASA decided to change the astronauts assigned to the spacewalk by removing Dr. Andrew Morgan and replacing him with Christina Koch.

Koch is tied with Morgan as the most experienced US-segment spacewalker currently aboard the International Space Station – with three EVAs to each of their credit. However, all three of Koch’s EVAs have dealt with the Station’s power and electrical distribution systems, whereas only two of Dr. Morgan’s have done so.

Replacing Dr. Morgan with Koch exemplified NASA’s commitment to putting the most qualified astronaut on a spacewalk. Dr. Morgan’s replacement with Christina Koch subsequently paired her with Dr. Jessica Meir, who was already slated to perform U.S. EVA-58 under its original plan.

Another reason for removing Dr. Morgan from this EVA is that he is slated to perform five back-to-back spacewalks in November and December with European astronaut and current Station Commander Luca Parmitano to repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer experiment.

Far more important than the sex of these astronauts is the issue of the failure of the BDCU, which is not the first to fail since NASA began a series of five spacewalks (of which two have been completed) to replace the station’s batteries. Because of these BDCU failures, NASA has put on hold the remaining three spacewalks that had been scheduled to replace batteries on the station, because of a concern the new batteries might be causing the failure. Moreover, the station only has only two spare BDCU units, so more such failures will put the station’s entire power system at significant risk.

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NASA to give Boeing cost-plus contract for 10 more SLS rockets

The boondoggle never ends! NASA is now planning to purchase ten more SLS rockets from Boeing, but it appears it plans to do so under a cost-plus contract, where the prices will never be fixed and the agency, not Boeing, will pay for any cost increases, plus 10 percent.

On Wednesday, NASA announced that it is negotiating a contract with Boeing to purchase up to 10 SLS core stages. The news release does not mention costs—NASA and Boeing have never been transparent about costs, but certainly production and operations cost for a single SLS launch will be well north of $1 billion. It also does not mention the mechanism of the contract.

A spokesperson for the agency, Kathryn Hambleton, told Ars that terms of the contract were not finalized yet. “NASA anticipates the contract will be a hybrid of cost-plus-incentive-fee and cost-plus-award-fee, potentially transitioning to firm-fixed-price,” she said. “The cost incentives are designed to reduce costs during early production to enable the lowest possible unit prices for the later fixed-price missions.” [emphasis mine]

If anything provides us a perfect example of the utter corruption and waste inherent in the present leadership within NASA and Congress, it is this deal. Cost-plus contracts were created in the 1960s to allow companies to build new and revolutionary things for the government, such as the missiles and capsules it needed then for the cold war and the space race. Today, rockets like SLS are hardly revolutionary or new, and to give Boeing a cost-plus contract to buy ten more rockets, essentially a blank check for the company, is unconscionable.

While I personally think all cost-plus contracts are corrupt, I can understand the arguemnet for them for the first development contract. This contract however is for the purchase of ten more rockets that Boeing has supposedly already figured out how to build. In essence NASA is just buying some rockets off the shelf. Cost-plus is entirely inappropriate for this purchase.

Worse, this announcement also illustrates the dishonest partnership between NASA, Boeing, and Congress. It is a maneuver by NASA and Boeing to force Congress to fund these extra rockets. At this moment Congress has not yet appropriated this money for more SLS rockets. The contract is basically NASA and Boeing’s fantasy of what they want to happen. This announcement thus signals to Congress where they want the pork spent, and our corrupt lawmakers, from both parties, are going to read that signal and are going to quickly follow through with the cash.

Sadly, I now fully expect Congress to go along. Welcome to the lumbering wasteful modern American empire, corrupt to the core.

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Compliation video of violent leftist protesters at Minnesota Trump rally

The video, embedded below the fold, breaks my own rules regarding obscenities, but I think it is necessary for every American to view it. I think it is even more important that ordinary Democratic voters view it. The party these decent people support has nothing to do with the party of John Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt. It has instead become a fascist violent machine, aimed at destroying any opposition. And we know this because Democratic politicians have not only not condemned this ugly violence, but some have even endorsed it.

I obtained the video from an article by John Hinderaker at Powerline, which he titled, quite bluntly, “How Evil Is the Left? This Evil.” He notes an additional reason to distribute this video as widely as possible.

Some of the victims of the liberals’ violence are interested in suing the parties responsible, potentially including organizers of the violence and public officials who may have been implicated. If you recognize any of the criminals shown in the video, please send information to powerlinefeedback@gmail.com.

Any help my readers can provide in this effort would be an important step in re-establishing the rule of law and free speech in the United States.

» Read more

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500 climate scientists challenge the UN on global warming

On September 23, 2019 letter, five hundred established scientists from across the globe told the United Nations that there is no climate emergency and that it as yet far from certain that human activity is warming the climate.

I should have reported this when it happened, but missed it until today. The letter made six main points:

  • Nature as well as anthropogenic factors cause warming
  • Warming is far slower than predicted
  • Climate policy relies on inadequate models
  • Carbon dioxide is “plant food, the basis of all life on Earth”
  • Global warming has not increased natural disasters
  • Climate policy must respect scientific and economic realities

None of these points is radical or unreasonable. Regular readers of this website will recognize all six, as I have been repeating them all incessantly for almost a decade. They fit into standard scientific practice, which requires solid, reliable, and confirmed data before any theory can be accepted wholesale. None of the models, based on the theory that the rise in carbon dioxide is causing the climate to warm, have worked. As far as we know now, CO2 might have nothing or little to do with climate change. We. just. don’t. know.

Not surprisingly, the letter was immediately attacked by global warming activist Michael Mann (who still tries to pose as a climate scientist though very few buy it). Rather than rationally question these points with data, he simply made an ad hominem attack, calling the letter “craven and stupid” while implying that anyone who signed it was beyond evil.

Worse, the UN itself decided to ignore the letter, instead pushing forward with its global warming agenda designed to destroy capitalism and make us all as poor as the citizens of Venezuela, all in the name of a scientific theory that no one has been able to prove, in any way at all.

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Lava-draped terrain on Mars

Lava surrounding hill and partly covering crater
Click for full image.

Hill surrounded by lava flows
Click for full image.

Cool image time! Continuing this week’s series of lava-related images from Mars (previous posts here, here, and here), today’s post is ironically the first to actually show lava flows.

The two images to the right, reduced and cropped to post here, are sections taken from an uncaptioned picture, titled “Lava-Draped Surface in Cerberus Palus” and found in the most recent download from the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

It is obvious why the MRO scientists gave this image this title. The hills in both pictures clearly seem to stand up like islands in a surrounding sea of frozen lava. Older craters, created prior to the lava flow, are partly obscured by the lava flows, their interior floors filled and their rims broken as the lava flooded this region.

Nor are these the only high points captured in the image that this flood of lava inundated. If you look at the full image there is even a low mound where it appears the surrounding lava flood worked its way up the hill’s gently sloping flanks only to freeze just before it completely covered the top of the mound.

The location of this image, shown by the red box in the overview map below and to the right, gives us a hint where the lava came from, though the distances involved to the nearest giant volcano, Elysium Mons, are so large it is likely that this flow is not directly linked to that volcano.
» Read more

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The 1572 Tycho supernova, as seen by Chandra

Remnant of Tycho's supernova

Cool image time! The Chandra science team has released a beautiful X-ray image of the remnant from the 1572 supernova first discovered by astronomer Tycho Brahe.

As with many supernova remnants, the Tycho supernova remnant, as it’s known today (or “Tycho,” for short), glows brightly in X-ray light because shock waves — similar to sonic booms from supersonic aircraft — generated by the stellar explosion heat the stellar debris up to millions of degrees. In its two decades of operation, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has captured unparalleled X-ray images of many supernova remnants.

Chandra reveals an intriguing pattern of bright clumps and fainter areas in Tycho. What caused this thicket of knots in the aftermath of this explosion? Did the explosion itself cause this clumpiness?

The image to the right, reduced to post here, is a composite of both X-ray (the remnant) and optical light (the background stars).

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Boris Johnson strikes Brexit deal with EU

Boris Johnson has made a deal with the European Union for Great Britain’s exit, but the deal’s approval by the UK’s parliament remains in doubt.

Johnson now needs to secure the votes needed at an extraordinary session of parliament on Saturday. But the arithmetic is not easy or straightforward for him.

The Northern Irish party that Johnson needs to help ratify any agreement, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), has refused to support it, saying it is not in Northern Ireland’s interests. The head of the main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, said he was “unhappy” with the agreement and would vote against it. Labour has said it wants any deal to be subject to a public vote, but as yet has not indicated whether it will back any move for a second referendum on Saturday.

Johnson appears intent on presenting parliament with a stark choice — the deal he has struck or no deal — in the hope of securing enough votes to get approval. “The PM’s position is that it’s new deal or no deal but no delay,” said a senior British government official.

The main issue is Northern Ireland, which now has open borders with the rest of Ireland, as part of the peace deal that settled decades of unrest. Leaving the EU requires some sort of border control, since Ireland is in the European Union. Northern Ireland politicians oppose any border controls.

Johnson’s deal calls for limited border controls. If Great Britain exits with no deal, than full border controls would be imposed. Since Johnson seems very intent on honoring the voters’ decision to leave, one way or the other, we shall have to see which option Parliament chooses.

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House committee rejects extra funding for 2024 moon landing

Not surprisingly, the Democratically-controlled House committee overseeing NASA’s budget requests has rejected the Trump administration’s request for an additional $1.6 billion to fund a manned Moon landing by 2024.

“I remain extremely concerned by the proposed advancement by four years of this mission,” said Jose Serrano, a Democrat from New York who chairs the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. “The eyes of the world are upon us. We cannot afford to fail. Therefore, I believe that it is better to use the original NASA schedule of 2028 in order to have a successful, safe, and cost-effective mission for the benefit of the American people and the world.”

…Serrano and other committee members also raised questions about cost. NASA has asked for an additional $1.6 billion for fiscal year 2020 but has not specified the total cost of the Artemis Program between now and 2024. “Unless we know what this is going to cost at the end, it would be irresponsible for us to take the first step,” Serrano said. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words are a lie. NASA’s original mandate for returning to the Moon, first set by President Bush Jr. in 2004, was to land eleven years later by 2015. The agency has repeatedly rewritten that schedule in the fifteen years since, always pushing it into the future so that it never gets closer than nine to eleven years.

The concerns about cost by the Democratic House members is also a lie. They have no interest in saving money, in the slightest. Their interest is solely to oppose anything Trump. When a Democratic president is in charge they will jump over themselves to fund this program, even though they know it will likely go over-budget and be delayed again endlessly.

Everything related to SLS and Artemis reeks of Washington corruption. In the past fifteen years the project has done nothing but funnel money to big contractors (mostly Boeing and Lockheed Martin) or favored congressional districts, with an actual Moon program forever receding into the future even as the costs rise.

If these Democrats were really concerned about cost and budget and getting to the Moon, they would demand that Artemis be killed, immediately, to be replaced with a more effective program that buys cheap rockets and capsules from the private sector. If they did that we could land on the Moon easily by 2024 (probably earlier), and do it for a tenth the cost.

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Rocket Lab & China launch rockets

Rocket Lab and China successfully completed launches today.

Rocket Lab used its Electron rocket to put a large cubesat into the highest orbit the company has yet achieved. This was the company’s nineth successful launch, and the fifth in 2019.

China in turn used its Long March 3B rocket to place a military communications satellite into orbit.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

20 China
17 Russia
10 SpaceX
6 Europe (Arianespace)
5 Rocket Lab

The U.S. now leads China 21 to 20 in the national rankings.

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Sinkholes on Mars

Collapse pit on Mars
Click for full image.

Cool image time! In this week’s exploration of Martian geology that is reminiscent of Earth-based lava geology, today’s image is of a collapse pit in Ceraunius Fossae, the vast region of north-south fissures found to the south of the volcano Alba Mons. The photo to the right, cropped to post here, zooms in on that pit.

The picture was part of the most recent image release from the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). What makes it especially interesting is the sharpness of its rim, in comparison to the collapse channel to the east. This suggests the pit is younger and fresher than the channel, and happened more recently. This also implies that the voids below the ground in which the surface is sinking are either still there, or due to on-going processes might be still be forming (like caves are on Earth).

For example, if there is underground ice, temperature changes or even thermal heat from the nearby giant volcanoes could melt that underground ice periodically, allowing it to flow and erode the surrounding material, forming voids. That this pit is located at 30 degrees north latitude, just inside the northern hemisphere band where glaciers are found, adds weight to this possibility.

The image below, reduced and rotated so that north is to the left, shows the entire sequence of collapse channels, with the more distinct pit from above in the bottom center of the picture.
» Read more

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California’s first cubesat to be named after Jerry Brown

O boy! This week California’s Democratic governor Gavin Newsom announced that not only will he go forward with building a climate cubesat but he want to name it after the previous Democratic governor, Jerry Brown.

Newsom said Tuesday that he intended to honor his predecessor by attaching his name to a satellite that would gather information on climate change, one of Brown’s overriding interests during his second stint as governor from 2011-19.

While Newsom didn’t set a date for the launch, he said it is just a start for the state’s venture into outer space. “This is one of many we’ll launch,” Newsom said during a speech Tuesday at a San Francisco conference on technology and climate change, sponsored by Planet, a local company that provides satellite imaging. “We’ll collect real-time data” on things like fires, land use, carbon concentrations and other information connected to environmental health, the governor said.

I’m so glad California has the money for this, rather than schools or roads or brush-clearing to prevent wildfires or any number of silly things that are the fundamental responsibility of state governments. It shows their priorities are focused, that they know that only thing that matters is climate change (and honoring Democratic politicians), rather than providing basic services to their citizens.

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