Author Archives: Robert Zimmerman

Former Shuttle Manager Decries NASA’s Commercial Crew Safety Regs

A deal with the devil: Former shuttle manager decries NASA’s commercial crew safety regulations. Key quote:

The U.S. government did not always rely on voluminous specifications to safeguard pilots or astronauts, Hale said, citing requirements for the first U.S. military aircraft which covered only 2.5 pages and those of NASA’s Gemini capsule which were about 12 pages long.

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Sightseeing on Mars

Those who visit this website regularly know that I repeatedly post images from the various Mars orbiters and rovers. I do this not only because the images have scientific interest or that they are cool, but because it is simply fun to sightsee, even if it is done by proxy using a robot many millions of miles away. Here are two more images of the sights of Mars.

The first is a mosiac image of a small crater that the rover Opportunity strolled past on November 9 in its four year journey to Endeavour Crater.

small crater on Mars

What always amazes me about the images that Opportunity has taken as it travels across the Martian desert is how totally lifeless this desert is. You would be very hard-pressed to find any desert on Earth like this. On Earth, life is everywhere, even in deserts with their harsh environment. Moreover, life on Earth has reshaped the surface drastically. Environmentalists like to whine about the havoc humans wreck on nature, but the truth is that all life does this continually. Plants and trees help soften the terrain. Animals (not just humans) mold the surface to their needs.

On Mars, however, all one sees is wind-strewn sand across barren bedrock. What this suggests is that, if there is life on Mars, it is well buried, not very visible, and possibly quite rare. It will thus be difficult to spot.

The second image is another one of those Martian collapse features, where some form of fluid flow under the surface washed out the supporting material. causing the surface to eventually collapse. In this case, however, the collapse left at least one natural bridge. Based on the scale (25 cm = 1 pixel), this bridge is about 80 feet wide and 100 feet long. (To calculate its height requires more mathematical skills than I have.)

Boy, wouldn’t this be a magnificent thing to hike under and across!

Natural Bridge on Mars

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The climategate email anniversary

Some cogent thoughts from James Delingpole about climate politics on the one year anniversary of the release of the climategate emails and the refusal of the elite ruling class to address the issue. Key quote:

And why is this so? In part, at least, it is because of the abject, ongoing failure of our Mainstream Media to report environmental issues with the robust scepticism that ought to be the natural tack of responsible journalists. Too many environmental reporters are still regurgitating press releases handed to them by activist organisations like the WWF, Greenpeace and Friends Of The Earth. In the MSM, as in government, it’s like Climategate never happened.

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A snowstorm in space

Almost literally, the probe Deep Impact flew through a snowstorm when it flew past Comet Hartley 2 on November 4. Below is one of the best pictures from the moment. More images can be found here. Key quote:

[The images] revealed a cometary snow storm created by carbon dioxide jets spewing out tons of golf-ball to basketball-sized fluffy ice particles from the peanut-shaped comet’s rocky ends. At the same time, a different process was causing water vapor to escape from the comet’s smooth mid-section. This information sheds new light on the nature of comets and even planets.

Comet Hartley 2

Note that all the close-up images taken by Deep Impact are going to be slightly out of focus, as the camera was launched with a defect.

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Reviewing the flight rationale for Discovery’s launch

NASA management is reviewing the “flight rationale” for Discovery’s next mission, considering the cracks in the external tank. Key quote:

Troubleshooters are assessing the structural integrity of the tank and its foam insulation to develop the necessary flight rationale, or justification, for proceeding with another launch as early as Nov. 30.

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Scientists succeed in trapping atoms of anti-matter for the first time

For the first time scientists succeed in trapping atoms of anti-matter. Key quote:

The team know the trap worked because they made about 10 million antihydrogen atoms which promptly obliterated themselves. Then they turned off their new trap and saw 38 more obliterations — meaning those 38 antihydrogens stuck in the trap.

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Sea Life Flourishes in the Gulf

Despite the howls of panic over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill this past summer, sea life is flourishing in the gulf. Key quote:

A comprehensive new study says that in some of the most heavily fished areas of the Gulf of Mexico, various forms of sea life, from shrimp to sharks, have seen their populations triple since before the spill. Some species, including shrimp and croaker, did even better. [emphasis mine]

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