Developments at the Houston Spaceport industry park

Link here. The article gives a detailed review of the various space-related businesses (Axiom, Intuitive Machines, Collins Aerospace) that have set up operations at this industry park focused on attracting space companies to the Houston area.

The park in a sense in misnamed, as it isn’t a launch facility. However, it is now building a taxiway that will connect the park directly to Ellington Airport, which for these businesses will help facilitate the transport of large space station modules and lunar landers.

January 31, 2023 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay.





That ain’t snow on Mars

That ain't snow on Mars
Click for original image.

Today’s cool image proves once again that you must never too quickly jump to any conclusions when you first look at a picture from space. The photo to the right, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, was taken on November 24, 2022 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

At first glance it appears that those ridges are topped with patches of snow or frost. Not. What appears white in this black and white photo is immediately revealed to be light-colored dust in the color image.

According the label assigned to this image by the science team, these ridges represent layers, likely tilted steeply so that when exposed they form the layered cliff edges where that light dust has now gathered.

The overview map below provides further evidence that the white patches are dust, not snow.
» Read more

The next chapter in my own personal blacklisting story

The ARA: An organization run by bullies
The ARA: An organization run by bullies

This past Saturday, January 28, 2023, another chapter in my own personal blacklisting saga took place. On that day the Arizona Regional Association (ARA), a division of the National Speleological Society, the country’s national organization for cavers, held its annual winter technical meeting at Kartchner Caverns in Arizona.

It is this same organization had blacklisted me and two other individuals in November 2021 because they did not like our opinions about COVID. Its leadership therefore assumed that it also the right to eject us from the public event on Saturday. It was our intention to show them they were wrong.

The goal of the winter technical, which has been occurring annually for about a half century, is to allow southwest cavers to present papers highlighting their research and projects during the past year. While intended mostly for Arizona cavers, it has not been unusual for others from other parts of the country to present, especially if their work has some connection with Arizona. Consider it a very informal kind of scientific conference.

Thus, this event has always been open to the public, and in fact has always been designed as a form of outreach.

The Wuhan panic had unfortunately caused the winter technical to be canceled in 2021 and 2022. Thus, the January 2023 event was to be the first in-person winter technical since 2020.

It was also going to be the first in-person winter technical since this organization had blacklisted myself and two others. » Read more

Today’s blacklisted American found innocent of federal trumped up charges

The Houck Family: Targets of FBI harassment and arrest
The Houck Family: Targets of FBI harassment and arrest.

Back in September 2022 I wrote an essay entitled “The rising federal Gestapo” in which I described the numerous recent stories of the Biden administration using the FBI and the Department of Justice as weapons to harass its political opponents, either by conducting armed raids on their homes and persons, or by trumping up false charges against them.

Mark Houck, the father in the picture the right, was one of those under attack. Not only was his home raided by an FBI SWAT team, terrifying his children, but Houck was arrested on a trumped up charge of physically attacking a worker at an abortion clinic, a charge that had other courts had already dismissed as spurious.

The good news yesterday is that Houck has been found innocent of that trumped up charge.

At first it appeared the jury was deadlocked, but that changed instantly when one juror was replaced with an alternate. Within an hour the not-guilty verdict was in, strongly suggesting that juror had had a political ax to grind and was refusing to follow the facts of the case or the judge’s instructions.

As I wrote in that September essay,

In the past two years the effort by Democrats to portray Republicans criminals and traitors, merely because they disagree with Democratic Party policy, has become normalized. To Democrats today, if you are a Republican you are a fascist, an insurrectionist, a traitor, a criminal, and evil. Your rights are voided and they have the right to arrest you, at any time.

The Biden administration tried to void Mark Houck’s rights. It failed in court. Was this vicious effort however a failure? I say no, because 1) the Biden administration remains free to continue this abuse of power and 2) conservatives have now been put on notice that, at any moment, their lives could be torn apart by these thugs.

In fact, this short post is only posted to give an update on a previous column. It is not today’s daily blacklist column, which will follow shortly and will give perfect example of how the abusive power-hungry in our culture now routinely abuse their power against any who oppose them.

SpaceX successfully launches 49 Starlink satellites and a D-Orbit space tug

SpaceX today successfully used its Falcon 9 rocket to launch 49 Starlink satellites as well as a D-Orbit space tug carrying one of its own customer’s satellites from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

The first stage successfully completed its seventh flight, landing on a drone ship in the Pacific. The D-Orbit tug with its four payloads has also successfully deployed.

The 2023 launch race:

7 SpaceX
5 China
1 Rocket Lab
1 Japan

American private enterprise leads China 8 to 5 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 8 to 6.

Perseverance completes placement of first ten samples for later pick up

Overview map
Click for interactive map.

On January 29, 2023 the Perseverance science team completed the placement of the first ten core samples on the floor of Jezero Crater.

On the overview map to the right, the green outline indicates the location of this sample depot. The blue dot marks Perseverance’s present location, while the green dot marks Ingenuity. The red dotted line shows the planned route up onto the delta, which is Perseverance’s next goal.

The titanium tubes were deposited on the surface in an intricate zigzag pattern, with each sample about 15 to 50 feet (5 to 15 meters) apart from one another to ensure they could be safely recovered. Adding time to the depot-creation process, the team needed to precisely map the location of each 7-inch-long (18.6-centimeter-long) tube and glove (adapter) combination so that the samples could be found even if covered with dust. The depot is on flat ground near the base of the raised, fan-shaped ancient river delta that formed long ago when a river flowed into a lake there.

This mapping will be used by a future Mars helicopter to precisely land by each sample, grab it, and then take it to the ascent vehicle for return to Earth.

Viewing the Green Comet

Link here. Though there has been much hype about this comet, which has a 50,000 year orbit as well as an unusual color, it really doesn’t deserve that hype because it will barely become bright enough to be visible to the naked eye.

Nonetheless, in the northern hemisphere it will be in the sky all night during the month of February, so if you are in a good dark sky location, you should try to spot it. On February 1st it will be closest to Earth.

According to In-the-Sky, from New York City C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is circumpolar, meaning it is permanently above the horizon, and should therefore be visible for most of the night. It will be visible in the Camelopardalis constellation while at perigee, a large but faint area of sky devoid of bright stars and located close to the north celestial pole.

The comet will become visible at around 6:49 p.m. EST (2349 GMT) on Wednesday (Feb. 1) when it will be 49 degrees over the northern horizon. C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will climb to its highest point in the sky, 58 degrees over the northern horizon, at around 9:46 p.m. EST (0246 GMT). Following this it will disappear in the dawn light at around 5:57 a.m. EST (1057 GMT) on Feb. 2 while at around 30 degrees over the horizon to the north.

The link provides more information for finding it, which will likely be seen best with binoculars.

Juno’s camera experiences temperature problem

Because of an unexpected rise in its temperature, Juno’s camera was unable to take its full schedule of planned images during its January 22, 2023 close approach of Jupiter.

The JunoCam imager aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft did not acquire all planned images during the orbiter’s most recent flyby of Jupiter on Jan. 22. Data received from the spacecraft indicates that the camera experienced an issue similar to one that occurred on its previous close pass of the gas giant last month, when the team saw an anomalous temperature rise after the camera was powered on in preparation for the flyby.

However, on this new occasion the issue persisted for a longer period of time (23 hours compared to 36 minutes during the December close pass), leaving the first 214 JunoCam images planned for the flyby unusable. As with the previous occurrence, once the anomaly that caused the temperature rise cleared, the camera returned to normal operation and the remaining 44 images were of good quality and usable.

Engineers are analyzing the issue to try to determine its cause, as well as a fix. The camera at this moment appears to be operating properly, with the next close fly-by occurring on March 1, 2023.

January 30, 2023 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay.




Today’s blacklisted American: Professor quits because of the leftist takeover of his college

Matthew Wielicki
Matthew Wielicki

Matthew Wielicki, a professor at the University of Alabama, has quit his job because of what he calls the “rise of illiberalism” as well as the takeover of the college by the leftist diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) crowd.

While Matthew Wielicki said his main reason for leaving Tuscaloosa was to be closer to family in Colorado, the “rise of illiberalism” made his decision easier. “The rise of illiberalism in the name of DEI is the antithesis of the principles that universities were founded on,” Wielicki tweeted Monday. “These are no longer places that embrace the freedom of exchanging ideas and will punish those that go against the narrative.”

You can read his full statement in this thread on Twitter.
» Read more

Curiosity looking back

Panorama by Curiosity, looking back
Click for full image.

Overview map
Click for interactive map.

Curiosity is now about halfway across the flat marker band terrain it faced last week, and as part of its routine, used its right navigation camera on January 28, 2023 to create a 360 degree panorama mosaic of the Mount Sharp foothills that now surround it. The panorama above, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, focuses on the part of that mosaic looking behind Curiosity.

You can see the rover’s recent tracks as it crossed this part of the marker band. In the far distance can be seen in the haze the rim of Gale Crater, approximately 20 to 40 miles away. The yellow lines in the overview map to the right show the approximate area covered by this section of the panorama. It is possible the peak of Navarro Mountain is peeking up in the center of this panorama, but more likely it is no longer visible, blocked by the smaller but closer hills.

As Curiosity is now inside the foothills of Mount Sharp, the floor of Gale Crater is no longer easily seen. The rover needs to be at a high lookout point, something that will likely not occur in its travels for many months if not years to come.

The Curiosity pictures I am featuring this morning are cool, and they are also the only real news in the space field at this moment. As is usual on Monday, it takes few hours for the news at the beginning of the week to make itself known.

A cloud on Mars

A cloud on Mars
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, reduced and sharpened to post here, was taken on January 27, 2023 by Curiosity’s high resolution camera (dubbed Mastcam) as part of its periodic survey of the sky, looking for clouds. Most of the time the sky is either hazy or clear. This time the camera picked up this cloud, which resembles a cirrus cloud on Earth.

In March 2021 I posted another example of clouds found above Gale Crater by Curiosity. Two months later the science team released a press release about those clouds, which might help explain the cloud above.

The fine, rippling structures of these clouds are easier to see with images from Curiosity’s black-and-white navigation cameras. But it’s the color images from the rover’s Mast Camera, or Mastcam, that really shine – literally. Viewed just after sunset, their ice crystals catch the fading light, causing them to appear to glow against the darkening sky. These twilight clouds, also known as “noctilucent” (Latin for “night shining”) clouds, grow brighter as they fill with crystals, then darken after the Sun’s position in the sky drops below their altitude. This is just one useful clue scientists use to determine how high they are.

Even more stunning are iridescent, or “mother of pearl” clouds. “If you see a cloud with a shimmery pastel set of colors in it, that’s because the cloud particles are all nearly identical in size,” said Mark Lemmon, an atmospheric scientist with the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “That’s usually happening just after the clouds have formed and have all grown at the same rate.”

Though usually formed from water-ice, there is a chance this cloud is formed from crystals of dry ice. More analysis will of course be necessary to make that determination.

January 27, 2023 Quick space links

Courtesy of Jay, BtB’s stringer. Sorry this is posted late, but Diane and I were celebrating our wedding anniversary hiking and then going to a nice Italian restaurant for dinner.





Today’s blacklisted American: Jesus painting at U.S. Merchant Marine Academy covered to avoid offending others

USSMA Superintendent Vice Admiral Joanna Nunan
USSMA Superintendent Vice Admiral Joanna Nunan

They’re coming for you next: A painting showing Jesus walking on water in a room at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in New York has now been covered with a curtain because eighteen “midshipmen, faculty, staff and graduates” signed a letter of complaint.

Calling the artwork a display of “sectarian Jesus supremacy,” [Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation who represented the complainants,] noted the room in which the painting is hung is used for various administrative meetings, disciplinary hearings and other events. “The outrageousness of that Jesus painting’s display is only further exacerbated by the fact that this room is also used regularly for USMMA Honor Code violation boards where midshipmen are literally fighting for their careers, and, often even more, as they face the shameful ignominy of potential expulsion with prejudice if found guilty of USMMA Honor Code violations,” wrote Weinstein.

Weinstein told The Christian Post his clients “quite correctly believe that the display of the ‘Jesus painting’ is totally violative of the clear time, place and manner requirements of the No Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”

The problem is that the painting was not created by the federal government. Its history is much more profound.
» Read more

Glaciers or taffy on Mars?

Glaciers of taffy on Mars?
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, was taken on November 28, 2022 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It was released on January 4, 2023 as a captioned image, with this caption by Alfred McEwen of the Lunar & Planetary Laboratory in Arizona:

The floor of the Hellas impact basin, the lowest elevation on Mars, remains poorly explored because haze often blocks it from view. However, we recently got a clear image, revealing the strange banded terrain. These bands may be layers or flow bands or both.

At first glance, these bands reminded me of the many glaciers found on Mars. McEwen however is being properly vague about the nature of these features, for a number of reasons illustrated by the overview map below.
» Read more

The twin asteroid Janus probes, stranded by Psyche delay, might go to Apophis

Apophis' path past the Earth in 2029
A cartoon showing Apophis’s path in 2029

The science team that built the twin Janus spacecraft, designed to fly past an asteroid but stranded when its launch got canceled, are now considering the potentially dangerous asteroid Apophis as a new target.

If the Janus spacecraft can find a ride by early 2028, scientists could use one or both of the spacecraft to scout out the large asteroid Apophis before its super-close approach to Earth in April 2029. (If only one spacecraft visits Apophis, scientists would see only about half of the asteroid but could send the second spacecraft elsewhere; if both spacecraft fly past the same object they can be arranged to reveal the whole surface.)

Initially the entire Janus mission had been designed on the assumption it would launch as a secondary payload when the Psyche mission to the asteroid Psyche launched last fall. When that launch had to be canceled because Psyche was not ready, Janus lost its mission. The science team has since been struggling to find a replacement, handicapped by the fact that it must go as a secondary payload.

There is a serious issue however with arriving ahead of Apophis’s close approach in 2029. The science community has discouraged such missions, because they fear a spacecraft arriving then could shift Apophis’s trajectory and actually increase the chance it will hit the Earth during a later close approach. Instead, all planetary probes presently going to Apophis in 2029 are planning to arrive after the flyby.

The risk is extremely small, but it must be considered before sending Janus to Apophis.

January 26, 2023 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay.






Pushback: Two reporters sue ESPN for terminating them for not getting jabbed

ESPN-opposed to religious freedom

Bring a gun to a knife fight: Two former ESPN employees, sports reporter Allison Williams and producer Beth Faber, have now sued the network and its owner Disney for religious discrimination when it refused to recognize their religious reasons for refusing the COVID shots and thus terminated them.

You can read their complaint here [pdf]. The thuggish, unreasonable, and irrational attitude of the company to both employees — typical of all pro-jab organizations during the Wuhan panic — is well illustrated by this quote:

Despite offering to test regularly and wear a mask, work remotely or in-studio, and claiming she had already had COVID-19 and “had natural immunity,” ESPN denied her exemption request and terminated her contract a week later, according to the suit.

Nor is this lawsuit the only one against ESPN by a sports reporter. » Read more

A Martian bear!

A Martian bear!
Click for original image. Full image here.

Silly image time! Today the science team for the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter posted the photo to the right, which I have cropped, reduced, and annotated to post here. It was taken on December 12, 2022, and was rotated so that north is to the right in order to make its resemblance to a bear’s face obvious. As noted in the caption by Alfred McEwen of the Lunar & Planetary Laboratory in Arizona:

There’s a hill with a V-shaped collapse structure (the nose), two craters (the eyes), and a circular fracture pattern (the head). The circular fracture pattern might be due to the settling of a deposit over a buried impact crater. Maybe the nose is a volcanic or mud vent and the deposit could be lava or mud flows?

Maybe just grin and bear it.

If you have red-green glasses you can see a 3D anaglyph of this image here. The feature itself is located in the southern cratered highlands of Mars at 41 degrees south latitude, so the presence of near surface ice that would cause a mud volcano is definitely possible.

NASA and Russian engineers meeting to discuss status of leaks on ISS’s Zvezda module

According to Russia’s state-run press, NASA and Russian engineers have been reviewing the status of the repairs on the cracks in the Zvezda module on ISS.

Repairs to the various cracks in Zvezda’s hull, done by Russian astronauts in ’20 and ’21, have reduced the leakage from 1,140 grams per day to 300 grams per day. Normally ISS is expected to lose 325 grams per day, across the entire station, so the Zvezda leak doubled this loss, even after the repair. Thus, the hatch to Zvezda is kept closed in order to maintain the atmosphere of ISS at its normal levels, and opened only when there is need to enter it. In addition, its port is no longer used for dockings.

The engineering review is also looking into the cause of the cracks, which are believed to be stress fractures caused by the age of Zvezda (ISS’s second oldest module) combined with the many dockings that had occurred at its port. The review is also discussing ways to reduce the problem, until ISS’s retirement in 2030.

German rocket startup Isar Aerospace gets first American customer

The German rocket startup Isar Aerospace, which hopes to complete the first launch of its Spectrum rocket this year, has signed its first launch contract with an American company, the satellite broker and space tug company Spaceflight.

U.S.-based launch services provider Spaceflight said Jan. 25 it has booked a dedicated launch in 2026 from Isar Aerospace, the German rocket developer aiming to perform the first test flight of its Spectrum vehicle this year. The mission is slated to lift off from Isar’s launchpad in Andøya, Norway, to sun-synchronous orbit (SSO).

Their agreement also includes an option for an additional dedicated launch in 2025, which Isar chief commercial officer Stella Guillen told SpaceNews could also use a launchpad it is developing at the Guiana Space Center near Kourou, French Guiana.

Spaceflight has been scrambling to find rockets for its tugs, since SpaceX announced in March 2022 it would no longer carry them. It signed a deal with Arianespace to fly on its Vega rocket, but launch failures have delayed its launch.

Isar is one of three German rocket startups vying for business. The race to be the first to launch remains very tight.

Lucy team adds 10th asteroid to the spacecraft’s tour

Lucy's route through the solar system
Lucy’s route through the solar system

The Lucy science team has now added a tenth asteroid to the spacecraft’s tour of the solar system, planning its route so that it will pass within 280 miles on November 1, 2023.

The Lucy mission is already breaking records by planning to visit nine asteroids during its 12-year tour of the Jupiter Trojan asteroids, which orbit the Sun at the same distance as Jupiter. Originally, Lucy was not scheduled to get a close-up view of any asteroids until 2025, when it will fly by the main belt asteroid (52246) Donaldjohanson. However, the Lucy team identified a small, as-yet unnamed asteroid in the inner main belt, designated (152830) 1999 VD57, as a potential new and useful target for the Lucy spacecraft.

The asteroid is about 2,300 feet wide. The primary goal of this visit however will be engineering, testing Lucy’s new method of tracking an object as the spacecraft flies past. On the map to the right the dots along Lucy’s path indicate the asteroids to be visited.

SpaceX successfully launches a record 56 Starlink satellites

SpaceX early today successfully launched a record 56 Starlink satellites on a single Falcon 9 rocket, which also carried a record mass for the rocket.

The first stage successfully landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic, completing its 9th flight. The fairing halves completed the 6th and 7th flights.

The 2023 launch race:

6 SpaceX
5 China
1 Rocket Lab
1 Japan

American private enterprise now leads China 7 to 5 in the national ranks, and the entire world combined 7 to 6.

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