Category Archives: Behind The Black

Synchronized cavern diving

An evening pause: They call this a flash mob, but that’s not accurate. These divers did not mysteriously appear here to move in unison in order to surprise someone. They all planned it together.

Nonetheless where they are and what they do is beautiful. I especially like when they coordination the pointing of their dive lights.

Hat tip Mike Nelson.

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Judge rules civil forfeiture is unconstitutional

A South Carolina judge has ruled that the use of civil forfeiture against individuals is unconstitutional and must cease.

Circuit Judge Steven H. John has ruled that the South Carolina’s civil asset forfeiture regulations violate the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights of the citizens.

…Judge John notes all of these problems in a decisive ruling that smacks down the practice of civil asset forfeiture. In his 15-page opinion, he writes that South Carolina’s forfeiture practice violate both the U.S. Constitution and the state’s because the statutes “(1) place the burden on the property owner to prove their innocence, (2) unconstitutionally institutionally incentivizes forfeiture officials to prosecute forfeiture actions, and (3) do not mandate judicial review or judicial authorization prior to or subsequent to the seizure.” He also notes that the statutes violate citizens’ Eighth Amendment protections against excessive fines.

This is plain common sense, and an easy conclusion if one simply reads the unmistakable words in the Constitution. Unfortunately, decisions like this have so far been relatively rare. Hopefully this decision will start a trend.

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India releases first radar images from Chandrayaan-2

Radar image from Chandrayaan-2
Click for full image.

India yesterday released the first radar images produced by its lunar orbiter, Chandrayaan-2, the best such images yet produced by any spacecraft. As their press release notes:

Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) is a powerful remote sensing instrument for studying planetary surfaces and subsurface due to the ability of the radar signal to penetrate the surface. It is also sensitive to the roughness, structure and composition of the surface material and the buried terrain.

Previous lunar-orbiting SAR systems such as the S-band hybrid-polarimetric SAR on ISRO’s Chandrayaan-1 and the S & X-band hybrid-polarimetric SAR on NASA’s LRO [Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter], provided valuable data on the scattering characterisation of ejecta materials of lunar impact craters. However, L & S band SAR on Chandraayan-2 is designed to produce greater details about the morphology and ejecta materials of impact craters due to its ability of imaging with higher resolution (2 – 75m slant range) and full-polarimetric modes in standalone as well as joint modes in S and L-band with wide range of incidence angle coverage (9.5° – 35°). In addition, the greater depth of penetration of L-band (3-5 meters) enables probing the buried terrain at greater depths. The L & S band SAR payload helps in unambiguously identifying and quantitatively estimating the lunar polar water-ice in permanently shadowed regions.

The image on the right, cropped and reduced to post here, is from one of the two images released. The brighter areas indicate rougher terrain as well as the location of ejecta from the crater, some of which is below the surface and is not obvious in optical images.

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China officially withdraws extradition bill that sparked Hong Kong protests

The Chinese government has now officially withdrawn the extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong citizens to be tried within China and that triggered the on-going Hong Kong protests.

We will have to see if this defuses the situation. The protesters have put forth other demands, such as calling for an investigation of the Hong Kong police, instigated by their sometimes violent behavior in response to the protests. More important, the protests have also demanded the return of real elections to Hong Kong, something the Chinese government eliminated in recent years.

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Bhabha Crater at dawn

Central peaks of Bhabha Crater at dawn

Cool image time! The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) science team have released a beautiful oblique image of Bhabha Crater, located on the Moon’s far side, taken just as dawn was breaking over the crater’s central peaks.

The image to the right is a section of that picture, showing the central peaks near the bottom with the western rim of the 50-mile-wide crater at the top. The giant shadows of those central peaks can be seen extending across the floor of the crater and against that western rim. The photograph was taken on August 28, 2019 from an altitude of about 45 miles. The area of the central peaks in daylight is estimated to be about nine miles across.

The LRO science team releases a new press release image about once every two weeks. I suspect that they hoped this release would have shown the location of India’s Vikram lander. As they are as yet unable to find it, they instead provided us this cool image instead.

If you go to the link you can use their viewer to view and explore this very very large image. For example, if you zoom into those central peaks you can actually see small boulders scattered across their rounded tops.

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UK hypersonic engine component passes test

An important component of the hypersonic engine being developed by Reaction Engines, a private company based in the United Kingdom, has successfully passed a major test.

UK company Reaction Engines has tested its innovative precooler at airflow temperature conditions equivalent to Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. This achievement marks a significant milestone in its ESA-supported development of the air-breathing SABRE engine, paving the way for a revolution in space access and hypersonic flight.

The precooler heat exchanger is an essential SABRE element that cools the hot airstream generated by air entering the engine intake at hypersonic speed.

This is good news for the company and the engine, but don’t expect to buy a ticket on a spaceship using SABRE anytime soon. This success is only a beginning. They remain a long way from flight.

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LRO’s 2nd attempt to find Vikram comes up empty

In their second attempt to find India’s failed lunar lander Vikram, the science team of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) were unsuccessful in spotting it.

A project scientist of Nasa’s LRO mission confirmed that the space agency’s second attempt to locate Vikram had come up empty. “The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter imaged the area of the targeted Chandrayaan-2 Vikram landing site on October 14 but did not observe any evidence of the lander,” Noah Edward Petro, the project scientist told news agency PTI.

Petro explained that Nasa compared the images shot by the LRO on October 14 with an image of the same area before Vikram’s landing. Nasa used a technique that would help it spot any signs of impact on the lunar surface indicating Vikram’s possible location. However, the images revealed nothing.

“It is possible that Vikram is located in a shadow or outside of the search area. Because of the low latitude, approximately 70 degrees south, the area is never completely free of shadows,” John Keller, deputy project scientist of Nasa’s LRO mission, explained while speaking to news agency PTI.

Based on the data obtained during the landing attempt, it appeared that Vikram should have crashed within a relatively small target area. That they haven’t seen it yet suggests that it landed within a shadowed area that will take time for the Sun to reach, if ever, or that it is farther away that expected, which implies that during landing much more went wrong than presently believed.

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Chang’e-4 and Yutu-2 awake for 11th lunar day

Engineers have reactivated both Chang’e-4 and Yutu-2 to begin normal operations on their eleventh lunar day on the far side of the Moon.

As is usual for these reports from the state-run official media in China, the article provides little information. However, this article today from space.com provides an update on the “gel-like” material that Yutu-2 spotted in August.

While gaining the attention of the Yutu 2 team, the material does not appear altogether mysterious, as claimed by Chinese media.

Clive Neal, a lunar scientist at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, told Space.com that the new image reinforces the previous suggestion that the material is broadly similar in nature to a sample of impact glass found during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

…Dan Moriarty, NASA Postdoctoral Program fellow at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has analyzed and processed the image, seeking clues as to its precise nature. While this compressed image lacks a lot of the useful information a raw image would contain, Moriarty said he could gain insights by adjusting parameters. “The shape of the fragments appears fairly similar to other materials in the area. What this tells us is that this material has a similar history as the surrounding material,” Moriarty said. “It was broken up and fractured by impacts on the lunar surface, just like the surrounding soil.

Overall, Yutu-2 has traveled about 950 feet or 290 meters westward from Chang’e-4 since it began roving at the start of the year.

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InSight’s digging problems reveal the alienness of Mars’ soil

Even as InSight’s mole shaft driller shows signs of working, its difficulties in digging into the Martian soil has revealed how truly alien that soil is from what we normally expect.

[U]nlike typical holes dug here on Earth, the one excavated by InSight’s mole has no lip of dirt around its rim, Hoffman said. “Where did the soil go?” he said. “Basically, it got pounded back into the ground, so it seems like it’s very cohesive, even though it’s very dusty.”

And this is a weird combination of characteristics, strongly suggesting that Mars dirt is alien in more ways than one. “The soil properties are very different than anything we’ve ever seen on Earth, which is already a very interesting result,” Hoffman said.

That the soil of Mars is alien should not be a surprise. The planet’s dusty nature, combined with its light gravity and lack of life, practically guaranteed that the soil would have different and unexpected properties. What is disturbing is that it appears this likelihood was not considered in the slightest by the German engineers who designed the mole for digging.

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Blue Origin partners with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Draper to build lunar lander

At a science conference yesterday Jeff Bezos announced that Blue Origin has formed a partnership with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper to propose building a manned lunar lander for NASA.

In the first major update on the company’s lander program since May, Bezos said Blue Origin has assembled a “national team” of aerospace contractors to develop, build and fly the three-stage spacecraft, which is based on Blue Origin’s previous work on the Blue Moon landing system.

“Blue Origin is the prime contractor, Lockheed Martin is building the ascent stage, Northrop Grumman is building the transfer element and Draper is doing the GNC (guidance, navigation and control),” Bezos said Tuesday at the International Astronautical Congress in Washington. “We could not ask for better partners. Blue Origin, in addition to being the prime, is going to build the descent element.”

Blue Origin is competing for a NASA contract to develop a crewed lunar lander, or Human Landing System, for the Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the surface of the moon by the end of 2024.

This partnership reminds me of the way the aerospace industry functioned before the arrival of SpaceX. No one would compete. Instead, they would meet like a cartel and divvy up the work so that everyone had a share. The result was that very little new stuff got built, and over time the entire industry began to die.

The goal of this partnership now seems aimed at Congress and convincing legislators (especially the Democrats who control the House) to drop their opposition to Trump’s 2024 Moon proposal and fund it. Whether this will work remains unknown, and will likely have to wait until after the results of the 2020 election.

Meanwhile, it is very interesting that Blue Origin is the prime contractor, considering how very very little Blue Origin has so far achieved in space. I wonder if Bezos has committed some of his personal capital to this venture (more than $2.8 billion cash intended for his space ventures), and doled it out to Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper as an incentive to become subcontractors.

Bezos’ presentation also provided an update on Blue Origin’s BE-7 engine, designed as part of this lunar lander. It appears however that he said nothing about the BE-4 engine that the company is building for both ULA’s Vulcan rocket and its own New Glenn rocket. Except for one update in August, there has been little said about this engine in about a year and a half. As this engine is key to the entire company’s financial future, this silence makes me continue to wonder if it has issues.

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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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