Category Archives: Essays And Commentaries

Ice! Ice! Everywhere on Mars ice!

Ice scarp in Milankovic Crater
Click for full image.

In January 2018 scientists announced the discovery of exposed ice in a number scarp cliff faces found in the high-mid-latitudes of Mars.

These scarps, which have so far been found in one southern 50-55 degree latitude strip and in one crater, Milankovic, at the same latitude in the north, are important because they are one of the first places on Mars in its lower latitudes where we have found ice actually exposed and visible, not buried like the many buried glaciers very near the surface found in the 30 to 60 degree northern and southern latitude bands.

Since that press announcement, scientists have been monitoring these sites for changes, as well as expanding their survey to see if they can locate more of these scarps.

Overview map

My previous posts on this subject were mostly focused on that southern strip near Hellas Basin, as shown on the map on the right. In reviewing the most recent image download from the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), I noticed that the only new images of ice scarps were taken in the northern location, in Milankovic Crater, as indicated by the white dot north of Olympus Mons. The first image above shows the north-facing scarp of one of these images, cropped to focus in on the color section where, if you look close, you will see a strip of blue across the base of the scarp. That’s the ice layer, exposed as the scarp sublimates away over time from the north to the south.

over view of all MRO images taken so far in Milankovic Crater

This scarp, labeled #2 on the overview map of Milankovic Crater on the right, is located inside the crater’s eastern rim. The second image, posted below and labeled #1 on the overview map, shows a wider area of several ice scarps located on the inside of the crater’s southwestern rim.

The red boxes in the overview map indicate all the images taken by MRO inside this crater. If you go to the camera’s archive and focus in on Milankovic Crater at 54.5 degrees north latitude and 213.3 degrees longitude, you can then click on each red box to see the high resolution image. In practically every image along the crater’s inside rim can be found numerous scarps.
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Ulysses S. Grant

In my leisure reading these days I have been very focused on the life and history of Ulysses S. Grant, the man who more than any single person made it possible for the north to win the Civil War in the 1860s..

More importantly, Grant’s unwavering offensive strategy in war, to never retreat, to always take the battle to the enemy, to always demand, as he wrote after winning his first major battle at Donelson, “complete and unconditional surrender,” and to always follow up that victory with grace and mercy, became the central tenet of American military and political strategy for the next eighty years, through the end of World War II. It is for this reason Grant in many ways could be considered among the four or five most influential individuals in American history.

In this leisured effort I have read a number of classic histories, including Shelby Foote’s three volume The Civil War: a Narrative and Bruce Catton’s A Stillness at Appomattox. I also, as I always do when I am trying to learn something about history, read the original sources, and for this Grant’s own memoirs came next. (Historians such as I might try to get things right, but for any non-historian it behooves you to read some original sources as well. This will help you distinguish between the historians who succeed in getting it right, and those who don’t.)

I then followed most recently with Jean Edward Smith’s 2001 biography, Grant. The previous writing had focused only on the Civil War. This book gave me the story before and after.

Grant is a remarkable figure. He appears to have been an astonishngly honest and straightforward man, coldly rational about war and what must be done to win. He also was amazingly unambitious, even as he strove hard to succeed. It was his belief never to aim for a promotion, because he believed that effort would warp his judgment. Instead, he tried to do the best he could at any moment, and hoped that by his good works he would rise.

One story I think not only epitomized the character of Grant, but of the America of his time. After the war and the completion of his two terms as president, he went on a world tour, where he was greeted everywhere with honors and adulation. Upon his arrival in Berlin Chancellor Bismarck immediately invited Grant to come and visit.
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Sunspot update Sept 2019:
The blankest Sun in decades

With the release yesterday by NOAA of its September update of its graph showing the long term sunspot activity of the Sun, we find ourselves in what might be the longest stretch of sunspot inactivity in decades, part of what might become the most inactive solar minimum in centuries.

In the last four months the Sun has produced practically no sunspots. There were two in June, two in July, and one in August. The September graph, posted below with additional annotations by me to give it context, shows that the past month was as weak as August, with only one sunspot again.

September 2019 sunspot activity

The graph above has been modified to show the predictions of the solar science community for the previous solar maximum. The green curves show the community’s two original predictions from April 2007, with half the scientists predicting a very strong maximum and half predicting a weak one. The red curve is their revised May 2009 prediction, extended in November 2018 four years into the future.

The 2008-2009 solar minimum was one of the deepest and longest ever recorded. Yet, it never produced a stretch of four months with so few sunspots, as shown in the graph above. Moreover, during that minimum the Sun was blank 71% of the time in 2008 and 73% of the time in 2009 (a record). Right now, with almost three months to go in 2019, the Sun has already been blank 73% of time, with every indication that it will top that number before the year is out.

Furthermore, the trend continues to suggest we are heading for a period of very few sunspots. Though one of the six sunspots seen since June 1 had a polarity that belonged to the next solar cycle, we have seen no further such next-cycle sunspots since July. There was one active region on October 6 with a next solar cycle polarity, but it was never able to gather enough magnetic energy to mature into a sunspot.

As I noted in my July 8 sunspot update,
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Ukraine: The Democratic Party’s effort to overthrow the elected government

In the past two weeks the mainstream media, working for the Democratic Party, has blasted us with a new anti-Trump scandal, accusing the president of using his influence during a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to pressure the Ukraine to instigate an investigation of Joe Biden.

As I usually do with big political stories such as this, I let them play out a bit before drawing some conclusions. I will admit that I immediately thought this was all balderdash, comparable to the same fake accusations against Trump in connection with Russian collusion. Those were never creditable, and after almost two years even Robert Mueller, the FBI hack chosen by DC insiders to frame Trump, found he had no evidence and came up empty.

The Trump-Ukraine accusations seemed at first glance to be the same garbage, but I decided to watch and wait, to see if they had substance.

Not surprisingly, they don’t.

First we have the accusation itself, coming from an anonymous whisteblower. Not only is the accuser anonymous, so are all his or her sources. All.

Even more significant, the accusation is not based on first hand knowledge. The accuser was not witness to Trump’s phone call. His claim is based entirely on hearsay and rumor, which would be laughed out of any court in the land. That anyone in the press is taking these accusations seriously based on this evidence proves they are, as Glenn Reynolds often says, merely Democratic operatives with bylines.

Second, soon after the press and the Democrats (I repeat myself) began to make a big deal about this feeble accusation, Trump went ahead and released the transcript of his conversation.

The transcript shows absolutely nothing scandalous. » Read more

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Cave pits in the Martian northern lowlands

New pits in Hephaestus Planitia

I could call this my monthly Martian Pit update. Since November 2018 I have each month found from two to five new and interesting cave pits in the monthly download of new images from the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). My previous posts:

All except the last August 12 post were for pits on the flanks of Arsia Mons, the southernmost in the line of three giant volcanoes to the southeast of Olympus Mons, and were thus almost certainly resulting from lava flows.

The August 12 post instead showed pits found in Utopia Planitia, one of the large plains that comprise the Martian northern lowlands where scientists think an intermittent ocean might have once existed. All of these pits are found in a region of meandering canyons dubbed Hephaestus Fossae.

In the most recent MRO release scientists once again focused on the pits in or near Hephaetus, imaging four pits, two of which have been imaged previously, as shown in my August post and labeled #2 and #4 in this article, and two (here and here) that appear new. The image on the right, cropped to post here, shows the two new pits, dubbed #1 and #3. In the full image of #1, it is clear that this pit lines up nicely with some other less prominent depressions, suggesting an underground cave. Pit #3 however is more puzzling. In the full image, this pit actually runs perpendicular to a long depression to the west. There are also no other related features around it.

What makes all four of these pits intriguing is their relationship to Hephaestus Fossae and a neighboring rill-like canyon dubbed Hebrus Valles, as shown in the overview map below.
» Read more

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Has the leftist smear machine begun to crack?

Several stories in the past week suggest that cracks might finally be appearing in the leftist/Democratic/media smear machine that since 2008 has used lies and slanders to destroy the reputations of its opponents.

What makes the first five stories above different from everything I have seen in the past two decades, since Bill Clinton’s perjury and impeachment in the late 1990s, is the willingness of people on both the right and left, within the entertainment community, to come out publicly and condemn the leftwing blacklisting efforts that have normally been supported blindly and in mass by those same communities.

In the past the support for such blacklisting threats against conservative entertainers would have been monolithic, and any conservatives in Hollywood would have been silent, out of fear they own careers would have been destroyed.

Now we not only have a number of conservative entertainers fearlessly blasting this fascist blacklisting, they are being joined by many liberal entertainer icons.

The last story is similar, but instead of the entertainment community the story involves a rebellion by a Democratic politician. Since Bill Clinton’s presidency I have practically never seen a Democratic politician resist this blacklist culture. Yang might be the very first. And I say that despite the fact that I definitely oppose his politics.

We are also seeing some of the same thing with this week’s New York Times slander of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. While the right has justly blasted the newspaper for its partisan lying and incompetence, so have some liberal outlets.

It could be that the leftist smear machine has finally gone too far, and has become so vile and despicable that even many ardent leftists can no longer tolerate it.

Then again, I am a forever optimistic person, and sometimes see hope where none exists. These might merely be the exceptions that prove the rule. Only time will tell us whether this is a new positive trend, or a minor blip in left’s never-ending quest to persecute its opponents.

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More potential Starship landing sites on Mars

Starship landing sites

On August 28, 2019 I broke the story that SpaceX is beginning to obtain images of candidate Starship landing sites from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

Many news sources, skilled in their ability to rewrite press releases, saw my article and immediately posted stories essentially repeating what I had found, including my geological reasoning. Some did some more digging and, because they came out a few days later they were able to take advantage of the next MRO team image release, issued on August 30th, to find a few more candidate site images.

Those additional images included the remaining stereo images for all the images in my August post, indicated by the white boxes in the overview map above. They also included two new locations, indicated by the black boxes. One was of one more location in the easternmost hills of Erebus Montes. The other was a stereo pair for one entirely different landing location, farther to the west in the mountains dubbed Phlegra Montes, a location that SpaceX had previously been considering, but until this image had not been included in its MRO image requests.

The grey boxes in the map above show the approximate locations of images not yet officially released by MRO. Though unreleased, their existence is still public knowledge, as they are listed as already acquired images in the HiWish database. Below are links to the three upcoming new images (the second stereo images for locations #1 and #2 are not included)

Both the Phlega Montes location and #3 above appear to be looking at soft slushy material that might have a lot of water just below the surface.
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The Democratic/Media smear machine

This past weekend we got to once again see the workings of the Democratic/Media smear machine, designed to not only destroy the reputation of anyone who opposes them, but to give that machine justification for removing all such individuals from any position of power.

All without any evidence. None.

First the New York Times published a new unsubstantiated smear against Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh. The allegations were made by a Democratic Party operative who had acted as one of Bill Clinton’s lawyers, and who claimed to have seen the incident.

Then Democratic politicians pile on, demanding the impeachment of Kavanaugh. They do this despite the fact that there are absolutely no other confirmed witnesses to that Democratic operative’s accusations. Nor is there any record anywhere or evidence that the vile incident ever happened.

Then, when the damage has already been done, and this new Big Lie has been properly spread throughout the world, the New York Times finally corrects its initial report, adding two significant details that discredits the report entirely. First, the so-called victim had refused to be interviewed for the report, and second, according to her friends, has no recollection of the incident itself.

None of these corrections will matter. From now on Democrats, and their willing allies in the press, will repeatedly use this new smear as evidence that Kavanaugh is a bad person who must be removed from office.

This is the same pattern we have seen them use repeatedly for the past decade. First they make unsubstantiated accusations of racism (the Tea Party, some children from Kentucky), of murder (Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown), of encouraging violence (Sarah Palin), of treason (Trump), of sexual deviancy (Kavanaugh and Roy Moore), and then when those accusations are unequivocally proven to be lies and smears, ignore this fundamental evidence to continue spreading the lies and the slanders.

Yet, when it came time to vote in 2018, the American public shrugged its shoulders, ignored this vile behavior, and rewarded these Democrats with more power in Congress. It seems that a very large percentage of the American public — maybe even a majority — approves of this smear machine, likes what it is doing, and wants to use it to make sure all opposition to the Democratic Party is destroyed, by any means necessary.

Bad times are coming, unless something changes in the 2020 election.

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Buy dumb!

The dumb washing machine we hunted for and got
The used “dumb” machine we
paid $285 for that actually
cleans our clothes.

The smart washing machine we threw out
The “smart” machine that we
paid $923 for and sold for $40.

Two years ago our old Kenmore Series 80 washing machine broke down. The repair guy said it would be so expensive to fix that he recommended it was time to buy something new.

So off we went to Sears, where we ended up buying one of today’s modern “smart” machines for a mere $923. As the LG website proudly exclaims,

A Smarter Way to Wash: 6Motion™ Technology uses up to 6 different wash motions to provide a smart cleaning experience that is gentle on clothes and maximizes washing performance.

The problem was the machine never got any of our clothes clean. It also refused to provide enough water. The way it worked was to sense the weight of the clothes you put inside, and determine the needed amount based on this. Routinely, it wasn’t enough, so Diane did web searches to discover numerous owners faking out the machine’s brains by pouring several buckets of water on top of the clothes before turning on the machine, making them weigh more.

The machine also did not have an agitator, the new in-thing among washing machine manufacturers two years ago, probably forced on them by new federal regulations. And though the tub itself did shake, it did it so gently that the clothes hardly moved.

There were also other issues with the machine’s smart technology that frustrated Diane. The machine was boss, and would not allow for any flexibility to its predetermined wash and rinse cycles, even when they made no sense.

Last week Diane had had enough. She did some research, found a local used appliance store in Tucson, Rosano’s & Sons Appliances. Not only did they have a comparable washing machine to our old Kenmore, they gave their workmanship a six month warranty, and would buy our “smart” machine for $40. They wouldn’t pay more, because they explained that no one really wanted these new “smart” machines. The demand was for the older ones, the ones that while “dumb” worked.

And yes, they were right. Since getting the “new” used machine installed it’s like the good ol’ days, when washing machines were washing machines, and the dirty clothes you put in came out clean. Wonder of wonders!

The moral to this story is this: Buy dumb! The modern obsession with adding computer technology to what should be a very simple machine is not necessarily a good thing. Moreover, the regulations imposed by the federal government in the past decade to make many of our appliances “more efficient” and “environmentally friendly” has only served to make them useless.

So, if any of your old appliances break, and there is any possibility of fixing them, do it. It is worth the cost. The used Kenmore Series 70 we just bought cost less than a third of the LG “smart” machine, and does a better job. We would have saved money and had clean clothes for the past two years had we simply fixed the old machine. And if you can’t get the old machine fixed, find a used appliance place and buy used. It will also save you money, and you will also get an appliance that will do the job.

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Avalanche season at the Martian north pole

Avalanche on-going at the edge of Mars' north pole icecap
Click for full resolution image.

As the Martian spring started to unfold in April 2019, the focus of many Martian planetary scientists immediately shifted to the northern polar icecap, where they fully expected, based on previous experience, some spectacular events to occur.

I have already reported on this year’s initial observations of the sublimation of the carbon dioxide frost layer. That frost layer, generally less than six feet thick, falls as dry ice snow with the coming of winter, then sublimates away each spring. Since the arrival of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) in 2006 and its discovery of this process by its high resolution camera, these scientists have been monitoring the disappearance of that frost layer from Martian year to Martian year.

That sublimation process also brings with it other spectacular changes, including the coming of frequent avalanches along the high cliff scarps, ranging in heights from 1,500 to 3,000 feet, that comprise the edge of that north pole icecap. The image above, reduced to post here, shows one of the many avalanches found this spring and photographed as they were actually happening. It looks down at the cliff that runs from the left to the lower right of the image, with its top being the flat plateau in the lower left. From the caption, written by Dr. Candice Hansen of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona,

Every spring the sun shines on the side of the stack of layers at the North Pole of Mars known as the north polar layered deposits. The warmth destabilizes the ice and blocks break loose.

When they reach the bottom of the more than 500 meter tall cliff face [about 1,600 feet], the blocks kick up a cloud of dust. (In the cutout, the top layer of the north polar cap is to the lower left.) The layers beneath are different colors and textures depending on the amount of dust mixed with ice.

The linear many-layered look of that cliff face is due to the many layers believed to exist within the permanent water icecap of Mars. To give some perspective, this cliff is several hundred taller than the World Trade Center after completion. Those falling blocks are dropping farther than the bodies that horribly fell from the Trade Center the day it was hit by airplanes flown by Islamic terrorists on September 11, 2001.

The map below shows most of the eastern half of that icecap, with the white boxes showing the various places MRO has spotted such avalanches.
» Read more

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Swamp attacks Trump over hurricane forecasts

Last week, as Hurricane Dorian approached the Florida coast, President Trump held a press briefing where he showed a graph with extra markings that suggested that Alabama might be impacted by the hurricane.

Unfortunately for Trump, this path for Dorian — though initially considered a possibility in the National Weather Service models — was also considered very unlikely, and had been quickly dismissed from those models, making Trump’s graph out-of-date when he showed it.

Since then the Democratic mainstream media has put out hundreds of stories claiming some sort of corruption on Trump’s part for adding those extra markings. Trump has himself responded aggressively, defending his action and saying it was justified. The New York Times even reported — based on anonymous sources — that Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross had threatened to fire three people at the National Weather Service if they didn’t issue a statement defending Trump.

Now, three former Democratic NOAA heads, D. James Baker (appointed by Bill Clinton), Jane Lubchenco (appointed by Barack Obama), and Kathryn D. Sullivan (appointed by Barack Obama), have issued a statement condemning Trump, claiming his actions are threatening the scientific integrity of these agencies.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has always been a model of scientific integrity, ensuring that weather science is not politically driven, regardless of the administration. But the recent misleading statements by President Donald Trump about a NWS hurricane forecast and cover-up actions by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), its parent agency, have violated those norms.

Forgive me if I don’t take very seriously this smug, self-righteous posturing by these former NOAA officials, all partisan Democratic Party political appointees. Scientific integrity suddenly means a lot to them when they can use it to attack Trump. However, when NOAA repeatedly tampered with its climate data for the past dozen years, and has provided no good explanation for that tampering, I don’t remember these high and mighty officials, all in charge of NOAA at the time, commenting then about the importance of scientific integrity.

Trump is no saint here. He as a politician wanted to cover all bets, so he added Alabama in discussing Dorian’s threat, even though his weather scientists considered that threat slim if nonexistent. He should have relied more on those scientists and not improvised.

For him however to be attacked relentless for this minor addition is absurd, since it is perfectly reasonable for weather scientists to get their predictions wrong, and as president Trump has a responsibility to try to prepare for all eventualities.

These NOAA critics are far less credible however. There are questionable things going on at NOAA in connection with its global climate dataset that requires either an explanation or a correction. This is a far more serious issue than whether a politician expanded the threat of a hurricane in one press briefing in order to cover his ass. The tampering threatens to discredit the entire NOAA climate dataset, making all research based on it untrustworthy. If these former NOAA officials really cared about scientific integrity, they would have taken action at NOAA to deal with this tampering, when they ran those agencies. They would have either gotten it stopped, or provided the public and the rest of the scientific community a reasonable explanation for it.

They did neither, proving that their sanctimonious statement today is nothing more than partisan politics. They don’t care about scientific integrity. What they care about is defeating Trump, helping the Democratic Party, and enhancing the power of the Washington swamp.

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Charles Walker: the first commercial astronaut

Charles Walker on the Space Shuttle in November 1985

Last night I attended another one of the monthly Arizona Space Business Roundtable events held here in Tucson to bring together the business-oriented space community of this city.

The speaker was Charles Walker, who had flown three shuttle missions in 1984 and 1985, but not as a NASA-employed astronaut but as an employee of McDonnell-Douglas, making him the first astronaut to fly in space under the employ of a private commercial company.

Walker’s job then was to monitor and maintain a drug-processing unit designed to produce large quantities of pure biological hormones that on Earth were simply not possible. Gravity polluted the process, while weightlessness acted to purify things. If successful the hormone produced could be sold to fight anemia, especially in individuals taking radiation treatments. The image on the right shows him on his third and last shuttle mission, launched November 26, 1985. He is working with a handheld protein crystal growth experiment, with the larger hormone purifying experiment on the wall behind this.

According to Walker’s presentation yesterday, this third flight in November 1985 demonstrated the process worked and could produce as much as one liter of hormone, enough to easily make back the cost of the project and leave room for an acceptable profit. They were thus ready for fullscale production on future shuttle flights, only to have the entire project die when the Challenger shuttle was lost on January 28, 1986. With that failure President Reagan declared that the shuttle would no longer be used for commercial flights.

Their business plan had been dependent on the artificially low launch prices NASA had been charging them for shuttle flights. Without the shuttle there was then no affordable alternative for getting into orbit.

The process is still viable, and the need for these drugs still exists. Whether they could now be flown on the new cheaper private rockets, on board future private space stations like Bigelow’s B330, remains unknown. A new company would have to pick up the pieces, as McDonnell-Douglas no longer exists, having been absorbed into Boeing.

I personally suspect there is real money to be made here, should someone decide to go for it.

What struck me most while watching Walker speak was the same thing that has struck me whenever I have seen or interviewed any astronaut: He appeared to be such an ordinary down-to-earth human being. He could have been anyone you meet anywhere.

What made him stand out, as he described his upbringing and how he became an astronaut, was not his intelligence or any physical attribute, but his clear willingness to stay focused on his goals, to work has hard as possible to make them come true. What made him succeed was an unwavering commitment. He wanted to get to space, and by gum he was going to do it!

Charles Walker on first flight, August 1984
Walker on his first flight in 1984.

For example, he was too young to fly in the initial space race in the 1960s. When he finally was old enough and ready in the 1970s, NASA’s space program was being shut down. That option seemed dead. So instead, he began looking for another route into space, and found it with private industry and possibility of making money by using weightlessness to produce medicines in space that could not be produced on Earth.

Obviously, luck is always a factor. Had his project been a little delayed, only a year, it would have never flown, and he would never have gone into space. Similarly, he needed to be in the right place at the right time to get this particularly job in the first place.

At the same time, “Luck is a residue of design,” as said by Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodges in the 1950s. Walker didn’t give up when the Apollo program died in the 1970s, and thus he put himself in the right place at McDonnell-Douglas when this opportunity arose.

We should all pay close attention. If you have a dream, you need to follow it, with a fearless wholehearted commitment. If you do, you still might not get it as you dreamed, but you will increase your chances, and regardless, you will end up doing far better for yourself and everyone around you.

And you still might end up like Walker, bouncing around in weightlessness out in the vast reaches of outer space.

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Mars’ mysterious slope streaks become even more mysterious

Bright slope streaks in Arabia Terra
Click for full image.

Mars is an alien planet. This fact needs to be restated over and over, because we humans have an uncontrolled and unconscious tendency to view the things we find on Mars and assume they are caused by and resemble phenomenon we see all the time here on Earth.

Not. Mars has a very different climate, a significantly weaker gravitational field (about one third of Earth’s), and a geological and environmental make-up very alien from Earth’s. While many phenomenon there might have parallels on Earth, it is very dangerous to assume they are the same, because more often than not, they are exceedingly dissimilar and mysterious.

The image on the right is another example of this, reduced and cropped to post here. It is of some slope streaks in the Arabia Terra region on Mars, the largest most extensive region in the transition zone between the northern lowland plains and the southern highlands. I found it in my review of the August 30th release of new images from the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

As I already noted in my previous article about the mysterious slope streaks of Mars:

The bottom line, as noted in one paper, “The processes that form slope streaks remain obscure. No proposed mechanism readily accounts for all of their observed characteristics and peculiarities.”

Mars is strange. Mars is alien. Mars epitomizes the universe in all its glory.

The image above only reinforces this conclusion.
» Read more

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The modern academic view of the future

Samsung has just released a new report, dubbed Samsung KX50: The Future in Focus, where the company asked “Six of Britain’s leading academics and futurists” to give their prediction of what the world will be like fifty years hence.

According to the report [pdf], people will be living mostly in very dense urban environments consisting of giant, self-sufficient skyscrapers that grow their own food, huge underground complexes, and even undersea colonies. Travel will be by self-driving pods that can double as hotel rooms on long trips, with travel possible between places like Britain and Scandinavia by aquatic highways. Alongside these will be autonomous air taxis that use rivers as commuter routes, hyperloops, and hypersonic airliners.

Not that there will be much traveling. For environmental reasons, most food will be grown close to home, if not in the home itself. Manufacturing will be equally local thanks to 3D printing. And, thanks to automation and artificial intelligence, most people will work in their self-cleaning homes with most of their professional and personal interactions with others conducted through means of full-feedback holographs.

That means that most people will live very sedentary lives, but they’ll also be monitored by biosensors throughout the day as virtual digital companions assess their health, help doctors to prescribe treatments to keep them at peak fitness, dispense health advice, and even custom tailor diets and medicines. [emphasis mine]

The last paragraph immediately stood out to me. These academics saw no moral or ethical problem with such monitoring and supervision. Nor it appears were they aware of the political ramifications of such technology.

Similarly, the report also envisioned “TV and movies beamed directly to your brain via optoelectronic devices” and “Living forever with our memories uploaded to the Cloud.” And from introduction in the report [pdf] itself:

One of the first things that struck me, reading their submissions, was how much consensus there seems to be between all our futurologists, on matters such as direct brain-to-internet connection being a very real possibility before 2069.

The essays in the report itself confirmed this impression. The predictions of all these academics are all focused on imposing their hot-button leftist agenda, including preventing global warming, allowing gender fluidity, pushing environmental activism, and eliminating of meat as food (to name a few), and doing so by the use of technology that is implanted directly into each human being. The world they envision will have every human a pawn in their interconnected robotic-controlled society, with brain implants eliminating our ability to think independently because we are now part of a kind of hive mind.

Samsung then asked British citizens to rank these predictions by what they would most like to see come true. Self-cleaning robotic homes was by far the most popular prediction at 63%, with “Body implants that monitor our health and translate any language” coming in second at 44%.

This poll however was rigged, as it did not ask anyone if they opposed some predictions. I wonder what response Samsung would have gotten had they asked that question.

Nonetheless, the number of people enthused by the idea of monitoring by body implants make me fear for the future. Today young people are addicted to their smart phones and that hive mind. They see nothing wrong with Google monitoring their lives and even acting to control them. I fear that when more convenient but invasive monitoring and control become technologically possible, future generations will be quick to accept it, while they simultaneously lose their individuality and ability to create uniquely.

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SpaceX begins hunt for Starship landing sites on Mars

Candidate landing sites for SpaceX's Starship

In the August image release from the high resolution camera of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) were five images whose title immediately caught my interest:

The overview map on the right shows the location on Mars for these five photographs. The second and third images are of the same location, taken to produce a stereo pair.

To put it mildly, it is most intriguing to discover that SpaceX is beginning to research a place where it can land Starship on Mars. I immediately emailed Nathan Williams, the JPL scientist who requested these images from SpaceX, but he was bound by a non-disclosure agreement with SpaceX and could not comment. I have since tried to get some information directly from SpaceX but so far the company has not responded. A 2017 news story had indicated the company’s interest in this Mars’ location, but gave no details either.

Based on what we now know of Mars, however, it is possible to figure out why they favor this location, on the border between the two large northern lowland plains Arcadia and Amazonis Planitia.
» Read more

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What Starhopper achieved

Starhopper in flight
Click for full image.

Captalism in space: While most news reports (including mine yesterday) have focused on the spectacular 150-meter flight of Starhopper, the real story here is the Raptor engine. As one of my readers said most succinctly in a comment:

As impressive as the flight was, there is so much more going on here. This is the most efficient rocket engine ever, with all fuel and LOX running through the combustion chamber – including exhaust from the turbopumps. The Russians tried it, and NASA tried it, but this is the first time such a design has flown. It’s also the first major engine using methane, so SpaceX is learning all the ground support processes for storing, fueling, and detanking methane (mostly) safely. (Still causing grass fires at launch…) They’re aiming for production cost below $2M per Raptor, and they’re about ready to go full production on the engines, around 500 engines per year.

In fact, Musk himself reveals the truth of Diane Wilson’s comment in a tweet, found in this news story about yesterday’s flight:

Starhopper’s flying days may be done, but the stubby prototype will be retasked rather than put out to pasture.

“Yes, last flight for Hopper. If all goes well, it will become a vertical test stand for Raptor,” Musk said via Twitter on Saturday.

In a sense, yesterday’s flight was no different. Starhopper was essentially a flying test stand for Raptor, which is in itself an incredible concept, when you think about it. Now it will continue to be used as a test stand, but will no longer fly.

I have been told by rocket engineers more than once that you need to build and test your engine before you can really start your rocket design. Once you know its capabilities you can then design and construct the rocket.

This is why Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo has generally been a failure. They built the ship before the engine, and when the engine had issues they had to improvise redesigns that have limited the ship’s capability and seriously delayed its launch.

SpaceX now has its engine ready. Construction on its two prototype Starships, in Boca Chica and Florida, will now proceed quickly. Based on how quickly it took SpaceX to do the first Starhopper test flights (announced in late 2018 and flying in about eight months), expect test flights within six to eight months. (Note that in this last link I expressed doubt they could get those Starhopper flights off in 2019. SpaceX proved me wrong.)

Finally, a minor news note: SpaceX today successfully brought a Dragon cargo capsule back to Earth after a month at ISS, completing its third flight in space. That this multi-use flight is hardly mentioned in the news illustrates how far SpaceX has reshaped space engineering in only a few years.

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Curiosity’s future travels

Curiosity's planned route up Mt Sharp
Click for full image.

The Curiosity science team has released a new map showing an update of their planned route for Curiosity in the coming year or so, showing how they plan on leaving Gediz Vallis Channel after spending some time exploring the numerous geological layers exposed on its eroded surface.

The new information in this map is the route near the bottom of the image, showing more precisely the route up the canyon and then their retreat through the gap in the canyon’s western wall.

To get a better idea of what this means, I have updated my annotations on this Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter image of Gediz Vallis Channel, posted previously in my May 30, 2019 rover update.
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Washington’s spectacular effort to crush the American space effort

Three stories today illustrate once again the incompetence, idiocy, and inability of practically anyone in our federal government to get anything done sanely and efficiently and with success.

In the past half century that federal government has saddled the American people with a debt that is crushing. In that time it has also failed to do its job of properly enforcing the law to control the borders. It has spent trillions on social problems, only to have those social problems worsen exponentially.

I could go on. The problems imposed on American society by our failed ruling class in Washington since the 1960s is myriad. In the area of aerospace and space exploration, my specialty, the following three stories today alone demonstrate again that continuing track record, with no sign that anyone in Washington recognizes how bad a job they are doing.

First we have incompetence and idiocy by Congress. The first story outlines how our sainted lawmakers have mandated by law that the Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter’s moon must fly on NASA’s SLS rocket and “launch no later than 2023.”

This legal requirement, written into the appropriations bill, was imposed because the SLS project is being managed from Alabama, and Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) wants that rocket to get some work to justify this pork to his state. The requirement was further pushed by former Texas Congressman John Culbertson, who has a special place in his heart for Europa, and has specifically imposed that mission on NASA.

Shelby’s demand is especially egregious and makes little sense. First, even after twenty years of effort, NASA will likely not have that rocket available in 2023. Second, the cost to use SLS is about $4 billion per launch (not the fake $1 billion number cited in the article). A Falcon Heavy rocket could do the job for $100 million, which would more than pay for the extra operating costs incurred because it will take the three more years to get to Jupiter.

To deal with this conflict, NASA is presently doing as much lobbying as it can to get Congress to change the time limit, or to allow them to fly the spacecraft on a Falcon Heavy. Not surprisingly, Congress is resisting, even though their position makes no sense and will likely cost the taxpayer billions unnecessarily while likely delaying or even impeding the mission itself.

The article as usual for the mainstream press is filled with misconceptions and errors that are all designed to make any change in this Congressional act seem a mistake. These mistakes were all fed to the reporter by the powers in and out of Congress who oppose changing things, and the reporter sadly was not informed enough to realize this.

Next we have the incompetent and power-hungry federal bureaucracy, as described in the second article.
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Obama’s legacy of hate

Of all of Obama’s achievements, probably the one that is going to ring down the decades the longest and maybe do the most to destroy the United States and western civilization was his willingness to either endorse or refuse to condemn the use of slanders and lies to advance the political power of his Democratic Party and the left.

The most obvious example of this were the false accusations by top Democrats that the Tea Party protesters against Obamacare were “racist”, despite zero evidence. (I speak from personal experience, as I was involved in Tea Party groups in both the DC and Tucson areas.) Obama was in a position to tamp down this hateful and dishonest rhetoric. Instead, he allowed members of his administration to encourage it.

This political tactic has now become pervasive and dominant throughout the Democratic Party and its minions in the mainstream press. This fact became especially evident to me this past weekend, during a demonstration in Portland by a group called the Proud Boys. This group was formed in 2016 in reaction to the modern political leftist pressure forcing Americans to adhere to leftist dogma. From their own webpage:

The basic tenet of the group is that we are “Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.” Like Archie Bunker, we long for the days when “girls were girls and men were men.” This wasn’t controversial even twenty years ago, but being proud of Western culture today is like being a crippled, black, lesbian communist in 1953.

…The Proud Boys confuse the media because the group is anti-SJW without being alt-right. “Western chauvinist” includes all races, religions, and sexual preferences.

I have reviewed their webpages, their videos, statements from their leaders, and can find nothing that suggests they have any links to fascism or white supremacy. Go to their webpage yourself and do the same. If anything, the actual evidence is that this group opposes such things, vehemently.

And yes, I am sure you could find bigots among them, as you can find bigots everywhere. The fundamental principles and goals of the organization however have nothing to do with bigotry. They merely wish to reassert the nobility of western civilization, an idea that all Americans should feel no shame asserting.

This past weekend, during their demonstration, they came with no masks, a lot of American flags, a lot of Trump “Make America Great Again” hats and t-shirts, and the ability to defend themselves if attacked. (The link takes you to a Daily Mail report, with lots of pictures that confirm my description but with text that generally describes the event poorly.)

It appears, from the information at this link, that the Proud Boys finished their morning demonstration after about 90 minutes — with no violence — and then went to have a barbeque.
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Fascist and Democratic-controlled California

Two stories yesterday suggested that there might be hope that a revolt might be brewing in California against the fascist Democratic one-party rule that presently dominates the state:

In the first story, a Republican defeated a leftist Democratic — who favored the socialist New Green Deal put forth by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) — for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council.

In the second story it appears that Trump is actually raising more money in California than most of the Democratic candidates for president, and he is doing it with mostly small donations.

I wouldn’t get your hopes up. In Los Angeles the victor won but only narrowly. As for California’s campaign donations, Trump’s totals ($3.2 million) pale in comparison to the more than $26 million Californians have donated to all the Democratic candidates total.

Meanwhile, the state’s Department of Education has accepted an anti-Semitic and ethnic studies curriculum fashioned by academics and politicians blatantly hostile to both Israel and Jews.

The proposed curriculum section on “Arab American Studies Course Outline” contains a number of passages concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as “Direct Action Front for Palestine and Black Lives Matter,” “Call to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israel” and “Comparative Border Studies: Palestine and Mexico.” It also includes studying national figures such as Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the late Columbia University professor Edward Said, Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour, the late radio personality Casey Kasem, actress Alia Shawkat and the late White House correspondent Helen Thomas—all of whom are associated with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric, and in the case of the congresswomen, a push to enact legislation punishing Israel.

As for the Holocaust and past oppression against Jews, the curriculum considers these irrelevant, and leaves them out completely.

Nor is this the only example of California’s growing totalitarian culture. In 2018 the one-party Democratic legislature passed a law that requires
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A review of Glenn Reynolds’ The Social Media Upheaval:
A Modern Call for Freedom

We have a free speech problem in America, and it isn’t because our government is trying to restrict our speech.

The problem exists because almost all our speech today is fed through a tiny handful of giant social media outlets, Google, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and Twitter, all of whom seem dominated by leftists and partisan Democratic Party ideaology.

Only last week we saw a perfect example of this problem. A mob of protesters had gathered outside the private home of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) because he refused to acquiesce meekly to draconian new gun control laws.

Several protesters shouted threatening obscenities against McConnell and his wife, with the leader of the local Kentucky chapter of Black Lives Matter, Chanelle Helm, screaming for someone to “just stab the mother-%#$&!&/!”

McConnell’s campaign office then followed the next day with the following tweet:

Last night, an angry left-wing mob of Amy McGrath supporters stormed Senator McConnell’s Louisville home screaming obscenities and hoping someone would “just stab the mother****** in the heart.”

The tweet then linked to a video showing this mob’s violent chants and death threats.

Twitter’s response? It suspended McConnell’s account, even though he threatened no one and merely wanted to highlight the vicious ugliness of his opponents. Meanwhile the tech giant continued to allow direct statements of violence against the right by many leftists, including one thread dubbed “#MassacreMitch,” with no consequences.

Only after the Republican Party threatened to pull all of its advertising from Twitter did that social media giant finally back down and reinstate the McConnell account, though it added a warning tag to the video.

Twitter, like Google and Facebook, has decided to take sides in the political battles that this country is now undergoing. And with their almost godlike total power over internet access, these tech giants are in a position to very effectively censor any opposition to their political goals.

So what do we do? In an effort to make an intelligent stab at this issue, Glenn Reynolds, law professor at the University of Tennessee and the manager of the internet site Instapundit, has recently written a book on the subject, The Social Media Upheaval (Encounter Books 2019). As the book’s Amazon page notes,
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Are you a decent human being?

In recent weeks I have grown so horrified by the blatant hate being screamed by Democrats and leftists in the mainstream press against Republicans, conservatives, and Trump supporters that I have found myself unable to write about this stuff.

It is just too disgusting. Here are just a few examples that barely represent the full gamut of anger and hate being expressed by Democrats and their willing accomplices in the press:

All of the accusations against Trump and Republicans in these stories are outright lies, worthy of Joseph Goebbels. And the actions of Democratic politicians like Biden and Castro to attack and smear Trump and his supporters is equally vile, and worthy of the worst form of scapegoating done by anti-Semites. Worse, these people are using terrible mass murders, committed by clearly unstable and sick individuals, to score political points. Such behavior is beyond the pale.

One might, if one was willing to stretch the truth beyond the breaking point, to find some justification in the criticisms of Trump. However, though Trump’s twitter comments are often ugly and crude and insulting, the one thing a careful reading of all those statements reveals is that he has always tried to state the truth, honestly and bluntly. Moreover, there is no evidence of racism in any of his comments. He has merely been attacking those who deserve attacking.

The Democratic attacks, however, on the decency of the American population, especially its non-minority population, are especially vile and dishonest. Remember, this is the same population that only a few years ago twice voted for a black president. For Democratic politicians and mainstream press pundits to accuse it of being in favor of white supremacy is more than just absurd, it is a lie and slander.

The problem I have is that I try to be a decent human being. I don’t like to give these liars and slanderers a platform to spread their hateful lies. In fact, I don’t even wish to read or discuss their childish and mean-spirited behavior. Thus, I have posted nothing until now about the mass murders that occurred this past weekend and the reactions to them.
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Why drastic education cuts in Alaska tell us everything about the coming dark age

Faced with a gigantic $1.6 billion budget deficit, last month Alaska’s Republican governor, Mike Dunleavy, used his line item power to veto about $444 million from the state’s total budget of $8.3 billion. Among those cuts included an unprecedented almost 41% cut in the state’s university system.

Understanding the background for these cuts is not something easy to pin down in today’s partisan press. I first came across the story today in this Nature article, clearly written to lament the cuts and the harm they will do to education and science. This quote will give you the flavor:

Researchers are waitivng anxiously to see how university administrators will apply the cuts, which could fundamentally reshape science in the state — including UA’s world-class Arctic and climate research programmes. The first hint came on 30 July, when the university’s governing board voted to consolidate the system’s three main branches — in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau.

“It’s awful,” says Milligan-Myhre. “I had to turn away a student planning on starting in the fall because I just don’t know what the department or his degree would look like in a year or two.” She’s also encouraging her current students to graduate as soon as possible.

The problem with the article is that it gave literally no background into the cuts, and Dunleavy’s reasoning for doing them, a example of today’s typically bad journalism. We might justly oppose these education cuts, but before we as sane citizens can do that we must at least understand why they are being made. Nature failed to give us that information, and instead spent its time propagandizing for the blind spending of money for education.

I started doing searches on the internet to find out some background information. (More on that experience later.) Most of the articles were very superficial, though this article at least outlined the difficult budget situation faced by Dunleavy.

After a lot of searches on two different search engines requiring me to dig down several pages on both, I finally found this article at U.S. News & World Report that outlined in a very non-partisan way the issues.
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The glaciers of Mars

The glaciers on Mars

For the future colonists of Mars, the question of finding water will not be that much of a problem. Not only have planetary geologists mapped out the existence of extensive water-ice in the Martian poles, they have found that the planet apparently has widespread glacier deposits in two mid-latitude belts from 30 to 60 degrees latitude.

The question will be whether those Martian settlers will be able to easily access this water. The data so far suggests that much of the Martian underground water at high latitudes is likely mixed with dust and debris. Extracting it might not be straightforward. There are hints that the ice table at latitudes about 55 degrees might be more pure, but could be somewhat deep below ground, requiring the settlers to become miners to obtain their water. Moreover, all these high latitude locations are in environments that are more hostile, and therefore more difficult to establish a colony.

What about the glaciers? The global map of Mars above, reduced and annotated to post here, shows what are believed to be extensive glacial deposits at lower latitudes, and comes from a recently published paper on the subject. The different colors indicate the different types of glacial deposits the scientists have identified.

Green and yellow indicate what scientists call lineated valley fill (LVF) and lobate debris aprons (LDA) respectively, glacial deposits found in the transition zone between the southern highlands and either the northern lowland plains or the basins of the southern hemisphere, Hellas and Argyre. These glaciers are in many ways most similar to glaciers found on Earth, flows heading downhill along natural geographic features.

Magenta represents concentric crater fill (CCF), glacier features which seem very evenly distributed across both the northern and southern lower mid-latitude belts. Here scientists appear to have detected buried ice within the floors of craters.

The paper which included this map focused on describing a new glacial feature, something they dubbed valley fill deposits (VFD), that they had found so far in only one place, as indicated by the black square on the map.

The photograph below and on the right, reduced and cropped to post here, is from figure two of the linked paper.
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People in leftist coastal enclaves going insane over global warming

According to this very strange article put out by Kaiser Health and also published by People, there is anecdotal evidence that the mental health of people in the coastal Democratic enclaves of Washington, California, and New York is becoming damaged because of a fear of global warming.

The article reveals several facts. First, the understanding of science in Kaiser’s public relations department is abysmal. The article is generally junk, culling together a variety of anecdotes from various liberal news sources (television, HBO, one therapist, two psychiatrists, and some unreliable polls) to push its point. Meanwhile, it buries in a single sentence the one fundamental fact that makes everything else in the article scientifically invalid:

There is no epidemiological data yet to show how common distress or anxiety related to climate change is.

Sadly this kind of bad new reporting has become very typical in the mainstream press.

Second, the article illustrates the insane, close-minded mindset of these coastal liberal communities. The article quotes one psychiatrist in New York who recommends the following for those emotionally distressed by a fear of global warming:

Dr. Janet Lewis, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester in New York, recommends building relationships within a like-minded group. That could involve group therapy, environmental activist groups or online communities. [emphasis mine]

Rather than propose the individual try to learn more about the subject, to find out about the many uncertainties that exist within the climate field that make their fears overstated, professor Lewis instead suggests they put their head in the sand, to hide within a bubble of “like-minded” people, all of whom think and feel the same. If anything this will only exacerbate their fears.

Third, the simple-mindedness of everyone involved, the therapist, the psychiatrists, the patients, and the reporter, all of whom seem to reside within these coastal Democratic enclaves, suggest that it will be very difficult to change their minds. They are not interested in new knowledge. What they want instead is a confirmation of their shallow beliefs, and an opportunity to continually express their “feelings” about these beliefs.

For Laura, becoming involved with the international activist group Extinction Rebellion has helped her build a network of people who share her values and made her feel as if she’s making a positive contribution to society. With the group, she has participated in nonviolent protests and is organizing the Atlanta chapter’s first grief circle, where people can share their anxiety and grief about the destruction of the Earth.

Rather than get educated, they form “grief circles” where they can bemoan together the evilness of those destroying the planet.

Finally, this article demonstrates that the violence and hate by these liberal enclaves against any dissent is not going to ease in the coming years. If anything, it is going to get significantly worse. They cannot tolerate opposing views. It distresses them too much.

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Modern Democratic Party McCarthyism

Are you a registered Democrat? Do you want to find out who you are really supporting? Then I think you need to watch Congressman Jesus Garcia (D-Illinois) two days ago during House hearing on the southern border crisis while questioning former ICE Director Tom Homan. He encapsulates perfectly the bigoted, hateful, and oppressive attitudes of the modern Democratic Party.

Most news sources have focused on Homan’s immediate visceral response, calling Garcia’s comments “disgusting.”

I think it more important to listen again to Garcia and his ugly slanderous and uncalled-for ad hominen attack on Homan’s character. My focus here is on the politicians now running the Democratic Party, not the ordinary citizens who are still registered Democrats and are unaware of the cruel, mean-spirited, and bigoted nature of those who now lead their party. If you still vote Democrat you need to know what you are voting for. It is not pretty, and it should make you ill.

I have therefore embedded the video of the exchange below, along with a transcript of Garcia’s words. Though my focus is on Garcia, it is worthwhile to watch the whole clip.

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NASA begins the slow leak process prior to announcing new SLS delays

As it has been doing for the past half decade, NASA has now begun the process of issuing hints about a future announcement of more SLS launch delays, in order to prepare the public and neuter any possible negative news coverage.

The linked article above outlines in great detail the present status of SLS and the assembly of its core stage. The main decision the agency now faces is whether it will do what it calls an “SLS Green Run,” where they assemble that core stage on a test stand at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and fire it for a full duration static test. Such a test is necessary to validate the engineering models that were used to build the rocket. Without it no one will know if they have modeled the design correctly, meaning that during the first real launch they might find the rocket does not perform as predicted and could even fail.

Doing this test however will guarantee that the first SLS launch, Artemis 1, will not occur in June 2020 as presently scheduled, and will likely be delayed for another year.

The Trump administration has already made it clear it will not take kindly to more SLS delays. It has also made it clear that it will consider already available commercial options, such as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, if NASA cannot deliver SLS as promised.

This puts NASA in a quandary.
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Ninth Anniversary Fund-Raising Drive for Behind the Black

This week marks the ninth anniversary since I began Behind the Black in 2010. To celebrate I am now holding my annual month-long anniversary fund-raising drive.

For many reasons, mostly political but partly ethical, I do not use Google, Facebook, or Twitter. They practice corrupt business policies, while targeting conservative websites for censoring, conclusions apparently confirmed by my sense that Facebook has taken action to prevent my readers from recommending Behind the Black to their friends.

Thus, I must reluctantly beg for your direct support to keep this webpage alive. Without that support, which each year has been growing, I would not be able to continue this work. And without it, I will no longer be free to comment honestly about space, science, and culture, at a time where such commentary is crucial.

So, I ask you to please consider donating by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar above or in the column to the right. You will have my eternal gratitude, and you will help me continue my work.

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The expanding range for Martian ice scarps

Another ice scarp
Click for full image.
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The discovery in January 2018 of a number of Martian cliff faces, or scarps as the scientists dubbed them, with a visible and apparently very accessible underground layer of ice, had significant ramifications.

First, it proved that, in at least one area south of Hellas Basin and one spot in the northern hemisphere, an underground ice table existed on Mars at latitudes as far south as 55 degrees. Scientists had theorized that this ice table, comparable to the water table on Earth, existed, but here was visible proof.

Second, the discovery showed places where water could be accessed relatively easily by future colonists. There are plenty of indications from orbiter images and lander/rover data that water is present in many places on Mars, but here the water appeared almost pure and could be obtained without major digging or processing. Whether that ice table extends even farther south, making it even more accessible, remains as yet a scientific question.

In the next few months the scientists involved in this research located more ice scarps in areas beyond the range of those initial discoveries. Since then however even more scarps have been found, including the scarp in the image above and to the right, cropped, reduced, and annotated to post here.

This particular scarp is located inside a crater. The uncaptioned release from the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), described it as a “Scarp in mantling material.” According to Colin Dundas of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Science Center in Arizona,
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Some fake space news

Fake news permeates our modern news sources, but today we have two space-related stories that make me shake my head.

The first comes from Newsweek (which supposedly died years ago): Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins Shares Unseen NASA Photo of Moon Landing Crew

Standard Apollo 11 press image

Michael Collins—one of the three crew members of the historic Apollo 11 moon mission—has posted a previously unreleased NASA photo on Twitter of himself, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, which he discovered by chance in a box. The photo—taken in 1969—shows the trio, decked out in full astronaut gear, standing next to a moon prop with Aldrin and Armstrong on one side and Collins on the other. The picture also features Collins’ autograph scrawled over the top in black ink.

“The crew. Found this at the bottom a box. Don’t think it was ever used by @NASA. #TBT @TheRealBuzz,” Collins tweeted.

The release of the photo is a fitting tribute to the mission in the year of its 50th anniversary, especially because it has likely not been seen by human eyes for five decades.

Florida news outlet The Orlando Sentinel—which is about to publish a commemorative book on the 1969 mission—reported that no staff members could remember seeing the photo before either in the NASA archives or the paper’s own records.

I’m sorry, but that photo is hardly news. Nor has it been lost until now. I know I’ve seen it myself at least a few times over the years, though not recently. It was one of dozens of standard public relations photographs taken by NASA leading up to the launch.

Collins himself himself should know better than to suggest this was never used. He doesn’t know that, and in fact is certainly wrong. Worse, neither Newsweek nor the Orlando Sentinel should not expand upon Collins’ statement for the sake of creating clickbait.

The second bit of fake space news today is buried in a news piece from Reuters.
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