Perseverance’s upcoming travel plans

Overview map
Click for interactive map.

Today’s update from the Perseverance’s science team provided a rough outline of their travel and drill-sampling plans for the Mars rover in Jezero Crater as it begins its climb up onto the delta that once poured into the crater. The route they plan to travel initially is dubbed Hawksbill Gap.

At Hawksbill Gap, however, we may instead carry out the first portion of the sampling sol path (which includes abrasion and collecting observations using our proximity science instruments) at up to 5 locations along our ascent. After that, we’ll turn around and begin a descent back down Hawksbill Gap and collect rock core samples at 3 of our abrasion locations.

This modified sampling strategy is intended to provide the team with valuable contextual information as we climb Hawksbill Gap and interpret the delta stratigraphy around us. With proximity science data in-hand, we can down-select our sampling sites to ensure we’ll be collecting the most scientifically valuable cores along our descent. Of course, we still maintain the option of collecting sample cores at any point during our ascent, if the team decides a particular abrasion site warrants immediate sampling.

The map above shows my guess (the red dotted lines) as to their potential routes uphill. As the science team has so far not published a map indicating exactly where Hawksbill Gap is, I can only guess at this point. The blue dot indicates Perseverance’s present position, the green dot Ingenuity.

As for the helicopter, there is no word yet whether the engineers have successfully gotten its batteries back to full charge. Until then, it cannot fly, and is also at risk of freezing up in the cold Martian winter.

India delays launch of manned mission to do two abort tests first

The new colonial movement: India’s space agency ISRO has decided to delay the launch of its Gaganyaan manned orbital mission at least one more year (until ’24) in order to do two abort tests of the capsule.

“The first Test Vehicle for this purpose is ready and we will launch it in September this year. The human capsule will be sent up 15 kilometres, we will simulate an abort and then the capsule will be safely brought down by parachutes into the sea,’’ Somanath, who is also Secretary, Department of Space, said.

The second Test Vehicle will be launched in December this year, sent to a greater height and then brought back after a similar simulation is carried out.

The mission had originally been scheduled to launch in ’22, but was delayed significantly by India’s panic over Wuhan.

Zhurong goes into hibernation

Overview map

According to a report today in China’s state-run press, the team running its Zhurong Mars rover have placed it into a hibernation mode in order to sit out the Martian winter.

To tackle the dust storms and low-temperature challenges, the Chinese rover went into dormancy on Wednesday. It is expected to wake up and resume work in December when the dust clears and Mars enters its spring season, the administration said in a statement.

The rover sits somewhere in the blue circle in the map to the right, created using elevation data and images from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). This region is about 25 degrees north latitude, so though it is in the dry equatorial regions of Mars, it still gets very cold in winter, down to -180 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Furthermore, the increased winter dust storms block the light from the Sun, which reduces the available power the rover’s solar panels can produce.

Chinese engineers have apparently adapted the hibernation techniques they use on the Moon with their Yutu-2 rover to place Zhurong in hibernation.

Starliner reaches proper orbit despite thruster problems

Unbelievable: During the post-launch press conference last night Boeing officials revealed that, though the final burn to get Boeing’s Starliner capsule into orbit using its own thrusters succeeded, the thrusters did not function as planned.

Boeing Vice President Mark Nappi said a Starliner thruster failed after firing for one second as the spacecraft made a burn to enter orbit after separating from its Atlas V launch vehicle. The flight software switched to a second thruster, which fired for 25 seconds before shutting down prematurely. A third thruster took over and completed the firing, Nappi said.

The thrusters were made by Aerojet Rocketdyne, which also made the valves that did not work in the previous launch attempt in the summer of 2021. Whether the two problems are related is not known at this time.

A NASA official also noted that a cooling unit on the spacecraft operated “sluggishly during ascent,” but began working correctly once in orbit.

Right now NASA and Boeing are planning to proceed with the docking on ISS tonight at 7:10 pm (Eastern). It appears that though two thrusters have failed, they have ten more thrusters that can be used for further maneuvers throughout the mission. Furthermore, these thrusters are not used during the actual rendezvous and docking.

The live stream of the docking goes live at 3:30 pm (Eastern), and is embedded below. Until then enjoy NASA propaganda, some of it might be of interest.
» Read more

ULA’s Atlas-5 rocket successfully launches Starliner into orbit

Atlas-5 immediately after lift-off
Screen capture just after lift-off

Capitalism in space: ULA’s Atlas-5 rocket today successfully launched Boeing’s manned Starliner capsule into orbit on its second attempt to complete an unmanned demo mission to ISS.

The capsule having been deployed by the rocket then followed with a final burn using the capsule’s own engines to get into its proper orbit for rendezvous with ISS tomorrow at 7:10 pm (Eastern). It was during this rendezvous period that Starliner had its problems in the first demo mission in December 2019 that caused the mission to be aborted prior to docking. Hopefully those software issues have been solved and all will go well through tomorrow.

It is interesting to compare the operation and equipment of Boeing/ULA vs SpaceX. While SpaceX has aimed for a sleek look, Boeing/ULA both retain the industrial feel of past rocketry. Neither is wrong, but the difference highlights the consequences of having competing operations. You get variety.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

21 SpaceX
15 China
7 Russia
3 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise now leads China 30 to 15 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 30 to 25.

Pushback: Two Alaska Airlines flight attendants fired for asking questions file lawsuit

Alaska Airlines: Opposed to free speech and religious freedom
Alaska Airlines: Opposed to free speech and religious freedom
Picture credit: Quintin Soloviev

Bring a gun to a knife fight: Today’s blacklist story is a follow-up on a September 2021 story about two flight attendants — Marli Brown and Lacey Smith — who were fired by Alaska Airlines because they had the nerve to question the airline’s public support of a gay rights bill, and asked those questions on a forum the airline had itself arranged for employees to comment.

At the time the attendants, represented by the First Liberty Institute, had filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which recently issued “right-to-sue” letters to both attendants.

First Liberty has now filed its lawsuit, which you can read here [pdf]. The suit is against both Alaska Airlines and the Association of Flight Attendants Association of the AFL-CIO that failed to defend both Brown and Smith. From the complaint:

On February 25, 2021, Alaska Airlines posted an article about its support for the Equality Act to an internal employee message board and solicited employee comments. The Equality Act is proposed legislation that would add “sexual orientation and gender identity” as protected classes to a variety of federal statutes and would curtail the applicability of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In response, Marli and Lacey felt compelled by their Christian faith to post one comment each, asking about the impact of the Equality Act on civil rights for religion and women in the workplace.

Alaska Airlines responded to Marli and Lacey’s posts by immediately removing Marli and Lacey from their flight schedules, terminating their employment, and disparaging their religious expression and beliefs as “discriminatory,” “hateful,” and “offensive.”
» Read more

ESA releases new images from Solar Orbiter

The Sun's south pole, as seen by Solar Orbiter at perihelion
The Sun’s south pole, as seen by Solar Orbiter at perihelion. Click for full movie.

The European Space Agency (ESA) yesterday released a few of the images taken by its Solar Orbiter spacecraft before and during its first perihelion (closest point in its orbit) on March 26, 2022.

The spacecraft was inside the orbit of Mercury, at about one-third the distance from the Sun to the Earth, and its heatshield was reaching around 500°C. But it dissipated that heat with its innovative technology to keep the spacecraft safe and functioning.

Solar Orbiter carries ten science instruments – nine are led by ESA Member States and one by NASA – all working together in close collaboration to provide unprecedented insight into how our local star ‘works’. Some are remote-sensing instruments that look at the Sun, while others are in-situ instruments that monitor the conditions around the spacecraft, enabling scientists to ‘join the dots’ from what they see happening at the Sun, to what Solar Orbiter ‘feels’ at its location in the solar wind millions of kilometres away.

The photo above, cropped, reduced, and revised slightly to post here, looks at the Sun’s south pole, from the side. The surface of the Sun (the top two thirds) almost looks like thunderheads on Earth, except the rain coming from them are high energy heat and radiation.

The data produced a lot of fascinating short movies, all available at the link, including a phenomenon the scientists have nicknamed a “space hedgehog” because of its look. About 15,000 miles across, “At present no one knows exactly what it is or how it formed in the Sun’s atmosphere.”

Watching Boeing’s Starliner launch tonight

At 6:54 pm (Eastern) tonight a ULA Atlas-5 rocket will launch Boeing’s manned Starliner capsule on its second attempt to complete an unmanned demo mission to ISS.

NASA’s live coverage will begin at 6 pm on NASA-TV. I have embedded the youtube channel of this live stream below the fold. At the moment the station is broadcasting its regular NASA propaganda (some of which is actually informative). The launch’s actual coverage will begin at 6 pm (Eastern), and continue until the spacecraft is successfully inserted into orbit. Further coverage of the flight, including docking with ISS, will be as follows:

9 pm (Eastern) – Post launch press conference (time subject to change).

May 20
3:30 pm (Eastern) – Coverage begins of the rendezvous and docking to ISS, with the actual docking scheduled for 7:10 pm (Eastern).

May 21
11:30 am (Eastern) – Coverage of the opening of Starliner’s hatch, scheduled for 11:45 am (Eastern).

Boeing’s first attempt to complete this mission in December 2019 was forced to return to Earth before docking with ISS because of numerous software issues. Then, an attempt to launch again in August 2021 was scrubbed because numerous valves in the capsule’s service module failed to operate properly during the countdown. The company had to return the capsule to the factory to replace that service module as well as make some changes to the valves to make today’s launch possible.

For Boeing, these delays and fixes have cost the company a lot of money, since its contract with NASA is fixed price. This second demo mission will cost Boeing about $400 million, but even worse, the delays meant that SpaceX got some of the business with NASA and other private customers that it might have gotten had Starliner been operational.

» Read more

Technical issue on New Shepard delays fifth passenger flight

Capitalism in space: Because of an as yet unexplained technical issue discovered on its New Shepard suborbital spacecraft, Blue Origin has scrubbed tomorrow’s planned fifth passenger flight.

The only information the company released was in a tweet yesterday:

During our final vehicle check-outs, we observed one of New Shepard’s back-up systems was not meeting our expectations for performance.

No other information has so far been released, nor has the company indicated when the flight might be rescheduled. It is intended to carry six passengers on a short suborbital flight, including one making his second flight on New Shepard.

Puzzling telemetry from Voyager-1 suggests problem

Engineers are puzzling over strange operational data coming from Voyager-1, launched in 1977 and now in interstellar space more than 14 billion miles away, that suggests a technical problem but also makes no sense.

The engineering team with NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft is trying to solve a mystery: The interstellar explorer is operating normally, receiving and executing commands from Earth, along with gathering and returning science data. But readouts from the probe’s attitude articulation and control system (AACS) don’t reflect what’s actually happening onboard.

The AACS controls the 45-year-old spacecraft’s orientation. Among other tasks, it keeps Voyager 1’s high-gain antenna pointed precisely at Earth, enabling it to send data home. All signs suggest the AACS is still working, but the telemetry data it’s returning is invalid. For instance, the data may appear to be randomly generated, or does not reflect any possible state the AACS could be in.

The issue hasn’t triggered any onboard fault protection systems, which are designed to put the spacecraft into “safe mode” – a state where only essential operations are carried out, giving engineers time to diagnose an issue. Voyager 1’s signal hasn’t weakened, either, which suggests the high-gain antenna remains in its prescribed orientation with Earth.

Figuring out what has happened is made more difficult by distance. It takes about 20 hours for signals to get from Voyager-1 to Earth, even at the speed of light. Thus, any attempted fix will arrive almost two days after it first occurred, at the soonest.

Both Voyager-1 and Voyager-2 are still operating, though at significantly reduced power. It is expected that sometime in the next few years their nuclear power sources will finally be unable to produce enough power to keep them functioning. If so, both spacecraft will have survived the maximum time predicted when launched.

A giant elliptical galaxy

A giant elliptical galaxy
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The image to the right, reduced to post here, was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of the giant elliptical galaxy NGC 474.

Located some 100 million light-years from Earth, NGC 474 spans about 250,000 light-years across – that’s 2.5 times larger than our own Milky Way galaxy! Along with its enormous size, NGC 474 has a series of complex layered shells that surround its spherical-shaped core. The cause of these shells is unknown, but astronomers theorize that they may be the aftereffects of the giant galaxy absorbing one or more smaller galaxies. In the same way a pebble creates ripples on a pond when dropped into the water, the absorbed galaxy creates waves that form the shells.

About 10% of elliptical galaxies have shell structures, but unlike the majority of elliptical galaxies, which are associated with galaxy clusters, shelled ellipticals usually lie in relatively empty space. It may be that they’ve cannibalized their neighbors.

NGC 474 is no exception, also located in a relatively empty region of space.

Today’s blacklisted American: Student expelled for not getting COVID booster, despite proof the booster for her was medically risky

Diamond “Ellie” Puentes, blacklisted because she believes
in “her body, her choice!”

They’re coming for you next: A student at Union College in New York, Diamond “Ellie” Puentes, was expelled from school because she refused to get a COVID booster because of the serious adverse effects she experienced after getting her second COVID shot.

More information here.

Worse, the school refused to accept her doctor’s note requesting she be exempt, or her hospital records describing the health issues she had experienced. From the first link above:

Union College’s Director of Health Services Angela Stefanatos asked her, “Are you here because you don’t want to get the booster or because you’re truly sick?”

Dr. Thomas Nelson, Puentes’ primary care physician, wrote a letter addressed to the college on April 11 regarding his patient’s concerns with the booster shot. He stated that Puentes was “in an unfavorable state of health, presumably caused by the vaccine itself.”
» Read more

Pro-abortion advocates threaten to storm the Supreme Court, burn it down, and murder justices

Real insurrection: According to a Homeland Security memo, pro-abortion protesters have been organizing to storm the Supreme Court, burn it down, and murder justices in protest should the court decide to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The threats also included attacking places of worship as well as anti-abortion clinics.

As is typical nowadays, Homeland Security tried to de-emphasize the seriousness of these threats of violence from the left by first hinting it was really a response to white supremacy and thus possibly justified, and then claiming such violence is really nothing more than constitutional protected speech. These two quotes from the memo from this Axios story illustrate this:

“Some racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists’ embrace of pro-life narratives may be linked to the perception of wanting to ‘save white children’ and ‘fight white genocide,'” the memo … says.

But the memo warns that this time, extremist acts could come from abortion-rights proponents as well. [However] “The mere advocacy of political or social positions, political activism, use of strong rhetoric, or generalized philosophic embrace of violent tactics does not constitute domestic violent extremism or illegal activity and is constitutionally protected.”

As always, our leftist government uses the premises of the left to excuse leftist violence. To them, the violence of the left is merely speech, while the speech of the right is violence, and must be silenced.

Should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, we should all be prepared for riots as bad or worse as those that occurred after George Floyd’s death. This memo is merely stating the obvious. Since the election of Donald Trump in 2016 the left has decided that the only democracy and law it accepts is one in which it gets its way, every single time.

We should also be prepared for our government to do nothing to stop it, and if any rioters are captured to arrange their release as quickly as possible. These protests are certainly intended as a weapon to warp the results of November’s election, in favor of Democrats. Remember, the violent leftist protesters are merely the storm-troopers of the Democratic Party, used to promote violence in order to make possible the reelection of its politicians, by hook or by crook.

The tuffy ground in the foothills of Mount Sharp

Shelfstone on Mars?
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, reduced and enhanced to post here, was taken on May 13, 2022 by the high resolution camera on the rover Curiosity, looking down at some of the unusual features on the ground near the rover.

The lighter circular feature in the center is not natural, but created by Curiosity’s Dust Removal Tool (DRT). As explained on May 16th on the science team’s blog:

When that dust settles on rocks, it can partially mask the chemistry and surface texture of these rocks from APXS and MAHLI in particular [two other Curiosity instruments]. Brushing rock surfaces with the DRT is not always possible, but it does improve scientific assessments of these surfaces.

What attracted me to this photo was the tuff-like look of that uplifted flat rock. It looks just like many surfaces one sees in a cave, where the surface gets covered with calcite flowstone or popcorn, due to either water flow or condensation and then evaporation of calcite-saturated water on the surface. In this case the cave formation this flat rock most resembles visually is shelfstone, though the formation process and chemistry was certainly different. It does suggest strongly however that some form of water process occurred here.

NASA announces new possible launch dates for first SLS launch

NASA on May 16th announced the new possible launch dates for first SLS launch, outlining potential launch windows through the first half of 2023, with the first at the end of July 2022.

The calendar of launch windows through June of ’23 can be viewed here [pdf].

The July 26th to August 10th window is the one the agency is clearly targeting for that first launch, but it will not confirm this until after SLS successfully completes the next dress rehearsal countdown attempt in June. That the agency is now showing us potential launch dates in ’23 also suggests it is anticipating the possibility the launch could be delayed that much, especially if it determines it must replace the SLS’s two solid rocket boosters because they have been stacked unused for too long.

SLS was initially planned for a launch in 2015. It is now seven-plus years behind schedule, which is how long it took SpaceX to go from a blank sheet of paper to launching its Falcon Heavy for the first time.

NASA bans American spacewalks on ISS because of chronic spacesuit issues

NASA's failed spacesuit
NASA’s failed Moon spacesuits

Because of repeated water leaks in the helmets of NASA’s complex spacesuits and the agency’s inability to fix the problem, agency managers have to decided to cease all American spacewalks on ISS until engineers can definitively solve the problem.

The problem first occurred during a 2013 spacewalk, causing a major investigation. Though engineers managed to gain some control over the problem, it was never truly solved. In the most recent spacewalk on March 23rd, astronauts found water inside one helmet after the walk was over. That suit will now be returned to Earth for inspection and engineering work.

This suspension of spacewalks likely delays four spacewalks planned this year to complete the upgrade to the station’s power system.

Meanwhile, NASA’s own program to build new spacesuits for its lunar missions has been an utter failure — costing more than a billion dollars over fourteen years and producing nothing — thus forcing the agency to turn to the private sector to get new suits.

ABL completes and ships new upper stage only 4 months after test explosion

Capitalism in space: The smallsat rocket startup ABL has successfully completed construction and testing of a new upper stage for the first launch of its RS1 rocket, shipping it to the launch site in Alaska only four months after an explosion during testing destroyed an earlier stage.

Before the January accident, the company had planned a first launch of the RS1 rocket, capable of placing up to 1,350 kilograms into low Earth orbit for a list price of $12 million, early in the year. Shortly after the accident, the company estimated a three-month delay in its plans. Piemont said after the recent acceptance tests that the company was now targeting “early summer” for its first launch, pending completion of acceptance tests of the first stage.

Though the company’s goal had been to lose only three months and the actual delay was four months, the overall speed in which it recovered is impressive. Right now ABL is one of four smallsat rocket companies (ABL, Firefly, Aevum, and Relativity) attempting to complete its first launch this year. This success suggests ABL has a good chance of succeeding.

Below is a video of a successful static fire test of this new stage, released by the company. It is a pleasant change from most such PR videos, in that the company simply shows us the test, with some minor editing, but includes no dramatic but fake background music. Life isn’t a movie.
» Read more

InSight likely to shut down by the end of summer

Martian quake map as seen by InSight
Martian quake map as seen by InSight, adapted from this 2021
presentation [pdf]

According to the InSight science team, the Mars lander and its seismometer will likely shut down operations by the end of the summer due to lack of power.

“Towards the end of summer of ’22, we anticipate our seismometer will be turned off, not because we want to turn it off but unfortunately, we don’t have the energy to run it,” Garcia said. She said the team will use it intermittently after that as long as power is available, but by the end of the year the spacecraft is expected to fall silent.

The intermittent readings of the seismometer will be of extremely limited use, as it will then be pure luck whether it detects a quake, and any detection will not provide the true rate of quakes on Mars.

The loss of power is due to dust on the solar panels. The team had hoped a dust devil would come by periodically to blow the panels clean, as happened routinely with the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, but InSight has not been so lucky.

It appears the safe mode that occurred shortly after InSight detected its largest Mars quake yet on May 10th was very temporary, though right now the seismometer is essentially the only instrument they have power to run.

Overall, this mission has a very spotty history. Its launch was delayed two years when the French attempt to build the seismometer failed. The delay cost NASA’s planetary program $150 million, at a minimum.

Then lander’s second of two main instruments, a German experiment to dig down 16 feet to insert a heat sensor into the ground, failed when its digging tool, dubbed the mole, was unable to penetrate the alien Martian soil.

Fortunately, InSight’s prime instrument, the seismometer (finally completed by JPL) worked, giving us a first look into the structure of Mars’ interior as well as where earthquakes are found on its surface.

Pushback: Parents & teachers sue to prevent California schools from teaching anti-Semitism

What really needs to happen
The time has come to clean house, without mercy.

Bring a gun to a knife fight: A group of concerned parents and teachers in California filed a lawsuit on May 12, 2022 to prevent a bigoted and anti-Semitic ethnic studies program from being adopted “under the radar” in Los Angeles schools.

You can read the full complaint here [pdf]. From the link above:

Advocates, including teachers union officials, public-school teachers and other ideologues, have formed the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Consortium, through which they hope to influence the teaching of ethnic studies in the state. The consortium, which disseminates teaching materials lifted directly from radical anti-Israel websites, rejects the idea that all cultures should be studied. It asserts that ethnic studies is about only four groups: Native Americans, black Americans, Chicanos/Latinos, and Asian-Americans/Pacific Islanders. That last group includes Arabs from the Middle East, but not Jews, who’ve lived in that same region for millennia.

The consortium’s materials, many of which have been taken offline in recent months, are filled with attacks on Jews and the Jewish state. They deny that Jews are indigenous to the Middle East and teach that Israel is a “colonialist” and “settler state” founded through “genocide,” “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid.” They falsely define Judaism, teaching that “Zionism is distinct from Judaism” and that Zionism isn’t a Jewish religious belief but an invention of the “late 19th century.”

Apparently, this “liberated” ethnic studies program — which is merely another example of leftist critical race theory — is an attempt to bypass state law, which rejected it and demanded by law that all schools teach students at least one ethnic studies class by 2030, but provide a wide balanced look at all issues. Because this “liberated” program violates this standard, instead considering the only valid ethnic groups who have been oppressed (by whites and Jews) to be Native Americans, black Americans, Chicanos/Latinos, and Asian-Americans/Pacific Islanders, it advises teachers to hide from parents the teaching of this material. From the complaint’s description of this program’s teaching materials:
» Read more

Pointy rocks on Mars

Pointy rocks as seen by Curiosity
Click for full image.

Pointy rocks as seen by Perseverance
Click for full image.

We have two cool images today from both of America’s rovers on Mars, each of which illustrates the alien nature of the red planet.

First on the right, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, is a close-up taken by Curiosity’s high resolution camera on May 14, 2022 of the rightmost jagged boulder in yesterday’s navigation panorama. The number of layers is astonishing, though hardly a unique phenomenon as seen by Curiosity in its travels. Each likely marks one of many climate and geological cycles, each laying down another unique stratum for a relatively short period of geological time. Some might be volcanic ash or lava layers. Some might be layers caused by climatic changes.

The ability of these thin layers to extend outward so much, almost like they were floating, illustrates the weak Martian gravity, as well as the thinness of its atmosphere. On Earth, if the wind and weather didn’t cause these flakes to break, the gravity would.

Second on the right, cropped and sharpened to post here, is a high resolution photo taken by Perseverance on May 15, 2022 of one of the cliff faces seen by the rover looking up into the delta in Jezero Crater. Here again we see many layers and jagged, pointy rocks, illustrating again the many cycles in the past that formed the delta as it flowed into the crater.

The smoothness on the surface of the leftmost pointy rock suggests that it has stood in this position for a long very time, allowing the wind of Mars’ very thin atmosphere to erode its rough surface.

Aerojet Rocketdyne reprimands its executive chairman for trying to oust CEO

During the failed effort of Lockheed Martin to buy Aerojet Rocketdyne late last year, it appears Aerojet’s executive chairman, Warren Lichtenstein, made improper public and private attempts to enlist others to replace the company’s CEO, Eileen Drake, even though the board had not authorized a search for a new CEO and had in fact issued a memo telling Lichtenstein not to look for one.

Yesterday a formal investigation [pdf] came to that conclusion, and reprimanded Lichtenstein for those actions.

Mr. Lichtenstein acted improperly in taking those actions, including by failing to follow the directives given to him in the Guidance Memo. This memorandum is a formal reprimand for that conduct, and a
mandate to Mr. Lichtenstein that he comply with the Company’s Code of Conduct and make no statements or communications to persons external to the Company concerning the Company’s CEO, any search for a new CEO, management tenure or succession generally, or the strategic direction of the Company, unless (i) specifically pre-approved by the Board, (ii) the statements or communications are made to stockholders as part of his efforts concerning the election of directors at the next annual meeting, or (iii) the statements or communications are made as part of his efforts seeking suitable persons to serve as CEO of the Company in the event his nominees are elected.

While most of this is typical corporate office politics, it does reflect badly on the management at Aerojet Rocketdyne. It appears the board is not working together well. For example, Lichtenstein claimed he had these discussions because he was concerned the merger — which he supported — would fail, and wanted to take actions to address those concerns. Apparently the board did not. Another example is the fight with Boeing over the valve problems in Starliner.

Since the merger failed, this rocket engine company is now on its own again. Though for awhile it seemed to be struggling, the recent deal with ULA for 116 engines appears to have put it on its feet again.

More Chinese space junk crashes in India

It appears that debris from an upper stage of a Chinese Long March 3B rocket, launched in September ’21, fell in India on May 12, 2022.

Local media reported that the objects crashed with “loud thuds that shook the ground” in Gujarat. There were no casualties or property damage, according to The Indian Express. The crashed objects were all discovered within a 15-kilometer radius, and among them was a black metal ball weighing around five kilograms, the newspaper said.

Though the sources objects have not been identified with certainty, they look like inner tanks from a rocket, and the only object that reentered the atmosphere on this date and also had an orbit that crossed this part of India was the Long March 3B.

This is second time in less than a month that debris from an abandoned Chinese upper stage has crashed in India. Both are thought to have come from Long March 3Bs. More important, both now prove that China has no protocols when it launches these rockets to de-orbit the upper stages in a controlled manner.

Stay tuned for more Chinese space junk heading your way. In the next seven months it will launch two Long March 5B rockets, the large core stage of which reaches orbit. In all of the previous 5B launches, that stage — big enough to hit the Earth — then quickly fell back in an uncontrolled and unpredictable manner. Fortunately, each time it crashed in the ocean, though the May 2020 deorbit ended up with some debris landing near villages in Africa.

Recent tests of the 5B’s core stage’s engine have suggested that China might have redesigned it to allow it to be restarted, which would allow them to control its deorbit. This fact however has not been confirmed.

Launcher fills customer list for first flight of its space tug

Capitalism in space: The startup space tug company Launcher announced yesterday that it has signed deals with ten customers, filling its manifest, for the first test flight of its Orbiter tug.

The tug and its payloads will be launched in October on a Falcon 9. Six of those customers, all cubesats, will be deployed into their preferred orbit by the tug, while four others are payloads that will simply ride on the tug.

The company is now selling planned future missions scheduled in ’23 on other Falcon 9 launches. It is also developing its own smallsat rocket, Launcher Light, with a planned first launch in ’24.

Today’s blacklisted American: School district investigates three children for using wrong pronouns

Owned by government
What a Wisconsin school district apparently thinks of your kids.

They’re coming for you next: The Kiel school district in Wisconsin is now investigating three eighth grade children for daring to use the wrong pronouns. Worse, according to the evidence that the school itself presented, it appears the school and the investigating principal, Chad Ramminger, has been on a fishing expedition looking for any evidence it can find to punish the kids in question.

From the letter [pdf] sent to the school by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty:

During the interviews with our clients on April 26–27, Mr. Ramminger asked various questions, many of which were unrelated to the incidents described in the subsequently provided statement from the music teacher, suggesting a fishing expedition to find evidence of sexual harassment. And when one family considered
halting the interview to get a lawyer, Mr. Ramminger responded with something to effect of, “you could, but how would that look”? All of this leaves the impression that the District is weaponizing its Title IX process to strong-arm minor students into compliance with its preferred mode of speech. This is wrong and illegal.

The incident itself, as described by the parent of one of the kids, Rosemary Rabidoux, illustrates the tyrannical nature of the school and the girl trying to impose speech on others.
» Read more

Curiosity climbs on!

Curiosity's view to the southeast, May 15, 2022 (Sol 3474)
Click for full resolution. Original images can be found here, here, and here.

Overview map
Click for interactive map.

Cool image time! The panorama above, created from three photos taken on May 15, 2022 by the right navigation camera on Curiosity, shows the rocky and hilly terrain directly ahead of the rover’s present course. In the far distance in the center left can faintly be seen the lower flanks of Mount Sharp itself. The dust in the winter air acts to partly obscure those distant slopes.

The overview map to the right shows us what we are looking at. The yellow lines are my rough guess at the terrain covered by the panorama. The blue dot marks Curiosity’s present position. The red dotted line the rover’s original planned route. The white arrows indicate one of the more interesting upcoming geological features, dubbed by scientists the “marker horizon,” a distinct layer found in many places on the flanks of Mount Sharp.

The green dot marks the approximate location of a recurring slope lineae, a place where the cliff is seasonally darkened by a streak that appears each spring and then fades.

The navigation panorama taken on May 15th also included four more shots covering terrain to the southwest, so what we see above is not necessarily where the rover is heading. The eventual goal is to get back to that red dotted line, but how the rover does so is apparently still being discussed by the science team. It appears they are trying to decide whether to head west again to reach Gediz Vallis Ridge, or instead cut south heading directly for Gediz Vallis.

Either way, that teethlike row of boulders in the near foreground is certainly impressive.

Elon Musk gives another tour of Starbase

Tim Dodd of Everyday Astronaut has posted another 44 minute long interview with Elon Musk that took place as Musk gave him a recent tour at Boca Chica, walking around the base of the Starship and Superheavy boosters being prepared for that first orbital launch.

I have embedded the interview below. It has the following interesting take-aways:

  • In describing their decision to eliminate completely a separate attitude thrust system for Starship and instead use the fuels in the main tanks using controllable vents, Musk once again demonstrated his engineering philosophy that “the best part is no part.”
  • The company is definitely planning to test the deployment of some Starlink satellites on that first orbital test flight.
  • Musk once again emphasized that there is a high expectation that this first orbital flight will fail, but they are unbothered by this because this first ship is considered a prototype anyway that must be redesigned. Whether it completes its flight or not, the flight will tell them what needs to be done for future iterations.
  • They are aiming with Starship to reduce to cost to bring a ton to the surface of Mars from $1 billion to $100K. Musk called this improvement “insane” but entirely possible.
  • Musk also noted how the design of Starship is not like a plane, which wants to develop lift. Starship instead is designed to fall, but do so as “draggy” as possible. The goal is to shed as much velocity as possible, as soon as possible.

Dodd also notes this video is the first of a new series.
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