February 7, 2023 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay.






Today’s blacklisted American: Leftist professor fired by university for questioning its racist agenda

Ryan Hall
Ryan Hall

They’re coming for you next: English instructor Ryan Hall, a self-described leftist “who has never voted for a conservative in my life,” was fired by Western Kentucky University when he questioned its leftist and racist Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) agenda that was also leaving students fearful to speak their minds out of fear of being punished.

From the second link:

“While I may not categorize myself as a conservative, the assaults on free speech, self-reliance, meritocracy, the family, science, and truth should alarm everyone,” Hall said in an email interview this month with The College Fix. “Many have pointed out that our institutions of higher education increasingly look like the temples for a state religion attempting to create hierarchies based on byzantine and bogus ideas; such systems have never worked out well historically, no matter how many newly minted sinecures suggest otherwise,” he said.

Hall told The Fix he had canceled all of his classes, five of them, for a week while he confronted his university about its bias in February 2022. “They fired me that same month after a few days of discussion. … They fired me because I would not return until we reached an agreeable solution, not because of the classes I had canceled, according to the email I received,” Hall said.

The first link above goes to an op-ed Hall wrote for an organization called the Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism, which appears to be a loose coalition of Substack writers opposed to the bigoted policies of most universities. In that op-ed Hall added these facts as to why he challenged his superiors at Western Kentucky:
» Read more

Perseverance and Ingenuity begin the journey up onto Jezero Crater’s delta

Perseverance's view ahead, February 7, 2023
To see the original images, go here and here.

Overview map
Click for interactive map.

After two years of detailed exploration on the floor of Jezero crater, the rover Perseverance and its Mars helicopter scout Ingenuity have finally begun the climb up onto the delta that in eons past flowed into Jezero Crater.

The panorama above was created from two Perseverance images taken by its right navigation camera on February 7, 2023 (Sol 699) (here and here), looking forward and uphill. On the overview map to the right the blue dot marks Perseverance’s location, with the yellow lines indicating the approximate area covered by this mosaic. The red dotted line in both images indicate approximately the rover’s eventually path.

Ingenuity’s present position is marked by the green dot. This is where the helicopter landed after completing its 42nd flight on February 4, 2023. Planned to fly 823 feet for 137 seconds, Ingenuity actually flew a slightly shorter distance, 814 feet, in that length of time. The difference is probably the result of Ingenuity’s need to find a good landing spot, and the one it found was slightly closer to its take-off point.

The flight however took the helicopter uphill, scouting the terrain that Perseverance plans to drive. While there is no terrain here that is much of a challenge for the rover, having the helicopter’s ground images in advance allows its operators to plan longer drives, as those images will help tell them what obstacles to avoid and route to choose.

The green oval indicates the area that Perseverance has left its first ten core samples for later pickup and return to Earth.

Space Force to do major cleanup of diesel fuel spill on Hawaiian mountaintop

Space Force officials yesterday announced that it will to do major cleanup of the diesel fuel spill that occurred on the top of the mountain Haleakala on the Hawaiian island of Maui last week.

The plan is to remove about 200 cubic yards of fuel-tainted soil, test the base of the dig, and then determine if more soil has to be removed.

The official making this announcement apologized repeatedly for the spill, so much so it was almost as if he was on his face on the ground, kow-towing. It of course made no difference. The leftist race-baiters in Hawaii made it clear where they stood on the matter.

On Friday, the Hawaiian rights group Kākoʻo Haleakalā called for the removal of all telescopes from the peak of Haleakala. The military “showcased their incompetence and lack of human decency when they allowed more than 700 gallons of diesel fuel to be spilled atop Haleakalā,” the group said in a statement.

“This is just the most recent example of how U.S. imperialism and military hegemony is protected in the Pacific while Hawaiians are ignored and our ʻāina is violated,” the statement said, using the Hawaiian term for land.

Let me translate: “We hate whites and America, and we want you out of Hawaii, now. And if you don’t go, we want you to cede all control to us, so that we treat you as the inferior beings we consider you to be.”

Note too that this group’s agenda is identical to the agenda of the race-baiters on the Big Island who are blocking construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope and are forcing the removal of telescopes there.

Japan’s H3 rocket’s first launch delayed due to problem in “flight system”

Japan’s space agency JAXA announced today that it will delay the first launch of its new H3 rocket for two days, to February 15, 2023, in order to fix an unidentified problem in the rocket’s “flight system.”

The H3 rocket’s first launch is already three years behind schedule. In 2022 the launch was delayed for a full year due to the discovery of defects in its main engines.

This government-controlled rocket was supposed to allow Japan to compete in the international launch market. It does not appear at this point that it will be able to do a very good job at that task. Though Mitsubishi is the main contractor, it appears JAXA is in charge and owns it. Such arrangements rarely produce a cheap, efficient, and reliable product for the commercial market.

Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo mother ship unveiled after major overhaul

Virgin Galactic yesterday rolled its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship from its hanger after a 15-month overhaul in preparation for taxi and flight tests.

After some initial taxi and flight tests in Mojave in California, the plane will fly to New Mexico for further flight tests with Unity attached. Company officials hope to complete these test flights by the end of March, and then begin commercial flights shortly thereafter.

In comparing the pictures released yesterday at the link above with this 2009 picture, it appears the company completely replaced the central bar that connects the plane’s two passenger sections. In the older picture, that bar was not straight, but was built like a very shallow upside-down “V”, with the center point where a SpaceShipTwo spacecraft was attached.

The new bar is straight, and appears more robust.

Russian engineers recommend staying with ISS through 2028

Russian engineers yesterday concluded that ISS is technically capable of being operated through 2028.

However, Russia’s committee system for making any decisions is not done. This first analysis was done by Roscosmos’ top managers and its lower level engineers.

The proposed decision will now be considered at a meeting of the Scientific and Technical Council of Roscosmos. Based on its results, the state corporation will draft a message the Russian government.

At that point the Putin government will have to decide on an exit date from ISS. According to the article by Russia’s state-run press, “the minimum configuration of Russia’s own orbital outpost” will be in orbit by 2028, thus giving the government the option to leave ISS. We shall see.

SpaceX successfully launches commercial communications satellites

SpaceX tonight successfully used its Falcon 9 rocket to place a commercial geosynchronous satellite into orbit for the company Hispasat.

The first stage successfully completed its sixth flight, landing on a drone ship in the Atlantic.

The 2023 launch race:

9 SpaceX
5 China
1 Rocket Lab
1 Japan
1 Russia

American private enterprise now leads China 10 to 5 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 10 to 7.

ULA closing facility in Texas that makes parts for the retiring Atlas-5 rocket

ULA has announced that it is shutting down its facility in Harlingen, Texas, that makes parts for the company’s soon-to-be retired Atlas-5 rocket.

The facility will shut down at the end of this year, with a loss of about 100 jobs.

This closure is actually a very positive sign for ULA. It indicates that it is streamlining its operations. For example, construction of the Vulcan rocket that replaces the Atlas-5 is all done in Alabama. One of the reasons Atlas-5 cost so much was the widespread distribution of its ULA facilities, probably done to satisfy congressional demands.

With Vulcan, ULA has instead been much more focused on making it less expensive so it can compete with SpaceX. Thus, it simplified its construction, putting everything in Alabama. (Choosing Alabama was likely to satisfy the most powerful senator at the time, porkmeister Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), who has now retired.)

February 6, 2023 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay.



  • Webb found an asteroid by accident during instrument calibration last year
  • I read this press release this morning, decided the story was mostly NASA fluff designed to sell Webb, and rejected giving it a full post. Discoveries like this happen all the time with all telescopes. Webb didn’t do anything special here. However, Jay is right that it deserves some mention, so here it is as a quick link.






A Martian slope streak caused by a dust devil?

A Martian slope streak caused by a dust devil?
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped, sharpened, and enhanced to post here, was taken on January 5, 2023 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows the interior slope of an unnamed 9-mile-wide crater, located just south of the Martian equator.

On that slope are several slope streaks, their dark color suggesting they are relatively recent. Also on that slope is the track of a dust devil that traversed that across slope. The track and the top of one of those streaks match, suggesting the dust devil might have caused the streak.

Did it? Maybe. This image was certainly taken to try to find out. Right now scientists do not know what causes slope streaks, a phenomenon unique to Mars. Though they look like avalanches, they do not change the topography at all, and sometimes flow over rises. If anything, they appear to be a stain on the surface, caused by some unknown process.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: CVS fires nurse for refusing to violate her religious beliefs

Robyn Strader
Robyn Strader

They’re coming for you next: Despite accommodating nurse practitioner Robyn Strader’s religious beliefs for more than six years, CVS fired her on October 31, 2021 after suddenly deciding that the Christian religion was no longer valid and no employees could cite it when it came time to prescribe drugs.

Robyn worked at a CVS MinuteClinic in Keller, Texas since 2015. Robyn sought a religious accommodation because prescribing any medications that could intentionally end the development or life of an unborn child would force her to violate her beliefs. For six-and-a-half years, the company accommodated her without a problem. When someone requested such a medication, usually only a few times per year, Robyn referred them to another practitioner at her location or to another MinuteClinic located just a couple miles away.

But CVS reversed course, joining the ranks of the “woke” corporations rendering religious employees second class citizens. In 2021, the company stated it would no longer honor religious accommodations related to such medications. Soon after this policy was put in place, CVS terminated Robyn.

Strader is now suing, with the non-profit legal firm First Liberty representing here. You can read her lawsuit here [pdf].
» Read more

Space station builder Voyager raises $80 million in private investment capital

Capitalism in space: Voyager Space, one of three companies that NASA has provided funds to build a private space station, has now raised $80 million in private investment capital.

The funding includes participation from NewSpace Capital, Midway Venture Partners and Industrious Ventures, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings and other documents viewed by TechCrunch. Seraphim Space also participated, TechCrunch has confirmed. The funding was filed with the SEC on January 27.

The company is building Starlab in partnership with Nanoracks (which is the majority owner of Voyager) and Lockheed Martin, which has already received $160 million from NASA.

February 3, 2023 Quick space links

Except for the first, all are courtesy of Jay, BtB’s stringer, who trolls Twitter so I don’t have to.





Razor butte on Mars

Razor butte on Mars
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, was taken on November 18, 2022 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The science team labeled this image “Inverted Channel and Possible Lake Deposits.” The sharp razor-like butte, which I estimate is about 200 to 400 feet high, is an example of the several inverted channels in the full image. The serrated-edged flat plateau at the top of this picture, one of several in the full image, is an example of those possible lake deposits.

Why do the scientists think a lake might have once been here? Located at 8 degrees north latitude in the dry equatorial regions of Mars, there is almost certainly no near surface ice here now.

As always, the overview map provides the context, and a possible explanation.
» Read more

Sunspot update: Sunspots in January went through the roof!

NOAA this week updated its monthly graph that tracks the number of sunspots on the Sun’s Earth-facing hemisphere. Below is that updated graph, with January’s numbers added to the timeline. As I have done monthly for the past dozen years here on Behind the Black, I have added some additional details to that graph to provide context.

Just as in December, the number of sunspots in January 2023 shot up to the highest amount since September 2014, which was during the previous solar maximum. Unlike December, however, January’s numbers came only a hairs-breath from topping that 2014 number. In fact, except for that one 2014 month, January 2023 saw the most sunspots on the Sun since November 2002, twenty years ago. In 2002 the Sun was ramping down from what had been a relatively strong double-peaked solar maximum, and was about to begin an extremely long period of little or no activity, followed by a very weak double-peaked solar maximum in 2013.

That period of little activity also corresponded with a long twenty-year period in which the Earth’s climate appeared to stop warming.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: Comic book writer slandered and then canceled because of the slanders

Mike Baron's Private American, banned

They’re coming for you next: Long established comic book writer Mike Baron and his projects have now been blacklisted from a variety of sites, including having his most recent Kickstarter starter campaign shutdown, because of slanderous social media comments as well as a defamatory article on Daily Kos.

After a scathing article from a Daily Kos mouthpiece, Baron’s colleagues and fans realized they could not find his campaign on Kickstarter. The post smeared “Thin Blue Line” – a story about two police officers riding out a long night of rioting – along with “Private American.” The author, a person named Starr Mignon, called the comic a “diatribe of racist propaganda” and “stochastic terrorism disguised as a funny book.”

Prior to Kickstarter shutting his campaign down, it had also been banned from Twitter, as well as shadow-banned on Indiegogo.

A detailed blow-by-blow description of the slanderous attacks, based on no knowledge of these works, as well as the cowardly blackballing by others in response to those attacks, can be found here. This writer, who was helping Baron’s campaign, notes the following:
» Read more

NASA switches lunar landing site for Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander

Peregrine landing site

NASA today announced that it has changed the planned landing site on the Moon for Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander, presently scheduled for launch at the end of March on the first flight of ULA’s new Vulcan rocket.

The original landing site for Astrobotic’s flight within Lacus Mortis, which is in the northeast quadrant of the lunar nearside of the Moon, was chosen by Astrobotic to suit its lander performance and safety, as well as Astrobotic’s preferences. However, as NASA’s Artemis activities mature, it became evident the agency could increase the scientific value of the NASA payloads if they were delivered to a different location. The science and technology payloads planned for this delivery to the Moon presented NASA scientists with a valuable opportunity, prompting the relocation of the landing site to a mare – an ancient hardened lava flow – outside of the Gruithuisen Domes, a geologic enigma along the mare/highlands boundary on the northeast border of Oceanus Procellarum, or Ocean of Storms, the largest dark spot on the Moon.

The white dot on the map to the right shows this location. The original location was to the west of Atlas Crater in the northeast quadrant of the Moon’s near side, where Ispace’s Hakuto-R lunar lander plans to touch down in April.

This decision by NASA was apparently prompted by the decision to send Intuitive Machines Nova-C lander to Vallis Schröteri in Oceanus Procellarum, which is the rill that flows west out of the crater Aristarchus. Gruithuisen Domes had been a potential landing site for Nova-C, and NASA probably did not want to lose an opportunity to go there.

Curiosity spots foot-wide meteorite on Mars

Meteorite on Mars?
Click for original image.

Curiosity appears to have identified a foot-wide rock on the surface of Mars that is likely a meteorite.

While the JPL press release at this link is certain this is a meteorite, the Curiosity science team is properly more circumspect:

The rock we are parked in front of is one of several very dark-colored blocks in this area which seem to have come from elsewhere, and we are calling “foreign stones.” Our investigations will help determine if this is a block from elsewhere on Mars that just has been weathered in an interesting way or if it is a meteorite.

The image to the right surely does look like a meteorite. If so, this would be one of the largest found so far on Mars by any rover.

Spanish airport to become a rocket spaceport

Teruel airport in Spain, located about 200 miles east of Madrid, has announced plans to expand its operations to make itself a rocket spaceport.

At a recent conference, it was announced that PDL Space plans to operate satellite micro launchers from the little-known airport, located some 300km east of the capital Madrid.

Another company, Sceye, plans to install stratospheric spacecraft at the airport, which, since coming into commission ten years ago, has been used primarily as a maintenance centre for large aircraft.

The airport is located in the eastern interior of Spain. Any orbital launches will have to cross considerable parts of the country, as well as other European and African countries. This however might not be a problem for the moment, as PDL at present appears to be building suborbital rockets.

Yuma funds and applies for spaceport

The city of Yuma in Arizona has provided $250 million to fund the cost for applying for an FAA license for a building a spaceport there.

The city hopes to build the spaceport just east of San Luis on a plot of land it owns, which is near the border, and right next to the Arizona State Prison complex. The spaceport itself would be a concrete slab, with aerospace companies bringing their own launching equipment.

Something however is fishy about this story. It doesn’t cost $250 million to put together such a license, unless Yuma also expects serious opposition that it will need to fight in court. And it should, as any launches from Yuma will have to cross parts of Mexico, and without that country’s permission such a spaceport will likely be blocked.

China to build space ground stations in Antarctica

According to a report on China’s state-run press that has now been deleted, China plans to build satellite ground stations in Antarctica for use by its ocean-observation satellites.

Official space industry newspaper China Space News reported Feb. 2 that a subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), a giant state-owned defense and space contractor, won a bid to construct a ocean observation satellite ground system. The project is being overseen by the National Satellite Ocean Application Service (NSOAS) and is stated to be part of a long-term marine economic development plan.

Renders of the 43.95 million yuan ($6.52 million) project show four radome-covered antennas at Zhongshan in East Antarctica. It is unknown if these are new and additional to antennas already established at the base. The antennas will assist data acquisition from Chinese satellites that orbit in polar and near-polar orbits. Satellites in these orbits are visible near the poles multiple times a day, allowing more frequent opportunities for downlink than with stations at lower latitudes.

Such ground stations could of course do many other things, including aiding military satellite surveillance.

Researchers discover a new kind of water ice

Researchers have discovered a new kind of water ice that appears to match the density and structure of liquid water.

he ice is called medium-density amorphous ice. The team that created it, led by Alexander Rosu-Finsen at University College London (UCL), shook regular ice in a small container with centimetre-wide stainless-steel balls at temperatures of –200 ˚C to produce the variant, which has never been seen before. The ice appeared as a white granular powder that stuck to the metal balls. The findings were published today in Science.

The abstract for the paper can be read here.

Not only does this discovery suggest that there are many possible states of water ice, with a range of properties, this new type of ice could help explain many of the features we see on planets like Mars that appear to have been caused by flowing water. Mars has a lot of glacial ice, much of which might not be ice as we assume.

Dramatic layers in Valles Marineris

Dramatic layers in Valles Marineris
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right, rotated, cropped, and sharpened to post here, was taken on December 28, 2023 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and shows one tiny section of the interior slope of the giant Martian canyon Valles Marineris.

The while layers are not made of frost or ice, because they are light tan, as per the color image. Thus, the alternating layers of dark and light indicate different layering events. The dark layers are probably major lava flood events with a lot of dark ash intermixed, while the tan layers were flood lava events with little dark ash.

The dark lines that cut across these layers are ripple dunes formed from dust that has accumulated inside Valles Marineris.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted Americans: Catholic students kicked out of Air & Space museum for wearing pro-life hats

The evil hat that Air & Space banned
The evil hat that Air & Space officials banned

They’re coming for you next: A dozen Catholic students, having just attended the March for Life event on January 20, 2023 in Washington, found themselves being chased from the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum because they were all wearing hats with a pro-life message.

According to their lawyer,

Once in the museum, they were accosted several times and told they would be forced to leave unless they removed their pro-life hats. The group all wore the same blue hat that simply said, “Rosary PRO-LIFE.” Other individuals in the museum were wearing hats of all kinds without issue.

The museum staff mocked the students, called them expletives, and made comments that the museum was a “neutral zone” where they could not express such statements. The employee who ultimately forced the students to leave the museum was rubbing his hands together in glee as they exited the building.

According to the students and their parents, the kids were all wearing the same hats in order to find each other in the crowds.

When asked by the press about this incident, the museum responded as follows:
» Read more

Fire in South Korean rocket facility

South Korea today reported that a fire had broken out in its Naro Space Center during work on a turbopump for a next generation rocket.

The fire started at 3:25 p.m. Tuesday at the Naro Space Center in the country’s southern coastal village of Goheung and was extinguished about an hour later, according to the Ministry of Science and ICT. The ministry said some experimental equipment was affected by the fire but reported no injuries.

The fire broke out while researchers were conducting an experiment to develop a 10-ton turbopump that injects fuel into an engine for a new space rocket, codenamed KSLV-III.

The KSLV-III will be an upgrade of the KSLV-II, also called Nuri, which has a launch scheduled right now in May. The KSLV-III is part of a $1.6 billion government project to develop this new rocket by 2032.

Diesel fuel spill at Air Force surveillance facility on Hawaiian mountaintop

The Air Force reported today that about 700 gallons of diesel fuel spilled out on January 29, 2023 at Air Force’s surveillance telescope facility on top of Haleakala on the island of Maui.

The spill occurred at the Maui Space Surveillance Complex, which tracks satellites and space debris using several telescopes atop Haleakala, a dormant volcano. “Due to a mechanical issue, a diesel fuel pump for an on-site backup generator failed to shut off” Sunday night, the Air Force said in a news release.

At about 8 a.m. Monday, maintenance personnel discovered the failure and shut off the transfer pump, the Air Force said.

Since 2021 the military has had two other accidents at different Hawaiian facilities. Considering the hostile political atmosphere there for any facility not run by “native Hawaiians”, this new fuel spill could not have come at a worse time. Expect pressure to mount to remove this facility.

ISRO completes investigation into failure of its SSLV rocket on first launch

India’s space agency ISRO today released the results of its investigation into the launch failure of its SSLV rocket on its first flight in August 2022.

The investigation revealed that there was a vibration disturbance for a short duration on the Equipment Bay (EB) deck during the second stage separation. SSLV is a three-solid-stage launch vehicle unlike the PSLV, which is a four-stage rocket. The vibration affected the Inertial Navigation System (INS), resulting in declaring the sensors faulty by the logic in the Fault Detection & Isolation (FDI) software.

In plain English, it appears the vibration caused a failure in the inertial navigation system, thus resulting in the premature engine shutdown of the fourth stage.

According to the report, the problem has been fixed and the next SSLV launch is now tentatively scheduled for February 9, 2023.

South Korea officially cancels Russian launch contract, signs Vega-C instead

South Korea yesterday officially announced that it has canceled a Russian contract that was supposed to use an Angara rocket to launch a multi-purpose satellite last year and signed a deal with Arianespace to use the Vega-C rocket instead.

The cancellation appears directly because of the sanctions against Russia due to its invasion of the Ukraine. Picking the Vega-C as a replacement at this moment however seems a strange choice, considering its last launch was a failure and it has failed three times in the last eight launches. I suspect Arianespace gave South Korea an extremely good price.

Meanwhile, South Korean officials still seem willing to continue another Russian launch contract, using a Soyuz-2 rocket launching from Kazakhstan. According to the article, officials are right now merely negotiating a launch date.

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