Russia launches Nauka, its first new ISS module in 11 years

Russia today used its Proton rocket to successfully place in orbit its new ISS module, Nauka, the first new Russian module in eleven years, and fourteen years after it was originally supposed to launch.

After launch and orbit insertion, the module, MLM-U Nauka, is now performing an eight day phase to the Station for an automated docking on July 29 to the nadir docking port of the Zvezda service module, a port currently occupied by the Pirs module.

Upon arrival, Nauka will become the third largest module of the Russian segment of the ISS and will add 70 cubic meters of space to the Station’s internal volume, a third Russian-side sleeping location, an additional toilet, as well as new water regeneration and oxygen production systems — augmenting some of the original systems in Zvezda that are showing their 22 year age.

The main task for the Nauka module will be to conduct scientific experiments. The pressurized compartment of the module contains 21 universal working places (URM), including four locations with sliding shelves, a glove box, a frame with an automatic rotating vibration-proof platform, and a porthole with a diameter of 426 mm for visual and instrumental observations.

The article above provides a very interesting review of Nauka’s complex and difficult history.

The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

23 China
20 SpaceX
12 Russia
3 Northrop Grumman

The U.S. still leads China 29 to 23 in the national rankings.

Ice-filled craters in Mars’ glacier country?

Craters in Protonilus Mensae
Click for full image.

Today’s cool image returns us to the chaos region dubbed Protonilus Mensae, the middle of three adjacent mensae regions in the northern hemisphere that I like to dub Mars’ glacier country because there is so much evidence of buried ice there.

The photo to the right, cropped to post here, was taken on May 31, 2021 by the high resolution camera of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Titled “Layered Feature in Crater in Protonilus Mensae,” the section I have posted focuses on several craters, with the one with the central mesa likely the picture’s target. Based on many similar features found in craters in this region, it is somewhat safe to assume that this mesa is made of buried ice.

The overview map below as always provides the context.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: Catholic hospitals threatened with cancellation by University of California

Religious beliefs banned by University of California
Religious beliefs: Banned by University of California.

The modern dark age: The Board of Regents of the University of California (UC) on June 23, 2021 voted to end its affiliation with all Catholic hospitals if they do not agree to perform “abortions, euthanasia, assisted suicide and the direct sterilization of patients,” in direct violation of their Christian religious beliefs.

The policy states that UC physicians practicing at a sectarian hospital must be permitted to provide any treatment at that location to a patient who can’t be safely transferred to another facility — even if the treatment would violate religious restrictions. Affiliated hospitals will have until Dec. 31, 2023, to comply with the policy, or the affiliation agreement must be canceled.

“We know that transfers are not always in the patient’s interest”, board Chair John A. Pérez, who crafted the key language approved by the board, said after the board’s meeting, conducted remotely Wednesday afternoon. [emphasis mine]

Do you see the lie in the highlighted words? All of these treatments are optional, and can be scheduled. I can see almost no medical issue preventing the safe transfer of a patient from of a Catholic hospital in order to get one of these procedures. In fact, I can’t even see a reason for any patient who wants an “abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, or direct sterilization” to even be in a Catholic hospital.

The only reason the university’s Board of Regents has for imposing such a rule is to either force Catholics to violate their religious beliefs, or to get such religious hospitals blackballed from serving any patients,. and thus in the long run destroy them as institutions.

As noted by the Alliance of Catholic Healthcare,
» Read more

Rocket Lab identifies cause of May launch failure; ready to launch again

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab announced yesterday that it has identified and corrected the cause of a May 15 launch failure and is now ready to resume launches, as early as before the end of July.

Rocket Lab said an investigation by the company traced the root cause to the rocket’s second stage engine igniter system. A problem with the igniter corrupted signals in the computer on the stage, which in turn caused the thrust vector control system to “deviate outside nominal parameters.” The engine computer then shut down the Rutherford engine.

The igniter problem, the company said, resulted from “a previously undetectable failure mode within the ignition system that occurs under a unique set of environmental pressures and conditions” not noticed in previous testing of the engine or on previous Electron launches. Engineers have replicated the problem in the lab and created what Rocket Lab called “redundancies” in the ignition system, including changes to the design of the igniter and how it is manufactured, to prevent the problem from happening again.

Rocket Lab has had two launch failures in the past year, so getting back flying as quickly as possible is critical for them, especially because a lot of new smallsat launch companies are coming up from behind. Virgin Orbit initiated commercial launches this year, having already completed two, and Astra and Firefly both seem ready, based on recent announcements, to make their first orbital launches before the end of this year.

SpaceX completes first static fire test of Superheavy prototype #3

Superheavy booster #3 fires
Superheavy booster #3 fires.

Capitalism in space: SpaceX yesterday successfully completed the first static fire test of the third Superheavy prototype, firing up three Raptor engines for about two seconds.

I have embedded the live stream from NASASpaceflight.com below the fold, cued to just before the engines fire. Because there was a delay of a few minutes from when the static fire was expected and when it actually happened, the announcers had began talking and were caught off guard by the burn.

Next up:

Booster 3 provides a first-time operation for fueling the huge booster with Liquid Oxygen (LOX) and Liquid Methane (CH4) during the test. How much propellant will be loaded, and the schedule for the sequence was unknown. However, NSF’s Adrian Beil wrote a feature on the expectations based on previous experiences with Starship being applied to Super Heavy.

Based on those evaluations, it was expected that Super Heavy would also undergo a Starship-like countdown of 45-60 minutes, with fueling beginning in the 30-40 minute range. Engine chill would then follow at T-12 minutes, ahead of the firing. As with previous Static Fires, the T-10 minute siren sounded, as per the alert notice to local residents. However, as with Starship, mini-holds can be expected, pushing the ignition time to the right. This proved to be the case on Monday.

The booster fired up all three engines for the expected duration, confirmed by Musk before he noted that “depending on progress with Booster 4, we might try a 9 engine firing on Booster 3.”

Booster #4 will be put on the orbital launchpad rather than the test pad, and is likely the booster to be used for the first orbital test flight of Starship, likely to be launched before the end of summer.
» Read more

Watching New Shepard’s first manned commercial flight tomorrow

Blue Origin will be live streaming the suborbital flight tomorrow of its New Shepard spacecraft, carrying Jeff and Mark Bezos, Wally Funk, and passenger 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, his ticket paid for by his father at an undisclosed price.

The broadcast begins at 7 am (Eastern), with launch scheduled for 9 am (Eastern).

The flight itself will be about about ten to twelve minutes total, expecting to reach an altitude exceeding 67 miles, Though it will fly higher than Virgin Galactic’s suborbital flight last week, which reached about 53.5 miles, it will be far shorter. Because Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft takes off attached to the bottom of an airplane, the flight includes more than an hour of flight time getting up to the right altitude to release the spacecraft.

New Shepard launches from the ground, goes straight up, and reaches its maximum height within minutes.

Which is a better deal? That’s up to you. Since orbital tourist flights are now available and will be launching monthly beginning in September, both of these very short suborbital hops seem much less interesting then they would have only two years ago.

Musk donates more big money to revitalizing downtown Brownsville

It appears that a charitable foundation established by Elon Musk has recently decided to up its donations to the Brownsville Community Improvements Corporation by an extra $1 million, the money aimed at helping to revitalized the downtown of Brownsville, the nearest large city to SpaceX’s Boca Chica spaceport.

The donation was revealed during remarks by Josh Mejia, executive director of the Brownsville Community Improvements Corporation, during a Brownsville developers luncheon .

In his remarks, Mejia, pictured above, gave an update on the e-Bridge Center and other quality of life improvements coming to Brownsville. But, he received the biggest applause when he mentioned inward investment by Elon Musk. “I was texting back and forth with my board members and about 45 minutes ago I receive an email from the Musk Foundation. It is like perfect timing. It is like they know we are here. Well, they just mentioned they donated another million (dollars) towards this program. So, now we have $2 million,” Mejia said. The audience cheered.

This donation is all part of the modern game that requires big business enterprises to make payoffs to local and national politicians and “community activists.” Both Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos know this, and are playing the game to hilt. Both know that the politicians and “community activists” have been telling them, “Nice business you got here, shame if something happened to it.” Bezos responded by donating big to DC’s Air & Space museum, while spreading the wealth to many space advocacy groups.

Musk is instead focusing his payoffs to the local community, where it might do the most good for both him and the locals that his business affects. This donation is not the first he has made to Boca Chica, Brownsville, and south Texas. His foundation has also donated $20 million to the county schools, and another $8 million for other downtown Brownsville projects. The results, obviously helped by the business SpaceX is also bringing to the town, have been noticeable.

In the months since Musk pledged his $10 million, at least 10 downtown properties have gone under contract with interested buyers, said real estate broker Bob Torres Jr. Buildings that used to lease for 25 cents a square foot are now leasing for $1 to $1.50 per square foot.

Home prices have increased nationwide due to the pandemic and low inventory. In Brownsville, this trend has been exacerbated by SpaceX. “People are buying houses sight unseen from Washington state, Portland, Oregon,” Torres said. “They’re going above the asking price, which hardly ever happens.” Real estate broker Bruno Zavaleta III had a client drive from Atlanta and buy three houses.

According to the Brownsville/South Padre Island Board of Realtors, the median price for a home in Brownsville was $212,900 in June, up 47 percent from June 2020. To help with inventory, Esperanza Homes is building 675 houses in northern Brownsville. It will develop this master-planned community over the next six to eight years with a nonprofit community housing development organization called “come dream. come build.”

This pumping of donations by Musk to the local community however will not sell well with the mafia in Washington. The money isn’t going to them, and bullies don’t like that, even if the money is really doing good. Bezos understands this. It doesn’t really matter if the money he donates accomplishes anything real. What matters is that he has paid off the thugs who could make big trouble for him in the future.

Right now it is unclear who’s strategy will work best for protecting each company’s interests. Much will hinge on what each company actually accomplishes in the next few years. SpaceX is clearly ahead in this area, but Blue Origin can certainly catch up.

Hat tip Robert Pratt of Pratt on Texas.

Today’s blacklisted American: 19th century poet Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman, banned
Great poets like Walt Whitman
now banned at Rutgers

The onset of the modern dark age: Ivy league college Rutgers University in Camden New Jersey is now removing its monument to 19th poet Walt Whitman because of petitions and slanders against him by today’s blacklist culture.

Rutgers University-Camden will remove a statue of the famous poet Walt Whitman from the center of campus as a result of activists’ petitions and a recommendation from a committee of scholars. The statue of Whitman, featured prominently in the front courtyard of Camden’s Campus Center, will be “relocated to a historically relevant site on campus and contextualized,” interim Chancellor Margaret Marsh recently announced in an email to students and employees.

That new location has yet to be announced by campus officials.

A petition circulated last year stated that “the statue of Walt Whitman glorifies a man who we should not hold such a place of honor on our campus. … He instead stood for white supremacy and racism against Black and Indigenous Americans.”

In other words, because Whitman was a man of his time and not perfect, his memory must be wiped from all history, his poems burned, and all effort to teach his poetry ended forthwith.

This effort is quite symptomatic of the entire modern leftist effort to slander all of American history.
» Read more

Cracks, chaos, and maybe caves in one place on Mars

Mosaic of Avernus Cavi fissures
Click for higher resolution. Original images found here and here.

Today’s cool image to the right is a mosaic I have made from two images taken by the context camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), showing a most intriguing region on Mars dubbed Avernus Cavi, located in the large volcanic plain called Elysium Planitia between the giant volcanoes Elysium Mons and Olympus Mons, a region I like to call Mars’ volcano country.

The mosaic shows in one picture much of the typical terrain in Avernus Cavi. We see many linear depressions or cracks, created when the ground stretched and cracked at weak points. We also see many depressions that suggest sinkholes, places where the surface sagged down because of a void below ground.

The area of knobs and mesas in the picture’s southeast quadrant is very typical Martian chaos terrain, the later result of long term erosion of these cracks and depressions.

The white box shows the area covered by the image below.
» Read more

The future of SLS?

In this long NASASpaceflight.com article describing the building the second core stage for NASA’s SLS rocket (the stage scheduled to take astronauts around the Moon in September 2023) was also additional information about the status of later core stages, still not entirely funded.

The key tidbit of information is this:

Core Stage-3 is the first build under the new “Stages Production and Evolution Contract” that was initiated in 2019; the contract is not yet completely finalized, with the latest estimate for definitization being early in Fiscal Year 2022 (which begins on October 1st, 2021).

Both NASA and Boeing are proceeding under the assumption that this Congress will approve full funding for later SLS rockets after flights one and two. While the signs strongly suggest that funding for at least two more rockets will arrive, that funding still depends largely on the success of the first unmanned SLS test flight, tentatively scheduled for November-December 2021.

It also depends on the political winds, and when Starship starts reaching orbit somewhat regularly (and cheaply). When that happens, all bets are off on the future of SLS. At some point it will become obvious that it can’t compete against that SpaceX rocket, and Congress will shift its funding appropriately.

Sadly, knowing Congress and the corrupt DC culture, this change will likely only happen after a lot of taxpayer money is wasted on a rocket that is simply too expensive and too cumbersome, and thus not practical for making space exploration possible.

China launches four satellites

Using its Long March 2C rocket, China today successfully launched four satellites, three military reconnaissance satellites and one data communications satellite.

While the first stage crashed inside China (no word on whether it landed near habitable areas), China also claimed it attempted a recovery of the fairings for reuse. At this time no information has been released on what was achieved.

The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

23 China
20 SpaceX
11 Russia
3 Northrop Grumman

The U.S. still leads China 29 to 23 in the national rankings.

The lacy rocks of Mars

Lacy rocks on Mars
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The image to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on July 16, 2021 by the Mars rover Curiosity, using its high resolution mast camera.

There isn’t much to say. These are alien rocks, created in a place with a gravity only about a third that of Earth’s in a climate that is very different. Their delicate nature suggests we are looking at something that was once more substantial and has since been undergoing erosion.

Nor has it been that unusual to find rocks so dainty on Mars. In fact, the more Curiosity has climbed, the more such things have been visible. And similar things were seen by the rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

How such rocks formed initially in the far past, under what climate conditions, remains the number one mystery on Mars. What is now causing it to flake away into such a finespun gossamer of complexity is as much a mystery, tied more to the climate and geology of Mars today.

This rock sits on the bottom flank of Mt Sharp in Gale Crater, at the highest elevation Curiosity has yet climbed. At this point the rover has just entered a new geological unit, what scientists have dubbed the sulfate unit. The evidence gathered from a distance (that so far appears confirmed by recent observations) suggest that this unit was formed under a fluctuating environment that laid down many layers of sediment as conditions ebbed and flowed.

China test flies reusable suborbital spacecraft

The new colonial movement: China’s state-run press today announced that it had recently flown and landed a new reusable suborbital spacecraft. Here’s their full release:

A reusable suborbital carrier landed stably at an airport in Alxa League in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region during a flight demonstration and verification project on Friday.

Earlier on Friday, the carrier was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gobi Desert. Its first flight mission was a complete success.

Developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the reusable suborbital carrier can be used in the space transport system.

The success of the flight has laid a solid foundation for the development of China’s reusable space transportation. Enditem

The release provided no further information. It also provided no images.

This could very much be a real thing, but it also could be entirely fake. The timing of such a factual-devoid press release, coming as it does between two different American commercial suborbital flights, suggests the Chinese government does not want to appear left out, and is claiming, without producing any evidence, that it too has a reusable suborbital spacecraft.

If this release is fake, it also does not mean that China does not have such a spacecraft in development. In fact, it almost certainly does. Like the Soviet Union, China’s state-controlled press has a tendency to exaggerate their achievements for propaganda reasons. But like the Soviet Union, China is careful to base the exaggerations on actual achievements or plans, no matter how tentative.

Based on this, I suspect that what this release tells us is that China’s government is building such a thing, but might not have actually flown it yet. If they have as the press release claims, then expect some images in the next week or so.

Hubble returned to science operations

Engineers today completed their testing of their computer hardware fix on the Hubble Space Telescope and took it out of safe mode, allowing science observations to resume after more than a month.

The first observation is scheduled for Saturday afternoon after some instrument calibrations are completed. Most observations missed while science operations were suspended will be rescheduled for a later date.

Now let us all pray that there are no more major failures for the next few years until the U.S. capabilities in space grow and a relatively fast mission to repair the telescope is possible.

First attempts to map the layered geology of Mars

layers in Jiji Crater on Mars
Click for full image.

Today’s cool image illustrates well the central task of much of today’s geological research on Mars, using the orbital images to try to map out the visible geological layers seen, and figure out if those layers mark over wide regions specific geological epochs, as they do on Earth.

The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on May 4, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and featured on July 12th as a captioned image entitled “Layers Blanket a Crater Floor.” From the caption:

This image shows a layered rock formation within Jiji Crater that has eroded into buttes and stair-like layers.

This formation extends west and east. Similar layered rocks are within several craters in Arabia Terra and Meridiani Planum, including [nearby] Sera and Banes craters. The similarities suggest that the same process was forming deposits over a large geographic area long ago. Our image also indicates that much of the formation has eroded away relative to what has remained.

As you can see in the photo, the layers form a neat staircase of terraces descending from the south crater rim to the crater floor. They suggest that once the crater was filled with this material, which over time eroded away.

An image of similar layered buttes and mesas in Sera crater, only about 20 miles away, was featured here on Behind the Black in December 2020 The overview map below shows the relationship between Jiji, Sera, and Banes craters.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: Booksellers want to burn a book they do not like

The Bill of Rights cancelled by American Booksellers
No first amendment allowed at the
American Booksellers Association.

The horrible ironies of this story are beyond the pale. The American Booksellers Association (ABA), a non-profit trade organization founded in 1900 to represent independent bookstores while also defending freedom of speech, has now violently condemned the publication of a book that raised questions about the modern perverse sexual movement and its unbridled support of sex changes for young children.

First, some details about that book and its author:

Irreversible Damage [by Abigail Shrier] is not some partisan screed. In the book, Shrier delves into the startling trend of adolescent teenage girls identifying as transgender, which a scientific study described as a “social contagion.” Shrier endorses transgender identity and even hormones and surgery for some people, but she warns against “treatments” that will leave many girls permanently scarred, noting that an increasing number of those who previously identified as transgender have de-transitioned.

Note how careful Shrier is to label herself in favor of sex changes for children even as she raises fair questions about some of these procedures and the possible harm they may do.

No matter. No one at all is to be permitted to question the left’s modern sexual agenda. When the ABA included a mention of this book in its July membership newsletter, the control freaks came out in force, demanding retribution and the burning of Shrier’s book.

And the ABA immediately complied, kowtowing like groveling slaves in its statement of apology.
» Read more

Dictatorship overthrown in Michigan

A victory for law and freedom: The state senate in Michigan yesterday approved a repeal of the emergency powers law that Democratic Party governor Gretchen Witmer used last year to assume the equivalent of total dictatorial powers.

A Michigan House of Representatives GOP spokesman told news outlets that the chamber will vote on the petition soon. If it does not within approximately one month, or if the vote fails, then voters will decide on whether to repeal the emergency powers law in the next election. Republicans control both chambers of the legislature in Michigan.

If the House follows the Senate, then an emergency declaration will be good for 28 days before requiring the legislature’s approval to be extended.

Of course, the Democrats all voted against this repeal, as they like the idea of giving a Democratic Party governor absolute power that cannot be opposed. That the petition was brought to the legislature by the citizens of the state, as per Michigan law, also means nothing to them. They like absolute power, and want to wield it against those citizens.

That the state’s own Supreme Court has also ruled unconstitutional the emergency power law now being repealed, stating it was “an undue ceding of legislative authority to the executive,” makes no difference to the Democrats as well. And Witmer demonstrated this quite starkly when she defied that court ruling and invoked the law again to keep her lockdown of the state on-going, apparently forever.

The Democratic Party today has become the party of dictatorship, corruption, bigotry, and blacklists. Remember that the next time you vote.

Juno team creates dramatic animation of Ganymede/Jupiter fly-by

Using images from Juno’s fly-by of both Ganymede and Jupiter on June 7th and 8th, the science team has produced a dramatic animation, with background music, showing that fly-by from the point of view of the spacecraft.

I have embedded it below the fold.

The 3:30-minute-long animation begins with Juno approaching Ganymede, passing within 645 miles (1,038 kilometers) of the surface at a relative velocity of 41,600 mph (67,000 kph). The imagery shows several of the moon’s dark and light regions (darker regions are believed to result from ice sublimating into the surrounding vacuum, leaving behind darkened residue) as well as the crater Tros, which is among the largest and brightest crater scars on Ganymede.

It takes just 14 hours, 50 minutes for Juno to travel the 735,000 miles (1.18 million kilometers) between Ganymede and Jupiter, and the viewer is transported to within just 2,100 miles (3,400 kilometers) above Jupiter’s spectacular cloud tops. By that point, Jupiter’s powerful gravity has accelerated the spacecraft to almost 130,000 mph (210,000 kph) relative to the planet.

Among the Jovian atmospheric features that can be seen are the circumpolar cyclones at the north pole and five of the gas giant’s “string of pearls” – eight massive storms rotating counterclockwise in the southern hemisphere that appear as white ovals. Using information that Juno has learned from studying Jupiter’s atmosphere, the animation team simulated lightning one might see as we pass over Jupiter’s giant thunderstorms.

The lightning shown on Jupiter, while entertaining, is a complete fantasy. The flashes are much too bright and large. At the scale created, some would cover the Earth. In reality, that lightning wouldn’t be visible until you are very very close, and even then probably difficult to spot in the vastness of Jupiter.

» Read more

Maezawa reveals status of competition to join him on a private Starship mission to Moon

Capitalism in space: In a video released yesterday Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa provided an update on his Dear Moon competition for choosing the eight individuals who will join him on his private Starship mission around the Moon.

The mission has changed a lot since it was first announced in 2018. Maezawa had planned to invite artists onboard the Starship and venture with them on a circuit around Earth’s only natural satellite. But earlier this year, he changed the process and opened up spots to practically everyone, calling on budding lunar explorers to register for a ticket aboard the Starship and then produce videos on why they want to go to space.

I have embedded the video below. In it Maezawa reveals that he received more than a million applications from every single country on Earth, with many sending short videos describing why they should be chosen. The video provides a sampling of clips from those videos.

What struck me most while watching the video is how completely confident all the applicants were that this private mission on Starship will fly. Even though this is a manned mission around the Moon, something that has only been done nine times, and not for a half century, all seemed entirely sure Maezawa’s mission would happen, and wanted to be on it. I was also struck by the variety of applicants from many places.

Capitalism and freedom is opening the heavens for all humans. And it is about time.

» Read more

NASA pushing for an SLS launch before the end of the year

According to a statement by NASA administrator Bill Nelson earlier this week, the agency is working hard in its stacking of the SLS rocket in Florida, with the goal of launching before the end of the year.

That statement was revealed in the last sentence of this article describing the work on getting SLS ready, work that appears to be moving along briskly with few surprises.

The present official targeted launch date is set for November. The agency had said it would take between six to ten months to get the rocket ready after the core stage arrived at Kennedy in May. This pointed to a launch sometime between November and March. Right now it appears that NASA is trying very hard to meet that earlier date.

This aggressive effort to launch on schedule is behavior quite out of character for the NASA of the past three decades. In the past, the agency would have moved leisurely along, so that those four months of margin would have almost certainly been used and the launch would have been delayed until March.

I suspect this push now to launch on time is partly generated by a fear that SpaceX’s Starship will reach orbit before SLS. If that happens it will be a major embarrassment to NASA, considering that the agency has spent about three times longer and ten times more money on its rocket than SpaceX.

Isn’t competition wonderful? It even makes government work more efficiently.

Stay tuned. There is still a lot of time between now and November. This race between comparable rockets being built by the government and a private company appears to be neck and neck as we head down the stretch.

Thales Alenia to build first two modules of Axiom’s commercial space station

Capitalism in space: The Italian company Thales Alenia today announced it has finalized the contract to build the first two modules of Axiom’s private commercial space station, set to be docked to ISS initially but eventually to fly independent once ISS is decommissioned.

Total price for the contract is 110 million euros. According to the press release, they are targeting 2024 and 2025 for launching these modules, which will be able to house as many as eight residents.

Based on its past successful experience in building modules for the International Space Station, Thales Alenia Space is responsible for the design, development, assembly and test of the primary structure and the Micrometeoroid & Debris Protection System for the two Axiom modules.

The welding activities of the primary structure of the first module will start in September 2021, with the assembly process concluding in 2022. The first module will arrive at Axiom facilities in Houston in July 2023, where Axiom will integrate and outfit the core systems and certify it for flight prior to shipping to the launch facility.

With the launch of this station, human spaceflight in the United States will become completely independent of the federal government. Private companies will own the rockets, spacecraft, and stations, and the government will no longer have a major say on what goes on in space. The NASA bureaucracy that makes getting an experiment onto ISS cumbersome, difficult, and discouraging will be out of a job. (An example: In the 2000s American scientists studying plant growth in weightlessness ended up launching their experiments with the Russians because getting NASA approval turned out to be too difficult.)

This doesn’t mean that it will be easy to get a payload or experiment onto Axiom’s station. The demand will be quite high. It just means that the decision will no longer reside with the government, but with the private companies and citizens of the United States.

As it always should have been.

Furthermore, that the demand is going to exceed the supply will mean that additional stations will be built, and quickly, because the lure of profit will be there. For example, many of the commercial medical experiments that were on the verge of paying off but were shut down after the Challenger accident in 1986 could very well be brought back to life.

Engineers report Hubble fix appears successfully

Engineers this morning announced that their attempt to switch to backup computer hardware on the Hubble Space Telescope was successful.

The switch included bringing online the backup Power Control Unit (PCU) and the backup Command Unit/Science Data Formatter (CU/SDF) on the other side of the Science Instrument and Command & Data Handling (SI C&DH) unit. The PCU distributes power to the SI C&DH components, and the CU/SDF sends and formats commands and data. In addition, other pieces of hardware onboard Hubble were switched to their alternate interfaces to connect to this backup side of the SI C&DH. Once these steps were completed, the backup payload computer on this same unit was turned on and loaded with flight software and brought up to normal operations mode.

They are now doing tests to make sure everything is working as expected, and preparing the telescope to bring it out of safe mode and resume science operations.

This is great news, but to bring everyone down to Earth, we must remember that Hubble no longer has any redundancy in this area. Should there be another similar computer failure, the telescope will then be dead in the water, with the only way to bring it back a manned or robotic mission — something we presently do not have the capacity to do — to replace these units.

New images from Zhurong on Mars

Zhurong's view north
Click for full image.

China today released three new images from its Zhurong Mars rover, showing that since their last release in late June the rover has traveled about 1,000 feet to the south to reach the parachute and backshell (or entry capsule), both released just before landing.

The image to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, is the color panorama from that release, looking north. According to a translation of the Chinese press release, provided at this Space.com report, the image shows:

“The complete back cover structure after aerodynamic ablation, the attitude control engine diversion hole on the back cover is clearly identifiable,”

Below is an annotated orbital picture of this location taken by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) in mid-June.
» Read more

Arizona election audit uncovers more evidence of malfeasance in November 2020 election

In hearings today before the Arizona Senate, election audit officials described strong evidence of misconduct and election fraud in Maricopa County, the state’s largest.

Several issues were quite startling. First,

Audit expert Doug Logan revealed during Thursday’s Arizona state election hearing that auditors had reported there 74,000 mail-in ballots received and included in the 2020 election that were never recorded as being mailed out.

Ballots are not something that appear out of thin air. They are only supposed to be provided by the election board, under very strict rules. For there to be 74,000 voted ballots that the board never issued is suspect, to say the least.

Second,

the hearing revealed that 11,326 voters in Maricopa County were not on voter rolls on Nov. 7 but were on voter rolls on Dec. 4 and were marked as having voted in the Nov. 3 election.

That’s more than eleven thousand votes from people who were not registered to vote on election day.

Finally, they discovered that the record-keeping made it difficult if not impossible to match up duplicate ballots with the originals. According to the system used in Arizona, duplicate ballots are sometimes generated manually when the original is damaged and cannot be read by the tabulator. When this happens, the duplicate is supposed to include a serial number linking it to the original. This way no one can generate many duplicate (and fake) ballots to help their preferred candidate.

The audit found numerous duplicates with no serial numbers, meaning they could have been generated by someone to help their preferred candidate.

Would these these facts have changed the outcome? This is not known yet. We will have to wait until the final report, expected in August. Either way, these problems prove that the election was, at the least, poorly run, with the strong likelihood that actual criminal conduct occurred. And that last allegation is reinforced by the stone-walling of Maricopa County’s election board, which apparently does not want anyone to take a close independent look at what they have been doing.

Today’s blacklisted Americans: Opponents of critical race theory in Virginia subjected to harassment campaign

Rick, stating the truth in Casablanca
Are Americans finally waking up?

They’re coming for you next: The parents in Virginia who are putting together a campaign to keep the teaching of the Marxist and racist program called “critical race theory” out of their local schools have been subjected to a harassment campaign that included hate mail, threats, and even slanderous letters sent directly to their employers.

One example cited in the article:

An anti-critical race theory (CRT) activist, Jessica Mendez, says that in June her employer was sent a flyer that called her an “active racist.” “You should be ashamed to employ a known and active racist!” the flyer, obtained by Daily Caller, read. The flyer added, “Yes, what is wrong with her? She’s a racist!!”

It further showed photos of Mendez at various anti-CRT rallies protesting the curriculum of Loudoun County Public Schools. Loudoun County has been at the center of a revolt against the implementation of CRT in school curricula that has spread across the country.

» Read more

Winner of Blue Origin auction for suborbital flight will not fly on July 20th

Capitalism in space: Blue Origin today announced that the $28 million winner of the auction to buy a seat on the first commercial flight of its suborbital spacecraft New Shepard on July 20th will not be on board, and will instead be replaced by an 18-year-old.

Blue Origin announced Thursday that instead of a $28 million auction winner launching with founder Jeff Bezos on Tuesday, Dutch runner-up Oliver Daemen will be on board. The company said he’ll be the first paying customer, but did not disclose the price of his ticket. …According to Blue Origin, Daemen took a year off after graduating from high school last year to obtain his private pilot’s license. He’ll attend the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands in September. His father is Joes Daemen, founder and CEO of Somerset Capital Partners, a private equity firm in Oisterwijk, Netherlands. Both father and son are already in the U.S. preparing for the launch, according to a company representative.

…Blue Origin said the yet-to-be-identified winner of the charity auction is stepping aside because of a scheduling conflict and will catch a future flight. Daemen was going to be on the second launch for paying customers.

The company has yet to open ticket sales or disclose its prices to the public. That’s expected following Bezos’ flight.

There are some puzzles here. Did Daemen bid during the auction? Was his bid second? If not, why has he been pushed to the head of the line, even before Blue Origin has opened ticket sales or announced its prices?

Moreover, much of this does seem to be hype and pr, rather than real achievement. More important would be an announcement saying that the BE-4 engine is finally ready, making possible orbital flights on New Glenn and ULA’s Vulcan rocket.

Nonetheless, it is nice that Bezos is taking this teenager into space, as is his decision to also give a seat to 82-year-old Wally Funk, one of the women who applied to fly during the Mercury program in the 1960s but was rejected.

New research: COVID is harmless to children

Surprise, Surprise! A new study of all hospital admissions in England from March 2020 through February 2021 found that, for people younger than 18 deaths from COVID-19 were “incredibly rare.”

Of 3,105 deaths from all causes among the 12 million or so people under 18 in England between March 2020 and February 2021, 25 were attributable to COVID-19 — a rate of about 2 for every million people in this age range. None had asthma or type-1 diabetes, the authors note, and about half had conditions that put them at a higher risk than healthy children of dying from any cause.

Taken together, the unusually comprehensive studies could provide some comfort to parents who have been shielding children who they thought might be vulnerable to severe complications from COVID-19. “There’s a general feeling among paediatricians that probably too many children were shielded during the first wave of the pandemic,” Russell Viner, who studies adolescent health at the University College London, told reporters.

In some cases, those efforts might have done more harm than good, added Elizabeth Whittaker, an infectious-disease specialist at Imperial College London. “Shields are very leaky,” she said. “The shields have not been perfect, and have probably caused more stress and anxiety for families than benefit.”

This study merely proves what common sense has known for eons, and was backed up by decades of research, both before and after the arrival of COVID-19. To kill an epidemic of a flu-like disease like COVID, the best thing you can do is to expose as many healthy children as possible to it, while keeping those children away from the more vulnerable elderly population. The children will quickly gain immunity, without risk, and then help limit the spread of the disease. More important, once immune they and their grandparents can once again see each other, with no risk to either.

Instead, today’s modern panicky and emotional expert class shut everything down, and ended up causing more harm than necessary, in all ways. Businesses were destroyed, old people died in solitary confinement, and children were subjected to child abuse with masks and social distancing.

Worse, that expert class still refuses to admit it was wrong, and in many ways is doubling down on its stupid. Witness the government’s top expert, Anthony Fauci, and his claim only yesterday that COVID-19 is dangerous to children and that toddlers older than two need to wear masks. He, like most of the government health officials who have been given vast power in the past year, speaks not from data but from his own personal opinion, shaped solely by politics.

Thailand’s government approves new space law

The new colonial movement: The cabinet of Thailand has approved a new space law that will establish a space agency and establish a regulatory framework for both its private and public space industry.

The core principles included the planning of a policy to support both state and public sector participation in a “new space economy”, the creation of a national space policy committee to draw up space policy. The bill also sets up a national space administration agency to perform secretarial tasks for the national space policy committee, with a director that will have the power to appoint officials.

As the language of the bill is not available, it is unclear exactly what the bill does, other than establish a government framework for Thailand’s space industry. Its passage however illustrates the growing international passion for joining the new commercial effort in space. Thailand apparently does not wish to be left behind.

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