Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

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

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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.
» Read more

Leaving Earth cover

There are now only 6 copies left of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. After I sell one more, I will be raising the price substantially. Thus, if you want to get an autographed copy of this rare collector's item for only $100, plus $5 shipping, now is the time to buy. Once I sell one more book and only have five copies left, the price goes up to $150 (plus shipping for the next two.


To get your copy while the getting is good, please send a $105 check (which includes $5 shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to

Behind The Black, c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652


Leaving Earth is also available as an inexpensive ebook!


Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel, can be purchased as an ebook everywhere for only $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.


If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big oppressive tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Winner of the 2003 Eugene M. Emme Award of the American Astronautical Society.

"Leaving Earth is one of the best and certainly the most comprehensive summary of our drive into space that I have ever read. It will be invaluable to future scholars because it will tell them how the next chapter of human history opened." -- Arthur C. Clarke

Study: Russian astronauts on ISS have better techniques for protecting the brain

According to a study comparing the changes in the brain experienced during long term missions on ISS, it appears that the Russians have developed better protocols for preparing themselves for return to Earth that prevents the enlargement in one part of the brain seen in American astronauts.

From the link:

The study focused on 24 Americans, 13 Russians, and a small, unspecified number of astronauts from the ESA. The researchers collected MRI scans of the astronauts’ brains before and after they spent six months on the ISS (only 256 individuals have visited the space station).

After being in space, all the space travelers exhibited similar brain changes: cerebrospinal fluid buildup and reduced space between the brain and the surrounding membrane at the top of the head. The Americans, however, also had more enlargement in the regions of the brain that serve as a cleaning system during sleep, e.g. the perivascular space (PVS).

…The Russian astronauts did not exhibit enlarged PVS, suggesting there might be differences in protocol that are neuro-protective.

From the paper itself:

[Russian C]osmonauts undergo six lower body negative pressure (LBNP) sessions starting two weeks prior to landing, while NASA and ESA astronauts do not typically do it. LBNP induces caudal displacement of fluids from the upper body by placing the legs and pelvis in a semiairtight chamber with negative pressure.

An advanced resistive exercise device (ARED) is regularly used by space flyers to perform free weight exercises on the ISS, but the load and frequency of use are lower for [Russian] cosmonauts compared with NASA and ESA astronauts. Lifting heavy loads during resistive exercise is often accompanied by a brief Valsalva maneuver, inducing increased ICP and decreased cerebral blood flow and cerebrovascular transmural pressure, which can result in PVS fluid accumulation. Although the effects of LBNP and ARED on the brain during spaceflight are unknown, they could partly explain the different WM-PVS changes detected in astronauts and cosmonauts. We cannot exclude that other factors (e.g., diet) might play a role in this difference. Further studies are required to confirm these hypotheses.

Apparently two protocols are different that seem to help the Russians. First, the LBNP, developed by the Russians on their earlier space stations, is essentially a pair of pants that sucks fluids down to the legs, simulating the situation normally found on Earth, and thus reduces the fluids in the upper body sooner than landing. Second, doing exercises simulating lower weight loads apparently helps the Russians as well.

ISRO successfully tests human-rated solid rocket booster

India’s space agency ISRO announced on May 13, 2022 that it had successfully tested the man-rated version of the solid rocket strap-on booster used on its GSLV Mark 3 rocket that will launch its first manned mission into space.

The 20 m long and 3.2 m diameter booster is the world’s second-largest operational booster with solid propellant. During this test, about 700 parameters were monitored and the performance of all the systems was normal.

Launch of the Gaganyaan manned mission is now targeting ’23.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

FAA approves Huntsville airport as landing site for Dream Chaser

Capitalism in space: The FAA announced on May 13, 2022 that it has approved use of Huntsville International airport for landing Sierra Space’s reusable Dream Chaser cargo mini-shuttle, once it begins flying.

The approval covers “up to eight reentry operations at the airport from 2023 to 2027.” Though Sierra Space will still need to get its launch license from the FAA before those flights can happen, it looks like the company is finally getting close to the first flight of Tenacity, its first Dream Chaser ship.

SpaceX launches 53 Starlink satellites on a new Falcon 9 rocket

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully launched another 53 Starlink satellites, the company’s second launch in less than 24 hours.

The most newsworthy component of this launch is that for first time since February 2, 2022, and only the fourth time since the beginning of 2020, the Falcon 9 rocket used a new first stage, which successfully landed on its drone ship in the Atlantic. It appears that SpaceX is adding about two new boosters per year to its first stage fleet, based on the evidence from these launches.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

20 SpaceX
15 China
6 Russia
3 Rocket Lab

The U.S. now leads China 28 to 15 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 28 to 24.

Bobby Troup – Route 66

An evening pause: The animation created to go with Troup’s jazzy version of this song is utter fantasy, imagining America as portrayed in culture, not reality. No matter. Sometimes the myth is better.

This also makes a nice pause to usher in the weekend.

Hat tip Mike Nelson.

SpaceX successfully launches another 53 Starlink satellites

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully launched another 53 Starlink satellites, using a Falcon 9 first stage for the fifth time.

The first stage landed successfully on a drone ship.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

19 SpaceX
15 China
6 Russia
3 Rocket Lab

The U.S. now leads China 27 to 15 in the national rankings, as well as the entire world combined 27 to 24, leads that should widen in the next week with two more SpaceX launches as well as Boeing’s Starliner unmanned demo mission launch on ULA’s Atlas-5.

Today’s blacklisted American: Professor’s suspension for having an opinion now more than 100 days long, with no end in sight

Georgetown University: No free speech allowed

They’re coming for you next: The suspension by Georgetown University of Ilya Shapiro from his position as executive director for the Georgetown Center for the Constitution because he posted a tweet critical of Biden’s most recent Supreme Court nomination is now more than 100 days long, with no clear end date.

Shapiro’s tweet, now deleted, had noted the Biden administration’s decision to make race and gender more important than a judge’s legal qualifications in picking Ketanji Brown Jackson for the Supreme Court was a bad mistake. For that crime, Georgetown University put him on administrative leave while it conducted “an investigation.”

It is now more than three months later, and the university not only has not completed this faux investigation, which really has nothing to investigate as all the facts are plainly visible for all to see, it apparently has no intention of telling anyone when the investigation will end:
» Read more

Are the COVID vaccines killing people over time? The data suggests yes.

Excess mortality by age

While overall the risk of getting the COVID shots is quite small, the data is increasingly suggesting that these shots might have some very serious long term consequences. The graph to the right, taken from a January 2022 report [pdf] of the Society of Actuaries Research Institute and first spotted by Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, indicates a shocking and inexplicable increase in mortality among the nation’s young. As noted by Thomas Lifson at American Thinker:

Something is killing off large numbers of 25- to 54-year-olds in the United States, and the powers that be in government and the media are pretending it is not happening. There is no visible effort to study the alarming statistics gathered by actuaries for the life insurance industry, which keeps track of deaths because they directly impact their bottom line through claims from the insured. [emphasis in original]

These deaths are not Wuhan flu deaths. However, the sudden rise of mortality from many other causes among the young in the third quarter of 2021, only a short time after the majority of the population had been given the COVID shots, is significant and strongly suggests the shots have something to do with this.

That supposition is further strengthened by another story today:

AIDS-related Diseases & Cancers reported to VAERS increased between 1,145% and 33,715% in 2021

For clarity, these AIDS-related deaths are not related to the HIV virus. Acquired immunodeficiency (AIDS) can occur for many reasons, and when it does the victim then can die from many other diseases or cancers, because his or her body can no longer fight them off.

Below is the most pertinent graph from that story, created by The Exposé directly from publicly available CDC data.
» Read more

NASA corrupt safety panel once again blathers on

The corrupt safety panel at NASA that spent years slowing down SpaceX’s manned Dragon capsule development with sometimes absurd demands, including delays caused simply because of paperwork, is now demanding that NASA should slow its approval of Boeing’s Starliner capsule, even if its unmanned demo mission next week succeeds completely.

This quote from the article best illustrates this safety panel’s do-nothing bureaucratic view of the world:

A further concern is that Starliner uses the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket to get to orbit, but Atlas Vs are being phased out. ULA is building a new rocket, Vulcan, that could see its first launch late this year, but must go through a “human-rating” certification process that [panel member David] West said “could take years” for Starliner. [emphasis mine]

Every demand of this panel for years has demanded years of delays, with many having nothing to do with technical safety — the panel’s original purpose — but with management questions and the panel’s own overblown opinion of itself. Worse, some of its demands never made sense, such as its objection to SpaceX’s launch procedures where it fueled the rocket after the astronauts got on board. This quote from an earlier post about the panel’s recent inappropriate attempt to insert itself into NASA’s policy decisions sums things up well, and provides links to previous failures of the panel:

This panel continues to demonstrate its corrupt and power-hungry attitude about how the U.S. should explore space. For years it did whatever it could to stymie NASA’s efforts to transfer ownership to the private sector, putting up false barriers to the launch of SpaceX’s manned Dragon capsule that made no sense and were really designed to keep all control within the government bureaucracy.

It is now targeting Boeing, though amazingly it is only doing it after many of Starliner’s technical problems have been uncovered. The safety panel was a complete failure in spotting the company’s problems early on, several years ago, when it might have saved everyone a lot of time and money. Instead, it now acts like an annoying back seat driver, only kibitzing about things that went wrong long after everyone else has done the work.

I have been saying for years that it is time to shut this panel down. It is now long past time to do so. The time and money saved might actually improve safety far more than the panel ever has.

Astra reveals vague details about its next larger rocket

Capitalism in space: In a public event in California yesterday Chris Kemp, CEO of the rocket startup Astra, revealed some vague details about the company’s new larger rocket, dubbed Rocket 4.0.

The vehicle will be able to place up to 300 kilograms into low Earth orbit and 200 kilograms into sun-synchronous orbit at a “base price” of $3.95 million. By contrast, Astra’s current Rocket 3.3 vehicle can accommodate a small fraction of that payload, having to date launched only a few cubesats at a time.

…The biggest change in the rocket is its first stage propulsion. While Rocket 3.3 uses five of Astra’s Delphin engines, generating a combined 35,000 pounds-force of thrust, Rocket 4.0 will use two larger engines that produce a combined 70,000 pounds-force of thrust.

Kemp’s presentation however did not reveal whether Astra is building it or whether the company is buying it from someone else. He did say the company does not plan to attempt ot reuse any portion of Rocket 4.0, saying that the economics did not work for Astra.

His presentation also suggested a first launch for late this year, using a mission control made up of only two people, what he called “a pilot and a co-pilot.”

Chinese pseudo company Ispace experiences another launch failure

The Chinese pseudo company Ispace today had another launch failure of its Hyperbola rocket, the third in four launch attempts.

It appears the cause was a failure of the rocket’s second stage to ignite after stage separation.

Ispace’s first launch of Hyperbola 2019 successfully reached orbit, making it the first and still only Chinese pseudo-company to reach orbit. Since then however the rocket has failed three consecutive times, each for what appears to be different reasons.

The rocket itself has four-stages, all using solid fuel motors, which means the rocket is derived from military missile technology. This also illustrates why Ispace is a pseudo company. It might be financed by private capital, and be attempting to make profits on commercial and government contracts, but everything about it only exists because it has government permission and supervision.

Furthermore, while it is entirely possible for a startup to survive such a string of failures, the possibility is small. In most cases a purely private company would lose customers and investment capital. Ispace’s survival up to now suggests the Chinese government wants it to succeed, and in that sense is acting as its owner.

Scientists grow plants in lunar soil brought by from Apollo missions

In their first attempt, scientists have successfully grown plants in a small lunar soil sample brought by astronauts during the Apollo missions.

Researchers at the University of Florida had spent 11 years requesting permission from Nasa to borrow some of the lunar dust brought back by astronauts on the first manned Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 missions in 1969 and the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. Armstrong and Aldrin brought back 21.6kg of material including 50 rocks, samples of dust and two cores of rock after boring 13cm down into the Moon’s surface. They contained no water and no signs of life.

…The lunar samples are deemed to be of “incalculable historical and scientific significance”, so the scientists were given only 12 grams, just a few teaspoons’ full, to work with and had to design a miniature experiment.

The researchers used thimble-sized wells in a dish usually used for growing cells as miniature plant pots and filled each with about one gram of lunar soil. They moistened the soil with water and a solution of nutrients and added a small number of seeds from the Arabidopsis thaliana plant, a common flowering weed also known as mouse-ear or thale cress. [emphasis mine]

The plants grew, but were smaller and took longer to grow then plants on even the most extreme environments on Earth. The scientists also found that plants did better in buried lunar soil then the material on the surface that had been exposed to the harsh radiation of space, suggesting that plowing the soil before planting will enhance growth.

The highlighted words in the quote above illustrate the madness of NASA’s bureaucracy. These lunar samples were brought back so that scientists could study it, not so that it could be locked away in a vault forever never to be touched. To make this very intelligence experiment wait 11 years before getting permission is absurd.

SpaceX CEO: Starship could launch as early as June

Capitalism in space: SpaceX’s CEO and president Gwynne Shotwell revealed today that Starship could be ready for its orbital test flight from Boca Chica as early as June, though government regulatory obstacles make that launch more likely three to six months from now.

It appears that the delays in getting FAA approval for launch have not been the only issues that have delayed that first launch attempt. Though SpaceX would have likely tried a launch months ago with earlier prototypes had the approval arrived as originally promised, that launch would have likely failed based on ground tests the company has been doing during the delay.

When Musk tweeted his “hopefully May” estimate, SpaceX was nowhere close to finishing the Starship – Ship 24 – that is believed to have been assigned to the orbital launch debut. However, SpaceX finally accelerated Ship 24 assembly within the last few weeks and ultimately finished stacking the upgraded Starship on May 8th. A great deal of work remains to truly complete Ship 24, but SpaceX should be ready to send it to a test stand within a week or two. Even though the testing Ship 24 will need to complete has been done before by Ship 20, making its path forward less risky than Booster 7’s, Ship 24 will debut a number of major design changes and likely needs at least two months of testing to reach a basic level of flight readiness.

A more likely launch date is probably late July at the earliest, though of course that will also depend on the government’s approval, something that presently appears difficult to get.

Zhurong data suggests a more watery Martian environment more recently that previously thought

The Martian obliquity over the past 80 million years
The graph comes from this paper [pdf], and shows the shift of Mars’
rotational tilt, or obliquity, for the past 80 million years.

Scientists analyzing data obtained by China’s Zhurong rover during its first four months on Mars have concluded that the Martian atmosphere in the northern lowland plains of Utopia Planitia has been more active hydrologically much more recently than previously believed.

You can read the paper here. From its conclusions:

Unlike the weak and friable thin veneer or crusty clods at previous landing sites for Mars Exploration Rovers and InSight lander, these rocks are more akin to the fractured duricrust observed at the Viking Lander 1 site. The thin and brittle layer of duricrust has been proposed to form by salt cementation via water vapor diffusion from the atmosphere. In contrast, duricrusts at Zhurong landing site appear to be more resistant to erosion, forming cliffs perched through loose soils in the surroundings, which require a substantial amount of liquid water rather than water vapor.

…The morphology and spatial extent of platy and bright-toned rocks investigated by the Zhurong rover argue for in situ formation and degradation of these rocks in the Amazonian-aged geological unit in southern Utopia Planitia. These observations suggest that aqueous activities may have persisted much longer than previously thought. Periodical climate cycles on Mars driven by obliquity oscillations are expected to result in a latitude-dependent distribution of ground ice over geologic history. Higher obliquities (>45°) could mobilize polar ice and form glaciers and water ice sheets at midlatitudes and stabilize ground ice at Zhurong landing site for extended periods of tens of thousand years when the obliquity exceeded 29° to 33°. The hydrated minerals and widespread salt cementations imply the presence of briny liquid water in the subsurface, which may have been generated by melting the ground ice during temporary climate perturbations (e.g., volcanism and impacts).

Obliquity refers to the planet’s rotational tilt, which fluctuates from 11 to 65 degrees, and is presently tilted at 25 degrees, only slightly different than Earth’s 23 degree tilt. Since Mars’ obliquity has exceed 29 degrees numerous times in the past 80 million years, as shown by the graph above, that means it was possible that this now dry equatorial region on Mars had seen plenty of surface water or ice as recently as a few million years ago, far more recently than the three billion years previously estimated.

For liquid water to have existed on the surface is still difficult, because Mars’ atmosphere would have been too thin and cold. However, if ice sheets had existed here, there is the possibility that the ice would have become liquid at the sheet’s base, and interacted with the ground in some manner to produce the duricrust now observed.

First radio image of event horizon of Milky Way’s central black hole

Sagittarius A*
Click for full image.

Using an array of eight radio telescopes worldwide, dubbed the Event Horizon Telescope because its purpose is to study black holes, scientists have obtained the first radio image of the event horizon of Sagittarius A* (pronounced “A-star”), the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

The image to the right, reduced to post here, is that photo.

The image is a long-anticipated look at the massive object that sits at the very centre of our galaxy. Scientists had previously seen stars orbiting around something invisible, compact, and very massive at the centre of the Milky Way. This strongly suggested that this object — known as Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*, pronounced “sadge-ay-star”) — is a black hole, and today’s image provides the first direct visual evidence of it.

Although we cannot see the black hole itself, because it is completely dark, glowing gas around it reveals a telltale signature: a dark central region (called a “shadow”) surrounded by a bright ring-like structure. The new view captures light bent by the powerful gravity of the black hole, which is four million times more massive than our Sun.

This is the second supermassive black hole that the Event Horizon array has imaged. In 2019 it captured the central black hole of the galaxy M87, 55 million light years away. Like that first image, much of what we see here is created by computer, since the data from the eight radio telescopes needs to be massaged to create something as smooth and as complete as this.

Boeing and Aerojet Rocketdyne fight over cause of Starliner valve problem

In a Reuters story today, it was revealed that Boeing and Aerojet Rocketdyne are in a fight over the cause of Starliner valve problem, where thirteen valves failed to work and caused the scrub of a launch attempt last summer, delaying almost a year to next week.

A team of Boeing and NASA engineers is in general agreement that the cause of the stuck valves involves a chemical reaction between propellant, aluminum materials and the intrusion of moisture from Starliner’s humid Florida launch site.

Aerojet engineers and lawyers see it differently, blaming a cleaning chemical that Boeing has used in ground tests, two of the sources said.

It appears that Aerojet is attempting to put the blame on Boeing because it might be liable for the cost of redesigning the valves, as well as other costs associated with the delays since last year.

The article also reveals that the valves being used in the Starliner capsule to be launched next week have only a temporary fix for the problem, and that Boeing intends to redesign them to prevent the problem in the future.

All in all, this whole fiasco does not speak well for either Boeing or Aerojet. It remains completely inexplicable for any spacecraft to be built with this kind of valve problem, now, after six decades of launches from wet and humid Florida. The problem reeks of bad design or poor quality control procedures by both companies.

The article further confirms these quality control problems by this tidbit in its last paragraph:

In 2017, Starliner had an accident during a ground test that forced the president of a different subcontractor to have his leg medically amputated. The subcontractor sued, and Boeing subsequently settled the case.

That this accident has been kept out of the news is somewhat shocking. For it to happen at all reveals a lot about the sloppy way Boeing operates these days.

Mountains, Mesas, and Box Canyons on the floor of Valles Marineris

Mountains, Mesas, and Box Canyons
Click for full image.

Overview map

Cool image time! The photo above, cropped, reduced, and rotated to post here, was taken on March 12, 2022 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows a small section of the floor of the giant 2,550-mile-long and 400-mile-wide Valles Marineris canyon on Mars. In fact, this section, as indicated by the black rectangle in the overview map below, is practically in the center of the canyon, at its widest point.

The geology here hints at several Martian processes. The mesas and closed canyons in the north are typical of chaos terrain, where it erosion appears to form along fault lines to create the random intersecting canyons. In other places on Mars, in the mid-latitudes, that erosion appears mostly formed by glacial activity. Here, in Valles Marineris at only 7 degrees north latitude, little ice had been expected.

However, this spot is also in the dead center of a region where orbital data from Europe’s Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) suggests there is a surprisingly large underground reservoir of hydrogen, which is assumed could only exist if it was locked in water molecules.

In fact, at this spot the data suggests up to 40% of the near-surface material might be composed of water (by weight). If so, that underground reservoir of ice could be causing the erosion that is creating this massive chaos terrain.

Meanwhile, the light-colored mountain in the south is the westernmost nose of a 50-mile-long ridgeline coming down from the canyon’s rim, about 30,000 feet higher. Its dendritic nature, like the hollows that form in the mountains of wet regions on Earth, suggest rainfall and water flowing downhill, wearing away these hollows over eons.

Rain however is almost certainly not the cause. Instead, we could be seeing erosion from wind, or maybe dry ice snow that fell long ago when this region was at a higher latitude when Mars’ rotational tilt was different.

Either way, the massive geology here illustrates the monumental nature of this largest canyon in the solar system, as well as the difficulties of exploring it.

The evidence keeps pouring in showing the utter failure of all COVID mandates

Since March 2020 I have repeatedly written that the response to the Wuhan flu was an utter mindless panic that had little to do with the facts. Right off the bat, the facts, not the models, suggested the virus would resemble the flu most of all, a possible mortal threat to the sick and elderly but generally nothing more than a short sickness to the general population, with it being almost utterly harmless to the young.

Nothing that has happened since has really changed these early conclusions. I have compiled below a collection of recent studies and reports that illustrate what we have learned following the epidemic and the panic that accompanied it. Sadly, that panic did little to stop the virus, but it left us with destroyed businesses, a crushed economy, many uneducated and damaged children, and a broken Bill of Rights.

The COVID jab

The failure of the jab in the United Kingdom
Study from November 2021showing the overall uselessness of the jab
in the United Kingdom last year.

The first set of stories show some recent studies analyzing the effectiveness and safety of the COVID shots, which are not vaccines because they simply do not prevent you from getting the virus. At best — though not yet proven — they might reduce the severity of the disease should you get it. The data however now suggests that though the overall risks are not large, the jab carries enough risk that in many cases, it makes no sense to get it. To require it, as many governments and businesses have done, is downright stupid and immoral. To fire nurses and doctors for refusing the shots is beyond stupid or immoral. It is evil.

Worse, these facts were known right from the initial tests, as the last story below shows. In the company’s initial trials they found that 1,223 people died within the first 28 days after taking the Pfizer shot. Such a result in past drug trials would have made impossible the approval of that drug.
» Read more

Pushback: Arizona parents sue over school board’s attempt to silence and intimidate them

Owned by government
What the Scottsdale school board apparently thinks of your kids.

Today’s pushback story is another follow-up of an earlier blacklist story that I posted in November 2021. At that time several parents with students in the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) had discovered that the then school board president Jann-Michael Greenburg had, with the aid of his parents, compiled a secret Google drive containing personal information of 47 parents, including social security numbers, financial information, pictures of themselves and their children.

The discovery occurred because Greenburg had begun using this information to intimidate the parents — who had been protesting the school board’s mask mandates and the introduction of the racist critical race theory into the curriculum.

Three of those parents are now suing Greenburg, his parents Mark Alan and Dagmar Greenburg, and the Scottsdale school district.
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Virgin Orbit to expand its fleet of 747s used with its LauncherOne rocket

Capitalism in space: Virgin Orbit has signed a deal with L3 Harris Technologies to buy two more 747s airplanes to airlift its LauncherOne rocket during launches.

L3Harris will modify one of the newly acquired aircrafts to serve as an additional airborne launch pad for Virgin Orbit’s small satellite launch service, with delivery expected in 2023. L3Harris will also overhaul the platform with a new cargo configuration, which is expected to allow Virgin Orbit to deliver its rockets and ground support equipment in the same aircraft that will launch from foreign spaceports.

The companies previously collaborated to produce Virgin Orbit’s flagship aircraft “Cosmic Girl,” the first customized 747-400 aircraft to carry and deploy payloads to Low Earth Orbit under Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne program.

This deal once completed will give Virgin Orbit a fleet of three 747s for launching its rocket. The deal also suggests the company now has enough launch business to justify this expansion.

Orbex unveils a full-scale prototype of its Prime smallsat rocket

Prime rocket prototype on launchpad

Capitalism in space: Orbex today unveiled a full-scale prototype of its Prime smallsat rocket, positioned on its own launchpad at the Sutherland Space Hub spaceport in Scotland, now under construction.

The photo to the right shows that prototype, held vertical with its own strongback. From the press release:

With the first full integration of the Orbex rocket on a launch pad now complete, the company is able to enter a period of integrated testing, allowing dress rehearsals of rocket launches and the development and optimisation of launch procedures. Orbex recently revealed their first test launch platform at a new test facility in Kinloss, a few miles from the company’s headquarters at Forres in Moray, Scotland.

Note that Sutherland Space Hub is not the SaxaVord Shetland Island spaceport also being developed in Scotland. The two are competing with each other to successfully complete the first launch from the United Kingdom in history. Also competing for this honor is an airport in Cornwall, which has a deal with Virgin Orbit to do its own launch later this year. And regardless who wins this race, the three sites will likely give the UK the first European-based spaceports in history.

The United Kingdom’s decision in 2016 to shift from a single government-run spaceport to competition and capitalism appears to be now finally paying off.

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