Chronological Encyclopedia of Discoveries in Space cover

After being in print for twenty years, the Chronological Encyclopedia of Discoveries in Space, covering everything that was learned on every single space mission in the 20th century, has finally gone out of print.

 
I presently have my last four hardback copies available for sale. The book sold new for about $90. To get your own autographed copy of this now rare collector's item, please send a $120 check (which includes shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to


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


"Useful to space buffs and generalists, comprehensive but readable, Bob Zimmerman's Encyclopedia belongs front and center on everyone's bookshelf." -- Mike Collins, Apollo 11 astronaut

 

"The Chronological Encylopedia of Discoveries in Space is no passionless compendium of information. Robert Zimmerman's fact-filled reports, which cover virtually every spacecraft or probe to have ventured into the heavens, relate the scientific and technical adventure of space exploration enthusiastically and with authority." -- American Scientist

Total mortality is DOWN in Europe during Wuhan panic

According to the latest weekly report of overall mortality in Europe, the number of deaths during the March 18 to 24 time period had dropped, even though that was the exact period when the panic and alarm over the COVID-19 epidemic began to reach its height.

The article at the link also notes that this particular flu season has so far been relatively mild, which corresponds with the U.S. data I posted on March 26.

Both the article and his source speculate with some puzzlement as to why this is the case. Obviously, the panic shutting down our entire economy and society is probably helping. At the same time, this flu season was already clearly going to be a mild one, long before the Wuhan panic took over.

Regardless, what these numbers once again suggest is that the response to COVID-19 has been way out of line and over the top. While our bankrupt press keeps focusing on specific deaths and coronavirus mortality rates, they are failing to note that the overall death rate is not changing, and is possibly even dropping.

A good example are the wild rumors, widely reported, of a gigantic order of burial urns for China, implying that these urns were needed because of millions of extra COVID-19 deaths, not reported by the Chinese authorities. What nobody asks is how many urns are normally ordered each year? I suspect the numbers would be quite similar.

We are not all going to die from the Wuhan virus, though the extreme measures our government is forcing us to take might very well kill us, in other ways. At a minimum, those extreme measures are destroying what was once a free society.

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IG report: FBI screwed up on every single FISA warrant application it submitted

So, why hasn’t Trump fired everybody there? A new inspector general review of 29 FBI FISA warrant applications has found that on every single application looked at, the FBI made numerous errors, often failing entirely in doing the most basic required documentation.

The [inspector general] review released Tuesday suggests that the FBI’s problems are widespread. “As a result of our audit work to date and as described below, we do not have confidence that the FBI has executed its Woods Procedures in compliance with FBI policy,” the [report] said in a memo to FBI Director Christopher Wray.

More information here, including the revelation that the FBI could not even find the files for four of these warrants. The IG suspects they might never have existed.

I repeat: Why has Trump so far not fired the entire upper management at the FBI involved in this work? Every single one of these bums should be out on the street, looking for work (though to be honest, the last place I’d want to see them working is as a stock person in a supermarket. They’d hoard and steal, and everyone else would starve.).

For example, the IG memo was submitted to Wray, who has been a top manager at the agency for years, and was directly involved in issuing most of these FISA warrants. Does anyone really expect him to fix this problem? He’s part of it.

Until Trump begins a real house-cleaning, I have no faith in his claim that he is “draining the swamp.” Instead, I see him as simply doing a little light dusting, just enough to make us peons not notice the thick piles of dirt buried under the rugs and beneath all the cushions and behind the books.

Also, this IG report provides further proof that Congress should not renew the FISA court law, when it comes up for renewal again in about two months. The entire law and all involved with it are corrupt, and routinely have abused the power it gave them.

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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.

 
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

It ain’t simple keeping a camera functioning properly in orbit around Mars

ADC settings test on MRO
Click for full image.

In doing my normal exploration through the monthly download of new images from the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), the last to occur near the end of February, I came across a slew of 49 images, each labeled as an “ADC Settings Test,” each covering a completely different location with no obvious single object of study, almost as if they were taken in a wildly random manner.

The image to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, is a typical example. It shows the mega dunes located near the end of the canyon Chasma Boreale that cuts a giant slash into the Martian north polar ice cap, almost cutting off one third of the icecap.

The black areas are shadows, long because being at the high latitude of 84 degrees the Sun never gets very high in the sky, even though this image was taken just before mid-summer, when the Sun was at its highest.

I was puzzled why these images were being taken, and contacted Ari Espinoza, the media rep for the high resolution camera, to ask if he could put me in touch with a scientist who could provide an explanation. He in turn suggested I contact Shane Byrne of the Lunar and Planetary Lab University of Arizona, who coincidentally I had already spoken with several times before in connection with the annual summer avalanche season at the Martian north pole.

Dr. Byrne first suggested I read this abstract [pdf], written for the 2018 Lunar and Planetary Science conference by the camera’s science team. In it they outline two issues with the camera, one blurred images and the second an increasing number of bad pixels occurring in images over time.

The first problem has since been solved. To preserve battery life — another long term problem that they have to deal with — they had adjusted the orbiter’s orbit slightly to get more sunlight and stopped warming the camera during the night periods. “That had the unfortunate effect of changing the camera’s focus,” explained Byrne. “Since we understand that now, we do warm-ups before taking the images and that fixed the blurring problem.”

The other problem however remains, and these ADC test images are an effort to fix it.
» Read more

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New York: Where politicians consider criminals their base and ordinary citizens their enemy

Like the Democrats running California, the reaction of the Democrats running New York to the Wuhan virus has nicely revealed who they consider their base, and who they consider their enemies:

The first story is one of several from New York. Even as the Democrats in charge have moved to place all citizens under house arrest, they also seem to think releasing criminals from jail (the perfect type of quarantine) is a good idea.

No one should harbor any doubts about where the Democrats loyalties lie. They are not really interested in saving lives. They are interested in stamping a jack boot on the face of every decent person. And they know that if their own efforts to impose martial law fail, they know that releasing a lot of violent criminals surely will help.

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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.
 

Stratolaunch now wants to build a reuseable hypersonic vehicle

Capitalsm in space: Stratolaunch announced today that they are now planning to build a reusable hypersonic test vehicle to launch from their giant Roc airplane.

That vehicle, powered by a liquid-propellant rocket engine, will launch from the company’s aircraft and fly to speeds of Mach 5 to Mach 7 before gliding back to a runway landing. It will also be able to take off on its own from a runway under rocket power.

“The Stratolaunch Talon-A is a flexible, high-speed testbed built for offensive hypersonics, hypersonic defense and hypersonic R&D,” the company said in a fact sheet about the program. That document emphasizes the vehicle’s ability to provide “here-to-fore unobtainable measurement access to the hypersonic flight environment on a recurring basis.”

Forgive me if I remain skeptical. From memory I think this is about the fifth different design or concept for launch from Roc, with the previous proposals differing from this hypersonic test vehicle in that they were all intended to go to orbit. All were the same however in that they were trying to find a design that could be launched from Roc and also make engineering and economic sense. So far none has done so.

This new proposal is clearly aimed at garnering government research dollars. It also probably wants those dollars to pay for Talon-A’s development. In a sane world, the military would tell Stratolaunch to build and prove Talon-A’s capabilities first, before signing on.

When it comes to government spending, however, we however are no longer in a sane world.

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Leaving Earth cover

In March I obtained from my former publisher the last 30 copies of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. I quickly sold 10, and with only 20 left in stock I am raising the price. To get your own autographed copy of this rare collector's item please send a $75 check (includes $5 shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to
 

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

I will likely raise the price again when only ten books are left, so buy them now at this price while you still can!


  Also available as an inexpensive ebook!
 

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

 


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

In the midst of Mars’ volcano country

lava channel
Click for full image.

Cool image time! While the rest of the world is entirely focused on panic and disease, I am going to go on with my life. The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on December 26, 2019. I suspected this channel was lava, and when I asked Colin Dundas of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Science Center in Arizona, he confirmed my suspicion.

Yes, that surface appears to be lava–it is part of the Elysium plains, which have many geologically-young lava flows. It’s likely that the channel is a lava channel, and the surrounding plains may be from an earlier stage of the same eruption.

The entire surface of the channel and the surrounding plains appear very fresh, mostly because of their smoothness and lack of many craters. You can also see what looks like a recent impact (the small dark splotch near the left edge about two-thirds from the top).

The fresh and smooth look of Elysium Planitia generally has led scientists to conclude that much of this region is formed from lava flows, some relatively recently. Thus, this particular lava channel is smack dab in the middle of Mars’ volcano country, quite vast and extensive. The context map below illustrates this.
» Read more

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Europe’s BepiColumbo mission to Mercury threatened by COVID-19

Because of the strict rules and work suspensions imposed due to the Wuhan virus panic, there will be a reduced workforce during the April 10, 2020 fly-by of Earth by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) BepiColumbo Mercury mission.

The press release tries to make it sound like they are heroically working through the fly-by, but the truth is revealed far down in the text:

The operation, however, will be performed with limited personnel at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, where engineers will have to comply with social distancing rules presently in place all over Europe as a response to the coronavirus pandemic. “The Earth swing-by is a phase where we need daily contact with the spacecraft,” says Elsa Montagnon, BepiColombo Spacecraft Operations Manager at ESA. “This is something that we cannot postpone. The spacecraft will swing by Earth independently in any case.”

The coronavirus threat forces the team to work with minimal face to face interaction while ensuring all steps in the process are properly covered. “During the critical two weeks prior to the closest approach, we need to upload safety commands to prepare the spacecraft for unexpected problems,” says Christoph Steiger, BepiColombo Deputy Spacecraft Operations Manager. “For example, we need to prepare the transfer module for the 34 minute-long eclipse when its solar panels will not be exposed to sunlight to prevent battery discharge.”

Operations can still be conducted as planned, he adds, but will require more effort and attention than in a normal situation. [emphasis mine]

I suspect that much of the software work is now being done remotely, but there is no doubt the inability to be present in the control room will prevent any quick fix, should the spacecraft need help during the fly-by.

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Flu deaths appear to be plummeting as COVID-19 arrives

Sarah Hoyt has published a very revealing analysis of the CDC numbers of the on-going 2019-2020 flu season.

The graphs, which are astonishing, show two trends, one somewhat expected, the other completely a surprise. You should definitely go to the link to see.

First, this flu season there is a giant uptick in people seeing their doctor because of flu symptoms. Though the big rise in doctor visits began in December, when COVID-19 first began to make the news, the trend did began well before its appearance, making the uptick somewhat puzzling.

The second trend makes that uptick even more baffling. It appears that in the last four weeks the number of deaths because of flu and pneumonia has plummeted, dropping to far below any numbers for the past five years. As Hoyt notes at the link,

BTW the author and I had several “people who know better than us” look at the charts, and it remains a mystery. No, we don’t know what’s going on. We know it makes no sense.

I suspect the drop in deaths is connected to the high level of concern by the general population, causing them to get treatment earlier so that many who would have died in past seasons don’t. I also suspect that this data also confirms the relatively minor impact so far of COVID-19 overall. As the author notes,

As to conclusions, there isn’t enough data for any concrete conclusion. Looking at this logically, IF there have been COVID-19 cases in the US since December, it doesn’t appear to have been deadly enough to have been very noticeable.

This data is very preliminary, has great uncertainties. Nonetheless, it suggests once again that the panic over the Wuhan flu is way out of line.

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TMT protesters abandon camp due to Wuhan virus fears

The protesters who have been blocking construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea in Hawaii have abandoned their camp due to fears of COVID-19.

Though this gives the consortium an opportunity to begin construction, don’t expect it. Based on info I’ve gotten from within the astronomy community (most of which is liberal and thus very focused on identity politics), the consortium that wants to build TMT is torn over these protests, with many astronomers sympathetic to the protesters’ false claims of bigotry and religious oppression.

TMT will not be built in Hawaii. Whether it is built at all remains an open question.

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OneWeb files for bankruptcy

Capitalism in space: OneWeb yesterday made official the rumors from the past week by filing for bankruptcy in the United States.

It appears that those rumors were essentially true, that one of the company’s biggest investors, Softbank, was having financial trouble due to the stock market crash caused by the Wuhan flu panic, and was not able to continue its investment in OneWeb. The result was that OneWeb could not pay its creditors, the biggest of which was Arianespace, which was managing the launch of most of the company’s satellites, using Russian Soyuz rockets from either French Guiana or Kazakhstan.

With about 18% of its constellation already in orbit and the rest pretty much ready for launch this year, the company has valuable assets that in bankruptcy will have value. It will likely be sold and continue operations under new management.

In the meantime this filing will hurt the bottom line of Arianespace and Russia.

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NASA awards SpaceX deal to provide cargo to Gateway

Capitalism in space: Should NASA ever decide to build its proposed Gateway space station in orbit around the Moon (the odds of which have gone down recently), it announced today that it has signed a deal with SpaceX to use its Falcon Heavy rocket and an upgraded larger version of its Dragon capsule to ship cargo to that station.

The deal calls for at least two missions, and is SpaceX’s first deal in NASA’s Artemis program.

This deal is a major blow to SLS and Boeing, which up to now had a monopoly on all launches to supply and launch Gateway. In fact, Gateway was invented by Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and NASA (not Congress) in order to justify SLS’s existence. That NASA has now decided it is better off using the much cheaper and already operational Falcon Heavy for some Gateway missions suggests that SLS is increasingly vulnerable to cancellation. NASA is making it obvious that other commercial options exist. No need to wait years and spend billions for SLS, when they can go now, for much less.

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Quick fading of a Martian impact crater

Fresh impact crater on Mars, in 2010
Click for full image.

The same impact, four Martian years later.
Click for full image.

Cool image time! Though it seems that no one is really interested in anything but the Wuhan virus and the attempt by our corrupt politicians to use it to gain power, I think that life requires more from us than politics and panic. Thus, I am going to keep posting pure science and cool images.

The two photos to the right were taken by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) almost ten years apart. They were both posted as captioned images, the first in 2010, the second on March 19, 2020 to illustrate the remarkable fading of a fresh impact’s dark ejecta, in only about four Martian years.

The March 19, 2020 captioned image included an animation to illustrate the change. I prefer putting the two images side-by-side. Either way, the change is striking. As planetary scientist Alfred McEwen noted in his caption, “the dark material has faded into the background, while the new 6.3-meter diameter crater persists.”

Wind and dust storms probably acted to wipe out the dark material, but the process did not take that long, and last year’s global dust storm was not a major factor, since much of the dark material was already gone in this July 2012 image.

The crater itself is located in Arcadia Planitia, just west of the Erebus Mountains, the very region in the northern lowlands that SpaceX has made its primary candidate landing site for its Starship rocket, partly because the terrain is flat which makes landing easy, and partly because there is amply evidence that these lowlands have lots of ice just below the surface. And the full image for the 2019 photo reinforces this conclusion. Much of the rougher ground south of the impact appears to be the partially sublimated surface of an ice block.

So, while this region will provide an easy smooth landing site and plenty of water for the first human arrivals, those humans will also have to contend with a planet without a thick atmosphere to protect them from most meteorites. Rare as these events are, they happen more often because of Mars’ location closer to the asteroid belt, and they hit the surface far more frequently.

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Mars: Volcanic, Glacial, or Fluvial?

Sinuous ridge on Mars
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photograph on the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on September 30, 2019. It shows what the image title dubs a “sinuous ridge” in a region called Tempe Terra.

What caused it? At first glance the meandering nature of the ridge suggests it was originally a riverbed, formed by flowing water. Eventually the water dried up, and because that riverbed was made of harder material than the surrounding terrain, long term erosion caused that surrounding terrain to wear away, leaving a raised ridge where the river used to be. Scientists have found many such inverted channels on Mars.

Not so fast!
» Read more

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Pork galore in Senate-passed COVID-19 “stimulus” bill

The so-called COVID-19 “stimulus” bill that the Senate passed yesterday is apparently stuffed with billions in hand-outs to friends and buddies of Congress and the Washington bureaucracy, all of which have nothing to do with helping the American public being bankrupted by the forced shutdowns imposed on them by government.

Go to the link for a full list, which includes money for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Kennedy Center in DC, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the post office, NASA, and the Department of Education, to name only a few. It also includes a pay raise for Congress, money to sanctuary cities to allow them to continue to flout immigration laws (thereby making it harder to control the virus), and half a billion in foreign aid to Africa. The bill also will force unions on businesses who wish to take any government money.

There’s more of course. It will take a few days for decent people to dig through the entire document [pdf]. By that time however the House, under Democratic Party control, will have added more goodies, the Senate and Trump will have approved, and the bill will be law.

Three cheers for Congress!

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New radio telescope discovers many new Fast Radio Bursts

A new radio telescope in Canada, designed to detect the mysterious and as-yet unexplained Fast Radio Bursts (FRB), has in the past year raised the total of known FRBs from 30 to 700, including nine repeating bursts.

This confirms an earlier very preliminary analysis that there were two different types of bursts, those that repeat and those that don’t.

Warning: It is very dangerous to take these results too seriously. A lot of uncertainty exists, including some basic facts about the bursts.

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Party shuffling points to new Israeli Netanyahu government

It appears that after three elections in a year, the stalemate that has prevented the formation of a coalition government in Israel has finally ended.

Up until now, the stalemate existed because though the right has generally had the most votes and won more than enough seats to form a government, one of the smaller conservative parties, Yisrael Beytenu, refused to join any coalition that also included the conservative religious parties. Instead, its leader, Avigdor Liberman, wanted Netanyahu to form a unity coalition with his party, Netanyahu’s party Likud, and the liberal coalition, Blue and White, led by Benny Gantz.

Neither Netanyahu nor Blue and White would agree to this. The result: more than a year of stalemate.

This week however Gantz agreed to abandon Blue and White and take his part of that coalition away and join with Netanyahu in a deal that would have him begin as speaker of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) and then become prime minister in a eighteen months.

This deal cuts out both Yisrael Beytenu as well as the religious parties (breaking a promise that Netanyahu has repeatedly made not to do this), and forms a coalition that includes both the conservative Likud and the liberal Labor and Gantz’s Hosen L’Yisrael party. It also cuts out many of the more liberal parts of Blue and White that are very hostile to Netanyahu.

The deal is not yet finalized, so anything could still happen.

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ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket successfully launches military satellite

Capitalism in space: United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket today successfully placed into orbit the first military satellite officially under the U.S. Space Force’s command.

The satellite is the fifth of a constellation designed to provide communications for all military operations.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

6 China
5 SpaceX
4 Russia
2 Europe (Arianespace)
2 ULA

The U.S. now leads China 9 to 6 in the national rankings.

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COVID-19 is NOT going to overwhelm our healthcare system

As part of the panic that has been overwhelming the world because of COVID-19, one of the typical lies that is being spread is that the epidemic is going to overwhelm the world’s healthcare systems. This CNN article from yesterday, entitled “‘That’s when all hell broke loose’: Coronavirus patients start to overwhelm US hospitals”, is typical:

“We ended up getting our first positive patients — and that’s when all hell broke loose,” said one New York City doctor.

The doctor, who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity out of concern for his job, described a hospital that was woefully unprepared for an influx of Covid-19 patients that started roughly two weeks ago — which has already stretched the hospital’s resources thin and led to severely ill patients outnumbering ventilators.

“We don’t have the machines, we don’t have the beds,” the doctor said.

“To think that we’re in New York City and this is happening,” he added. “It’s like a third-world country type of scenario. It’s mind-blowing.” [emphasis mine]

We’re all gonna die!

Not! To dispell these mainstream media lies, I am going to give my readers an example of what a real journalist does, in comparison to the brainless non-researchers at CNN (and elsewhere) who make believe they are journalists but instead play them, on television and cable each day, in order to push an anti-American and leftist agenda that is downright evil and destructive.

I’m going to do some real research, and provide it to my readers so that they can get some context and a deeper understanding of the fake Wuhan flu “pandemic.”
» Read more

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SpaceX commercial launch for Argentina postponed because of COVID-19

Because of travel restrictions imposed by the worldwide panic over the COVID-19 virus, Argentina’s space agency has postponed the planned March 30, 2020 launch by SpaceX of an Earth observation radar satellite.

“This decision (to postpone the launch) has been made considering the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and that could affect the availability of own resources and foreign third-party resources, necessary not only for a safe insertion into orbit, but also for further operation of the satellite,” CONAE said in a statement.

CONAE said the decision to postpone the launch, which was made in consultation with SpaceX, is the “best decision in these moments of uncertainty … that the whole world suffers because of COVID-19.”

Argentina has halted all flights to and from the United States, impacting the ability of Argentine personnel needed to support the planned launch to travel to the Florida spaceport.

The more I research the Wuhan flu, the more I am convinced that the world’s governments have gone crazy. More on this later today.

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Dragon parachute test aborted

Because of the failure of the equipment unrelated to the parachutes, the helicopter pilot for a drop test of SpaceX’s crew Dragon parachutes on March 24, 2020 was forced to release the dummy capsule early, causing its loss.

“During a planned parachute drop test today, the test article suspended underneath the helicopter became unstable,” SpaceX said Tuesday in an emailed statement. “Out of an abundance of caution and to keep the helicopter crew safe, the pilot pulled the emergency release,” the statement added. “As the helicopter was not yet at target conditions, the test article was not armed, and as such, the parachute system did not initiate the parachute deployment sequence. While the test article was lost, this was not a failure of the parachute system, and most importantly, no one was injured. NASA and SpaceX are working together to determine the testing plan going forward in advance of Crew Dragon’s second demonstration mission.”

This issue, combined with the loss of a Falcon 9 first stage (on its fifth flight) during re-entry, because one engine failed to function properly, is making some news sources suggest that NASA will delay the planned May launch of Dragon’s first manned mission to ISS.

If NASA demands a delay of that May manned mission because of these two issues, it will demonstrate how truly insane our society has become. While the issue prevented the drop test, it involved the equipment that suspended the dummy capsule below the helicopter, not the parachute system. Furthermore, this test was one of the very last tests of the parachute system, following a test campaign during the past few months that has worked repeatedly on numerous tests.

As for the first stage loss, do I have to repeat again that it occurred on the stage’s fifth reuse, and after it had successfully launched its payload into orbit? SpaceX will be using a new first stage for the manned mission, and they have experienced no failures on a new first stage like this for literally years.

In a sane society, NASA would look at the overall context, and put aside these issues as irrelevant to their launch schedule. They, and SpaceX, will want to figure out what happened, but they should insist on proceeding on schedule for the May launch.

We are no longer sane however. I will not be surprised if they announce a further launch delay.

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Today COVID-19 made my doctor and I criminals

Because I have in my later years developed a minor case of chronic asthma, I make quarterly visits to a lung specialist to take a basic lung function test to monitor the progress of my workout regimen plus medicines. This began two years ago when the asthma was first diagnosed, forcing me to take puffs of an inhaler twice each day, in the morning and evening.

My long term goal is to get off these meds, but to do so I need to improve the numbers in this quarterly check-up.

Today was my appointment for the first checkup in 2020. I get to the doctor’s office and, not surprisingly, cannot enter without letting them take my temperature and confirm that I have no cough or cold. I expected this, since a doctor’s office is one of the most likely places to catch a disease from others, and with the COVID-19 panic dominating society, they need to be sure everyone is uninfected before allowing them in.

I don’t object to these precautions. I just wonder why they didn’t do such testing last year, when we were having the worst flu season in decades, killing far more people than the Wuhan virus. This contradiction once again illustrates the irrationality of the COVID-19 response.

The office was empty, obviously because many people have cancelled their regular checkups out of a media-induced terror.

When it comes time for my checkup, the doctor’s medical assistant started going through the normal preliminaries, taking my blood pressure, pulse, etc. However, he then tells me that he will not be doing the lung function test, as is normal.

“What?” I say. “That’s the prime reason I’m here. It gives us data for measuring my progress.”
» Read more

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March 24, 2020 Zimmerman/Space Show podcast

The podcast of my two hour appearance on the Space Show last night is now available. Sadly, a California power outage resulted in a loss of the last 40 minutes.

Considering that I have appeared on the show more times than anyone, this isn’t really a great loss. If you can’t get enough of me, dig into the Space Show archives. Plenty of shows to choose from.

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Details of the Wuhan virus Congressional pork bill

With the Democrats in Congress retreating from their effort to stuff the fake COVID-19 stimulus bill with many provisions irrelevant to the virus, including many that would have helped them steal elections, the basic features of the new $2 trillion bill are now becoming clear.

Not surprisingly, it is filled with wonderful payoffs to big and small business, as well as the voters, all of which our federal government cannot afford, and all of which are sadly desperately needed by the citizenry because of the very bad policies the government imposed on the nation because of the virus.

  • Big Businesses: About $500 billion can be used to back loans and assistance to companies, including $50 billion for loans to U.S. airlines, as well as state and local governments.
  • Small Businesses: More than $350 billion to aid small businesses, including $10 billion in SBA grants of up to $10,000 for small business costs, and $17 billion for SBA to cover six months of payments for businesses with current SBA loans.
  • Hospitals: A $150 billion boost for hospitals and other health-care providers for equipment and supplies.
  • Individuals: Direct payments to lower- and middle-income Americans of $1,200 for each adult, as well as $500 for each child.

The bill has a number of restrictions on these payments, which on their face make sense. The problem however is that so far the numbers of people sick from COVID-19 simply do not justify this spending.

No matter. Chicken Little has won again. Common sense no longer exists.

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NASA to use private enterprise for space communications

Capitalism in space: NASA is now in the process of shifting from building its own communications satellites to communicate with ISS as well as many other Earth-orbiting NASA satellites to buying those services from the private sector, much as the agency has done with is cargo and crew ferrying service to the station.

This involves ground stations as well as upgrading its fleet of geosynchronous NASA-built TDRS satellites.

In addition, NASA is seeking industry assistance in replacing the Space Network, which provides communications for more than 40 missions including the International Space Station through government-owned Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS) and associated ground stations. “While the TDRS System is a fine investment that the government has made, for the future we are looking at commercial alternatives,” said Ted Sobchak, NASA Space Network project manager.

NASA plans a multistep campaign to encourage development of commercial space-based relay networks before the current TDRS spacecraft reach the end of their lives. “Based on past spacecraft performance, the newest generation of TDRS will remain operational well into the 2030s,” Younes said.

The original TDRS constellation of satellites, launched from 1983 to 1995, were actually built for a reasonable cost. At the time NASA did not try to put every bell and whistle on them, but focused instead on their basic mission and getting it launched for a reasonable cost. The management at NASA today almost certainly could not do this. Getting new satellites from competitive private companies will therefore save NASA money, and get the job done faster.

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