Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

 

Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

September 27, 2022 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay, who trolls Twitter so I don’t have to.

I will believe it when it actually happens.

Just a cool image.

More specifically, the “Crimean Federal District which will include Crimea and the occupied territories of Donbass, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions.” If so, Rogozin’s head is essentially being put on the block. Ukrainian partisan forces have been very successful at killing such leaders.

I guess this is a reward by Putin for Rogozin’s skill at losing Russia billions in commercial satellite sales.

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

More glaciers in Mars’ glacier country

Overview map

glacial layering in Clasia Vallis
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken on June 18, 2022 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows what appear to be layered glacial features on the floor of what at first glance appears to be a crater.

It is not a crater however. The depression in the lower right of this image is the rim and floor of a 77-mile-long meandering canyon on Mars dubbed Clasia Vallis. The red cross in the overview map above marks its location, at 34 degrees north latitude. This channel drains downward from the southern cratered highlands into the 2,000-mile-long mid-latitude strip of mensae terrain that I dub glacier country because almost every hi-res image from this region shows glacial features.

Below is a wider view of Clasia Vallis, taken by the context camera on MRO on March 19, 2014.
» Read more

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Today’s blacklisted American: Arrested in 2020 for letting her kids play in park, a mom is still being prosecuted by Idaho Republicans

Sarah Brady: targeted by both establishment parties for defending her freedom
Sarah Brady: targeted by both establishment parties
for defending her freedom

Persecution is now cool! In 2020, during the worst of the Wuhan panic, Sarah Brady was part of a gathering of parents and children in a public playground in Meridian, Idaho, a playground that the local mayor, Lauren McLean (Democrat), had closed in her panicked fear of COVID. Her irrational ban said that no outdoor equipment or playground equipment could be touched, though people could still gather in the parks.

When police officers demanded Brady and the others leave the park, Brady challenged them, questioning the absurdity of the closure. She was then arrested, and charged with misdemeanor that could result in six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

“I feel like I was singled out because I was the only person that was arrested,” Brady said. “I wasn’t the only person standing on the bark [the playground surface]. I definitely wasn’t playing on the playground equipment. I wasn’t swinging, never touched them. But yeah, I do feel like I was singled out and maybe it was because I asked too many questions.”

Two years later, this absurd persecution of Brady continues. The Republican state attorney general, Lawrence Wasden, has refused to drop the charges, and is instead pursuing them.
» Read more

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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. 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

First ground-based telescope view of DART impact on Dimorphus

LICIACube Explorer image of DART impact

We now have the first ground-based images of the DART impact on the 525-foot-wide asteroid Dimorphus yesterday, captured by the Hawaiian telescope ATLAS.

You need to watch the video of the full sequence of images, available here, to get a true sense of the impact. The cloud of material quickly expands to about twice the asteroid’s size, then dissipates away, with the remaining asteroid now appearing larger (?). That larger size could be caused by a remaining cloud of material that still needs to settle back to the surface.

More images have been released by a Chinese telescope. Also, the first images from the Italian cubesat LICIACube Explorer, flying in parallel with DART, have been released. I have posted one to the right. The large blob near the center is the parent half-mile-wide asteroid, Didymos. Dimorphus is buried in the debris cloud above and slightly to the right.

Hat tip stringer Jay for the links to these images.

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Radar data from Zhurong finds no ice to a depth of 260 feet

Zhurong's ground-penetrating radar data

Overview map

Chinese scientists today finally published their results from the ground-penetrating radar instrument on their Mars rover Zhurong, revealing that to a depth of 260 feet (80 meters), it detected no clear signal of water ice.

Figure 2 of their paper, posted above, summarizes their results. It shows the radar profile to 328 feet (100 meters) depth along Zhurong’s route, as shown in the map to the right, with the last bit of its recent travels ending somewhere in the blue circle. From the paper:

Our low-frequency radar imaging profile shows radar signals within the depth range of 0–80 m (Fig. 2a), precluding the existence of a water-rich layer within this depth range as the existence of water would strongly attenuate the radar signals and diminish the visibility of deeper reflections. The estimated low (less than 9) dielectric permittivity (Fig. 2c) further supports the absence of a water-rich layer as water-bearing materials typically have high (greater than 15) dielectric permittivity.

We further tested this assessment with thermal considerations by conducting a heat conduction simulation based on available thermal parameters estimated from previous studies (Methods). Our thermal simulation results … show that the Zhurong landing area has an annual average temperature of around 220K in the RoPeR detection depth range, which is much lower than the freezing point of pure water (273K), and also lower than the eutectic temperatures of typical sulfate and carbonate brines, but slightly above those of perchlorate brine systems. This observation suggests that the shallow subsurface of the Zhurong landing area could not stably contain liquid water nor sulfate or carbonate brines, consistent with the radar imaging result.

The data suggests that below the surface topsoil layer, the regolith, there are two distinct layers of material that the scientists interpret as possible evidence of past catastrophic floods. That conclusion however is very very uncertain. The main take-away is that in the northern lowland plains of Utopia Planitia at 25 degrees north latitude, where Zhurong landed, Mars is definitely a dry desert, with no water close to the surface.

This data also suggests that if you establish a colony anywhere in Mars’ dry equatorial regions within 30 degrees latitude of the equator, you will likely have to travel north or south a considerable distance to get to easily accessible ice. The global map of Mars below shows the regions where ice is most evident, north and south of 30 degrees latitude.
» Read more

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Leaving Earth cover

There are now only 4 copies left of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. The price for an autographed copy of this rare collector's item is now $150 (plus $5 shipping).

 

To get your copy while the getting is good, please send a $155 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

Two Chinese launches: Long March 2D and Long March 6 put satellites into orbit

China successfully completed two launches in the past twelve hours, placing four satellites into orbit in total.

First, in the evening of September 26th, a Long March 2D rocket launched a “remote sensing” satellite into orbit. This was then followed in the morning of September 27th with the launch of a Long March 6 rocket, putting three “experimental” Earth observation satellites into orbit. We know nothing more about any of these satellites.

The article at the link lists a third launch, of a Kuaizhou-1A rocket, but I have already reported that.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

43 SpaceX
41 China
12 Russia
7 Rocket Lab
6 ULA

American private enterprise still leads China 60 to 41 in the national rankings. Against the entire world combined, the U.S. now trails 60 to 61.

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Hans Zimmer – Pirates Of The Caribbean Medley

An evening pause: Performed live in Prague 2017.

Hat tip Alton Blevins.

I am in need for evening pause suggestions. If you are interested in suggesting an evening pause, please say so in the comments (without providing a link to that suggestion). I will contact you so you can forward it directly to me to schedule. The guidelines for submitting Evening Pauses:

1. The subject line should say “evening pause.”
2. Don’t send more than three in any email. I prefer however if you send them one email at a time.
3. Variety! Don’t send me five from the same artist. I can only use one. Pick your favorite and send that.
4. Live performance preferred.
5. Quirky technology, humor, and short entertaining films also work.
6. Search BtB first to make sure your suggestion hasn’t already been posted.
7. I might not respond immediately, as I schedule these in a bunch.
8. Avoid the politics of the day. The pause is a break from such discussion.

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DART hits Dimorphus

Didymos and Dimorphus

Dimorphus

The surface of Dimorphus

The probe DART today successfully impacted the small 525-foot-wide asteroid Dimorphus. From the data produced engineers will calculate how much that impact changed Dimorphus’ orbit around it parent asteroid, half-mile-wide Didymos.

The three images to the right give a sense of the approach and impact.

The first, at 2 minutes and 30 seconds from impact, shows Didymos in the left bottom corner. You can actually see individual boulders on its surface. At this distance and resolution is is unclear whether it is a rubble pile or a more solid body. Dimorphus is no longer a mere dot, but no surface features can yet be discerned.

The second image, only seventeen seconds before DART crashed into Dimorphus, shows us the entire asteroid. Though it appears to be a pile of rocks, it also appears less of a rubble pile than both Ryugu and Bennu, visited by probes in 2019 and 2020. Those rubble-piles had almost no smooth surface areas. Dimorphus however at this distance and resolution does appear to have a lot of areas where the surface is relatively smooth, suggesting its structure is more solid than a rubble pile.

At only 525 feet across, some of those bigger boulders are about 50 to 60 feet in diameter.

The white dot in the center of Dimorphus marks the rocks seen in the third image, taken about five seconds before impact. At this resolution so close to the surface, it appears the smooth areas are actually made up of many tiny pebbles and dust.

The biggest rock in the center of the picture is probably between ten to twenty feet in diameter.

The primary data from this mission will not be available for a few weeks. Scientists have to observe both asteroids to see how much, if at all, Dimorphus’s orbit was shifted by the impact. Also, the images from the Italian cubesat, LICIACube Explorer, which was flying parallel to DART and taking pictures of the impact, plume, and back side of Dimorphus, won’t be available until later this week. Those images should give us a measure of the spacecraft’s effect on the asteroid. They will also reveal a lot more about the asteroid’s geology.

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September 26, 2022 Quick space links

Courtesy of stringer Jay, who trolls Twitter so I don’t have to.

Mostly shows views of the Earth.

At the link the reason given is the “problems with the delivery of foreign-made parts.” Or to put it more bluntly, the sanctions against Russia due to its unprovoked invasion of the Ukraine has blocked many sophisticated computer parts that Russia cannot make itself.

All fantasy at this point. Russia’s been promising a next generation capsule replacing Soyuz for more than a decade.

Video at the link. The test occurred on September 23, 2022. No word yet on when they plan to launch.

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Zig-zag ridges on Mars

Zig-zag ridges on Mars
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on April 9, 2022v by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows a series of parallel zig-zag ridges in a flat, knobby terrain.

I don’t presume to explain this at all. According to one research paper,

This interplana region consists of extensive networks of ridges—the eponymous Aeolis Dorsa—and is interpreted as having formed by topographic inversion of fluvial and alluvial deposits.

Why these ridges zig-zag however does not seem to fit into either a fluvial or alluvial explanation, both of which involve the flow of water. The quote implies these could be inverted stream channels (where the compacted streambed becomes a ridge when the surrounding terrain erodes away), but once again, the distinct zig-zag pattern seems wrong. Rivers meander, but they don’t generally turn right and left so sharply. And why should we see parallel zig-zags? This doesn’t seem to fit with a river channel origin.

The particular location, as shown on the overview map below, is close to the dry Martian equator, on the edge of Medusae Fossae Formation, the largest field of volcanic ash dust on Mars.
» Read more

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The rising federal Gestapo

The Houck Family: Targets of FBI harassment and arrest
The Houck Family: Targets of FBI harassment and arrest.
The little boy in the center clearly needs to be frog-marched to prison.

It can happen here. Anyone who denies this is merely guaranteeing that tyranny in America will arrive sooner.

Worse, it is happening here, right now, at this very moment. The Houck family to the right has been in the news the past few days because on September 23, 2022 they found their home surrounded by an FBI SWAT team with guns drawn, pounding at the front door to arrest the father, Mark Houck, for a minor pushing incident that had occurred months earlier that was so minor the court had dismissed the lawsuit against Houck almost immediately. Notwithstanding its utter triviality, the Biden administration, its Justice Department, and the FBI decided it gave them a great chance to intimidate and frighten someone who happened to also be a conservative and religious activist.
» Read more

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Excerpt of Conscious Choice published by The Federalist

The Federalist today published a short excerpt from the last chapter of my new book, Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space.

You can read it here. They titled the excerpt most appropriately: “When Settling Space, Future Colonists Should Emulate The Pilgrims”. The key quote from this particular excerpt:

Building a new human society means the settlers must go with the intent of raising healthy and well-adjusted children. Future space colonists must remember that they are not really exploring the unknown. What they are really doing is building new societies for their children and children’s children. Such an effort carries great responsibility, and if we shirk that responsibility, our descendants will curse our memory.

While the lessons taught by the mistakes of Virginia’s colonists are long and complex (and carefully outlined in Conscious Choice), it is this lesson that is the most important to remember for future colonists in space. We will go to explore, but what we will really be doing is creating those new worlds for future generations. If we do not put our kids first and foremost, those colonies will certainly fail, as Virginia did.

And as it appears America is failing now, after several generations where children were more often considered a nuisance and something that others could take of for us.

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A galaxy slowly being eaten by its black hole

Spiral galaxy
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated and reduced to post here, was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. From the caption:

NGC 5495, which lies around 300 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Hydra, is a Seyfert galaxy, a type of galaxy with a particularly bright central region. These luminous cores — known to astronomers as active galactic nuclei — are dominated by the light emitted by dust and gas falling into a supermassive black hole. This image is drawn from a series of observations captured by astronomers studying supermassive black holes lurking in the hearts of other galaxies.

Essentially Seyfert galaxies are galaxies whose central supermassive black hole has become dominant, large enough that its gravity is slowly eating up the rest of the galaxy. As it increasingly swallows stars and gas, the black hole emits more and more energy, thus becoming an active galactic nuclei.

Two stars from our own galaxy also dominate this picture, one inside and to the right of the galaxy’s center, and the other the bright star at the bottom of the picture, both identified by the diffraction spikes.

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NASA and ESA sign simple lunar exploration agreement

In what appears to be an attempt by both to maintain their working relationship, even though several major European nations have not yet signed the Artemis Accords, last week NASA and ESA signed a simple agreement reaffirming their desire to work together in exploring the Moon.

Neither ESA nor NASA published the agreement, which in a photograph appeared to be little more than one page. In a Sept. 23 statement, NASA described the agreement as a “non-binding joint statement” about current and prospective future cooperation in Artemis.

Of ESA’s members, only France, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, and the United Kingdom have signed the Artemis Accords. Thus, ESA and NASA face a conundrum. According to the accords and the NASA policy established by the Trump administration and supposedly continued under Biden, only signatories can participate in the Artemis program. Yet, most of the members of ESA have not signed, and ESA has no authority to make them do so. ESA however is building the service module for the Orion capsule — as well as other major components of Artemis — which NASA must have.

I suspect this short one page agreement is the Biden administration’s under-handed admission that — when it comes to Europe — the Artemis Accords will no longer be required.

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Astroscale to partner with UK companies to develop mission to remove two defunct orbiting satellites

Capitalism in space: The Japanese-based company Astroscale has signed an agreement with the United Kingdom’s space agency to develop a mission — in partnership with a number of UK companies — to remove two defunct orbiting satellites.

The COSMIC mission will be developed in collaboration with 10 UK-based partner companies in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland including: MDA UK, Thales Alenia Space UK, Nammo, GMV-NSL, NORSS, Goonhilly, Satellite Applications Catapult, Willis Towers Watson, and other advisory and industrial partners.

What Astroscale brings to the table is its magnetic capture system that it has already tested in orbit.

This is also the second contract Astroscale has won in Europe for its space junk removal technology. In May it signed a deal with OneWeb to de-orbit two of its satellites.

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Watch DART smash into asteroid today

At 7:14 pm (Eastern) the NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft will crash into the small and harmless asteroid Dimorphus to see if such an impact could be used in the future to change the path of another asteroid aimed at Earth.

Dimorphus is 525 feet in diameter, and is a small moon of the larger half-mile-wide asteroid Didymos. Both are presently about 7 million miles away from Earth.

I have embedded the live streams below, one from a DART camera, dubbed DRACO, that will view the asteroid as the spacecraft approaches, and the other from NASA’s official live stream. From the DRACO live stream webpage:
» Read more

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NASA managers decide finally to roll SLS back to assembly building

NASA managers this morning finally gave up on launching their SLS rocket in an early October launch window and scheduled rolling back the rocket to the assembly building tonight.

NASA will roll the Artemis I Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft back to the Vehicle Assembly Building on Monday, Sept. 26. First motion is targeted for 11 p.m. EDT.

Managers met Monday morning and made the decision based on the latest weather predictions associated with Hurricane Ian, after additional data gathered overnight did not show improving expected conditions for the Kennedy Space Center area. The decision allows time for employees to address the needs of their families and protect the integrated rocket and spacecraft system. The time of first motion also is based on the best predicted conditions for rollback to meet weather criteria for the move.

Based on this graph [pdf] provided by NASA earlier this year, the next launch window is from October 17 to October 31, followed by another from November 12 to November 27. It is unclear whether they can meet that first window, even if all engineers do is check and recharge the flight termination system batteries.

The question of the rocket’s two solid-fueled boosters however looms. Both are now one year past NASA’s use-by date, and it appears somewhat unknown what the risks are using them. Replacing them however will entail a significant delay, from three to six months.

As I said this weekend, NASA managers face no good choice, because of the impractical and inefficient design of this rocket.

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Ganymede as seen by Juno

Ganymede as seen by Juno
Click to see full image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on June 7, 2021 when Juno made a close fly-by of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. It has been reprocessed to bring out the details by citizen scientist Brian Swift.

Note the bands and parallel light and dark ridges that criss-cross the planet. Scientist as yet do not understand what caused them. Note also the bright impact craters, suggesting the release of water ice from below.

This image anticipates Juno’s upcoming September 29, 2022 fly-by of Europa, one of Jupiter’s other Galilean moons. The orbiter will pass only 221 miles above its surface, and get the best images in decades, since the Galileo mission in the 1990s.

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China’s Kuaizhou-1A rocket launches two satellites

Early today China’s smallsat Kuaizhou-1A rocket successfully launched two “experimental” satellites into orbit from an interior spaceport.

The satellites are part of a classified program, so little is known about them.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

43 SpaceX
39 China
12 Russia
7 Rocket Lab
6 ULA

American private enterprise still leads China 60 to 39 in the national rankings and the entire world combined 60 to 59.

Tomorrow ABL Space will attempt to launch from Alaska its RS1 smallsat rocket for the first time. Later in the week Firefly will make its second attempt to launch its Alpha rocket successfully. I will embed the live streams, if available.

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NASA managers might forego SLS rollback and aim for Oct 2nd launch

Based on the present hurricane track, NASA managers are considering the possibility of leaving SLS on the launchpad so that they can go for a launch on October 2, 2022.

NASA managers will meet this evening to evaluate whether to roll back or remain at the launch pad to preserve an opportunity for a launch attempt on Oct. 2. The exact time of a potential rollback will depend on future weather predictions throughout the day and could occur Monday or very early Tuesday morning.

If they stay on the launchpad, it means the flight termination system is questionable at launch. If the rocket goes out of control during its first test launch — a not-unreasonable possibility for a new rocket — there is a chance the range officer will not be able to destroy it.

If they roll back to the assembly building, it means the rocket’s two solid strap-on boosters will either have to be replaced, delaying the launch months more, or the rocket will launch with two boosters that are questionable.

Every choice they face is a bad one, simply because this rocket is really not well designed for practical use.

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SpaceX successfully launches 52 Starlink satellites

Capitalism in space: Using its Falcon 9 rocket SpaceX today successfully put another 52 Starlink satellites into orbit.

The first stage successfully landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic, completing its fourth flight. The two fairing halves each completed their fourth and fifth flights, respectively.

Note: The Biden administration yesterday gave SpaceX the okay to activate Starlink in Iran, in order to provide that country’s citizens an option for obtaining information blocked by its government.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

43 SpaceX
38 China
12 Russia
7 Rocket Lab
6 ULA

American private enterprise now leads China 60 to 38 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 60 to 58.

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ULA’s Delta Heavy successfully launches spy satellite for NRO

ULA today has successfully launched a spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, using its Delta Heavy rocket, its largest rocket.

With this launch, ULA retires the Delta from any further launches from Vandenberg. Future California launches will use its as yet untested Vulcan rocket.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

42 SpaceX
38 China
12 Russia
7 Rocket Lab
6 ULA

American private enterprise now leads China 59 to 38 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 59 to 58. The 59 launches makes this the third most active launch year in American history, trailing only 1966 (70 launches) and 1965 (64 launches).

SpaceX has a Falcon 9 launch of 52 Starlink satellites scheduled very shortly, so these numbers will hopefully go up again before the day is out.

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Two launches from U.S. set for this afternoon

Both ULA and SpaceX have planned launches this afternoon a little over an hour apart, at 2:53 pm and 4:10 pm Pacific time respectively.

The ULA launch is first, and is the last Delta rocket launch from Vandenberg Space Force base. The company is slowly phasing this rocket out as it transitions to its not-yet-launched Vulcan rocket. The payload today is a spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office, using ULA’s biggest rocket, the Delta Heavy.

SpaceX will follow with another Falcon 9 Starlink launch, placing another 52 Starlink satellites into orbit.

I have embedded the live streams of both launches below.
» Read more

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Indian smallsat rocket startup hopes to complete 1st launch this year

The new colonial movement: A new Indian private commercial rocket startup, Agnikul, now hopes to complete the first launch of its Agnibaan rocket before the end of 2022.

Whether or not this launch happens this year, the important thing is the existence of this private independent rocket company in India. Up until now, India’s government space bureaucracy in ISRO, and in its new commercial arm, NSIL, has controlled all of that country’s commercial market share. Like NASA before 2008, it has worked aggressively to keep independent players out.

Agnikul’s existence suggests the Modi government’s effort to emulate the U.S. and create an independent private space industry is beginning to bear fruit. If so, expect big things over the next decade from India in space.

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NASA managers scrub September 27th SLS launch

NASA managers today decided that they had to scrub their attempt to launch SLS on September 27, 2022 due to a hurricane threatening Florida, and are instead preparing to roll the rocket back to the assembly building to protect it.

During a meeting Saturday morning, teams decided to stand down on preparing for the Tuesday launch date to allow them to configure systems for rolling back the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft to the Vehicle Assembly Building. Engineers deferred a final decision about the roll to Sunday, Sept. 25, to allow for additional data gathering and analysis. If Artemis I managers elect to roll back, it would begin late Sunday night or early Monday morning.

This will likely delay the launch until the late October launch window, or the mid-November window, as shown in this graph [pdf]. During this time engineers will certainly test and recharge the batteries that run the rocket’s flight termination system so that there will be no question they will work should the Space Force safety range officer need to destroy the rocket during launch.

NASA however now faces another quandary it has been avoiding for the past year. The stacking of the five segments of SLS’s two solid rocket strap-on boosters began in November 2020, two years ago. During the shuttle era and until last year, NASA had a rule that said a booster must launch within a year of stacking. The fear was that the weight of the solid rocket fuel could distort it over time, and possibly cause it to burn improperly once ignited. As these boosters are the equivalent of firecrackers — once you light them you can’t turn them off — NASA had chosen, until last year, to have a use-by date of one year for the boosters.

Now however NASA has abandoned that rule. The boosters have been stacked for twice that time, and the agency has to ask if it will be safe to use them. To change them out however will take at least three months, if not longer. The present set of boosters would have to be removed, and a new set stacked and installed.

I fully expect NASA to stay with these boosters, despite their age, once again violating its own safety rules, as it did routinely during the shuttle era (resulting in the loss of two shuttles and the death of fourteen astronauts). Though no humans will be on this test flight, this sloppy engineering culture clearly threatens the lives of the astronauts who will fly on the second Artemis SLS mission, around the Moon.

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The Jack Benny Show – November 4, 1951

An evening pause: This was the first episode in Benny’s second season on television, following nineteen years doing a regular radio show. The first singer is Bob Crosby, brother of Bing. The taxi driver is Mel Blanc, voice of Bugs Bunny and almost all of the characters in Warner Brothers best cartoons.

Almost everything in this episode works, but make sure especially you stay with it to see the Benny’s performance as lead fiddler of a hillbilly band.

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Above ground and underground Martian drainages

Overview map

Cool image time! Today we are going to zoom into our cool image. The overview map to the right provides us the context. Our target is the small white rectangle inside the small box just below the north rim of 185-mile-wide Newton Crater, located 200 to 800 miles from the southwest edge of the lava plains dubbed Daedalia Planum that flowed down from Mars’s biggest volcanoes.

Newton Crater has a number of interesting features. Only two weeks ago I featured 4-mile-wide Avire Crater in Newton’s western quadrant, long known to have many gullies on its interior slopes as well as glacier features on its floor. Scientists have been monitoring those gullies now for more than a decade to see if they change seasonally, in a attempt to figure out their cause.

Today’s cool image looks at the very intriguing meandering canyons that appear to flow south from Newton’s north rim.
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Range gives NASA waiver to launch SLS on September 27th, despite a questionable flight termination system

In a briefing today, NASA officials confirmed that they are proceeding with their September 27, 2022 first launch of the SLS rocket, having obtained a waiver from the Space Force’s range office on testing the batteries for the flight termination system that would destroy the rocket should it begin flying out of control.

During a Sept. 23 teleconference, NASA announced an extension for the flight termination system battery certification, which expired after 25 days on Sept. 6. Now the Space Force’s Eastern Range has granted a waiver to allow the rocket to launch as late as Oct. 2 before needing to be returned to the Vehicle Assembly building to recertify the batteries.

The flight termination system is only used in the event the rocket veers off course during a launch anomaly.

Note that the 25 day use-by limit was actually an extension itself, as these batteries had been previously required testing every 20 days. Now the range is willing to let them go for as long about 50 days without testing, a two and half times increase.

If the rules before — based on engineering — said the batteries were not reliable after 20 days, why are those batteries now considered reliable up to 50 days? What facts or data does NASA or the Space Force have to allow this waiver? And if they have no data, it seems almost criminal to allow the go-ahead of this launch of a giant untested rocket on its first lift-off. Should something go seriously wrong — which is not that unlikely — and the flight termination system fails to work, we could see a very big rocket careening out-of-control into populated areas.

We all hope SLS launches with no problem on September 27th. We now have a really serious reason for that desire.

Regardless, the launch is now scheduled for a 70-minute launch window that opens at 11:37 am (Eastern) on September 27th, with a back-up launch window on October 2nd of 102 minutes beginning at 2:52 pm (Eastern).

Meanwhile, a developing tropical storm could put a kabosh on all these plans, forcing NASA to roll SLS back to the assembly building anyway. NASA managers plan to meet again before launch to make a decision.

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