Leaving Earth cover

With only 10 copies left of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth, I am raising the price to $100 for buying an autographed copy of this rare collector's item. That price is only going to apply to the next five books. After that the price will go up again, substantially.

 

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

Rocket startup ABL Space gets giant Lockheed Martin launch contract

Capitalism in space: Smallsat rocket startup ABL Space, which has yet to launch its first test rocket, has won a gigantic launch contract from Lockheed Martin for as many as 58 launches through 2029.

Under terms of the block-buy agreement between ABL Space Systems and Lockheed, the aerospace giant will purchase “up to” 26 launches through 2026 and as many as 32 additional launches through 2029. If the terms are fulfilled, this would come to 58 launches over the next eight years for ABL Space. In an industry where even a single launch contract often produces a news release, a contract for five dozen launches is unprecedented for a private company.

…The partnership will allow Lockheed, which builds large numbers of satellites for commercial customers, frequent and low-cost access to space. It is perhaps not a surprise that Lockheed selected ABL Space for its small launch needs, as Lockhead was an early investor in the launch company during a seed phase in 2019 and has continued to participate in additional rounds of fundraising. ABL has raised a total of $219 million to date.

Though Lockheed Martin is not ABL’s biggest investor, by being an early investor it has been involved in the development of ABL’s RS1 rocket from the start, which also means that Lockheed Martin was essentially buying its own rocket company to place the satellites it makes into orbit.

In fact, this decision falls into line with what appears to be Lockheed Martin’s long term corporate strategy. In 2017 the company opened its satellite-making factory with the satellites designed with standardized structures so that customers could pick and choose the design of their liking.

In 2018 it was revealed that the company was a key investor in Rocket Lab, while also participating in the creation of the United Kingdom’s first spaceport in Sutherland, Scotland.

It then decided to become a major investor in ABL, probably taking advantage of what it learned from Rocket Lab to improve the design. Now it plans to use that new rocket to launch a large number of the smallsats it is building in its factory.

Lockheed Martin is essentially copying SpaceX’s vertical integration strategy, whereby it owns or builds all aspects of its launch business. This allows it to reduce costs while controlling construction entirely. You cut out the middle man, and make your satellites cheaper to sell to others.

The first launch of ABL’s RS1 rocket was originally scheduled for the first half of this year, but has now been pushed back to the third quarter. If successful the company says it will follow it with two more launches before the end of the year, and very ambitious schedule.

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 oppressive tech companies and I get 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

Ingenuity survives first night on its own on Mars

Completing another a major engineering hurdle, the Ingenuity helicopter successfully survived its first night on Mars, unprotected by the power and shielding of the Perseverance rover.

“This is the first time that Ingenuity has been on its own on the surface of Mars,” said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “But we now have confirmation that we have the right insulation, the right heaters, and enough energy in its battery to survive the cold night, which is a big win for the team. We’re excited to continue to prepare Ingenuity for its first flight test.”

Engineers will spend the next two days fine-tuning Ingenuity’s thermal and power systems. Then on April 7th they will begin testing the helicopter’s rotary blades and their motors. If all goes right, the actual flight will occur on April 11th.

Colorful mesa in the Martian northern lowland plains

Colorful mound in Martian northern lowland plains
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated and cropped to post here and taken on January 15, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), shows the colorful top of a small mesa in the northern lowland plains of Mars and about 300 miles north of the planned landing zone for Europe’s Franklin rover, scheduled to launch in 2022.

What makes this mesa stand out is the bright and colorful areas on its slopes. The colors are false, but they indicate [pdf] certain things. The yellow is likely dust covered rock. The pinkish rock is also likely dust-covered, but made up of coarser material. The bluish strip running along the mesa’s northern slope is possibly frost or ice, not unlikely as this mound is at 25 degrees north latitude and was taken during winter. The slope faces north, which would put it in shadow much of the time during winter.

The colors however only hint at what is there.
» Read more

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 Americans: Coca-Cola’s racist policies that discriminate against whites

Coca-Cola's bigoted company policy
Examples of the bigoted educational material
being pushed by Coca-Cola

This week is going to be racism week for my daily posts on blacklisting in today’s fascist culture. Each day I will highlight another example of modern racism by companies and governments against innocent people simply because they were born with the wrong skin color. And that skin color will be white, which is now the one kind of racism that the left now honors and demands, from everyone.

Our first bigot this week is the multi-national soda company Coca-Cola. Most of the news this past week or so has been focused on this company’s mindless decision to condemn Georgia’s new election law, based on Democratic Party lies and a refusal to even read the law.

However, let’s take a closer look at Coke’s bigoted policies, which are expressly designed to create a hostile work environment for anyone who happens to be white, solely based not on their performance but their skin color. The image above shows screen captures of just four slides from a Coke-Cola critical race theory training class, provided by a whistle-blower but later confirmed by the company as accurate.
» Read more

Methane tank leak caused Starship #11 failure

Capitalism in space: According to Elon Musk, a small leak of methane from one tank caused the failure of the eleventh Starship prototype. From Musk’s tweet:

Ascent phase, transition to horizontal & control during free fall were good.

A (relatively) small CH4 leak led to fire on engine 2 & fried part of avionics, causing hard start attempting landing burn in CH4 turbopump.

This is getting fixed 6 ways to Sunday.

Meanwhile, prototype #15 is getting prepped for rollout to the launchpad (Numbers 12-14 were scrapped), and the first prototype of first stage Super Heavy is being assembled to testing. It is presently unclear when either will take place, though the company still has a target date of July for its first orbital launch. According to Musk, the first orbital prototypes of Starship will be those numbered 20 or higher.

“Those ships will be orbit-capable with heat shield & stage separation system,” Musk tweeted. “Ascent success probability is high. However, SN20+ vehicles will probably need many flight attempts to survive Mach 25 entry heating & land intact.”

Knowing those first orbital ships will likely not land properly raises the question as to where they will be aimed to come down. SpaceX now owns two retired floating oil platforms, and is preparing them for use by Starship/Super Heavy. It could very well be that test flights of prototype #20+ will take place to and from those pads, out in the ocean, so as to minimize any risk to populated areas. Doing so will also allow SpaceX to hone its procedures for moving these big spaceships to and from the platforms.

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Resilience successfully moves from one ISS docking port to another

With four astronauts on board the Dragon capsule Resilience tonight successfully undocked from one docking port on ISS and redocked to a different port.

This was the first time an American spacecraft had accomplished this task. It was necessary to clear the docking port that the next Dragon capsule, Endeavour, will use to bring its crew to ISS, presently set for launch on April 22nd.

Russian astronauts have piloted Soyuz spacecraft between different ports numerous times, both on ISS and on Russia’s earlier space stations. Tonight’s transfer by Resilience however was done entirely on autopilot. The American astronauts could have taken over manually at any time, but the spacecraft did the entire maneuver on its own.

There is a certain irony in how the Russians have always done this maneuver, manually, and how Resilience did this, without any human intervention. From the 1960s through the entire space shuttle program Americans and all its astronauts strongly demanded that their spacecraft be piloted, by the humans on board, rather than being controlled by software or ground control. The Russians instead insisted, at least initially, that while their astronauts had the capability of doing all maneuvers manually, their software or mission control should run things. This difference seemed to nicely symbolize the down-up nature of America versus the top-down culture of Russia.

Things are now reversed. I wonder if that tells us anything about the two cultures today.

More leaks found in Russian Zvezda module on ISS

Earlier this week Russian astronauts located and patched three more leaks in the 20+ year old Russian Zvezda module on ISS.

Prior to this week’s discovery, the recent patching done by Russian astronauts had reduced the air loss by about half. They need to do another seal test of Zvezda to see if these newer patches have reduced it further.

The report at the link from Russia is as usual very vague. No photos of any of the leaks have been released, by either Russia or NASA. No cause either has been described. This lack of information suggests that the leaks represent a more systemic problem, possibly related to stress fractures from age and wear. If so, it also suggests that Zvezda is nearing its pull-date. How this central module will be replaced from the station remains a major mystery.

Above all, this puts some urgency to the launch of newer modules, such as those being built by the private company Axiom.

Ingenuity released from Perseverance

Ingenuity on the ground
Click for full image.

Perseverance engineers have now confirmed that the Ingenuity helicopter was successfully released below the rover earlier today, and the rover immediately moved away to expose the helicopter to sunlight so that its solar panels can charge its batteries.

The photo to the right, cropped to post here, was taken by one of Perseverance’s rear hazard avoidance cameras, shortly after the release and move. They will now begin about a week of check-outs to make sure Ingenuity is functioning properly, even as they drive Perseverance a distance away to a lookout point where it can safely observe the helicopter’s test flight on Mars, presently targeted for April 11th. If successful this will be the first powered flight ever achieved on another world.

Sunspot update: Higher than predicted activity continues

The uncertainty of science: Time for our monthly update of the Sun’s on-going sunspot cycle. Below is NOAA’s April 1, 2021 monthly graph, showing the Sun’s sunspot activity through the end of March 2021. I have annotated it as always to show the previous solar cycle predictions.

The higher than expected sunspot activity that has been occurring almost from the moment the ramp up to solar maximum began in 2020 continued in March. The numbers weren’t as high as they were in December and January, but they were still higher than the predicted sunspot number.

» Read more

Falcon 9 upper stage debris lands on Washington farm

Falcon 9 helium pressure tank
Click for full image.

When a Falcon 9 upper stage broke up over the Pacific northwest last week apparently one of its interior helium pressure tanks, used to help push the fuel or oxidizer from the larger tank during launch, fell on a Washington farm and has since been recovered.

The image to the right is that tank, in what appears to be remarkable shape. From the article:

Composite-overwrapped pressure vessels, or COPVs, are standard components in Falcon 9 rockets. They’re designed to hold the helium gas that’s used to pressurize propellant tanks. COPVs are likely candidates to survive re-entry because they’re relatively lightweight and heat-resistant.

The tank has been returned to SpaceX, which I am sure is going to be very interested in studying its condition very thoroughly.

Russian gov’t okays extension of U.S cooperative space treaty to ’30

The Russian government yesterday officially approved an extension to 2030 of the cooperative space treaty with the United States that was initially signed in 1992.

According to the TASS article at the link, the U.S. government has already approved this extension. The original agreement was for U.S. flights to the Russian space station Mir. It has been renewed four times since to cover the deal to build and use ISS.

This could very well be the last extension of this deal. By 2030 private commercial American stations should be operational, and the age of some of the oldest sections of ISS will likely need replacement. At that point the U.S. will probably decide to retire its half of ISS.

What the Russians will do is uncertain. The government doesn’t have the cash to build its own station. Nor has that government allowed a private commercial space industry to thrive and thus be financially able to build private commercial stations. Russia may separate its part of ISS and attempt to keep it aloft, but some of their modules are the oldest, and have shown signs of that age.

Two pits at opposite ends of Mars’ big volcanoes

Overview map

Regular readers of Behind the Black know that since 2018 I have regularly documented all the images of pits taken by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). (See my last pit post in January for a full list of these previous articles.) The black dots on the map to the right shows the location of all the pits near the volcanoes Arsia and Pavonis Mons that have so far been highlighted here.

The two white dots are the two most recent MRO pits, and are the subject of today’s cool image. They also happen to be the farthest north and south pits so far documented. The southernmost pit, which I am saving till last, is the most interesting.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: the David Horowitz Freedom Center and its webpage FrontPage

Today's modern witch hunt
Burn witches: What the Southern Poverty Law Center
does to ordinary conservatives.

They’re coming for you next: The conservative David Horowitz Freedom Center and its publication FrontPage Magazine has found itself repeatedly blackballed by various major companies, simply because the center stands for freedom and the principles of western civilization.

In just the past couple of years, MasterCard temporally shut us down, one of our local banks closed our account due to our “controversial positions on issues,” and a brokerage firm closed our account for “unknown reasons.” Amazon will not allow the Freedom Center, a 501 c3 IRS designated nonprofit, to participate in their Amazon Smiles charity campaign because of the SPLC’s [Southern Poverty Law Center] designation of the Center has a “hate group” and now Disqus, the largest networked community platform on the Internet, has canceled our service.

The last example from Disqus involved that company’s sudden decision to cease providing the FrontPage website its commenting service.
» Read more

InSight detects additional 3+ magnitude quakes on Mars

Martian quake map as seen by InSight

According to a JPL press release today, the seismometer on the Mars lander InSight detected two new 3+ magnitude quakes in March, both coming from the Cerberus Fossae region, the same region where the bulk of seismic activity has so far been pinpointed on Mars.

The map to the right was presented several weeks ago at the 52nd Lunar and Planetary conference, and could possibly include one of these two new quakes. The timing however of these March quakes is significant:

The new quakes have something else in common with InSight’s previous top seismic events, which occurred almost a full Martian year (two Earth years) ago: They occurred in the Martian northern summer. Scientists had predicted this would again be an ideal time to listen for quakes because winds would become calmer. The seismometer, called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), is sensitive enough that, even while it is covered by a dome-shaped shield to block it from wind and keep it from getting too cold, wind still causes enough vibration to obscure some marsquakes. During the past northern winter season, InSight couldn’t detect any quakes at all.

They are beginning to use the lander’s scoop to cover the seismometer and its communications tether with sand to protect both from the wind and temperature fluctuations. Once done they hope to be able to detect quakes during the entire Martian year, though this ability will be further limited by a reduction in power.

Despite the winds that have been shaking the seismometer, InSight’s solar panels remain covered with dust, and power is running lower as Mars moves away from the Sun. Energy levels are expected to improve after July, when the planet begins to approach the Sun again. Until then, the mission will successively turn off the lander’s instruments so that InSight can hibernate, waking periodically to check its health and communicate with Earth. The team hopes to keep the seismometer on for another month or two before it has to be temporarily turned off.

Tianwen-1’s engineers set mid-May for rover landing on Mars

The new colonial movement: The science team for China’s Tianwen-1 orbiter are now targeting mid-May for when they will release and land the as-yet unnamed rover for its landing on Mars.

Wang Chi, director of the National Space Science Center at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said March 23 that Tianwen 1’s lander and rover are scheduled to touch down on Mars in May.

“The first Chinese Mars mission, Tianwen 1, is now orbiting Mars, and we are landing in the middle of May,” Wang said in a presentation to the National Academies’ Space Studies Board. “We are open to international cooperation, and the data will be available publicly soon.” [emphasis mine]

Though China has generally released the scientific data of its lunar probes eventually, they have done it slowly. In the case of Tianwen-1, they released so far practically nothing, with the only images released being two hi-resolution ground images and a handful of distant global pictures of Mars.

Today’s blacklisted Americans: Conservatives on the email provider MailChimp

The cancelled Bill of Rights
Doesn’t exist at MailChimp

They’re coming for you next: The email provider MailChimp has since the November election made it a clear policy to routinely cancel the accounts of conservatives if they dare send out any emails it deems politically incorrect.

In November MailChimp instantly disabled the email account of two tea party organizations, one in Virginia and the other in South Carolina, when they each tried to send out email notices to their members about post-election pro-Trump rallies.

In January MailChimp did the same to a conservative organization in California that was running a conference calling for the end of the overbearing lockdown rules imposed by the Democrat governor Gavin Newsom.

Because the ReOpenCalNow organizers are targeting a high level audience of policymakers, they assembled an email list of several thousand of California’s local elected officials. The list includes city council members, county supervisors, and members of school boards. Using MailChimp, they sent out three email blasts before receiving the following message:

“We received a direct complaint regarding a recent campaign sent from the account with the username ReOpen Cal Now. Direct complaints are serious because they indicate that a recipient contacted Mailchimp, our hosting facility, or a blocklisting agency about an unsolicited email.” The MailChimp email went on to say: “Because the content associated with your industry conflicts with our Acceptable Use Policy (mailchimp.com/legal/acceptable_use), Mailchimp is unable to serve as your email service provider and your account has been disabled.”

MailChimp went on to reject all appeals, and it is clear that the reason they would not reinstate ReOpenCalNow’s account was not because of spam. The laws protecting people from receiving spam do not apply to publicly available emails of elected officials. Every email on the list compiled by ReOpenCalNow were publicly available and corresponded to an elected official. [emphasis in original]

» Read more

Very peculiar flow features on Mars

Peculiar flows on Mars
Click for full image.

Today’s cool image focuses on one of the weirdest flow features I have yet seen on Mars. The first photo to the right, rotated and cropped to post here, comes from a January 27, 2021 picture by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). This cropped section focuses on the middle of three such weird features, two close flows heading downhill on the interior rim of very eroded 28-mile-wide crater. For some reason the flows also have depressions on their crowns. The depressions almost look like someone carved them out with a spackling spatula. In fact, the MRO science team agrees, labeling this image as “Spatulate Depressions with and without Upslope Gullies.”

The second image to the right shows a wider crop of the same picture, and explains the reason for the last half of that label.
» Read more

Ingenuity unfolded and ready for placement on ground

Ingenuity unfolded
Click for full image.

The photo to the right, taken yesterday, shows Perseverance’s Ingenuity helicopter now vertical with its legs deployed, hanging from the bottom of the rover and ready for placement on the ground.

The next step will be drop Ingenuity those last few inches. Once released Perseverance will quickly drive away, as it will no longer be providing power to the helicopter and will instead be blocking its solar panels from sunlight.

Perseverance will then proceed to its lookout post while engineers check out Ingenuity to make sure all is working.

The targeted flight date remains April 8th.

UPDATE: JPL just announced that it is delaying Ingenuity’s flight to April 11th. The announcement was done by a tweet, so provided no explanation as to why JPL decided to delay three days.

Sierra Nevada will build space stations and a manned version of Dream Chaser

Sierra Nevada's proposed LIFE space station
Artist conception of Sierra Nevada’s LIFE space station

Capitalism in space: Sierra Nevada announced today that it will not only build a manned version of its Dream Chaser reusable mini-shuttle, it now intends to use that shuttle as a ferry to its own space station, made up of inflatable modules.

They have dubbed their proposed station LIFE, and describe as follows:

The LIFE habitat is a three story, 27-foot large inflatable fabric environment that launches on a conventional rocket and inflates on-orbit. The LIFE habitat is undergoing a NASA soft-goods certification this year and the full size ground prototype developed under NASA’s NextSTEP-2 contract is in the process of being transferred from Johnson Space Center in Texas to Kennedy Space Center in Florida for further testing on short-and long-term habitation. SNC’s Astro Garden® system also provides fresh food within the habitat.

Making a manned version of Dream Chaser was always expected. Adding the company’s own station makes complete sense. Except for the rocket to launch a Dream Chaser spacecraft, Sierra Nevada will be able to provide a full service experience to, in, and from space.

Shetland spaceport application rejected by local monument authority

The application to build a spaceport on one of the Shetland Islands has been rejected by a local monument authority because it would cause “extensive and adverse impact on the cultural significance” of a WWII radar station.

Mr Strang [head of the spaceport organization] said he was “greatly surprised” by the decision, claiming HES [Historic Environment Scotland] had “done nothing to preserve the site for the last 50 years”.

Skaw is the UK’s most northerly Second World War radar station and protected as a scheduled monument of national importance. The proposed space centre would be built almost entirely with in the RAF radar station site. It would require the removal of nine buildings, including air raid shelters, guard huts and those associated with the radar system. More than 200 archaeological features, such as foundations of buildings, gun emplacements and bomb craters would also be removed.

The Shetland Islands are very remote with few job opportunities for its residences. Putting a spaceport there seems like an excellent idea, especially because it will create hundreds of jobs where none exist now.

The radar facility did the same, but it did so more than seventy years ago, during World War II. Protecting these old and unused buildings for the sake of those long gone jobs seems utterly foolish.

The spaceport people say they will oppose this decision, but it is not clear from the article what they can do. The law as written appears to give this historical agency full power to veto.

Industry group representing big tech demands Starlink be blocked in India

They’re coming for you next: An industry group representing a number of big tech companies like Amazon and Google has written India’s governmental agencies that regulate broadband and space and demanded that they block SpaceX’s Starlink internet service in India.

An industry body representing the likes of Amazon, Hughes, Google, Microsoft and Facebook has written to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) asking them to stop SpaceX from pre-selling the beta version of its Starlink satellite internet services in India. It claimed SpaceX didn’t have licence or authorisation from the government to offer such services in the country. “We request you to urgently intervene to protect fair competition and adherence to existing policy and regulatory norms,” Broadband India Forum president TV Ramachandran said in the letters, seen by ET.

I could have filed this story under my series, “Today’s Blacklisted Americans”. These big tech companies have made it very clear in numerous earlier stories that they do not believe in competition or free speech. They are now demonstrating it again in India. Both Amazon and Hughes are direct competitors with Starlink. Neither also has a product that can compete with it (Amazon appears years from deploying its system and Hughes’ system has latency issues that make it much slower than Starlink). So, they team up with their leftist buddies Google, Microsoft, and Facebook to demand the Indian government do their dirty work for them, shutting down their competition.

It is unlikely that India’s Modi government, which is very much in favor of private enterprise, will do what these thugs want, but you never know. Politicians are like whores, they do what you pay them. If India does move to block SpaceX however I also expect there to be an outcry in that country, as it has many rural areas that can only be served by the kind of service Starlink is offering.

Today’s blacklisted American: Former President Donald Trump

The cancelled Bill of Rights
What Facebook & Instagram want cancelled.

They’re coming for you next: Both Facebook and Instagram instantly removed today an interview of former President Donald Trump in which he suggested he might run again for president in 2024, merely because the clip contained his voice.

[The interview] was for The Right View. … During the 18-minute interview, Trump also spoke about running for President again in 2024. Lara [Trump, whose show it was and who is Trump’s daughter-in-law] had been promoting it on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter beforehand.

At 9.26pm on Tuesday night, four minutes before it was due to be uploaded, Facebook emailed Lara’s team warning them that it would be removed if it went live. At 9.51pm, they emailed again to say that they’d taken it down.

Lara shared screenshots of the emails on Instagram afterwards. ‘And just like that, we are one step closer to Orwell’s 1984. Wow,’ she wrote alongside them.

Trump has been banned from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram since the January 6 riots, cut off from his supporters and unable to get messages to them in the way he did before.

In their email, the Facebook employee said that ‘content posted in the voice of President Trump is not currently allowed on our platforms (including new posts with President Trump speaking) and will be removed. ‘This guidance applies to all campaign accounts and Pages, including Team Trump, other campaign messaging vehicles on our platforms and former surrogates’. [emphasis mine]

The audacity of this censorship of a former president of the United States by these companies is breath-taking. The highlighted quote makes it clear: Their goal is to silence Trump, in every way possible. They do not celebrate free speech, or the ability of everyone to express themselves publicly. The only people who will be allowed freedom of speech will be those who agree with them.

Though they are private companies who should have the freedom to publish who they wish, these companies also have been granted special tax status as utilities which provide a platform for everyone, not a publisher who picks and chooses what he wishes to publish. Under this tax benefit, they have no right to block anyone’s show, period.

Putting aside these legalities, why would any Republican, conservative, or anyone who supports free speech remain a user of Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter? They are not only clearly Democratic Party operatives, working to promote that political party’s agenda, they also clearly view anyone who disagrees with that agenda to be pond scum. Why provide any support to such authoritarians?

Ice under Mars’ biggest volcanic ash field, at the equator?

Wind eddies on Mars
Click for full image.

According to new data obtained from the radar instruments on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Mars Express, scientists now think that the Medusae Fossae Formation, Mars’ biggest volcanic ash field and thought by some to be the source of most of the planet’s dust, might have an underground layer of ash that is also ice-rich. From their abstract:

The Medusae Fossae Formation (MFF) on Mars covers a vast area along the boundary between the rugged southern highlands and the smooth northern plains. While the MFF appears to be thick sediments or volcanic ash slowly eroding in the martian winds, how this material was emplaced remains mysterious. Most intriguing is evidence suggesting that some areas of the MFF may contain water ice. In this work we use sounding radar data from the SHARAD instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to probe up to 600 m below the surface and measure the electrical properties of the MFF material. The results suggest that the shallow parts of the MFF deposits are very porous and compress readily under their own weight. To match deeper probing by the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding instrument on Mars Express requires a second layer of either vast porous deposits or ice‐rich material protected from sublimation by the dry sediments.

The MRO image above, originally posted here in November 2020, shows one example of the typical wind erosion found in the Medusae ash field. Apparently the ground-penetrating radar from orbit now suggests the possibility that there is an ash layer rich in ice, at depths beginning somewhere between 1,000 to 2,000 feet below the surface.
» Read more

X-rays from Uranus detected for the 1st time

Composite Uranus image of X-ray and optical data

Astronomers using the Chandra X-ray Observatory in orbit have for the first time detected X-rays coming from the planet Uranus.

In the new study, researchers used Chandra observations taken in Uranus in 2002 and then again in 2017. They saw a clear detection of X-rays from the first observation, just analyzed recently, and a possible flare of X-rays in those obtained fifteen years later. The main graphic [posted to the right] shows a Chandra X-ray image of Uranus from 2002 (in pink) superimposed on an optical image from the Keck-I Telescope obtained in a separate study in 2004. The latter shows the planet at approximately the same orientation as it was during the 2002 Chandra observations.

What could cause Uranus to emit X-rays? The answer: mainly the Sun. Astronomers have observed that both Jupiter and Saturn scatter X-ray light given off by the Sun, similar to how Earth’s atmosphere scatters the Sun’s light. While the authors of the new Uranus study initially expected that most of the X-rays detected would also be from scattering, there are tantalizing hints that at least one other source of X-rays is present.

One explanation could be that the X-rays could be coming from Uranus’s rings, as such X-rays do from Saturn. This is not confirmed as yet however. More data will be needed.

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