Privately-built Japanese smallsat successfully tests new technology

Capitalism in space: A privately-built Japanese smallsat has successfully tested seven new technologies on a six-month long mission that was launched in January on Japan’s newest low-cost Epsilon rocket.

For the first time, the Japanese space agency turned over development of one of its satellites to a startup. Axelspace Co. developed RAPIS-1 for the agency is a short time period, going from design to launch in only about two years, the agency said. The satellite bus features a standardized interface that made attaching instruments and equipment easier. The mission equipment and bus were independently designed to prevent failures of the former from affecting the latter, JAXA said.

The article at the link provides details about the technologies tested, all of which increase significantly the capabilities of smallsats to replace standard larger and heavier satellites.

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Russia signs deal to for first space tourist spacewalk

Capitalism in space: Russia and Space Adventures have inked a deal to fly two tourists to ISS in 2023, with one doing the first space tourist spacewalk.

At the moment they do not have any signed customers, but this agreement is essentially an okay from Russia to do the spacewalk, and is probably an effort by them to offer something better than SpaceX for its tourist flights. For SpaceX or Boeing to offer spacewalks will require cooperation from NASA, since neither company has spacesuits capable of doing such a thing. They need NASA’s suits, but NASA will likely not give its approval, at least in the near future. Unlike the Russian Orlan suits, the NASA spacesuits are very complex and difficult to use. Letting a tourist use one for a spacewalk is probably too risky.

Thus, don’t be surprised if SpaceX soon begins designing its own EVA spacesuit.

Either way, the next few years in space are getting more exciting by the day. SpaceX already has two contracts for tourist flights, and Russia is upping the competition by offering spacewalks. On top of that Axiom is beginning construction on its own space station habitat on ISS where tourists can live.

Expect lots of private commercial manned flights in the coming years.

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COVID-19 hospitalizations dropping across the board

Hospitalizations from COVID-19, week by week
Click for full resolution image.

The graph to the right, produced weekly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and presently up-to-date through June 13th, bluntly shows why the panic over COVID-19 has been absurd and unjustified. (Hat tip Doug Ross @ Journal for noting it first.)

It shows the trends in Wuhan flu hospitalizations week to week, separated by age group. The only age groups seriously impacted by the disease have been those over 50. The cohorts under seventeen do not even register on the graph. Moreover, these are numbers per 100,000. Even at its worse, the disease only put about 30 people (over 65) out of every 100,000 into the hospital. Though maybe a bit higher it is hardly different than what we see normally during any normal flu season. It is also, like what we see during flu season, hardly something to panic over.

The graph also shows that the disease’s impact is clearly fading, across the board, even as the number of identified cases is rising. Even in the 18-49 cohort, which is right now experiencing the greatest rise in new cases, the hospitalizations are dropping, to about 2 or 3 people out of every 100,000.

This is not something to fear. It certainly does not justify the nullification of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Nor does it justify the requirement that everyone go about their lives wearing a mask, which not only does nothing to stop the disease but probably increases everyone’s chances of getting sick.

Doug Ross in his post on this graph I think summarizes the situation best:

You gots it, Sparky. The key metrics indicate that overall, the U.S. is crushing the China scourge. Of course, the media — whose singular goal is the destruction of the Constitution — wants to shriek about the growth of “positive test results”, not hospitalizations or mortality. But that’s what the media do. They aren’t about objective facts, or news, they’re about promoting fascism. Ain’t that right, Acosta?

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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

Two super-Earths found orbiting nearby red dwarf star

Worlds without end: Astronomers have detected evidence of two super-Earths orbiting Gliese 887, only 11 light years away and the brightest red dwarf star in the night sky.

They used a technique known as “Doppler wobble”, which enables them to measure the tiny back and forth wobbles of the star caused by the gravitational pull of the planets. The regular signals correspond to orbits of just 9.3 and 21.8 days, indicating two super-Earths – Gliese 887b and Gliese 887c – both larger than the Earth yet moving rapidly, much faster even than Mercury. Scientists estimate the temperature of Gliese 887c to be around 70oC.

Because Gliese 887 is a very constant star, not very active, and with relatively few strong flares, they think these planets have a chance of retaining their atmospheres.

Be aware that these are like most exoplanets only candidate exoplanets. Until their existence is confirmed by other researchers, it is possible the detection is a false one.

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Axiom hires European company to help build private ISS module

Capitalism in space: Axiom has hired the European company Thales Alenia, to build the habitation module of its commercial space station that will initially attach to ISS.

Axiom’s station modules will form a new section of ISS that will be able to operate independently, so that when ISS is decommissioned it can detach and remain operational in space.

That Axiom did not choose either Boeing (which I think built most of NASA’s ISS modules) or Northrop Grumman (which has been pushing an upgraded version of its Cygnus capsule as future station modules) is intriguing. I suspect with Boeing cost was the major reason, as Boeing’s modules are generally far too expensive. There also might be questions about that company’s quality control.

Why Northrop Grumman lost out however is unclear. Its Cygnus design is relatively inexpensive, and has clearly demonstrated that it works very reliably. obvious. Thales Alenia makes that Cygnus module for Northrop Grumman, so why buy it from the U.S. company when you can get it from the builder. (Thanks to reader Doug Booker for pointing out this obvious fact, one I had forgotten.)

Either way, this contract award gets us one step closer to truly private operations in space. Eventually competing private stations such as Axiom’s will replace government stations like ISS. That will in turn certainly lower costs and and increase innovation, which in turn will accelerate the development of the engineering required to build practical interplanetary spaceships.

This of course assumes we remain a free nation. Right now I have strong doubts.

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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

India’s space agency creates new bureaucracy to encourage commercial space

The new colonial movement: In a televised speech yesterday, the head of ISRO, India’s space agency, outlined the steps they are now taking to encourage a new private commercial space industry, which appear centered almost entirely around the creation of a new bureaucracy.

Sivan announced in detail, reforms intended for the space sector, which were approved by the Cabinet Wednesday. The prime change, the ISRO chief said, is that the private sector will no longer be confined to just supplying components but will now be able to build and launch satellites and rockets, provide launch services, perform intensive research and developmental activities, participate in ISRO’s science and planetary missions, and offer space services commercially.

To facilitate the private sector presence in ISRO, the agency has launched the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), an independent nodal agency, Sivan said. “The agency will ensure safety, security, and quality, engage in monitoring space business activity, enable ease of business at low cost for private players, ensure permission and authorisation of private activities,” he said. “It will also act as a nodal agency for hand-holding and promoting private sector in space endeavours, aiding ISRO to share technical expertise and facilities.” [emphasis mine]

This might work, but I have my doubts. While the first paragraph in the quote above sounds great, the second quote kind of blows the wind out of the sails. Rather than letting their private companies operate independently, ISRO is going to supervise them closely. Under such conditions it is unlikely an independent space industry building cutting edge and risky new technology can truly prosper. If ISRO does not like what a private company wants to do, all it will have to do is simply not give them permission to do it.

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Perseverance launch delayed two days

NASA and ULA have agreed to delay the launch of the new Mars rover Perseverance two days, from July 20th to July 22nd, because of “a contamination concern.”

NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance was scheduled to launch toward the Red Planet on July 20 from a pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. But a problem cropped up as engineers worked to encapsulate the rover in the nosecone of its Atlas V rocket, which was built by United Launch Alliance.

“NASA and United Launch Alliance are now targeting Wednesday, July 22, for launch of the Mars 2020 mission due to a processing delay encountered during encapsulation activities of the spacecraft,” NASA officials said in an update. “Additional time was needed to resolve a contamination concern in the ground support lines in NASA’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF).”

This contamination likely relates to their effort to keep the rover free from Earth biology.

The official launch window closes on August 11th, though they can still launch as late as August 15th and get to their targeted landing site in Jezero Crater on Mars.

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The press continues to lie about COVID-19 to generate fear

Daily U.S. Wuhan flu deaths as of June 24, 2020

They just won’t stop lying: If you have been reading the mainstream leftist press, you are probably now under the impression that the COVID-19 epidemic is once again raging across the land, destroying whole communities while spreading out-of-control everywhere because some Republican governors thought it was now okay to come out of hiding.

The CNN article at the link above is typical, reporting in lurid detail how multiple states across the country are now experiencing record levels of new coronavirus cases.

Oh my! We are all gonna die!

Not. What the CNN article completely failed to mention is the number of deaths from COVID-19 taking place during this rise in new cases. Are you curious why? Could it be because, though the number of people now infected with the virus has skyrocketed, the number of deaths has remained largely flat, as shown by the graph above (data source here). The past two days has seen a slight uptick, but that is entirely within the range of the weekly ups and downs caused apparently by low numbers recorded over the weekends.

I am not the only one to notice this strange dishonest reporting, Nor is CNN the only culprit. This article at Just News noticed the same thing in a Washington Post report.
» Read more

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Obama took lead from beginning on Flynn frame-up

Newly released FBI notes from former FBI head James Comey now reveal that as of January 5, 2017 not only did Comey and Obama consider all of the phone calls by former national security advisor Mike Flynn to Russian officials to be entirely “legit”, Obama was involved and likely instigated from the beginning the framing of Flynn.

Comey’s notes describe the discussion at that January 3rd meeting, attended by Obama, Biden, Comey, then-deputy attorney general Sally Yates, and then-national security adviser Susan Rice, about Flynn and his calls. The notes describe this unfolding conversation:

Obama: “Make sure you look at things and have the right people on it.”

Obama again: “Is there anything I shouldn’t be telling transition team?”

Comey, in response: “Flynn[‘s calls to] Kislyak … appear legit.”

In other words, Obama instigated the frame-up, even though he and these other high government officials knew Flynn had done nothing wrong.

As noted at the link,

The [January 5th] meeting to strategize against the Trump administration included just a few key law enforcement principals. Their testimony about what transpired is sometimes in conflict. Yates claimed Comey brought up the Logan Act while Comey claims Biden cited it. Rice claimed Obama directed that the anti-Trump operation be run “by the book,” but Comey claimed Obama even directed which personnel to use.

All parties agree, however, on the main substance of the meeting, which was a discussion of how to target Flynn for his “legit” phone calls and withhold vital national security information from the newly elected presidential administration. [emphasis mine]

In other words, President Obama led an effort to frame an innocent man in order to lay the groundwork for overthrowing the legally elected Trump administration. Or to be blunt, Obama was leading a coup attempt, aided by major players in his administration, many of whom remained in place as enemy agents once Trump took over.

Such behavior is not merely illegal and despicable, it is outright treasonous.

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A host of new solar systems

A gallery of baby solar systems

Worlds without end: Astronomers this month released a large collection of images taken during the past four years by the Gemini South Telescope in Chile of young stars that also have debris disks and are likely solar systems in the process of forming.

The image to the right, reduced slightly to post here, is only a sampling of the 26 disk systems found out of 104 young stars photographed. Go to the link to see some higher resolution examples.

Of the 26 images of debris disks obtained by the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), 25 had “holes” around the central star that likely were created by planets sweeping up rocks and dust. Seven of the 26 were previously unknown; earlier images of the other 19 were not as sharp as those from GPI and often didn’t have the resolution to detect an inner hole. The survey doubles the number of debris disks imaged at such high resolution.

“One of the things we found is that these so-called disks are really rings with inner clearings,” said Esposito, who is also a researcher at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. “GPI had a clear view of the inner regions close to the star, whereas in the past, observations by the Hubble Space Telescope and older instruments from the ground couldn’t see close enough to the star to see the hole around it.”

The data strongly confirms most theories about planet formation in these debris disks, as one of the youngest stars did not have any gaps in its disk, suggesting no larger bodies had yet formed to clear out a region.

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Appeals court orders hack judge to dismiss Flynn case

The DC Court of Appeals has ordered Democratic Party hack judge Emmet Sullivan to grant the Justice Department’s request to dismiss its case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

A three-judge panel on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in a 2-1 ruling, said the department’s decision to abandon the case against Flynn settles the matter, despite Flynn having reached a deal with prosecutors from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office to plead guilty to making false statements in connection with a now-discredited FBI probe into whether the 2016 Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

Having lost his prosecutor, Sullivan had tried as judge to take on that role himself to keep the case going. Such actions by a judge are beyond the pale, since judges are supposed to be the neutral arbiter in any legal proceeding. By taking sides in this unprecedented manner Sullivan should be impeached and removed from office. Don’t count on it however.

Note too that Sullivan was also the judge who managed the whitewash in the Awan case, allowing that guy to skate free despite clear evidence Awan acted as a spy for Pakistan while working as the IT expert in a number of Democratic congressional offices.

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Made in Space purchased by venture capital company Redwire

Capitalism in space: Made in Space, which has specialized in developing 3D printing in space on ISS and elsewhere, has been acquired by a company dubbed Redwire that was created by a venture capital company.

AE Industrial Partners, a private equity firm, formally established Redwire at the beginning of June by combining two companies it had acquired, Adcole Space and Deep Space Systems (DSS). Both companies are best known as suppliers of spacecraft components and engineering services, although DSS has also developed a robotic lunar lander and is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program.

“What we wanted to do with Redwire is take some of the traditional space heritage from the small, agile and innovative companies out there like Adcole and DSS and combine them with a true innovator,” said Peter Cannito, chief executive of Redwire, in an interview.

Made In Space, he argued, is that innovator. “The things that they’re doing are things that have never been done and really have the potential to change the economics of space,” he said. “That filled a key gap in our strategy.”

Though the companies under Redwire will for now operate separately, eventually they will combine under the Redwire name. Note too that the head of Made in Space is now the CEO of Redwire while its chief engineer is now Redwire’s chief technology officier, so this acquisition appears more like a partnership between companies that helps them all, rather than an acquisition.

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SpaceX tests 7th Starship test prototype to failure

Capitalism in space: As they had planned, SpaceX has done a tank pressure test of its seventh Starship prototype to failure, destroying the prototype.

This was actually the second test to failure for this tank, which is testing a new stainless steel alloy. The first had only sprung a leak that could be repaired.

Deemed 304L, the type of steel is still readily available off the shelf and only 10-20% more expensive than the 301 alloy SpaceX has used to build all Starship prototypes up to SN7. The biggest change it brings to the table is improved ductility (malleability), particularly at the cryogenic temperatures Starship’s tanks will often be held at. By reducing brittleness, Starships built out of 304L steel should be able to fail far more gracefully by developing stable leaks instead of violently decompressing. In fact, the very same test tank destroyed on June 23rd demonstrated that capability perfectly when it sprung a leak during its first pressure test on June 15th.

During its first cryogenic pressure test with liquid nitrogen, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk revealed that the SN7 test tank managed to reach 7.6 bar (~110 psi) before it began to leak – technically satisfactory for orbital Starship launches with an industry-standard 25% safety factor. Thanks to the general flexibility of steel, including the new 304L alloy SN7 was built with, SpaceX was able to simply repair the leak it identified, readying the test tank for a second cryogenic pressure test barely a week later.

Below the fold are two videos showing this second failure. Unlike earlier tests using different alloys, the tank does not go flying hundreds of feet into the air. The rupture seems more gentle, if I can use such a word for such a failure.

They have another tank ready to go, so testing should proceed quickly even after this test failure. And they also are prepping the full scale #5 Starship prototype for testing, which if all goes well will include actual test hops.
» Read more

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Relativity Space gets Iridium launch contract

Capitalism in space: The new rocket company Relativity Space has won a launch contract to put six Iridium satellites into orbit.

The operational Iridium NEXT constellation, the second generation of Iridium communications satellites, was completed in January 2019. Eight batches of satellites were launched on eight SpaceX Falcon 9 missions from SLC-4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base. This placed a total of 75 satellites into polar low Earth orbits, 66 of which formed the operational constellation. The other nine serve as in-orbit spares in the event of an issue with any of the primary satellites.

There are six additional spare satellites that have been built for Iridium by Thales Alenia Space and are currently in storage on Earth. These are the satellites that will be launched onboard Relativity Space’s Terran 1 rocket, should the need arise. Up to six launches, occurring no earlier than 2023, would occur on an as-needed basis as determined by Iridium.

This deal is interesting in that Relativity Space has not yet launched its rocket, which it touts as the first rocket built entirely by 3D printing. For Iridium to pick them for a launch so far in the future and of satellites that are merely back-ups to their main constellation suggests that the satellite company got a very good deal on price. Iridium probably did this also to help a new rocket company and thus increase competition in the launch industry. It also probably has the right to back out should the rocket company have difficulties getting its new rocket off the ground.

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Michael Mann finally loses in DC court

It took almost a decade, but the DC Superior Court has finally ruled against Michael Mann in his lawsuit against Rand Simberg and Mark Steyn.

Mann had sued them for libel because they criticized his incompetent and fraudulent global warming research. They demanded evidence of damages, the court agreed and ordered Mann to produce that evidence. He has refused (for almost a decade) and the court has now finally decided that because of his refusal he must pay all the court courts, including Simberg’s and Steyn’s.

Will he pay? Steyn notes what happened when Mann lost in a Canadian court:

I speculated back in October whether Mann, a loser and a liar, would also prove a scofflaw and a deadbeat. Yes, he is. It is ten months since he lost at the BC Supreme Court and, despite Mr Justice Giaschi’s order, Doctor Fraudpants has yet to pay Tim Ball a penny. So he’s a fraudulent plaintiff in every respect. This scumbag has financially ruined Dr Ball, lost at trial, and refuses to pay up. Mann’s conduct is appalling: it’s no wonder so few climate scientists are willing to defend him.

It will be instructive whether Mann defies a U.S. Court as well. I suspect if he does Simberg and Steyn will use the law to put liens on Mann’s assets. In normal times I would have no doubt this would work. Nowadays I sadly have concerns.

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Astronomers claim discovery of six exomoons

The uncertainty of science: Astronomers are now claiming they have detected evidence of the existence of six exomoons orbiting different stars with transiting exoplanets.

“These exomoon candidates are so small that they can’t be seen from their own transits. Rather, their presence is given away by their gravitational influence on their parent planet,” Wiegert said.

If an exoplanet orbits its star undisturbed, the transits it produces occur precisely at fixed intervals.

But for some exoplanets, the timing of the transits is variable, sometimes occurring several minutes early or late. Such transit timing variations – known as TTVs – indicate the gravity of another body. That could mean an exomoon or another planet in the system is? affecting the transiting planet.

What they have basically done is applied the technique used to identify exoplanet candidates when the planet does NOT transit the star (the wobble caused by gravity and indicated by spectral changes), and looked to see if they can see the same variations in these exoplanets.

This is fun stuff, but it is so uncertain as to be almost laughable. If you read the press release closely, you will discover that their work has been submitted for publication, but has not yet been even peer reviewed.

Their concept is good, but I would not pay much attention to these “results.”

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Ocasio-Cortez wins primary with 70% of vote

They’re coming for you next: Proudly communist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) today won her Democratic primary in New York, garnering 70% of the vote.

I know that many conservatives believe that the madness of the past four months will finally convince voters that it is time to reject the Democratic Party. I have seen no evidence of this. Instead, what I see is a Democratic voting block that remains set in concrete, immune to any facts or ideas that challenge its position. And it has remained so my entire life.

This victory by Ocasio-Cortez illustrates this. Despite her campaign to kick Amazon out of New York (costing her district tens of thousands of jobs), despite her clear lack of coherent knowledge of history or science, despite her Marxist agenda (as very well illustrated by her Green New Deal), and despite her generally hateful and racist rhetoric towards those who disagree with her, the voters in her district want her, and voted overwhelmingly for her.

In New York there is no viable Republican Party. Ocasio-Cortez has essentially won another two years in office tonight, as well as an endorsement of her race-based policies.

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Do high water and design flaws threaten China’s Three Gorges Dam?

Heavy rain has caused flooding and a major overload to China’s massive Three Gorges Dam, and a Chinese hydrologist is now warning the dam, which he claims has design flaws, could fail at any time.

Rather than commenting on the validity of the images showing the dam’s warping a year ago, Wang said a more serious concern is the cracks and substandard concrete discovered during its construction. He said a failure of the dam would have catastrophic consequences for individuals residing in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and that they should prepare for evacuation as soon as possible, reported CT Want.

In his interview with Radio France Internationale, the Chinese water expert also criticized the Chinese government and state media for refusing to acknowledge the potential danger of the reservoir. He said that scientists who have spoken the truth have been criminalized by Beijing, resulting in a society with no communication.

According to Chinese stated-owned CNTV, water inside the Three Gorges Dam continues to accumulate and has risen two meters above its flood-prevention level. Although the dam has been hailed by Beijing as one of the greatest engineering achievements in human history, its structural integrity continues to be questioned.

The dam was only completed in 2009, after decades of planning and construction. If it fails it will be a disaster for China and its communist government, much worse that the Wuhan flu has been.

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More strange terrain in the Martian “Death Valley”

More strange terrain in Hellas Basin
Click for full image.

Today’s cool image, rotated cropped, and reduced to post here, might show what the science team for the high resolution camera of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have labeled “strange banded terrain”, but anyone who has spent any time perusing images of Hellas Basin, what I have labeled the basement of Mars because it has the lowest elevation on the planet, will recognize the features.

They might be inexplicable, but for Hellas Basin they are entirely familiar. Just take a look at some of my earlier posts:
» Read more

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Perseverance: update on launch rehearsal and helicopter

Two news stories today about the launch of the United States’ next Mars rover, Perservance.

First, ULA yesterday successfully completed a dress rehearsal countdown with the Atlas 5 rocket that will launch Perseverance on July 20 at 9:15 am (Eastern)..

The rover will be mounted onto the rocket at the end of this week.

Second, JPL provided this press release describing how Perseverance’s test helicopter Ingenuity will be deployed on the Martian surface, where it will then test to see if such helicopters will work in the Martian atmosphere.

Sixty Martian days (dubbed sols) after landing in Jezero Crater on February 18, Perseverance will find a nice large flat area and deploy the helicopter six sols later. The helicopter will then begin its 30-sol test program. If it is found to work, future rovers will almost certainly be equipped with such helicopters, acting as scouts able to go places the rover cannot.

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Local authorities in Scotland have approved spaceport concept

Capitalism in space: Local authorities in northern Scotland have recommended that planning of a private spaceport in Sutherland should move forward.

Will this happen? I wonder, based on this detail from the article:

Councillors on Highland Council’s north planning applications committee will consider the proposals for Space Hub Sutherland on Friday.

The local authority has received 457 objections to the plans and 118 representations in support of them. Impact on the environment and risk to human health are among the reasons for the objections.

Local community councils have supported the project because it is expected to create new jobs.

The article implies that the local communities support the project, but I’m not sure. Either way, in our fear-driven society today getting that many objections would be is a major hurdle for any project to leap.

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Trump official skeptical of point-to-point suborbital transportation

During the FAA’s annual commercial space conference, the executive secretary for Trump’s National Space Council, Scott Pace, expressed strong skepticism about plans by some companies to develop point-to-point transportation using suborbital spacecraft.

“I still see that as somewhat speculative and somewhat over the horizon,” he said. “I see us working right now on trying to get the suborbital market up, running and sort of stabilized. I think people look forward to the possibility of point-to-point passenger and cargo travel, but right now just getting routine suborbital access to space and pushing hard on the unmanned hypersonic and military applications is where the action is.”

“Maybe it’s not too soon to think about,” he added, “but I still think that’s a bit farther out until I see how the initial market settles out.”

In this context Pace noted his primary focus was in helping Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin get their space tourism businesses off the ground. Virgin Galactic has been making noises that it wants to do point-to-point transportation as well. His skepticism of this is actually quite realistic, since Virgin Galactic has not even completed its first commercial tourism flight and its rocket and spacecraft are underpowered as well.

If Pace’s skepticism is however aimed at SpaceX’s Starship plans to do point-to-point transportation, he is exhibiting a typical Washington bureaucrat’s timidity about new technology.

Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic has gotten a contract from NASA to train private astronauts. To my mind this is NASA’s attempt to keep this company above water, as it certainly isn’t the most qualified to do this kind of training. If I wanted training for going on a private space mission, SpaceX and Boeing would be better places to get that preparation.

The deal however has done wonders for Virgin Galactic’s stock, causing it to rise almost 16% yesterday following the announcement of this contract. Great timing for Richard Branson, who by coincidence just happens to be trying to sell some of his stock at this moment.

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China’s Long March 3B launches GPS-type satellite

The new colonial movement: China today used its Long March 3B rocket to launch the last satellite needed to complete its GPS-type constellation.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

13 China
9 SpaceX
7 Russia
3 ULA

The U.S. still leads China 15 to 13 in the national rankings.

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The blind continuing panic over COVID-19

U.S. daily Wuhan flu deaths

With totalitarian Democratically-controlled cities and states across the nation now imposing odious rules requiring the wearing of masks at all times, based entirely on emotion and symbolism with absolutely no reliance on the actual science that says masks are not only useless against a virus like COVID-19, they could be medically harmful to the user, I think it is time to do a little science journalism and illustrate again the absurdity of this situation.

First, the Wuhan flu epidemic is clearly ending, as shown by the graph above. This graph, based on numbers from this site, shows that the disease reached its peak sometime near the start of May. Since then its threat has been declining steadily, until it reached today the lowest number of deaths since March, only 285.

Right now the chances of you catching COVID-19 and dying from it are practically nil, even if you live in densely populated states like New York, where only 14 people died yesterday from the virus.

Second, as predicted by some scientists, the lockdowns, social distancing, and silly symbolic mask use did nothing to stretch out the epidemic or flatten the curve. These scientists, ignored by politicians and the mainstream press, had predicted it would be a seasonal flu, dying out come summer, and that it would last from six to eight weeks, as it has done in every country where it has arrived, regardless of any government action.

That is exactly what the Wuhan flu has done. After eight weeks it is now fading away, like all such seasonal diseases.

Third, the numbers on this graph are certainly inflated. The total deaths in the U.S. assigned to the Wuhan flu as of today is just over 114,000. Based on numerous reports (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), we can estimate that this number is inflated from 25% o 50%.

The untrustworthiness of these numbers is further illustrated by graph below, outlining the number of Wuhan flu deaths in New York alone.
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Truth, Justice, and the American Way

The words spoken during the opening credits of a 1950s children’s television show:

Faster than a speeding bullet.
More powerful than a locomotive.
Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Look up in the sky!
It’s a bird.
It’s a plane.
It’s Superman!

Yes, it’s Superman, strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.

Superman, who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American Way.

That television show was obviously Superman, starring George Reeves, and these opening words expressed the mythology and basic ideals by which this most popular of all comic-book super-heroes lived.

I grew up with those words. They had been bequeathed to me by the American generation that had fought and won World War II against the genocidal Nazis, and expressed the fundamental ideals of that generation.

Much of the meaning of these fundamental ideals is outright and clear.

Truth means you always strive to be honest, and when you make a mistake you admit to it, without flinching. Or as Superman says quite clearly in the 1978 film, “I never lie,” saying this immediately after repeating that he is here “to fight for truth, justice, and the American way.”

Justice means you strive to administer the rules fairly so that the innocent are protected and the guilty are punished properly. It also means that you treat others justly, with respect and kindness, while defiantly standing up to those who would do the weak harm.

The phrase “the American Way” however is more puzzling. As a child I accepted it, but I have spent a lifetime as a historian and reader trying to understand it on a more fundamental level. The writers in the 1950s who gave that task to Superman knew what it meant, and assumed everyone else did. By the 1950s and 1960s they however no longer did a good job of teaching its meaning to my sixties generation, and many from my time grew up not understanding it.

I think I finally hit upon its basic meaning in writing Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8. As I said in trying to explain why the astronauts on that mission choose to read the first twelve verses of the Old Testament on Christmas Eve while orbiting the Moon,
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