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.
 

Images taken during OSIRIS-REx sample grab on Bennu

Below is an embed of a short eight second video of OSIRIS-REx’s sample grab yesterday from the surface of Bennu, created from 82 images, and covering at high speed the five minutes of approach, contact, and retreat. If you set the speed rate at 0.25, you can get a better view of the whole sequence of events.

From the science team’s press release,

The spacecraft’s sampling arm – called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) – is visible in the lower part of the frame. The round head at the end of TAGSAM is the only part of OSIRIS-REx that contacted the surface during the sample collection event. In the middle of the image sequence, the sampling head positions itself to contact the asteroid’s surface head-on. Shortly after, the sampling head impacts site Nightingale and penetrates Bennu’s regolith. Upon initial contact, the TAGSAM head appears to crush some of the porous rocks underneath it. One second later, the spacecraft fires a nitrogen gas bottle, which mobilizes a substantial amount of the sample site’s material. Preliminary data show the spacecraft spent approximately 5 of the 6 seconds of contact collecting surface material, and the majority of sample collection occurred within the first 3 seconds.

The TAGSAM is designed to catch the agitated surface material, and the mission team will assess the amount of material collected through various spacecraft activities. After touchdown, the spacecraft fired its thrusters to back away from Bennu. As expected, this maneuver also disturbed the Nightingale site, and loose debris is visible near the end of the image sequence. Preliminary telemetry shows the spacecraft remains in good health. The spacecraft was traveling at 0.2 mph (10 cm/sec) when it contacted sample site Nightingale and then backed away at 0.9 mph (40 cm/sec). [emphasis mine]

At the moment it appears they don’t yet know how much sample they have gotten, but they are very optimistic that they have gotten enough, based on the performance above. On October 24th, when they have gotten far enough away from the asteroid, they give the spacecraft a spin to measure its present mass and compare that to a spin done prior to the sample grab. The difference will tell them how much sample they have captured.

They will also be looking at images of TAGSAM over the next few days, which will also indicate what’s been captured.

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


 

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The dying COVID-19 epidemic

Daily mortality from COVID-19 in the United States

Daily mortality and number of cases of COVID-19 in California

The time has come for another update on the state of the COVID-19 epidemic in the United States, mostly because the evidence, as shown in the updated graphs to the right, continues to tell us that the epidemic is dying off, both in its deadliness and in its spread, despite what some ignorant and power-hungry politicians from both political parties might be saying.

There is also no evidence yet of a second wave of the virus, something that these same fear-mongering politicians have been touting. Both the national graph to the right as well as the graph showing California’s numbers below show this.

There is, however, ample evidence that the number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. has been corrupted in order to inflate the totals. CDC data shows almost no flu deaths in 2020, something that is simply not credible. More likely the totals of COVID-19 deaths are a combination of COVID-19 and flu deaths, with all the deaths assigned to the coronavirus because hospitals get more government money by doing so.

This combination suggests that all told this epidemic is essentially comparable to a normal flu season. The 2020 winter season was simply one in which we were hit with two respiratory diseases, one old and one new, and the two combined to make that season worse than normal.

To confirm what I have just written however I will let my new GP doctor speak for me. Dr. Robert Lending is certified in both internal medicine and clinical lipidology. Two years ago he became disgusted with the way his practice was evolving due to Obamacare and insurance requirements, both of which were forcing him to see an endless string of patients quickly, with no time to spend with each in order to make sure their needs were covered properly. As noted at his webpage,

In 2018, Dr. Lending decided to return to his roots of delivering personalized, one-on-one health care in a more intimate professional setting. He has partnered with Cypress Concierge Medicine and is now one of a limited number of physicians in the region offering membership-based concierge medicine to patients. This provides more time, attention, and VIP service than patients would experience at your average Internal Medicine provider.

As a result, when I called his office to find out if he would consider my own legitimate medical issues that strongly preclude mask use, he very quickly was willing to listen and work with me. For such concierge service you need to pay an annual retainer, which is not cheap, but based on my experience in the past month, it is well worth every penny. For the first time in more than a decade I actually feel I have a real doctor again, who will spend the time to oversee my medical issues and make sure they are taken care of. For example, I can call him anytime, and he answers the phone. With most modern doctors you never get to talk to them directly, except in your short visits. Instead you have to go through go-betweens, who act to protect the doctor rather than treat the patient.

One of Lending’s services is a periodic email he personally writes and sends to his patients, in which he reviews the most recent medical news of the day. Obviously, for the past six months these updates have been focused mostly on the coronavirus, from the perspective of a doctor in the field. I think what he wrote in yesterday’s email about COVID-19 is most pertinent:
» Read more

Penguin highway

An evening pause: Worth watching more than once, if only to escape the insanity of our time.

I can’t help wondering however why they all are walking on this route, and what is it they stop to look at to the right at one point? And why is one crawling on its belly?

Hat tip Jim Mallamace.

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

Sample grab appears to be a success at Bennu

OSIRIS-REx has apparently successfully touched the surface of Bennu, grabbed a sample, and backed away without damage.

The link takes you to my embed of NASA’s live stream, which is mostly pr garbage. However, it is providing live updates from the mission control team, as it happens. Most of time, the NASA people running their pr effort even have the sense to shut up when such updates come it.

Right now we do not know how much of a sample was obtained. It will take some analysis of data and images to find out. They will know by the time of tomorrow’s press conference at 5 pm (Eastern).

Weird crater on Moon

Strange Ryder Crater on the Moon
Click for full image.

The photo to the right, released today by the science team of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), takes a overhead view of the unusual crater dubbed Ryder (named after lunar scientist Graham Ryder).

The crater is located on the Moon’s far side, on the edge of the South Pole-Aitken Basin, the Moon’s largest and possibly oldest impact basin. What makes Ryder Crater intriguing is its strange shape, as well as its interior north-south interior ridge.

This crater was featured previously in 2012 in a spectacular oblique image looking east across the crater. Then, the scientists theorized its strange shape was caused by two factors, first that the impact was oblique, and second that it occurred on a steep slope.

Today’s release adds another factor that might explain the interior ridge. The context map below makes that explanation obvious.
» Read more

Leaving Earth cover

In 2019 I obtained from my former publisher the last 30 copies of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. I sold about half of these, and with only a handful left in stock I have raised 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, 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.

 

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

Today’s OSIRIS-REx sample grab from Bennu

Nightingale landing site on Bennu
The Nightingale landing site on Bennu, with
OSIRIS-REx superimposed. Click for full image.

Spaceflight Now today published a nicely detailed article summarizing the entire OSIRIS-REx mission to the asteroid Bennu, in anticipation of today’s attempt to grab a sample from that asteroid’s surface.

If you want to understand what is happening today, this article does a nice job of outlining everything.

I have embedded the live stream of the sample grab below the fold. It begins at 5 pm (Eastern) today. Be warned that it will show very little of the actual event, as the spacecraft will not be sending much data back to Earth today, during these operations. All we will really find out is if the grab happened, or was aborted to avoid risks, or occurred but the spacecraft was impacted by flying material during the grab. (Let us hope that this last option does not occur.)

The first images and data will not arrive until tomorrow, to be released during a press conference scheduled for 5 pm (Eastern).
» Read more

The face on Jupiter

The face on Jupiter!

Citizen scientist Gerald Eichstädt has created a two-image blink animation from Juno images of Jupiter that shows the changes in the two oppositely rotating storm vortices, shown on the right. As he notes.

Two vortices or eddies, one cyclonic, the other one anticyclonic, can propell themselves mutually and slowly within the overall context they are embedded in.

…The rotation of the two vortices is perceptible in the image sequence taken within nine minutes. The cyclonic eddy is located at the left, the anticyclonic one at the right. The motion of the vortex pair, however, is too slow to be resolved. But the morphology of the cloud tops points towards a relative upward motion in this rendition.

That the two storms also invoke face I am sure also had something to do with his decision to showcase this data. Unlike the face on Mars, this face is real, though relatively temporary. It will eventually break apart as Jupiter’s storms evolve.

The animation can be seen at the link.

China outlines its updated space ambitions for the 2020s

The new colonial movement: China this week outlined some of its space ambitions for the 2020s, updating its planned lunar unmanned program as well as developments in its rocket industry.

For the Moon they plan the following:

Chang’e 6, a backup mission for this year’s sample-return launch, is scheduled to head to the moon in 2023 or 2024; Chang’e 7 is planned to launch around 2024 with the dual aims of landing on the south pole of the moon and closely studying the region from orbit. An eighth mission is also in the works for later this decade.

As for their rocket industry, CASIC, the government entity that supervises China’s commercial space activities (including a number of private companies operating independently but supervised closely by it) announced plans for a reusable two-stage reusable spaceplane, a new constellation of satellites, and a number of new quick-launch solid rockets aimed at doubling their launch rate.

Leak on ISS still leaking even after being temporarily sealed with tape

Even though Russian astronauts have now patched with Kapton tape the 1-inch crack where they thought the leak in the Zvezda module on ISS was located, the loss of air has continued, and even increased.

The pressure in the Zvezda module of the International Space Station (ISS) keeps lowering, although the fissure was patched with Kapton tape, and even faster than before the fix, the crew told the ground control on Tuesday, as broadcast by NASA.

They are going to add more tape to the patch and see if this seals the leak.

Meanwhile, there has been little discussion about the nature of this 1-inch crack. Was it caused by a micrometeorite, or is it a stress fracture? And where exactly is it, and does that location help explain it?

Inquiring minds need to know!

SpaceX completes static fire test on Starship prototype #8

Capitalism in space: SpaceX last night successfully completed the static fire test on its eighth Starship prototype, for the first time firing three Raptor engines simultanously.

Video of the test, cued to just before ignition, is embedded below the fold.

The company will now install the nosecone on the prototype, repeat this static fire test again in about a week, and then prepare it for its first flight, an expected 50,000 foot hop. I expect that hop to occur in early to mid-November, about the same time the next manned Dragon flight will occur.

» Read more

The edge of Martian chaos

Overview map of end of Kasei Valles

For today’s cool image, we are going to start from afar and zoom in, because I think that might be the best way to gain at least a rudimentary understanding of the strange geology visible at this one particular Martian location.

The first image, to the right, is the overview map. The red cross indicates our target, a chaotic canyon that flows into the larger Kasai Valles, one of Mars’ largest and longest canyons and possibly only exceeded in size by Valles Marineris. This part of Kasai is near its end, where it drains out into the vast northern lowland plains of Mars.

The second image, below, comes from the wide angle camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).
» Read more

The big lie of “systematic racism” in America

In June, shortly after George Floyd met his tragic death while in the hands of arresting police officers, former vice president and Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden was asked by a television reporter, “Do you believe there is systemic racism in law enforcement?” Biden responded as follows:

“Absolutely,” Biden responded. “But it’s not just in law enforcement, it’s across the board. It’s in housing, it’s in education, and it’s in everything we do. It’s real. It’s genuine. It’s serious.”

The absurdity of Biden’s response is immeasurable. What he says here is a lie, a lie so absurd it is both astonishing and horrifying that anyone believes it. There has been no systematic racism in America for generations, and anyone who thinks so is either lying to themselves, or trying to spread lies to others.

The biggest irony is that those who apparently believe this lie the most, our younger college-aged generation, have grown up in a society where for decades blacks with talent and determination have had no problem achieving success in all sorts of business and fields, with some even becoming the dominate figure in their field. (Think of Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey as only two examples.) They can also marry anyone they want, can go anywhere they want, and achieve anything they want. Nothing stops them but their own limitations.
» Read more

Russian astronauts repair oxygen regeneration unit

Russian astronauts on ISS have successfully repaired the oxygen regeneration unit on the Zvezda module.

From the TASS article was this additional information:

The Elektron-VM oxygen supply system developed by Russia’s Research and Design Institute of Chemical Machine-Building (NIIChimMash) has been operational aboard the space station since its creation. The system can generate from 25 to 160 liters of oxygen per hour and additionally from 50 to 320 liters of hydrogen per hour. In April 2010, it took the ISS crew several days to fix the broken system.

No word yet on any new information on the “fracture” that is causing the slow leak.

SpaceX launches another 60 Starlink satellites

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully launched another 60 Starlink satellites, raising the constellation to more than 800 satellites.

The first stage successfully landed, for the sixth time, on a drone ship. The company also recovered both fairings, which were making their third flight. With one fairing’s recovery however the net broke on the ship, which might have damaged it this time.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

26 China
17 SpaceX
11 Russia
4 ULA
4 Europe (Arianespace)

The U.S. had regained the lead over China, 27 to 26, in the national rankings.

Another high altitude balloon company enters the space tourism market

Capitalism in space: Another high altitude balloon company, this time from Spain, is now vying for the space tourism market.

EOS-X Space, a Spanish startup, wants to take 10,000 people to the frontier of space within the next 10 years. With EOS-X Space, the journeys won’t be in rockets or ultrasonic planes. They’ll instead take place in a pressurized capsule propelled by a balloon that will rise to an altitude of up to 40 kilometers, or nearly 25 miles.

This means space tourists won’t have to wear a suit for the duration of the trip, nor will they have to do any physical preparation. Depending on the weather, each trip is set to last four or five hours.

They are targeting the same market as the American company Space Perspectives, which hopes to begin flying tourists on its stratospheric balloon, dubbed Neptune, by ’24.

Spaceport America in New Mexico fires its head

The board of Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic’s launchsite for its SpaceShipTwo suborbital manned spacecraft, yesterday fired its long time Executive Directory Dan Hicks, at the same time governor of New Mexico removed one board member.

Hicks, the spaceport’s CEO since 2016, has been on administrative leave since June while allegations of mismanagement and abuse of authority have been under investigation by the New Mexico State Auditor and the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, the public body governing the spaceport.

The McHard Accounting Consulting firm, a forensic accounting firm based in Albuquerque, conducted an investigation which was then referred to the state auditor. Keyes informed a state legislative committee this summer the allegations included potential criminal activity.

Spaceport American had been made gigantic promises by Richard Branson back in the mid-2000s, including hundreds of tourist flights per year on SpaceShipTwo, all of which would bring lots of cash to the spaceport and to New Mexico. All came to naught. I suspect those failed promises are somehow connected to the accusations here.

Delta 4 Heavy launch now delayed indefinitely due to launchpad issues

ULA has now delayed indefinitely the launch of a military reconnaissance satellite using its Delta 4 Heavy rocket because of ongoing issues in the swing arms on the launch tower.

According to ULA’s CEO, Tory Bruno:

..ULA was “working through an issue with pad hydraulics” associated with the swing arm retraction system at the Delta 4 launch pad. Three swing arms feeding propellants and conditioned air to the rocket and its satellite payload are designed to retract as the Delta 4-Heavy lifts off.

“Fixing is always easy,” Bruno tweeted. “Making sure something stays fixed takes more work and lots of discipline.”

This launch has been delayed numerous times in the past two months, almost always because of a variety of different problems, most related to the launchpad, with two scrubs occurring as launch aborts at launch. As the article at the link correctly notes,

The repeated problems with different parts of the Delta 4-Heavy’s launch pad have raised questions about aging infrastructure at pad 37B, which was originally built to support Saturn rocket launches in the 1960s, then mothballed until Boeing took over the facility in the 1990s for the Delta 4 program.

Boeing built the towering mobile gantry for the Delta 4 rocket, along with a then-new fixed umbilical tower with huge swing arms designed to pull away from the launcher as it climbs away from the pad.

The age of the launchpad, combined with the expensive complexity of the Delta 4 Heavy that results in very few launches spread over many years, cannot result in reliable operations.

Joshua Wong – The New Politics

An evening pause: Hat tip Jim Mallamace, who accurately describes this as “a mildly amusing short sci-fi film.”

My thought in watching this short film is that I have been watching and reading sci-fi movies and books about a oppressive future imposed by technology for almost sixty years. All were written as warnings of a future to avoid. Instead, it appears we have taken them all as instruction manuals.

Modern science: Celebrating a “high priestess” instead of data

The corruption of modern science and our intellectual class was well illustrated today by the following headline and article in the peer review journal Science:

Act now, wait for perfect evidence later, says ‘high priestess’ of U.K. COVID-19 masking campaign

From the article’s lead:

In May, when several prominent U.K. scientists pushed back against a Royal Society report recommending face masks to help control the spread of COVID-19, Trisha Greenhalgh was furious. The scientists argued there was insufficient support in the scientific literature for the efficacy of masks, and the U.K. government, following their lead, declined to mandate masks for the general public.

“The search for perfect evidence may be the enemy of good policy,” Greenhalgh, a physician and expert in health care delivery at the University of Oxford, fumed in the Boston Review. “As with parachutes for jumping out of airplanes, it is time to act without waiting for randomized controlled trial evidence.” [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words have been the typical argument of the global warming crowd for decades. “We can’t wait for evidence! We need to act now before it’s too late!”

Moreover, she — along with the writer of this Science article — also copies another global warming dishonest tactic, posing a false argument by claiming that the opposing scientists requried a “randomized controlled trial” to demonstrate the usefulness of masks. This is an absurd misstatement, as it ignores decades of research that already exists and was referenced by those opposing scientists, that showed that mandating widespread mask use was generally a bad idea, and would accomplish nothing good.
» Read more

Chang’e-4 and Yutu-2 awake for 23rd lunar day on far side of the Moon

The new colonial movement: China’s Chang’e-4 lander and Yutu-2 rover have both been reactivated for their 23rd lunar day on far side of the Moon.

Yutu 2 is set to continue its journey northwest from the landing site and will target a roughly 12-inch (30 centimeters) rock on the rim of a nearby crater for analysis with a spectrometer. The rover has used that instrument to analyze a range of specimens in Von Kármán crater, notably causing a stir when it discovered an impact melt breccia initially described as “gel-like.”

It is the hope of the Chinese scientists that this rock will be ejected material from that crater and will have come from the lunar interior.

Also, though you need to read Chinese to understand how to access it, the project has released to the public another batch of data from both spacecraft.

ArianeGroup completes testing of all three Ariane 6 rocket engines

Capitalism in space: ArianeGroup, the joint private partnership that is building Europe’s new Ariane 6 rocket, has successfully completed all testing of the three different engines the rocket will use.

The first stage has a core engine with side strap-on solid rocket motors, while the upper stage has a different engine entirely. All three have now passed qualification tests, allowing full design and construction of the rocket itself.

Old launch tower burns down at Firefliy launchpad at Vandenberg

Capitalism in space: Apparently workers dismantling the old launch tower at Firefliy’s new launchpad at Vandenberg started a fire that burned the tower down.

A photo showing the former Delta II rocket’s Space Launch Complex-2 facility with flames and a huge column of black smoke rising from the distinctive blue tower began circulating on social media sites on Thursday night.

The launch site, most recently used for liftoffs of United Launch Alliance’s Delta II rockets, has been handed over to Texas-based Firefly Aerospace, which is developing a new family of rockets as an economical way to carry small- to medium-sized satellites into space.

The firm has a long-term lease to use the site with hopes of saving money by using some of the existing facilities. Firefly has plans to dismantle the historic tower, and a contractor armed with welding equipment reportedly sparked the blaze Thursday.

No word yet on whether this fire will delay Firefly’s planned first launch in the spring.

Leak on ISS traced to “fracture”

Not good news: According the Russian news source TASS, Russian astronauts have pinpointed the location of the slow leak on ISS to ” a fracture in the intersection compartment of the Russian Zvezda module.”

The astronaut also called it a “scratch,” which means the fracture is not yet confirmed. They will do more testing to find out if this is the leak source in the coming days.

If it is a fracture, the ramifications could be very serious. It appears the “intersection compartment” is the area where the aft docking port is located, which is also the area where many Progress freighters have docked in the twenty years since Zvezda was launched. Thus, this could be a stress fracture that can only get bigger with time. Its location might also preclude further dockings at this port, limiting arrivals of future Progress cargo ships.

Fun fact: They pinpointed this location using a floating tea bag.

The tea bag’s sway in zero gravity conditions towards the air leak overboard the space station was registered by cameras, the cosmonaut said. “We believe that we have really identified the probable leakage area. We have distributed a tea bag [in the Zvezda module] before closing the transfer chamber,” Ivanishin said.

The tea bag’s movement was recorded, the Russian cosmonaut said.

Update on InSight’s mole: It is now underground

InSight's mole now completely buried
Click for full image.

An update today on the mole digging tool on the Mars lander InSight has revealed that the mole appears to finally be completely buried, though it remains unclear whether its most recent digging effort had succeeded in digging downward.

We found that during the first two rounds of hammering and during the first half of the third round of hammering, the scoop went further into the sand. Since the Mole was hidden under the scoop, the penetration of the probe itself could not be observed directly.

During the hammering, the flat tether running to the probe moved considerably, but these could only be clearly identified as forward movements during the hammering on 22 August. Overall, we could estimate from the movements of the scoop that the Mole moved at most one centimetre further into the ground. It was interesting to observe that during the second half of the round of 250 hammer blows on 19 September, the scoop did not go any further, probably because it encountered duricrust. This was certainly a desired outcome, as it allowed a second Free Mole Test to be conducted. In fact, the probe continued to move according to the movements of the tether, but it could not be clearly determined that these movements brought the Mole deeper into the ground.

The image shows InSight’s arm above the filled hole, with the mole’s flat tether coming out of the ground.

They are now going to fill the hole more, and then press down with the scoop during later drilling efforts to see if this allows the mole to proceed downward. If it fails I’m not sure if there is anything else they will be able to do to get the mole to work.

Threatened collision between two big pieces of space junk does not happen

Follow-up observations of the two big pieces of space junk, a Soviet-era defunct satellite and a Chinese upper stage, that had a high chance of colliding yesterday has confirmed that no collision occurred.

Shortly after the time of probable collision, the CZ-4C stage passed over the Kiwi Space radar tracking station in New Zealand. According to LeoLabs, “Shortly after [time of probable collision], we will have a direct pass of CZ-4C R/B over our Kiwi Space Radar in New Zealand. We have scheduled a search mode scan during this time to ensure we only see two objects as expected and hopefully confirm that no new debris is detected.”

This is exactly what happened, with the only observed object being the single CZ-4C stage — indicating no collision had occurred.

It is fortunate nothing happened. Though the collision point was about 360 miles higher than the orbit of ISS, the debris from a collision would have been flung in all directions, some of which might have crossed the space station’s path.

Study: Almost impossible to contract COVID-19 on an airplane

New research into the air filtration systems on commercial passenger jets has found that it is almost impossible to contract COVID-19 while on an airplane.

A new military-led study unveiled Thursday shows there is a low risk for passengers traveling aboard large commercial aircraft to contract an airborne virus such as COVID-19 — and it doesn’t matter where they sit on the airplane.

Researchers concluded that because of sophisticated air particle filtration and ventilation systems on board the Boeing 767-300 and 777-200 aircraft — the planes tested for the study — airborne particles within the cabin have a very short lifespan, according to defense officials with U.S. Transportation Command, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) and Air Mobility Command, which spearheaded the study.

You can read the report [pdf] here. I especially like this quote from their conclusions:

For the 777 and 767, at 100% seating capacity transmission model calculations with a 4,000 viruses/hour shedding rate and 1,000 virus infectious dose show a minimum 54 flight hours required to produce inflight infection from aerosol transmission.

In other words, you can fly around the world more than twice on the same plane, without stopping, without any real risk of getting infected.

Need I add that the use of a mask will likely make no difference either, while probably increasing your chances of catching some disease simply because the long term use of any single mask is unsanitary and almost guarantees it will be carrying pathogens on your face where you breathe?

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