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

FAA says it will “lead” investigation into Starship #11 crash yesterday

They’re coming for you next: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today that it will “oversee” the investigation into the crash at landing yesterday by SpaceX’s eleventh Starship prototype.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which had an inspector at SpaceX’s facilities to observe the test flight, said in a statement that the FAA will oversee the company’s investigation into the “prototype mishap.” The FAA has conducted similar mishap investigations after previous Starship test flights. “The [Starship] vehicle experienced an anomaly during the landing phase of the flight resulting in loss of the vehicle,” an FAA spokesperson said. “The FAA will approve the final mishap investigation report and any corrective actions SpaceX must take before return to flight is authorized.”

The FAA noted that it will also work with SpaceX to identify reports of light debris in the area, saying that there have yet to be any reported injuries or damaged to public property.

What will really go on here is that an FAA official will observe closely as SpaceX conducts the investigation. That official might have some background in space engineering, but he or she will be completely unprepared to actually lead the investigation. Thus in the end the FAA will really only be able to rubber stamp SpaceX’s conclusions, though it might as all governments do, demand its own pound of flesh before issuing that stamp.

Up to now the FAA has tried very hard to work with the new commercial space companies, especially SpaceX, doing as little as it can to impede their progress. There are strong signs however that this might now change with the Democrats in control of the White House and Congress. If so, expect the FAA to cause SpaceX some grief during this investigation, grief that could significantly delay further test flights.

Three new German smallsat startup rocket companies vying for market share

Capitalism in space: Three new German startup companies have joined the race to grab a share in the burgeoning new cubesat/nanosat launch business, with each building their own new rockets.

The companies are dubbed Isar Aerospace, Rocket Factory, and HyImpulse..

Each is developing rockets capable of carrying between 500 and 1,500 kilos (3,300 pounds) into low Earth orbit. While that’s a fraction of the tens of thousands of kilos hauled by the Falcon 9, operated by Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., it’s enough to transport the satellites now being deployed for everything from super-fast Internet to autonomous driving.

Isar plans its first launch in ’22, HyImpulse in ’23. The target date of Rocket Factory’s first launch was not revealed.

These European companies join dozens such new smallsat rocket companies that already exist. Which will survive the shake-out that always occurs in such new industries only time will tell.

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

Last two passengers on 1st entirely private manned spaceflight revealed

Capitalism in space: The last two passengers for the first entirely private commercial manned spaceflight, dubbed Inspiration4 and paid for by businessman Jared Isaacman, were announced yesterday, along with a launch date no earlier than September 15, 2021.

Isaacman bought the mission partly to fly in space, but also to raise money for St. Judes Children’s Research Hospital. Both Isaacman and Haley Arceneaux, a former St. Judes cancer patient, will fly. Their two new crew members are both experienced in aviation or spaceflight operations, though neither is a professional astronaut with any training in that field.

[Sian] Proctor describes herself as a scientist turned artist and an “analog astronaut” where people live in environments to simulate long-duration spaceflight. She has done four analog missions including NASA’s Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) Habitat to simulate a trip to Mars. She is a pilot, scuba diver, “and loves geoexploring our world.” Born in Guam while her father was working at a NASA tracking station there during the Apollo program, she has a B.S. in environmental science, an M.S. in geology, and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction: Science Education. She was a finalist in NASA’s 2009 astronaut selection.

While a U.S. Space Camp counselor, [Chris] Sembroski conducted simulated space shuttle missions and supported STEM-based education. He served in the Air Force maintaining a fleet of Minuteman III ICBMs and served in Iraq. After leaving the Air Force in 2007, he earned a B.S. in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He now works for the aerospace industry in Seattle, although he did not specify what company.

Their spacecraft will be Resilience, the Dragon capsule that flew the first operational manned commercial crew to ISS, and is presently docked to the station. For the Inspiration4 flight however SpaceX is going to install a large domed window at the capsule’s nose, replacing the docking port that will not be needed.

China’s Long March 4C launches Earth observation satellite

China today used its Long March 4C rocket to successfully place another Earth observation satellite into orbit.

The article at the link also gives a short update on the status of China’s space station, with its first module Tianhe-1 presently scheduled for launch on April 29th, using their biggest rocket, the Long March 5B.

The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

9 SpaceX
7 China
5 Russia
2 Rocket Lab

The U.S. still leads China 13 to 7 in the national rankings.

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.
Readers!
 

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Al-Amal reaches science orbit

Cerberus Fossae, as seen by Al-Amal
Click for full image.

Elysium Mons and Cereberus Fossae

The new colonial movement: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Al-Amal (Hope) Mars Orbiter has now reached its science orbit, and will begin its two years of observations (one full Martian year) of the Martian atmosphere on April 14th.

The photo to the right, cropped to post here, is part of a much larger image covering a good portion of the 600-mile-long fissures dubbed Cerberus Fossae and located Elysium Planitia, the vast lava plains located between the giant volcanoes Elysium and Olympus Mons, where most of the Martian quakes have so-far been detected by InSight. The context map below provides a wider context (the red boxes indicating high resolution Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter images). I think the area covered by this section of Al-Amal’s picture is near the western end of Cerberus Fossae.

The image was posted today in the image gallery for Al-Amal. Unfortunately there is no separate webpage for this particular post, so that link will take a long time to load, as apparently all the images there are large, not thumbnails. From their text:

On 15 March 2021, the Emirates eXploration Imager (EXI) captured a monochromatic image of the Cerberus Fossae, a fracture system that stretches for more than 1,000 km across the Martian surface, with a spatial scale of approximately 180 meters/pixel. The Emirates Mars Mission transitioned from the capture orbit to its science orbit with the successful completion of a 510-second burn of its thrusters. The Hope Probe is now in its final orbit of Mars and ready for its two-year science data gathering – the core aim of the mission. The science phase will commence on 14 April 2021.

The goal of Al-Amal is to study the atmosphere. This camera will provide wide shots, mostly for the purpose of observing the coming and going of cloud features. Nonetheless, this is a nice wide view of Mars.

Today’s blacklisted Americans: Conservative news organizations, as proposed by Columbia journalism professor

The cancelled Bill of Rights
What this academic wants cancelled.

They’re coming for you next: In complete ignorance of the free speech’s most basic principle — not to give the government or any ruling body veto powers over anyone’s speech — the head of the digital journalism center at Columbia University, Emily Bell, recently demanded exactly that, calling for the government and news media to tighten its rules to restrict speech at conservative news organizations.

Bell was testifying at a House hearing engineered by Democrats to encourage such censorship.

Bell said that the unprecedented events of 2020 and 2021 coincided with “widespread and often politized information” on “conservative cable news channels” and that local reporters need to “learn new cadence.” She added that the country needs to “rethink what public broadcasting is in the digital age” and “apply some pressure to the platform companies to allow much greater auditing.”

While she had couched her words carefully, there was no mistaking her meaning. She wants the government, the media, and the big social media platforms to work together to silence any conservative opinions she dislikes.

I would give her the benefit of the doubt and consider her merely sincere and naive, someone who simply wants to stop misinformation in the press, except that the only misinformation she identifies is connected with conservatives and conservative protests. Somehow the bad reporting in connection with the rioting by Antifa and Black Lives Matter, designed to hid their violent and rebellious nature, seemed perfectly okay with her. Nor was she apparently bothered by the effort of the mainstream press and the big tech companies like Twitter and Facebook to censor all mentions of corruption by Biden and his son Hunter, prior to the election.

To put it bluntly, Bell is a typical leftist academic, partisan to her bones and eager to smash her boot into the face of anyone with whom she disagrees. And her goal is to smash that boot into the face of all conservatives, now and forever.

NASA in contact with China to get the orbital data of its Tianwen-1 Mars Orbiter

Though by law NASA and the scientists cannot exchange data or communications with China due to security concerns, NASA and Chinese officials did exchange communications recently in order to coordinate the orbits of their orbiters presently circling Mars.

Jurczyk noted that NASA’s knowledge of China’s space program is largely limited to publicly available information because of restrictions placed by federal law on its interactions with Chinese organizations. Those restrictions do allow NASA to engage with China if approved by Congress. “Most recently, we had an exchange with them on them providing their orbital data, their ephemeris data, for their Tianwen-1 Mars orbiting mission, so we could do conjunction analysis around Mars with the orbiters,” he said.

In a brief statement to SpaceNews late March 29, NASA confirmed it exchanged information with the China National Space Administration (CNSA), as well as other space agencies that operate spacecraft at Mars. “To assure the safety of our respective missions, NASA is coordinating with the UAE, European Space Agency, Indian Space Research Organisation and the China National Space Administration, all of which have spacecraft in orbit around Mars, to exchange information on our respective Mars missions to ensure the safety of our respective spacecraft,” the agency said. “This limited exchange of information is consistent with customary good practices used to ensure effective communication among satellite operators and spacecraft safety in orbit.”

Such limited communications are actually permitted under the law that Congress passed, as long as they do not involve any exchange of technical information. There has been a push, however, in the planetary community for years to increase direct communications with China, allowing the transfer of all kinds of information, both scientific and technical. Until the law gets changed none of this should happen.

Of course, what matters laws these days? I will not be surprised if the Biden administration, rather than demanding a change in the law, instead begins expanded communications between NASA and China, in complete and utter contempt for the law, with no one objecting.

Biden administration to form its own National Space Council

The Biden administration has announced that it will continue the National Space Council, restarted during the Trump administration.

The new council will of course be made up entirely of Biden appointees, just as the Trump council was made up of Trump appointees, and will like the Trump council merely be a loudspeaker for space policies that the Biden administration wants established. There will be little continuation of policy. In fact, the new council, made up of Democrat politicians, will likely work to end the policies created during the Trump administration.

My cynicism here of the Biden administration should not be construed as support for the council under Trump. After watching the first session of the council under Trump I concluded it was nothing more than a vehicle for Trump propaganda, and therefore not worth getting much attention.

Congress taking aim at SpaceX and Starship testing

They’re coming for you next: The Democratic Party leaders on the House committee that normally does not overseer the FAA’s commercial space office have now raised their concerns about the recent test flights of SpaceX’s new rocket, Starship, in particular demanding an investigation into the flight of prototype #8, which the FAA claims had occurred despite one FAA issue.

The latest version of SpaceX’s FAA launch license for the Starship suborbital test flight program, issued March 12, allows those test flights to take place “only when an FAA Safety Inspector is present at SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch and landing site.”

The change stemmed from an investigation into SpaceX’s violation of that launch license during the SN8 test flight in December. SpaceX proceeded with the flight despite the FAA determining that the flight profile exceeded the maximum allowed risk to the uninvolved public for “far field blast overpressure” in the event of an explosion. While the SN8 vehicle exploded upon landing, there were no reports of damage outside of the SpaceX test site.

FAA directed SpaceX to investigate the incident, delaying the flight of the next Starship prototype, SN9. That investigation included “a comprehensive review of the company’s safety culture, operational decision-making and process discipline,” the FAA said in a Feb. 2 statement.

The FAA cleared SpaceX to proceed with launches, with SN9 and SN10 launching and landing — and both exploding upon or shortly after landing — on Feb. 2 and March 3, respectively. Neither caused any damage outside of the SpaceX test site.

The FAA’s response to SpaceX’s launch license violation, including the lack of any penalties beyond the investigation, prompted criticism from two key members of Congress. In a March 25 letter to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) sought to “register our concerns” with the incident. DeFazio is chair of the House Transportation Committee and Larsen the chair of its aviation subcommittee.

Much of these claims about the flight of prototype #8 however only appeared to become a significant concern after the Biden administration and the Democrats took power in January. Prior to that the FAA did not seem very troubled by that flight. In fact, the so called risk, “far field blast overpressure,” seems very contrived, especially since we have now had four Starship crashes on its landing pad, with no evident damage to even SpaceX’s own equipment nearby. Prior to January 20th the FAA was untroubled. After January 20th it suddenly became a deadly issue requiring stricter supervision by the government, though what that FAA inspector on sight can do or even know about the launch is baffling.

What these Democrats really don’t like is that someone is freely accomplishing something without their supervision or control. Like mobsters looking to exhort money, they are essentially telling SpaceX, “Nice business you got here. Sure would be a shame if something happened to it.”

With today’s fourth Starship crash, expect the Demorats in Congress now to swarm like flies over manure, all aimed at shutting down the most innovative new American space company in decades.

Starship prototype #11 crashes at landing

Capitalism in space: The fourth prototype of Starship to fly, #11, experienced another failure at landing early this morning, crashing onto its launchpad.

Below is SpaceX’s live feed, cued to begin at T-10 seconds. The video cuts out at T+5:49, just before landing. I have reviewed other live feeds and all that I can find so far were obscured by the cloudy conditions at landing.

Musk later tweeted the following:

‘At least the crater is in the right place!”

“Looks like engine 2 had issues on ascent & didn’t reach operating chamber pressure during landing burn, but, in theory, it wasn’t needed. Something significant happened shortly after landing burn start. Should know what it was once we can examine the bits later today.”

The next Starship prototype will be #15 (numbers 12-14 pulled when they decided to redesign based on the earlier flights).

Genesis – Los Endos

An evening pause: Performed live 1987. The piece however begins with a spectacular six minute drum duet performed by Phil Collins & Chester Thompson. The level of musical communication going on between these two drummers as they play is literally impossible for a non-musician to conceive.

Hat tip Chris McLaughlin.

Martian glaciers flowing off interior walls of Renaudot Crater

Overview map

Cool image time! In the March 1st image release from the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) were two pictures covering sections of the interior rim of 40-mile-wide Renaudot Crater, located in the northern lowland plains of Mars north of the region I dub Mars’ glacier country.

The map to the right provides the context. The two red boxes in Renaudot Crater show the location of the two images below, with the first being the one to the left. Located at about 42 degrees north latitude, we should expect to see evidence of ice and glacial features here, and that is exactly what both photos show.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted Americans: California’s ethnic studies uses Nazi language to demonize Jews

They’re coming for you next: The new California ethnic studies program that is expected to be imposed on all the state’s classrooms is in fact based entirely on critical race theory (CRT) that makes whites the devil and all other minorities its victims, except Jews, who are targeted for special condemnation using language reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

Because of outrage over the bigoted nature of the earlier versions, two revisions have been offered, both of which really changed nothing of substance. The last version however added the following:

Two lessons have been offered about Jews. One, following crude CRT dogma, teaches that Mizrahi Jews coming to the United States from Arab lands were mistreated by “white” Ashkenazim. The other suggests that Jews of European descent have white privilege.

The Jewish Journal points out that Jews are the only group in the curriculum for whom the term “privilege” is used. And this privilege is not earned by way of talent, or educational and professional attainment, but rather trickery. The ESMC, echoing Nazi propaganda about Jews as impostors and appropriators hiding in plain sight, points out that American Jews often change their names (“this practice of name-changing continues to the present day”) to change their rank in the social hierarchy.

The historical reality of repeated genocidal attacks on Jews because of their perceived or imagined privilege is not offered as counterpoint, because ethnic studies teachers assume the Holocaust is taught in world history class. But next year in San Mateo County, world history will be replaced by ethnic studies.[emphasis in original]

There is a lot more in the article at the link. Overall it outlines the racist, white- and Jew-hating nature of critical race theory, about to be imposed on all students in California’s public school system, even as that system removes any teaching about world history and the Nazi genocide of millions of Jews.

Rick, stating the truth in Casablanca
Click for video.

Note that while this program is being created by the bigoted idiots in the state’s various ethnic studies programs, it was mandated by the state’s Democratically-controlled legislature and signed into law by the previous Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, and later endorsed by the present Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom.

If you live in California, you voted for this, either from apathy, ignorance, or maybe even your own bigoted motives. And while one would expect Californians to be horrified and ashamed by this, I fully expect more apathy and ignorance, even as the bigots gain more power.

As I say, they’re coming for you next. And I fear that few decent people are doing anything to stop these thugs.

More data: Lockdowns did nothing to slow COVID

It was always about power: A review of 87 regions worldwide has now found that the lockdowns imposed in panic in the past year did nothing to slow COVID, while contributing massively to economic devastation and increased mortality associated directly to that devastation.

Both a restrictive and global analysis were performed in the study. In the restrictive analysis, direct comparison of two regions took place if three of the four following conditions were similar: population density, percentage of urban population, human development index, and total area of the region. The global comparisons included regions and countries worldwide.

In the restrictive analysis, only one comparison (or 3 percent)—between the state of Roraima, Brazil, and the state of Rondonia, Brazil—was significant, while in the global comparisons, only 1.6 percent were significantly different. “Indeed,” the researchers wrote, “the global comparison confirmed the results found in the restrictive one; only 1.6 percent of the death rates could be explained by staying at home.”

Put another way, in about 98 percent of the comparisons, there was “no evidence that the number of deaths/million is reduced by staying at home.” The findings were backed up by real-world examples taking place at the time.

Even if this study had found that there was a five percent reduction in COVID deaths resulting from lockdowns, that number would not have justified the damage done to lives, businesses, and the health of millions because they were trapped in their homes, could not work, or see their doctor for other health concerns.

Deployment process of Ingenuity begins

Ingenuity on the bottom of Perseverance
Click for full image.

Ingenuity vertical under Perseverance
Click for full image.

The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, shows the Ingenuity helicopter attached to the base of the Perseverance rover, with its left end (the white box in the middle) now lowered. Previously the helicopter was stored horizontal against the rover’s base.

This photo was taken yesterday by Perseverance’s Watson camera, which provides images of the rover’s bottom and wheels.

The deployment process has only begun. They need to get that white box vertical and on the ground, then unfold the blades that are attached above it. I suspect as the base is dropped the two blades to the left will remain attached to Perseverance, thus partly unfolding them. I also suspect that full deployment of all four blades (the right two blades are what looks like a post with a bulbous end on the right of the base) will not occur until Ingenuity is fully detached and Perseverance has moved away. My error. I mistook the helicopter’s landing legs for its blades. Two of the legs (on the left) appear deployed, while two (on the right) remain in their stored position.

UPDATE: Ingenuity is now vertical, underneath Perseverance, as shown by the second image to the right.

These images are from yesterday, so these are actions that the rover and helicopter are doing autonomously. It appears from later images that the second set of legs began deploying next.

OneWeb to initiate commercial services in Canada by end of year

The competition heats up: The CEO of the satellite company OneWeb has announced that it will begin commercial internet service in the rural areas of Canada by end of ’21.

Neil Masterson, who took over as CEO of OneWeb late last year after the company raised fresh funds from the British government and Bharti Global Ltd. of India, says the operator is in talks with Canadian telecoms, local internet providers and municipal governments about providing them with broadband connectivity from its constellation of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites.

Unlike SpaceX’s Starlink constellation, which is providing service directly to individual customers, OneWeb is aiming to serve businesses and government agencies, selling its service to large operations which can then dole it out to their own customers.

Regardless, two different internet companies, using satellites in low Earth orbit, are now becoming available. If Amazon ever moves forward on it Kuiper constellation that will be three.

Another launch attempt for Starship #11 today

Starship #11 on launchpad, March 28, 2021
Screen capture from LabPadre Nerdle camera live stream,
taken at 10:27 am (Central).

UPDATE: Launch scrubbed because an FAA official was unable to get to the launch site today. Next attempt set for tomorrow.

Gee, launching rockets his hard. For government officials, however, getting on an airplane and arriving on time seems far more difficult.

Original post:
————————–
SpaceX is going to make another launch attempt today with its eleventh Starship prototype. The following live streams are presently available if you wish to watch:

When SpaceX adds its own live stream I will embed it below.

The screen capture on the right shows the status for the launch in that left column. When I captured the image they had only closed the road, which means the launch is still probably two hours away, at the least.

South Korea’s leader announces his nation’s goals in space

The new colonial movement: Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president since 2017, on March 25th gave his first speech focused on his nation’s goals in space, outlining plans to encourage private enterprise as well as achieving an unmanned mission to the Moon by 2030.

His speech listed three main programs. First, they are developing their own home-built rocket, dubbed the KSLV-2, which they hope to launch on its first orbital test flight by October of this year.

Second, he touted a project to send a probe to the asteroid Apophis in 2029. I described this probe in my November 2020 report on a science conference focused entirely on Apophis. If all goes well, they hope to have the probe fly in formation with the asteroid as it makes its close approach that year.

Third, he committed his nation to landing an unmanned lander on the Moon by the end of this decade. (Sound familiar?)

While much of this was the typical photo-op stuff that politicians love, designed mostly to enhance their public image, Moon did make it clear their goals are also to foster a new private aerospace industry that would compete in the emerging new space market.

Moon underscored the role of the private sector in enhancing Korea’s space development capabilities. To that end, he said, the government will step up efforts to build an “innovative industrial ecosystem that nurtures global space companies such as SpaceX.”

Another issue he put forth was strengthening international competitiveness of made-in-Korea satellite systems, in the lead-up to the introduction of 6G wireless networks, self-driving vehicles, and other products and services enabled or enhanced by satellites.

All-in-all, it is actually surprising that up to now South Korea has not made its presence felt in space. This announcement suggests they now intend to change that.

Bigelow sues NASA for $1 million

The commercial space station company Bigelow Aerospace has now sued NASA for $1 million, claiming that the agency has refused to pay it for work done.

Bigelow Aerospace said it entered into an agreement with NASA on the B330 project in August 2016 to perform and complete a certain long-term pressure leak test on its prototype. The purpose of the test was to demonstrate that the B330 meets NASA’s standards of construction and reliability.

According to the lawsuit, Bigelow Aerospace was required to perform a leak test on its module and “provide certain periodic test reports” to NASA. The reports were scheduled and were required to summarize the results of the test, specifically whether the B330 had met certain standards set by NASA. “Importantly, the Contract contains no requirement that Bigelow Aerospace had to provide NASA with continuous and/or raw” data, the lawsuit alleges.

Bigelow Aerospace said NASA breached its contract with the agency by refusing to pay the full amount to the company. The company said that its damages are in excess of $1 million because it had to hire attorneys to bring the lawsuit forward.

According to the suit, multiple attempts were made between January and February to demand payment. The lawsuit said that NASA’s attorney requested raw test data from Bigelow’s testing carried out under the contract as a prerequisite of being paid the amount owed. “However, this requirement was not a term of the Contract, and was an attempt by NASA to place additional requirements on Bigelow Aerospace that had not been part of the parties’ agreement,” according to the lawsuit.

Until 2016, when Bigelow’s prototype BEAM module was installed on ISS, this company seemed the world’s unmatched leader in the construction of private commercial space station modules. It had already flown two prototypes successfully, and then built BEAM for NASA in only two years for a mere $17 million.

Since then it seems Bigelow has been stalled by Washington politics and some insider maneuvering at NASA. In January 2020 NASA picked Axiom to build the first commercial operational private modules to be attached to ISS, not Bigelow. I wondered then why Bigelow had been bypassed by a company that had never built anything. Noting how Axiom had numerous NASA insiders in its management, many with links to Boeing, I concluded:
» Read more

Baffling ridges on Mars

Baffling ridges on Mars
Click for full image.

Today’s cool image is one of my “what the heck?” photos. The picture to the right, cropped and reduced to post here and taken on September 3, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), shows a strange dune field of many parallel long dunes, cross-cut by larger ridges.

Are the larger ridges dunes? Or are they some form of volcanic or tectonic ridge, which is also very typical of this region, called Tempe Terra and located in the transition zone between the southern cratered highlands and the northern lowland plains?

Or are they eskers, ridges frequently found in places that were once covered by glaciers? At 35 degrees north latitude, it would not be surprising to see glacial features here, but as far as I can tell, the full image has no obvious such features.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted Americans: Democrats go after Parler and its investors

Our modern Congress, as controlled by the Democratic Party
What the modern Congressional show trials will resemble,
as demanded by the Democratic Party

In February Democratic Party congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) and her fellow Democrats demanded the social media platform Parler provide Congress a detailed list of all its investors and creditors, while also demanding the FBI investigate the company.

The Democratic Party demands were based on an outright falsehood, that Parler was part of a conspiracy to overthrow the government during the protests at the Capitol on January 6th.

In her letter, the congresswoman goes on to claim that Parler “allowed Russian disinformation to flourish on its platform prior to the November 2020 election, facilitating Russia’s campaign to sow chaos in the American electorate.”

“Individuals with ties to the January 6 assault should not — and must not — be allowed to hide behind the veil of anonymity provided by shell companies,” continued Maloney in her letter.

The problem with this fantasy is that the evidence shows that the public social media planning for the January 6th protest was done on all the platforms, not just Parler, with the bulk taking place on the more established older forums like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit.

Moreover, Parler this week responded to Maloney by pointing out that it had teamed up with the FBI — prior to January 6th — in order to track any posts that might suggest violence or illegal activity.
» Read more

Radar images of Apophis during its March close approach of Earth

Apophis as seen by radar March 9, 2021
Click for full image.

Using two radar dishes, Green Bank in West Virginia and Goldstone in California, astronomers were able to produce radar images of the asteroid Apophis during its most recent close fly-by of Earth on March 10th.

The image to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, shows Apophis on March 9th. If you go to the full image you can also see the March 10th and 11th images, which appear to show the asteroid in different orientations as it rotated.

These images represent radar observations of asteroid 99942 Apophis on March 8, 9, and 10, 2021, as it made its last close approach before its 2029 Earth encounter that will see the object pass our planet by less than 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometers). The 70-meter radio antenna at the Deep Space Network’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex near Barstow, California, and the 100-meter Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia used radar to precisely track Apophis’ motion. At the time of these observations, Apophis was about 10.6 million miles (17 million kilometers) from Earth, and each pixel has a resolution of 127 feet (38.75 meters).

The data obtained has firmly removed any chance Apophis will impact the Earth in the next 100 years. However, it still could hit us late in the 22nd century.

These observations were originally planned to also include data from the Arecibo Observatory, but that telescope was destroyed in December when its instrument platform collapsed. If it had been operational, these radar images would have had much better resolution.

Redwire to go public

Capitalism in space: Redwire, the space company created when it merged with Made in Space in exchange for providing it a large influx of capital, is now going public, merging with another investment capital SPAC.

Redwire, a firm that has acquired several space technology companies in the last year, announced March 25 that it will go public by merging with a special-purpose acquisition corporation (SPAC). Redwire said it will merge with Genesis Park Acquisition Corp., a SPAC that went public in November 2020. The merger will provide Redwire with $170 million in capital, valuing the company at $615 million. The companies expect the deal to close by the end of the second quarter of this year, at which point Redwire will be publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

…Redwire [is] unique among space companies going public through SPACs in that it has both revenues and profits. The company reported $119 million in revenue in 2020, with adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) of $13 million.

This company now joins Momentus, Rocket Lab, Astra, and a number of other new commercial space startups that have recently announced the decision to go public.

Firefly’s 1st Alpha rocket almost ready for launch

Capitalism in space: According to Firefly’s CEO Tom Markusic, the company’s first Alpha rocket almost ready for launch, and should fly this year, with one or two commercial flights to quickly follow.

Alpha is “ready to go,” but two other major issues delayed its launch, Markusic said. The first involved an avionics flight termination system piece from an external vendor (whom Markusic did not name), which had qualification issues that created delays.

Also, Markusic said, “we didn’t put enough focus on the launch site.” Upgrading the United Launch Alliance Delta II facilities Firefly inherited at Vandenberg proved to be “more challenging than anticipated,” he added, but “we’re literally weeks away from being done.”

Based on the interview at the article, it sounds like launch is less than a couple of months away, which is still a delay from their previously announced launch date in March, a date that has now passed.

Starship prototype #11 launch attempt today-SCRUBBED

Starship #11 on launchpad, March 26, 2021
Screen capture from LabPadre Nerdle camera live stream,
taken at 8:30 am (Pacific).

UPDATE: The test flight has been scrubbed for today, March 26th. They have not yet indicated why they scrubbed, or when they will try again.

Original post:
——————
Though SpaceX has not yet announced whether it will live stream the event, the company is going to attempt a six-mile flight of its eleventh Starship prototype today.

The following live streams are presently available if you wish to watch:

I will add other live streams as they become available. And if If SpaceX adds its own live stream I will embed it below.

UPDATE: SpaceX has now announced that it will live feed today’s Starship test flight. I will embed that broadcast below, when it goes live.

Georgia state legislature passes new election laws

In what might be the first sign that at least one Republican-controlled state legislature has recognized that their state’s voting system is corrupt and prone to tampering, Georgia’s government has passed and signed into law a range of changes designed to make election fraud more difficult.

Most of the changes appear to me to be either minor window-dressing or watered-down reforms that will help but not alleviate the problem. One change however is major, significant, and will likely guarantee that control of the voting system will now be under the supervision of the state’s elected officials, not the appointed bureaucrats in the election board.

The bill removes the secretary of state as the chair of the state election board, making the position instead elected by the state General Assembly. This, effectively, turns the five-person board over to the state legislature, with the chairperson elected by both chambers and one member each appointed by each chamber. The bill also gives the state election board the ability to suspend county election officials, who are replaced by an individual picked by the board.

In other words, come the next election should Georgia’s elected state legislature be unsatisfied by how the election is run — such as when election bureaucrats willy-nilly illegally revised the law at their whim (as happened in many states in 2020) — it will be in a position to stop such shenanigans in their tracks.

More important, this signals a willingness of this state’s elected government to reclaim some of its Constitutional power, something that state governments have been casually giving away for decades in the naive belief that taking them out of the equation would prevent corruption. Hah! NOT.

The best way for a representative democracy to limit corruption is to give as much responsibility as possible to the elected officials. At least if they do wrong the voters can vote them out of power. Appointed bureaucrats are immune from pressure by the electorate, and that is not a healthy situation for a democracy.

Other state governments, in Arizona and Pennsylvania for example, have their own reforms proposed, but Georgia is the only one to so far get the changes put into law. Hopefully many other states will soon follow. Such actions will be the only way to prevent the fraud that strongly points to a theft of the presidential election in 2020.

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