Conscious Choice cover

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

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


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


Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

Today’s blacklisted American: Space historian and science journalist blackballed for opposing COVID shot mandates

Banned because the author expressed an opinion
Banned because the author expressed an opinion.

After a year of daily reporting the blacklisting of hundreds of innocent Americans for merely expressing dissenting opinions, I am sad to say that the new leftist McCarthyism has finally come after me.

In December I was blackballed by most of the Arizona caving community because I had disagreed with their decisions to discriminate against anyone who had not gotten a COVID shot. One of the local clubs was going run an outdoor camping/caving event and had decided to require everyone who attended to either prove they had gotten the jabs or could show they were tested negative for the Wuhan flu in the past two days. I objected, first because this was discriminatory and was demanding private medical information from people that by law was forbidden, and second because the policy made no sense because the shots provided no certain protection against the virus.

Realizing that their policy was not going to do anything to protect anyone from COVID, the organizers cancelled the event out of fear, and then made both me and one other protesting caver scapegoats for their decision, demanding we be banned from all caving organizations. What made this particular action especially hurtful was that it was pushed and imposed by a number of people who I thought had been close friends. I instead discovered that they really didn’t give a damn about me, and if I didn’t bow to their political will they were most eager to make me a non-person.

So much for friendship, eh?

I hadn’t reported this at length in public because it was essentially a personal matter. Now however this new fad of blacklisting anyone who disagrees with the new fascists and their medical mandates has reached out to try to hurt me and others professionally.
» Read more

A butte on Mars

A butte on Mars
Click for full photograph.

Cool image time! Because the Martian geology inside the enclosed stone valley beyond Maria Gordon notch is so complex and exposed, the Curiosity science team is spending a lot of time there. As noted in their January 7th update:

[W]e are marvelling at the landscape in front of us, which is very diverse, both in the rover workspace and in the walls around us. It’s a feast for our stratigraphers (those who research the succession in which rocks were deposited and deduce the geologic history of the area from this). We are all looking forward to the story they will piece together when they’ve had a bit of time to think!

The image to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken by the rover’s high resolution camera on December 18th, soon after it entered this stone valley and was part of scan covering both this butte as well as a nearby cliff. I had previously featured a close-up of the top of this butte and its incredible overhang on December 20, 2021. This image however shows the whole butte, which I estimate to be about 30 to 40 feet high.

Not only does the butte illustrate well the alien nature of this stark and barren Martian terrain, so does all the terrain surrounding it. The surface everywhere is nothing but pavement stones of all sizes. Once again, there is no life, something you practically never see on Earth.

Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via Paypal or Patreon. To use Patreon, go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation. Or you subscribe or donate using PayPal as follows:


Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If neither Paypal nor Patreont work for you, you can support Behind The Black by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
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Cortaro, AZ 85652
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A tumbling 1,100-foot-wide asteroid

Nereus tumbling on December 10th close approach
Click for full image.

Using the Goldstone radio antenna in California, scientists have been able to take some of the highest resolution radar images of the 1,100-foot-wide asteroid Nereus during its close approach to Earth on December 10, 2021.

The montage to the right, cropped to post here, shows twelve images from the 39-image sequence, which can also be viewed as an animation here.

During the asteroid’s close approach, an image resolution of about 12.3 feet (3.75 meters) per pixel was possible, revealing surface features such as potential boulders and craters, plus ridges and other topography. Asteroid Nereus’ previous approach in 2002 was near enough to Earth to reveal the asteroid’s size and overall shape, but too distant to show surface features. The new observations will also help scientists better understand the asteroid’s shape and rotation while providing them new data to further refine its orbital path around the Sun.

The asteroid will not make a similar close-approach again until 2060.

An oblong exoplanet?

The uncertainty of science: Astronomers, using a variety of space telescopes, have concluded that the shape of an exoplanet in the constellation Hercules is deformed by tidal forces imposed on it by its star.

On the planet WASP-103b, tides are much more extreme. The planet orbits its star in just one day and is deformed by the strong tidal forces so drastically that its appearance resembles a rugby ball. This is shown by a new study involving researchers from the Universities of Bern and Geneva as well as the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) PlanetS, published today in the scientific journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The data also suggests that the nearby heat of its star has also caused the exoplanet to be inflated in size.

Need I add that this result is uncertain? It requires the scientists to make many assumptions based on only a tiny bit of data, something they admit to near the end of the press release, where the releases notes that this result needs to be confirmed by future observations.

Leaving Earth cover

There are now only 6 copies left of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. After I sell one more, I will be raising the price substantially. Thus, if you want to get an autographed copy of this rare collector's item for only $100, plus $5 shipping, now is the time to buy. Once I sell one more book and only have five copies left, the price goes up to $150 (plus shipping for the next two.


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

SpaceX pushing to launch 2nd generation Starlink satellites by March

Capitalism in space: In paperwork filed by SpaceX to the FCC, it has announced it is pushing to launch the first second generation Starlink satellites by March, 2022.

While some news reports have suggested that SpaceX intended to launch those upgraded satellites on Starship, this reporting is certainly wrong. As the article at the link correctly notes, SpaceX does not have to state what rocket it plans to use in its paperwork. It could very easily launch these first upgraded satellites on a Falcon 9.

The story however does provide this interesting tidbit about the FCC’s treatment of SpaceX in this licensing process:

SpaceX filed the first unmodified Gen2 Starlink application with the FCC in May 2020, requesting permission to launch an unprecedented 30,000 satellites. While the size of the proposed constellation is extraordinary, the FCC has also been exceptionally slow to process it. Only five months after SpaceX submitted its Starlink Gen2 modification request and nineteen months after its original Gen2 application did the FCC finally accept it for filing, which means that it has taken more than a year and a half to merely start the official review process. [emphasis in original]

In other words, the FCC stalled SpaceX for more than a year and a half. If the DC bureaucracy can play such games with Starlink, this suggests it might very well be doing the same with the approval of the environmental reassessment for SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility, which the FAA has now delayed repeatedly since last year. There are many people in Washington, both in the Biden administration and in the established and permanent bureaucracy, who do not like SpaceX’s success or its independence, and wish to use government power to squelch it. This story provides us some evidence that such misuse of government power in the FAA is very likely occurring.

An independent Russian private space company?

Capitalism in space? The Russian company S7 Space announced today that plans to soon begin tests of the fuel tanks of its proposed reusable smallsat rocket, and is in the process of deciding what Russian facility to use.

“We plan to test the rocket’s elements, namely fuel tanks of a smaller size, with a diameter of 1.5 meters. The trials are aimed at proving that the structure is durable. A concrete laboratory is yet to be selected for the purpose. In other words, there has been no firm contract for trials so far,” [explained the head of the company’s technological research department, Arseny Kisarev.]

The official expressed hope that the trials would be carried out by TsNIIMash (Central Research Institute of Machine Building), a main research institution of Russia’s state-run space corporation Roscosmos.

“However, choosing another lab is also possible, if it corresponds to our requirements of the testing procedure,” he said.

This rocket was first announced in 2019. Development was suspended in 2020, however, when the Putin government imposed new much higher fees on the company for storing the ocean launch platform Sea Launch, fees so high that the company was soon negotiating to sell the platform to a Russian state-run corporation.

It is not clear whether that sale ever occurred, but the company itself appears only now to be resuming some operations. Though today’s story suggests it is operating independent of the control of Roscosmos and the Russian government, this is quite doubtful. Russia today functions much like the various Mafia mobs in the U.S. The various different government agencies divide up the work into “territories” that belong to each company. No other independent company can enter that territory and compete for business. Since S7 Space wants to build its own rocket, that makes it a direct competitor with Roscosmos and the government design bureaus within it that build the various Russian rockets.

More likely Roscosmos wants S7 Space to survive, but under its control and only for the purpose of building a smallsat rocket for Roscosmos. S7 Space appears to be struggling to stay independent, with this announcement likely part of that struggle.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

Strange land forms on the flanks of Mars’ Arsia Mons volcano

Strange landforms on the flanks of Arsia Mons
Click for original image. Click here for the context camera image.

Cool image time! The center of the photo to the right was taken by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on September 5, 2021. For posting here I have rotated, cropped, and reduced it, as well as added to each side the lower resolution context camera image of this region.

The ground slopes downhill to the north. Make sure you click on the image to see the full resolution version. In only a few miles the terrain changes from a mound with small knobs to a smooth area with few knobs to a chaotic area where the larger ridges and knobs are the dominant feature, with hollows and canyons in between.

You should also take a look at the full context camera image. Just to the southeast of the above picture is a large depression that looks like it has been filled with lava, with its western rim covered by that flow. Scientists have taken a lot of high resolution pictures of this depression with MRO, trying to decipher its geology.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: Boston policewoman suspended for leading opposition to COVID shot mandate

Coming to your town in America soon!
Death camps are certainly coming for the unclean unvaccinated.

They’re coming for you next: Shana Cotone, the Boston policewoman who helped form and heads Boston First Responders United, a group for Boston municipal workers that has sued to block the city’s COVID shot mandate on all workers, has been put on administrative leave by her department and is now under “an internal affairs investigation”.

Cottone said BPD officers came to her house and took her badge and gun Saturday morning. “They’re trying to come after me — to silence me,” Cottone told the Herald. “They’re not going to silence me.”

Cottone’s group is not the only one suing. » Read more

Data from China’s Chang’e-5 lander detects very tiny amounts of water in lunar soil

The uncertainty of science: In a paper published yesterday, Chinese scientists revealed that data from an instrument on the Chang’e-5 lunar lander has detected evidence of very tiny amounts of water in lunar soil, amounts that confirm past data showing the Moon is very dry.

From China’s state-run press:

The study published on Saturday in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances revealed that the lunar soil at the landing site contains less than 120 ppm water or 120g water per ton, and a light, vesicular rock carries 180 ppm, which are much drier than that on Earth. … The additional 60 ppm water in the rock may originate from the lunar interior, according to the researchers. [emphasis mine]

It is believed that most of this water is the result of hydrogen in the solar wind.

The paper can be found here.

Before we begin dancing in joy that the Moon is wet, reread the highlighted words. This data instead simply confirms past data that the Moon is very dry. In the paper itself, it is made very clear that this high water content, small as it is, was only detected in a single rock, with all of the surrounding terrain much much drier. From the paper:

The water contents are less than 30 ppm in most measured regolith spots except for [areas] D12 and D17, which may be due to the disturbance of the top layer of the more space-weathered/solar wind–implanted regolith by the lander exhaust and the subsequent sampling process. The unsampled areas of D12 and D17 may have been shielded by [a rock] from the lander exhaust and thus retain the top space-weathered layer that contains higher water content. We predict that higher water content may be found in surface regolith than that from the subsurface of the returned borehole samples if the original stratigraphy is preserved. The estimated water contents of the regolith in the landing area are in agreement with those measured in the Apollo regolith samples and the orbital observations.

In other words, the higher water content, still very dry, appears to only exist on the surface, which is why they suspect it is produced by the solar wind and is also very temporary.

Moreover, there are many uncertainties in this result. The detection might not even be water, but hydroxyl molecules.

What this study suggests is that the patches of suspected water that some orbiters think they have identified in low latitudes on the Moon may simply be these surface molecules left by the solar wind, and that if there is usable water on the Moon, it will only be found in those permanently shadowed craters at the poles, if there.

Webb’s primary mirror successfully deployed

Today engineers successfully completed the unfolding of the primary mirror on the James Webb Space Telescope.

The two wings of Webb’s primary mirror had been folded to fit inside the nose cone of an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket prior to launch. After more than a week of other critical spacecraft deployments, the Webb team began remotely unfolding the hexagonal segments of the primary mirror, the largest ever launched into space. This was a multi-day process, with the first side deployed Jan. 7 and the second Jan. 8.

Mission Operations Center ground control at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore began deploying the second side panel of the mirror at 8:53 a.m. EST. Once it extended and latched into position at 1:17 p.m. EST, the team declared all major deployments successfully completed.

Next step over the next few months will be aligning the primary mirrors 18 segments with each other as well as the secondary mirror. First science images are expected during the summer, but do not be surprised if NASA releases some test images before then, should all be well and it obtains some eye candy.

Debris in Perseverance core sample equipment

Debris in core sample carousel on Perseverance
Click for full image.

In attempting to store its sixth core sample on Mars last week, engineers discovered that Perseverance could not do so because several small pieces of the core sample had fallen into the equipment and prevented the drilling bit with the core from inserting itself completely into the sample storage carousel.

To understand the issue precisely, the engineers commanded Perseverance to first extract the bit from the carousel so they could get pictures of it.

The extraction took place yesterday (1/6) and data was downlinked early this morning. These most recent downlinked images confirm that inside the bit carousel there are a few pieces of pebble-sized debris. The team is confident that these are fragments of the cored rock that fell out of the sample tube at the time of Coring Bit Dropoff, and that they prevented the bit from seating completely in the bit carousel.

The photo to the right shows that material at the image’s bottom.

It appears this issue was anticipated when the rover was designed giving engineers a way to remove the debris. They plan to do so, but will proceed slowly as this will be the first time it will be attempted on Mars.

A Martian cliff

A strange Martian cliff
Click for full image.

Many features on Mars immediately make one think of the Grand Canyon and the stark dramatic geology of the American southwest. Today’s cool image on the right, cropped and reduced to post here, is a typical example. Photographed on September 7, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), it shows a dramatic cliff face that I estimate is about 3,000 feet high.

A closer look, however, almost always shows that this Martian terrain is not like the American southwest at all, but alien in its own way.

At the base of this abrupt cliff the terrain suddenly changes to a series of smooth downward fan-shaped flows. The cliff evokes rough boulders, avalanches, and chaotic erosion. The fans evoke a gentle and organized erosion of small particles like dust or sand. The two processes are completely different, and yet here the former is butted right up against the latter.

The fans also appear to flow out of hollows in the rough cliff, suggesting that somehow as the cliff erodes in chunks those chunks break into sand or dust, find the lowest points, and then flow downward like liquid.

How strange. How Martian. And how truly beautiful.

Yutu-2 approaches boulder, has now traveled more than 1,000 meters

Yutu-2's square boulder
Click for original image.

The Chinese state-run press has released some more images from its rover Yutu-2, including a new image of the square-shaped lunar rock that was first identified a month ago. This new image is to the right, cropped and reduced to post here.

In the original image, the rock appeared very square as it was on the horizon and silhouetted by the black sky. As is usual in our emotion- and movie-run society, many began to push wild theories about the rock, proposing it was anything from an alien spacecraft to the monolith from the 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The picture confirms what any thoughtful person would have concluded, that it was simply a rock. The available image does not provide a scale, so I cannot tell you whether this is a large boulder, or a small piece of gravel. However, a wider image taken by Yutu-2 shows that the rock is on the edge of a small crater, which suggests the boulder is probably somewhere between three to ten feet across. The rover has completed only about half of its 260-foot journey to it, and won’t reach it until its next lunar day of operations in February.

The same report also revealed that the rover has now traveled just over 1,000 meters on the far side of the Moon, or about 3,280 feet, since it began operations in early 2019.

Pushback: Children in England are refusing to wear masks or get tests

A little child shall lead them, by James Johnson
Painting by James L. Johnson.

And little child shall lead them: According to one teacher’s union official in Great Britain, children are refusing in “huge numbers” to wear masks or get twice-weekly tests for COVID, despite government mandates requiring both.

In its latest guidance issued on Jan. 2, the UK Department for Education (DfE) recommended that secondary school pupils in England should wear face coverings inside classrooms to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus. Before that, masks were already recommended in outdoor communal areas and corridors. Secondary school students are also advised to take a lateral flow test twice a week.

But according to the NASUWT teachers’ union, there has been strong resistance from pupils to the new policy. Damien McNulty, a national executive member of the union, told the BBC on Thursday: “Sadly, we have had reports in the last 24 hours of at least six secondary schools in the northwest of England where children, in huge numbers, are refusing to take lateral flow tests or to wear masks.”

“We’ve got one school in Lancashire where only 67 children out of 1,300 are prepared to have a lateral flow test and wear masks,” he said.

» Read more

China tests space station robot arm

The new colonial movement: The Chinese state-run press yesterday reported that it has successfully used the robot arm on its Tiangong space station to move a Tianzhou freighter from one point to another.

After being unlocked and separated from the space station core module Tianhe, Tianzhou-2 was moved into a predetermined position by the robotic arm. The arm then reversed the maneuvers to bring the spacecraft back to its original position. Tianzhou-2 re-docked with the core module and completed locking.

The test preliminarily verified the feasibility of using the mechanical arm to conduct a space station module transfer, confirmed the effectiveness of relevant technologies, and laid a foundation for the subsequent in-orbit assembly and construction of the country’s space station, said the CMSA [Chinese Manned Space Agency].

The news report did not indicate whether this operation was run from ground control, or by the astronauts on board Tiangong. Either way, it apparently clears the way for the arrival of two more large modules, planned for launch later this year, suggesting that the arm will be used in some manner to position those modules prior to docking.

Virgin Galactic stock crashes

Capitalism in space: For the first time since Virgin Galactic became a publicly-traded company two years ago, its stock on January 6th dropped below its initial offering price.

On Thursday, stock of the space tourism company fell to as low as $11.30 before rising back to $11.90 by the afternoon. When the company merged with a special purpose acquisition company to go public in 2019, its debut price was $11.75.

In the two years in-between, the price was pumped up to as high as $62, during which the company’s founder, Richard Branson, sold off about 80% of his stock, reducing his holdings from 51% of the company to only 11% and walking away with about $1.25 billion in cash.

Right now the company’s future is very much in question. It has delayed all of its commercial suborbital flights until late this year, if then. Meanwhile, Blue Origin is flying commercial suborbital tourist flights, and the orbital space tourism market is ramping up quite successfully. With no ability to enter that orbital market, Virgin Galactic appears to be at a dead end.

Ariane-6 finally wins more launch contracts

Arianespace today announced a new slew of launch contracts, including two for its mostly Italian-built Vega rocket family and four for its Ariane family of rockets.

The latter launch contract is significant as those four launches, putting eight more Galileo GPS-type satellites in orbit for the European Union over the next three years, will all be launched by Arianespace’s new Ariane-6 rocket, built and owned by the commercial company ArianeGroup.

The significance is twofold. First, Ariane-6 has struggled to get launch customers because its launch cost is far higher than SpaceX’s, to a point that the low number of contracts weren’t paying for the cost of development. This new contract overcomes that difficulty by adding four more launches.

Second, the nature of all of Ariane-6’s contracts underscore the difficulties it is having. Before the arrival of SpaceX’s mostly reusable and very inexpensive Falcon 9 rocket, Arianespace held 50% of the market share for commercial launch contracts, using its Ariane-5 rocket. Those customers have mostly vanished, however, switching to SpaceX. Ariane-6 was conceived — by the government-run European Space Agency — as a newer cheaper rocket that would recapture some of that market. All of its launch contracts, both old and new, demonstrate that it is failing to do so, however. Its only customers so far are coming from European government entities, who are required to use Ariane-6 as part of their partnership in the European Union and the European Space Agency. No private concern, inside or outside Europe, seems interested in using Ariane-6. It just costs too much.

For Europe to compete in the new commercial launch market it needs to build better rockets. And to do this it needs to release its rocket industry from the control of government.

Ice-filled crater on the Martian north polar ice cap

Ice-filled crater on the Martian north pole ice cap
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped to post here, was taken on September 18, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and shows a very distinct impact crater on top of the layered deposits of ice mixed with dirt that form the bottom layers as well as surround the visible north pole ice cap on Mars.

I purposely cropped the high resolution image so that the crater is off center to show the dark streaks that appear to blow away from the crater to the northwest, west, and southwest. This asymmetric pattern suggests the wind direction at this location generally flows to the west, but the pattern might also be caused by lighting effects. The location is at 82 degrees north latitude, and the Sun was only 31 degrees high when the picture was taken, causing long shadows. Also, in the full image, you can see a whole strip of similarly oriented streaks, suggesting that these are slope streaks descending a slope going downhill to the northwest.

The overview map below also provides important information about this location.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: Reuters fires long time employee for criticizing BLM

Leftist dictatorship coming to America
What we can look forward to if we all do not
start fighting back, loudly and without fear.

They’re coming for you next: Because Zac Kreigman, Director of Data Science for the Reuters news agency, refused to accept without question the company’s total endorsement of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) organization in 2020 and instead published detailed fact-based internal memos documenting BLM’s bigoted and Marxist agenda, Reuters fired him.

A chain of events—beginning with the death of George Floyd and culminating with a statistical analysis of Black Lives Matter’s claims—would turn the 44-year-old data scientist’s life upside-down. By June 2021, Kriegman would be locked out of Reuters’s servers, denounced by his colleagues, and fired by email. Kriegman had committed an unpardonable offense: he directly criticized the Black Lives Matter movement in the company’s internal communications forum, debunked Reuters’s own biased reporting, and violated a corporate taboo.

Driven by what he called a “moral obligation” to speak out, Kriegman refused to celebrate unquestioningly the BLM narrative and his company’s “diversity and inclusion” programming; to the contrary, he argued that Reuters was exhibiting significant left-wing bias in the newsroom and that the ongoing BLM protests, riots, and calls to “defund the police” would wreak havoc on minority communities. Week after week, Kriegman felt increasingly disillusioned by the Thomson Reuters line. Finally, on the first Tuesday in May 2021, he posted a long, data-intensive critique of BLM’s and his company’s hypocrisy. He was sent to Human Resources and Diversity & Inclusion for the chance to reform his thoughts.

He refused—so they fired him. [emphasis mine]

Of course, Kriegman has been proven right, on all points. The “defund the police” movement pushed by BLM and its allies in the Democratic Party did do great harm to minorities like blacks. Reuters does have a leftist bias, proven not only by Kriegman’s allegations but by his actual firing. He dared express a dissenting view, did not kow-tow to the leftist narrative the company wished to push, and got fired for doing so.

The highlighted words however are the most important. » Read more

More Spaceport America corruption allegations flung about in New Mexico

New allegations of corruption and lawbreaking against Michelle Lujan Grisham, the Democrat Party governor of New Mexico, were revealed in a lawsuit filed this week by the former chief financial officer of Spaceport America, Zach DeGregorio.

Zach DeGregorio, the former Chief Financial Officer of Spaceport America, alleges that one of Grisham’s political appointees, Alicia Keyes, encouraged him to falsify an economic impact study. He also alleges that Keyes mishandled a bond refinancing for the purpose of defrauding the state. When DeGregorio attempted to report the wrongdoing, he claimed, he was threatened with investigations and a firing.

…The lawsuit also alleges that Spaceport America’s chief client, Virgin Galactic, and its CEO, Richard Branson, bribed Lujan Grisham in exchange for “essential business” status during COVID-19 shutdowns. The governor’s office met with Virgin Galactic shortly before Grisham “ma[d]e changes to the NM Spaceport Authority board,” “ma[d]e staffing changes at the NM Spaceport Authority,” and “made operational changes at the NM Spaceport Authority that benefited Virgin Galactic at the expense of other customers and the NM taxpayers,” according to the lawsuit.

You can read the actual filing here [pdf].

DeGregorio resigned in 2020 after filing an earlier complaint alleging that the CEO of Spaceport America, Daniel Hicks, had broken several laws in operating the spaceport. In the new lawsuit DeGregorio also alleges that Hicks tried to illegally access his email account to read private emails concerning these allegations.

Spaceport America was established a previous Democratic Party governor, Bill Richardson, based on Richard Branson’s false promises that Virgin Galactic would soon be flying hundreds of tourist flights yearly, thus attracting other space-related business to New Mexico. Since then all the state has gotten from the spaceport is expenses, almost no business, and a lot of scandal. This story is not the first, and I suspect it will not be the last, especially if Virgin Galactic goes bankrupt in the next few years (something I personally expect).

What Spaceport America will likely not get is actual business. It can’t work for orbital flights, being in the interior, and there isn’t enough orbital runway business to sustain it, especially since there are thousands of other runways to choose from.

The very first observations of dying star before, during, and after it goes supernova

Astronomers have, for the very first time, observed in real time a dying red supergiant star prior to, during, and after it exploded as a supernova, thus destroying itself and collapsing into either a neutron star or a black hole.

This discovery is unprecedented because previous observations of the star prior to its explosion were discovered post-supernova, when astronomers went back and found it in archival footage. In this case the astronomers were studying the star before it exploded, and thus got a far more detailed look at its behavior.

Prior to this, all red supergiants observed before exploding were relatively quiescent: they showed no evidence of violent eruptions or luminous emission, as was observed prior to SN 2020tlf. However, this novel detection of bright radiation coming from a red supergiant in the final year before exploding suggests that at least some of these stars must undergo significant changes in their internal structure that then results in the tumultuous ejection of gas moments before they collapse.

This data will require the computer modelers and theorists to completely revise their computer models and theories for explaining the ignition of a supernova.

Space Force wants to pay commercial space to remove space junk

Capitalism in space: In a video released today, the Space Force announced a new program, dubbed Orbital Prime, that asks commercial companies to bid on a new test program for removing space junk.

More info here.

The initial solicitation, due by February 17th, asks for proposals capable of achieving the ability to rendezvous, dock and service a piece of space junk, either by “repairing, repositioning, refueling, deorbiting, reusing or recycling” it. The solicitation is aiming for orbital test flights in no more than two to four years.

This approach by the military is excellent news, and continues the transition by the space-related agencies of federal government from trying to design and build everything itself to acting merely as a customer and buying what it needs from the private sector.

There are a number of companies who have already launched robots capable of doing exactly this, including Northrop Grumman and Astroscale. By taking this customer approach, the military will likely not only get a junk removal capability sooner, it will do so for far less cost.

It would also seem that the Russian anti-satellite test that produced thousands of pieces of orbital junk that now threatens ISS and a number of military satellites also helped prompt this announcement. The military has clearly recognized that it needs the capability to remove space junk now. It cannot afford to follow its past behavior of taking forever to accomplish such tasks.

Engineers replace engine controller on SLS core; launch to be delayed

Engineers have successfully replaced the failed engine controller on the core stage of NASA’s SLS rocket.

Last week engineers and technicians successfully removed and replaced an engine controller from one of four RS-25 engines after the team identified an issue during a power-up test of the rocket’s core stage. Engineers are now performing standard engine controller diagnostic tests and check-outs, including controller power-up and flight software load. Subsequently, the team will work to complete all remaining SLS pre-flight diagnostic tests and hardware closeouts in advance of a mid-February rollout for a wet dress rehearsal in late February. NASA will set a target launch date after a successful wet dress rehearsal test.

The official schedule still lists the launch for February, but NASA has already admitted this is now impossible. Once they complete the wet dress rehearsal on the launchpad they will have to roll the rocket back into the Vehicle Assembly Building to do further tests. While it remains possible for NASA to meet an April launch window, more likely the agency will push back to windows during the summer.

Thus, the race between SLS and Starship for completing the first orbital flight remains neck-and-neck. Starship could launch this spring, but it faces an uncertain schedule determined not by SpaceX but by the bureaucracy in the federal government, which is reviewing the FAA’s environment reassessment for the Boca Chica launch site and really has no requirement to meet any schedule at all. The FAA says it plans to approve the reassessment by the end of February, but that is simply made up deadline. It could revise it at will at any time.

NASA meanwhile is still pushing to launch SLS in April, but this launch date is entirely unrealistic. Expect NASA to announce a new target date sometime in the summer in the coming weeks.

Webb deploys heat radiator

Engineers today successfully deployed the heat radiator on the James Webb Space Telescope, allowing for unfolding of its 21-foot-diameter primary mirror over the next two days, the final step in the telescope’s deployment.

At about 8:48 a.m. EST, a specialized radiator assembly necessary for Webb’s science instruments to reach their required low and stable operating temperatures deployed successfully. The Aft Deployable Instrument Radiator, or ADIR, is a large, rectangular, 4 by 8-foot panel, consisting of high-purity aluminum subpanels covered in painted honeycomb cells to create an ultra-black surface. The ADIR, which swings away from the backside of the telescope like a trap door on hinges, is connected to the instruments via flexible straps made of high-purity aluminum foil. The radiator draws heat out of the instruments and dumps it overboard to the extreme cold background of deep space.

The whole operation took fifteen minutes.

If all goes well, by Saturday night (January 8th) engineers and scientists will have in their hands the world’s largest infrared telescope, and it will be operating in space. Actual scientific observations however will not begin immediately. It will still take several weeks for the telescope to cool down to the very cold temperatures it needs to see faint infrared objects, and then about five more months of additional testing to precisely align the mirrors while figuring out how the telescope itself operates in space.

We should expect the first raw and unaligned infrared images in about a month, with the first official observations released sometime in the very early summer.

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