Tag Archives: government

ESA resumes science operations on orbiting spacecraft

The European Space Agency (ESA) has reactivated four science spacecraft, two in Mars orbit and two headed for the Sun, after putting them in safe mode because the agency had shut down many operations due to one person becoming infected with COVID-19.

Fortunately, the initial case remained the only one as the people in quarantine did not develop any symptoms. “When we shut down science, we established very clear criteria to decide when it would restart, and as of this weekend we have begun to gradually bring the missions back into their normal state,” adds Paolo.

…Because of preventative measures taken early to limit the chance of infection spreading, the situation at ESOC is now stable. The few individuals that periodically go on site are predominantly working in isolation, and generally do not even meet each other. If they have to be in the same room, they follow very strict social distancing rules and protections.

It remains unclear whether this reactivation means there will be sufficient staffing for the fly-by of Earth by ESA’s BepiColumbo Mercury mission on April 10th. The information at the link is very encouraging, but it is also an official statement from ESA. Getting the real truth from such statements is not guaranteed.

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States begin push to end voting at polls

The rigging of elections begins: As part of the Wuhan panic, state legislators (as well as Joe Biden, the present Democratic Party front runner for president), are now pushing to change election laws to allow more voting by mail, and to even eliminate in-person voting at the polls.

States are weighing measures to change voting rules in November’s presidential election as they struggle with social-distancing orders during the worldwide coronavirus outbreak, according to a report Tuesday. “More people who vote early or vote by mail, means fewer people standing in line on election day,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla told the Axios news website.

But the effort to keep voters from going to the polls in person Nov. 3 faces legislative and financial roadblocks. The price for states to change their methods of voting could pass $2 billion, Axios said.

Of course, they are completely sincere about their desire to protect us from this evil virus. None of them would ever take advantage of an election conducted entirely by mail to rig the results. Never! How could anyone think such a thing?!

I mean, really, these are the same kinds of people who wrote the FISA court legislation, and then administered it perfectly! They are also the same kind of governmental people who run the IRS and never use it to go after people they don’t like, for political reasons. Never!

I await the coming our perfect government-run utopia. All will be well. Just accept it.

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The lack of context during the Wuhan virus panic

Link here.

This editorial tries to remind people that when you look at the whole picture, the coronavirus epidemic simply does not yet justify the fear it has caused, or the over-the-top authoritarian measures politicians have imposed. For example:

On its own, 3,000 fatalities [from COVID-19 as of yesterday] might seem like a tremendously large number. But that’s before you learn that an average of 7,700 people die in the U.S. every single day. Which means that over the past week, when the coronavirus took 2,000 lives, nearly 54,000 people died from other causes. [emphasis in original]

They then list the many other preventable causes of death that each year kill far more people than the coronavirus, and yet pass entirely unnoticed, with no panic, fear, or government-imposed edicts. The mortality numbers for other infectious diseases I find especially revealing:

  • 35,000: antibiotic-resistant bacteria
  • 40,922: blood poisoning resulting from bacteria
  • 55,672: flu and pneumonia

Once again, these are numbers for deaths that occur routinely, each year. I don’t remember the government declaring martial law over these. Do you?

COVID-19 could still be as bad as our panic-stricken leaders say, with predictions of between 100,000 to 200,000 deaths this year. I remain very skeptical. Such numbers would be from two to four times higher than the worse flu epidemic. The data from too many sources suggest this prediction is absurdly high.

And even if it is correct, I suspect these deaths will not be additional mortality, on top of all other causes. Instead, I predict that overall the mortality will be about the same, if not less, because of the imposition of martial law. Unable to go out, there will be fewer traffic accidents and flu infections, for example, causes that routinely kill a lot of people.

Thus, the overall death numbers will not be significantly different than we normally see, a result that will hardly justify the panic that has gripped everyone.

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NASA selects full crew for first operational Dragon mission

Even though SpaceX’s first demonstration manned mission to ISS has not yet occurred, NASA yesterday announced the selection of the full four person crew for the second flight, set for later this year and intended as the first operational mission to ISS, lasting six months.

This announcement tells us several things, all good. First, it appears NASA has now definitely decided that the demo mission, presently scheduled for mid-May, will be a short-term mission. They had considered making it a six-month mission, but it now appears they have concluded doing so will delay the demo launch too much.

Second, that NASA is solidifying its plans for that operational flight, the second for Dragon, including a tentative launch date later in 2020, is further evidence that they intend to go through with the demo mission in mid-May.

Finally, it appears that NASA has decided that it will not buy more seats on Russian Soyuz capsules, something that they had previously hinted they needed to do because the agency was worried the American capsules would not be ready this year. The article describes the negotiations on-going with the Russians about the use of Dragon, as well as the future use by Americans of Soyuz. NASA wishes to have astronauts from both countries fly on both spacecraft (Starliner too, once operational), but Russia is as yet reluctant to fly its astronauts on Dragon. They want to see that spacecraft complete more missions successfully.

Regardless, future flights of Americans on Soyuz will cost NASA nothing, as the agency wishes to trade the seats on the U.S. capsules one-for-one for the seats on Soyuz. It also means that NASA has decided it doesn’t need to buy Soyuz flights anymore, as it now expects Dragon to become operational this year.

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Yutu-2 and Chang’e-4 complete 16h lunar day on Moon

China’s Yutu-2 rover and Chang’e-4 lander have now successfully completed their sixteenth lunar day on the far side of the Moon, and have been put into hibernation for the long lunar night.

This means that both spacecraft have now worked longer on the Moon than any previous mission.

The news report, from China’s state-run press, provides only one real piece of information: Yutu-2 has now traveled a total of 424.45 meters (1,393 feet), which means it traveled about 24 meters (79 feet) during this sixteenth lunar day.

Their goal is to reach a different geological area of basalt a little over a mile away, a journey they say will take about a year.

I question that time frame however. Yutu-2 has averaged about 88 feet travel per lunar day. To go a mile at that pace will take about sixty lunar days, which is equivalent to between four and five years. The difference might be because the information at the second link is a bit unclear, and that they hope to begin entering the basalt region much sooner.

We shall just have to wait and see.

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Total mortality is DOWN in Europe during Wuhan panic

According to the latest weekly report of overall mortality in Europe, the number of deaths during the March 18 to 24 time period had dropped, even though that was the exact period when the panic and alarm over the COVID-19 epidemic began to reach its height.

The article at the link also notes that this particular flu season has so far been relatively mild, which corresponds with the U.S. data I posted on March 26.

Both the article and his source speculate with some puzzlement as to why this is the case. Obviously, the panic shutting down our entire economy and society is probably helping. At the same time, this flu season was already clearly going to be a mild one, long before the Wuhan panic took over.

Regardless, what these numbers once again suggest is that the response to COVID-19 has been way out of line and over the top. While our bankrupt press keeps focusing on specific deaths and coronavirus mortality rates, they are failing to note that the overall death rate is not changing, and is possibly even dropping.

A good example are the wild rumors, widely reported, of a gigantic order of burial urns for China, implying that these urns were needed because of millions of extra COVID-19 deaths, not reported by the Chinese authorities. What nobody asks is how many urns are normally ordered each year? I suspect the numbers would be quite similar.

We are not all going to die from the Wuhan virus, though the extreme measures our government is forcing us to take might very well kill us, in other ways. At a minimum, those extreme measures are destroying what was once a free society.

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IG report: FBI screwed up on every single FISA warrant application it submitted

So, why hasn’t Trump fired everybody there? A new inspector general review of 29 FBI FISA warrant applications has found that on every single application looked at, the FBI made numerous errors, often failing entirely in doing the most basic required documentation.

The [inspector general] review released Tuesday suggests that the FBI’s problems are widespread. “As a result of our audit work to date and as described below, we do not have confidence that the FBI has executed its Woods Procedures in compliance with FBI policy,” the [report] said in a memo to FBI Director Christopher Wray.

More information here, including the revelation that the FBI could not even find the files for four of these warrants. The IG suspects they might never have existed.

I repeat: Why has Trump so far not fired the entire upper management at the FBI involved in this work? Every single one of these bums should be out on the street, looking for work (though to be honest, the last place I’d want to see them working is as a stock person in a supermarket. They’d hoard and steal, and everyone else would starve.).

For example, the IG memo was submitted to Wray, who has been a top manager at the agency for years, and was directly involved in issuing most of these FISA warrants. Does anyone really expect him to fix this problem? He’s part of it.

Until Trump begins a real house-cleaning, I have no faith in his claim that he is “draining the swamp.” Instead, I see him as simply doing a little light dusting, just enough to make us peons not notice the thick piles of dirt buried under the rugs and beneath all the cushions and behind the books.

Also, this IG report provides further proof that Congress should not renew the FISA court law, when it comes up for renewal again in about two months. The entire law and all involved with it are corrupt, and routinely have abused the power it gave them.

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New York: Where politicians consider criminals their base and ordinary citizens their enemy

Like the Democrats running California, the reaction of the Democrats running New York to the Wuhan virus has nicely revealed who they consider their base, and who they consider their enemies:

The first story is one of several from New York. Even as the Democrats in charge have moved to place all citizens under house arrest, they also seem to think releasing criminals from jail (the perfect type of quarantine) is a good idea.

No one should harbor any doubts about where the Democrats loyalties lie. They are not really interested in saving lives. They are interested in stamping a jack boot on the face of every decent person. And they know that if their own efforts to impose martial law fail, they know that releasing a lot of violent criminals surely will help.

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Stratolaunch now wants to build a reuseable hypersonic vehicle

Capitalsm in space: Stratolaunch announced today that they are now planning to build a reusable hypersonic test vehicle to launch from their giant Roc airplane.

That vehicle, powered by a liquid-propellant rocket engine, will launch from the company’s aircraft and fly to speeds of Mach 5 to Mach 7 before gliding back to a runway landing. It will also be able to take off on its own from a runway under rocket power.

“The Stratolaunch Talon-A is a flexible, high-speed testbed built for offensive hypersonics, hypersonic defense and hypersonic R&D,” the company said in a fact sheet about the program. That document emphasizes the vehicle’s ability to provide “here-to-fore unobtainable measurement access to the hypersonic flight environment on a recurring basis.”

Forgive me if I remain skeptical. From memory I think this is about the fifth different design or concept for launch from Roc, with the previous proposals differing from this hypersonic test vehicle in that they were all intended to go to orbit. All were the same however in that they were trying to find a design that could be launched from Roc and also make engineering and economic sense. So far none has done so.

This new proposal is clearly aimed at garnering government research dollars. It also probably wants those dollars to pay for Talon-A’s development. In a sane world, the military would tell Stratolaunch to build and prove Talon-A’s capabilities first, before signing on.

When it comes to government spending, however, we however are no longer in a sane world.

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Europe’s BepiColumbo mission to Mercury threatened by COVID-19

Because of the strict rules and work suspensions imposed due to the Wuhan virus panic, there will be a reduced workforce during the April 10, 2020 fly-by of Earth by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) BepiColumbo Mercury mission.

The press release tries to make it sound like they are heroically working through the fly-by, but the truth is revealed far down in the text:

The operation, however, will be performed with limited personnel at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, where engineers will have to comply with social distancing rules presently in place all over Europe as a response to the coronavirus pandemic. “The Earth swing-by is a phase where we need daily contact with the spacecraft,” says Elsa Montagnon, BepiColombo Spacecraft Operations Manager at ESA. “This is something that we cannot postpone. The spacecraft will swing by Earth independently in any case.”

The coronavirus threat forces the team to work with minimal face to face interaction while ensuring all steps in the process are properly covered. “During the critical two weeks prior to the closest approach, we need to upload safety commands to prepare the spacecraft for unexpected problems,” says Christoph Steiger, BepiColombo Deputy Spacecraft Operations Manager. “For example, we need to prepare the transfer module for the 34 minute-long eclipse when its solar panels will not be exposed to sunlight to prevent battery discharge.”

Operations can still be conducted as planned, he adds, but will require more effort and attention than in a normal situation. [emphasis mine]

I suspect that much of the software work is now being done remotely, but there is no doubt the inability to be present in the control room will prevent any quick fix, should the spacecraft need help during the fly-by.

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Flu deaths appear to be plummeting as COVID-19 arrives

Sarah Hoyt has published a very revealing analysis of the CDC numbers of the on-going 2019-2020 flu season.

The graphs, which are astonishing, show two trends, one somewhat expected, the other completely a surprise. You should definitely go to the link to see.

First, this flu season there is a giant uptick in people seeing their doctor because of flu symptoms. Though the big rise in doctor visits began in December, when COVID-19 first began to make the news, the trend did began well before its appearance, making the uptick somewhat puzzling.

The second trend makes that uptick even more baffling. It appears that in the last four weeks the number of deaths because of flu and pneumonia has plummeted, dropping to far below any numbers for the past five years. As Hoyt notes at the link,

BTW the author and I had several “people who know better than us” look at the charts, and it remains a mystery. No, we don’t know what’s going on. We know it makes no sense.

I suspect the drop in deaths is connected to the high level of concern by the general population, causing them to get treatment earlier so that many who would have died in past seasons don’t. I also suspect that this data also confirms the relatively minor impact so far of COVID-19 overall. As the author notes,

As to conclusions, there isn’t enough data for any concrete conclusion. Looking at this logically, IF there have been COVID-19 cases in the US since December, it doesn’t appear to have been deadly enough to have been very noticeable.

This data is very preliminary, has great uncertainties. Nonetheless, it suggests once again that the panic over the Wuhan flu is way out of line.

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TMT protesters abandon camp due to Wuhan virus fears

The protesters who have been blocking construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea in Hawaii have abandoned their camp due to fears of COVID-19.

Though this gives the consortium an opportunity to begin construction, don’t expect it. Based on info I’ve gotten from within the astronomy community (most of which is liberal and thus very focused on identity politics), the consortium that wants to build TMT is torn over these protests, with many astronomers sympathetic to the protesters’ false claims of bigotry and religious oppression.

TMT will not be built in Hawaii. Whether it is built at all remains an open question.

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Pork galore in Senate-passed COVID-19 “stimulus” bill

The so-called COVID-19 “stimulus” bill that the Senate passed yesterday is apparently stuffed with billions in hand-outs to friends and buddies of Congress and the Washington bureaucracy, all of which have nothing to do with helping the American public being bankrupted by the forced shutdowns imposed on them by government.

Go to the link for a full list, which includes money for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Kennedy Center in DC, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the post office, NASA, and the Department of Education, to name only a few. It also includes a pay raise for Congress, money to sanctuary cities to allow them to continue to flout immigration laws (thereby making it harder to control the virus), and half a billion in foreign aid to Africa. The bill also will force unions on businesses who wish to take any government money.

There’s more of course. It will take a few days for decent people to dig through the entire document [pdf]. By that time however the House, under Democratic Party control, will have added more goodies, the Senate and Trump will have approved, and the bill will be law.

Three cheers for Congress!

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Party shuffling points to new Israeli Netanyahu government

It appears that after three elections in a year, the stalemate that has prevented the formation of a coalition government in Israel has finally ended.

Up until now, the stalemate existed because though the right has generally had the most votes and won more than enough seats to form a government, one of the smaller conservative parties, Yisrael Beytenu, refused to join any coalition that also included the conservative religious parties. Instead, its leader, Avigdor Liberman, wanted Netanyahu to form a unity coalition with his party, Netanyahu’s party Likud, and the liberal coalition, Blue and White, led by Benny Gantz.

Neither Netanyahu nor Blue and White would agree to this. The result: more than a year of stalemate.

This week however Gantz agreed to abandon Blue and White and take his part of that coalition away and join with Netanyahu in a deal that would have him begin as speaker of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) and then become prime minister in a eighteen months.

This deal cuts out both Yisrael Beytenu as well as the religious parties (breaking a promise that Netanyahu has repeatedly made not to do this), and forms a coalition that includes both the conservative Likud and the liberal Labor and Gantz’s Hosen L’Yisrael party. It also cuts out many of the more liberal parts of Blue and White that are very hostile to Netanyahu.

The deal is not yet finalized, so anything could still happen.

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ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket successfully launches military satellite

Capitalism in space: United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket today successfully placed into orbit the first military satellite officially under the U.S. Space Force’s command.

The satellite is the fifth of a constellation designed to provide communications for all military operations.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

6 China
5 SpaceX
4 Russia
2 Europe (Arianespace)
2 ULA

The U.S. now leads China 9 to 6 in the national rankings.

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COVID-19 is NOT going to overwhelm our healthcare system

As part of the panic that has been overwhelming the world because of COVID-19, one of the typical lies that is being spread is that the epidemic is going to overwhelm the world’s healthcare systems. This CNN article from yesterday, entitled “‘That’s when all hell broke loose’: Coronavirus patients start to overwhelm US hospitals”, is typical:

“We ended up getting our first positive patients — and that’s when all hell broke loose,” said one New York City doctor.

The doctor, who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity out of concern for his job, described a hospital that was woefully unprepared for an influx of Covid-19 patients that started roughly two weeks ago — which has already stretched the hospital’s resources thin and led to severely ill patients outnumbering ventilators.

“We don’t have the machines, we don’t have the beds,” the doctor said.

“To think that we’re in New York City and this is happening,” he added. “It’s like a third-world country type of scenario. It’s mind-blowing.” [emphasis mine]

We’re all gonna die!

Not! To dispell these mainstream media lies, I am going to give my readers an example of what a real journalist does, in comparison to the brainless non-researchers at CNN (and elsewhere) who make believe they are journalists but instead play them, on television and cable each day, in order to push an anti-American and leftist agenda that is downright evil and destructive.

I’m going to do some real research, and provide it to my readers so that they can get some context and a deeper understanding of the fake Wuhan flu “pandemic.”
» Read more

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SpaceX commercial launch for Argentina postponed because of COVID-19

Because of travel restrictions imposed by the worldwide panic over the COVID-19 virus, Argentina’s space agency has postponed the planned March 30, 2020 launch by SpaceX of an Earth observation radar satellite.

“This decision (to postpone the launch) has been made considering the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and that could affect the availability of own resources and foreign third-party resources, necessary not only for a safe insertion into orbit, but also for further operation of the satellite,” CONAE said in a statement.

CONAE said the decision to postpone the launch, which was made in consultation with SpaceX, is the “best decision in these moments of uncertainty … that the whole world suffers because of COVID-19.”

Argentina has halted all flights to and from the United States, impacting the ability of Argentine personnel needed to support the planned launch to travel to the Florida spaceport.

The more I research the Wuhan flu, the more I am convinced that the world’s governments have gone crazy. More on this later today.

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Dragon parachute test aborted

Because of the failure of the equipment unrelated to the parachutes, the helicopter pilot for a drop test of SpaceX’s crew Dragon parachutes on March 24, 2020 was forced to release the dummy capsule early, causing its loss.

“During a planned parachute drop test today, the test article suspended underneath the helicopter became unstable,” SpaceX said Tuesday in an emailed statement. “Out of an abundance of caution and to keep the helicopter crew safe, the pilot pulled the emergency release,” the statement added. “As the helicopter was not yet at target conditions, the test article was not armed, and as such, the parachute system did not initiate the parachute deployment sequence. While the test article was lost, this was not a failure of the parachute system, and most importantly, no one was injured. NASA and SpaceX are working together to determine the testing plan going forward in advance of Crew Dragon’s second demonstration mission.”

This issue, combined with the loss of a Falcon 9 first stage (on its fifth flight) during re-entry, because one engine failed to function properly, is making some news sources suggest that NASA will delay the planned May launch of Dragon’s first manned mission to ISS.

If NASA demands a delay of that May manned mission because of these two issues, it will demonstrate how truly insane our society has become. While the issue prevented the drop test, it involved the equipment that suspended the dummy capsule below the helicopter, not the parachute system. Furthermore, this test was one of the very last tests of the parachute system, following a test campaign during the past few months that has worked repeatedly on numerous tests.

As for the first stage loss, do I have to repeat again that it occurred on the stage’s fifth reuse, and after it had successfully launched its payload into orbit? SpaceX will be using a new first stage for the manned mission, and they have experienced no failures on a new first stage like this for literally years.

In a sane society, NASA would look at the overall context, and put aside these issues as irrelevant to their launch schedule. They, and SpaceX, will want to figure out what happened, but they should insist on proceeding on schedule for the May launch.

We are no longer sane however. I will not be surprised if they announce a further launch delay.

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Today COVID-19 made my doctor and I criminals

Because I have in my later years developed a minor case of chronic asthma, I make quarterly visits to a lung specialist to take a basic lung function test to monitor the progress of my workout regimen plus medicines. This began two years ago when the asthma was first diagnosed, forcing me to take puffs of an inhaler twice each day, in the morning and evening.

My long term goal is to get off these meds, but to do so I need to improve the numbers in this quarterly check-up.

Today was my appointment for the first checkup in 2020. I get to the doctor’s office and, not surprisingly, cannot enter without letting them take my temperature and confirm that I have no cough or cold. I expected this, since a doctor’s office is one of the most likely places to catch a disease from others, and with the COVID-19 panic dominating society, they need to be sure everyone is uninfected before allowing them in.

I don’t object to these precautions. I just wonder why they didn’t do such testing last year, when we were having the worst flu season in decades, killing far more people than the Wuhan virus. This contradiction once again illustrates the irrationality of the COVID-19 response.

The office was empty, obviously because many people have cancelled their regular checkups out of a media-induced terror.

When it comes time for my checkup, the doctor’s medical assistant started going through the normal preliminaries, taking my blood pressure, pulse, etc. However, he then tells me that he will not be doing the lung function test, as is normal.

“What?” I say. “That’s the prime reason I’m here. It gives us data for measuring my progress.”
» Read more

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Details of the Wuhan virus Congressional pork bill

With the Democrats in Congress retreating from their effort to stuff the fake COVID-19 stimulus bill with many provisions irrelevant to the virus, including many that would have helped them steal elections, the basic features of the new $2 trillion bill are now becoming clear.

Not surprisingly, it is filled with wonderful payoffs to big and small business, as well as the voters, all of which our federal government cannot afford, and all of which are sadly desperately needed by the citizenry because of the very bad policies the government imposed on the nation because of the virus.

  • Big Businesses: About $500 billion can be used to back loans and assistance to companies, including $50 billion for loans to U.S. airlines, as well as state and local governments.
  • Small Businesses: More than $350 billion to aid small businesses, including $10 billion in SBA grants of up to $10,000 for small business costs, and $17 billion for SBA to cover six months of payments for businesses with current SBA loans.
  • Hospitals: A $150 billion boost for hospitals and other health-care providers for equipment and supplies.
  • Individuals: Direct payments to lower- and middle-income Americans of $1,200 for each adult, as well as $500 for each child.

The bill has a number of restrictions on these payments, which on their face make sense. The problem however is that so far the numbers of people sick from COVID-19 simply do not justify this spending.

No matter. Chicken Little has won again. Common sense no longer exists.

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NASA to use private enterprise for space communications

Capitalism in space: NASA is now in the process of shifting from building its own communications satellites to communicate with ISS as well as many other Earth-orbiting NASA satellites to buying those services from the private sector, much as the agency has done with is cargo and crew ferrying service to the station.

This involves ground stations as well as upgrading its fleet of geosynchronous NASA-built TDRS satellites.

In addition, NASA is seeking industry assistance in replacing the Space Network, which provides communications for more than 40 missions including the International Space Station through government-owned Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS) and associated ground stations. “While the TDRS System is a fine investment that the government has made, for the future we are looking at commercial alternatives,” said Ted Sobchak, NASA Space Network project manager.

NASA plans a multistep campaign to encourage development of commercial space-based relay networks before the current TDRS spacecraft reach the end of their lives. “Based on past spacecraft performance, the newest generation of TDRS will remain operational well into the 2030s,” Younes said.

The original TDRS constellation of satellites, launched from 1983 to 1995, were actually built for a reasonable cost. At the time NASA did not try to put every bell and whistle on them, but focused instead on their basic mission and getting it launched for a reasonable cost. The management at NASA today almost certainly could not do this. Getting new satellites from competitive private companies will therefore save NASA money, and get the job done faster.

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Rocket Lab suspends launches due to Wuhan virus

Chicken Little wins again! Rocket Lab announced yesterday that it is postponing its next launch from New Zealand, scheduled for March 30, due to the Wuhan virus.

The decision to postpone the launch came after the government of New Zealand announced March 23 that it was moving to Level 4, or its highest response level to the pandemic, effective just before midnight local time March 25. Under Level 4, residents are instructed to remain at home and only essential businesses allowed to remain open.

What the government considers essential is very limited. “Only the businesses absolutely essential to ensure the necessities of life, like supermarkets and pharmacies, can stay open. If in doubt, the business premises should be closed,” Paul Stocks, deputy chief executive of New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said in a March 24 statement.

My sense is that Rocket Lab was forced to do this by the government. The result is the government has become more powerful, and private enterprise weaker, partly because of the former, and partly because its profit margin will be slashed due to the unnecessary delay.

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European planetary missions go dark because of Wuhan virus

The European Space Agency has suspended operations and shut down several planetary missions, including two Mars orbiters and two solar missions, because of lockdowns imposed because of COVID-19.

The problem is that they don’t have enough people in their mission controls to operate everything. They are shutting these down so that they can continue operations on their Mecury mission BepiColumbo, for example.

The article also tries to lay the blame for the recently announced launch delay of Europe’s Mars 2020 rover to 2022 on the virus, but that’s false. The mission was delayed because it simply wasn’t ready.

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Bezos’ Feb Amazon stock sale earned $3.4 billion, not $1.8 billion

In early February Jeff Bezos sold of 3% of his Amazon stock, almost twice what had been reported at the time, earning him $3.4 billion not $1.8 billion.

This information is part of an overall sell-off in early February by the top executives of many U.S. companies, totaling $9.2 billion.

While Mr. Bezos’s sales accounted for more than a third of the 2020 sales, thousands of other insiders sold stock. More than 150 executives and officers individually sold at least $1 million worth of stock in February and March after having sold no stock in the previous 12 months, the Journal analysis found.

Wall Street executives also sold large dollar amounts, including Laurence Fink, CEO of BlackRock Inc., who sold $25 million of his company shares on Feb. 14, pre-empting potential losses of more than $9.3 million and Lance Uggla, CEO of IHS Markit Ltd., a data and analytics firm, who sold $47 million of his shares around Feb. 19. Those shares would have dropped in value by $19.2 million if Mr. Uggla had retained them. A spokesperson said the shares were sold under a preset plan.

These early February sell offs are in addition to the sudden sales of stock by four Senators, all conveniently timed to beat the crash that has since occurred.

If I was a cynic I would say they got inside information from their buddies in Congress and the state governments, telling them that the government was going to shut down the economy because of COVID-19, and you better sell.

If I was a fool I’d say that can’t be, these people are all upfront and honest, especially those in Congress. They would never work with the big stockholders on Wall Street to manipulate stocks so those stockholders could make a killing. Never!

Meanwhile, Bezos’ stock sale now gives him a total of $8.2 billion in cash from all his stock sales since 2017. While he has said this money was intended to support his space company Blue Origin, he has also said he wants to spend $10 billion on “climate change.”

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Long March 5B launch still set for mid-April, despite Wuhan virus

The new colonial movement: China is moving forward with its plans to complete the first launch of its big Long March 5B rocket in mid-April, despite the lockdowns because of COVID-19.

The Long March 5B is a variant of the Long March 5, which after two launch failures finally completed its first successful launch in December. The 5B is also the rocket they intend to use for all their manned missions, as well as launching the components of their manned space station.

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China launches three satellites with its Long March 2C rocket

China today successfully placed three military surveillance satellites into orbit, using its Long March 2C.

This rocket uses toxic hypergolic fuels, and is designed for placing satellites in low Earth orbit. Its first stage will likely fall somewhere in the Chinese interior, where the government will warn residents of the danger.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

6 China
5 SpaceX
4 Russia
2 Europe (Arianespace)

The U.S. still leads China 8 to 6 in the national rankings.

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Power is what the COVID-19 government panic is really about

While common sense, caution, and the human ability to adapt to fluctuating circumstances requires our society to react to the COVID-19 epidemic spreading across the globe, our additional ability to think coolly and rationally requires us to not allow our emotions to run wildly and out-of-control, taking actions that might feel good for a moment but do no good and maybe more harm in the long run.

It also requires to look closely at the actions of our lawmakers, whose motives are now commonly not driven by an interest in the country but by their own interests and an insatiable desire for power. Two stories this past weekend were quite revealing in this context.

First we have the incredible request by the Justice Department for new special powers so that it can supposedly react to the epidemic properly.
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Another Chinese state-sponsored company about to launch orbitally

Galactic Enterprise, another Chinese state-sponsored “private” company, says it will attempt its first orbital launch this coming June.

The rocket is named Ceres-1, after the largest body in the asteroid belt, and will launch from China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert. With three solid fuel stages and a liquid propellant fourth stage, it will be able to lift 350 kilograms of payload to an altitude of 200 kilometers in low Earth orbit. [emphasis mine]

Want to know why I do not consider this a real private company? From the article:

[Galactic Energy CEO and founder Liu Baiqi] earned a PhD from the prestigious Beihang University in Beijing before moving to the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), a major subsidiary of the country’s main space contractor. He says everyone on the core team at his company has 10 to 20 years of background in research and development, as well as experience in spaceflight.

The Chinese national strategy of military-civil fusion is a crucial ingredient in China’s nascent commercial launch sector. It facilitates the transfer of restricted military technologies for civilian use, and vice versa. Liu notes that the strategy strengthens China’s commercial aerospace companies by establishing supply chains, providing access to test and launch sites, and securing orders from the government. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted text in both quotes above explains all. First, solid rocket technology is almost always reserved for missiles, as it can be stored easily for long periods, yet be ready to launch quickly. No private company, even in the U.S., can use it without heavy government involvement.

Second, Liu admits that his entire team comes from China’s long established space industry, which has always been dominated and controlled by that country’s government and military. I guarantee that everyone in his company has security clearances, and has worked on the past for China’s missile programs

Third, Liu’s own words confirm my conclusion. He calls it a “military-civil fusion,” but that’s just government weasel-words, another way of saying the government is running the show, entirely. It might be allowing him to form his own operation, using investment capital from Chinese investors, but everything he does is approved and supervised by the Chinese military and government.

It is for this reason I will not list these Chinese “companies” separately in my launch race updates, like I do with U.S. companies. They are not really private, or separate. They are all divisions of China’s military-communist government, and thus should be lumped together.

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Chang’e-4 and Yutu-2 awake for 16th lunar day

Engineers have reactivated their Chang’e-4 lander and Yutu-2 rover on the far side of the Moon to begin their sixteenth lunar day of operations.

The article provides some good information about the future plans for Yutu-2, including some maps showing its overall travels and planned route.

[A] new plan has been formulated for the Yutu 2 rover, which has already provided insights into the composition of the surface and what lies below. Li Chunlai, deputy director of the National Astronomical Observatories of China (NAOC), told the state-run news outlet CCTV+ that the Yutu 2 team are targeting distant areas.

Yutu 2 has been driving across an area covered in ejecta from impact craters, but reaching new ground would be insightful. “If it can enter a basalt zone, maybe we can better understand [the] distribution and structure of ejecta from meteorite impacts,” Li said. “The distance may be 1.8 kilometers [1.1 miles]. I think it may take another one year for the rover to walk out of the ejecta-covered area.”

The rover has been averaging less than a hundred feet of travel per lunar day, so going 1.1 miles will take some time. Kudos however for the rover’s science team for deciding to attempt it. The decision reminds me of a similar decision by the Opportunity rover team to send their rover to Endeavour Crater, miles from their landing site. They made it, and thus explored a region no one ever expected the rover to reach.

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