Tag Archives: government

More parachute problems for ExoMars 2020?

Space is hard: Eric Berger at Ars Technica reported yesterday that the parachute issues for Europe’s ExoMars 2020 mission are far more serious that publicly announced.

The project has had two parachute failures during test flights in May and then August. However,

The problems with the parachutes may be worse than has publicly been reported, however. Ars has learned of at least one other parachute failure during testing of the ExoMars lander. Moreover, the agency has yet to conduct even a single successful test of the parachute canopy that is supposed to deploy at supersonic speeds, higher in the Martian atmosphere.

Repeated efforts to get comments from the project about this issue have gone unanswered.

Their launch window opens in July 2020, only about ten months from now. This is very little time to redesign and test a parachute design. Furthermore, they will only begin the assembly of the spacecraft at the end of this year, which is very very late in the game.

When the August test failure was confirmed, I predicted that there is a 50-50 chance they will launch in 2020. The lack of response from the project above makes me now think that their chances have further dropped, to less than 25%.

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Japan scrubs launch due to launchpad fire

Japan today scrubbed the launch of its unmanned HTV cargo freighter to ISS due to a launchpad fire that broke out only three and half hours before liftoff.

There is as yet no word on the cause of the fire, or how much damage it caused. Nor have they said anything about rescheduling the launch.

This would have been Japan’s second launch in 2019, a drop from the average of 4 to 6 in the last five years.

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SpaceX wins launch contract for seven SES satellites

Capitalism in space: SES yesterday announced that it has awarded SpaceX’s Falcon 9 the launch contract for the next seven satellites in its next generation communications constellation.

This is a big win for SpaceX, made even more clear by a briefing held yesterday with reporters by Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israel. In that briefing Israel outlined that company’s upcoming launch contracts, where he also claimed that this launch manifest is so full he had to turn down SES’s launch offer.

Because of its full manifest, Arianespace was unable to offer SES launch capacity in 2021 for its next generation of medium Earth orbit satellites, mPOWER. SES announced plans Sept. 9 to fly mPOWER satellites on SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets from Florida’s Cape Canaveral. Arianespace launched the 20 satellites in the SES O3B constellation.

It was important to SES to launch in 2021, Israel said. Given Arianespace’s full manifest, it was difficult “to offer the guarantee they were asking for,” he added.

If you believe that I have a bridge I want to sell you. Arianespace has been struggling to get launch contracts for its new Ariane 6 rocket. They have begun production on the first fourteen, but according Israel’s press briefing yesterday, Ariane 6 presently only has eight missions on its manifest. That means that six of the rockets they are building have no launch customers. I am sure they wanted to put those SES satellites on at least some of those rockets, and couldn’t strike a deal because the expendable Ariane 6 simply costs more than the reusable Falcon 9.

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Yutu-2 travels almost 300 meters on ninth lunar day

According to a story today in official Chinese state-run media, Yutu-2 traveled another 284.99 meters during its ninth lunar day on the surface of the Moon, and has now been placed in hibernation in order to survive the long lunar night.

The story provides no further information, including saying nothing about the strange and unusual material the rover supposedly spotted during this time period.

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Chandrayaan-2 locates Vikram

According to K. Sivan, the head of ISRO, India’s space agency, their Chandrayaan-2 orbiter has captured a thermal image of Vikram on the lunar surface, pinpointing the lander’s location.

They have not released the image. According to reports today, they do not yet know the lander’s condition, and have not regained communications. Reports late yesterday had quoted K.Sivan as saying “It must have been a hard-landing.” That quote is not in today’s reports.

In watching the landing and the subsequent reports out of India, it appears that India is having trouble dealing with this failure. To give the worst example, I watched a television anchor fantasize, twenty minutes after contact had been lost, that the lander must merely be hovering above the surface looking for a nice place to land. Most of the reports are not as bad, but all seem to want to minimize the failure, to an extreme extent.

Their grief is understandable, because their hopes were so high. At the same time, you can’t succeed in this kind of challenging endeavor without an uncompromising intellectual honesty, which means you admit failure as quickly as possible, look hard at the failure to figure out why it happened, and then fix the problem. If India can get to that place it will be a sign that they are maturing as a nation. At the moment it appears they are not quite there.

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Vikram fails to land on Moon

Vikram, India’s first attempt to soft land on the Moon, apparently has failed, with something apparently going wrong in the very last seconds before landing.

As I write this they have not officially announced anything, but the live feed shows a room of very unhappy people.

It is possible the lander made it and has not yet sent back word, but such a confirmation should not take this long.

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, was given a very short briefing by K. Sivan, head of ISRO, and then apparently left without comment. This I found an interesting contrast to the actions of Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu when its lunar lander Beresheet failed in landing earlier this year. Netanyahu came out to comfort the workers in mission control, congratulating them for getting as far as they had. Modi apparently simply left. UPDATE: Modi has reappeared to talk to the children who had won a contest to see the landing as well as people in mission control. After making a public statement he has now left.

They are now confirming that communications was lost at 2.1 kilometers altitude, which was just before landing. They are analyzing the data right now to figure out what went wrong.

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Results released of July Vega launch failure investigation

The European Space Agency (ESA) this week released the results of its investigation into the July 10, 2019 launch failure of Arianespace’s Vega rocket, the first such failure after 14 successful launches.

The failure had occurred about the time the first stage had separated and the second stage Z23 rocket motor was to ignite. The investigation has found that the separation and second stage ignition both took place as planned, followed by “a sudden and violent event” fourteen seconds later, which caused the rocket to break up.

They now have pinned that event to “a thermo-structural failure in the forward dome area of the Z23 motor.”

The report says they plan to complete corrective actions and resume launches by the first quarter of 2020.

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Township shuts fire company because one member spoke to Proud Boys

They’re coming for you next: A local Pennsylvania township has shut down an entire voluntary fire company because it refused to blacklist a member who also happened to have expressed interest in joining the Proud Boys organization.

Officials in Haverford Township, in Delaware County, were informed on Aug. 12 that a volunteer with the Bon Air Fire Company was affiliated with “an organization described as an extremist group,” the township’s manager David Burman wrote in a statement released Thursday.

The township immediately launched an investigation, which included interviewing the volunteer, who admitted he was involved with the Proud Boys, Burman said. The volunteer revealed he had attended social gatherings hosted by the group and had passed two of the group’s four initiation steps, “which includes hazing.”

Burman’s statement quoted the group’s “self-proclaimed basic tenet,” posted on their website, that they are “Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.” The proclamation belongs to the Proud Boys, who “are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which designates them as a hate group. Women and transgender men are not allowed in the group.

While the volunteer “indicated that he had attempted to distance himself from the group in recent months” Burman and a police official met with Bon Air Fire Company officials on Aug. 14 to address “the seriousness of this matter and urged the fire company to address it.”

Burman said he was informed the next day that the volunteer had offered his resignation, but the Bon Air Fire Company chief had refused to accept it. A week later, Burman said he received an email that said the fire company’s board had “found no basis for terminating the volunteer’s membership.”

First, the accusations of bigotry by the Southern Poverty Law Center are pure slander and libel. There is no evidence of this. The Proud Boys are admittedly a male-only organization, but so what? This isn’t proof of bigotry, no matter what the modern idiotic political correct leftist interpretation claims. And the organization’s proud favoring of western civilization over other cultures, such as Islam, actually has strong empirical proof, for anyone who has read any history at all. These slanders are part of Obama’s legacy of hate, whereby liberals now have the freedom to label anyone who disagrees with them bigots and hate-mongers, without any evidence.

I applaud the fire company for standing up for the freedom of speech of one of its members. I wish that there would be an outpouring of support for them in this locality in Pennsylvania. They should be honored for defending freedom, and telling the local petty dictators on the township’s government to go to hell.

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Democrats at climate forum: Ban everything!

Fascists: When asked by CNN interviewers during that network’s seven hour pro-Democratic climate forum yesterday what they would do to prevent global warming, it appears that the primary solution by every Democratic presidential candidate was to ban things.

Democrats appearing at CNN’s marathon 7-hour global warming forum have a plan to solve a changing climate: Ban everything!

Over the course of the television extravaganza, Democrats’ leading 2020 presidential candidates floated a variety of proposals to cut Americans’ energy use and, ostensibly, to stop the climate from changing. Among them: Bans on plastic straws, red meat, incandescent lightbulbs, gas-powered cars, nuclear energy, off-shore drilling, fracking, natural gas exports, coal plants, and even “carbon” itself.

The article goes on to detail each candidate’s banning proposals, all of which were similar, mindless, and based on an incredible level of ignorance about the climate and science. Bernie Sanders however probably gave us the most revealing and honest glimpse into all their mindsets with his suggestion that human life itself was the problem.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) went the furthest, saying we should try to minimize human life itself to help the environment. Sanders said he’d use taxpayer money to help fund 3rd world population control programs: “The answer has everything to do with the fact that women in the United States of America, by the way, have a right to control their own bodies and make reproductive decisions. And the Mexico City agreement, which denies American aid to those organizations around the world that allow women to have abortions or even get involved in birth control to me is totally absurd.” [emphasis mine]

No one should be surprised by this. Every socialist/communist/totalitarian movement in the past has always led inevitably to the killing of millions. For them, their ideas are much more important than people, and should those people get in the way, well then, they must be removed, by force and by gas chambers if necessary.

Be prepared. Should one of these power-hungry leftists win the White House they will be coming for you next.

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China withdraws extradition bill that sparked Hong Kong protests

The Hong Kong government today announced that it is withdrawing the extradition bill demanded by China that sparked Hong Kong protests.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, said Wednesday that the government would withdraw a contentious extradition bill that ignited months of protests in the city, moving to quell the worst political crisis since the former British colony returned to Chinese control 22 years ago.

The move eliminates a major objection among protesters, but it was unclear if it would be enough to bring an end to intensifying demonstrations, which are now driven by multiple grievances with the government.

“Incidents over these past two months have shocked and saddened Hong Kong people,” she said in an eight-minute televised statement broadcast shortly before 6 p.m. “We are all very anxious about Hong Kong, our home. We all hope to find a way out of the current impasse and unsettling times.”

Her decision comes as the protests near their three-month mark and show little sign of abating, roiling a city known for its orderliness and hurting its economy.

The article suggests that the protests will still go on, that the “genie is out of the bottle.” I am not so sure.

Regardless, what this means is that, as of now, China is admitting that its effort to eliminate Hong Kong’s democratic systems and fold it completely into the communist power structure of the mainland has failed. This does not mean that China will stop trying, merely that they will now pause in this effort.

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The end of the Thirty Meter Telescope?

The arriving dark age: It appears that the protests in Hawaii that are preventing the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope might end up killing the telescope completely.

The problem is twofold. First, the Democratic-controlled government in Hawaii is willing to let the protesters run the show, essentially allowing a mob to defy the legal rulings of the courts:

The Native Hawaiian protesters blocking the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on the summit of Mauna Kea appear to have settled in for the long haul. After 2 months of protests, their encampment on the Mauna Kea access road has shops, a cafeteria, and meeting spaces. “It’s like a small village,” says Sarah Bosman, an astronomer from University College London who visited in July. “There are signs up all over the island. It was a bit overwhelming really.”

Second, there is opposition to the alternate backup site in the Grand Canary Islands, both from local environmental groups and from within the consortium that is financing the telescope’s construction.

Astronomers say that the 2250-meter-high site, about half as high as Mauna Kea, is inferior for observations. Canada, one of six TMT partners—which also include Japan, China, India, the California Institute of Technology, and the University of California—is especially reluctant to make the move and could withdraw from the $1.4 billion project, which can ill afford to lose funding. Finally, an environmental group on La Palma called Ben Magec is determined to fight the TMT in court and has succeeded in delaying its building permit. It says the conservation area that the TMT wants to build on contains archaeological artifacts. “They’re willing to fight tooth and nail to stop TMT,” says Thayne Currie, an astronomer at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.

We now live in a culture that is opposed to new knowledge. It is also a culture that prefers mob rule, giving power to the loudest and possibly most violent protesters, while treating the law as a mere inconvenience to be abandoned at the slightest whim of those mobs.

If this doesn’t define a dark age, I’m not sure what does.

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Vikram makes second and last lunar orbital change

The new colonial movement: India’s Vikram lunar lander today made its second and last orbital change, preparing itself for landing on the Moon on September 7.

The orbit of Vikram Lander is 35 km x 101 km. Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter continues to orbit the Moon in an orbit of 96 km x 125 km and both the Orbiter and Lander are healthy.

With this maneuver the required orbit for the Vikram Lander to commence it descent towards the surface of the Moon is achieved. The Lander is scheduled to powered descent between 0100 – 0200 hrs IST on September 07, 2019, which is then followed by touch down of Lander between 0130 – 0230 hrs IST

They plan to roll the rover Pragyan off of Vikram about two hours after landing.

This article provides a nice overview of the mission.

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UK Tories purge 21 who opposed party today

The Conservative Party in Great Britain today expelled 21 members who voted against Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to exit the European Union, deal or no deal.

[The expulsion plan was announced] just hours after lawmakers in Britain passed legislation designed to stop Johnson from taking the UK out of the European Union without a formal deal. The House of Commons earlier Tuesday passed a bill allowing members of Parliament to introduce legislation forcing Johnson to ask for a three-month extension from the EU if a deal is not made by Oct. 31, the Brexit deadline.

The bill passed in a 328 to 301 vote, with 21 members of the governing Conservative Party defecting and joining the opposition party, The Guardian reported.

Johnson has also announced that he will call for general elections, to decide if his party should remain in power. At the moment it appears he does not have a majority in parliament to rule.

At the same time, Johnson has soared in the polls for his hardline exit strategy, and it also appears this strategy is garnering him international political support.

If Johnson wins in the elections, he will have succeeded in purging his party of the equivalent of what conservatives in the U.S. call RINOs, fake conservatives who mouth the right thing but don’t really mean it and when push comes to shove always betray the people who voted for them. This will put Johnson in a very strong political position for doing what he was chosen to do, uphold the choice of the electorate when they voted to leave the European Union.

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SpaceX issues explanation for nonresponse in potential satellite collision issue

SpaceX today issued an explanation for why it had not responded when ESA officials had asked them to change the orbit of one of its Starlink smallsats to protect against a possible collision with ESA’s Aeolus spacecraft.

SpaceX, in a statement Sept. 3, said it was aware of a potential conjunction Aug. 28 and communicated with ESA. At that time, though, the threat of a potential collision was only about 1 in 50,000, below the threshold where a maneuver was warranted. When refined data from the U.S. Air Force increased the probability to within 1 in 1,000, “a bug in our on-call paging system prevented the Starlink operator from seeing the follow on correspondence on this probability increase,” a company spokesperson told SpaceNews.

“SpaceX is still investigating the issue and will implement corrective actions,” the spokesperson said of the glitch. “However, had the Starlink operator seen the correspondence, we would have coordinated with ESA to determine best approach with their continuing with their maneuver or our performing a maneuver.”

This incident increasingly strikes me as a tempest in a teapot created by ESA for any number of reasons, including their overall dislike of SpaceX (for generally making all government-run space programs look foolish). There is also this quote from an ESA official in the article above:

“The case just showed that, in the absence of traffic rules and communication protocols, collision avoidance has to rely on the pragmatism of the involved operators,” Krag said. “This is done today by exchange of emails. Such a process is not viable any longer with the increase of space traffic.” He said that, if the Space Safety initiative is funded, ESA would like to demonstrate automated maneuver coordination by 2023. [emphasis mine]

I can just see ESA officials drooling with eager anticipation the coming of more “traffic rules and communication protocols,” partly inspired by this fake crisis they just created. Imposing more rules and getting increased funding is what they do best, since it certainly isn’t exploring space with creative and efficient innovation.

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Boris Johnson loses one-vote majority in House of Commons

In the continuing political battle in the British parliament over the decision by the voters to leave the European Union and prime minister Boris Johnson’s effort to abide by that decision quickly, a member of his Tory Party defected from that party today in a public stunt.

Boris Johnson has seen his one-vote Commons majority vanish before his eyes, as a statement by the prime minister to parliament was undermined by the very public defection of the Conservative MP Phillip Lee to the Liberal Democrats.

The stunt, in which the pro-remain Bracknell MP walked across the chamber to the Lib Dem benches flanked by two of his new colleagues, happened as Johnson updated the Commons on last month’s G7 summit, a statement devoted mainly to Brexit.

At the start of a crucial day in the Commons, Johnson condemned a backbench plan aimed at delaying Brexit to avert a no-deal departure, calling it a “surrender bill”. Jeremy Corbyn responded by criticising the PM’s language. MPs will vote on Tuesday evening on whether to take control of the order paper to allow the passage of the bill. Johnson has promised to seek a general election if they do so.

It is very clear that Great Britain has the same political problem as the United States: an entrenched elitist power structure that doesn’t wish to abide by the popular will, and is willing to do almost anything to maintain its power, even if that means corrupting or even destroying the democratic institutions that have made western civilization possible.

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Vikram completes first de-orbit burn

The new colonial movement: India’s Vikram lunar lander has successfully completed its first de-orbit engine burn, lasting 4 seconds, adjusting its orbit slightly in preparation for landing on the Moon on September 7.

They will do a second burn tomorrow, further adjusting the orbit.

Note that the update says that this burn was by Chandrayaan-2, but this must be a mistake. The Vikram lander separated from the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter yesterday, and it is Vikram that is doing the orbital changes and will land on the Moon.

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The modern academic view of the future

Samsung has just released a new report, dubbed Samsung KX50: The Future in Focus, where the company asked “Six of Britain’s leading academics and futurists” to give their prediction of what the world will be like fifty years hence.

According to the report [pdf], people will be living mostly in very dense urban environments consisting of giant, self-sufficient skyscrapers that grow their own food, huge underground complexes, and even undersea colonies. Travel will be by self-driving pods that can double as hotel rooms on long trips, with travel possible between places like Britain and Scandinavia by aquatic highways. Alongside these will be autonomous air taxis that use rivers as commuter routes, hyperloops, and hypersonic airliners.

Not that there will be much traveling. For environmental reasons, most food will be grown close to home, if not in the home itself. Manufacturing will be equally local thanks to 3D printing. And, thanks to automation and artificial intelligence, most people will work in their self-cleaning homes with most of their professional and personal interactions with others conducted through means of full-feedback holographs.

That means that most people will live very sedentary lives, but they’ll also be monitored by biosensors throughout the day as virtual digital companions assess their health, help doctors to prescribe treatments to keep them at peak fitness, dispense health advice, and even custom tailor diets and medicines. [emphasis mine]

The last paragraph immediately stood out to me. These academics saw no moral or ethical problem with such monitoring and supervision. Nor it appears were they aware of the political ramifications of such technology.

Similarly, the report also envisioned “TV and movies beamed directly to your brain via optoelectronic devices” and “Living forever with our memories uploaded to the Cloud.” And from introduction in the report [pdf] itself:

One of the first things that struck me, reading their submissions, was how much consensus there seems to be between all our futurologists, on matters such as direct brain-to-internet connection being a very real possibility before 2069.

The essays in the report itself confirmed this impression. The predictions of all these academics are all focused on imposing their hot-button leftist agenda, including preventing global warming, allowing gender fluidity, pushing environmental activism, and eliminating of meat as food (to name a few), and doing so by the use of technology that is implanted directly into each human being. The world they envision will have every human a pawn in their interconnected robotic-controlled society, with brain implants eliminating our ability to think independently because we are now part of a kind of hive mind.

Samsung then asked British citizens to rank these predictions by what they would most like to see come true. Self-cleaning robotic homes was by far the most popular prediction at 63%, with “Body implants that monitor our health and translate any language” coming in second at 44%.

This poll however was rigged, as it did not ask anyone if they opposed some predictions. I wonder what response Samsung would have gotten had they asked that question.

Nonetheless, the number of people enthused by the idea of monitoring by body implants make me fear for the future. Today young people are addicted to their smart phones and that hive mind. They see nothing wrong with Google monitoring their lives and even acting to control them. I fear that when more convenient but invasive monitoring and control become technologically possible, future generations will be quick to accept it, while they simultaneously lose their individuality and ability to create uniquely.

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Chandrayaan-2 now in proper lunar orbit for release of lander/rover

India’s Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft today completed its fifth engine burn in lunar orbit, placing it in the correct orbit for releasing its lander/rover.

The next operation is the separation of Vikram Lander from Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter, which is scheduled on September 02, 2019, between 1245 – 1345 hrs (IST). Following this, there will be two deorbit maneuvers of Vikram Lander to prepare for its landing in the south polar region of the moon.

The landing itself is scheduled for September 7.

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Police ramp up violence against Hong Kong protesters today

This weekend’s Hong Kong protests against China’s rule resulted in increased violence by the police against the protesters.

In the evening, clashes between police and demonstrators broke the peaceful rhythm in the afternoon rallies, repeating the pattern of past weekend protests. Police deployed water cannon trucks several times, unleashing blue-dyed water that would make it easier for police to identify frontline protesters. Police chased down protesters and beat them up with batons, injuring multiple people in the head. One person was injured in the left eye, reportedly by a police-fired projectile.

On Hennessy Road, where many protesters had gathered, police fired multiple rounds of tear gas and sponge grenades. Police also confirmed that they fired two live rounds near Victoria Park. There were no reported injuries in the area. It is unclear why police decided to deploy their service weapons at the time.

Toward midnight, violence spread into subway stations in Kowloon district. At the Prince Edward metro station and several other stations in Kowloon, police charged into the station and into train cars, deploying pepper spray and beating their batons. Officers arrested at least a dozen individuals. Several unarmed passengers were seen bleeding from injuries.

More details at the link. It appears that the protests were peaceful for most of the day, until the police decided to move in and try to shut them down.

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ISS partners okay Trump changes to Gateway

The various international nations that partner on ISS and wish to partner on NASA’s Gateway project issued a statement this week saying that they approve the changes imposed on that lunar space station by the Trump administration, all of which significantly delay their participation.

In an Aug. 28 statement, members of the station’s Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB), which includes the five space agencies involved in the ISS, said the Gateway is “a critical next step” in human space exploration and that they plan to contribute modules or other elements for the facility in lunar orbit.

“Looking to exploration activities beyond LEO, the MCB members reaffirmed their continued intention to cooperate on a human outpost in the lunar vicinity – Gateway,” the document, a summary of the board’s Aug. 6 meeting, stated. “Within a broader open architecture for human exploration, the MCB acknowledged the Gateway as a critical next step.”

The board offered a similar endorsement of the Gateway at a March 5 meeting. The statement from that meeting included a diagram of one Gateway configuration, with contributions from Canada, Europe, Japan and Russia, as well as the United States, identified.

Three weeks after that meeting, though, Vice President Mike Pence announced at a meeting of the National Space Council that the U.S. would speed up its lunar exploration timeline, seeking to land astronauts on the moon by 2024, rather than prior plans for a 2028 landing. NASA subsequently said that it would initially pursue a minimal Gateway needed for that 2024 landing, deferring full-fledged development of the Gateway for a second phase intended to enable “sustainable” lunar exploration in the second half of the 2020s. [emphasis mine]

The “minimal Gateway” that the Trump administration is presently pursuing is structured to shift focus from a space station in lunar orbit to landing on the Moon. This means that many of the later components of Gateway, to be built or used by these international partners, will be significantly delayed, or even made unnecessary.

So, why did these space agencies all endorse the new plan that circumscribed their participation? They have no choice. Without NASA’s SLS, they have no way to get to the Moon. And without Gateway, SLS has no reason to exist. These government space agencies need SLS (as ephemeral as SLS might be) because it is the only free government launch option available to them. They hope, by endorsing what the Trump administration has done, to convince it to go along with the complete Gateway project, including the continued funding of SLS, thus creating a gigantic international boondoggle (paid for mostly by the U.S.) that will justify all their manned space programs.

This is another reason to dump SLS. Wouldn’t it be better for the U.S. to have its private commercial space launch industry sell its goods to these leeches, rather than have them living off our taxpayers’ dime? We will gain nothing from them with Gateway, as it is presently structured, while they feed off of us. If instead they needed to buy launch services from private rockets, the profits would accrue to U.S. companies and citizens, and help encourage competition and more innovation.

If we instead buy into this international boondoggle, we will spend a lot of money for very little space exploration, even as we make the bureaucrats at six government space agencies (including NASA) very happy.

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China launches two smallsats

Using its Kuaizhou-1A solid rocket, China’s pseudo-private company ExSpace launched two smallsats into orbit yesterday.

This rocket, using technology developed for the military, including a mobile launch platform, is designed to compete directly with Rocket Lab and the other western private smallsat rockets trying to come on line right now. Its development appears to have been wholly funded by the Chinese government, which revealed after the launch that they plan between 8 and 9 more launches before the end of the year.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

14 Russia
14 China
10 SpaceX
6 Europe (Arianespace)
4 India
4 Rocket Lab
4 ULA

The U.S. continues to lead 19-14 in the national rankings.

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Hong Kong arrests three prominent protest leaders

In a sign that China has no intention of compromising with the protesters in Hong Kong, authorities there today arrested three of the most high-profile leaders of the protest movement.

Two were active in protests in 2014.

Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, who rose to eminence as the student leaders of pro-democracy demonstrations in 2014, were detained Friday, ahead of what is expected to be a tense weekend in the city. Authorities banned a march planned for Saturday, and warned they would use force and possibly arrest those who defy the order.

Police said Wong and Chow face charges of participating in an unauthorized assembly and inciting others to participate in an unapproved assembly, while Wong faces an additional charge of organizing an unapproved assembly, in relation to a June 21 protest at police headquarters. Both were released on bail Friday. …

The sweep came ahead of a sensitive political anniversary in the semiautonomous Chinese territory. This Saturday marks five years since Beijing announced an electoral-reform plan that denied Hong Kong free elections — a decision that triggered 79 days of pro-democracy protests.

More here, including information about other arrests in addition to the three above.

I’m not sure China’s actions here are going to prevent demonstrations tomorrow. For example,

The bespectacled Wong, who was 17 when he became the face of the student-led civil disobedience movement in 2014 that blocked major roads for 79 days, has not been a prominent figure in the latest protests, which have no identifiable leaders.

The same thing applies to the others who were arrested. There doesn’t appear to be anyone in particular running these protests, which means arresting a few scapegoats and banning further demonstrations will probably not work. We shall find out this weekend.

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China’s FAST radio telescope discovers 93 new pulsars

The research team running China’s FAST radio telescope, the largest single dish such telescope in the world, have announced that they have discovered 93 new pulsars since October 2017.

China might still be having trouble finding a big name astronomer to run the telescope, but in the meantime it looks like their own people are taking advantage of the situation to use the telescope establish their own names.

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Russia’s Rockot launches military geodesic satellite

Russia today used its re-purposed ballistic missile, Rockot, to launch the second in a two-satellite constellation of military geodesic satellites, designed to more accurately map the Earth’s gravitational field.

This launch puts Russia in the lead in the annual race for most launches for the first time since 2018. It also gives them more launches for the year than they had predicted. Both facts demonstrate that their launch industry is showing a recovery from the problems experienced in 2016, when they discovered corruption in one of their main rocket engine companies, requiring the recall of all engines.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

14 Russia
13 China
10 SpaceX
6 Europe (Arianespace)
4 India
4 Rocket Lab
4 ULA

The U.S. still leads Russia in the national rankings, 19 to 14.

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Apparent Iran launch failure

Just released satellite photos showing fire and smoke at an Iranian launchpad suggest that a rumored attempt by Iran this week to launch a satellite into orbit resulted instead in a launchpad failure.

[S]atellite images by Planet Labs Inc. showed a black plume of smoke rising above a launch pad there, with what appeared to be the charred remains of a rocket and its launch stand. In previous days, satellite images had shown officials there repainted the launch pad blue.

On Thursday morning, half of that paint apparently had been burned away. “Whatever happened there, it blew up and you’re looking at the smoldering remains of what used to be there,” said David Schmerler, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

Schmerler told The Associated Press that the images of the space center suggested that the rocket either exploded during ignition or possibly briefly lifted off before crashing back down on the pad.

In July Iranian officials had said they would do three launches this year, with a communications satellite launch expected before the end of the summer. It would appear that this failure is of that launch.

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Space Command to launch today

The military today will initiate a new military office dubbed the Space Command, thereby consolidating its space operations into one office.

U.S. Air Force Gen. John Raymond will serve as the first head of Space Command (SPACECOM). At launch, Raymond will lead 87 active units handling operations such as missile warning, satellite surveillance, space control and space support, Gen. Joseph Dunford said at a meeting of the National Space Council earlier this month.

The rest of the linked article is focused on the politics of Trump’s desire to turn this command into a new branch of the military, a Space Force, while facing opposition in Congress and the Pentagon. The goal however from the beginning was to end the scattershot nature of the military’s space bureaucracy, and it appears, on the surface, that the Space Command has done this.

Whether things stand as they are however is doubtful. Creating a new military branch is a wonderful opportunity for Washington power-brokers to find ways to spend money. For example, some estimates have said that the new Space Force could cost $1 to $2 billion more. You think these thieves and crooks in Washington will be able to resist that?

Of course, there really is no reason for this new agency to cost so much extra. In fact, the Space Command as created now probably adds nothing to the budget, and in fact probably has the chance to save money. And it even makes the military’s space operations more robust and efficient.

I therefore expect the powers-that-be in Washington to move to change that.

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Comey skips free

The law is only for little people: Despite a damning Justice Deparment inspector general report that concluded that James Comey had violated the law and broke FBI rules by leaking classified information when he was FBI director, the Justice Department has decided not to prosecute him.

“We conclude that Comey’s retention, handling, and dissemination of certain Memos violated Department and FBI policies, and his FBI Employment Agreement,” reads DOJ watchdog head Michael Horowitz’s report.

The watchdog office said Comey broke FBI rules by giving a memo containing unclassified information to his friend Daniel Richman with instructions to share the contents with a reporter. The office also said Comey failed to notify the FBI after he was fired that he had retained some of the memos in a safe at home. Comey wrote a series of memos about conversations with President Trump he said unnerved him. Comey has stated he wanted to make a record of the interactions because he was concerned President Trump might later lie about them.

Attorney General William Barr will not prosecute the fired FBI director over his wrongdoings.

We are no longer a nation of laws, but of corrupt power and banana republic backroom deals. By aligning himself with the Democratic Party, Comey has obtained that get-out-of-jail card that all Democrats hold. No matter what laws they break, no one in Washington will ever prosecute them, especially if they are in positions of power and are popular commentators on mainstream liberal press outlets like CNN.

Be a Republican, or a conservative, or even an ordinary citizen, however, and be prepared for the entire legal book to be thrown at you instantly, should you even jaywalk.

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Elementary students to name NASA’s 2020 Mars rover

NASA announced today a contest among the nation’s elementary students to find a name for its Mars 2020 rover.

Starting Tuesday, Aug. 27, K-12 students in U.S. public, private and home schools can enter the Mars 2020 Name the Rover essay contest. One grand prize winner will name the rover and be invited to see the spacecraft launch in July 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

To enter the contest, students must submit by Nov. 1 their proposed rover name and a short essay, no more than 150 words, explaining why their proposed name should be chosen. The essays will be divided into three groups, by grade level – K-4, 5-8, and 9-12 – and judged on the appropriateness, significance and originality of their proposed name, and the originality and quality of their essay, and/or finalist interview presentation.

Fifty-two semifinalists will be selected per group, each representing their respective state or U.S. territory. Three finalists then will be selected from each group to advance to the final round.

As part of the final selection process, the public will have an opportunity to vote online on the nine finalists in January 2020. NASA plans to announce the selected name on Feb. 18, 2020 – exactly one year before the rover will land on the surface of Mars.

Obviously, there is a bit of hokum in this contest. The kids will make suggestions, the public will vote, but in the end NASA will make the selection. Requiring them to write short essays justifying their suggestion however is an excellent educational idea, and for this kudos to NASA.

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More images from Chandrayaan-2

Moon image from Chandrayaan-2
Click for full image.

The Chandrayaan-2 engineering team has released more lunar images from Chandrayaan-2, this time from its higher resolution Terrain Mapping Camera 2.

One example is to the right, reduced to post here. It was taken from about 2,700 miles altitude, and shows a section of the northern hemisphere on the Moon’s heavily cratered far side. There are other images at the link.

The goal of these images is to demonstrate that the camera and spacecraft pointing systems are working. It appears they have done so successfully.

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