Tag Archives: policy

China launches two GPS-type satellites

China yesterday used its Long March 3B rocket to successfully launch two more GPS-type satellites for its planned Beidou constellation of 35 satellites.

They have launched about half the constellation this year, and plan to complete it next year.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

32 China
18 SpaceX
11 Russia
8 ULA
8 Europe (Arianespace)

China has widened its lead over the U.S. to 32 to 30 in the national rankings. China also seems on schedule to meet or at least come very close to its predicted 40 launches this year, a number that doubles its previous high.

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Luxembourg accepts full loss from Planetary Resources investment

Capitalism in space: Luxembourg this week admitted that its 12 million euro investment in Planetary Resources is a complete loss.

They had sold off their ten percent investment when a blockchain company purchased Planetary Resources on November 1. This article merely confirms the full loss from the companies sale.

When Planetary Resources was first revealed, the mainstream press went nuts touting its claims that it was an asteroid mining company, mostly because of the supposed involvement of several rich Google investors. I however had reservations, mainly because the company was selling itself as an asteroid mining company when there was no chance it was going to do any mining, for at least a decade.

Simply put, I do not like it when companies or governments make false and unrealistic claims. It raises a red flag in the back of my mind, which in turn makes me suspect that the company or government is almost certainly not going to achieve what it claims. Over the past decades I have learned to take that red flag seriously, and this is another case where it served me well.

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NASA suggests retirement of SLS when BFR and New Glenn fly

Capitalism in space: During an interview at a November 1st conference, a NASA official mentioned that if SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) and Blue Origin’s New Glenn begin flying successfully the agency will seriously consider retiring SLS.

“I think our view is that if those commercial capabilities come online, we will eventually retire the government system, and just move to a buying launch capacity on those [rockets],” Stephen Jurczyk, NASA’s associate administrator, told Business Insider at The Economist Space Summit on November 1.

However, NASA may soon find itself in a strange position, since the two private launch systems may beat SLS back to the moon – and one might be the first to send people to Mars.

I have been saying that this should happen since almost the first day this website was started in 2011. To quote from a September 14, 2011 post:

To be really blunt, this new rocket, like all its predecessors, will never fly either. It costs too much, will take too long to build, and will certainly be canceled by a future administration before it is finished. It is therefore a complete waste of money, and any Congress that approves it will demonstrate how utterly insincere they are about controlling spending.

It appears that I was wrong with this prediction on one count. SLS might actually fly a few times, but only to allow its supporters in Congress and NASA to justify that support. When the private rockets come on line in the early 2020s, cheaper, faster, and better designed (with re-usability), NASA and Congress will then finally say that these rockets are better and that SLS will die, and they will also both make believe they were saying that from the very beginning.

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Soyuz rocket successfully launches Progress freighter

A Russian Soyuz rocket today successfully launched a Progress freighter to ISS.

While Russia has already successfully launched three Soyuz rockets since the manned Soyuz launch abort on October 11, this was the first to use the same exact variation of the Soyuz rocket. It is expected they will now approve the manned December 3rd manned launch to ISS.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

31 China
18 SpaceX
11 Russia
8 ULA
8 Europe (Arianespace)

China continues to lead the U.S. in the national rankings, 31 to 29.

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Man attacked in Tucson for wearing MAGA hat

They’re coming for you next: A man was attacked and suffered a broken ankle in Tucson last week because he was wearing a pro-Trump MAGA hat.

Sparks says he was downtown last week wearing the iconic red hat and encouraging his fellow Tucsonans to vote Republican, when he was suddenly attacked from behind. “I felt a very strong grasp on my hat, and it pulled me back and grabbed a lot of hair,” Sparks told the outlet (video below). “The assailant had jumped onto my ankle from behind. And so I — not knowing yet my ankle was broken into four pieces — I turned around to grab and take the hat back. My hands latched onto the hat.”

At that point, he said, they both fell to the ground, his ankle shattered. “Then I heard the words Hitler, Nazi and Trump,” said Sparks. “He was shouting things like that.”

This is obviously Trump’s fault. And Maxine Waters should be proud at the willingness of this Democrat to follow her advice!

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Advisory panel to Space Council pans Gateway

The advisory panel to the Space Council gave NASA’s Gateway lunar orbiting platform low marks in a meeting in Washington yesterday.

NASA’s plan for returning to the Moon met with opposition today at a meeting of the National Space Council’s Users’ Advisory Group (UAG). Not only members of the UAG, but former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, who was there as a guest speaker on other topics, offered his personal view that NASA is moving too slowly and the lunar orbiting Gateway is unnecessary.

Makes sense to me, especially based on the description of Gateway put forth by NASA at the meeting:

In the first part of the 2020s, NASA plans to launch series of very small and later mid-sized robotic landers and rovers, while at the same time building a small space station, currently called the Gateway, in lunar orbit. The Gateway is much smaller than the International Space Station (ISS) and would not be permanently occupied. Crews would be aboard only three months a year and eventually the Gateway would be a transit point for humans travelling between Earth and the lunar surface or Mars.

The presentation also said under this plan that Americans would not land on the Moon until 2028.

It is all fantasy. I guarantee if the government goes with Gateway it will not land on the Moon before 2035, and that is optimistic. Tied as it is to very expensive SLS and the government way of building anything, Gateway will likely see at least five years of delays, at a minimum. Remember also that the first manned launch of SLS is not expected now before 2024, and will likely have a launch cadence of less than one launch per year. How NASA expects to complete Gateway and then land on the Moon only four years later, using this rocket, seems very unrealistic to me.

This does not mean Americans won’t get to the Moon sooner however. I fully expect private enterprise to do it in less than a decade, and for far cheaper. Eventually the dunderheads in government will realize this, but we must give them time to realize it. Their brains work slowly.

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Defense offers much lower $5 billion Space Force cost

The deputy defense secretary yesterday said that the cost for creating a Space Force should be around $5 billion, not $13 billion as proposed by the Air Force.

The cost to create President Trump’s Space Force could be lower than $5 billion and certainly will be in the single-digit billions, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said at a briefing Thursday, pushing back against Air Force estimates that put the price tag at $13 billion or more.

Shanahan, the lead Pentagon official working on the Space Force, expressed confidence the project would come to fruition — even though Democrats taking over the House have opposed it and the White House has broadly ordered the Pentagon to cut costs.

It appears that he is proposing that the military avoid the creation of a full-fledged new branch of the military and simply reorganize its space bureaucracy into a single office. This would not require Congressional approval, and is also what the military has been considering for the last few years.

Five billion however for an office still seems an ungodly amount of money to me. But then, this is how corrupt Washington functions.

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India to attempt four more launches in 2018

The new colonial movement: In outlining the success of yesterday’s GSLV launch, the head of India’s space agency noted that they will attempt to complete four more launches before the end of the year.

Following the missions, Mr Sivan said, in January next, ISRO would launch the Chandrayaan-II mission (lunar lander) which will be the first operational mission of the GSLV-Mk III-vehicle.

Addressing reporters after the successful launch of the second developmental flight GSLV-MkIII-D2 carrying communication satellite GSAT-29, he said, “we have to achieve 10 missions before January.”

“That is six satellite missions as well as four launch vehicle missions. Definitely, the task in front of us is very huge,” he said.

According to him, after Wednesday’s flight, the heaviest launcher of India has completed its development flights and is entering into the operational group of launchers of ISRO, that is along with the PSLV (polar satellite launch vehicle) and GSLV.

Four launches in six weeks would require a launch every week and a half. IF ISRO can do this, they will demonstrate the ability to launch almost weekly, a capability that would place them close to becoming a world power in space.

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India’s GSLV-Mark 3 rocket successfully launches communications satellite

The new colonial movement: India today successfully launched a new Indian communications satellite on the third launch of its larger GSLV-Mark 3 rocket.

The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk.III, or GSLV Mk.III, is India’s newest and most powerful rocket. After making a suborbital demonstration launch in late 2014, the rocket made its first orbital mission last June when it deployed the GSAT-19 spacecraft.

Wednesday’s launch was designated D2, indicating that it was the rocket’s second developmental launch, however like last year’s flight its payload – GSAT-29 – is a fully operational satellite.

I have embedded a video of the launch below the fold. The launch occurs at about 25 minutes in.

With this success, the fifth launch this year by India, that country will be able to move forward on the January launch by the GSLV of its Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race remains unchanged:

31 China
17 SpaceX
10 Russia
8 ULA
8 Europe (Arianespace)

China continues to lead the U.S. in the national rankings, 31 to 28.
» Read more

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Fox reporter threatened, chased from bar

They’re coming for you next: A Fox news reporter was threatened and then chased from a Brooklyn bar this week, merely because one patron discovered where she works.

Timpf was confronted by a woman, who, after hearing she worked at Fox News, became enraged and began shouting at her in a threatening manner.

“This girl started going nuts on me, screaming at me to get out of the bar. I found her very threatening,” Timpf said of the woman, whom she had never met before. She said she tried to move to another section of the large bar but the young woman followed her while continuing to scream.

The woman, who was visibly intoxicated at the time, was surrounded by a large group of men and women who all stood by and laughed as she harassed Timpf and followed her around the bar. After realizing no one in the group would defend her in what might become a violent situation, Timpf was forced to flee the bar.

“It was super uncomfortable and I didn’t want things to get physical,” she said. [emphasis mine]

It is the audience that counts. One person was bullying this reporter, and everyone else “stood by and laughed.”

Bad times are coming. You will not be defended should you be attacked physically because of your conservative political beliefs. Be prepared.

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ArianeGroup to cut 2300 jobs

Capitalism in space: Faced with a significant loss of market share, taken by SpaceX, the European rocket manufacturer ArianeGroup has announced it will reduce its staffing by 2,300 jobs by 2022.

A joint venture by European aerospace company Airbus and the French group Safran, it currently employs 9,000 people in France and Germany. Constructor of the Ariane rockets, the European Space Agency workhorse, ArianeGroup also produces ballistic missiles.

Ariane 5 rockets are soon to be replaced by the Ariane 6 which will be an estimated 40 percent cheaper to make, under pressure in particular from Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

But European buyers have so far ordered only three Ariane 6 rockets ahead of the first scheduled launch in 2020.

The article at the link, produced by a French news service, is somewhat amusing. It repeatedly blames the lack of demand for the Ariane 6 on the U.S. government, which provides business to SpaceX. It doesn’t mention that ArianeGroup’s Ariane 6 rocket meanwhile is being built with government funds from the European Space Agency, and once completed in the 2020s will have a launch price that exceeds that of the Falcon 9 today. No wonder it hasn’t garnered many customers.

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Japan successfully sends small recoverable capsule back from ISS

Japan’s most recent cargo freighter to ISS, after undocking and beginning its de-orbit maneuvers, released a small recoverable capsule that was successfully recovered on Earth.

A capsule ejected from a space cargo vessel returned to Earth on Sunday, bringing back experiment samples from the International Space Station (ISS) in the first such mission for Japan.

The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said the capsule, measuring 84 wide and 66 cm high, made a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific near the island of Minamitorishima early in the morning and was retrieved later in the day.

“I think we’ve succeeded almost as planned,” Hirohiko Uematsu, technology director of JAXA, told a press conference at the agency’s Tsukuba Space Center in Ibaraki Prefecture.

The last quote above suggests that the recovery was not entirely successful, but no details were provided. Regardless, this gives the users of ISS a second way to bring experiments back from the station, with SpaceX’s Dragon the first.

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The endorsement of election theft

The coming dark age: Voter recounts in three close elections in Florida and Arizona, all won initially by Republicans, now suggest there is significant misconduct going on to favor the Democratic candidates in order to change the results.

Are the local Democrats in Arizona and Florida trying to steal these elections? Maybe. The evidence sure looks that way, based on past behavior. For one thing, in practically every close election requiring a recount in the past two decades the recount somehow always finds more votes for Democrats, sometimes in very suspicious circumstances. Moreover, practically every voter fraud case investigated in the past few years has also appeared to be fraud in favor of the Democrats. While I am sure I could do some digging and find a case or two that was done to favor the Republicans, that would be the exception that proves the rule.

The problem here is not that the Democrats are doing this, but that it has been obvious for the past decade that this party has become very corrupt and power-hungry, and needs a major house-cleaning. Unfortunately, in the election that just passed, the voters across America did not do this. Instead, if anything they gave the Democrats an endorsement, electing them to more seats in the House and not defeating them soundly in the Senate. They also gave them more power at the statewide level, including more governorships.

The result? Americans have essentially told the Democrats they can continue their bad behavior, and in fact are free to expand it as much as they want.

I expect the results of these elections in Florida and Arizona to become Democratic wins. Nor will this be the end. Americans decided it was all right to forgive political corruption, including the most disgusting smear campaign I have seen since the McCarthy era in the 1950s.

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Leftist San Fran shuts down Airbnb business

They’re coming for you next: The leftist government of San Francisco has forced the shut down of a chain of Airbnb rentals owned by a couple for violating the city’s many laws.

A San Francisco couple has been fined $2.25 million and ordered to not engage in listing their real estate properties on sites like Airbnb until 2025 for repeated violations of the city’s short term rental laws, the city attorney announced Monday.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera said landlords Darren and Valerie Lee have been running “an illicit hotel chain” during San Francisco’s housing crisis rather than lawfully renting the units to residential tenants.

Though it clearly appears the couple had violated San Francisco laws, the real question is the immoral nature of the laws.

[W]hat should really be on trial here are not the Herreras but the laws that San Francisco has put in place to stifle the gig economy. The Herrera family owns those apartment buildings and they pay the taxes, are responsible for all the maintenance and took the risk of investing in the properties. Clearly, there is a market for short-term rentals because if there weren’t they wouldn’t be able to remain profitable. Why is the city telling them how they must rent out their property?

The public doesn’t benefit from these laws, providing the owners keep the properties up to code and safe to inhabit. The only beneficiaries are the major hotel chains who charge outrageous prices for rooms and lobby politicians heavily (as well as donating generously to their campaigns) to try to squeeze out the gig economy. If the Herrera family has any hope of prevailing here it should come by way of a challenge to these short-term rental laws and the chance to expose the influence of the hotel lobby that drives them.

This is what you get when you allow government too much power: Corruption, favoritism, and oppression. I have in recent years made it my business to avoid California at all costs. This story reinforces that position.

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Democratic control of House threatens Space Force and SLS

Two articles today suggest that the switch to Democratic control of the House will threaten funding for both Trump’s Space Force as well as NASA’s SLS/Orion program.

I say, “Hallelujah!” Both are boondoggles of the worst kind, and illustrated how really uncommitted the Republicans in the House were to cutting spending. SLS/Orion has cost more than $40 billion so far, and will likely cost $60 billion before its first manned launch, and will take twenty years to fly a single manned mission. Space Force meanwhile is really nothing more than a consolidated space office in the Pentagon, and yet the Pentagon is proposing it will cost $13 billion for its first five years.

Both are pure pork, and if the Democrats want to garner real voter support they will stop with the “Resist Trump!” stupidity and shut both down, shifting support instead for private space.

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Russian company S7 says it will launch in three years

The Russian airline company S7 that now owns Sea Launch said today that it will launch a new rocket in three years.

The first rocket the company S7 Space is working on at the moment may take place in three years from now, the company’s chief, Sergey Sopov, told TASS in an interview, adding that the launch would be used for flight-testing a cargo spacecraft.

S7 Space is working on its own rocket on the basis of a sketch design of the Soyuz-5 launch vehicle being created by the space rocket corporation Energia.

“When we launch our new rocket for the first time, approximately in three years from now, we also plan to flight-test a cargo spacecraft. Roscosmos might order six space launches from us, thus keeping busy both its own enterprises and S7 Space,” Sopov said.

S7 originally was reworking the Sea Launch rocket so that it was built entirely in Russia, and had said it would resume flights by 2019 with twelve scheduled through 2022. Now it appears they have been hired by Roscosmos to build an entirely new launch vehicle and cargo freighter, in imitation of the U.S. approach to have private companies build its space rockets and craft.

Regardless, this is not encouraging. It indicates more delays, and it also suggests that S7 is not really in control of its future but has to take orders from Roscosmos.

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Leftist mob at home of Tucker Carlson: “You are not safe!”

They’re coming for you next: A leftist mob tonight gathered in front of the private home of Fox anchor Tucker Carlson, making threats against him and his family.

They chanted, “We know where you sleep at night!” Then,

Tonight, we remind you that you are not safe either. …Racist scumbag, leave town,” the group chants.

It is revealing how the left repeatedly demands that everyone but them tone down the rhetoric.

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How a monolithic leftist academia poisons America

The coming dark age: To understand how dominant and monolithic the left’s control over America’s modern academic community, one need only to take a scan at this series of research articles being assembled regularly by the website Campus Reform:

Except for SMU, every single one of these colleges is a public institution, funded in great part by tax dollars. Yet, instead of being a vehicle for educating the young about the principles of western civilization which has made them and our wealthy society possible, they have become propaganda machines for the Democratic Party and the leftist socialist/communist utopia dreams that have always led to bankruptcy, poverty, starvation, and societal collapse.

So, have any of the legislatures from the states where these colleges are located done anything about this? Obviously, leftist states like Oregon are likely to applaud the fact that leftist teachers control their colleges, but what about Texas, Georgia, Missouri, Florida? The simple fact is that while we might sometimes have had conservative state legislatures, none of them have had the courage for the past five decades to demand better from these colleges.

Worse, Campus Reform only began this series about two weeks ago. I expect in the coming months they will find that almost every college nationwide is dominated in the same way.

The result is that we have bankrupt intellectual community in the United States. It sees only one right answer to all our problems (government and socialism), and it cannot think deeply about any subject since it has never been challenged to do so. And when it is challenged with alternative ideas or even facts, it acts like a four-year-old having a temper tantrum, running to Twitter to issue short, emotional, insulting attacks at those who dare disagree with its rigid beliefs. Smear tactics become standard operating procedures, and civilized discourse impossible.

And in that atmosphere thugs end up getting elected to office, wielding power for all the wrong reasons.

Unless some effort is made to change this, the political and intellectual culture of the United States is only going to decline further. Unfortunately, I do not see such a major effort happening. For one, there are not very many people in power who wish to do it. Second, it will take great courage and fortitude to stand up to the future temper tantrums that such an effort will produce. In my entire life, I have never seen anyone willing to do it.

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Freedom dying

The results of yesterday’s election, when taken in the context of the stories below, confirm for me the sad belief that freedom in the United States is steadily dying. Freedom might return, but for the next few decades I think we are headed for oppressive times. Be prepared.

The stories are only a sampling, and are cited because of what they show: In every case they describe attacks against individuals defending freedom of speech and diversity of thought, and all the attacks come from the students, the future of our society.

The election yesterday further demonstrates the bad future we are facing, not so much that the Democrats won the House after two years of repeated and insane smear campaigns against anyone who opposed them, but because a very very large percentage of the population has decided to support them in that behavior. As I like to say, it’s the audience that counts. The audience here is increasingly oppressive, intolerant, and eager to exercise power to impose its will.

That audience yesterday decided to give power to those who are equally intolerant, and like to wield that power to impose their will.

I could also cite many personal experiences, in just the past few months. The key is that I as a conservative know that if I express my opinions among friends, I will likely lose those friends, and get ostracized. I must choose my words carefully. My liberal friends however feel no such fear, and routinely spout their political views, always assuming that everyone agrees with them.

Meanwhile, I am also gathering that my willingness to express my political views professionally here on my own website has had a negative effect on the website. In recent months certain space aggregate sites no longer link to Behind the Black. Others have even told me that they will block all emails or communications from me.

None of this will stop me from expressing my point of view. It is my curse. I must say what I believe. However, be warned. Bad times are coming. Be prepared.

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Soyuz from French Guiana successfully launches weather satellite

A Russian Soyuz rocket tonight successfully launched a European weather satellite from French Guiana.

This success once again indicates that the manned Soyuz launch in December to ISS can take place as scheduled.

Though this was a Russian rocket, I count it as a Arianespace launch, as it is launched from their launchpad. Arianespace is also the operator and sales agent for the rocket. Obviously, this is open to interpretation.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

31 China
17 SpaceX
10 Russia
8 ULA
8 Europe (Arianespace)

China remains the leader in the national rankings, 31 to 26 over the U.S.

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NASA completes final parachute test for 2020 Mars rover mission

NASA has completed the third and final parachute test for its as yet unnamed 2020 Mars rover mission.

Three separate test launches (one Oct. 9, 2017, April 20, 2018, and Sept. 7, 2018) determined which parachute design would be used for the Mars 2020 mission. In 2012, a similar parachute concept was used for the Curiosity rover mission.

For this test, NASA said the parachute, which was made of nylon, Kevlar and Technora fibers, was packed into a “small drum-sized bag” before being launched to an altitude of about 23 miles (37 kilometers) and a speed of about Mach 1.8. Then, within less than a half-second, the 180-pound parachute was deployed and fully inflated with a volume of “a large house.”

Though doing engineering tests to prove your concept always makes sense, didn’t NASA do this for Curiosity, which then proved its parachute concept further by actually landing on Mars successfully? The 2020 rover is supposed to be saving money by using the Curiosity design. Why were these tests necessary?

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Luxembourg awards prize to Taiwan company

Capitalism in space: A Taiwanese company has won Luxembourg’s second SpaceResources.lu challenge, winning €500K.

Initiated by the ESA, the Space Exploration Masters competition targets participants from all around the world. A total of 7 prizes were awarded in collaboration with international partners, including a 500.000 euros prize by the Luxembourg Space Agency.

ODYSSEUS Space is a startup created in 2016 with the aim to provide innovative technologies and solutions for future deep space and swarm small satellite missions. To date, ODYSSEUS Space team members have participated in over 15 small satellite missions from 7 different countries.

As part of the deal, the company will move its headquarters from Taiwan to Luxembourg.

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China still struggling to find scientists to run FAST radio telescope

China is still finding it difficult to hire the scientists necessary to run its FAST radio telescope, the largest single dish radio telescope in the world.

And why is that?

For job candidates, the major stumbling blocks often are financial incentives and research independence, researchers told the South China Morning Post. The telescope’s remote location also may give candidates pause.

George Smoot, a Hong Kong University of Science and Technology professor who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2006, said candidates interested in working in a more developed setting might think twice about spending a lot of time in an area known for its traditional rural villages.

“Another issue is how much the Chinese Academy of Sciences will influence and direct activities there,” Smoot said. “It is an issue to people unless they have some straight link.” [emphasis mine]

It must always be remembered that nothing in China is done without the government’s approval. For western astronomers, used to having a great deal of independence, this fact makes working there somewhat unappealing.

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Farrakhan leads “Death to America” chants in Iran

They’re coming for you next: Louis Farrakhan, friend and ally to the Democratic Party and its leadership, this week visited Iran where he led of chants “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan led a chant of “Death to America!” on a solidarity visit to Iran this weekend, according to Iranian news sources. He also led a chant of “Death to Israel!”

Farrakhan visited Iran ahead of the renewal of U.S. sanctions against the regime at midnight on November 5. The renewed sanctions are the result of the American withdrawal from the agreement negotiated by the Obama administration, which purported to prevent Iran’s development of nuclear weapons but merely delayed it.

Any vote for any Democrat on election day will essentially be an endorsement of this behavior, as the Democratic Party at all levels for many years has shown strong ties and sympathy for Farrakhan and his brand of bigotry and anti-American hate.

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Airbus to deliver the first Orion service module to NASA this week

My heart be still! Airbus will deliver this week the first Orion service module to NASA.

Airbus will deliver the first European Service Module (ESM) for NASA’s Orion spacecraft from its aerospace site in Bremen, Germany on 5 November 2018. An Antonov cargo aircraft will fly the ESM to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. This is the result of four years of development and construction, and represents the achievement of a key milestone in the project. ESA selected Airbus as the prime contractor for the development and manufacturing of the first ESM in November 2014.

Four years to simply build a single manned capsule’s service module. At this pace we might be able to colonize Mars and the Moon in about 200 years, maybe!

Note however that NASA only has funding to build 1.5 of these European service modules. It is possible that Congress has allocated additional funds, but if so, I missed it.

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Head of Webb investigation: Webb was “a step too far”

The head of an investigation panel into the James Webb Space Telescope admitted this week that, though he and the panel fully support the telescope’s completion and launch, he also believes the telescope was too ambitious and “a step too far.”

Speaking at a meeting of the Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics of the National Academies’ Space Studies Board Oct. 29, Tom Young said that while the mission may ultimately be a success, its difficulties provide lessons as NASA considers future large astronomy missions in the next decadal survey.

“I, personally, have come to the conclusion that JWST had too many inventions, too much risk, and was a step too far,” he said at the end of a presentation about the review board’s work.

Young emphasized that he was neither opposed to JWST being completed nor had doubts it could be done successfully. “There are a group people who are diehard supporters of JWST, and there are others who support it, but they’re really angry at the cost growth and the schedule delays,” he said.

You think? Webb was supposed to cost about $500 million, and launch in 2007. Its budget is now almost $10 billion, and it will not launch before 2021. In the process it has destroyed the entire astronomy program at NASA, preventing the construction of any other space telescopes.

The key question is whether the astronomy community or NASA has learned anything from this disaster. I personally am doubtful, since they are still pushing for WFIRST, a similar big boondoggle that will cost billions and is already overbudget and behind schedule, though it is only in its design stage.

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Russians say Soyuz sensor was damaged in manufacture

The Russians yesterday revealed that the sensor they have identified as the cause of the October 11 Soyuz launch failure was damaged during manufacture.

Their response:

Skorobogatov said officials are now taking steps, including putting all assembly staff through competence tests and additional training, to make sure such malfunctions don’t happen again.

The rocket producer will also take apart two other rockets that have been recently assembled and are due to launch in the coming weeks and then re-assemble them, Skorobogatov said.

They do not say how the damage occurred. It also appears that, like all government run operations, no one will be fired. (The Russians only fire people when they are going to criminally indict them.)

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Hawaii Supreme Court rules in favor of TMT

Hawaii’s Supreme Court today upheld by a 4-1 vote the construction permits of the consortium building the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea.

In its own press release, the TMT consortium said that it “will move forward with fulfilling the numerous conditions and requirements of [the state’s permit] prior to the start of any construction.”

The comments by one of the the telescope’s opponents at the first link are revealing.

Kealoha Pisciotta, one of the main leaders against the telescope, said she’s doesn’t know what their next steps will be, but she’s not hopeful that more legal wrangling will help. “The court is the last bastion in democracy,” she said. “The only other option is to take to the streets. If we lose the integrity of the court, then you’re losing normal law and order, and the only other option is people have to rise up.” [emphasis mine]

Let me translate: We didn’t get our way, so we’re now going to throw another tantrum! Expect more protests and attempts to block construction. Expect the Hawaiian government, dominated almost entirely by Democrats, to fold to those protests. Expect more delays. For example, do you really think the permit process was really done?

State Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairwoman Suzanne Case said the next steps involve telescope builders submitting construction plans. The department will review the plans before issuing permission to proceed.

This was all done almost a decade earlier, and was exactly what the Supreme Court ruled on. To bring it up now suggests the state government is still quietly looking for loopholes to stop the construction, even though the public supports construction and the protesters are a decided minority.

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Russia to disassemble the next Soyuz rocket scheduled for launch

In order to make sure it was assembled correctly and will separate properly, Russian engineers plan to disassemble the four strap-on boosters of the next scheduled Soyuz rocket and then put it back together for its November launch.

I wonder however if they are studying this assembly process to figure out why the manned Soyuz rocket that failed on October 11 was assembled badly so that they can revise that process. It sounds like they are merely checking to make sure the rocket is put together right, without figuring out what went wrong.

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