Tag Archives: policy

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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NASA Inspector General to Congress: Free Europa Clipper from SLS

In a letter to Congress on August 27, 2019, NASA’s inspector general has called for Congress to immediately abandon the legal requirement it imposed on Europa Clipper to fly on NASA’s SLS rocket, thereby allowing NASA to choose any commercial rocket to launch the spacecraft.

The letter [pdf] is amazingly blunt.

[W]e write to highlight an issue at NASA that we believe requires immediate action by Congress. Language in NASA’s appropriation legislation requires the Agency to launch a satellite to Europa, a moon of Jupiter, in 2023 on the yet-to-be-completed Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. However, because of developmental delays and, more significantly, NASA’s plans to use the first three SLS rockets produced for its Artemis lunar program, an SLS will not be available until 2025 at the earliest. Consequently, if completed on its projected schedule, the approximately $3 billion dollar Europa spacecraft (known as “Europa Clipper”) will need to be stored for at least 2 years at a cost of $3 to $5 million per month until an SLS becomes available. NASA recently added $250 million in Headquarters-held reserves to the project to address these storage and related personnel costs.

Congress could reduce risks to both the Europa mission and Artemis program while potentially saving taxpayers up to $1 billion by providing NASA the flexibility in forthcoming fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations legislation to determine the most cost effective and timely vehicle to launch the Europa Clipper mission in 2023 or whenever the satellite is completed.

As blunt as the letter is, the wording above is also very careful to hide the fact that the $1 billion savings will come, not from avoiding the launch delay, but from buying a private commercial launch vehicle (estimated launch cost about $100 million) versus using SLS (estimated launch cost of $1 billion to $4 billion).

Will Congress take this advice? It should, though I am pessimistic. Our Congress has not shown much interest in doing the smart thing when it comes to SLS for about a decade. Why should things change now?

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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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No warming in U.S. since 2005

NOAA data since 2005
Click for full image.

Using temperature stations specifically picked to eliminate as many biases and temperature errors as possible, NOAA has found that since 2005 the continental United States has experienced no warming at all.

The graph at the right, reduced to post here, illustrates this.

In January 2005, NOAA began recording temperatures at its newly built U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN). USCRN includes 114 pristinely maintained temperature stations spaced relatively uniformly across the lower 48 states. NOAA selected locations that were far away from urban and land-development impacts that might artificially taint temperature readings.

Prior to the USCRN going online, alarmists and skeptics sparred over the accuracy of reported temperature data. With most preexisting temperature stations located in or near urban settings that are subject to false temperature signals and create their own microclimates that change over time, government officials performed many often-controversial adjustments to the raw temperature data. Skeptics of an asserted climate crisis pointed out that most of the reported warming in the United States was non-existent in the raw temperature data, but was added to the record by government officials.

The USCRN has eliminated the need to rely on, and adjust the data from, outdated temperature stations. Strikingly, as shown in the graph below, USCRN temperature stations show no warming since 2005 when the network went online. If anything, U.S. temperatures are now slightly cooler than they were 14 years ago.

What is significant about this data is how it reveals the dishonesty of the adjustments that NOAA and NASA have been making to the temperature data. Those adjustments, supposedly done to make the data more accurate, have always cooled the past and warmed the present, a pattern that by itself is very suspicious.

These temperature stations were chosen to create a reliable baseline, picking stations that needed no adjustment and would thus give scientists a measure for justifying any alterations they impose on the raw data. Not only does this data suggest strongly that the claims of global warming year after year (“This year was the hottest on record!”) are suspect, it also shows that there is something seriously wrong with their adjustments. If their modifications to the raw data was correct, then this set of data should have matched it. It does not.

Will this mean they will readjust the overall data to eliminate the cooling in the past and the warming in the near present to make the data better fit what these results prove? Don’t be silly! That would show that there is little merit to the theories of the global warming alarmists, something that cannot be tolerated. It might cause those big government contracts to be cancelled. Worse, it will make it more difficult for these leftists to use the data to justify reshaping society into their vision of a socialist utopia.

No, what I expect to happen is that the scientists at NOAA (who also happen to be the ones who have been tampering with all the other data) to begin altering the temperature data from these baseline stations, to make them fit their theories. Or as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden recently put it, “We choose truth over facts.”

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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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Hong Kong police fire water cannons, gunshot, against protesters

The first gunshot and use of water cannons by Hong Kong police occurred today against protests opposed to increased Chinese rule over that former British colony.

Earlier Sunday, after thousands of people marched peacefully in pouring rain, a group of hardcore protesters erected makeshift roadblocks and threw bricks and Molotov cocktails at riot police. After firing tear gas in an attempt to dispers the crowds, police drove water cannon vehicles onto the streets for the first time during the protests, unfurling signs warning demonstrators they would deploy the jets if they did not leave. The jets were later fired down from the moving trucks down a road towards a crowd of protesters who ran away.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

There is also no additional information about the gunshot, though it appears it caused no injuries.

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August 22, 2019 Zimmerman/Batchelor podcast

Embedded below the fold in two parts. As John Batchelor would say, I was especially “grumpy” in the first segment, blasting our dysfunctional and very corrupt federal government for its dishonest misuse of taxpayer money, designed specifically to create failure rather than achieve anything.
» Read more

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Global warming scientist Michael Mann loses Canadian lawsuit

Global warming scientist Michael Mann has lost a Canadian libel lawsuit he had filed against a skeptical scientist who had said that Mann “belongs in the state pen, not Penn State.”

More details here. The court also ruled that Mann must pay the defendant’s court costs. The key quote that proves Mann’s scientific work is either incompetent or fraudulent is this:

Dr Mann lost his case because he refused to show in open court his R2 regression numbers (the ‘working out’) behind the world-famous ‘hockey stick’ graph.

Mann is most well known for his hockey stick graph that eliminated any evidence of the well-documented Medieval Warming Period and thus made it appear global warming only began with the industrial age.

Many good scientists have questioned this graph, including Canadian scientist Dr. Tim Ball, the victorious defendant in this case. The court had demanded that to prove Ball’s statement was libel, Mann had to show everyone the legitimate scientific methods he used to create the graph. Mann refused to do so, and so the court ruled against him.

I should add that a number of different scientists have analyzed Mann’s hockey stick graph and have found that, based on the information in Mann’s own published papers, they could plug the data in and with his methods create any graph they wanted, essentially demonstrating that what Mann did was junk.

Does this prove human-caused global warming isn’t happening? No, it doesn’t. What it does demonstrate once again is that another one of the icons of that theory is either a fraud or incompetent, and that his work is not worth the electrons used to publish it. In the case of Mann, the evidence of his political biases and corrupt science practices has been evident for years, first exposed in his emails in the climategate emails. There, he actually worked to destroy the careers of any scientist who questioned his work, rather than debate the facts with them.

He tried to do the same this time with Dr. Ball, and has been soundly slapped down.

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Unmanned test Soyuz aborts docking to ISS

Astronauts on ISS were forced to abort the docking of an unmanned upgraded Soyuz capsule today when it appeared to have problems locking onto its docking port.

According to NASA, Soyuz MS-14 entered an orbit above and behind the ISS, which would bring the spacecraft back into the vicinity of the outpost 24 hours later. However within an hour after the failed docking, the mission control in Korolev told the ISS crew that the next docking attempt would not be made until at least August 26 after a series of tests. Head of flight operations in Korolev Vladimir Soloviev informed the cosmonauts that ground specialists had narrowed down a potential root cause of the failure during docking to a “bad signal amplifier” in the Kurs-P avionics system aboard the station. Soloviev instructed the crew to swap the suspected amplifier for a new one and then conduct a test of the Kurs-P system. Provided the ongoing analysis confirmed the initial failure scenario and the in-orbit tests went successfully, another rendezvous attempt could be made in around 48 hours, between 08:00 and 09:00 Moscow Time on August 26. Soloviev asked the crew members whether they knew where the components in question had been located to which the cosmonauts said that they had remembered it approximately but asked for reference photos to be sent to them.

Assuming this is the same docking port the Russians have used for previous Soyuz and Progress dockings, the amplifier would have had to fail since the last docking.

UPDATE: It appears that they are instead going to use a different Russian docking port on ISS for the second docking attempt, thereby bypassing the suspect docking system.

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Japan’s plan for returning Hayabusa-2’s Ryugu samples to Earth

Japan’s today provided an update on what it has done to prepare the location where Hayabusa-2’s samples from the asteroid Ryugu will land on Earth.

The landing site is in the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) in the outback of southern Australia. Japan has already signed an agreement with that country for the recovery, as well as done preliminary surface work

The recovery site is an Australian Government prohibited area and is not accessible to the public. As part of the preparatory work, a field survey of the proposed recovery site in the WPA was conducted with permission from the Australian Government. This preparatory work confirmed the suitability of both the proposed recovery site and the candidate site for the antenna station that will search for the capsule.

The landing of the recovery capsule is now scheduled for late in 2020.

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Sierra Nevada unveils full scale Gateway habitat module prototype

Capitalism in space: Sierra Nevada yesterday unveiled a full scale prototype of a habitable module that it developed under a NASA contract for the agency’s proposed Lunar Gateway space station.

[The module] measures more than 8 meters long, and with a diameter of 8 meters has an internal volume of 300 cubic meters, which is about one-third the size of the International Space Station.

Sierra Nevada developed this full-scale prototype under a NASA program that funded several companies to develop habitats that could be used for a space station in orbit around the Moon, as well as potentially serving as living quarters for a long-duration transit to and from Mars. As part of the program, NASA astronauts have, or will, spend three days living in and evaluating the prototypes built by Sierra Nevada, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Bigelow Aerospace.

The selling point for Sierra Nevada’s habitat is its size, which is possible because the multi-layered fabric material can be compressed for launch, then expanded and outfitted as a habitat once in space. It can fit within a standard payload fairing used for launch vehicles such as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan booster, or NASA’s Space Launch System. It is light enough for any of those rockets to launch to the Moon.

What we are seeing here is the unfolding of the Washington lobbying game to guarantee Gateway gets funded and built. NASA is spreading its available Gateway cash around to multiple companies, who will now have a vested interest in lobbying Congress to get this lunar space station funded and built.

The one very good component of this lobbying process is that NASA is not doing the building or the designing. It is hiring private companies, which means the project will act to stimulate the American aerospace industry. Moreover, it is leaving the ownership of the spacecraft and the decision on what launch vehicle to use to the companies, which means this cannot be used as a lever to fund the SLS boondoggle. Under this arrangement more will get done faster for less.

Even so, Lunar Gateway will mostly act to slow the United States’ effort to colonize the solar system. We will be spending our government space dollars on an orbiting lunar space station, thus generally trapping us in orbit, as we watch China, India, Russia and others land and explore the surface.

There is only one way Gateway could possibly be beneficial to the United States. NASA gets it built fast and cheaply, so that it then can be used as a jumping off point for further exploration. This would give the U.S. capabilities in space that far exceed other countries.

My fear is that NASA has a terrible track record in the past half century of doing anything fast or cheaply. Instead, NASA projects like Gateway end up taking forever and costing many times their initial proposed budget. SLS is a perfect poster child for this. Its goal is not so much to launch as to provide Congress endless pork.

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China successfully tests navigation in space using pulsars

Using the X-ray space telescope Insight it launched in 2017, China has successfully tested an autonomous navigation system using pulsars.

The time interval of two adjacent pulses emitted by the pulsar is constant. If a spacecraft moves toward the pulsar, the received pulse interval will be shortened, and vise versa. Thus the observed pulse profile will change as the spacecraft moves in space. The relative arrival times of pulses also indicate the relative position of the spacecraft with respect to the pulsar. Therefore, by analyzing the characteristics of the pulsar signals received by the spacecraft, the three-dimensional position and velocity of the spacecraft can be determined, Zheng explained.

From Aug. 31 to Sept. 5, 2017, Insight observed the Crab pulsar for about five days to test the feasibility of pulsar navigation. The research team had also proposed an algorithm for X-ray pulsar navigation, according to Zhang Shuangnan, lead scientist of the Insight space telescope.

The research team further improved the algorithm and applied it in the processing of the observation data of the three detectors onboard Insight. The satellite’s orbit was determined successfully, with the positioning accuracy within 10 km, comparable to that of a similar experiment conducted on the International Space Station, Zhang said.

This is not the first such test. U.S. scientists did something similar using an X-ray telescope on ISS in 2017.

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ISRO releases Chandrayaan-2’s first Moon image from lunar orbit

The Moon as seen by Chandrayaan-2

India’s space agency ISRO has released the first image taken by Chandrayaan-2 after entering orbit around the Moon.

That image is to the right, reduced to post here. It was taken from about 1,600 miles elevation, and shows mostly the far side of the Moon. The dark mare in the upper right is the Sea of Moscow, which is the only large mare on the far side.

This image once again proves the camera and the spacecraft’s ability to point it accurately are both functioning.

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Russia and ULA successfully complete rocket launches

Russia and ULA both successfully placed spacecraft into Earth orbit today.

Russia sent an unmanned upgrded Soyuz capsule to ISS, filled with cargo, in a test flight that also tested a new upgraded version of the Soyuz rocket.

According to Navias, this Soyuz launch is a critical shakedown flight to test the performance of the upgraded Soyuz capsule and the Soyuz 2.1a booster before the first crewed flight on the rocket in March 2020.

“The Soyuz 2.1a booster, equipped with a new digital flight control system and upgraded engines, is replacing the Soyuz FG booster that has been used for decades to launch crews into space,” NASA officials wrote in a statement. “The Soyuz spacecraft will have an upgraded motion control and navigation system, as well as a revamped descent control system,” they added.

The mission will also help Roscosmos develop a cargo version of the Soyuz capsule capable uncrewed reentry to return experiments and other gear to Earth, Navias said. Russia’s Progress cargo ships can currently only deliver supplies, and are filled with trash and discarded at the end of their missions.

ULA in turn launched an Air Force GPS satellite in the last launch of the Delta-4 Medium version of its Delta rocket family.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

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

The U.S. leads Russia and China 19 to 13 in the national standings.

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Congressional Budget Office: Budget deficits about to explode

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a new budget analysis today that predicts the federal budget will see trillion dollar annual deficits for years to come, based on present government spending.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a grim update Wednesday to its economic outlook for the next decade, predicting average national deficits of $1.2 trillion every year through 2029, due in large part to recent budget and border security bills.

The CBO report noted that, as one of many repercussions from free-spending policies, federal debt held by the public is projected to reach heights not seen since the 1940s, almost equaling the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. “As a result of those deficits, federal debt held by the public is projected to grow steadily, from 79 percent of GDP in 2019 to 95 percent in 2029—its highest level since just after World War II,” the report says. The GDP itself is also expected to see a slowdown in growth in the coming years.

The CBO report underscores how deficits are rising once again, as Democrats and Republicans in Congress — and the Trump administration — show little interest in tackling the red ink. [emphasis mine]

Trump is not breaking any promises in doing nothing to restrain spending. He has never shown much interest in reducing the deficit, and in fact has often appeared eager to spread government cash around freely.

The Republicans in Congress however have repeatedly campaigned on a platform of fiscal responsibility. They have also repeatedly proven that platform to be an outright lie. Once elected they have routinely spent money as willingly as the Democrats, and the new budget bill recently agreed to by Congress and Trump underscored this, as they went along with a deal that removed all the restraints of sequestration that had helped limit budget growth for the past six years.

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Washington’s spectacular effort to crush the American space effort

Three stories today illustrate once again the incompetence, idiocy, and inability of practically anyone in our federal government to get anything done sanely and efficiently and with success.

In the past half century that federal government has saddled the American people with a debt that is crushing. In that time it has also failed to do its job of properly enforcing the law to control the borders. It has spent trillions on social problems, only to have those social problems worsen exponentially.

I could go on. The problems imposed on American society by our failed ruling class in Washington since the 1960s is myriad. In the area of aerospace and space exploration, my specialty, the following three stories today alone demonstrate again that continuing track record, with no sign that anyone in Washington recognizes how bad a job they are doing.

First we have incompetence and idiocy by Congress. The first story outlines how our sainted lawmakers have mandated by law that the Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter’s moon must fly on NASA’s SLS rocket and “launch no later than 2023.”

This legal requirement, written into the appropriations bill, was imposed because the SLS project is being managed from Alabama, and Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) wants that rocket to get some work to justify this pork to his state. The requirement was further pushed by former Texas Congressman John Culbertson, who has a special place in his heart for Europa, and has specifically imposed that mission on NASA.

Shelby’s demand is especially egregious and makes little sense. First, even after twenty years of effort, NASA will likely not have that rocket available in 2023. Second, the cost to use SLS is about $4 billion per launch (not the fake $1 billion number cited in the article). A Falcon Heavy rocket could do the job for $100 million, which would more than pay for the extra operating costs incurred because it will take the three more years to get to Jupiter.

To deal with this conflict, NASA is presently doing as much lobbying as it can to get Congress to change the time limit, or to allow them to fly the spacecraft on a Falcon Heavy. Not surprisingly, Congress is resisting, even though their position makes no sense and will likely cost the taxpayer billions unnecessarily while likely delaying or even impeding the mission itself.

The article as usual for the mainstream press is filled with misconceptions and errors that are all designed to make any change in this Congressional act seem a mistake. These mistakes were all fed to the reporter by the powers in and out of Congress who oppose changing things, and the reporter sadly was not informed enough to realize this.

Next we have the incompetent and power-hungry federal bureaucracy, as described in the second article.
» Read more

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How Google bought off Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah)

Link here. The facts are very damning, and illustrate once again that no matter how much these politicians claim they are there to clean up Washington, you cannot trust them. They can be bought, as Lee has been.

In 2011 and 2012 he was very opposed to the consolidation of the internet industry into the hands of a few companies like Google. Now, after receiving a lot of campaign support from Google, he is their biggest defender.

But today, as he presides as chairman of the Senate antitrust panel, Lee’s stance couldn’t be more different. With critics on both sides of the political aisle assailing big tech, Lee has questioned the need for congressional antitrust investigations, complained about big fines imposed on Google, and defended the tech industry against Republican charges of liberal bias.

From “strong concerns about Google’s…predominant position” to “Antitrust is not the answer”

Most recently, when the DOJ announced its own broad antitrust review of the leading online platforms in July 2019, Lee seemed to shrug, focusing not on the behavior of the tech companies, but on what he called the “institutional tug-of-war” between the Justice Department and the FTC.

Time to primary this former Tea Party conservative, now a Google shill bought and paid for.

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ULA wins private lunar launch contract

Capitalism in space: Astrobotic, the private company building a lunar lander for NASA, has chosen ULA’s Vulcan rocket for its launch vehicle.

Astrobotic announced today that it selected United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan Centaur rocket in a competitive commercial procurement to launch its Peregrine lunar lander to the Moon in 2021.

“We are so excited to sign with ULA and fly Peregrine on Vulcan Centaur. This contract with ULA was the result of a highly competitive commercial process, and we are grateful to everyone involved in helping us make low-cost lunar transportation possible. When we launch the first lunar lander from American soil since Apollo, onboard the first Vulcan Centaur rocket, it will be a historic day for the country and commercial enterprise,” said Astrobotic CEO, John Thornton.

This is the second contract announcement for ULA’s Vulcan rocket, with the first being Sierra Nevada’s announcement that it would use Vulcan for Dream Chaser’s first six flights.

Isn’t competition wonderful? It appears to me that ULA must be offering very cut-rate deals to get these contracts, since the rocket has not yet flown while SpaceX’s already operational Falcon Heavy (with three successful launches) could easily do the job and is a very inexpensive rocket to fly. These lower prices, instigated by competition and freedom, will mean that funding missions to the Moon will continue to become more likely, even if NASA and the federal government fail to get their act together.

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Chandrayaan-2 successfully enters lunar orbit

The head of ISRO today announced that, after completed a 29 minute engine burn, India’s Chandrayaan-2 orbiter/lander/rover has successfully entered the correct orbit around the Moon.

In his briefing, Dr. Sivan announced that “The LOI maneuver was performed successfully today morning using the onboard propulsion system for a firing duration of about 29 minutes. This maneuver precisely injected Chandrayaan-2 into an orbit around the Moon.” He emphasised the unique requirement of 90 degree orbital inclination of Chandrayaan-2 and said that it was achieved by the precise execution of both the Trans Lunar Injection (performed on August 14, 2019) and today’s LOI maneuver.

“The satellite is currently located in a lunar orbit with a distance of about 114 km at perilune (nearest point to the Moon) and 18,072 km at apolune (farthest point to the Moon)”, he added.

Over the next four lunar orbits they will execute four more engine burns to lower the spacecraft to the orbit needed to send the lander/rover to the surface on September 7 in the south polar region of the Moon between the craters Manzinus C and Simpelius N at about 71 degrees latitude.

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Facebook allows flat-Earthers to censor a space history book

A photographer trying to raise money for a self-published book of historical space artifacts had his Facebook ads repeatedly removed by Facebook because flat-Earthers and Moon hoax conspiracy theorists were offended.

About 24 hours after the ads were approved, he got a notification telling him the ad had been removed. He resubmitted it. It was accepted — and then removed again — 15 or 20 times, he said. The explanation given: He had run “misleading ads that resulted in high negative feedback.”

He understood that it was Facebook’s algorithm that rejected the ads, not a person. Getting additional answers proved difficult, a common complaint with advertising on Facebook. The best clues he could find came in the comments under the ads, which he and his colleagues captured in screenshots before they were removed and in responses to other posts about the project: There were phrases such as “The original moon landing was faking” and “It’s all a show,” along with memes mocking space technology. Some comments were hard to gauge, with users insisting that the earth was flat but that they’d buy the book anyway.

To fix the problem he had to hire an outside expert who knew how to get to a human being at Facebook, proving once again that Facebook is a very unethical and corrupt company. It should not have been so hard for Redgrove to get his problem fixed.

Update: In related news, Facebook has pulled a Trump campaign ad for a lot of vague reasons that really can be summed up as “We didn’t like it!”

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Obama’s legacy of hate

Of all of Obama’s achievements, probably the one that is going to ring down the decades the longest and maybe do the most to destroy the United States and western civilization was his willingness to either endorse or refuse to condemn the use of slanders and lies to advance the political power of his Democratic Party and the left.

The most obvious example of this were the false accusations by top Democrats that the Tea Party protesters against Obamacare were “racist”, despite zero evidence. (I speak from personal experience, as I was involved in Tea Party groups in both the DC and Tucson areas.) Obama was in a position to tamp down this hateful and dishonest rhetoric. Instead, he allowed members of his administration to encourage it.

This political tactic has now become pervasive and dominant throughout the Democratic Party and its minions in the mainstream press. This fact became especially evident to me this past weekend, during a demonstration in Portland by a group called the Proud Boys. This group was formed in 2016 in reaction to the modern political leftist pressure forcing Americans to adhere to leftist dogma. From their own webpage:

The basic tenet of the group is that we are “Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.” Like Archie Bunker, we long for the days when “girls were girls and men were men.” This wasn’t controversial even twenty years ago, but being proud of Western culture today is like being a crippled, black, lesbian communist in 1953.

…The Proud Boys confuse the media because the group is anti-SJW without being alt-right. “Western chauvinist” includes all races, religions, and sexual preferences.

I have reviewed their webpages, their videos, statements from their leaders, and can find nothing that suggests they have any links to fascism or white supremacy. Go to their webpage yourself and do the same. If anything, the actual evidence is that this group opposes such things, vehemently.

And yes, I am sure you could find bigots among them, as you can find bigots everywhere. The fundamental principles and goals of the organization however have nothing to do with bigotry. They merely wish to reassert the nobility of western civilization, an idea that all Americans should feel no shame asserting.

This past weekend, during their demonstration, they came with no masks, a lot of American flags, a lot of Trump “Make America Great Again” hats and t-shirts, and the ability to defend themselves if attacked. (The link takes you to a Daily Mail report, with lots of pictures that confirm my description but with text that generally describes the event poorly.)

It appears, from the information at this link, that the Proud Boys finished their morning demonstration after about 90 minutes — with no violence — and then went to have a barbeque.
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Democrat fundraiser includes mock assassination of Donald Trump

Democrat civility: An August 16th fundraising event for Chicago Democratic state senator Martin Sandoval included a mock assassination of Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, the leftist press and Democrats accuse Trump of out-of-control rhetoric? Nothing he has ever said, no matter how crude or insulting, has ever come close to this. Nor is this the only example. Democrats, and the leftist allies in the press and in Antifa (the Democrats’ SS division), routinely use slander and hateful language, often backed up by violence against innocent citizens, to squelch any opposition. If anyone is inspiring mass murders and violence it is them, not Trump.

Sandoval has issued the typical rote apology, which has as much value as a tissue that someone has used to blow their nose. You can bet he was quite in favor of this performance at his fundraiser, and in fact approved it heartily.

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Rocket Lab & China launch satellites

Both Rocket Lab and China today launched rockets to put satellites into orbit, though it is as yet still unclear whether the Chinese launch was successful.

Rocket Lab successfully placed four smallsats into orbit. It was the company’s eightth consecutive successful launch, continuing its perfect launch record.

More important, the company now has completed four launches in 2019. Their goal, announced early this year, was to achieve a monthly pace by summer, then ramp up to twice a month by the end of the year. So far they are not quite meeting that goal, averaging one launch every 1.5 months (March, May, June, August). Still, this record is quite impressive, considering they are a very new and very small private company that it now is beginning to match or exceed the launch pace of other nations (India) as well as well-established companies (ULA).

China’s Long March 3B launched a civilian communications satellite, but according to the story at the link, “the usual announcement of a successful separation has yet to published by Chinese State media.” For the purposes of the launch standings, I will assume at the moment that this was a successful launch, but will revise this post should we learn the satellite did not reach orbit. Update: It appears the launch was successful, but the satellite is having problems. This would mean the launch counts below.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

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

The U.S. now leads China 18 to 13 in the national rankings.

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1.7 million protest China in Hong Kong

A gigantic protest — estimated to be 1.7 million people strong — against China’s effort to limit freedoms in Hong Kong filled that city’s streets today, despite pouring rain and in defiance of police orders.

Sunday’s action, billed as a return to the peaceful origins of the leaderless protest movement, drew more than 1.7 million people, making it one of the largest rallies since the protests began about three months ago, according to organisers the Civil Human Rights Front.

It ended a weekend of protests that, as of early Monday, saw no major confrontations with police for the first time in weeks.

Hong Kong has always been China’s equivalent of West Berlin in East Germany, a leak in the monolith communist state that in the long run can only make that communist state unsustainable. Khrushchev temporarily solved this problem (for about forty years) by building a wall around West Berlin that blocked East Germans from entering it. Khrushchev’s act eventually failed, and when it did it took down the Soviet Union.

What will China do? In 1989 the Chinese communists shut down all opposition, far more brutally than Khrushchev, killing thousands in Tiananmen Square. Can the do the same now in Hong Kong?

At the moment this is very unclear.

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