Russia vetos UN resolution put forth by U.S to ban nuclear weapons in space

Russia yesterday vetoed a UN resolution by the U.S and Japan that proposed banning all nuclear weapons as well as “other weapons of mass destruction” in space.

This is all a game by the diplomats and politicians in power on both sides.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Wednesday echoed [U.S. ambassador] Thomas-Greenfield, reiterating that “the United States assesses that Russia is developing a new satellite carrying a nuclear device.” If Putin has no intention of deploying nuclear weapons in space, Sullivan said, “Russia would not have vetoed this resolution.”

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia dismissed the resolution as “absolutely absurd and politicized,” and said it didn’t go far enough in banning all types of weapons in space. Russia and China proposed an amendment to the U.S.-Japan draft that would call on all countries, especially those with major space capabilities, “to prevent for all time the placement of weapons in outer space, and the threat of use of force in outer spaces.”

The vote was 7 countries in favor, 7 against, and one abstention and the amendment was defeated because it failed to get the minimum 9 “yes” votes required for adoption.

So Russia vetos the U.S. resolution, and the U.S. and its allies veto the Russian resolution. In both cases neither side intends to stop work on its space weaponry, nor will either allow any independent inspections of their facilities. Moreover, both resolutions are irrelevant, because these nations are all signatories to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which already outlaws the placement of nuclear weapons in space.

As I said, it is all a game, intended not to stop deployment of such weapons but to try to embarrass their opponents.

The Battle of Samar

An evening pause: For Veterans Day, a story about the men who in World War II risked their lives and died to make it possible for freedom to reign for the next three-quarters of a century.

Hat tip Mike Nelson. For a much longer and more detailed documentary describing this battle, go here.

U.S. & U.K. sign space agreement

Anticipating the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, the Trump administration has signed an new space agreement with the U.K. in order to facilitate the ability of U.S. companies export British technology as well as launch from its spaceports.

I cannot find the actual text of the agreement so my description, based on news reports and the press release (linked above) might be wrong. It does appear however that the agreement is designed to smooth out the regulatory environment that might block commercial space development involving both countries.

It also seems required because of the UK’s exit from the EU. They need to sign bilateral agreements with other nations to replace the EU framework.

“The world is watching us, remember.”

Link here. An American man brings his Ukrainian wife to the United States for her first visit. Her impression will bring tears to your eyes.

And her husband’s impression?

The truth is, every American, each and every one of us, is privileged. We’re privileged because we are American.

If you don’t think so then lift your eyes to the horizon, over which exists a world where the overwhelming majority of humanity does not enjoy the self-evident entitlements we so flippantly take for granted—things like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The more cynical among us will likely roll their eyes at the preceding sentence, writing it off as overwrought jingoism. But when hardship and war comprise your daily reality, you don’t take America’s greatness lightly, or for granted.

Whether we want it or not, we Americans have inherited an awesome responsibility. We are the caretakers of the promise of democracy for people around the world who yearn for it.

Of course, we’re not the only democracy in the world. But I’ve seen firsthand how the ideal of American democracy stands alone in the eyes of Ukraine’s soldiers, the Kurds in Iraq, or even octogenarian Tibetan freedom fighters. For them, America symbolizes a dream worth fighting for.

Remember. As Kennedy said, “We stand for freedom.” This means we have to defend it every day, even against our own neighbors and friends who have forgotten what freedom means.

“We have waited for you for a very long time.”

Link here.

Who said this, and why they said it, puts the lie to every left wing anti-American cliche expressed for the past half century. The people who know what oppression is, and where it comes from, also know who has consistently defended their freedom the most, in the past.

My only fear is whether the United States that these Eastern European nations remember and love still exists. I am sadly no longer sure.

U.S. and China top Russia for most launches in 2016

The competition heats up: In 2016 it appears that the United States will complete the most rocket launches, at 20, followed by China with 19 and Russia with 18.

For the past two decades Russia has generally been the yearly leader in launches, but recent competition from the U.S. private sector and China’s surging government program, combined with lagging quality control problems and budget shortages in Russia, has had their launch rate decline to third. I also fully expect the U.S. lead to grow in the coming years as a range of low cost new companies come on line.

U.S./Russian owned launch company ILS cuts workforce by 25%

The competition heats up: Business loses because of its recent Proton launch failures, combined with strong market competition from SpaceX, today forced International Launch Services (ILS) to cut its work force by 25%.

The company is anticipating a launch rate drop from an average of 7 to 8 missions a year down to 3 to 4. The article also noted one more additional detail that will affect the future market value of Proton:

So far in 2014, the commercial satellites ordered have been mainly at the lighter end of the market for geostationary-orbiting telecommunications spacecraft. This follows a couple of years in which heavier satellites dominated.

Commercial Proton rockets are typically used to launch heavier satellites one at a time. The market’s move to lighter spacecraft has benefited Space Exploration Technologies Corp. of Hawthorne, California, whose Falcon 9 rocket has accumulated commercial orders; and also benefited Arianespace, whose Ariane 5 heavy-lift vehicle’s lower position is reserved for smaller satellites.

The weight of commercial satellites is almost certainly going to continue to drop in the coming years as technology improves and satellite companies work to reduce the cost to launch. In that climate, the Proton’s ability to put big commercial payloads into orbit will become a liability, not an asset. Ariane 5 has the same problem, in that it still needs a big payload for its upper position in order to make a launch cost effective.

Both Falcon 9, with its very low launch costs, and Russia’s new Angara rocket, with its modular design to handle all kinds of payload sizes, are better suited to this new competitive market.

What others really think of America

Travel tips for Russian, French, Chinese, and Japanese travelers to the United States.

Read them all. Not surprisingly, the French are the most bothered by American habits while the Russians struggle mightily with our general niceness. All told, however, these tips will each give you warm feelings for the wild, crazy, enthusiastic culture that is America, as seen objectively by outsiders, and best summed up by this Japanese advice:

In Japan, there is great fear of failure and mistakes in front of other people. It is better to do nothing and avoid being criticized than to taste the humiliation of failure. As a result, there are things we wanted to do, but did not, and often regret.

In America, you can make mistakes, fail, and it doesn’t matter. It is a fundamental feeling that to sometimes be incorrect is natural. In addition, rather than thinking about mistakes and failures, American’s have curiosity and say, “Let’s try anyway!”

As noted so wisely in the 1982 comedy Night Shift, “Is this a great country, or what?”

How beautiful we were.

How beautiful we were.

An epitaph for American on its birthday.

And on its birthday, we should all make it a point to reread this document. Key quote:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

How India’s cryogenic rocket engine program was hampered and delayed, by the United States.

How India’s cryogenic rocket engine program was hampered and delayed, by the United States.

The article is fascinating, and rings very true until the last section. George Bush Sr. was an old CIA guy who distrusted the Soviets enough to want to prevent them from having any dealings with India, and Bill Clinton was very hostile to India during his entire administration. It is very easy to believe both presidents worked to stymie India’s efforts to work with the Russians.

Both Russia and the United States have developed a “pain ray” weapon for dispersing protestors.

What could go wrong? Both Russia and the United States have developed a “pain ray gun” for dispersing protestors.

The beam has a much shorter wavelength than a microwave oven and very different effects. The waves penetrate only about 1/64 of an inch, and anyone caught in the beam experiences painful but harmless heating of their skin. It causes what developers call a repel effect; nobody can stand it more than a few seconds before having to get out of the beam.

That’s the American system, not yet used. The Russian system is similar, and the Russians seem ready and willing to put it into operation.

Scientists last week published a paper claiming that the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown caused 14,000 U.S. deaths.

Junk science: Scientists last week published a paper claiming that the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown caused 14,000 U.S. deaths. You can download the paper here [pdf].

I expect the mainstream television press to push this story in the coming days. The story however is crap. I’ve read the paper, and all it shows is a small statistical increase in deaths in the fourteen weeks after the earthquake/meltdown, compared to the previous year. The scientists provided no context with other years, nor did they factor in changes in total population or a host of innumerable other variables that would influence these numbers. Worse, they presented no direct evidence linking the fallout from the meltdown with the deaths.

In other words, this is agenda-driven science, designed mainly to attack nuclear energy. We should not give it much credence.

One more point: the lead author of the paper is the executive director of Radiation and Public Health Project, an organization whose only purpose appears to be to prove that low level radiation has a negative effect on human health. From a science perspective, this is not a good way to do science. The only way the scientists in this organization can justify their fund-raising and research is to find evidence to prove their theory.

Canada has joined the United States in raising objections to a planned $100-billion a year climate fund

The gravy train is ending: Canada has joined the United States in raising objections to a planned $100-billion a year climate fund.

I like this quote describing the U.S.’s objections:

Heading into the United Nations climate conference in Durban this week, the United States has made it clear it will not support the current proposals for the climate fund over concerns about how the money would be raised, lack of verification of how it is spent, and an unwillingness of major emerging countries to commit to legally binding emissions reduction. [emphasis mine]

Other than these minor points, everything about the fund is above board and legitimate.

Chinese Journalists Barred From Shuttle Launch

Chinese journalists were barred from all official press areas during the Endeavour launch.

A NASA spokesperson says the agency was simply following instructions in last month’s 2011 spending bill that averted a government-wide shutdown. The legislation prohibits NASA from using any resources to host visits by a Chinese official to any NASA facility as well as for collaborations with any Chinese government entity. The Chinese journalists work for Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, and thus are considered government employees.