Wheels down on Mars, once again


First image from Perseverance

NASA folks land on Mars, again. I switched onto the NASA Channel to check on how they were doing…and the lander had chute deployed and about 7 kilometers above the surface of Mars.

It was just halftime in the Europa League football match I was watching; so, I quick ran to get my wet-and-snow walking shoes – to change while watching. I usually start a couple laps of our fenceline at halftime if I’m watching footie and we got a few more inches of snow, last night.

They spiked the landing. Truly fun to watch for an old time science and scifi geek like me. Nice to see reality match fiction.

Check your local TV access for progress!

Remembering the War in the Pacific recorded by combat photographers


Joe Rosenthal

When most Americans think of the World War II battle for Iwo Jima – if they think of it at all, 75 years later – they think of one image: Marines raising the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi, the island’s highest point.

That moment, captured in black and white by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal and as a color film by Marine Sergeant William Genaust, is powerful, embodying the spirit of the Marine Corps.

But these pictures are far from the only images of the bloodiest fight in the Marines’ history. A larger library of film, and the men captured on them, is similarly emotionally affecting. It can even bring Americans alive today closer to a war that ended in the middle of the last century…

Please RTFA. I was 7 years old at the time of the Iwo Jima landing. My father was invited to a private showing of the first rough cut of all the footage several weeks later – and brought me. That night is still vivid, stuck in my brain. I cannot forget it.

Over time, I came to better understand what I saw.

I nominate the Flying Mailman Doug Hughes for an Aerial Achievement Medal

Doug Hughes
Click to enlargeJames Borchuck/Tampa Bay Times

Perhaps nobody was more surprised by Doug Hughes’ gyrocopter stunt at the Capitol on Wednesday than his neighbors in Ruskin, Florida.

“It’s weird thinking somebody like that, you know, two doors down,” the U.S. mailman’s neighbor Ian Hopkins said.

“We were so surprised about it because you know he’s a good man… he’s a good neighbor,” another person said.

Hughes is a married father of four who’s been flying gyrocopters for more than a year. According to his website, the 61-year-old grew up in California, served in the Navy and became a mailman more than a decade ago. But Wednesday, he chose to veer off his regular route to draw attention to campaign finance reform…

Hughes’ so-called “freedom flight” had been in the works for some time…In fact, Hughes alerted the Tampa Bay Times last year — after the Secret Service interviewed him about his plans.

“Terrorists don’t announce their flights before they take off. Terrorists don’t broadcast their flight path,” Hughes told the Times…

According to the Times, Hughes’ act of civil disobedience began taking shape more than two years ago after his son committed suicide…His grief prompted him to take a bigger stand on political issues he felt were important.

“We were trying to think of ways to get attention, and it looks like he did that,” Hughes’ co-worker Michael Shanahan said…

Still, Shanahan insists his friend is more patriot than terrorist.

Ahead of his landing at the Capitol, Hughes took to his website writing: “I have no violent inclinations or intent… Let’s keep the discussion focused on reform — not me — I’m just delivering the mail.”

Hughes knew what was at stake in carrying out his mission. The Tampa Bay Times said he expected to lose his job and his freedom. Hughes said he didn’t tell his wife or four children about the plan because he didn’t want them to be implicated.

You don’t need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. You don’t need to belong to the Air Force to deliver the air mail. Just maybe – you should receive commendation for courage in the face of politicians afraid to do a damned thing for folks’ civil rights.

First landing on comet — photo history


Rosetta selfie with Comet 67/P in the background

History was made yesterday as a spacecraft the size of a fridge executed the first successful landing on a comet. The European Space Agency confirms that at about 16:00 GMT the unmanned Philae space probe touched down on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko at the landing site known as Agilkia. The comet and spacecraft are 510 million km from Earth, so the news of the landing took 28 minutes and 20 seconds to reach mission control in Darmstadt, Germany.

The day before the landing, the 100 kg Phiale was turned on and its batteries charged for the first time since leaving Earth. There were some initial glitches as the batteries warmed more slowly than anticipated, but the spacecraft soon warmed up to its operational temperature. As the Rosetta mothership carrying Philae maneuvered into position, mission control carried out flight checks on the two spacecraft, sent command updates to Philae that allowed it to navigate autonomously to the landing site, and cleared the landing maneuver after a series of go/no decisions with the lander declared ready for separation at 02:35 GMT.

Despite a transient fault in the cold gas thruster aboard Philae, at 07:35 GMT Rosetta completed its final maneuver and the final permission was given to proceed with landing. At 09:03 Philae separated from Rosetta. During course correction maneuvers, communications with Earth were interrupted from either spacecraft, so they were programmed to operate autonomously…


First photo from Philae lander

…Since its arrival on August 6, the orbiter has been mapping the comet in search of a suitable landing site for the Philae lander.

…The landing…was based on a window where there would be enough sunlight to power the lander, but not so much as to make the comet dangerously active. Meanwhile, the site was chosen based on a balance between the scientific value of the area against the safety of the lander. Agilkia has very little slope, few boulders, and abundant sunlight, yet contains many features of interest.

ESA says that Philae has begun taking panoramic images as part of a two-and-a-half day science mission using its suite of 10 instruments, which could be extended if its solar panels are able to charge its batteries.

Bravo. Kudos to ESA for having the foresight and dedication to basic science and research required to fund and manage this project.

Click through to the article and more than 2 dozen photos from the history of the Rosetta project.

Thanks, Ursarodinia, Mike – GMTA

X-47B unmanned aircraft makes historic first carrier landing

The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator put another page in the history books on Wednesday with its first unmanned arrested-wire carrier landing. The drone flew 35 minutes from Patuxent River Naval Air Station to the carrier USS George H.W. Bush off the coast of Virginia, where is landed at about 167 mph with an arresting wire catching its tail hook and bringing it to a stop in 350 ft..

This test marks the culmination of ten years of research by the Navy and Northrop Grumman to produce a prototype unmanned combat vehicle for the US Navy. Previously, the X-47B completed deck operations aboard the USS Harry S. Truman in December and the first UAV catapult launch in May…

“We have been using the same [carrier] landing technology for more than 50 years now and the idea that we can take a large UAV and operate in that environment is fascinating,” says Capt. Jaime Engdahl, Navy program manager. “When I think about all of the hours and all of the work-ups the team put into executing this event, I had no doubt the air vehicle was going to do exactly what it was supposed to do.”

After the initial landing, the X-47B was launched again from the carrier by catapult and did another arrested landing…

I know, I know. It’s a shame the military gets to do all this fascinating research.

When you live in the belly of the beast that is the last dedicated imperial superpower – to some extent – you grow accustomed to the rules of the game. Death and destruction trumps all other motivations. They get the dollars even without a requisition. The military-industrial complex Eisenhower warned against has ruled the United States for decades.

Oops! C-17 Globemaster in surprise landing at small island airport


Click on photo for video of landing – and takeoff

A military cargo plane that typically requires 3,500 feet for takeoff landed unexpectedly Friday at Peter O. Knight Airport, where the longest runway is 95 feet short.

Work began immediately to lighten the load of the 174-foot-long aircraft so that it might leave Davis Islands safely.

The drama ended at 8:27 p.m., when the C-17 Globemaster III took a hop over Hillsborough Bay to MacDill, the original destination. It landed just a few minutes later.

It was unclear why the plane, headed to MacDill, made an unscheduled landing at the small airport near downtown Tampa. Master Sgt. Bryan Gatewood, a spokesman for MacDill Air Force Base, said authorities are investigating…

Peter O. Knight is a general aviation airport operated by the Aviation Authority.

It has two runways, including a smaller one that is 2,688 feet and a larger one that is 3,405 feet. The longest runway at MacDill is 11,421 feet.

Focus, concentrate, pay attention to your job. 🙂

China’s giant, quiet step in space continues


 

In May, SpaceX became the first of the new generation of commercial aerospace companies to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. The cargo delivery was part of the first flight test of the integrated Falcon-9 launch vehicle and the Dragon capsule spacecraft with rendezvous and berthing mechanism systems…

One month later, China launched its fourth crewed space mission, Shenzhou-9. This was also a history-making flight, in that China, which had in 2003 become only the third nation capable of launching astronauts into space — now only one of two, since the retirement of the U.S. space shuttle in 2011 — demonstrated crewed rendezvous and docking to their orbital module, Tiangong-1. The crew also featured China’s first female astronaut. They spent several days docked to Tiangong-1 conducting various operations, before safely returning to Earth on Thursday night.

China’s mission was widely covered in the international media, but the coverage in the United States was notably quieter than that of SpaceX. This is somewhat understandable, as SpaceX is an American company. But the sentiment of many in the United States is that the Chinese mission was a big “So what?” After all, the United States and Soviet governments had demonstrated crewed docking missions back in the 1960s, and operationally, China is still far behind.

We downplay China’s accomplishments at our own peril. That the United States and the Soviet Union demonstrated crewed rendezvous and docking operations more than 40 years ago is not the point. The point is, now the Chinese can do it, too.

China’s first crewed space docking was a giant step. It enables the Chinese to build and operate their own space station, establish the technology that is necessary to efficiently send astronauts to the moon and beyond, build and operate fuel depots, and construct vehicles and bases in space.

Russia has turned to earning income from their monster first stages used as the base for launching satellites for several companies. The United States is confining efforts almost exclusively to military tasks, turning down a significant number of NASA requests for peaceful purposes. Which puts the lie to whining from pundits and politicians who auto-deny China’s avowed tasking of peaceful purposes in space research.

Regardless of direction – and agitprop – China is the only nation growing a space program for the foreseeable future. I wish them well. I look forward to learning what they discover to add to our knowledge of science off-Earth.

Fireman lands passenger jet replacing absent air traffic controller

As a Jet Airways flight from Hyderabad approached Tirupati airport in Andhra Pradesh, its pilot was alarmed when he received no instructions from its control tower, where two air traffic controllers would normally guide them to a safe landing.

Instead, he was eventually greeted by an airport fireman ordered into the control tower by an official after it emerged that two senior controllers due on duty had either overslept or failed to call in sick.

The fireman, known as Basha, was sent to the tower by the airport’s deputy general manager who issued instructions on how to guide the pilot by phone.

Despite successfully guiding the plane to safety and possibly saving dozens of lives, the fireman has yet to be recognised as a hero while airport bosses announced they would be taking disciplinary action against air traffic control officers for dereliction of duty…

The air traffic controller says he called in sick. His boss doesn’t even wish to give credit to the fireman who handled communications with the Jet Airways flight. I wonder where he was when telephoning to the control tower? Is there a golf course near Tirupati airport?

Someone should recognize a solid performance by Mr. Basha, the fireman.