Friday, July 19, 2019

On This Afternoon 50 Years Ago

At 17:21:50 Universal Time (or Greenwich Mean Time as it was more often called in 1969) the Service Module's 20,500-pound-thrust engine started firing to slow Apollo 11's velocity enough to go into lunar orbit.  In Eastern Daylight Time that's 1:21:50 PM.  The burn lasted just under six minutes (5:57).  The burn placed the the three modules into an elliptical-lunar orbit of 69 by 190 miles.  That was made more circular by a second, much shorter burn of 17 seconds.  This placed the docked vehicles into a lunar orbit of 62 by 70.5 miles.

The burn necessarily took place with the spacecraft on the far side of the moon, so ground controllers - and the millions of us hanging on every word - didn't know if the burn was successful until the spacecraft came over the horizon and could re-establish radio contact with Earth.  Not that they or we could have done anything for the crew if there was constant communications.  It's a quarter million miles away; nobody could have done a thing for them.   

An artist's concept from the Apollo days:


It's just over 24 hours until the landing.  The crew is busy scouting their landing site, checking out the Lunar Module and preparing for tomorrow as they orbit the moon every two hours.  They do a couple of video transmissions for those keeping track of the mission.


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

British Physicist and Radio Amateur Revolutionizes How We See the Ionosphere

The American Radio Relay League relayed the news this week that British Physicist Cathryn Mitchell, whom the ARRL says is known to fellow hams as M0IBG, was awarded the 2019 Edward Appleton Medal and Prize.  Her work sounds fascinating to me and I had to dig a little further.
Mitchell innovated a completely new Earth observation technique by adapting medical tomography to image the Earth's ionosphere, thus revealing the dynamics of the near-Earth space environment. Her use of Global Positioning System satellite signals as a source for space weather tomography, through a new time-dependent mathematical inversion algorithm, has given us the first global-scale view of the ionosphere in response to space weather storms.

Mitchell's research has fundamentally changed our understanding of the Earth's ionosphere, revealing dynamic processes driven by magnetospheric electric fields causing enormous plasma enhancements and uplifts and has led on to ionospheric data assimilation and forecasting.
The method is referred to as CIT, Computerized Ionospheric Tomography.  Perhaps you've had a CAT scan, now more commonly called a CT scan.  In the first case Computerized Axial Tomography, and in the second, Computerized Tomography.  

Naturally, I went in search of some images based on this new technique; which isn't that new, but that I hadn't heard of.  Nature had an article re-evaluating the ionospheric electron density during an ionospheric storm on August 5 and 6, 2011 using the technique and existing data. This is a reconstruction of the data by time (left to right then top to bottom), altitude and geographic coordinates. 


I'd love to see animated 3D graphics of the ionosphere showing these electron densities, varying over time and reconstructed into continuous vertical clouds. 

I've been interested in the ionosphere since I first learned about it back when I was 12 or 13, so naturally this got my attention.  I thought some of you might it interesting, too.  Note at the end of writing this piece, I thought it would be a good idea to check the callsign.  While she isn't listed on QRZ.com or any of the call lookups I can find, there is a reference to her on the Radio Society of Great Britain's Propagation Studies Committee with that call and a HamSci.org article by her.  The QRZ omission is probably an error in the license database.



Tuesday, July 16, 2019

50 Years Ago This Morning at 9:32 AM

Apollo 11 lifted off from KSC pad 39A.  Lots of people are talking about it.  Zendo Deb at 357 Magnum has a couple of videos of the launch - one of which I'm embedding here.  It's magnificent and despite having seen it happen, hard to remember that America. 



50 years ago, I was 15 - it was the summer of my 9th grade year; the summer after leaving junior high and before starting high school (in those days).  I was on what would be the last vacation I ever took with my parents, to the city of their birth and youth, New York City.  They had moved to Miami when I was three.  On this morning we had spent the night in a motel somewhere in Virginia (IIRC) and were preparing for the final leg into the city.  I convinced them to wait for the launch.  It's good it wasn't delayed.  My brother (older brother, only sibling) had turned 18 and had started working, so he couldn't come with us. Or, perhaps, it was his developing relationship with his girlfriend whom he married within a couple of years. 

I was the space geek.  In elementary school, four years before, a NASA educational outreach program had come to my school and hooked me.  Borrowing mom's typewriter, I had typed letters to the educational outreach and public relations offices for NASA in DC and the KSC eventually filling a large box with NASA publications.  After years of studying the details of the trip and how it would all unfold, I'd patiently explain all the acronyms and details as they came up.

For the rest of the Apollo 11 mission, we were on that trip.  Some memories are clear and vivid; others less so.  Like so many people, I believed that by now we'd have colonies on the moon and have visited Mars.  Perhaps outposts on Mars as well.  Pardon me if I get a little wistful during these posts about 11. 





Monday, July 15, 2019

The Revolving Door Between Core Democrat Officials and Social Media

With the widespread de-platforming of conservatives and alternate voices from Alex Jones to Steven Crowder to YouTube gun channels, a lot attention has been focused on how Facebook, Google/YouTube, Twitter and the rest of the Big Social are eliminating conservative viewpoints.

A remarkable piece of investigative journalism appeared today on the website Spinquark - which I'd never heard of and only learned of by coverage on Glenn Beck's radio program today.  The article investigates the revolving door between the power players in the Democratic Party inner circles and the top levels of the social media platforms and is called "Welcome to Social Government".  The most common former employer was the Obama administration or campaign.  The second most common former employer was the Hillary Clinton campaign. 

It's long and it's important.  As usual, let me snip some pieces to whet your appetite.
How is it that Facebook, who refuses to dox any of the violent Antifa terrorists that use its platform, are happy to give up the personal details of the Facebook user who anonymously uploaded a slowed video of Nancy Pelosi, within minutes, to some rando journalist on the phone? (How do you even call Facebook?)

Well what if I told you a Policy Director at Facebook was Nancy Pelosi's Chief of Staff before taking said job directing policy at Facebook? What if I told you the head of algorithm policy at Facebook worked for Hillary at The State Department? Or that the Head of Content Policy worked for the Hillary presidential campaign? What if I told you the person in charge of privacy policy at Facebook used to work for Al Franken, before he worked for Senator Bonoff, before he worked for Congressman Oberstar? Or that the Director in charge of "countering hate and extremism" at Facebook came from the Clinton Foundation? ...
There's more in that paragraph - and that's just one example.
How about YouTube? How does Laura Southern's documentary about the border get removed from YouTube within 24 hours of posting without any reason or explanation? What if I told you a Policy Manager at YouTube, before becoming a Policy Manager at YouTube, was employed by Hillary for America and was a manager in Obama's campaign before that? What if I told you YouTube's Global Content Policy Lead previously worked at the DNC? Did you know the person responsible for "growing the next generation of stars" on YouTube worked in the Office of Digital Strategy at the White House under Obama? Or that the person in charge of developing the careers of YouTube creators was the Director of Video for Obama? Speaking of helping the careers of creators, did you know Vox, the company that got Steven Crowder demonetized, was one of the companies that YouTube doled out $20 million dollars to, for 'educational videos'?

Ten people, directly connected to the progressive Democrat political machine who are now controlling our conversations online. Sounds like an important alarm, no?

What if I told you there were nearly a hundred more?
 From there, he goes to Twitter and finds the same sorts of links.
What about Twitter? The "primary spokesperson and communications lead for the 2016 U.S. Presidential election" at Twitter was previously Kamala Harris' Press Secretary. A Trust & Safety manager who "developed operations and policies related to privacy and free expression" previously worked at the Clinton Global Initiative and at the State Department under Hillary Clinton. A Twitter Director of Public Policy was originally a Press Secretary for John Edwards (D), and Erskine Bowles (D), and Senator Salazar (D), and Senator Barack Obama (D), he was a Policy Director for Obama's Presidential campaign, a Policy Advisor at the White House, Special Assistant to the President, and then he spent three short months on the Clinton-Kaine Presidential Transition Team before deciding to take a job directing public policy at Twitter.
You probably realize that this is no coincidence.  After the 2016 election, one of the lessons that Democrats thought they learned was that Trump's campaign used social media better than Hillary's team did.  The obvious conclusion was they needed to get better at social media! 

Just kidding.  Work at getting better?  Don't be silly!  That's too rational and even has the wretched odor of free markets.  The obvious conclusion is to bar anyone with conservative sounding ideas from social media!  The government can't do that, but these private companies can remove whomever they want from their platforms, so all these Democratic insiders rushed to be executives in social media companies. 

They need to control thoughts to keep another upset like the Trumpening from happening.  After all, they're better than you, smarter than you, and know what's best for the country better than you! 


 (from Big League Politics)

In the beginning of the conclusion, Spinquark talks about the big picture.
Progressive Democrats using social media companies to stifle our free speech online should be the most important discussion of this generation. Who has the power to silence Americans at YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook? Who are the people setting up the guardrails to our free speech?...
Does their monopoly status require they undergo more Federal regulation to ensure access?  Is access a "civil right"?  (This guy at Human Events thinks so)  It really is the big argument of our day. 

For those who are regular readers, or who are but haven't picked this up from me: these are private companies invented and developed by individual citizens.  They have every right to kick anyone and everyone off their platform.  Further, the leftist leaning politics of Silicon Valley companies should be apparent to anyone - which means they'll attract these Democrats.  My solution is to not use Facebook or Twitter and just use YouTube and Google for the few ways I want.  While I don't particularly think YouTube access is a civil right, reframing that question by asking what if YouTube banned all blacks or all gays or all of any other group instead of conservatives seems to lead to a different conclusion.



Sunday, July 14, 2019

Long Day - So Some Pictures

Remember my mention of the flywheel I started on yesterday?  When I have to take off cubic inches of metal .010" at a time it's going to take a while.  I faced it and turned it down to (almost) final diameter: 3.77" instead of 3.75, in case I need some more metal (much easier to take off than add).  Then it was time to part off to thickness.  The center hub is going to end up 1-1/8 so the parting off has to leave more than that.  I was going to part the 1-3/4" thick down to 1-1/4".  I think I've spent a real four hours of work on that and I'm still not there.  The first half inch of radius went pretty quickly.  From there on it has been a fight.

So... things I've saved up for just such occasion.


Florida Man gets it right.  A good sized tarpon from a pool float - I'd guess less than 100 pounds, more than 50.  From the weekly Florida Man feature on PJ Media.


Cross section of a cargo container ship during construction.  You can see a guy standing on the top left.  The scale of these vessels always blow my mind.   From a daily email from HomemadeTools.

Finally, I think this is real; it's a member of the US Women's National Soccer Team who isn't full of Trump Derangement Syndrome and hatred of the USA.


You can see the bottom right frame says it's from Trump's campaign team.  I got it from Pinterest.



Saturday, July 13, 2019

Webster Update #3, Fumbles, Recoveries, Fumbles and Learning

It has been a couple of weeks since I did my last update on the engine, so I thought I'd do one of those.  The two side plates that hold the various parts of the engine in place are completed. 


The two side plates are the shinier pieces in the foreground - the larger piece in the background is the base plate they screw down onto with the two tapped holes visible on the bottom edges facing the camera.

I've been making things out of wood for much longer than I've been machining metal, and one of the prime lessons that sunk into my brain 40 years ago was, "the secret to a good project is how you recover from a screw up".  (I think it could be extended to life in general - the secret to life is how gracefully you recover from a screw-up.)  I want to draw your attention to the large hole that's closest to the camera on the lower left, this is where the camshaft that opens the exhaust valve goes.  The hole is dark and has a wide rim so it looks different from every other hole.


It looks different from the other holes because it's a ball bearing and it's a ball bearing because I was recovering from the way I screwed up that hole.  The drawings call out the hole should reamed to 0.250".  Everyone is familiar with drill bits for making a hole but I'll wager only people who work in metal are familiar with reamers (in-depth article - pdf warning).  The rule of thumb is that a drill bit will tend to make a hole that is neither perfectly circular nor perfectly perpendicular to the work.  For a hole with a requirement for an exact size, a slightly undersized hole is drilled and that's followed by a reamer which removes a small amount of metal but helps make it more highly circular and straight through the work. 

The problem is that I grabbed the wrong reamer out of my set and ruined the hole.  The way out was to make it bigger and put something in the hole to sleeve it (or make another side plate - which I'd really rather not).  Since the hole carries a .250 diameter cam shaft, I used a ball bearing I had from my Duclos engine.  That required a 0.375" hole, which was easy.  I paid more attention to grabbing the right reamer. 

While putting the ball bearings into this assembly, I started thinking about ball bearings for the other holes, which are reamed 0.500".  I took a quick look at the drawings to see what part goes there and it's the "other" big shaft in an internal combustion engine, the crankshaft.  A quick look told me that it's a 0.500 cold rolled steel piece (which I've already bought and is in the pile 'o parts).  It was easy to find 0.500 inside diameter ball bearings that look just like this set.  Unfortunately, I'm not prepared to mount it.  It requires a 0.750 hole, which means I need a 0.750 reamer and a slightly smaller drill bit.  Ordered everything. 

Which was another screw-up, although only a waste of money (to the extent ordering some tools is ever a waste of money, which is only if you never need them).  I bought the drill bit, reamer and four ball bearings that I don't need.  Maybe I need to design a bigger engine.

A closer look at the drawings while trying to figure out how this all goes together showed me a suggested set of ball bearings for those half inch holes.  It turns out the crankshaft is really 5/16" diameter - 0.3125" - I read the diameter of a collar it goes in.  Those bearings are on order today. 

I started a conversation with a guy who has built one of these on a forum I hang out on and he said I can't use the ball bearings in the second picture.  My concept is wrong: the shaft doesn't rotate.  It's fixed in the side plate and the parts that go on the shaft rotate on the shaft.  This makes fixing that hole easier.  I'll turn a sleeve and hold it in the side plate with red LocTite.  I could use the cam shaft as the drawings say or turn it onto the 3/8" piece that goes in the screwed up hole.

I've already started on the next part, the flywheel, while I wait on parts for the sides.  The flywheel blank is that piece of tool steel I de-rusted in vinegar a few weeks ago.  That stuff is interesting to turn, by the way.  If I cut off a tiny cut, like .005", the chips go from the bright silver of the metal to gold or amber colored.  If I take off .010", they come out deep cobalt blue.  Rather interesting stuff.  At .005 or .010" at a pass with cubic inches to take off, it will be a while.


Friday, July 12, 2019

Standing Up To Facebook

I missed this story when it came out in the last week of May, but the corporation behind Crossfit, the extremely popular exercise and nutrition enterprise, withdrew their pages from Facebook after Facebook deplatformed another fitness-related site.  Hat Tip to Reason.com via the Ammo.com weekly newsletter.  According to an official statement published at the time:
Facebook deleted without warning or explanation the Banting7DayMealPlan user group. The group has 1.65 million users who post testimonials and other information regarding the efficacy of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. While the site has subsequently been reinstated (also without warning or explanation), Facebook's action should give any serious person reason to pause, especially those of us engaged in activities contrary to prevailing opinion….

Facebook…serves as a de facto authority over the public square, arbitrating a worldwide exchange of information as well as overseeing the security of the individuals and communities who entrust their ideas, work, and private data to this platform. This mandates a certain responsibility and assurance of good faith, transparency, and due process.

CrossFit, Inc., as a voluntary user of and contributor to this marketplace, can and must remove itself from this particular manifestation of the public square when it becomes clear that such responsibilities are betrayed or reneged upon to the detriment of our community.
In a typical week, we hear of people being deplatformed by Facebook or Google several times.  What we don't hear about is corporations that are paying these companies for their advertising striking back by moving off the platform to other services.  If for no other reason than for the point in the famous Martin Niemöller quote:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Crossfit is clearly concerned that being a health and wellness corporation based on contrarian ideas that they might well face the same bans as the Banting7DayMealPlan user group.  They opened the statement quoted above essentially saying so with this "mission statement":
CrossFit is a contrarian physiological and nutrition prescription for improving fitness and health. It is contrarian because prevailing views of fitness, health, and nutrition are wrong and have unleashed a tsunami of chronic disease upon our friends, family, and communities. The voluntary CrossFit community of 15,000 affiliates and millions of individual adherents stands steadfastly and often alone against an unholy alliance of academia, government, and multinational food, beverage, and pharmaceutical companies.
Nick Gillespie writing for Reason says:
Instead of taking it upon themselves to police more than true threats and instead of calling for government regulation of expression, Facebook and other social media services would treat their platforms as free-speech zones and focus instead on providing users with tools to personalize their experiences.
Unfortunately, that's not the world we live in.  Facebook (and Google/YouTube and The Rest) seem to have staked their future on being regulated utilities and using the high cost of entry as a bar to future competitors.  They seem to have decided if they piss off enough conservatives, they'll join the movement to get the Big Gov to regulate them.

Reason calls it a "Bonus Video" to hear CrossFit founder Greg Glassman say he's a "rabid libertarian". 




Thursday, July 11, 2019

Please Bee Seated

One of those pictures that's just filled with Nope, Nope, Nope...


The saddle on the left says www.cycletech.nl, so I'm guessing this was taken there in the Netherlands.  One of those places where bikes are left in public so anyone who needs one can just borrow it for a while and then turn it back in later.  There or elsewhere.  

From the vast Sargasso sea of the Internet, Pinterest.



Wednesday, July 10, 2019

I Feel Sorry for the Women's Soccer Team

Probably not the way you think.

I feel sorry for them because they come across as horrible whiners.  The kind of people I don't want to be around.  Nothing is ever good enough for them.

They've just won what should be the ultimate victory of their careers (and I gather some of them did it four years ago, too).  They're the world champions, having gone through the tournament without a loss.  They should feel on top of the world.  They should be sky high with happiness; perpetual giddiness for days.

Instead, all we hear out of them is about victimhood; about how they earn less than the men and it's unfair.  In the case of apparent team spokesperson Megan Rapinoe, we hear how much she projects hate onto President Trump.  Their parade in NYFC seemed to be about grievances and not joy.

It has been widely reported that the pool of money for men's soccer is much bigger than the pool of money for women's, but as percentage of that pool, the women get a much larger percentage. 
According to Mike Oznian, a writer for Forbes, the 2015 Women's World Cup “brought in almost $73 million, of which the players got 13%. The 2010 men's World Cup in South Africa made almost $4 billion, of which 9% went to the players.”
The women got 13% of the pool, while the men got 9%; that is, the women got 44% more than the men.  Because the men's pool was over 50 times bigger than the women's pool, the men's smaller percentage turned into a bigger number of dollars.

I don't follow soccer - men's or women's.  Much like I don't care what any male athlete earns, I don't care what any of them earn.  The root cause of the disparity in the money between the sexes is that the men's sports are more entertaining, because the men play a more dynamic game.  Even Serena Williams, one of the greatest women's tennis players of the last 20 years, said the men's game is better.
Despite having won 23 Grand Slam titles, Williams, in a 2013 appearance on “Late Night With David Letterman,” said, “For me, men’s’ tennis and women’s’ tennis are completely, almost, two separate sports. If I was to play Andy Murray (then one of the best players in the world), I would lose 6-0, 6-0 in five to six minutes, maybe 10 minutes.”
(To be honest, I always thought that with her musculature, Serena could play Free Safety in the NFL.  Except for almost certainly not having a clue how to play football.)

If they're trying to woo everyone in the country to support knee-jerk legislation ideas like Chuckie Schumer came up with to pander to them, count me out.  What the women need is for a generation of kids growing up now to become paying fans of women's soccer.  Attracting more ticket sales is the only answer.  Nobody playing today will benefit from that. 



Tuesday, July 9, 2019

More Common Wisdom That's Not Really True

If you're old enough to remember 1964, the big story in March and April '64 was the murder of Kitty Genovese in New York City.  The part of the story most people talked about was the late March report by The New York Times that 37 witnesses watched the attack but didn't intervene or even call the police (Ms. Genovese had been murdered two weeks before that article).  Almost instantly, the phenomenon of "The Bystander Effect" winked into existence and has been considered a psychological effect ever since. 

But is it a real, common, psychological effect? 

Economist Tyler Curtis at the Foundation for Economic Education, FEE, looks into the details surrounding the effect.  It's probably not what you think it is.  Let's start here:
The story was widely circulated in the media, but later research revealed that it was mostly false. Far fewer people witnessed the attack than was first reported, at least one of the witnesses did contact the police, and some of the witnesses only heard screams but could not actually see the murderer or his victim.
The New York Times publishing fake news in 1964?  This is my shocked face, right?  The reality was that there were far fewer than 38 witnesses; the History.com article only talks of two, mentions them by name, and the second one called the police. 

Research published this month, "Would I Be Helped" puts the concept of the Bystander Effect on very shaky ground. 
After reviewing more than 200 videos of real-life altercations in which bystanders were present, a recent study revealed that at least one bystander intervened 91 percent of the time. Far from discouraging individuals from helping, the researchers concluded, the presence of bystanders actually increased the probability that someone would intervene, precisely the opposite of what the theory of the bystander effect would predict.

A multitude of previous studies has yielded similar results. As Brit Garner notes in a video for SciShow Psych,
A 2011 meta-analysis of more than 50 studies also showed that if the situation is dangerous, like if the perpetrator is still there, people are more likely to help if there are bystanders.
In other words, having an audience encourages heroism.
We can add nuance to this.  With a group of bystanders, there seems to a time lag while everyone waits for someone to do something first.  I suspect most people are going through the reality lag that gets so many killed in a disaster or other emergency; their brain is stuck on, "what's going on?  why is this happening?"  Simply the events are so far out of day to day experience that their brain stalls while trying to understand.  In first aid classes, (I assume some of you have taken these), a common instruction is to point at someone and single them out, saying, "you - call 911" instead of just saying "someone call 911" to help bring them back to reality. 

I view this as another example of bad science being cleaned up.  To the extent psychology can be considered a real science.  In reality, when faced with an emergency situation, most people will attempt to help those in need.  The finer point of helping when you're armed and a conflict happens in front of you is "beyond the scope of this lesson".


Today's Bystander Effect.


Monday, July 8, 2019

A Repost - Making an AR-15 Lower From Aluminum Cans

I originally posted this article back in September of '17.  It attracted a little attention, but in the stats I can access from Google, it's not particularly popular.  Nowhere near as popular as my AR from an 80% lower series.  Recently, I went to look up the post and found the video was gone.  It didn't take long for me to find that it had been replaced by a newer, better (and slightly longer) version.  I'm redoing this post to point that out and get him more views.  The difference: YouTube Demonetized him.

There are few 20+ minute videos that I've watched that haven't had me reaching to see if I could skip over some fluff. This one had my complete attention for all 23 minutes. Guncraft101 takes five pounds of saved aluminum cans and recycles them by melting and casting an AR-15 lower.


I've got to say his PPE (personal protection equipment) made me cringe a little, but that's the only thing I can be critical of.  Upper arm-length, heavy, leather gloves combined with shorts and bare legs while pouring molten metal is enough to make me cringe.  The rest of it is great stuff to know.

That said, I have to wonder if the metal would be useful for most things.  When you see things saying they're made from "Aircraft Aluminum" or an alloy like 6061-T6 or 7075, that's a specific recipe for alloying elements in specific proportions, and T6 is a specific heat treatment.  If I took a pound of 6061-T6 cutoffs and melted those down, instead of soda cans, I wouldn't end up with 6061-T6.  All metals are like this, really.  Steel, brass, aluminum, titanium or whatever, the properties you see depend on the ingredients (alloy) and how they're treated.  Anyone who has taken the mechanical engineering classes on materials has seen something like this iron/carbon phase diagram.  The different colors code for different microstructures in the steel, the temperatures and concentrations of carbon that lead to their formations.  There are similar curves for aluminum and its main alloying additions - silicon and magnesium in 6061 or zinc and magnesium in 7075, for example.



That said, an AR-15 lower has got to be pretty non-critical.  It's not just that plastic lowers are a thing, and can be bought in any quantity from an handful of companies, there's that guy who made one at home from HDPE - the plastic used to make kitchen cutting boards (and stopped by to visit here and comment once).  If HDPE works, it's probably not a high-stress application.

I've never done casting, but I've been collecting aluminum scraps for a few years now, and have a couple of large buckets full of them (they're from 34 pound buckets of kitty litter), and I could start putting soda cans in the mix at any time.  This is climbing my list slowly. 



Sunday, July 7, 2019

NASA's Orion Spacecraft Takes Next Step to Manned Flight

This past Tuesday, July 2nd, NASA's Orion spacecraft cleared another hurdle in preparations for its first manned flights to the ISS.  The Orion successfully tested the launch abort escape system in a test launched from Cape Canaveral.  This is the test that SpaceX failed in May, because the vehicle exploded on the launch pad about a half second before a test.  Other automated systems have done aborts within milliseconds before launch; cratering explosions that take out the launch stand don't count as test aborts. 
It went fast. Early on Tuesday morning, a former Peacekeeper missile lofted a boilerplate Orion spacecraft to an altitude just shy of 10km (5.4 nautical miles) before a powerful escape motor fired. Amid the smoke, the escape system pulled the NASA spacecraft rapidly away from the Peacekeeper booster. The entire test lasted 3 minutes and 13 seconds.
...
In many ways, this was an odd-looking test. The stubby Peacekeeper missile looked nothing like a tall, brawny rocket—such as the Space Launch System or the Delta IV Heavy—capable of launching Orion into space. After the escape system fired and Orion was released, the vehicle tumbled and plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean in what was less than a heartwarming scene.
You read that right: they threw away the boilerplate Orion capsule.  According to Orion Program Manager Mark Kirasich, the intent of the flight was very specific:  at the time of maximum dynamic pressure during a launch, when a rocket is still accelerating but the atmosphere remains relatively thick, the launch abort must be capable of pulling the capsule away from its booster, reorienting the spacecraft, and then releasing it.  They simplified the test to its bare essentials and Orion passed. 



In this three photo montage, we see the Peacekeeper and Orion system on ascent, the moment the escape rocket tower ignites and finally as the escape tower is pulling the capsule away from the booster.



The test launcher and escape system are better seen in this photo from launch at 0700 on Tuesday (7/2/19).  More details viewable at Ars Technica

It's not clear what the big picture view of this is.  Clearly, the successful test keeps Orion on track for an uncrewed mission on top of NASA's Space Launch System rocket in 2021. The bigger challenge will be getting the rocket ready for such a mission.  The possibility of manned launch is farther out than '21, and the program still has uncertainty surrounding it.
In truth, the problem with Orion has never really been its technical performance—by all accounts, NASA and Lockheed Martin are building a capable, robust, safe vehicle for humans to return to deep space in the early to mid-2020s. Rather, the issue is one of mass, budget, time, and mission. In terms of mass, Orion is a very heavy vehicle with its launch escape system, about 26 tons. This requires a very large rocket to launch it even into low-Earth orbit, let alone lunar orbit.
A bigger problem with Orion than its mass is its apparent lack of a clear cut mission. Since NASA first solicited contracts for a deep space capsule in 2005 and awarded the contract to Lockheed a year later, the space agency has spent $16 billion on Orion. At the time of the contract award, the intended purpose for Orion was carrying humans into deep space and back before 2022 or 2023.  There are no planned deep space missions before '22, but if Orion flies to the moon by 2025, the development process will have stretched into two decades.  Flying to the moon by '25 seems optimistic to me.

NASA has lacked a clear, sustained purpose to actually use Orion and that's due to the thoroughly dysfunctional congress. NASA has filled out the goals and intents of the Artemis program to return humans to the Moon by 2024, but so far Congress has yet to agree to the Trump administration's desire for funding.  The very last thing the House will do is anything that might make Trump look good.  And so Orion tests, and waits, and tests some more.

Meanwhile, if you're keeping score, the manned missions for the US (consider these very preliminary) are on NasaSpaceFlight - for rough planning purposes.
Boeing's uncrewed Orbital Flight Test of its Starliner vehicle will move to a launch planning date of September 17, 2019. SpaceX's Demonstration Mission-2 is now tentatively planned for November 15, 2019. The flight would see astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley perform a 7-day flight of the Dragon capsule. Then, Mike Finke, Nicole Mann, and Chris Ferguson would launch November 30, 2019, on the first crewed mission of the Starliner capsule. We'll be pleasantly surprised if any of the crewed missions occur in 2019.


Saturday, July 6, 2019

Lefties Doxx and Threaten to Kill 8-Year Old Girl

The organized left has shown again how despicable they are as human beings, this time doxxing, harassing and organizing death threats against 8-year old Ava Martinez who has been having fun doing parody videos as "Mini AOC".  When they started getting calls to their personal phones, her parents decided prudence demanded they pull her content off the web.  Which, of course, is going to teach the left that their antics worked and will be repeated until someone stands up to them. 

The girl's stepfather, Salvatore Schachter, took to Twitter to explain why all of Martinez's accounts were suddenly deactivated and all content was removed:


According to the source article (at Townhall.com by Beth Baumann), this tweet parodying AOC's visit to a parking lot was still on twitter when she started on the story.  I just checked the account and it wasn't there.


There are, as of this writing, three videos on YouTube at a channel by the same name (Sicken Tirade - two words in this case). 

Schachter says Ava is disappointed but the whole thing was more motivated by her desire to be an actress, not her political senses.  
"She's disappointed at not doing Mini AOC going forward but we explained that this is for the best and she's okay with it," Schachter said. "The world has seen Ava's beauty, talent, and charm, which was the whole reason for Mini AOC to begin with and no amount of hate or anger will change that. Also, like Ava says, 'try using your words.'"
Beth Baumann at Townhall emphasizes that the leftists doxxed and threatened a little girl, and while it does take a certain level of "scumbag of all scumbags" to threaten a little girl, I don't really much care if they doxxed her or her mom and stepdad, Schachter.  Free speech used to be something much more of society agreed on but is now under constant assault from the leftists.  This is just another example. 


Friday, July 5, 2019

The Barbecue Results

The results of the Double Smoke Sous Vee Barbecue experiment were fantastic. The bark was better than the single smoke after sous vide approach. It pulled very easily. Moist, delicious. All in all the process took from about 11AM Wednesday through to 5PM Thursday, so there’s the aspect of planning, and doing things on schedule, but with the exception of needing two consecutive days outside with no rain, that’s not particularly hard.

Right out of the smoker:


Compare that to the picture in the previous post.   Better yet, compare the previous post to this one, since it's the same situation as the previous post - pulled for serving.


I had my doubts this would be worth it yesterday morning after the sous vide bath. It went into the bath (double bagged) Wednesday night around 5PM, and when it went in, the Internal Temp was 145 (F).  After 18 hours at 165, at 11 AM on the 4th, the roast had given off a lot of juices, and I assumed it washed away the bark that had started. It’s tricky to handle food at this stage because it’s fully cooked and fall-off-the-bone tender. It was trying to fall apart right then and there, but I gave it a rub with yellow mustard and then the same spice rub I used before the first smoking. When I put it in the smoker, the meat was trying to slide off the generous fat pad that the pork had. I think next time I’ll tie it up with butcher twine.

It was into the smoker by just before noon for the second smoke and by 3 PM I could see it was getting a good looking bark.

At this time yesterday, I would have said this will be my standard way of doing pulled pork from now on.  I don’t know if the bark that started in the first smoke really did get washed away, and I put it back in the second smoke, or if it mostly survived and I added to it.  I just know it’s better than my single smoked version with sv first and then a few hours in the smoker.

Today I got started thinking of it differently.  It was in the smoker a total of about 9 hours: four on the first day and five on the second.  Was the bark better simply because it had 9 hours of time in the smoker or because of the special treatment?  When I used to do the smoking from a raw piece of pork, it would be in the smoker 12 hours or more.  Once, I think it went close to 15 hours.  Maybe it's just the total time in the conditions found inside the smoker that matters.  For comparison again, compare this butt, ready to pull, that I did back in 2013.  Notice how much darker it is than the most recent one?  


More research - more barbecue - is definitely called for.  Mustn't rush into these sorts of decisions. 


Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy Independence Day 2019

I'm pleased to see that there's a move to not just call today the 4th of July, but to use the proper name.  Let's remember what it really was - the day we declared our independence of tyranny.


IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America


When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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 to 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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I would have highlighted portions that I think are particularly apt today, but the whole thing would be highlighted.

Enjoy your day.  To those who serve - and have served - to provide this gift of liberty for us:  Thank You from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The Fourth of July Barbecue is... Complicated

I wanted to do something different for the big day.  My adventures in Sous Vide barbecue (recent example) have gone well.  After several hours of reading, I decided on what to do.  I'm going to call it Double Smoke Sous Vee Cue. 

A few weeks ago (and I see I didn't post about it) I did sous vide pulled pork.  The idea was to cook 24 hours at 170F, followed by three hours in the smoker.   Except it went horribly wrong and still came out excellently in spite of that.  At about the four hour mark, I went by the sous vide container in the kitchen and the water was discolored.  Somehow my vacuum sealed bag had leaked. When I went to take it out to rescue the butt, the bag fell apart, dumping the roast into the water. The tub was now full of weak soup that, frankly, didn’t have enough ingredients in it to make a good smelling soup. 

After clean up, I re-seasoned the butt with the same mix as initially used, then vacuum sealed it again. This time, I double bagged it- the vacuum sealed bag inside a gallon Ziploc bag sealed by water displacement. Re-set the timer for another 20 hours, and the bags held this time.  After the overnight soak, it was back on plan.  Took it out of the sous vide cooker, chilled it in ice water for an hour, did a barbecue rub and then into the smoker for 3 hours.  Very good pulled pork. 


While reading on how to up my game, I came across the idea of smoking it first for a few hours, then putting it into the sous vide bag.  The idea is that you get a better bark and more smoke flavor.  I came across a guy who did some interesting experiments with a pair of beef briskets and he really got me intrigued.  Medium rare brisket - pink like medium rare steak but phenomenally tender?  You won't get it any other way.  (I know I have one or two readers who are interested in this subject - you owe it to yourself to read that link.  It's long, full of pictures, and lots of insights from a chef.)

Back to pork butts (which are really shoulders, but that's not important now), they're ordinarily cooked to a final internal temperature of close to 200 but during the cooking process, I've always experienced what's called "The Stall".  The internal temp reaches about 165 and will sit there for hours.  What's happening is that the collagen in the meat, what makes it tough, is breaking down and converting to gelatin.  How long this takes depends on the particular cut of meat and its history.  This leads to the attraction of cooking sous vide, because I can stick it at 165 so that the temperature is uniform from center to crust and leave it until I know it has broken down and gotten tenderized. 

This led me to come up with the experiment.  This morning, I started with a completely raw pork butt, rubbed it with some spices, and then put it into the electric smoker with a thermometer probe on the rack in front of the meat.  I kept that thermometer reading 225 and smoked from 11:30 to 4:30.  The internal temperature was 145 when I stopped.  I brought it into the house and let it cool down to a temperature that was touchable because some handling was necessary.  I put it into a vacuum bag, sealed it, and then double bagged it in a one gallon Ziploc bag.  I had preheated a large pot of water to 165 to fill my sous vide cooking tank, and suffice it to say everything went more or less on time as planned.  The bath reached 165F at about 5:10 PM  It will cook for 18 hours, which will be over a little after 11:00 AM tomorrow.  Then it will be unbagged, cooled, dried and go back into the smoker probably by noon for another few hours.   


A little graphic I put together from two others at Serious Eats.

Summary and pictures after the holiday.


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Report Out That Antifa Planning on Going More Violent in DC Saturday

Because they've never had to pay a penalty for the violence against anyone they don't like (except for one or two individuals who have gotten a beat down) Antifa is emboldened to go farther.

The site will be a Free Speech rally in Washington DC this Saturday, the 6th.  A link going around takes us to Law Enforcement Today who provides details.  They're not just planning to attack any conservatives that might be there (how would they know unless the person is publicly known?), they're promising a new twist on the favored attack of Islamist terrorists in the UK and EU: acid attacks. 
An ANTIFA member named ‘Pound Your Boy’ posted on a conservative Telegram channel that:
“We already have the Muriatic acid, wax, and balloons.”
Wax?  The specificity of the statement led the rally’s co-organizer, Enrique Tarrio, to contact the FBI and DHS.  Both have assured additional security for the event.  Enrique Tarrio looked into the specifics and found a rather nasty effect is being planned by Antifa.
“According to Tarrio, the threat is especially dangerous due to the use of wax.  Muriatic acid can be purchased in virtually any pool store or home improvement store and is already dangerous on its own with the ability to cause minor burns. It can quickly be washed off with water. By combining the muriatic acid with wax, it will immediately form a film similar to candle wax on the injured person’s skin.”
I would say “minor burns” depends on who's describing it.  I've been burned by muriatic acid and the only reason I didn't have lifelong scarring was getting baking soda on it to neutralize the acid very quickly.  It was in high school chemistry so accidents were expected and planned for.

Of course, in the world of the Internet, Antifa can read the information from FBI, DHS and co-organizer Tarrio as well as the intended audience.  Pound Your Boy replied:
“How’s DC coming along? Cant fight if you cant see. I want to blind as many of you c— suckers as possible. A nice balloon filled with Muriatic acid, covered in wax will so do the job.”
Much like their "free milkshakes" for throwing being handed out last weekend, Antifa can fill balloons with muriatic acid for throwing and hand them out Saturday.   The FBI/DHS should destroy those stands as their first order of business.  A splash on your arm won't kill you, and if it's gotten off promptly may not be a big deal.  A splash in an eye might well blind you, regardless of how fast you move.

The website is for law enforcement, so they go into more details on the messes in Portland, with the Mayor (who is also the police commissioner) telling the police to back off, and more details on the situtation there.  RTWT if you're interested.  The author has a conclusion to the article that's so good I'll borrow it for here:
What does it say when Antifa has literally taken over the streets where they protest, where their lawlessness is so pervasive that even law enforcement agencies are concerned for their safety?

What does it say when a sheriff’s office no longer responds to calls? Is it going to become a scenario where the general public is forced to defend themselves against the violence coming from this far-left group that hides behind masks and helmets?

If it comes to that, then what? Will prosecutors go after those that incite the violence, or will they come after those who were merely defending themselves?

One way or another, something has to be done about these lawless “protestors.” And that something needs to happen soon.
Antifa isn't intending to hurt the DC police, although that might change if they don't roll over and do nothing like the Portland police.  No, they're intending to hurt you, if you show up at the rally.  The only freedom of speech they support is theirs; if you disagree, you're the one they want to blind with acid.  There's some amount of chance that this event goes kinetic and spreads.  Keep your eyes open.


Antifa rally photo from Law Enforcement Today.  You know, Antifa should come down to Florida.  Go outside dressed like that and they'll spontaneously combust.  The whole lot of them will be dead of heat stroke in one day.


Monday, July 1, 2019

Rocket Lab Succeeding Wildly

We first met Rocket Lab of New Zealand in these pages in late 2017.  The rest of 2017 didn't go as planned and the company didn't succeed in launching the second test flight of their Electron booster that year, but did so by mid-January of 2018.

Things have been going well for the company, now billed as a US-New Zealand company.  They've signed a contract to do some launches from Wallops Island, Virginia, and their launch business is picking up.

At 4:30 p.m. June 29 New Zealand time (9:30 p.m. PT on Friday, June 28), Rocket Lab successfully launched seven satellites for Seattle’s Spaceflight Inc. putting BlackSky’s Global-3 Earth-observing satellite and six other small spacecraft into orbit from its New Zealand launch pad.  Spaceflight Inc. is a launch services broker.  

Seven satellites is an impressive number, considering that the previous data implied the vehicle could lift about 220 lbs into low earth orbit.   By their descriptions, it appears that the satellites were actually that small.
In addition to Global-3, the payloads included two Prometheus satellites, built by Los Alamos National Laboratory for the U.S. Special Operations Command. The demonstration satellites are about the size of a loaf of bread and are designed to transfer data in a store-and-forward mode as they circle the planet.

Two of Swarm Technologies’ SpaceBEE communication satellites were also on board. Swarm got into trouble last year for deploying cracker-sized satellites in orbit without the required go-ahead from the Federal Communications Commission, but these satellites posed no such problem.

The sixth satellite is ACRUX-1, an experimental spacecraft built by students in Australia’s Melbourne Space Program. The identity of the seventh satellite has not been disclosed.
Earlier in the year, in April, Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck expressed some concern that the small launcher business is heading for a painful consolidation process.  In the wake of a successful launch for the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration (DARPA), his company was in a very enviable position. 
This mission means that Rocket Lab has arrived as the first fully commercial player for private satellite, civil space, and defense launches in the small-satellite industry. This is the hottest area of the "new space" race, with dozens of companies large and small in the United States, China, and around the world seeking to develop new rockets to serve the market of satellites weighing from a few kilograms up to about one or two tons. By some counts, there are now as many as 117 such efforts at varying degrees of advancement.

It is not clear how many of these efforts will survive, but there are probably a few "lanes" for these companies to fill. There is low-cost micro-launch, with rockets providing perhaps up to 50 or 100kg to low-Earth orbit; there is small launch, from 100kg to several hundred kilograms (this is where Rocket Lab's Electron booster falls, with a capacity of 150kg); and then there are a bit bigger vehicles in the 800kg to 2-ton capacity range.

Most likely one, or at most two, US-based companies will survive in each lane, with additional internationals. For example, China's government will likely support at least a couple of small-satellite launch companies as it seeks to match the US government's capability for rapid deployment of space-based assets.
Beck now has somewhat of a novel vantage point because he has been through the wringer. Rocket Lab started earlier than most of the companies aspiring to launch small satellites, and it's been a long road.  Founded in 2006, the company spent 11 years getting to its first flight in 2017, and that was just the beginning of the struggle, he said.  After their January '18 launch, they had achieved orbit a few times and believed they had a rocket that would work.  They literally stopped what they were doing to learn how to be a launch services company and remake themselves in that mold.
Beck still envisions a vibrant economy for the small-satellite launch industry, but he rolls his eyes when he sees pitches from some competitors to investors that include numbers like a trillion-dollar market, which assumes every possible constellation will launch its maximum number of satellites.

"The numbers seem to get bigger and bigger," he said. "We're a pretty conservative bunch, and when you take that kind of approach to satellites, you end up at a point where there are really only enough for one or two small launch vehicles. I just don’t see hundreds of launches available for many, many companies. I'd expect some pretty decent consolidation over the next year to 18 months,"
From where I sit, I have to agree with Beck.  It's hard to see how there could be a small satellite industry that could be self-sustaining for the long term.  How long until it's too crowded to put small satellites in Low Earth Orbits?  I don't see the point in speculating which competitors will be most likely to vie with Rocket Lab, but Vector, Firefly, and Virgin Orbit have all talked about flying their rockets to space this year.  For his part, Beck says,
"If they're making a big song-and-dance about engine tests, you know they’re miles away," he said. Even full stage tests, he says, is an indication that they're a long way away. There's just so much work—and after reaching orbit, he would argue, the hard work of transformation has just begun.


Rocket Lab's Electron booster on the Darpa R3D2 mission, March 28, 2019.  Much like the SpaceX Falcon 9 flies on 9 Merlin engines (where the 9 in the name originates), the Electron flies on 9 Rutherford engines, substantially 3D printed. 


Sunday, June 30, 2019

Tribute to Apollo Program in Houston

As part of the celebration of  the 50 year anniversary Apollo 11, the zenith of the agency's existence, NASA's historic Apollo Mission Operations Control Room 2 ("MOCR 2" - pronounced "mo'-ker") is set to reopen to the public next week.  Viewing (from the visitor's gallery, via tram tours departing from Space Center Houston) starts tomorrow, July 1, 2019.   If you're in the area, or don't consider it a big deal to go, it's probably worth your time. 

Ars Technica has the story.
For the past two years, historians and engineers from the Kansas Cosmosphere's Spaceworks team have been lovingly restoring and detailing the 1,200-pound (544kg) historic sage green Ford-Philco consoles that populated the control room—repairing damage from decades of casual neglect and also adding in the correct control panels so that each console now correctly mirrors how it would have been configured for an Apollo flight.

Ars was invited to view the restored MOCR 2 last week as the final finishing restoration touches were still being applied. We conducted some interviews and shot some photos while technicians and construction workers bustled around us, hammering and screwing the last bits and bobs into place. The room's lighting system was in the process of being worked on, and the room flickered several times between fully illuminated daytime lighting and dim twilight—providing an even more accurate glimpse of what it might have looked like during an actual mission.
MOCR 2 was where controllers sat and ran every Apollo flight except for Apollo 7. "The Eagle has landed" and "Houston, we've had a problem" both happened in MOCR 2.  It's not quite that simple, though.  Apollo flights lasted from 1968 through the end of 1972, and the room changed over those years.  Naturally, NASA wanted it to be exactly like it was at its best and most capable. 
To start with, each console has been rebuilt to resemble its Apollo 15 configuration, down to, in many cases, even having period-correct labels on individual panels and buttons. The MOCR changed a bit in between flights, and NASA chose to go with an Apollo 15 configuration rather than an Apollo 11 configuration for a couple of reasons—the first and most important is that there's a large amount of Apollo 15 documentation readily available, including a complete MCC configuration guide that details all the panels and button layouts (documentation for earlier mission configurations is more difficult to come by).

Further, Apollos 15, 16, and 17 were "J" missions, which were the most complex of all the Apollo flights. Configuring the room Apollo 15-style meant having the most stuff on display and provided the best showcase of MOCR 2's capabilities and design.

The consoles are beautifully done, rigged up for the first time in decades with functioning lighting and screens. Tetley explained that rather than reconnecting the buttons' built-in lighting, technicians had painstakingly wired new LEDs inside each individual button so that their lighting could be managed by a central Crestron automation controller. The screens themselves are LCDs dressed with a new fascia, though the original tube displays have been saved and preserved elsewhere. While we were taking pictures, the screens mostly showed off the same handful of Apollo-era displays (which were all dead-on accurate, even down to the typeface). Tetley explained that during an actual tour, the console screens will run through preprogrammed sequences of static images and video.
In any sort of reenactment, the difference between great and "also ran" is the level of details.  Workers found scraps of original carpet and wallpaper that weren't faded or degraded over time, but that aren't available today.  The carpet was recreated by a different company.  The supplier of the wallpaper was bought up by another company in the intervening years.  "But they went to that company," she continued, "and they found the roller in their warehouse." With a bit of retooling, the company was able to churn out a custom order of new vintage wallpaper for the room. "This is an exact copy of the wallpaper that we have."

But that isn't the most extreme portion of the work.
Perhaps the most bonkers bit of restoration has to do with the ashtrays that decorate the consoles, exactly as they did in the '60s. They were empty when we did our photo shoot, but the restoration team has plans for those, as well. "We're going to have cigarettes, cigarette butts," she said, laughing. "All the cigarette butts that were found when they cleaned the consoles and when they cleaned under the floor, we saved all those. I have people smoking cigars and they have to lay them out so they don't stink. So those'll be put back in."

That commitment to authenticity extended even to the dressings applied to the consoles, which are each festooned with three-ring binders (empty when we took our pictures but set to be stuffed full of correct and accurate mission logs and procedures before the room reopens), ashtrays, mugs, thermoses, empty cigarette cartons, and soda cans. Tetley and team even located the correct brands of tobacco products for each of the controllers—Ars reached out in email to former EECOM controller Sy Liebergot about the can of tobacco on the EECOM console and whether it belonged to him or his counterpart John Aaron, and we got a fast response: "The can of Mac Baren's burley is pipe tobacco," he replied. "So it was probably mine since John smoked cigarettes."
People who don't follow the space program are probably not aware that the Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston is strictly the result of Lyndon Johnson's work in the Senate; truly an act of "bringing home the bacon" to his constituency in Texas.  Originally, flight control was from Cape Canaveral (before the assassination of JFK).  When the new Flight Center in Houston was constructed, control was on the Cape until liftoff, when authority transferred to Houston.  As a result, there are virtually identical consoles and other electronics at the Kennedy Space Center, inside the Vehicle Assembly Building. 

I think the restored MOCR 2 exhibit would be an interesting thing to see.  Houston is pretty much a two day drive from here - the mapping programs tell me it's 18-1/2 hours with good traffic.  A bit far for me to drop in.  As I said in the lead in, if you're in Texas, or it's within your easy, "let's go see it" distance, it seems like it would be worth seeing. 


(Standing at the top row of the MOCR looking forward. The consoles are all lit via internal LEDs powered by a Crestron commercial lighting system, and the positions are all dressed to appear as if the controllers had all gotten up mid-shift and walked out and left all their stuff behind. )


Saturday, June 29, 2019

Saying Goodbye to Pride Month

I think these will be the first words I've ever written about pride month.  For a simple reason: I don't believe in their premise.  According to National Today website (a place that lists all of those "today is National whatever day" holidays):
June is Pride Month, a month to celebrate gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and asexual people, plus all other sexual orientations and genders. 
So pardon me if I don't play along. 

My definition of pride doesn't include sexual orientation in any way whatsoever.  Pride is for things an individual has accomplished.  Pride doesn't extend to nationality, race, or anything a person has no control over (which clearly includes any of those sexual orientations they celebrate if people are truly "born that way").  I don't see how pride could have anything to do with who or what you have sex with.

For example, I have no pride in my nationalities - I had nothing to do with choosing them.  I enjoy the foods and what I know of the customs of both halves of my background, but probably no more than I enjoy the foods of nationalities I have no ties to at all.  I have no pride in any of my parents' accomplishments.  I appreciate that my families migrated to this country and I'm thankful I live here, but simply living here is no reason for pride.  Doing something for the country would be something to take pride in. 

I suppose McThag's post made me think of this.  I suspect the reaction of the people who parade for pride month to my ideas would be to call me a hater.  I don't hate you or your sexuality; I simply don't care about it.  I don't care about anybody's sexuality.  Why should I care?  What consenting adults do in private is so far down on a list of things I care about, it's hard to express.  My current circle of friends are all similar ages to me (I can't think of any younger than about 50) and are all heterosexual married couples.  I don't care about their sexuality either. 

And here's something that might mess with Pride Month paraders: I don't care if you hate me.  You're wasting your life and energy if you do, but if you want to waste your life that's your call.



Friday, June 28, 2019

Everything's Free In The Clown Show

Author Gary Doan at the Libertarian Republic watched the Democratic Clown Posse debates so that you don't have to.  Why?  To keep a running tally of all the things they're promising to give away.
The Democratic primary has become an election for High School President, where everyone is promising vending machines in the cafeteria and larger towels in the locker-rooms. There are so many proposed “free” programs that it may be difficult to keep track without someone compiling them.
And this was just for the first night - Wednesday!  One or more of them promised all of the following as free stuff. 
*College
*Childcare
*Healthcare
*Drugs
*Alternate Energy
*Debt
*Raises
*Subsidies
*Benefits
*Sick Days
*Pre-K
*Doubling the EIC
*Family Leave
*Certain Lending
*Abortions
*Foreign Aid
*Mental Health Counseling
*”Resiliency”[sic]
*Agriculture
*Seawalls
*Reparations
*Military Engagements
*Infrastructure
*Art
*Housing
*Increases To Current Entitlement Programs
*Money For Everyone, Monthly, Just Because [Note: I believe he's referring to Universal Basic Income (UBI) another form of welfare.  SiG]
This reminds me of the time I agreed with Obama.  I'll never forget that day.  It was back in 2009, in an interview with Steve Scully on CSPAN, Scully said, "at what point do we run out of money?" and Obama said, "well, we're out of money now".  It was remarkably honest for any politician.  The exact exchange (for those anal-retentive about misquotes) was:
SCULLY: You know the numbers, $1.7 trillion debt, a national deficit of $11 trillion. At what point do we run out of money?

OBAMA: Well, we are out of money now. We are operating in deep deficits, not caused by any decisions we’ve made on health care so far. This is a consequence of the crisis that we’ve seen and in fact our failure to make some good decisions on health care over the last several decades.
Note that Scully used the wrong words: $1.7 trillion was the annual deficit and $11 trillion the national debt. The situation is far worse now than it was then.  The annual deficit is probably going to be over $1 trillion again, which is better than '09's $1.7T, but the total debt is double what it was back then, $22.4 trillion. (Doubled in just 10 years...)

In a nation with that kind of debt, where does the money come from for all this stuff?  You know it means higher taxes and fees for everything because as RA Heinlein put it, "TANSTAAFL": There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, or in this case a free college, free health care, free housing, free Universal Basic Income. Contrary to what the Modern Monetary Theory folks say, we can't just create whatever money we want out of thin air and spend it indefinitely. 

The clown show is just starting.  There are more debates and more pandering to the extreme ends of the socialist spectrum for over another year. 


Pure MMT.  Make up money out of nothing and pay for it.  Which is a good way to end up with money worth less than toilet paper, like Venezuela today.