Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Just thought I'd end this month by raving about my favorite new TV drama, Designated Survivor. After so many years of saving U.S. presidents by breaking arms and shooting bad guys as Jack Bauer, Kiefer Sutherland is now saving America by being the POTUS himself. It's intriguing to watch Sutherland play President Tom Kirkman with the sort of dignity and charisma that will be missing from the real White House come January 20, 2017 (yes, I went there)...depicting a character that is the complete opposite of what Sutherland portrayed for nine seasons on FOX's 24 (this includes the 2014 mini-series 24: Live Another Day). Instead of solving political problems through brute strength, firearms and fury, Kirkman solves issues through diplomatic prowess and strong leadership... qualities that people underestimated in him early on in this season.
Designated Survivor has such a great cast surrounding Sutherland—with Natascha McElhone (who was previously on Showtime's Californication) as his wife Alex, Adan Canto as his chief of staff Aaron Shore, Italia Ricci (who was great as the villainous Silver Banshee on the former-CBS/now-The CW TV series Supergirl) as White House consultant Emily Rhodes, LaMonica Garrett as Secret Service agent Mike Ritter, Maggie Q as FBI agent Hannah Wells, Malik Yoba as FBI director Jason Atwood, Virginia Madsen as congresswoman Kimble Hookstraten (I just realized how weird that name sounds) and Kal Penn (who actually worked for President Obama in the White House) as press secretary Seth Wright. And let's not forget the main villain himself (spoiler alert): congressman Peter MacLeish, played by Ashley Zukerman, who looks like he could be the twin brother of either Jake Gyllenhaal or The Office's B.J. Novak.
With the winter finale airing next Wednesday (December 7), I can't wait to see how Designated Survivor will end in a mid-season cliffhanger. Will Peter MacLeish finally become vice president? Will Hannah Wells finally find herself in mortal danger (I'm glad she made it through tonight's episode in one piece...what with that guy in the car watching her snoop on Jason Atwood and that MacLeish conspirator on the rooftop)? Will there be another controversy unfold for the Kirkman family even after the mystery surrounding Leo's (Tanner Buchanan) biological father was resolved? (Spoiler alert: It's President Kirkman.) And just who is that whistleblower shown in the sneak preview for next week's finale? We shall see.
It's the awesome suspense in Designated Survivor, that—like 24 before it—makes me take Wednesdays off from work just to see how ABC's hit political drama continues to unfold. Along with Sutherland, fellow 24 alumnus Sean Callery also returned to compose Survivor's music score. (Kal Penn played a regular character in 'Day 6' of 24 ten years ago.) And like 24, Designated Survivor is compelling because it deals with timely issues that affect our country right now. Whereas 24's focus on terrorism was potent considering that it made its debut on television around the same time as the September 11 attacks in 2001, Designated Survivor's focus on a man who's learning the ropes after having the U.S. presidency thrust upon him applies to real life as well.
I'm not gonna fully elaborate on that last sentence above (otherwise, this entry will have six more paragraphs), but the man who most of America (unfortunately) voted for as president on November 8 showed numerous signs that he doesn't really want to be Commander In Chief. If footage of his meeting with President Obama two days after election night is any indication, Donald Trump is overwhelmed and stunned at the fact that he will (unfortunately) lead this country for the next four years. (Unless a miracle happens and he eventually emulates Richard Nixon...) It's sad that I myself watch Designated Survivor for the personal comfort of seeing a fictional president do a better job in the Oval Office than what the real president-elect will do come next January. Am I underestimating Trump? All signs points to no. If only Tom Kirkman were a real person, hah. But enough of the dreary real-world comparisons between actual American politics and a successful TV show... Designated Survivor is awesome. I can't wait to see what next week's episode, the second half of this season (and subsequent seasons, hopefully) will hold for this series. Hail to the Chief! That chief being President Kirkman, that is. Carry on.
Thursday, November 24, 2016
Happy Thanksgiving Day, everyone!!! Just thought I'd share these pics that I took when I visited the Western Museum of Flight in Torrance yesterday. The aircraft shown here is none other than the YF-23 Gray Ghost...which was the sole competitor of the YF-22 Lightning II (the prototype to the F-22 Raptor) during the U.S. Air Force's Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) program more than 25 years ago. With Lockheed Martin (the F-22's main contractor) winning the Pentagon contract to build the USAF's newest air superiority fighter, Northrop Grumman (which constructed the YF-23) was left with turning the two aircraft that it built for the ATF competition into museum artifacts. While the Gray Ghost resides 20-plus miles south of Los Angeles, her sister ship—the Black Widow II—is on display at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
Also on display at the Western Museum of Flight is an F-14 Tomcat, a NASA T-38 Talon, an F-5A Freedom Fighter, an A-4A Skyhawk and the YF-17 Cobra (the prototype to the F/A-18 Hornet). I'd post individual photos of these jets in this entry as well, but you know, it's all about the Gray Ghost. Have a great holiday, folks!
LINK: More photos I took of the YF-23 and other aircraft at the Western Museum of Flight
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
NASA / JPL - Caltech / Univ. of Arizona
Mars Ice Deposit Holds as Much Water as Lake Superior (Press Release)
Frozen beneath a region of cracked and pitted plains on Mars lies about as much water as what's in Lake Superior, largest of the Great Lakes, researchers using NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have determined.
Scientists examined part of Mars' Utopia Planitia region, in the mid-northern latitudes, with the orbiter's ground-penetrating Shallow Radar (SHARAD) instrument. Analyses of data from more than 600 overhead passes with the onboard radar instrument reveal a deposit more extensive in area than the state of New Mexico. The deposit ranges in thickness from about 260 feet (80 meters) to about 560 feet (170 meters), with a composition that's 50 to 85 percent water ice, mixed with dust or larger rocky particles.
At the latitude of this deposit -- about halfway from the equator to the pole -- water ice cannot persist on the surface of Mars today. It sublimes into water vapor in the planet's thin, dry atmosphere. The Utopia deposit is shielded from the atmosphere by a soil covering estimated to be about 3 to 33 feet (1 to 10 meters) thick.
"This deposit probably formed as snowfall accumulating into an ice sheet mixed with dust during a period in Mars history when the planet's axis was more tilted than it is today," said Cassie Stuurman of the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas, Austin. She is the lead author of a report in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Mars today, with an axial tilt of 25 degrees, accumulates large amounts of water ice at the poles. In cycles lasting about 120,000 years, the tilt varies to nearly twice that much, heating the poles and driving ice to middle latitudes. Climate modeling and previous findings of buried, mid-latitude ice indicate that frozen water accumulates away from the poles during high-tilt periods.
Martian Water as a Future Resource
The name Utopia Planitia translates loosely as the "plains of paradise." The newly surveyed ice deposit spans latitudes from 39 to 49 degrees within the plains. It represents less than one percent of all known water ice on Mars, but it more than doubles the volume of thick, buried ice sheets known in the northern plains. Ice deposits close to the surface are being considered as a resource for astronauts.
"This deposit is probably more accessible than most water ice on Mars, because it is at a relatively low latitude and it lies in a flat, smooth area where landing a spacecraft would be easier than at some of the other areas with buried ice," said Jack Holt of the University of Texas, a co-author of the Utopia paper who is a SHARAD co-investigator and has previously used radar to study Martian ice in buried glaciers and the polar caps.
The Utopian water is all frozen now. If there were a melted layer -- which would be significant for the possibility of life on Mars -- it would have been evident in the radar scans. However, some melting can't be ruled out during different climate conditions when the planet's axis was more tilted. "Where water ice has been around for a long time, we just don't know whether there could have been enough liquid water at some point for supporting microbial life," Holt said.
Utopia Planitia is a basin with a diameter of about 2,050 miles (3,300 kilometers), resulting from a major impact early in Mars' history and subsequently filled. NASA sent the Viking 2 Lander to a site near the center of Utopia in 1976. The portion examined by Stuurman and colleagues lies southwest of that long-silent lander.
Use of the Italian-built SHARAD instrument for examining part of Utopia Planitia was prompted by Gordon Osinski at Western University in Ontario, Canada, a co-author of the study. For many years, he and other researchers have been intrigued by ground-surface patterns there such as polygonal cracking and rimless pits called scalloped depressions -- "like someone took an ice-cream scoop to the ground," said Stuurman, who started this project while a student at Western.
Clue from Canada
In the Canadian Arctic, similar landforms are indicative of ground ice, Osinski noted, "but there was an outstanding question as to whether any ice was still present at the Martian Utopia or whether it had been lost over the millions of years since the formation of these polygons and depressions."
The large volume of ice detected with SHARAD advances understanding about Mars' history and identifies a possible resource for future use.
"It's important to expand what we know about the distribution and quantity of Martian water," said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Deputy Project Scientist Leslie Tamppari, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "We know early Mars had enough liquid water on the surface for rivers and lakes. Where did it go? Much of it left the planet from the top of the atmosphere. Other missions have been examining that process. But there's also a large quantity that is now underground ice, and we want to keep learning more about that."
Joe Levy of the University of Texas, a co-author of the new study, said, "The ice deposits in Utopia Planitia aren't just an exploration resource, they're also one of the most accessible climate change records on Mars. We don't understand fully why ice has built up in some areas of the Martian surface and not in others. Sampling and using this ice with a future mission could help keep astronauts alive, while also helping them unlock the secrets of Martian ice ages."
SHARAD is one of six science instruments on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which began its prime science phase 10 years ago this month. The mission's longevity is enabling studies of features and active processes all around Mars, from subsurface to upper atmosphere. The Italian Space Agency provided the SHARAD instrument and Sapienza University of Rome leads its operations. The Planetary Science Institute, based in Tucson, Arizona, leads U.S. involvement in SHARAD. JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the orbiter mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver built the spacecraft and supports its operations.
Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Friday, November 18, 2016
NASA / JPL - Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA
New Ceres Views as Dawn Moves Higher (Press Release)
The brightest area on Ceres stands out amid shadowy, cratered terrain in a dramatic new view (shown below) from NASA's Dawn spacecraft, taken as it looked off to the side of the dwarf planet. Dawn snapped this image on Oct. 16, from its fifth science orbit, in which the angle of the sun was different from that in previous orbits. Dawn was about 920 miles (1,480 kilometers) above Ceres when this image was taken -- an altitude the spacecraft had reached in early October.
Occator Crater, with its central bright region and secondary, less-reflective areas, appears quite prominent near the limb, or edge, of Ceres. At 57 miles (92 kilometers) wide and 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) deep, Occator displays evidence of recent geologic activity. The latest research suggests that the bright material in this crater is comprised of salts left behind after a briny liquid emerged from below, froze and then sublimated, meaning it turned from ice into vapor.
The impact that formed the crater millions of years ago unearthed material that blanketed the area outside the crater, and may have triggered the upwelling of salty liquid.
"This image captures the wonder of soaring above this fascinating, unique world that Dawn is the first to explore," said Marc Rayman, Dawn's chief engineer and mission director, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
Dawn scientists also have released an image of Ceres that approximates how the dwarf planet's colors would appear to the human eye. This view, produced by the German Aerospace Center in Berlin, combines images taken from Dawn's first science orbit in 2015, using the framing camera's red, green and blue filters. The color was calculated based on the way Ceres reflects different wavelengths of light.
The spacecraft has gathered tens of thousands of images and other information from Ceres since arriving in orbit on March 6, 2015. After spending more than eight months studying Ceres at an altitude of about 240 miles (385 kilometers), closer than the International Space Station is to Earth, Dawn headed for a higher vantage point in August. In October, while the spacecraft was at its 920-mile altitude, it returned images and other valuable insights about Ceres.
On Nov. 4, Dawn began making its way to a sixth science orbit, which will be over 4,500 miles (7,200 kilometers) from Ceres. While Dawn needed to make several changes in its direction while spiraling between most previous orbits at Ceres, engineers have figured out a way for the spacecraft to arrive at this next orbit while the ion engine thrusts in the same direction that Dawn is already going. This uses less hydrazine and xenon fuel than Dawn's normal spiral maneuvers. Dawn should reach this next orbit in early December.
One goal of Dawn's sixth science orbit is to refine previously collected measurements. The spacecraft's gamma ray and neutron spectrometer, which has been investigating the composition of Ceres' surface, will characterize the radiation from cosmic rays unrelated to Ceres. This will allow scientists to subtract "noise" from measurements of Ceres, making the information more precise.
The spacecraft is healthy as it continues to operate in its extended mission phase, which began in July. During the primary mission, Dawn orbited and accomplished all of its original objectives at Ceres and protoplanet Vesta, which the spacecraft visited from July 2011 to September 2012.
Dawn's mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate's Discovery Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital ATK Inc., in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Italian Space Agency and Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team.
Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
NASA / JPL - Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Launch of the Second Epsilon Launch Vehicle with the Exploration of energization and Radiation in Geospace on Board (Press Release)
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will launch the second Epsilon Launch Vehicle with the Exploration of energization and Radiation in Geospace (ERG) on board. The launch schedule is as follows.
Launch date: December 20, 2016 (JST)
Launch time: 8:00 p.m. through 9:00 p.m. (JST)
Launch window: December 21, 2016 through January 31, 2017
Launch site: Uchinoura Space Center
Source: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Friday, November 11, 2016
Along with today's holiday, yesterday marked the 241st birthday of the United States Marine Corps. To commemorate, here are two photos that I took of an F-35B Lightning II (the USMC's variant of the Joint Strike Fighter) at the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego almost two months ago. Oorah!
Thursday, November 10, 2016
If Donald Trump takes people's anger and turns it against Muslims, Hispanics, African Americans and women, we will be his worst nightmare.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) November 10, 2016
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders posted the tweet above that was a warning to Donald Trump if he actually tried to keep true to the divisive rhetoric that he spouted during the presidential race. Sanders also posted this notice yesterday...
Sanders Statement on Trump (Press Release - November 9)
BURLINGTON, Vt., Nov. 9 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement Wednesday after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States:
“To the degree that Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country, I and other progressives are prepared to work with him. To the degree that he pursues racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-environment policies, we will vigorously oppose him.”
Wednesday, November 09, 2016
Donald Trump has been elected as the next President of the United States. Thanks for the huge fuckin' fail, America. Vladimir Putin and Julian Assange must both be smoking cigars right now... The angry, possibly-unemployed, non-college-educated Caucasian males (RE: white trash dumbasses. You fuckin' heard me) living in the Rust Belt feel vindicated... FBI Director James Comey either feels guilty or indifferent over this debacle partly being his fault... Muslim, Latino and female voters are getting teary-eyed because of the fact that the nation just voted for a person who has little respect for them... And Gary Johnson and Jill Stein must both be proud that they pulled a Ralph Nader 2.0 in this election. (Friggin' assholes.) Oh, and folks who voted for Hillary (like I did) are trying to grasp the notion that a KKK-endorsed candidate was elected into the Oval Office eight years after the White House became home to the first-ever African-American president. Completely outrageous.
Inauguration Day is on January 20. A little over two months remain before we find out just how much of an absolute clusterfuck this will be. Of course, if last night and his presidential campaign in general are any indication, Trump may just prove us wrong and actually be the leader who might "make America great again." *Remembers how the three presidential debates went a few weeks ago* Oh who am I fuckin' kidding? The demise of America began yesterday.
PS: KOST 103.5 FM started playing Christmas music here in Los Angeles this morning. Thanksgiving is still 15 days away. As if this week couldn't get any shittier...
Tuesday, November 08, 2016
We'll see if my fellow Americans take heed of this pic that I stumbled upon on Facebook and vote for the most-qualified candidate today. If past elections are any indication (George Dubya in 2000, Ah-nold Schwarzenegger during the California recall in 2003), the answer will be a resounding 'no.'
Thursday, November 03, 2016
Final Sunshield Layer Completed for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (News Release - October 31)
The last of the five sunshield layers responsible for protecting the optics and instruments of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is now complete.
Designed by Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California, the Webb telescope’s sunshield will prevent the background heat from the sun from interfering with the telescope’s infrared sensors. The five sunshield membrane layers, designed and manufactured by the NeXolve Corporation in Huntsville, Alabama, are each as thin as a human hair. The layers work together to reduce the temperatures between the hot and cold sides of the observatory by approximately 570 degrees Fahrenheit. Each successive layer of the sunshield, made of kapton, is cooler than the one below. The fifth and final layer was delivered on Sept. 29, 2016 to Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Space Park facility in Redondo Beach.
“The completed sunshield membranes are the culmination of years of collaborative effort by the NeXolve, Northrop Grumman and NASA team," said James Cooper, Webb telescope Sunshield manager at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "All five layers are beautifully executed and exceed their requirements. This is another big milestone for the Webb telescope project.”
Northrop Grumman, who also designed the Webb telescope’s optics and spacecraft bus for NASA Goddard will integrate the final flight layers into the sunshield subsystem to conduct folding and deployment testing as part of the final system validation process.
“The groundbreaking sunshield design will assist in providing the imaging of the formation of stars and galaxies more than 13.5 billion years ago,” said Jim Flynn, Webb sunshield manager, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. “The delivery of this final flight sunshield membrane is a significant milestone as we prepare for 2018 launch.”
The sunshield is the size of a tennis court, helping solidify the Webb telescope as the largest ever built for space. The sunshield, along with the rest of the spacecraft, will fold origami-style into an Ariane 5 rocket.
“The five tennis court-sized sunshield membranes took more than three years to complete and represents a decade of design, development and manufacturing,” said Greg Laue, sunshield program manager at NeXolve.
The Webb telescope is the world’s next-generation space observatory and successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Webb telescope will observe distant objects in the universe, provide images of the first galaxies formed and see unexplored planets around distant stars. The Webb Telescope is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.
NASA / Chris Gunn
Wednesday, November 02, 2016
Matt Slocum / Associated Press
Much props to the Chicago Cubs for winning Game 7 of the World Series tonight! This title marked their first championship in 108 years...the last victory being when the Cubs defeated the Detroit Tigers in Game 5 of the World Series on October 14, 1908. Anyways— Sorry about that, Cleveland Indians. You and your fans can always stare at the NBA championship banner that now hangs inside Quicken Loans Arena whenever you attend a Cavaliers game. Carry on!
Tuesday, November 01, 2016
U.S. Navy / Petty Officer 1st Class Benjamin Wooddy
F-35 Lightning II Testing Begins on USS America (Press Release - October 31)
PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Five Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II aircraft landed on the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) on Friday, October 28.
America will embark seven F-35Bs -- two are scheduled to begin the third shipboard phase of developmental test (DT-III) and five are scheduled to conduct operational testing.
America, the first ship of its class, is an aviation-centric platform that incorporates key design elements to accommodate the fifth-generation fighter.
The ship's design features several aviation capabilities enhanced beyond previous amphibious assault ships which include an enlarged hangar deck, realignment and expansion of the aviation maintenance facilities, a significant increase in available stowage of parts and equipment, as well as increased aviation fuel capacity.
America is capable of accommodating F-35Bs, MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, and a complement of Navy and Marine Corps helicopters.
The third test phase will evaluate F-35B Short Take-off Vertical Landing (STOVL) operations in a high-sea state, shipboard landings, and night operations. The cadre of flight test pilots, engineers, maintainers, and support personnel from the F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force (ITF) are assigned to Air Test & Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.
"It's exciting to start the execution phase of our detachment with VMX-1 (Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1) on USS America," said Lt. Col. Tom "Sally" Fields, F-35 Patuxent River ITF Government Flight Test director assigned to VX-23. "During the next three weeks, we will be completing critical flight test for both Developmental Test (DT) and Operational Test (OT). The F-35 Pax River ITF and VX-23 will be conducting DT work that will establish the boundaries of safe operation for the F-35B in the 3F configuration. VMX-1 will be conducting OT operations focused on preparing maintenance crews and pilots for the first deployment of the F-35B aboard USS Wasp (LHD 1), scheduled to start in just over a year."
The operational testing will also include simulating extensive maintenance aboard a ship, said Col. George Rowell, commanding officer of VMX-1, based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona.
Rowell stated one of the VMX jets on board will be placed in the hangar bay, taken apart, and put together again, just to make sure everything goes well.
The maintenance work will include the replacement of a lift fan, the specialized equipment made by Rolls Royce and Pratt and Whitney that gives the F-35B variant its short take-off, "jump jet" capability, Rowell said.
The Marine Corps variant of the F-35 Lightning II reached the fleet first, with the service declaring initial operational capability July 2015.
"The F-35 Lightning II is the most versatile, agile, and technologically-advanced aircraft in the skies today, enabling our Corps to be the nation's force in readiness -- regardless of the threat, and regardless of the location of the battle," said Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant for aviation, Marine Corps. "As we modernize our fixed-wing aviation assets for the future, the continued development and fielding of the short take-off and vertical landing, the F-35B remains the centerpiece of this effort."
"The America class of amphibious assault ship design enables it to carry a larger and more diverse complement of aircraft, including the tiltrotor MV-22 Osprey, the new F-35 Lightning II, and a mix of cargo and assault helicopters," added Davis. "America is able to support a wide spectrum of military operations and missions, including putting Marines ashore for combat operations, launching air strikes, keeping sea lanes free and open for the movement of global commerce, and delivering humanitarian aid following a natural disaster."
Source: United States Navy