Sunday, May 16, 2021

The Lakers Take on the Warriors in a Playoff Before the NBA Playoffs...

LeBron James tries to block a shot by Steph Curry in a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors.
Noah Graham / NBAE via Getty Images

Lakers Qualify for NBA Play-In Tournament (News Release)

The Play-In Tournament begins Tuesday, May 18 and concludes Friday, May 21. In the Western Conference, the Lakers will take on the Warriors on 5/19 at 7pm PT. If they win, the Lakers will be the 7th seed and take on the Phoenix Suns. If the Lakers lose, they would take on the winner of Memphis and San Antonio on 5/21 (time TBD) with the winner of that game being the 8th seed and would face Utah in the first round of the playoffs. Both possible play-in games for the Lakers will be broadcast exclusively on ESPN.

Here is a description of the Play-In tournament format:

The teams with the seventh-highest and eighth-highest winning percentages in each conference will each have two opportunities to win one game to earn a playoff spot. The teams with the ninth-highest and tenth-highest winning percentages in each conference will each have to win two consecutive games to earn a playoff spot.

At the conclusion of the regular season but before the first round of the playoffs, the team with the 7th-highest winning percentage in each conference will host the team with the 8th-highest winning percentage in a Play-In Game (the “Seven-Eight Game”). The winner of the Seven-Eight Game in each conference will earn the No. 7 seed.

The team with the 9th-highest winning percentage in each conference will host the team with the 10th-highest winning percentage in the “Nine-Ten Game”. The loser of the Seven-Eight Game will host the winner of the Nine-Ten Game in a Play-In Game, and the winner of that game in each conference will earn the No. 8 seed.

The winners of the Play-In tournament will receive the 7th and 8th-seeded positions in each conference. Following the Play-In Tournament, the NBA Playoffs will commence with the traditional 16-team, best-of-seven series structure. The NBA Playoffs will start on Saturday, May 22.

Source: NBA.com

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Kobe Continues to be Immortalized...

Just thought I'd share this image after Kobe Bryant was officially inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame during a ceremony at Uncasville, Connecticut earlier today. To quote Vanessa Bryant, who gave an acceptance speech in her late husband's honor: "He's still winning."

Congrats, Mamba.

Kobe Bryant was posthumously inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on May 15, 2021.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Photo of the Day: The Lakers' Newest Championship Banner Is Finally Unveiled at STAPLES Center!

The Los Angeles Lakers' newest championship banner is finally unveiled in the rafters at STAPLES Center...on May 12, 2021.

Seven months after the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat to win the 2020 NBA Finals, the Lake Show's newest championship banner was finally unveiled to the public at STAPLES Center last night. This came before the Lakers—who were without LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Alex Caruso and Dennis Schröder due to injuries—defeated the Houston Rockets, 124-122, to remain in the 7th playoff spot in the Western Conference. While I have no expectations that the Lakers will repeat this summer (though doing so would be nice as this year marks two decades since Los Angeles went on a 15-1 postseason run to garner a second straight NBA title in the Shaq-Kobe era), I'm glad that they reminded us that they're the defending champions...and that the road to the Larry O'Brien Trophy still runs through the City of Angels.

Even though the Lakers will be starting each playoff round, should they advance, on the road. Carry on.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Voyager Update: More Amazing Discoveries Beyond the Heliosphere...

An artist's concept of a Voyager spacecraft venturing through the cosmos.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

As NASA’s Voyager 1 Surveys Interstellar Space, Its Density Measurements Are Making Waves (News Release - May 11)

In the sparse collection of atoms that fills interstellar space, Voyager 1 has measured a long-lasting series of waves where it previously only detected sporadic bursts.

Until recently, every spacecraft in history had made all of its measurements inside our heliosphere, the magnetic bubble inflated by our Sun. But on Aug. 25, 2012, NASA’s Voyager 1 changed that. As it crossed the heliosphere’s boundary, it became the first human-made object to enter – and measure – interstellar space. Now eight years into its interstellar journey, a close listen of Voyager 1’s data is yielding new insights into what that frontier is like.

If our heliosphere is a ship sailing interstellar waters, Voyager 1 is a life raft just dropped from the deck, determined to survey the currents. For now, any rough waters it feels are mostly from our heliosphere’s wake. But farther out, it will sense the stirrings from sources deeper in the cosmos. Eventually, our heliosphere’s presence will fade from its measurements completely.

“We have some ideas about how far Voyager will need to get to start seeing more pure interstellar waters, so to speak,” said Stella Ocker, a Ph.D. student at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and the newest member of the Voyager team. “But we’re not entirely sure when we’ll reach that point.”

Ocker’s new study, published on Monday in Nature Astronomy, reports what may be the first continuous measurement of the density of material in interstellar space. “This detection offers us a new way to measure the density of interstellar space and opens up a new pathway for us to explore the structure of the very nearby interstellar medium,” Ocker said.

When one pictures the stuff between the stars – astronomers call it the “interstellar medium,” a spread-out soup of particles and radiation – one might reimagine a calm, silent, serene environment. That would be a mistake.

“I have used the phrase ‘the quiescent interstellar medium’ – but you can find lots of places that are not particularly quiescent,” said Jim Cordes, space physicist at Cornell and co-author of the paper.

Like the ocean, the interstellar medium is full of turbulent waves. The largest come from our galaxy’s rotation, as space smears against itself and sets forth undulations tens of light-years across. Smaller (though still gigantic) waves rush from supernova blasts, stretching billions of miles from crest to crest. The smallest ripples are usually from our own Sun, as solar eruptions send shockwaves through space that permeate our heliosphere’s lining.

These crashing waves reveal clues about the density of the interstellar medium – a value that affects our understanding of the shape of our heliosphere, how stars form, and even our own location in the galaxy. As these waves reverberate through space, they vibrate the electrons around them, which ring out at characteristic frequencies depending on how crammed together they are. The higher the pitch of that ringing, the higher the electron density. Voyager 1’s Plasma Wave Subsystem – which includes two “bunny ear” antennas sticking out 30 feet (10 meters) behind the spacecraft – was designed to hear that ringing.

In November 2012, three months after exiting the heliosphere, Voyager 1 heard interstellar sounds for the first time. Six months later, another “whistle” appeared – this time louder and even higher pitched. The interstellar medium appeared to be getting thicker, and quickly.

These momentary whistles continue at irregular intervals in Voyager’s data today. They’re an excellent way to study the interstellar medium’s density, but it does take some patience.

“They’ve only been seen about once a year, so relying on these kind of fortuitous events meant that our map of the density of interstellar space was kind of sparse,” Ocker said.

Ocker set out to find a running measure of interstellar medium density to fill in the gaps – one that doesn’t depend on the occasional shockwaves propagating out from the Sun. After filtering through Voyager 1’s data, looking for weak but consistent signals, she found a promising candidate. It started to pick up in mid-2017, right around the time of another whistle.

“It’s virtually a single tone,” said Ocker. “And over time, we do hear it change – but the way the frequency moves around tells us how the density is changing.”

Ocker calls the new signal a plasma wave emission, and it, too, appeared to track the density of interstellar space. When the abrupt whistles appeared in the data, the tone of the emission rises and falls with them. The signal also resembles one observed in Earth’s upper atmosphere that’s known to track with the electron density there.

“This is really exciting, because we are able to regularly sample the density over a very long stretch of space, the longest stretch of space that we have so far,” said Ocker. “This provides us with the most complete map of the density and the interstellar medium as seen by Voyager.”

Based on the signal, electron density around Voyager 1 started rising in 2013 and reached its current levels about mid-2015, a roughly 40-fold increase in density. The spacecraft appears to be in a similar density range, with some fluctuations, through the entire dataset they analyzed which ended in early 2020.

Ocker and her colleagues are currently trying to develop a physical model of how the plasma wave emission is produced that will be key to interpreting it. In the meantime, Voyager 1’s Plasma Wave Subsystem keeps sending back data farther and farther from home, where every new discovery has the potential to make us reimagining our home in the cosmos.

The Voyager spacecraft were built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which continues to operate both. JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena. The Voyager missions are a part of the NASA Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of the Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Elon Musk's Favorite Cryptocurrency Just Paid for a Satellite That's Headin' Towards Lunar Orbit Aboard One of Elon's Rockets Next Year...

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
SpaceX

SpaceX to Launch DOGE-1 to the Moon! (Press Release - May 9)

CALGARY, AB /PRNewswire/ - Geometric Energy Corporation (GEC) announced today the DOGE-1 Mission to the Moon—the first-ever commercial lunar payload in history paid entirely with DOGE—will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Geometric Energy Corporation's DOGE-1 Mission to the Moon will involve Geometric Space Corporation (GSC) mission management collaborating with SpaceX to launch a 40kg cubesat as a rideshare on a Falcon 9 lunar payload mission in Q1 2022. The payload will obtain lunar-spatial intelligence from sensors and cameras on-board with integrated communications and computational systems.

"Having officially transacted with DOGE for a deal of this magnitude, Geometric Energy Corporation and SpaceX have solidified DOGE as a unit of account for lunar business in the space sector," said Geometric Energy's Chief Executive Officer Samuel Reid.

"This mission will demonstrate the application of cryptocurrency beyond Earth orbit and set the foundation for interplanetary commerce," said SpaceX Vice President of Commercial Sales Tom Ochinero. "We're excited to launch DOGE-1 to the Moon!"

Indeed, through this very transaction, DOGE has proven to be a fast, reliable, and cryptographically secure digital currency that operates when traditional banks cannot and is sophisticated enough to finance a commercial Moon mission in full. It has been chosen as the unit of account for all lunar business between SpaceX and Geometric Energy Corporation and sets precedent for future missions to the Moon and Mars.

POINTBLANK LLC, Mimir Solutions, and Iteration Syndicate (ITS) will collaborate with Geometric on software and hardware design for the mission. Additional payload space will be allocated to include digital art in the form of space plaques provided by GeometricLabs Corporation and Geometric Gaming Corporation.

Source: Geometric Energy Corporation

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Dogecoin investors want the Shiba Inu-inspired cryptocurrency to head to the Moon...both figuratively and literally!

Monday, May 10, 2021

Farewell, Bennu... OSIRIS-REx Is Headin' Home!

An artist's concept of NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft departing from asteroid Bennu to head back to Earth.
NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Heads for Earth with Asteroid Sample (Press Release)

After nearly five years in space, NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft is on its way back to Earth with an abundance of rocks and dust from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu.

On Monday, May 10, at 4:23 p.m. EDT the spacecraft fired its main engines full throttle for seven minutes – its most significant maneuver since it arrived at Bennu in 2018. This burn thrust the spacecraft away from the asteroid at 600 miles per hour (nearly 1,000 kilometers per hour), setting it on a 2.5-year cruise towards Earth.

After releasing the sample capsule, OSIRIS-REx will have completed its primary mission. It will fire its engines to fly by Earth safely, putting it on a trajectory to circle the Sun inside of Venus’ orbit.

After orbiting the Sun twice, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is due to reach Earth Sept. 24, 2023. Upon return, the capsule containing pieces of Bennu will separate from the rest of the spacecraft and enter Earth’s atmosphere. The capsule will parachute to the Utah Test and Training Range in Utah's West Desert, where scientists will be waiting to retrieve it.

“OSIRIS-REx’s many accomplishments demonstrated the daring and innovative way in which exploration unfolds in real time,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters. “The team rose to the challenge, and now we have a primordial piece of our solar system headed back to Earth where many generations of researchers can unlock its secrets.”

To realize the mission’s multi-year plan, a dozen navigation engineers made calculations and wrote computer code to instruct the spacecraft when and how to push itself away from Bennu. After departing from Bennu, getting the sample to Earth safely is the team’s next critical goal. This includes planning future maneuvers to keep the spacecraft on course throughout its journey.

“Our whole mindset has been, ‘Where are we in space relative to Bennu?’” said Mike Moreau, OSIRIS-REx deputy project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Now our mindset has shifted to ‘Where is the spacecraft in relation to Earth?’”

The navigation cameras that helped orient the spacecraft in relation to Bennu were turned off April 9, after snapping their last images of the asteroid. With Bennu in the rearview mirror, engineers are using NASA’s Deep Space Network of global spacecraft communications facilities to steer the OSIRIS-REx by sending it radio signals. By measuring the frequency of the waves returned from the spacecraft transponder, engineers can tell how fast OSIRIS-REx is moving. Engineers measure how long it takes for radio signals to get from the spacecraft back to Earth in order to determine its location.

Exceeding Mission Expectations

The May 10 departure date was precisely timed based on the alignment of Bennu with Earth. The goal of the return maneuver is to get the spacecraft within about 6,000 miles (approximately 10,000 kilometers) of Earth in September 2023. Although OSIRIS-REx still has plenty of fuel remaining, the team is trying to preserve as much as possible for a potential extended mission to another asteroid after returning the sample capsule to Earth. The team will investigate the feasibility of such a mission this summer.

The spacecraft’s course will be determined mainly by the Sun’s gravity, but engineers will need to occasionally make small course adjustments via engine burns.

“We need to do regular corrections to bring the trajectory increasingly closer to Earth’s atmosphere for the sample release, and to account for small errors that might have accumulated since the last burn,” said Peter Antreasian, OSIRIS-REx navigation lead at KinetX Aerospace, which is based in Simi Valley, California.

The team will perform course adjustments a few weeks prior to Earth re-entry in order to precisely target the location and angle for the sample capsule’s release into Earth’s atmosphere. Coming in too low could cause the capsule to bounce out of the atmosphere like a pebble skipping off a lake; too high and the capsule could burn up due to friction and heat from the atmosphere. If OSIRIS-REx fails to release the capsule, the team has a backup plan to divert it away from Earth and try again in 2025.

“There’s a lot of emotion within the team about departure,” Moreau said. “I think everyone has a great sense of accomplishment, because we faced all these daunting tasks and were able to accomplish all the objectives thrown at us. But there’s also some nostalgia and disappointment that this part of the mission is coming to an end.”

OSIRIS-REx exceeded many expectations. Most recently, in the midst of a global pandemic, the team flawlessly executed the mission’s most critical operation, collecting more than 2 ounces (60 grams) of soil from Bennu’s surface.

Leading up to sample collection, a number of surprises kept the team on its toes. For example, a week after the spacecraft entered its first orbit around Bennu, on Dec. 31, 2018, the team realized that the asteroid was releasing small pieces of rock into space.

“We had to scramble to verify that the small particles being ejected from the surface did not present a hazard to the spacecraft,” Moreau said.

Upon arrival at the asteroid, team members were also astonished to find that Bennu is littered with boulders.

“We really had this idea that we were arriving on an asteroid with open real estate,” said Heather Enos, OSIRIS-REx deputy principal investigator, based at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “The reality was a big shocker.”

To overcome the extreme and unexpected ruggedness of Bennu’s surface, engineers had to quickly develop a more accurate navigation technique to target smaller-than-expected sites for sample collection.

The OSIRIS-REx mission was instrumental in both confirming and refuting several scientific findings. Among those confirmed was a technique that used observations from Earth to predict that the minerals on the asteroid would be carbon-rich and show signs of ancient water. One finding that proved unsuccessful was that Bennu would have a smooth surface, which scientists predicted by measuring how much heat radiated off its surface.

Scientists will use the information gleaned from Bennu to refine theoretical models and improve future predictions.

“This mission emphasizes why we have to do science and exploration in multiple ways – both from Earth and from up-close in space – because assumptions and models are just that,” Enos said.

Goddard provides overall mission management, systems engineering, and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator. The university leads the science team and the mission's science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado, built the spacecraft and provides flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency's Science Mission Directorate Washington.

Source: NASA.Gov

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Two images showing the collector head being placed inside the Sample Return Capsule aboard NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft...on October 27, 2020.
NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona / Lockheed Martin

One last image that NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft took of asteroid Bennu...on April 9, 2021.
NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona; Writer Daniel Stolte, University of Arizona

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Photos of the Day: Crops in the Backyard...

A snapshot of the corn that my Mom is growing in the backyard...on May 8, 2021.

Happy Mother's Day, everyone! In honor of this special occasion, here are pictures of corn that my Mom is growing in the backyard. I took these photos yesterday, in case you're wondering. The corn was planted a few weeks back, so apparently, it's gonna take a while before they are extracted and turned into a delicious snack that I can grub on while sitting at my computer typing informative Blog entries like this one. Hah! Anyways, I hope all of y'all have something special planned to celebrate the love, hard work and sacrifice that your mothers have made to give you the life that you enjoy today. Assuming, of course, that you're living a good life. Carry on!

A snapshot of the corn that my Mom is growing in the backyard...on May 8, 2021.

A snapshot of the corn that my Mom is growing in the backyard...on May 8, 2021.

Friday, May 07, 2021

Peregrine Update: Dogecoin Is LITERALLY Headin' to the Moon!

A gold-plated coin representing the popular cryptocurrency Dogecoin will fly aboard Astrobotic's Peregrine lander to the Moon's surface later this year.
Astrobotic

A few hours ago, Astrobotic tweeted the photo above showing a gold-plated coin that represents the popular cryptocurrency Dogecoin. It turns out that someone submitted this item six years ago to fly aboard the Peregrine lunar lander as part of Astrobotic's Moonbox program...which, in partnership with the global shipping company DHL, allows the general public to fly time capsules aboard Astrobotic's spacecraft to the Moon's surface (for a considerable price). The online posting of this image couldn't come at a better time! Dogecoin's value is steadily going up on the market as investors who purchased this altcoin are hoping that the Shiba Inu-inspired crypto jumps to $1 a coin after Doge's biggest endorser, SpaceX founder Elon Musk, hosts tomorrow's episode of Saturday Night Live.


Going back to the Peregrine lunar lander, I spent some considerable cash to fly aboard the spacecraft courtesy of various time capsules that were purchased through Moonbox. Not just personal photos, videos, artwork and my name placed on an engraved chip, but my DNA has been included as well! I'll speak more about this after Peregrine finally launches and hopefully touches down safely on the Moon's surface later this year.

Dogecoin to the Moon!

An artist's concept of Astrobotic's Peregrine lander on the surface of the Moon.
Astrobotic

Thursday, May 06, 2021

QueSST Update: NASA's Next X-Plane Is a Year Away from Flight...

Construction continues on NASA's X-59 QueSST aircraft at Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, California.
Lockheed Martin

X-59 Team Installs Quiet Supersonic Technologies (News Release - May 5)

NASA is targeting 2022 for the first flight of the X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) research aircraft. Its mission – fly over communities to collect data that could cut passenger travel time in half without disturbing people on the ground.

NASA’s X-59 is equipped with supersonic technologies that aid in lowering the sound of the sonic boom. In this picture, the black rectangle panels are the air intakes for the environmental control system (ECS) that regulates the temperature, cabin pressure, and air distribution. The silver grate located at the rear of one of the ECS panels is the exhaust — both of these sections are traditionally housed on the underside of the plane. By placing these features on top of the X-59 wing, the wing blocks and prevents the ECS exhaust from interacting with the shock waves on the bottom of the aircraft. This unique design approach to re-shaping the shock wave pattern substantially reduces the sonic boom to more of a sonic “thump” when it reaches the ground.

Source: NASA.Gov

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Peregrine Update: The General Public Will Get to See This Amazing Lunar Lander and Other Spacecraft Get Made in Person...

A composite image showing the Moonshot Museum inside Astrobotic's headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Astrobotic

Moonshot Space Museum Coming to Pittsburgh (Press Release)

Astrobotic announces the Moonshot Museum, where visitors will experience real spacecraft being built and be immersed in hands-on lunar exploration activities.

Astrobotic, a space robotics company located in Pittsburgh’s Northside, announced its plans to launch the Moonshot Museum, Pennsylvania’s first museum dedicated exclusively to space. The new museum, currently under construction and set to open in the summer of 2022, will be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization co-located in a gifted facility inside Astrobotic's headquarters.

The Museum’s feature attraction will be a large clean room window through which visitors can watch real lunar landers and rovers being built and readied to fly to the Moon. Museum visitors will experience the thrill of spaceflight up close and learn about possible career paths in the $425 billion thriving space industry through interactive exhibits, educational programs, and curated experiences.

“Space is more than just rocket science. We want to provide the ‘spark’ – that moment when an individual is inspired to pursue a space or tech career who may not have otherwise done so. For Astrobotic, success is as much about execution of its other-worldly missions and business as it is about engaging with and serving the communities it is a part of,” said John Thornton, Astrobotic CEO and Chair of the Moonshot Museum’s Board of Directors. “When you mention space, people think of different things. Whether it’s stars, planets, astronauts, or engineers, a common theme is the persistence of curiosity. Curiosity is a spark that can either catch fire or fizzle out – and we want it to catch!” said Sam Moore, Executive Director of the Moonshot Museum. “Fostering confidence for those traditionally under-represented in STEAM is of vital importance,” added Moore.

The Moonshot Museum’s mission is to make space more accessible by inspiring a diverse audience to write the future of space commerce, science, exploration, and settlement. Both digital and on-site educational workshops will simulate real space missions and foster tech career awareness and readiness in the Pittsburgh region and around the world. The programs will aim to propel individuals of all backgrounds to pursue space careers across a variety of disciplines ranging from science and engineering to medicine, business, law, policy, and the humanities and arts.

“It's about creating STEAM opportunities that will change a child's life,” said Bill Peduto, Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh. “Looking in through that clean room window, they’ll be able to see something that will leave this planet, and they’ll be changed forever. It's about bringing the Moon to Pittsburgh.”

The Moonshot Museum is supported by numerous partners, and the Museum’s facilities and utilities have been gifted by Astrobotic. Seed funding and startup operations for the Moonshot Museum are made possible with the support of the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

“The Foundation made this lead gift to enable people to see first-hand Pittsburgh’s leadership role in the future of lunar travel, and to inspire young people to imagine their own futures in this exciting and growing industry,” said Sam Reiman, Director of the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

The museum is currently seeking donations through its website, and welcomes space, science, and education enthusiasts to volunteer to help run future museum programs. For more information, please visit moonshotmuseum.org.

Source: Astrobotic

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The full-scale Structural Test Model for Astrobotic's Peregrine lunar lander...which is set to head to the Moon aboard United Launch Alliance's Vulcan Centaur rocket later this year.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

May the 4th Be with You!

I now have a 5G internet connection at home!

Just as an FYI, I'm fully vaccinated and I now have a 5G internet connection at home... Take that, MAGA and QAnon conspiracy theorists!

PS: Happy Star Wars Day!

Grogu has the case of the munchies on Star Wars Day.

Monday, May 03, 2021

The INTERSTELLAR PROBE: An Exciting New Mission to the Cosmos is in the Works...

An artist's concept of the proposed Interstellar Probe.

So for much of today, I've been reading online articles—like this one—about an intriguing deep space mission that's been under study by the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL) for quite some time now. Known as the Interstellar Probe, this spacecraft would launch in the early 2030s, possibly pass by the distant dwarf planets Quaoar or Gonggong during its voyage, and reach our solar system's heliosphere boundary just 15 years after lift-off. By comparison, it took the twin Voyager robotic probes 35 years to reach the same location. And once all is said and done, the Interstellar Probe will have traveled as far as 1,000 astronomical units (the Earth is 1 astronomical unit, or 93 million miles, from the Sun) by the time its planned 50-year mission comes to an end.

It's only fitting that JHUAPL would be the organization that's doing a study on this fascinating project. It was, after all, this laboratory that built a spacecraft which gave us our first close-up glimpse of Pluto (New Horizons) and constructed another probe that traveled to the opposite end of our solar system...literally towards the Sun (the Parker Solar Probe). Scientists say that NASA's powerful Space Launch System rocket (which will soon be prepped for its maiden flight to the Moon as we speak) will make this cosmic sojourn possible. The SLS will not be launching the Europa Clipper to Jupiter's icy moon Europa as originally intended, but this launch vehicle will have been operational for about a decade by the time it's ready to hurl the Interstellar Probe to the edge of our solar system and beyond. We'll overlook the fact that SpaceX fanboys will be foaming at the mouth to get this trailblazing explorer to depart Earth on a Starship rocket instead. I prefer SLS.

JHUAPL should complete its study of the Interstellar Probe within a year...and then submit it to NASA for consideration soon afterward. Let's cross our fingers that this project gets greenlit! Happy Monday.

The Space Launch System's core stage booster for Artemis 1 now sits inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on April 29, 2021.
NASA / Ben Smegelsky

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Photos of the Day: Pooches Behind My Backyard...

A White Shepherd, Lhasa Apso and American Bulldog milling about in my neighbor's backyard...on April 30, 2021.

Just thought I'd share these pics of these three canines milling about in my neighbor's backyard. In the beginning (which would be earlier this year, as the houses behind my home just recently completed construction in Pomona, CA), my neighbor only had one dog: the large White Shepherd. But over the past week, the two other pooches—the American Bulldog and small Lhasa Apso (or it might be a Shih Tzu; I'll just assume that it's a Lhasa Apso)—suddenly showed up to give the White Shepherd company. [Even though the White Shepherd seemingly doesn't care that he (I think my neighbor named him Kobe) has new companions who now shared the backyard with him.] Is my neighbor dogsitting for a friend or something? Hm.

As you can see, I definitely need dogs of my own. Well, that—and a new smartphone with a better camera. Happy Sunday!

The White Shepherd staring towards my camera...on January 25, 2021.

The American Bulldog stands near the Lhasa Apso as it stares toward my camera...on April 30, 2021.

The American Bulldog and Lhasa Apso milling about in my neighbor's backyard...on April 30, 2021.

The White Shepherd and American Bulldog milling about in my neighbor's backyard...on April 30, 2021.

The White Shepherd, Lhasa Apso and American Bulldog milling about in my neighbor's backyard...on April 30, 2021.

Saturday, May 01, 2021

On This Day in 2011: The World's Most Wanted Fugitive Is Neutralized by U.S. Navy SEALs...

A screenshot from the 2012 film ZERO DARK THIRTY...which dramatized the U.S. military operation that killed Osama bin Laden, on May 2, 2011 (Pakistan Time).

At this moment a decade ago, two stealth helicopters carrying the members of SEAL Team Six flew in to Abbottabad, Pakistan to eliminate Osama bin Laden. With the 20-year anniversary of 9/11 approaching in a little over four months, it was only proper to commemorate the military operation that would ensure that the world's most wanted fugitive was wiped off the face of the Earth. Granted, Al-Qaeda continues to remain a threat today...but the death of bin Laden was a major blow to the terrorist network. There have been no major Al-Qaeda attacks on America since its leader was shot and killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in 2011—even though this was unfortunately made up for with the rise of the Islamic State and its atrocities in the Middle East a few years later.

Nevertheless, the death of Osama bin Laden was a high point in the war on terror...and one that allowed President Biden to recently announce that the United States and its allies will begin a full withdrawal of their military forces from Afghanistan by September 11. America's longest war will soon come to an end, and this is thanks to the victory that a group of elite Special Forces soldiers attained at a two-story fortified compound in Pakistan 10 years ago. Happy First Day of May (unless you live in Pakistan, where it's May 2)! Carry on.