Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Closest Close up of Pluto yet From New Horizons

Martian Atmospheric Methane Might Come From Zeolites

Martian zeolites as a source of atmospheric methane

Mousis et al


The origin of the martian methane is still poorly understood. A plausible explanation is that methane could have been produced either by hydrothermal alteration of basaltic crust or by serpentinization of ultramafic rocks producing hydrogen and reducing crustal carbon into methane. Once formed, methane storage on Mars is commonly associated with the presence of hidden clathrate reservoirs. Here, we alternatively suggest that chabazite and clinoptilolite, which belong to the family of zeolites, may form a plausible storage reservoir of methane in the martian subsurface. Because of the existence of many volcanic terrains, zeolites are expected to be widespread on Mars and their Global Equivalent Layer may range up to more than ∼1 km, according to the most optimistic estimates. If the martian methane present in chabazite and clinoptilolite is directly sourced from an abiotic source in the subsurface, the destabilization of a localized layer of a few millimeters per year may be sufficient to explain the current observations. The sporadic release of methane from these zeolites requires that they also remained isolated from the atmosphere during its evolution. The methane release over the ages could be due to several mechanisms such as impacts, seismic activity or erosion. If the methane outgassing from excavated chabazite and/or clinoptilolite prevails on Mars, then the presence of these zeolites around Gale Crater could explain the variation of methane level observed by Mars Science Laboratory.

South Korea has Begun Modifying the VLS on its Aegis Destroyers

South Korean Navy's Aegis destroyers will get an upgraded missile launch system that will allow them to intercept North Korean ballistic missiles, a government source said Sunday.

The Navy is moving to install new vertical missile launch systems on its three King Sejong the Great class ships that will allow them to launch the longer range SM-3 and SM-6 ship-to-air missiles, said the military source who declined to be identified.

At present, the ships are only able to fire off the SM-2 missiles with a range of 150 kilometers, which is insufficient to intercept ballistic missiles. The SM-3 can fly up to 500 kilometers, while the SM-6 has a range of 400 km. The SM-3, in particular, has the ability to attack targets at a higher altitude than the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system and can reach speeds of Mach 7.8.

"Once the vertical launch systems are installed, the Navy will have the infrastructure to utilize the longer-range systems," he said

The US Navy's Railgun Effort Gets Profiled

A warning siren bellowed through the concrete bunker of a top-secret Naval facility where U.S. military engineers prepared to demonstrate a weapon for which there is little defense.

Officials huddled at a video screen for a first look at a deadly new supergun that can fire a 25-pound projectile through seven steel plates and leave a 5-inch hole.

The weapon is called a railgun and requires neither gunpowder nor explosive. It is powered by electromagnetic rails that accelerate a hardened projectile to staggering velocity—a battlefield meteorite with the power to one day transform military strategy, say supporters, and keep the U.S. ahead of advancing Russian and Chinese weaponry.

Evidence of Extreme Aridification Across the Jurassic/Cretaceous Boundary From North China

Jurassic–Cretaceous terrestrial transition red beds in northern North China and their implication on regional paleogeography, paleoecology, and tectonic evolution


xu et al


Craton are associated with a number of major geological issues that remain controversial, such as paleogeography, biotic transition, and tectonic evolution. Based on previous studies and new progress related to stratigraphy, sedimentology, provenance, biotas, and tectonics, this paper performs a comprehensive review of the red beds in the northern North China Craton represented by the Tuchengzi/Houcheng/Daqingshan Formation (ca. 154–137 Ma) and offers some new perspectives. Based on the 15 measured sections, five facies units including alluvial fan, fluvial, delta, lacustrine, and eolian facies have been recognized and described in detail. Provenance analysis indicates that the red beds were derived from local sources. Deposits in the basins in the eastern Yinshan–Yanshan orogenic belt were derived mainly from volcanic rocks of the Middle–Late Jurassic Tiaojishan Formation and the Mesoproterozoic–Early Paleozoic carbonate, siliceous, and clastic rocks present around the basin, especially in the north. In contrast, sediments in the basins in the western Yinshan–Yanshan orogenic belt were provided predominantly by the Neoarchean–Paleoproterozoic metamorphic rocks exposed mainly in the north of the basin. Paleocurrent features in different regions show characteristics of a localized convergent paleo-drainage system, suggesting that a series of relatively independent small- to mid-scale basins developed in the northern North China Craton. The east–west-trending Yinshan–Yanshan orogenic belt, formed in the late Middle Jurassic, uplifted successively and constituted a paleogeographic highland in northern North China during the Jurassic–Cretaceous transition time. The presence of eolian deposits in the early Early Cretaceous indicates degradation of the severe arid and hot environment, which may have been an essential factor in the dying out of the Yanliao Biota. Combined with regional Late Jurassic–Early Cretaceous A-type granites, mafic dykes, and metamorphic core complexes and rift basins, this suggests that the Jurassic–Cretaceous transition red beds were formed in an extensional tectonic setting controlled by the post-orogenic collapse of the Mongol–Okhotsk orogenic belt.

More Delightful Extinct Marsupial Mammals From Riversleigh World Heritage site in Australia

Riversleigh World Heritage site in Australia is a who's who of weird extinct animals. It is a limestone cave packed with huge number of skeletons, leftovers of poor creatures that have got accumulated over the course of millions of years.

Scientists have found fossils of the Thingodonta from its depths. Thingodonta is a woodpecker-like marsupial that gnawed bugs out of tree bark using its teeth. They have discovered proof of an extinct tusked kangaroo relative, with the scientific name Balbaroo fangaroo.

They've dug out the leftovers of drop crocs, ancient crocodiles that killed their prey by making them fall out of trees. And they came across the gigantic Dromornis, also called ‘Demon Duck of Doom’, which is 10 feet tall and is one of the world’s biggest birds.

Scientists now said that they have a tiny, but quite strange new creature to include in the collection. The latest creature is malleodectes mirabilis, or ‘wondrous hammer biter’, which is a ferret-sized cousin of present day Tasmanian devils that survived on escargot diet.

In a statement, University of New South Wales paleontologist Mike Archer, the main author of a study on the fossil appeared in Scientific Reports, said that Malleodectes mirabilis was an extremely weird mammal, odd in its own way just like a koala or kangaroo.

The creatures had massive, hammer-like premolars that let them eat entire snails, including shell and all. The researchers haven’t seen such characteristics in a mammal before.

Academic Bun fight: Is Nanotyrannus Really a Juvenile Tyrannosaurus?

Damnit, the groove is real and only in Nanotyrannus!

When a groove is not a groove: Clarification of the appearance of the dentary groove in tyrannosauroid theropods and the distinction between Nanotyrannus and Tyrannosaurus. Reply to Comment on: “Distribution of the dentary groove of theropod dinosaurs: implications for theropod phylogeny and the validity of the genus Nanotyrannus Bakker et al., 1988”


Schmerge et al


The occurrence of a lateral groove in the dentary of theropod dinosaurs was argued to be a key diagnostic character for establishing the validity of Nanotyrannus lancensis as a unique taxon separate from Tyrannosaurus rex by Schmerge and Rothschild (2016). The validity of this distinction has been challenged in a comment paper by Brusatte et al. (2016). The main criticisms raised in this comment address the methodology of the original study, the distribution of the dentary groove in theropods, the possibility of ontogenetic variability in the occurrence of the dentary groove, and the application of phylogenetic analysis to studying character distributions. In this reply, we clarify the definition of the theropod dentary groove, elucidate the difference between a true dentary groove and the appearance of a false “pseudo-groove”, justify our original methodology with a discussion of the errors involved in identifying grooves by Brusatte et al. (in press), and support our original findings with descriptions of additional specimens. Investigation of additional specimens of Nanotyrannus, as well as critical examination of Tyrannosaurus specimens presented by Brusatte et al. (2016), reaffirm the result of our original study that Nanotyrannus can be differentiated from Tyrannosaurus based on the depth of its dentary groove, independent of ontogenetic stage. Despite any possible ontogenetic variation in the appearance of the dentary groove that can be interpreted, all specimens of Nanotyrannus possess distinct grooves whereas Tyrannosaurus lacks a groove. The most parsimonious explanation for the different appearance of these grooves is that Nanotyrannus does not represent a juvenile Tyrannosaurus.

gimme a break.

Dentary groove morphology does not distinguish ‘Nanotyrannus’ as a valid taxon of tyrannosauroid dinosaur. Comment on: “Distribution of the dentary groove of theropod dinosaurs: Implications for theropod phylogeny and the validity of the genus Nanotyrannus Bakker et al., 1988”


Brusatte et al


There has been considerable debate about whether the controversial tyrannosauroid dinosaur ‘Nanotyrannus lancensis’ from the uppermost Cretaceous of North America is a valid taxon or a juvenile of the contemporaneous Tyrannosaurus rex. In a recent Cretaceous Research article, Schmerge and Rothschild (2016) brought a new piece of evidence to this discussion: the morphology of the dentary groove, a depression on the lateral surface of the dentary that houses neurovascular foramina. They argued that an alleged ‘Nanotyrannus’ specimen, which possesses a groove, cannot be referable to Tyrannosaurus rex, which they considered as lacking the groove, and they hypothesized that ‘Nanotyrannus’ is closely related to albertosaurine tyrannosauroids, which also are said to possess the groove. However, we show that the groove is a widespread feature of tyrannosauroids that is present in T. rex and many other specimens, and that it is an ontogenetically variable feature that changes from a sharp, deeply-impressed groove to a shallower sulcus as an individual matures. As a result, the presence or absence of a dentary groove does not clarify the validity of ‘Nanotyrannus’ or its phylogenetic position among tyrannosauroids. We consider it most parsimonious that ‘Nanotyrannus’ specimens belong to juvenile T. rex.

Evidence of Multiple Increases in Paleoocean Oxygen Levels Across the Ediacaran/Cambrian Boundary

REE and trace element patterns from organic-rich rocks of the Ediacaran-Cambrian transitional interval


Guo et al


It has been established that important changes in the marine environment and the biosphere occurred during the Cambrian. However the relationships between the so-called “ Cambrian Explosion” and the concomitant environmental changes are not yet fully understood. This study presents new geochemical data from the black shale successions from different facies belts of the Yangtze Platform in South China. Variations in the concentrations of REE and trace elements (varying Ce/Ce*, Th/U, V/Sc and V/Cr ratios) in kerogen as well as in bulk rocks from different depositional environments along a transect from platform to basin indicate two oxidation events, which led to the oxygenation of the water column in shallow-marine environments and euxinic conditions (weak correlation between TOC, V, U and Mo) in the deeper sea. During the first oxidation event in the late Terreneuvian, anoxic conditions in bottom waters rapidly changed to euxinic conditions. Subsequently, the second oxidation event during the early Epoch 2 of the Cambrian led to oxic-suboxic conditions in deeper seawater.

The Frustration From China's One-China Dream

THE “China dream” of the president, Xi Jinping, is of a rejuvenated, rich and strong country that will once again enjoy the respect and fealty in Asia commanded by the empires of old. That last part is not happening: from a recalcitrant young despot, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, on its north-eastern border, to those ungrateful Vietnamese Communists to the south, flirting with America, insolent insubordination abounds. And perhaps most alarming of all, the people of “inalienable” territories wrested from the motherland by predatory imperialists—Hong Kong and Taiwan—show no enthusiasm at all for a return to its bosom.

Events in recent weeks have highlighted China’s difficulties in both places. In Hong Kong a visiting senior official from Beijing, Zhang Dejiang, had to scurry around under high security to avoid meeting protesters. Paving stones were glued down in case they became projectiles. And in Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, at her swearing-in on May 20th, rejected months of intense Chinese pressure to pay lip service to the notion that there is “one China”.

South Korea Developing its own Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles

The South Korean Military is developing submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), a high-ranking military official said.

“On the 3,000-ton Jangbogo-III submarine, which is currently under production, we are installing a vertical launching pad,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. SLBMs are fired undersea and are therefore difficult to detect by radar. He added, “The installation of a vertical launching pad indicates that the SLBM is already under development.” The official also went on to say that the SLBM is being developed under the aegis of the Agency of Defense Development and is expected to be completed by 2020.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Augmented Reality Company Magic Leap Claims Employees Stole Intellectual Property

Artificial reality startup Magic Leap is accusing two Silicon Valley employees of stealing the closely guarded secrets behind its technological tricks.

The allegations of betrayal and skullduggery surfaced in a lawsuit that Magic Leap filed late Thursday in federal court after the two workers, Gary Bradski and Adrian Kaehler, sued the company for wrongful termination earlier this week. An attorney for Bradski and Kaehler denied the company's allegations.

The legal tussle over intellectual property and stock options highlights the rising stakes in artificial reality as more technology companies bet it will produce the industry's next big breakthroughs.

Since its inception six years ago, Magic Leap has emerged as one of artificial reality's most intriguing startups while raising $1.4 billion from a list of investors that include Google and China's Alibaba Group. The last round of financing completed earlier this year valued the Dania Beach, Florida, company at $4.5 billion, even though it hasn't released a product yet and hasn't even disclosed a timetable for doing so.

Europa’s small impactor flux and seismic detection predictions

Europa’s small impactor flux and seismic detection predictions


Tsuji et al


Europa is an attractive target for future lander missions due to its dynamic surface and potentially habitable sub-surface environment. Seismology has the potential to provide powerful new constraints on the internal structure using natural sources such as faults or meteorite impacts. Here we predict how many meteorite impacts are likely to be detected using a single seismic station on Europa to inform future mission planning efforts. To this end, we derive: (1) the current small impactor flux on Europa from Jupiter impact rate observations and models; (2) a crater diameter versus impactor energy scaling relation for icy moons by merging previous experiments and simulations; and (3) scaling relations for seismic signal amplitudes as a function of distance from the impact site for a given crater size, based on analogue explosive data obtained on Earth’s ice sheets. Finally, seismic amplitudes are compared to predicted noise levels and seismometer performance to determine detection rates. We predict detection of 0.002–20 small local impacts per year based on P-waves travelling directly through the ice crust. Larger regional and global-scale impact events, detected through mantle-refracted waves, are predicted to be extremely rare (10−8−8–1 detections per year), so are unlikely to be detected by a short duration mission. Estimated ranges include uncertainties from internal seismic attenuation, impactor flux, and seismic amplitude scaling. Internal attenuation is the most significant unknown and produces extreme uncertainties in the mantle-refracted P-wave amplitudes. Our nominal best-guess attenuation model predicts 0.002–5 local direct P detections and 6 × 10−6−6–0.2 mantle-refracted detections per year. Given that a plausible Europa landed mission will only last around 30 days, we conclude that impacts should not be relied upon for a seismic exploration of Europa. For future seismic exploration, faulting due to stresses in the rigid outer ice shell is likely to be a much more viable mechanism for probing Europa’s interior.

Mars is Emerging From an Ice Age

Radar measurements of Mars' polar ice caps reveal that the mostly dry, dusty planet is emerging from an ice age, following multiple rounds of climate change. Understanding the Martian climate will help determine when the planet was habitable in the past, how that changed, and may inform studies of climate change on Earth. Models have suggested that Mars has undergone ice ages in the past, but empirical data to confirm this has been sparse. Here, Isaac Smith and colleagues used radar to analyze layers of ice within the planet's polar ice caps, using the Shallow Radar instrument onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. As ice erodes, wind can create spiral troughs and other distinct features. Tracing the layers of these features within the ice can reveal changes in ice accumulation and flow - and thus changes in climate - in the past. While the southern ice cap is relatively small and altered by meteorite impacts, the researchers were able to trace the layers within the northern ice cap. They found layers and migration paths that increase in slope abruptly, reverse direction, or are completely buried. Their analysis suggests that the planet is currently emerging from an ice age, in a retreat that began approximately 370,000 years ago.

Russia to Modernize Kuznetsov Aircraft Carrier

Starting next year, Russia’s only aircraft carrier will start a modernization maintenance period to upgrade its arresting gear and launching systems, according to a report this week from the Russian TASS news wire.

The 55,000-ton Admiral Kuznetsov will enter the two to three-year upgrade availability at an unknown Russian yard sometime next year to undergo upgrades to allow the carrier to improve launching and recovering aircraft, the source told TASS.

“The works on the vessel will begin after she returns from a long-distance voyage in the Mediterranean in the first quarter of 2017 and will last for two-three years,” the source said.

“The modernization will focus on the aircraft carrier’s flight deck, including replacement of the deck covering, tailhooks, aircraft arresting gear and other elements of the take-off system.”

Russia Conducted Successful ASAT Missile Test

Russia conducted a successful flight test of a developmental anti-satellite missile on Wednesday that is capable of destroying satellites in orbit, American defense officials said.

The Nudol direct ascent anti-satellite missile was launched from the Plesetsk test launch facility, located 500 miles north of Moscow, said officials familiar with the situation.

The missile was monitored by U.S. intelligence satellites and the test appeared to be successful.

Was the Ordovician the Time of the Early Paleozoic Ice Age?

Glacial onset predated Late Ordovician climate cooling


Pohl et al


The Ordovician glaciation represents the acme of one of only three major icehouse periods in Earth's Phanerozoic history, and is notorious for setting the scene for one of the “big 5" mass extinction events. Nevertheless, the mechanisms that drove ice-sheet growth remain poorly understood, and the final extent of the ice sheet crudely constrained. Here, using an Earth system model with an innovative coupling method between ocean, atmosphere and land-ice accounting for climate and ice-sheet feedback processes, we report simulations portraying for the first time the detailed evolution of the Ordovician ice sheet. We show that the emergence of the ice sheet happened in two discrete phases. In a counter-intuitive sequence of events, the continental ice sheet appeared suddenly in a warm climate. Only during the second act, and set against a background of decreasing atmospheric CO2, followed steeply dropping temperatures and extending sea-ice. The comparison with abundant sedimentological, geochemical and micropaleontological data suggests that glacial onset may have occurred as early as the Mid Ordovician Darriwilian, in agreement with recent studies reporting third-order glacio-eustatic cycles during the same period. The second step in ice-sheet growth, typified by a sudden drop in tropical sea-surface temperatures by ∼ 8 ∘C and the further extension of a single, continental-scale ice sheet over Gondwana, marked the onset of the Hirnantian glacial maximum. By suggesting the presence of an ice sheet over Gondwana throughout most of the Mid and Late Ordovician, our models embrace the emerging paradigm of an “Early Paleozoic Ice Age”.

The Effects of Maastrichtian Cretaceous Global Cooling on Nutrient Availability in the Ocean

The impact of the Maastrichtian cooling on the marine nutrient regime – evidence from mid-latitudinal calcareous nannofossils


Linnert et al


The latest Campanian–earliest Maastrichtian interval is well known as a period of intense climate cooling. This cooling caused a distinctive bipolar biogeographic distribution of calcareous nannofossil assemblages: High latitude settings were dominated by newly evolving endemic taxa, former cosmopolitan species disappeared at the same time and equatorial communities experienced an invasion of cool water taxa. The impact of this cooling on northern mid-latitude assemblages is, however, less well known. In order to overcome this gap we studied the Kronsmoor section (northwest Germany). This section provides a continuous upper Campanian – lower Maastrichtian succession with moderately to well preserved nannofossils. Uppermost Campanian assemblages are dominated by Prediscosphaera cretacea; other common taxa include Prediscosphaera stoveri, Watznaueria barnesiae and Micula staurophora. The lower Maastrichtian is characterized by lower numbers of P. cretacea and frequent Kamptnerius magnificus, Arkhangelskiella cymbiformis and Cribrosphaerella ehrenbergii. These changes reflect, in part, the Campanian–Maastrichtian boundary cooling since some successful taxa (e.g. K. magnificus) are related to cool surface waters. Other shifts in the nannofossil communities were perhaps the result of a changing nutrient regime. Stronger latitudinal gradients may have increased wind velocities and thus the eolian input of ferruginous dust required by N-fixing bacteria. The enhanced high latitude deep-water formation probably changed the bottom-water environment in disfavor of denitrificating organisms. A decline of chemical weathering and fluviatile transport may have reduced the amount of bioavailable phosphate. These processes led to an increased nitrate and a decreased phosphate content shifting the nutrient regime from nitrate towards phosphate limitation.

Small scale scrapes suggest avian display behavior by diminutive Cretaceous theropods

Small scale scrapes suggest avian display behavior by diminutive Cretaceous theropods


Kim et al


A set of about 25 diminutive sub-parallel scrapes in the Cretaceous Haman Formation of South Korea fit the morphology of the small theropod track Minisauripus which is also known from this formation. The scrapes are interpreted as evidence of display behavior, and suggest that the trace maker was an adult engaged in avian-like courtship behavior. Although avian theropods are also known from this formation, the scrapes are inconsistent with their foot morphology. Although large theropod scrapes have been interpreted as evidence of display behavior they are only known from North America. Thus, the scrapes described here are the first reported from Asia, and the first interpreted as evidence of display behavior in such a diminutive species.

Enzymatic Antioxidant Systems in Early Anaerobes

Enzymatic Antioxidant Systems in Early Anaerobes: Theoretical Considerations


Ireneusz et al


It is widely accepted that cyanobacteria-dependent oxygen that was released into Earth's atmosphere ca. 2.5 billion years ago sparked the evolution of the aerobic metabolism and the antioxidant system. In modern aerobes, enzymes such as superoxide dismutases (SODs), peroxiredoxins (PXs), and catalases (CATs) constitute the core of the enzymatic antioxidant system (EAS) directed against reactive oxygen species (ROS). In many anaerobic prokaryotes, the superoxide reductases (SORs) have been identified as the main force in counteracting ROS toxicity. We found that 93% of the analyzed strict anaerobes possess at least one antioxidant enzyme, and 50% have a functional EAS, that is, consisting of at least two antioxidant enzymes: one for superoxide anion radical detoxification and another for hydrogen peroxide decomposition. The results presented here suggest that the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) was not a strict anaerobe. O2 could have been available for the first microorganisms before oxygenic photosynthesis evolved, however, from the intrinsic activity of EAS, not solely from abiotic sources.

Russia Opposed to US-China on Global Warming Pact

Russia set itself at odds with a drive by China and the United States for rapid ratification of a global agreement to slow climate change when a senior official said on Wednesday that Moscow first wanted a clear set of rules.

Negotiating a detailed rule book for the 2015 Paris Agreement for shifting the world economy from fossil fuels could take years, in the worst case, delegates said at May 16-26 U.N. talks in Bonn on implementing the pact.

Top greenhouse gas emitters China and the United States say they plan to join the Paris Agreement this year and almost all other nations say they will ratify as rapidly as possible -before the rules are in place.

But Russia, the number three greenhouse gas emitter, questioned the plan in a rare sign of disagreement about implementation.

The Agreement can still enter into force without Russia, because it requires at least 55 nations representing 55 percent of global greenhouse gases to gain legal force. Russia, the number three emitter, only accounts for 7.5 percent.

Scuffle in the South China Sea #47

The Chinese intercept of the EP-3 violated the agreement about conduct between the nations for aircraft.

The Chinese UAV reported earlier has been confirmed with pictures.

After the spats with Indonesia over the South China Sea, China is pledging closer ties.

China is considering turning some of the disputed islands into resorts.

China states the Vietnam-American ties better not be aimed at them.

SecState Kerry has stated the ties are not.

Vietnam is possibly going to ask for P-3 sub hunting planes and F-16s.

McCain is pushing for closer ties between the Vietnamese Navy & the US Navy.

The closer ties between Vietnam & the US will give China headaches.

The US Navy feels the US Army's rockets & artillery will have the squids' back in the South China Sea.

Are the Chinese are being increasingly constrained by the growing US-Indian relationship?

The US SecDef expresses his worries about the South China Sea.

Philippines has stated some of its fishermen were detained by the Malaysian Navy.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Only Human

The burning wreckage of the colony was a scene from the Nth Hell of Kranish. Bodies were scattered everywhere. Burnt corpses. Dead sentients. Scorched rubble. Shattered dreams and rendered nightmares.

I contemplated the symbology on the wall before me. Simplistic and meant to be pedagogical. The scene, my AI assistant informed me, was meant to have a positive charge for those still underdeveloped, not yet fully aware or maximized.

I moved forward through the shattered building. This place would be ripe with the scent songs of the recyclers within days. The bodies were plentiful and we would make no attempt to interfere with the natural cycle of things. That was not our way.

My battle armour hummed maneuvering me through the areas still intact enough to have a roof. There was very little of that. The biomimic mechanical tentacles of the suit lashed out to grasp the walls and progressed me through the ravished ruins.

So many dreams shattered. So many color songs ended. So many acoustic scents never to be wafted. I was not at ease.

Our invasion was a resounding and overwhelming success. We had taken this world. The resistance was easily overwhelmed. We had crushed our enemy.

Yet the more I toured our victory, I, the grand commander of the Unformed's army, my internals shifted from uneasy to worried to fearful...to...

I was placing a pseudopod on the feeling when I overheard some of the soldiery, low rank and undercultured, only having had fifth hand bio-mental sharings with the grand thinkers. They were discussing the victory as grunts from a million cultures had done before and would do again until the sky grew cold and the last sentient scent summoned us home.

I stopped to listen and caught the final comment as to why we had won and taken this world, this colony, won this victory.

The sentients, after all, were "Only Human."

I knew the feeling I had felt and my formless form shivered. For I could finally place the tendril on the tenuous feeling I had had over our victory.


I left the creche, the 'kindergarten,' and feared for my life, my spawn, my people.

For those we'd had taken this world from were "Only Human."

Friday, May 27, 2016

Crustal failure on icy Moons from a strong tidal encounter

Crustal failure on icy Moons from a strong tidal encounter


Quillen et al


Close tidal encounters among large planetesimals and Moons should have been more common than grazing or normal impacts. Using a mass spring model within an N-body simulation, we simulate the deformation of the surface of an elastic spherical body caused by a close parabolic tidal encounter with a body that has similar mass as that of the primary body. Such an encounter can induce sufficient stress on the surface to cause brittle failure of an icy crust and simulated fractures can extend a large fraction of the radius of body. Strong tidal encounters may be responsible for the formation of long graben complexes and chasmata in ancient terrain of icy Moons such as Dione, Tethys, Ariel and Charon.

Mars' Water Chemistry Might Have Been UNinhabitable

Ionic Strength Is a Barrier to the Habitability of Mars


Fox-Powell et al


The thermodynamic availability of water (water activity) strictly limits microbial propagation on Earth, particularly in hypersaline environments. A considerable body of evidence indicates the existence of hypersaline surface waters throughout the history of Mars; therefore it is assumed that, as on Earth, water activity is a major limiting factor for martian habitability. However, the differing geological histories of Earth and Mars have driven variations in their respective aqueous geochemistry, with as-yet-unknown implications for habitability. Using a microbial community enrichment approach, we investigated microbial habitability for a suite of simulated martian brines. While the habitability of some martian brines was consistent with predictions made from water activity, others were uninhabitable even when the water activity was biologically permissive. We demonstrate experimentally that high ionic strength, driven to extremes on Mars by the ubiquitous occurrence of multivalent ions, renders these environments uninhabitable despite the presence of biologically available water. These findings show how the respective geological histories of Earth and Mars, which have produced differences in the planets' dominant water chemistries, have resulted in different physicochemical extremes which define the boundary space for microbial habitability.

SpaceX More Than a Year Behind Schedule for Commercial Crew Launch

SpaceX’s commercial crew program is running more than a year behind schedule on the Commercial Crew program it is performing for NASA.

Garrett Reisman, SpaceX’s Director of Crew Operations, said on Tuesday that an automated flight test of the Crew Dragon vehicle to the International Space Station (ISS) has slipped into the second quarter of 2017. (Spaceflight Now has the mission listed for May 2017.) It was scheduled to occur in March 2016 under the contract NASA awarded to SpaceX in September 2014.

The original schedule showed a test flight to the station with crew occurring in October 2016, some seven months after the automated one. Once testing is complete, SpaceX would begin ferrying astronauts to ISS on a commercial basis. The company has been awarded a minimum of six commercial missions.


Russia Developing Tank Support Fighting Vehicle Based on the Armata Chassis

While the T-14 main battle tank is the most prominent member of the Armata family, the vehicle series incorporates a host of new fighting machines. Among those is a platform ominously named the Terminator-3, which is a tank support fighting vehicle.

“Russia also plans to develop its tank support fighting vehicle dubbed the Terminator-3 on the basis of the country’s latest Armata tanks,” Oleg Sienko, a senior manager with Uralvagonzavod Corporation told state-owned RIA Novosti earlier this year. “We will [produce them]. We have a concept for developing vehicles on the basis of the Armata platform.”

US SOCOM to Test Laser Weapon Prototype Mounted on Apache Attack Helicopter

Special Operations Command will test a laser weapon on an Apache helicopter this summer, said one official May 26.

SOCOM's program executive office rotary wing is working alongside the Army’s project office for Apache Attack Helicopters to conduct a feasibility test this summer, said Col. John Vannoy, program manager for rotary wing.

“There is absolutely a niche I believe for use of directed energy weapons,” he said during a briefing at the annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association. “The lens we are looking at this through right now is: ‘Is it feasible to do this?’ We’re not at the point where we’ve laid out a business case to advance it.”

The office envisions using a laser weapon to destroy vehicles or generators versus sending in a missile that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said.

Vannoy’s office and the Army's Apache office have entered into a cooperative research and development agreement with Raytheon to put a podded laser on the aircraft, he said.

“We really want to understand the environment on the wing, the beam quality we can get off the wing and the ability to beam steer and keep power on a target,” he said.

Environmental factors such as dust could affect beam quality. In addition, the vibrations on an Apache’s wing could affect steering, he said.

Vannoy did not disclose a specific timeframe for the test or when results would be made public. “Most of that will be internal quite frankly,” he said.

The effort is still in its infancy, he said. “I wouldn’t say that we’re at the tipping point and you’re going to see a Star Wars like effect or a Death Star laser hanging off the side of a rotary wing aircraft,” he said.

A directed energy weapon could also be mounted on an MH-60 Black Hawk, he said.

Are the Rich REALLY as Mobile as Thought?

The view that the rich are highly mobile has gained much political traction in recent years and has become a central argument in debates about whether there should be "millionaire taxes" on top-income earners. But a new study dispels the common myth about the propensity of millionaires in the United States to move from high to low tax states.

"The most striking finding in our study is how little elites seem willing to move to exploit tax advantages across state lines," said Cristobal Young, an assistant professor of sociology at Stanford University and the lead author of the study. "Millionaire tax flight is occurring, but only at the margins of significance."

In any given year, Young and his fellow researchers found that roughly 500,000 individuals file tax returns reporting incomes of $1 million or more (constant 2005 dollars). From this population, only about 12,000 millionaires change their state each year. The annual millionaire migration rate is 2.4 percent, which is lower than the migration rate of the general population (2.9 percent). The highest rates of migration are seen among low-income tax filers: migration is 4.5 percent among people who earn around $10,000 a year.

"There is a widely held perception that elites are extremely mobile -- that they are more attached to money than to place, and with money you can live anywhere you want," said Young, who noted that millionaires are no less likely to live in states with high income taxes (e.g., New Jersey or California) than in states with low or zero income taxes (e.g., Texas or Florida). "We tend to think of migration as a form of freedom and one of the privileges enjoyed by the rich. In practice, migration comes with high social and economic costs -- uprooting one's family, breaking away from one's social networks, and restarting in a new place."

An enigmatic aquatic snake from the Cenomanian Cretaceous Venezuela

An enigmatic aquatic snake from the Cenomanian of Northern South America


Albino et al


We report the first record of a snake from the Cretaceous of northern South America. The remains come from the La Luna Formation (La Aguada Member, Cenomanian of Venezuela) and consist of several vertebrae, which belong to the precloacal region of the vertebral column. Comparisons to extant and extinct snakes show that the remains represent a new taxon, Lunaophis aquaticus gen. et sp nov. An aquatic mode of life is supported by the ventral position of the ribs, indicating a laterally compressed body. The systematic relationships of this new taxon are difficult to determine due to the scarcity of fossil material; it is, however, a representative of an early lineage of snakes that exploited tropical marine pelagic environments, as reflected by the depositional conditions of the La Aguada Member. Lunaophis is also the first aquatic snake from the Cenomanian found outside of the African and European Tethyan and Boreal Zones.

The Antarctic was NOT a Refuge From the KT/K-Pg Mass Extinction

A study of more than 6,000 marine fossils from the Antarctic shows that the mass extinction event that killed the dinosaurs was sudden and just as deadly to life in the polar regions.

Previously, scientists had thought that creatures living in the southernmost regions of the planet would have been in a less perilous position during the mass extinction event than those elsewhere on Earth.

The research, published today in the journal Nature Communications, involved a six-year process of identifying more than 6,000 marine fossils ranging in age from 69- to 65-million-years-old that were excavated by scientists from the University of Leeds and the British Antarctic Survey on Seymour Island in the Antarctic Peninsula.

Three Different Types of Sedimentary Basins IDed From NeoProterozoic China

Neoproterozoic sedimentary basin evolution in southwestern Tarim, NW China: New evidence from field observations, detrital zircon U–Pb ages and Hf isotope compositions


Zhang et al


Sedimentary basin evolution is intimately related to tectonic background and thus can serve as one of the most important indicators in deciphering the regional tectonic evolution process. Neoproterozoic volcanic-sedimentary sequences are well preserved along the southwestern margin of the Tarim Block in NW China and provide new insights into the Neoproterozoic tectonic evolution of the Tarim. In this contribution, we report the metamorphic deformation features and systematic detrital zircon U–Pb ages and Hf isotope compositions of the Neoproterozoic strata in SW Tarim. Geochronological data reveal that the greenschist-facies metamorphic and tightly folded Sailajiazitage Group (SG) volcanic-sedimentary sequence deposited during 860–830 Ma, the Ailiankate Group (AG) clastic rocks of low greenschist – facies metamorphism and intensive deformation deposited during 820–800 Ma, and the unmetamorphosed and undeformed late Neoproterozoic carbonate–clastic–tillite sequences, including the Silu Group (SLG) and the Qiakemakelieke Group (QG), deposited after 760 Ma. Two phases of glaciations from the QG in SW Tarim could be equivalent to the Beiyixi glaciation and the Altungol–Tereeken glaciation in north Tarim, respectively. Rock assemblages coupled with geochemistry of the SG bimodal volcanic rocks indicate its deposition in a back-arc basin. Rock assemblages, detrital zircon age spectra and its metamorphism and deformation features suggest that the AG clastic sequence most likely deposited at a foreland basin on the back-arc basin sedimentary package while the middle to late Neoproterozoic SLG and QG carbonate–clastic–tillite sequences deposited at a passive marginal and/or rift basins. The Neoproterozoic evolution process of the southwestern Tarim demonstrates that (1) the Neoproterozoic assemblage of the Tarim basement could have lasted till 760 Ma as evidenced by the Aksu blueschist-facies metamorphism and (2) its Pre-Nanhuaian basement could be composed of independent continental terranes. Furthermore, positive εHf(t) deviations in these detrital zircons suggest that the Rodinia plume could have effects on the Neoproterozoic igneous activities.

Hyundai Wins Contract for Next South Korean Aegis Destroyers

South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has awarded a contract to design a second batch of three Sejong Daewang (KDX-3)-class guided-missile destroyers to Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), the company confirmed to IHS Jane's on 26 May.

Russia Claims There was a Near Miss Between a US Spy Plane & Two Commercial Flights

According to a statement from the Russian Ministry of Defense, a U.S. spyplane flying over the Sea of Japan, in international airspace, near Russia’s eastern border, was involved in two near collisions with passenger planes in a matter of a few hours.

According to the State-controlled media outlet Sputnik News and to the Interfax agency, Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov acknowledged that American spy planes conduct flights along eastern Russia daily, but “this time, while maneuvering along the international air route, the US spy plane created a real threat of collision for passenger aircraft, which could lead to catastrophic consequences.”

The Russian spokesman criticized the American aircrew for their “unprofessional actions” that could lead to a disaster while the Russian Defense Ministry has summoned a US defense attaché calling for an immediate explanation of the incident.

The near-misses involved a Swiss and a KLM flights.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Star Wars: Clash of the Drones!

Lander rocket exhaust effects on Europa regolith nitrogen assays

Lander rocket exhaust effects on Europa regolith nitrogen assays




Soft-landings on large worlds such as Europa or our Moon require near-surface retropropulsion, which leads to impingement of the rocket plume on the surface. Surface modification by such plumes was documented on Apollo and Surveyor, and on Mars by Viking, Curiosity and especially Phoenix. The low temperatures of the Europan regolith may lead to efficient trapping of ammonia, a principal component of the exhaust from monopropellant hydrazine thrusters. Deposited ammonia may react with any trace organics, and may overwhelm the chemical and isotopic signatures of any endogenous nitrogen compounds, which are likely rare on Europa. An empirical correlation of the photometrically-altered regions (‘blast zones’) around prior lunar and Mars landings is made, indicating A=0.02T1.5, where A is the area in m2 and W is the lander weight (thus, ~thrust) at landing in N: this suggests surface alteration will occur out to a distance of ~9 m from a 200 kg lander on Europa.

What do the decameter-scale polygons in the lower Peace Vallis fan of Gale crater mean?

Origin and significance of decameter-scale polygons in the lower Peace Vallis fan of Gale crater, Mars


Oehler et al


Decameter-scale polygons are extensively developed in the Bedded Fractured (BF) Unit of the lower Peace Vallis fan. The polygons occur in a likely extension of the Gillespie Lake Member, north of Yellowknife Bay, the section first drilled by the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission. We examine hypotheses for the origin of these polygons to provide insight into the history of Gale crater.

The polygons are ∼4–30 m across, square to rectangular, and defined by ∼0.5–4 m wide, generally straight troughs with orthogonal intersections. Polygon networks are typically oriented-orthogonal systems, with occasional nearly circular patterns, hundreds of meters across. Potential origins include cooling of lava, and for sedimentary units, syneresis, unloading, weathering, desiccation, impact processes, and cold-climate thermal contraction. Cold-climate thermal contraction is the hypothesis most consistent with the sedimentary nature of the BF Unit and the polygon morphology, geometry, networks, and apparent restriction to the coarse-grained Gillespie Lake Member. A periglacial setting further provides the best analogs for the circular networks and is consistent with geologic context and MSL data.

Most of the decametric polygons appear to be ancient. They are confined to the Hesperian BF Unit, and only a few of their bounding fractures extend into younger or recently exposed units. In this regard, they differ from the majority of proposed thermal-contraction polygons on Mars, as those are generally thought to be young features, and, accordingly, the history of formation, preservation and reactivation of the decametric polygons is likely to be more complex than that of any proposed young polygons on Mars. The decametric polygons in the BF Unit may represent landforms developed in a cold but still comparatively wet interlude between a clement early Mars and the much drier and colder planet of today.

Orbital ATK Working With USAF to Build EELV Class, Liberty-like Rocket

Orbital ATK on Tuesday unveiled plans for a new rocket to compete against United Launch Alliance and Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies for missions to launch U.S. military and commercial satellites.

Orbital's Next Generation Launcher is based on the solid-rocket strap-on boosters that flew on NASA's space shuttles, Orbital Business Development Director John Steinmeyer said at the 2016 Space Congress conference in Cape Canaveral.

The company plans to buy the rocket's second stage from Jeff Bezos' space company, Blue Origin.

US Navy Testing 32 MJ Railguns

The US Navy is gearing to take its futuristic Railgun out of the lab where it has been tested for to past eight years. In the next biennium, these mighty weapons will be tested in open firing ranges and eventually at sea, where the futuristic electromagnetic gun will be able to demonstrate its full capacity to fire projectiles at targets 50-100 nautical miles (92 – 185 kilometers) away.

“The Electromagnetic Railgun is among several disruptive capabilities that the Naval Research Enterprise is championing to ensure a dominant, capable and relevant naval force for the future.” Chief of Naval Research (CNR) Rear Adm. Mat Winter said.

A railgun weapon system includes the launcher, projectile; high-density pulsed power, and fire control system. A railgun weapon can launch multi-mission projectiles with shorter time-to-target and greater effectiveness at longer range.

The Navy is evaluating two EM Railgun models. A 32-megajoule prototype built by BAE Systems and the 32 megajoule Blitzer developed by General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS). The company has also developed a 3-megajoule railgun variant. In the future, the Navy plans to deploy railguns rated to 64-megajoule.

A Look at the Assselian Permian fluvial deposits of West Virginia Suggests More Humid Climate

A paleopedological and ichnological approach to interpreting spatial and temporal variability in Early Permian fluvial deposits of the lower Dunkard Group, West Virginia, U.S.A.


Hembree et al


Lower Permian (Asselian) deposits of the Washington Formation (Dunkard Group) in West Virginia (U.S.A.) represent proximal to distal expressions of a migrating, anastomosing river and associated floodplain environments. These deposits are part of the upper fluvial plain province of the Dunkard Basin characterized by thick-to-thin sandstone bodies, shales, and paleosols. The paleosols and associated ichnofossils record a wealth of paleoenvironmental, paleoecological, and paleoclimatic data which improve our understanding of the autogenic and allogenic processes that result in the spatial and temporal variability of ancient fluvial systems. This study integrates field and laboratory analysis of paleosols and ichnofossils including macro- to micromorphology, bulk geochemistry, and clay mineralogy to better understand variations in soil-forming processes across this Early Permian floodplain. Nine different pedotypes were identified including proximal, poorly developed Entisols and Inceptisols, poorly drained Histosols, and thick, moderately to well-drained Inceptisols and Vertisols. Lateral differences in paleosol properties were minor compared to the diversity of paleosols present in the vertical exposure and were largely a result of localized variations in drainage and topography. Differences in the properties of the paleosols in the vertical succession could not be explained by variable drainage due to position on the floodplain. Cyclicity was largely controlled by avulsion, but was overprinted by changes in climate. While climatic drying during the Early Permian as a general trend is well established, smaller scale fluctuations between wet and dry intervals contributed significantly to observed paleosol properties. Dominance by calcareous Vertisols in the upper fluvial plain facies province and their representation of strongly seasonal conditions are consistent with previous research; however, thorough investigation of the paleosols suggests that more humid conditions existed than the arid to semiarid climate that has been suggested.

Rastodon procurvidens: a new Guadalupian/Lopingian Permian Dicynodont From Brazil

A New Dicynodont (Therapsida: Anomodontia) from the Permian of Southern Brazil and Its Implications for Bidentalian Origins


Boos et al


Dicynodonts were a highly successful group of herbivorous therapsids that inhabited terrestrial ecosystems from the Middle Permian through the end of the Triassic periods. Permian dicynodonts are extremely abundant in African deposits, but are comparatively poorly known from the other regions of Gondwana. Here we describe a new South American dicynodont, Rastodon procurvidens gen. et sp. nov., from the Boqueirão farm site of the Rio do Rasto Formation, Paraná Basin, Guadalupian/Lopingian of Brazil. Diagnostic features of R. procurvidens include uniquely anteriorly-curved maxillary tusks, well-developed ridges extending from the crista oesophagea anteriorly along the pterygoid rami, strong posterior angulation of the posterior pterygoid rami, and a bulbous, well-developed retroarticular process of the articular. Phylogenetic analysis indicates that R. procurvidens is the earliest and most basal member of Bidentalia, a cosmopolitan clade that includes Permian and Triassic dicynodonts whose dentition is usually reduced to a pair of maxillary tusks.

Evidence of the Wilson Cycle From PaleoProterozoic on the Canadian Shield

Variations in zircon Hf isotopes support earliest Proterozoic Wilson cycle tectonics on the Canadian Shield


Partin et al


Sedimentary basins provide an archive of magmatic and tectonic events in their detrital zircon record, which can be dated and coupled with Hf isotopic data to reveal secular changes in the production of juvenile and evolved magmatism and track the history of orogenic events. The Rae craton, which forms a substantial portion of the northern Canadian Shield, experienced successive orogenic events along its margins during most of the Paleoproterozoic Era. Yet, some of these orogenic events are poorly defined and their details remain controversial. We present coupled detrital zircon U-Pb age and εHf data from Paleoproterozoic metasedimentary successions of the eastern Rae craton. The zircon preserve an archive of ∼600 million years of magmatic and tectonic history on the Rae craton and its periphery. The U-Pb and Hf isotopic data indicate that zircon provenance was dominantly from the northern and western Rae craton, where magmatic and tectonic activity was focused during the ∼2.5 to 2.3 Ga Arrowsmith orogeny and the ∼2.0 to ∼1.93 Ga Taltson and Thelon events. Our detrital zircon dataset holds a more complete record of these Proterozoic orogenic events than is currently defined from known and dated crustal rocks on the Rae craton and shows that juvenile magmatism is more common than current models for either event suggest. Notably, an inverted U or horseshoe-shaped εHf array (-15.5 to +5.0) in our zircon dataset reflects a Wilson cycle that began in the earliest Paleoproterozoic on the Rae craton.

China Alarmed by Idea of Giving Japan Tomahawk Missiles

Chinese researchers have rebutted an oped piece on USNI News that suggests supplying Tomahawk cruise missiles to Japan. Chinese experts said that the AGM-109 would pose a threat to other countries in East Asia.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Proposed Apartments in Paris, France


Titan's Kraken Mare Should NOT be There

The influence of subsurface flow on lake formation and north polar lake distribution on Titan


Horvath et al


Observations of lakes, fluvial dissection of the surface, rapid variations in cloud cover, and lake shoreline changes indicate that Saturn's moon Titan is hydrologically active, with a hydrocarbon-based hydrological cycle dominated by liquid methane. Here we use a numerical model to investigate the Titan hydrological cycle – including surface, subsurface, and atmospheric components – in order to investigate the underlying causes of the observed distribution and sizes of lakes in the north polar region. The hydrocarbon-based hydrological cycle is modeled using a numerical subsurface flow model and analytical runoff scheme, driven by a general circulation model with an active methane-cycle. This model is run on synthetically generated topography that matches the fractal character of the observed topography, without explicit representation of the effects of erosion and deposition. At the scale of individual basins, intermediate to high permeability (10−8–10−6 cm2) aquifers are required to reproduce the observed large stable lakes. However, at the scale of the entire north polar lake district, a high permeability aquifer results in the rapid flushing of methane through the aquifer from high polar latitudes to dry lower polar latitudes, where methane is removed by evaporation, preventing large lakes from forming. In contrast, an intermediate permeability aquifer slows the subsurface flow from high polar latitudes, allowing greater lake areas. The observed distribution of lakes is best matched by either a uniform intermediate permeability aquifer, or a combination of a high permeability cap at high latitudes surrounded by an intermediate permeability aquifer at lower latitudes, as could arise due to karstic processes at the north pole. The stability of Kraken Mare further requires reduction of the evaporation rate over the sea to 1% of the value predicted by the general circulation model, likely as a result of dissolved ethane, nitrogen, or organic solutes, and/or a climatic lake effect. These results reveal that subsurface flow through aquifers plays an important role in Titan's hydrological cycle, and exerts a strong influence over the distribution, size, and volatile budgets of Titan's lakes.

A Ninth Planet Would Produce a Distinctly Different Distant Kuiper Belt


Lawler et al


The orbital element distribution of trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) with large pericenters has been suggested to be influenced by the presence of an undetected, large planet at 200 or more AU from the Sun. We perform 4 Gyr N-body simulations with the currently known Solar System planetary architecture, plus a 10 Earth mass planet with similar orbital parameters to those suggested by Batygin and Brown (2016) or Trujillo and Sheppard (2014), and a hundred thousand test particles in an initial planetesimal disk. We find that including a distant superearth-mass ninth planet produces a substantially different orbital distribution for the scattering and detached TNOs, raising the pericenters and inclinations of moderate semimajor axis (50 less than a less than 500 AU) objects. We test whether this signature is detectable via a simulator with the observational characteristics of four precisely characterized TNO surveys. We find that the qualitatively very distinct Solar System models that include a ninth planet are essentially observationally indistinguishable from an outer Solar System produced solely by the four giant planets. We also find that the mass of the Kuiper Belt's current scattering and detached populations is required be 3-10 times larger in the presence of an additional planet. Wide-field, deep surveys targeting inclined high-pericenter objects will be required to distinguish between these different scenarios.

Why is NASA Signing up for the SpaceX Red Dragon Mission?

When NASA and SpaceX announced April 27 that they had modified an existing unfunded Space Act Agreement that involves the company’s “Red Dragon” Mars lander concept, it was, unsurprisingly, SpaceX that got all the attention. No company has ever flown a private Mars lander, and not even NASA has landed a spacecraft as large as SpaceX’s Dragon. Moreover, Red Dragon is the latest sign that SpaceX and its founder, Elon Musk, are serious about pursuing a long-term goal of Mars settlement.

But what’s in it for NASA? The answer might be summed up in two words: supersonic retropropulsion, a landing technology that the agency increasingly sees as critical to its own Mars goals.

Antares Rocket Rolled out for hot Fire Test

Orbital ATK’s Antares first stage with the new engines is rolled from NASA Wallops Flight Facility’s Horizontal Integration Facility to Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A on May 12, 2016 in preparation for the upcoming stage test in the next few weeks. The team will continue to work meticulously as they begin final integration and check outs on the pad and several readiness reviews prior to the test. The window for the stage test will be over multiple days to ensure technical and weather conditions are acceptable.

High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapon Capability: Boeing's add-on kit for the Mark 50 Torpedo

Boeing showed off its newest sub-killing torpedo this week at the annual Sea-Air-Space conference, a flying torpedo that will enable the Navy’s P-8 Poseidon to hunt enemy submarines from great heights.

The HAAWC, which stands for High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapon Capability, is an add-on kit for the Navy’s Mark 54 lightweight torpedo that gives the weapon the ability to glide through the air high above the clouds. Boeing is aiming to have the technology on the Navy’s submarine-hunting P-8 in 2017, according to company representatives.

The HAAWC kit turns the torpedo into a miniature jet, complete with wings, a tail and a GPS-guided navigation system. Once it nears the water, the kit peels off and the system activates a parachute that lowers the weapon to the water. The engine then starts and the torpedo begins its run toward its target.

Terminator Times #11


The Flying elephant UAV did cargo drop tests.

The British Parliament is questioning the policy for using drone strikes outside of war.

The Puma UAVs bought by USSOCOM were not up to the needed specs.

China has demo'ed supply delivery by drone.

Jordan is also developing drones.

DARPA wants to place UAVs in containers under the sea, then release them to scout at later dates.

How China organizes its UAV forces.

DARPA wants its TERN UAV to have its first flight in 2018.

DARPA also has a new UAV collaboration system.

The USMC KMAX unmanned helicopter might be used for recon as well and has arrived at Yuma for testing.

The US Navy wants to manage, not fly, UAVs.

How swarming drones could change air combat.

The Republic of Singapore has new drone squadrons

Airbus & CIAC is developing a new drone. 

There is more information on the 'Loyal Wingman' capability the USAF is developing.

The US Amy is considering hybrid electric propulsion for its next gen drones.

Portugal is buying mini drones.

Unmanned Ground Vehicles:

This Israeli robot actually packs a Glock handgun.

Here's a bit more on the Dogo.

The Marines are seeking robots that can follow orders and are working to see if they can get Marines to 'bond' to their bots.

Unmanned Surface Vehicles (Robo boats):

The US Navy and Textron are finalizing the CUSV robo boat contract.

Robo Submarines:

DARPA's SHARK program is wrapping and more here.

The US Navy is seeking more robo subs to kill mines.

The Kraken UUV has been tested.

Saab has developed an mine hunting robo sub. 

Missile Defense:

Should missile defenses have a last ditch automatic response?

Nadiya Savchenko, Imprisoned Ukrainian Pilot, Pardoned, Returned to Ukraine

Ukrainian military pilot Nadiya Savchenko arrived home to scenes of jubilation on Wednesday after her release by Russia in a prisoner swap and she promptly offered to fight again for Kiev in its conflict with pro-Russian separatists.

Savchenko's handover, in return for two Russian prisoners - had been demanded by the West and was cast as a humanitarian gesture by Russian President Vladimir Putin a few weeks before the European Union decides whether to extend sanctions against Russia imposed over its support of the rebels.

Savchenko, 35, barefoot - it was unclear why - and wearing a T-shirt depicting the Ukrainian coat of arms, emerged from the terminal at Kiev's Boryspil airport to cries of "hero" from a crowd of supporters, among them her sister and mother.

"Huge thanks for fighting for me. I thank everyone who wished me well. Thanks to you I survived. To those who wished me ill, I survived despite you!" she shouted.

Sclerocormus: a new Ichthyosauriform from Spathian Triassic China

A large aberrant stem ichthyosauriform indicating early rise and demise of ichthyosauromorphs in the wake of the end-Permian extinction


Jiang et al


Contrary to the fast radiation of most metazoans after the end-Permian mass extinction, it is believed that early marine reptiles evolved slowly during the same time interval. However, emerging discoveries of Early Triassic marine reptiles are questioning this traditional view. Here we present an aberrant basal ichthyosauriform with a hitherto unknown body design that suggests a fast radiation of early marine reptiles. The new species is larger than coeval marine reptiles and has an extremely small head and a long tail without a fluke. Its heavily-built body bears flattened and overlapping gastral elements reminiscent of hupehsuchians. A phylogenetic analysis places the new species at the base of ichthyosauriforms, as the sister taxon of Cartorhynchus with which it shares a short snout with rostrally extended nasals. It now appears that ichthyosauriforms evolved rapidly within the first one million years of their evolution, in the Spathian (Early Triassic), and their true diversity has yet to be fully uncovered. Early ichthyosauromorphs quickly became extinct near the Early-Middle Triassic boundary, during the last large environmental perturbation after the end-Permian extinction involving redox fluctuations, sea level changes and volcanism. Marine reptile faunas shifted from ichthyosauromorph-dominated to sauropterygian-dominated composition after the perturbation.

Anebodon luoi: a new Trechnotherian Symmetrodont From Lower Cretaceous China

A new symmetrodont mammal (Trechnotheria: Zhangheotheriidae) from the Early Cretaceous of China and trechnotherian character evolution


Bi et al


We report the discovery of Anebodon luoi, a new genus and species of zhangheotheriid symmetrodont mammal from the Lujiatun site of the Lower Cretaceous Yixian Formation, China. The fossil is represented by an associated partial skull and dentaries with a nearly complete dentition, and with a dental formula of I4/3 C1/1 P5/4 M3/4. This new taxon lacks the high molar count typical of derived symmetrodonts, differing from the well-represented zhangheotheriids Zhangheotherium and Maotherium in having a postcanine dental formula that resembles more primitive tinodontid symmetrodonts on the one hand, and sister taxa to therians such as Peramus on the other. Upper and lower distal premolars are strongly molariform and are captured undergoing replacement, clarifying positional homology among related taxa. We also describe the rostrum and, for the first time in a symmetrodont, much of the orbital mosaic. Importantly, our new taxon occupies a basal position within the Zhangheotheriidae and permits discussion of trechnotherian character evolution, ultimately shedding additional light on the evolution of therians.

Did India Lie About its Ballistic Missile Intercept Test?

The Hindu said the ballistic missile intercept test carried out by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on May 15 was a failure because the interceptor was not launched in the first place.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Rep Culberson Wants NASA to Launch Starship on 100th Anniversary of Apollo 11 Landing

It seems that the recently announced Breakthrough Starshot project—to send a privately funded fleet of tiny spacecraft to a nearby star—may have started a star rush. Today a senior U.S. lawmaker who helps write NASA’s budget called on the agency to begin developing its own interstellar probes, with the aim of launching a mission to Alpha Centauri, our nearest star system, in 2069—the centenary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Representative John Culberson (R–TX), a self-professed space fan who chairs the House of Representatives appropriations subpanel that oversees NASA, included the call for the ambitious voyage in a committee report released today. The report accompanies a bill setting NASA’s budget for the 2017 fiscal year, which begins 1 October; the full House appropriations panel is set to consider the bill on Tuesday.

In the report, Culberson’s panel “encourages NASA to study and develop propulsion concepts that could enable an interstellar scientific probe with the capability of achieving a cruise velocity of 0.1c [10% of the speed of light].” The report language doesn’t mandate any additional funding, but calls on NASA to draw up a technology assessment report and conceptual road map within 1 year.

SpaceX Bringing in Lawyers in Support of its 2018 Mars Mission

A manned mission to Mars is a hot topic in space, and has been for a long time. Most of the talk around it has centred on the required technology, astronaut durability, and the overall feasibility of the mission. But now, some of the talk is focussing on the legal framework behind such a mission.

Lockheed Proposals for Deep Space Exploration

At a House Space Subcommittee meeting on Capitol Hill last week, several companies laid out plans for deep space exploration. Lockheed Martin Vice President Wanda A. Sigur discussed the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle the company is building for NASA, proposed cis-lunar space operations, and a Mars base camp orbiting the Red Planet.

Orbital ATK Proposes Lunar Space Station by 2020

Orbital ATK has unveiled preliminary plans to place a four-person habitat in cislunar space by 2020. The announcement during testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Space would not only see the creation of a permanent human presence in lunar orbit by the start of the next decade, but would potentially provide a wealth of regularly-scheduled missions for SLS and Orion.

ESA Begins Building Service Module for NASA Orion Capsule

NASA and European Space Agency officials on May 19 said the European Service Module (ESM) for NASA’s Orion crew-transport vehicle was within budget and on schedule for a late-2018 inaugural flight pending a key review.

But the ESM program remains pressed for time – so much so that flight-model hardware integration is beginning before the program’s critical design review, scheduled for June 16 at ESA’s Estec facility in Noordwijk, Netherlands.

Fully loaded and fueled, the ESM will weigh about 13,000 kilograms at launch and provide Orion’s propulsion, power supply, thermal control and crew life-support elements.

It is the first time that NASA has allowed Europe to occupy such a crucial place in an astronaut-related program and signals the mutual respect between agencies that may be one of the enduring contributions of the international space station.


and more.

NASA to get $19.5 Billion in House Budget, Europa Orbiter & Lander get $260M

The House Appropriations Committee has released a spending bill that would give NASA a budget of $19.5 billion for fiscal year 2017, which is $500 million above President Barack Obama’s request. The measure boosts spending for exploration and science programs.

US Military needs to Prepare for Missile Swarms

The U.S. Air Force relies on more than 5,000 aircraft to give it unmatched dominance over every other competitor on earth. The U.S. Navy, for its part, counts on more than 3,700 aircraft and 273 deployable battle force ships, which constitute the largest and most technologically advanced sailing branch in the world.

This much is true — no country can possibly hope to challenge the United States with military means on a global scale and win. But key to America’s global strength are huge air and naval bases which are vulnerable to being overwhelmed and destroyed by swarms of precision-guided weapons in a limited, regional war.

The Navy also cannot expect its ships to survive if they come under attack by sufficiently large numbers of cruise missiles and ballistic missiles of the kind now fielded by China. While better protected from missiles than bases, the current breadth of U.S. technology and doctrine cannot compensate for this weakness.

The result is that the Pentagon must radically rethink its missile defenses, or risk serious losses in the opening hours of a future conflict. But according to a recent report, the solution could be lots of futuristic lasers, guns and electromagnetic weapons that can engage enormous numbers of incoming missiles at relatively short ranges.

General Atomics Commiting Over $50 Million to Developing its 10 MJ Railgun

General Atomics (GA) told IHS Jane's that it will have committed significant company funds to develop its 10 megajoule (MJ) Multimission Medium Range Railgun Weapon System (MMRRWS) from 2007 to the end of testing in 2017.

Speaking to IHS Jane's at the Navy League's 2016 Sea-Air-Space symposium in mid-May, company officials said that GA had committed funds in excess of USD50 million, but declined to be exact.

Tetrapod Zoology on The Maniraptor Dinosaurs Part 2

In this second article on maniraptorans, we look at the main groups that constitute this clade: you’ll need to remember the main group names if the trends and tendencies discussed in later parts of this series are to make any sense. The previous article – part 1 – looked briefly at maniraptoran origins and at the fact that maniraptorans are nested within coelurosaurian theropods. Ok, onwards…

Meemannia eos: The Earliest Known Ray-Finned Fish From Lochkovian Devonian China

Osteichthyans, or bony fishes, comprise two categories, each containing over 32,000 living species: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fishes and tetrapods) and Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes). Nevertheless, actinopterygians have an obscure early evolutionary history. The earliest definitive actinopterygian is the Middle Devonian (Eifelian) Cheirolepis, with earlier candidates generally represented by fragments subject to differing phylogenetic interpretations. By contrast, earliest Devonian deposits yield a diversity of lobe-finned fishes and recent discoveries from China extend their origin into the late Silurian.

The Early Devonian (Lochkovian) Xitun Formation of Yunnan, China, provides remarkable fossils to illustrate the evolutionary origins of individual sarcopterygian lineages, but apparently lacks any actinopterygians. Meemannia is the newest--and least understood--member of this fauna. Represented by four isolated skull roofs and a referred jaw, Meemannia presents an intriguing mosaic of characteristics: histology interpreted as a precursor to the "cosmine" of rhipidistian sarcopterygians (lungfishes plus tetrapods) combined with an undivided braincase and skull roof resembling that of actinopterygians. Previous phylogenetic analyses placed Meemannia as the earliest-diverging sarcopterygian, based on histological features.