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Last week, the world was riveted by the successful rescue of a youth soccer team as they and their coach were pulled out of a flooded cave in Thailand. The team had been stranded on a narrow rock shelf in the dark for two weeks, the way out blocked by turbid stormwater. The rescue involved far more than a few divers putting on gear and heading into the cave—it required a tremendous amount of technical skill and posed extreme danger.
But why, exactly, was it so dangerous? And what would it feel like to dive in those kinds of conditions?
I’m a professional diver with 16 years of dive experience, including safety diving and cave diving, and I have trained numerous scuba instructors. I also work full-time in a safety diving role, so answering the first question from a technical perspective is easy enough. The short answer is that all cave diving is dangerous (we'll dig into why below).
Having worked through its fleet of used Block 4 rockets, SpaceX will now transition into flying its more advanced Block 5 variant of the Falcon 9 rocket full time. As early as 1:50am ET (05:50 UTC) Sunday, SpaceX will attempt to launch the Telstar 19V satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The mission has a four-hour launch window.
This will be the second launch of the new version of its Block 5 rocket. The first one had a flawless debut on May 11, and the first stage made a safe return to a drone ship, as expected. Since then, SpaceX engineers have been assessing how that Block 5 core, optimized for reusability, actually performed during that flight.
“We are going to be very rigorous in taking this rocket apart and confirming our design assumptions to be confident that is indeed able to be reused without taking apart,” Musk said in May, at the time of the first Block 5 flight. “Ironically, we need to take it apart to confirm it does not need to be taken apart.”
A serious issue appears to have occurred during preparations for Boeing's test of the Starliner spacecraft and its launch abort system, three sources have told Ars. However, a company spokeswoman for the Starliner program did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the test, which was due to take place in White Sands, New Mexico, about three weeks ago.
The pad abort test is a necessary part of certifying spacecraft for flight, as it ensures the ability of the spacecraft to pull rapidly away from its rocket in the case of some emergency during liftoff or ascent into space. One person familiar with the incident in New Mexico said, "This is why you test these things now, rather than with people on board."
Despite the lack of information from Boeing, industry sources indicated that some kind of failure occurred prior to the test, damaging some of the infrastructure at the test site.
Microsoft plans to extend IntelliSense code analysis for Python to tools beyond Visual Studio, using its Python Language Server. IntelliSense provides autocompletions for variables, functions, and other symbols that appear as developers type code.
Available as a beta in the July release of the Python extension for Visual Studio, the Python Language Server will be offered later this year as a standalone component for use with tools that support the Language Server Protocol. That protocol lets editing tools and IDEs support multiple languages.
On Thursday, a US District judge dismissed a lawsuit from the City of New York against major oil companies BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Shell. New York City had alleged that the oil majors created a nuisance by actively promoting oil use for decades, even after they were presented with significant and reliable information showing that catastrophic effects from climate change would result. The judge didn't dispute the effects of climate change, but he did dispute (PDF) that courts exercising state law could remedy the situation.
In the January complaint, NYC demanded that the oil majors pay for the costs of adapting to climate change, like expanding wastewater storage areas, building new pumping facilities to prevent flooding, and installing new infrastructure to weather storms. The city stated that the oil companies named in the suit were responsible for more than 11 percent of carbon and methane emissions that had built up in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, more than all other individual industrial contributors.
The oil companies didn't dispute that, and neither did the judge. As early as the mid-1980s, the judge's opinion states, "Exxon and other major oil and gas companies, including Mobil and Shell, took actions to protect their own business assets from the impacts of climate change, including raising the decks of offshore platforms, protecting pipelines from coastal erosion, and designing helipads, pipelines, and roads in the warming Arctic."
Planets don't sit still. The seemingly stable orbits of our Solar System could easily give the impression that once a planet forms, it tends to stay in orbit where it started. But evidence has piled up that our Solar System probably isn't as stable as we'd like to think, and many of the exosolar systems we've now seen can't possibly have formed in their current state. In a few cases, we've spotted stars that contain elements that were probably delivered by a planet spiraling in.
Now, scientists may have caught the process while it was happening. A star that dimmed for a couple years has somehow ended up with 15 times the iron it had in earlier observations, suggesting it ran into a planet or a few smaller planet-forming bodies.Not so stable
If you were to take the current configuration of the Solar System and run it forward a million years, nothing much would change—all the planets would be in the same orbits they started in. But run it forward a few billion years and strange things can happen. The orbital setup is chaotic, and future changes are very sensitive to the starting conditions. In addition, many of the features of the Solar System are hard to explain using planetary formation models, leading to the proposal of the Grand Tack, in which a much younger Jupiter migrated inward toward the Sun before being dragged out to its current position by Saturn.
One of the stranger conspiracy theories against climate science is that corporate interests are pulling all the strings so that “Big Green” can get rich from action against climate change. Of course, it’s no secret that industries related to fossil fuels have lobbied for the exact opposite, pushing to avoid any significant climate policy.
So what do American industries spend to lobby Congress on this issue?
Drexel University’s Robert Brulle used lobbying reporting laws to find out. Not every penny spent on persuading congresspeople has to be reported—and a lot of political activities, like think tank funding, don’t count as lobbying. But spending on lobbying itself has been tracked in the US since a 1995 law mandated it. Brulle was able to sift through climate-related expenditures between 2000 and 2016, sorting the entities into groups.
KOUROU, French Guiana—White light flooded in through large windows behind Alain Charmeau as he mused about the new age of rocketry. The brilliant sunrise promised another idyllic day in this beach town, but outside the sands remained untroubled by the feet of tourists.
Lamentably, the nearshore waters of this former French colony are chocolate rather than azure, muddied by outflow from the Amazon River. French Guiana has other compensating assets, however. It lies just 5.3 degrees north of the equator. Neither tropical cyclones nor earthquakes threaten the area. And its coast offers untrammeled access to both the east and north. These natural gifts have helped this remote region become one of the world’s busiest spaceports.
From here, Europe has established a long but largely unheralded history in the global rocket industry. Nearly three decades ago, it became the first provider of commercial launch services. If your company or country had a satellite and enough money, Europe would fly it into space for you. Remarkably, more than half of all telecom satellites in service today were launched from this sprawling spaceport.
Welcome to Edition 1.09 of the Rocket Report! This week, we have several stories about the small-satellite launch race going global. There is also coverage of Blue Origin's daring launch and success for Europe in French Guiana with the test of a critical new solid rocket booster.
As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.
Blue Origin continues to stringently test New Shepard. During its ninth flight test, Blue Origin engineers subjected New Shepard to a high-altitude escape motor test. Both the rocket, which had already separated from the capsule, and the spacecraft itself passed the test with flying colors. The escape motor firing pushed the spacecraft to a record high altitude of 119km.