Crew Dragon Demo-2 Returning

Update August 2, 2020 3:30 p.m.

SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour on deck of recovery ship GO Navigator. (August 2, 2020)

They’re back.

Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley rode Crew Dragon Endeavour down to the Gulf of Mexico, off the Pensacola coast.

They’re on SpaceX recovery shop GO Navigator, headed back to Florida.

From NASA: Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, installing a new European Drawer Rack Mark 2 in the ISS Columbus module.

Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley flew Crew Dragon Endeavour, C206, to the International Space Station on May 30. They’re leaving this afternoon.

I missed this morning’s farewell ceremony on the ISS. But NASA recorded it, so I’m a happy camper:

NASA’s live coverage starts in about a half-hour:

“…Live coverage of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 return will begin at 5:15 p.m. and continue through the targeted splashdown at 2:41 p.m. on Sunday, the first return of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft carrying astronauts from the space station. It will wrap up NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test fligh after more than two months at the International Space Station….”
(“NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2: Teams Targeting Gulf of Mexico for Splashdown,” Marie Lewis, Commercial Crew Program, NASA (August 1, 2020))

I’m embedding the NASA Live YouTube channel after listing links to stuff I’ve been looking at lately. This sort of thing fascinates me. Your experience may vary. 😉

I had, and have, more to say about the ISS, commercial spaceflight, being human and all that.

But, happily, my number-one daughter called this afternoon. We had a good talk, I’m looking forward to our next chats about Sabaton, winged hussars, psychology-sociology-psychiatry stuff and a mess of other allegedly-related topics.

Speaking of which, here’s the usual related (more or less) posts link list:

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Mars 2020 Mission Launched

I watched NASA’s Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter take off at 6:50 this morning, 11:50 UTC. (July 30, 2020)

If I heard coverage of the launch correctly, it wasn’t perfect.

The Atlas V took off a few milliseconds early.

A few hours later, a message from the spacecraft let folks on the ground know that it had gone into safe mode. Odds are that Mars 2020 got chilly while in Earth’s shadow.

The onboard computer apparently noticed that conditions weren’t as expected and shut down everything except vital systems.

United Launch Alliance Atlas V-541, carrying Mars 2020, less than a minute after launch; July 30, 2020Mission controllers are checking out the spacecraft’s ‘health.’

My guess, and hope, is that whatever triggered safe mode was a hiccup. Not a problem:

Update (July 31, 2020)

Good news. Going into safe mode was not a problem. The spacecraft got cooler than expected while going through Earth’s shadow. Non-vital systems are powered up again. And, as JPL deputy project manager Matt Wallace said, “Next stop, Jezero Crater.”

I’ll be talking about the Mars 2020 mission, the first Martian helicopter, biosignatures and the MOXI experiment. Later.

Today I’ll say that “ULA” stands for United Launch Alliance, an American launch service provider; and talk about peanuts.

JPL’s Peanut Tradition

JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) control room. Photo by Alan Mak. (2005)The folks who anchored the NASA/JPL online video coverage explained why peanuts are on the snack menu for JPL missions.

Seems that back in the day, Rangers 1 through 6 failed. Then, finally, Ranger 7 hit Earth’s moon, sending back pictures.

The folks at JPL noticed that they’d had peanuts available during the Ranger 7 mission, but not during the first six.

From then on, they made a point of having peanuts available.

Superstition? Maybe. But JPL’s peanut tradition doesn’t strike me as “the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes” that’s a bad idea. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2111)

Besides, there’s a pandemic and a presidential election in progress. Promoting peanut peril seems paltry.

“…Let’s Keep Going”

ESA's David Parker, toasting the Mars 2020 launch.
(From NASA, via YouTube, used w/o permission.)
(ESA’s David Parker, toasting the launch: “…let’s keep going” (July 30, 2020))

The Mars 2020 mission launched from Florida, on an American vehicle run by an American launch service. I think of it as an American mission. A partly American mission.

The Perseverance rover will be leaving core samples for a later mission’s rover to pick up and load into a surface-to-orbit vehicle. A robotic cargo ship will take them back to Earth.

The last I heard, Airbus has the contract for building what they call “the first interplanetary cargo ship.”

I’m glad that quite a few Americans and my country’s government haven’t lost interest in one of this era’s major developments.

I’m also glad that we’re cooperating with folks in other nations. And, being human, competing. Which can be healthy. And that’s another topic.

Finally, I can’t be sure: but I think that’s a model of Thunderbird 1, from Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s old Thunderbirds series, on Mr. Parker’s shelf. We’ve come long way since my youth. And I think the last half century is just the beginning:

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COVID-19 and Minnesota Masks

Good news: the SARS-CoV-2 virus isn’t killing us nearly as fast as it was in April, May and the first part of June.

Bad news: the COVID-19 pandemic is still in progress. Minnesotans are still dying. So are folks in other states and nations.

We can’t cure the disease. We’re not sure exactly how it affects us. Neither of which is odd, since it’s a previously-unknown virus.

There is, however, quite a bit we can do to help each other. If we use our brains.

COVID-19, Minnesota and Me

Minnesota Masks: Executive Order 20-81

'Peter Vang and Tanaya Walker Vang of Shoreview take shelter from the rain on May 17 after shopping at the St. Paul Farmers' Market....' Christine T. Nguyen/MPR News
(From Christine T. Nguyen/MPR News, used w/o permission.)
(Masked Minnesotans in the rain. (May 17, 2020))

Minnesota’s mask mandate: What you need to know
Dan Kraker, Sara Porter; MPR (Minnesota Public Radio)
(July 22, 2020; updated July 23, 2020)

“After calls from public health officials and several days of signaling support for a statewide mask order, Gov. Tim Walz Wednesday finally issued a rule requiring people to wear masks or face coverings in public indoor spaces in Minnesota.

“More than half of U.S. states have issued similar mandates. So have most major Minnesota cities, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, Duluth, Rochester and St. Cloud. …”

Emergency Executive Order 20-81 goes into effect at 11:59 pm Friday. In practical terms, that’s really early Saturday morning: July 25, 2020.

EEO 20:81 defines a face covering as something that covers the mouth and nose. But not those which have features that let droplets out. On the other hand, “a religious face covering” that keeps the wearer from infecting others is included.

That last point seems likely to inspire conspiracy theories. I’ll get back to that.

Executive Order 20-81 doesn’t require face masks everywhere.

For example, I could sit on my front stoop this Saturday without a mask and not be a scofflaw. Partly because I’d be well over six feet from the sidewalk.

Pretty much anywhere else that’s not inside my house, though, I’ll be wearing a mask.

Folks with medical and/or psychiatric conditions that make breathing difficult, or would prevent them from removing a mask, needn’t use face masks. Provided that they stop exhaled droplets with some other tech.

Kids five years old and under are exempt, too.

Common Sense

The masked Minnesotan, Brian H. Gill.I’m pretty sure I’m not an exempt individual by Executive Order 20-81’s standards.

My medical records include an impressive list of maladies. But none make wearing a face mask more than uncomfortable in hot weather. Very uncomfortable when it’s hot and humid.

In any case, the new rules won’t affect me.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I didn’t get out nearly as much as many folks.

With a potentially-lethal disease in the air, figuratively and sometimes literally, I’m inside even more than usual. Partly because I’m in at least two high-risk groups: comparatively old, with bothersome health issues.

And partly because I don’t see a point in risking my neighbors’ health. Which doesn’t make wearing a face mask a badge of virtue for me.

Apart from my household, nearly all my social activity is online.

Whether or not I’m an introvert depends on semantics. I’ve been called a loner, but not shy or reticent. I enjoy interacting with others, and enjoy thinking about data I’ve found.

So — wearing a minimally-bothersome face mask, practicing social distancing and generally acting as if the COVID-19 pandemic is real? For me, it’s just practicing common sense.

Or, from another viewpoint, wearing a face mask brands me as a sheeple: one of those dim dupes who don’t believe that COVID-19 is a conspiracy.

Watching the Weirdness

Wannabe Prophets and Need-to-Know

Albrecht Dürer, '...The Sea Monster and the Beast with the Lamb's Horn.'
(From Albrecht Dürer, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Dürer’s “The Revelation of St John: 12. The Sea Monster and the Beast with the Lamb’s Horn.” (ca. 1498))

I’m slightly surprised, but not disappointed, that none of the ‘End Times Bible Prophecies’ flickering through my social media feeds have gotten traction.

Not that I’ve noticed, anyway.

I talked about diadems, attempted divination and Ezekiel’s spaceships a few months back. And shared my strictly-for-laughs spiritual conspiracy theory involving Revelation 13, etymology and cruise ships. (March 31, 2020)

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a Christian and a Catholic.

I’m convinced that Jesus is alive, and will return. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 668679)

The timetable and details of the Final Judgement are apparently available on a ‘need to know’ basis. The Second Person of the Trinity didn’t need to know, so I sure don’t.

I’ve read what our Lord said about trying to second-guess headquarters about the Parousia. (Matthew 24:3644, 25:13; Mark 13:3233)

Besides, I’m not qualified to make God-level decisions. And that’s another topic. Topics.

The Paranoids are After Me!!!

Great Seal of the United States, reverse side, colorized.Glitchy thinking isn’t limited to America’s traditional End Times Bible Prophecies and other religion-themed goofiness.

I haven’t found a comprehensive and reliable list or discussion of COVID-19 conspiracy theories.

Most likely because the pandemic’s less than a year old. I’m guessing that it takes time for conspiracy buffs to work out widely-accepted alternate realities.

Plus, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is new.

Scientists, and the rest of us, are on a steep learning curve. That can be, and arguably is, unsettling. Particularly when we’re dealing with, and dying from, an incurable disease.

Conspiracy Theories: the Usual Suspects

'At the Sign of the UNHOLY THREE' cartoon, warning against fluoridated water, polio serum and mental hygiene. And 'communistic world government.' (1955)So far, COVID-19-themed conspiracy theories seem to be the usual ‘it is a Jewish/Muslim/American/Chinese/whatever plot’ thing.

With the usual ‘vaccinations are bad’ trimmings. That’s a can of worms I’ll leave for another day.

I ran into an interesting and apparently-informed piece about folks who believe conspiracy theories:

One takeaway from the op-ed, my opinion, is that nobody’s immune to screwball beliefs. Including me.

Someone who’s smart, or a white-collar worker, or living in a ‘nice’ neighborhood can be just as convinced that shape-shifting space-alien lizard-men are behind the Illuminati-Masonic-Pixie cabal as some guy living in part of a trailer.

Tanya Basu’s piece has a 10-point ‘how to talk to a conspiracy believer’ list. Here’s a quick summary:

  1. Always, always speak respectfully
  2. Go private
  3. Test the waters first
  4. Agree. Remember the kernel of truth?
  5. Try the “truth sandwich”
  6. Or use the Socratic method
  7. Be very careful with loved ones
  8. Realize that some people don’t want to change, no matter the facts
  9. If it gets bad, stop
  10. Every little bit helps
    (Source: Tanya Basu, Technology Review (July 15, 2020))

I think it makes sense. Maybe because number eight is like my ‘my mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts’ quip.


Grant Hamilton's 'Cross of Gold' cartoon, printed in Judge magazine. (1896)There’s a political angle to many discussions of COVID-19. Most discussions, maybe.

That’s hardly surprising, since a presidential election’s coming up.

I said that I’m complying with Executive Order 20-81, so maybe I’d better explain.

I do not think Minnesota Governor Walz can do no wrong, or that all who oppose him are fascists.

I am not complying because I fear that Minnesota has fallen to Islamic jihadists, and want to placate my masters.

I will continue wearing a face mask when and where appropriate, and keeping my public jaunts to a minimum, because I think it’s a good idea.

I also think it’s required by law in my state. And that this is one of those happy occasions when what’s legal and what’s right are parallel.

More-or-less-related posts:

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Back at Mass

It’s been about four months since I’ve been at Mass.

I don’t like that. But I see no point in kvetching about the COVID-19 pandemic, or blaming Minnesota’s governor for trying to keep Minnesotans alive, or our bishop for cooperating with the governor.

Mass is important. Vital. It’s the heart of Catholic worship. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1324)

But there’s more to being Catholic than getting to Mass once a week. And this isn’t the first time something’s interfered with our access to the Eucharist. We’ve got procedures for this sort of thing. Like Spiritual Communion. (April 4, 2020; March 21, 2020)

The masked Minnesotan.My obligations include protecting human life and upholding the common good. (Catechism, One/Two/Article 2 Participation in Social Life/II: The Common Good, 25582300)

That’s why I’ve been wearing a face mask in public, and avoid being in public except when it’s necessary.

Wearing a face mask during Mass wasn’t nearly as bothersome as my worst-case imaginings. The process of getting the mask off, receiving the Eucharist in my hand, transferring the Host to my mouth and resetting the mask was as intricate as it sounds. But not overly difficult.

Reason to Hope

This Sunday’s first Bible reading was Wisdom 12:13, 1619. Two things jumped out at me.

“For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved;
and in those who know you, you rebuke insolence.”

“You taught your people, by these deeds,
that those who are righteous must be kind;
And you gave your children reason to hope
that you would allow them to repent for their sins.”
(Wisdom 12:17, 19)

God is large and in charge.

“Our God is in heaven
and does whatever he wills.”
(Psalms 115:3)

And God is merciful.

“Indeed, before you the whole universe is like a grain from a balance,
or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.
“But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things;
and you overlook sins for the sake of repentance.
(Wisdom 11:2223)

Being allowed to repent for my sins? I like that. I like that a lot.

It’s been a while since I talked about sin. And how I’m supposed to live.

I should love God and my neighbor. And see everyone as my neighbor. No exceptions. Sin is what happens when I fail to do that. Sin is an offense against reason, truth and God. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640, Mark 12:2831; Luke 10:2537; Catechism, 1706, 1776, 1825, 18491851, 1955)

Believing that I should love God and neighbors is a good idea. So is acting like I believe it.

I’ve talked about this sort of thing before:

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