Friday, February 15, 2019

China is Going to Attempt More than 30 Launches in 2019

The main contractor for the Chinese space program is planning more than 30 launches in 2019, with major missions including the crucial return-to-flight of the heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket in July.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), announced Jan. 29 that it would aim to loft more than 50 spacecraft on 30-plus launches this year.

Among these will be the third launch on the Long March 5, a 5-meter-diameter, 57-meter-tall heavy-lift launch vehicle which failed in its second flight in July 2017, delaying the Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission and the construction of the Chinese Space Station.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

China Built a Satellite Ground Station in Argentina, but Reneged on Agreements After

When China built a military-run space station in Argentina’s Patagonian region it promised to include a visitors’ center to explain the purpose of its powerful 16-story antenna.

The center is now built - behind the 8-foot barbed wire fence that surrounds the entire space station compound. Visits are by appointment only.

Shrouded in secrecy, the compound has stirred unease among local residents, fueled conspiracy theories and sparked concerns in the Trump administration about its true purpose, according to interviews with dozens of residents, current and former Argentine government officials, U.S. officials, satellite and astronomy specialists and legal experts.

The station’s stated aim is peaceful space observation and exploration and, according to Chinese media, it played a key role in China’s landing of a spacecraft on the dark side of the moon in January.

But the remote 200-hectare compound operates with littleoversight by the Argentine authorities, according to hundreds of pages of Argentine government documents obtained by Reuters and reviewed by international law experts.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Paleolithic Papers #26

Genus Homo:

How our ancestors survived and adapted 250k years ago.

In the last million years, the mutation rate in the human line has greatly decreased.

Estimating Late middle Pleistocene population sizes.

Hominins may be ecologically unique.

The introgression and hybridization between modern H. sapiens and archaic hominins gets examined.

Ancient DNA from Africa has been starting to be uncovered.

H.  sapiens:

Dogs appear to have been helping hunt as far back as 11,5000 years ago.

Do few tools found mean few people were present?

The seasonal scheduling of shellfish collection from the Mesolithic and more recent are examined.

The oldest dog burial known to date has been found in the Americas dating from the end of the Pleistocene.

Why modern humans evolved different colored skin.

A femur with some unique traits, but probably from anatomically modern humans from the Niah Caves in Malaysia gets examined.

The raw materials used in stone tools in Israel by early H. sapiens is explored.

H. neanderthalensis:

The foot bones of individuals from Montignac-sur-Vézère, Dordogne, France are examined.

The introgression of Neandertals and other archaic hominids had an impact on gene expression in Eurasian populations.

Neandertal spears could be thrown successfully to kill.

Modern humans replaced Neandertals at Bajondillo Cave in Spain 44kya, surprisingly early.

Neandertals introgressing into modern human populations reintroduced alleles that were lost when the ancestors of modern eurasians left africa.

The book, The Smart Neanderthal, gets reviewed.

Neandertals appear to have, in at least a few instances, mass prey killers and then only taken the best parts, leaving the rest.  John Hawks replies.  He also discusses the mass kill site at Gran Dolina, Spain.


The Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains was occupied by Denisovans from 192,000 years to almost 52,000 years ago with a period where Neandertals were present.  Stone tools from a hominin date from 300,000 years ago, but it is not clear who made them.  The site was occupied at least until 20,000 years ago.

New unknown hominins:

There appears there is another hominin that modern people recently interbred with.

An archaic hominin from between 150k to 250k years ago had modern tooth eruption.

H. antecessor:

While similar to modern humans in many ways, H. antecessor's were very different.

H. erectus:

It appears Chinese H. erectus populations might have been diverging from Indonesian populations.

Genus Australopithecus:

The era of Australopithecus in South Africa gets a multidisciplinary examination.

Did australopithecines associate with antelope to avoid predators?

A. sediba:

A. sediba is unique species.

A. africanus:

Recently, authors suggested a specimen was of a new species of Australopithecus and resurrected an old name for A. africanus ("A. prometheus").  John Hawks discusses why this won't work.

The long limb bones of StW 573 are studied and discussed..

The bony labyrinth of StW 573 is detailed and what its implications are.

The forearm bones were asymmetrical on StW 573: could that have been a sign of antemortem trauma?

The dental wear of StW 573 was more like A. anamensis than other australopithecines.  Was this evidence it was from a different species than A. africanus?

StW 573's functional anatomy, biomechanical capabilities and potential niche are discussed in light of the new information gathered.

The site where StW 573 was found and its past investigations are detailed.

A. anamensis:

The environment A. anamensis lived in gets examined.


The central place of Africa in human evolution.

Could early hominins crossed water?

How did humans lose their hair and get sweaty?

The importance of human foot muscles to bipedalism.

A new book on the impact of tectonics on human evolution gets reviewed.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Russia's Angara 5 Rocket has a Serious Design Flaw

Scientists have discovered a defect in the engines of Russia’s new flagship heavy lift space rocket that could destroy it in flight, an apparent setback to a project President Vladimir Putin has said is vital for national security.

The Angara A5, which was test-launched in 2014, is being developed to replace the Proton M as Russia’s heavy lift rocket, capable of carrying payloads bigger than 20 tonnes into orbit. A launch pad for the new rocket is due to open in 2021.

In July, Putin said the Angara A5 had “huge significance” for the country’s defense and called on space agency Roscosmos to work more actively on it and to meet all its deadlines.

The issue with the Angara A5 was brought to attention by scientists at rocket engine manufacturer Energomash in a paper ahead of a space conference later this month.

The paper, reported by RIA news agency on Friday and published online, said the engines of the Angara A5 could produce low frequency oscillations that could ultimately destroy the rocket.

A special valve had been fitted to mitigate the issue, but in some cases the oscillations continued, it said. Energomash did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Russia Tested its Burevestnik Their Nuclear Powered Cruise Missile, on January 29, 2019

Russia conducted a partially successful test of its developmental nuclear-powered cruise missile, the Burevestnik, on January 29, 2019, according to U.S. government sources with knowledge of Russia’s weapons programs who spoke to the The Diplomat. The test took place at Russia’s Kapustin Yar missile test range and is the thirteenth to date involving the missile.

The test marks the first involving the Burevestnik in nearly one year. The missile had not been tested since February 2018. According to one source, U.S. intelligence assesses that Russia’s development efforts on the missile continues. The United States intelligence community internally calls the missile the KY30 or the SSC-X-9 SKYFALL.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

The Indian Navy is Building a new Naval Base in the Nicobar/Andaman Islands to Counter China

India’s navy will open a third air base in the far-off Andaman and Nicobar islands on Thursday to beef up surveillance of Chinese ships and submarines entering the Indian Ocean through the nearby Malacca Straits, military officials and experts said.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Pondering the Precambrian #26



The Earth's magnetic field was 10% of what it is today during the Ediacaran and the Earth's solid core may date from that period.

Evidence from Murmansk supports the weak magnetic field hypothesis during the Proterozoic.

Trace fossils from the Ediacaran have been found in Brittany, France.

Ediacaran environmental changes are recorded in Brazil.

The iodine content of the the Doushanto deposits of the Ediacaran.

Microorganisms are the source of organic carbon found in Sichuan from the Ediacaran into the Cambrian. 

It appears Cloudina and other tubular organisms from the terminal Ediacaran appear to have reproduced asexually.

There is evidence of hydrothermal activity altering various deposits during the Ediacaran.

Evidence of the breakup of Rodinia to the accretion of Gondwana in the Ediacaran from Paraguay.

A new biomarker has been found from the Cryogenian that hints at how complex life evolved after the Snowball Earth.

There was a deep marine organic reservoir in the Cryogenian.

Starting in the Cryogenian until the start of the Carboniferous, there was significant lack of impacts.  There might be evidence of the Snowball Earth via a global wiping of the impact craters from before that point, too.

Could the Great Noncomformity be due to the Snowball Earth?

The Great Noncomformity represents a 200to 300 million year gap in the depositional history of the world according to evidence from the North China Craton.

There are graphite particles in Cryogenian deposits of Nantuo.

Manganese ore deposits in South China were formed in the interglacial between the Sturtian and Marinoan glacials by microbial activity.

Is hydrothermal activity from the Tonian of the Western Australian Craton evidence of the breakup of Rodinia?


Eukaryotes diversified earlier than previously thought, starting in the Ectasian.


There was a 30 degree shift in the mafic dyke swarms during the Paleoproterozoic.

The surface conditions of at the start of the Great Oxygenation Event were anoxic.

There is evidence from the Yangtze Block that contradicts the hypothesis that there was a shutdown of plate tectonics during the PaleoProterozoic.


A coupled crust/mantle formed before 2.5 billion years ago.

Evidence from the MesoArchean to the Paleoproterozoic of Norway show how the continents were built up.

More evidence of episodic crust growth starting in the MesoArchean.

There may be EoArchean deposits in the North China craton.

Sarmatia, Pilbara, and Kaapvaal Cratons were all part of the single supercontinent Vaalbara.

There's no evidence of pre 3.95 billion year old fossils.


Did the impact with Theia provide the volatiles the Earth needed for life?

Did asteroid impacts have a central role in the formation of the original continents?


There is a 600 million year superocean cycle modulating a longer supercontinent.

Could sulfur dioxide have helped with the start of prebiotic carbohydrates?

There are biochemical hints that the last common universal ancestor - the last life form from which everything alive is descended - was not a hyperthermophile.

Reconstruction the Last Eukaryote Common Ancestor's genome to understand the evolution from the First Eukaryote Common Ancestor to the LECA.

Chunks of RNA can be formed prebioticly.

Studying algae suggest eukaryotes have received numerous DNA additions from bacteria.