Secret In The Sky

Round and round the Earth it goes, who or what it’s spying on very few people know.

Delta 4 rocket successfully lofts surveillance satellite

A Delta 4 rocket made a thunderous departure from California on Tuesday afternoon, only to slip into a news blackout minutes later while it climbed higher and faster to deploy a classified spy satellite, a success-defining milestone that was confirmed by hobbyist observers.

The United Launch Alliance-made booster roared away from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 4:12:57 p.m. local (7:12:57 p.m. EDT; 2312:57 GMT) on a southwesterly course to reach a retrograde orbit inclined 123 degrees relative to the equator.

. . .

The hush-hush nature for the rest of flight is all part of launching covert payloads for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, the secretive agency that operates the country’s fleet of spy satellites. The NRO does not disclose the purpose of its spacecraft being sent up on each launch, saying only that the flight was called the NROL-25 mission.

See also:
Rocket Launches Secret Spy Satellite for US Military
United Launch Alliance Delta IV Rocket Successfully Launches Payload for the National Reconnaissance Office
United Launch Alliance Delta IV Rocket Successfully Launches Payload for the National Reconnaissance Office
US launches new spy satellite NROL-25
Delta 4 lifts off
Spy satellite-carrying rocket blasts off
U.S. rocket carrying classified payload launches
ULA Successfully Launches Delta IV Rocket
Rocket carrying classified payload launches from California’s central coast
Rocket launch includes key parts from Utah’s ATK sites
List of NRO Launches
National Reconnaissance OfficeNational Reconnaissance Office

According to the listed launch designation, NROL-25 is a radar imaging satellite operating in a retrograde low Earth orbit.

/if I had to guess what it’s looking at, I’d guess Iran

It Came From Central Asia

How it got here or why it’s suddenly all over the news this week, well, your guess is as good as mine. But apparently, whatever you do, if you see one, don’t touch it and run for your lives!

Giant Weed Can Cause Blisters, Even Blindness

Call it the import that nobody wants.

Experts are urging residents of several states to beware of the “giant hogweed,” a tall plant native to Central Asia with umbrella-size flowers containing toxic sap that can cause burns, blisters and, in some cases, even blindness.

“Avoid it at all cost,” Jodi Holt, a professor of plant physiology at University of California, Riverside, told ABC News.

“The sap causes something called phytophotodermatitis when it touches humans,” causing scars and potentially blindness if it comes into contact with the eyes, Holt said. Some cases of blindness occurred after children used the hollow stalks as telescopes.

Heracleum Mantegazzianum, as hogweed is botanically known, is already a concern in the Northeast and spreading fast. Patches of giant hogweed have also been sighted in the Pacific Northwest.

See also:
Summer Plant from Hell: Giant Hogweed Can Burn, Scar and Blind You
Look out for Giant Hogweed
Giant worries over hogweed
Avoid Giant Hogweed: Noxious plant can cause blindness
Blistering, blinding weed creeps toward a city near you
Beware giant hogweed and its burning, blinding sap
Hogweed poses serious threat to New York citizens
Giant Hogweed Invades NY! This Weed Can Burn You, But Probably Won’t Eat You
What’s going on here? DEC to address hogweed problem in Springwater
Giant hogweed gone wild along Thames
Giant hogweed: 8 facts you must know about the toxic plant

I must confess, up until this week’s out of nowhere media blitz, despite years of extensive Boy Scout training, I’d never even heard of this marauding botanical menace.

/except as an early Genesis song

World’s Ugliest Dog I Am

And the 2011 winner is . . . Yoda!

Yoda is world’s ugliest dog

Yoda’s short tufts of hair, protruding tongue, and long, seemingly hairless legs were enough to earn it the World’s Ugliest Dog title at a Northern California fair.

The 14-year-old Chinese crested and Chihuahua mix won the honour at the annual contest at the Sonoma Marin Fair.

Owner Terry Schumacher of Hanford, California, says the 2lb (900-gram) dog has come a long way since she was found abandoned behind an apartment building. Ms Schumacher says she first thought the pooch was a rat.

See also:
She’s a bit ruff! Chinese-crested Chihuahua mix wins the World’s Ugliest Dog title
1.8 Pound Mutt Claims the 2011 World’s Ugliest Dog (R) Title at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma Tonight
Chinese crested from Hanford wins 23rd annual World’s Ugliest Dog Contest
Meet Yoda, the world’s ugliest dog
The World’s Ugliest Dog is announced.. as Yoda
14-yr-old chihuahua named Yoda wins ‘world’s ugliest dog’ title
Yoda crowned the world’s ugliest dog
World’s Ugliest Dog Crowned, Might Be So Ugly It’s Cute
Ugliest Dog Contest: Chinese Crested Chihuahua Mix Takes Top Prize
Pictures: 2011 World’s Ugliest Dog Contest
Yoda crowned world’s ugliest dog
World’s Ugliest Dog® Contest
World’s Ugliest Dog Contest

Congratulations to Yoda, but she may as well be Miss Universe compared to previous World’s Ugliest Dog winners like 2007’s Elwood . . .

. . . or three time champion Sam.

Hoo boy, them there dogs been beaten silly with the ugly stick!

/I’ll stick to cats

Education Out Of Control

Is it just me or does anyone else find it extremely disturbing that the U.S. Department of Education has their own heavily armed entry teams breaking down the doors of private residences and conducting S.W.A.T. style police raids?

Education Department S.W.A.T. team raids California home

A S.W.A.T. team with orders from the U.S. Department of Education broke into a California home at 6 a.m. Tuesday and reportedly roughed up a man because of a student aid issue involving his estranged wife. His wife was not present.

In 2010, the Post’s Valerie Strauss reported that the Education Department was purchasing 27 Remington Brand Model 870 police 12-gauge shotguns to replace old firearms used by Education’s Office of Inspector General, which is the law enforcement arm of the department. DoE said the guns were necessary to help enforce “waste, fraud, abuse, and other criminal activity involving Federal education funds, programs, and operations.”

Kenneth Wright says his house was raided because of his wife’s unpaid loans. One blogger speculated that we finally know what those guns are being used for.

But the Department of Education told Reason Magazine Wednesday that the SWAT team raided the house because of a criminal investigation, not a student loan.

See also:
Failure to pay student loan brings SWAT team kicking in debtor’s door
SWAT Team Raids Man’s Home Over Student Loans
Federal agents search Stockton home
‘Unpaid Student Loan’ Raid Claim Refuted as Feds Target California Couple in Fraud Probe
Feds defend Department of Education raid on a home
OK, Education Dept. raid is not a hallmark of liberty
These Are the Charges That Require the Department of Education to Send a Dozen Armed Agents to Kick Through Your Front Door
DoE Releases Partial Search Warrant Related to Yesterday’s Raid
Update on Department of Education SWAT raid in Stockton
Reading, Writing, Breaking, Entering
Office of Inspector General

You know, I don’t really care why a U.S. Department of Education S.W.A.T. team is breaking down doors and conducting raids. What I care about is that the U.S. Department of Education has a S.W.A.T. team and law enforcement arm in the first place. Seriously, what the hell, isn’t conducting raids and making arrests like this why we already have the FBI?

This is totally out of control and way beyond the pale, is this what legislators had in mind when they set up the Department of Education in 1979, military style police raids on private residences? The U.S. Department of Education is operating well beyond it’s original mandate. The DoE should be abolished, we’d save billions of dollars annually and it wouldn’t even be missed.

/when I graduated from high school, there was no Federal Department of Education and we all survived and made it through school just the same, and arguably with a better education too

E.T. No Phone Home

Now space aliens can call Earth all they want, no one’s listening anymore.

SETI Shutters Search For Alien Life

Diminished funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the state of California has shut down the SETI Institute’s search for extraterrestrial life.

The institute has taken its Allen Telescope Array (ATA) offline while it seeks other sources of funding, it said in a letter to donors last week. In operation since 2007, the 42-radio antenna array–housed at the University of California Berkeley Hat Creek Radio Observatory–scans space for signs of extraterrestrial life.

See also:
SETI Institute suspends search for alien signals
SETI Institute to shut down alien-seeking radio dishes
Search for extraterrestrial life faces setback with SETI telescope ‘hibernation’
SETI shelves search for intelligent life
SETI puts E.T. on hold
Budget Cuts Shutter SETI’s Search for Aliens
SETI hunt for alien life put on hold
Alien finding institute Seti runs out of cash to operate telescope
SETI Search Halted as Allen Telescope Array Lacks Funding
Budget Cuts Shutdown SETI’s Alien-Seeking Telescopes
SETI Institute to shut down alien-seeking radio dishes
SETI Institute
SETI Institute

SETI Institute has been in existence for over 25 years and, so far, haven’t found any evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence. California has enough of a gigantic budget shortfall without having to spend money on, arguably, frivolous programs like SETI. If private donors want to pay for it, fine, more power to them, just leave the taxpayers’ public teat out of the funding equation.

/let’s hope E.T. doesn’t now suddenly decide to phone home and then get pissed off at us when there’s no answer

Stardust Memories

A mission well played and an efficient use of taxpayer money too. They wrung every last bit of scientific data out of every last dollar.

Lights go out on NASA’s Stardust comet mission

Fresh off a bonus flyby of comet Tempel 1 in February, NASA’s Stardust spacecraft fired its four main engines for more than two minutes Thursday, draining its fuel tank as managers said goodbye to the well-traveled comet chaser after more than 12 years in space.

With Stardust’s single hydrazine fuel tank emptied, the craft lost its ability to control its orientation and the probe’s solar panels were expected to lose track of the sun, and officials anticipated the mission’s battery charge would be exhausted within hours.

Stardust was also programmed to turn off its radio transmitters about 20 minutes after the burn, just in case it might interfere with some future mission using the same frequency.

NASA announced the last transmission from Stardust was received at 7:33 p.m. EDT (2333 GMT) Thursday. Officials monitored the burn from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and issued commands from the Lockheed Martin Corp. mission support center in Denver.

See also:
NASA and Lockheed Martin Say Goodbye to Historic Stardust Spacecraft
NASA’s Venerable Comet Hunter Wraps Up Mission
NASA’s Stardust: Good to the Last Drop
Inside NASA’s Space Funeral for the Comet-Hunting Stardust Probe
NASA kills off comet hunter
Comet-hunting spacecraft shuts down after 12 years
NASA Retires Comet-Hunter Stardust
NASA’s Stardust set to ‘burn to depletion’
NASA’s stardust empties its tank after 12 years
NASA’s ‘Comet Hunter’ Heads Off Into The ‘Sunset’
Stardust – NASA’s Comet Sample Return Mission
NASA – Stardust
Stardust (spacecraft)

Hopefully they put some type of return address on it.

/maybe, like a note in a bottle, something out there will find Stardust and bring it back home, as long as they’re good aliens that come in peace

The Navy Gets A Drone . . .

. . . the Navy gets a drone, Fly-Fer the carrier, the Navy gets a drone.

Navy unveils new bat-winged stealth bomber; unmanned X-47B is military’s deadliest new drone

An unmanned, bat-winged stealth bomber made its first demo flight in California, marking the first step in the Navy’s development of a new generation of killer drones.

The experimental warplane, named the X-47B, took off from Edwards Air Force base, shot to 5,000 feet and flew a racetrack pattern over a dry lakebed during the 29-minute demo flight on Friday, the Navy said in a statement.

“Today we got a glimpse towards the future as the Navy’s first-ever tailless, jet-powered unmanned aircraft took to the skies,” said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, the program manager for the plane, said in a statement.

Military leaders see the plane as a major shift from the current fleet of robotic aircraft.

Combat drones are usually controlled remotely by human pilots, but the X-47B can carry out extended missions controlled by a computer and is designed to fly faster and farther than existing jets, like the Predators and Reapers used in Afghanistan.

It’s also the first drone capable of taking off and landing aboard an aircraft carrier in the ocean.

See also:
X-47B Sorties Ramping Up
Northrop’s X-47B robotic jet makes first flight from Edwards Air Force Base
U.S. Navy X-47B unmanned aircraft successfully conducts first flight
X-47B stealth drone takes its first test flight
X-47B Unmanned Stealth Bomber’s Maiden Flight
Lockheed Martin Supports U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman in X-47B UCAS-D Successful First Flight
Unmanned X-47B bomber successfully completes first test-flight
X-47B unmanned Stealth Bomber performs successful maiden flight
GKN Aerospace partners with U.S. Navy, Northrop Grumman for X-47B first flight
New, stealthy Navy drone makes its maiden flight
Robot X-47B stealth bomber test flight
Northrop Grumman Demonstrates Unmanned X-47B Plane
X-47B UCAS
Northrop Grumman X-47B

Well, the X-47B is certainly going to take up a lot of space on board a carrier, without the ability to contribute anything towards carrier defense.

/they’re probably looking forward to using it in conjunction with the CVX Next Generation Aircraft Carrier

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