alliance air

Trump is going against science. He’s going against reality. We can’t stand by and give aid and comfort to that. We have to do what’s right.
—  California Governor Jerry Brown, who is in China to affirm a global climate alliance.  Read more. 
Jane Austen’s Rogue One Space “Persuasion”

Jyn Erso and Captain Cassian Andor fall in love when Jyn is 19 and Cassian is 23, but Jyn’s foster father, Saw Gerrera, thinks it a bad match–the Partisans and Alliance don’t see eye to eye, and he doesn’t think highly of Cassian’s prospects for surviving anyway. Her father, Galen, is too distracted by his work to notice; her mother long ago passed away, dead from a blaster bolt. Persuaded by Saw to break off their engagement, Cassian leaves embittered and Jyn is left heartbroken.

In the intervening years, Galen is captured by the Empire, and Jyn learns the craft of guerilla warfare from Saw, but fighting wears on a person and she loses her youthful bloom, but she takes some consolation in the fact that if she has to lose the brightness of youth, she can at least replace it with righteous conviction and the steady hands of a sniper.

And when life seems settled in the very tenuous way it can only be during war, Cassian shows up again in her life, invited to Jedha to the home of Saw’s Partisan allies–former Guardians Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus.

Cassian is there as an olive branch from the Alliance to the Partisans. They need to work together to stop the removal of the Kyber crystals from the Jedi Temple on NiJedha. He seems unsurprised to see her there, but remains cold and aloof toward her.

Not unexpectedly, the Captain stirs up daydreams of romance amongst some of the younger, less hardened Partisans, including Jyn’s friend, Maia. Then there is Shara Bey, an Alliance fighter who came along with Cassian on the mission. Saw still disapproves of Cassian and thinks if he has romance on his mind, he should stick with his own kind.

During a raid of an Imperial hanger, as she is eluding a garrison of Stormtroopers on her tail, Jyn is almost blasted to bits by a thermal detonator, but Cassian pushes her away and shields her in time. He helps her to her feet but says no more than a cursory, “Are you okay?” leaving her side as soon as she nods her head yes, as though he doesn’t care for her beyond the fact that she is a fellow soldier.

But when they regroup at Chirrut and Baze’s home, his eyes betray him, she thinks. They are soft when they look at her, in a way she remembers from when she was 19, and she thinks, this is how if feels to burn.

But Maia is her friend and she seems intent on snaring Cassian’s affection, so Jyn tries to forget those eyes and focus instead on the next plan of attack. She is Saw’s right hand, after all, and her skills as a fighter are unmatched. Also, since the pact was made between the Partisans and the Alliance, she’s felt more alive than she has in year, and the fire she once had is blazing once more.

Then something goes wrong during the next raid. Jyn leaps from a building onto an Imperial transport ship,  in order to draw fire away from Shara Bey and her X-wing–the Partisans and Alliance need the little air support they can have. But then Maia, who has seen the way that Cassian has started looking at Jyn, feels emboldened and tries to follow suit. She is determined to do this. But Maia neither has the skills or the experience Jyn has, and she falls two stories to the city floor. She survives, but is in a coma for days.

Maia is left to recover under Chirrut and Baze’s care. They are assisted by a new recruit, Imperial cargo pilot and defector, Bodhi Rook.

In the meanwhile, Cassian is called back to Yavin IV, but with a caveat–he needs to bring Jyn with him. The Alliance has gotten word from Director Krennic of the Empire. He’s an old “friend” of Galen’s, he says. He’s thinking of defecting, and if he does, he will also bring Galen back with him to join the Rebellion.

Jyn is leery of Krennic, but Mon Mothma seems to have wild hopes that this could be a turning point for the Rebellion. As they fly through hyperspace, it becomes clear to Jyn that Cassian has something he wants to say to her, except that he can’t. Instead he says, “Maia. That was my fault,” but before he can finish, Jyn quiets him with a touch, tells him to be still, that Maia is her own person and that he should think of his own person now as she smears Bacta gel on a wound on his cheek. They spend the rest of the trip in silence.

As Jyn had suspected, Krennic is a liar and her father is still a hostage, and the Rebellion learns that the Empire is building a super weapon capable of destroying worlds. Jyn tries to persuade the Senators to send a fleet to Scarif to capture the plans, but they are not convinced. But Cassian is, and they form a small troop to go themselves.

They find the data file but almost die trying, but they transmit the plans. They make it out alive. But then there is more:

In the turbolift down to the waiting ship (Bodhi Rook is waiting for them–the Imperial defector is now a full-fledge rebel, and at his side is a now-recovered Maia), the lights flicker on their faces, and their physical pains are forgotten.

“Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant,” he says. “Tell me now that it’s not too late.”

And Jyn tells him the answer he’s been wanting to hear for so many years; the answer she’s wanted to give to him since she first saw his face again on Jedha. And the rest of the trip is spent in silence, but only because their mouths are otherwise occupied.

They sail off into the stars and fight for the Rebellion. They win. And they do it together.


    September 2, 2015

    A particularly impressive spectacle was seen over the Space Coast of Florida this morning. At 6:18 AM, an Atlas V 551 rocket launched from SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The 500 series core stage roared along with its five solid rocket boosters. The Centaur upper stage successfully put the Mobile User Objective System 4 (MUOS4) satellite on station. This spacecraft will remain in geosynchronous orbit, allowing our US Navy a higher bandwidth for 21st century tactical communications.

    This, being United Launch Alliance’s 99th launch, was business as usual; all except for an incredible visual display. Most of the time, launches from The Cape are accompanied by many clouds, severely limiting visibility. Not so for this launch. The rocket lifted off just before dawn, cresting the shadow of the earth as it penetrated the upper reaches of the atmosphere, showing a back-lit vapor plume expanding rapidly as it sailed skyward. The vehicle could be seen until it arced over the horizon, out of view. The sight was stunning. Never has man produced a more visually beautiful thing than rocketry.

“Next time we go to war, maybe the Alliance can spring for air support.”

Gee, Liara. I’m sorry all the Alliance war assets are tied up on literally every other front of this war that we have nothing to contribute to a planet that has adamantly tried to remain out of the fighting in a galaxy wide war. Should I call Hackett, see if maybe he’s got a gunship or two he’s been saving for a rainy day?

God I hate this line. It doesn’t even SOUND like a Liara line, but they stick it in her mouth anyway…


June 11, 2016

     I can scarcely put into words the power I felt while shooting these photos standing 1.5 miles away from the pad. The NROL-37 mission lifted off at 1:51 PM from LC-37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Its payload, a classified National Reconnaissance Office satellite, was taken aloft by the largest rocket currently operating from this planet, the Delta IV Heavy. Its three RS-68A engines burn hydrogen and oxygen at three tons per second. The expulsion of this propellant creates shockwaves that left my ears ringing after the launch. The waves hit you in your chest, popping against your clothing, shaking your bones. It was all I could do to concentrate on taking photos during this drama. All this noise is produced to launch a payload that silently ensures the national security of the United States.


Vigilant Ace 16

Members of the 25th Fighter Squadron ready A-10 Thunderbolt IIs for night operations during the first night of Vigilant Ace 16 held at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 2, 2015. Vigilant Ace 16 is a peninsula-wide readiness exercise focused on strengthening the ROK/U.S. alliance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Amber Grimm)


October 2, 2015 

     At 6:28 AM, the serenity of the predawn morning was pierced as the roar of an Atlas V 421 rocket shook Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL. The deep rumble of the RD-180 engine accompanied a sharp crackle produced by two solid rocket motors ascending into the heavens. After first stage separation, a single RL-10C engine would boost the Centaur upper stage and its payload, a Morelos-3 (MexSat 2) Mexican communications satellite, to a successful geostationary orbit.

     This auspicious occasion marked United Launch Alliance’s 100th successful flight. This impressive record began on December 14, 2006, with the launch of a Delta II vehicle from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA. Although ULA celebrates a 100% success rate, the MexSat system has not been so fortunate. Today marked the second launch attempt for this payload, the first of which ended on May 16, 2015, as its Russian Proton-M launch vehicle suffered a catastrophic failure in its third stage. The payload was lost.

     The trusty Atlas V launch vehicle, having never failed to successfully deploy a payload, was chosen for this second MexSat launch attempt. However, the Atlas V’s RD-180 engine is currently a controversial political topic. This engine is of Soviet design, tracing its heritage back to the Energia Booster that once propelled the Buran Orbiter (Russian Space Shuttle). Due to current geopolitical conditions, the US Congress has deemed these Russian engines unacceptable for use with Air Force payloads. Congress will fund a replacement for this engine. The days are numbered for this RD-180 / Atlas V combination. We will not see many more of these burning over American soil.


October 31, 2015 

     Launch schedules may yield for weather or for boats violating range safety boundaries, but not for holidays. Halloween is as good a time as any for a rocket launch. Today, an Atlas V rocket (our nation’s current space launch workhorse), made its third successful flight in less than a month. This impressive flight rate was made possible by United Launch Alliance, this being their 102nd successful flight in a row.

     The Atlas V 401 configuration lifted off from LC-41 (Launch Complex 41) at 12:13 PM EDT. Hours later, its Centaur-5-SEC upper stage was boosted to medium Earth orbit where its payload was deployed. The GPS Block IIF spacecraft was placed in a nominal semi-synchronous orbit alongside the rest its satellite constellation. This is the 11th vehicle in the constellation, and will be joined by the 12th and final satellite in early 2016. This new generation of GPS satellite requires a constellation of only 12, whereas the preceding design required 33 spacecraft. This and other improvements will make possible more accurate and less vulnerable GPS services for both military and civilian use.


August 13, 2014

      For my money, there’s no better show than a rocket launch. This Atlas V launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base today, carrying a DigitalGlobe WorldView-3 commercial earth observation satellite.

     I photographed 2.5 miles away from Space Launch Complex 3, which is the closest I’ve been to a rocket assent. The sound was incredible. It wasn’t as loud as I expected; though you don’t really hear the sound as much as you feel it. From my vantage point, with a large berm separating me from the pad, I heard the rocket before I saw it. First, as the sound travelled through the berm, I heard a deep growl. Then, as the rocket crested the hill, the growl grew more present, accompanied by a piercing crackling sound; all from the single RD-180 engine. Best sound I’ve ever heard.

     The rocket gracefully gained speed as I snapped away, starting its contrail just as it passed through the area of maximum dynamic pressure. We had a fairly dry day, and the rocket ceased to create a contrail nearly as quickly as it started. As the rocket sailed downrange, we watched for staging, but it went out of sight just beforehand. Though, we could still hear that same rumble, just quieter. Eventually, the sound went away, and we packed it up. Wonderful. Thanks, United Launch Alliance, for such a great show. 

According to the United Nations, one fifth of the Palestinians killed since Israel launched an offensive against the Gaza enclave 11 days ago are children.

The Associated Press reports:

Border areas, including the northern town of Beit Lahiya, came under heavy shelling attack. Across Gaza, the heavy thuds of tank fire could be heard through the night from Thursday to Friday, often just seconds apart.

Like many in Beit Lahiya, Abu Musallam decided to remain in his apartment with his wife and seven children even as their neighborhood came under intense artillery fire.

Eventually, the children went to sleep. The oldest, Mohammed, was in one room, and little Ahmed and his sister Walaa in another, the 40-year-old carpenter said.

At some point in the night, a tank shell hit the apartment, burying the three children under debris. Abu Musallam said he had to call for help to pull them from the wreckage. They were taken to a local hospital where each was wrapped in a white shroud and placed in the morgue’s refrigerator. Ahmed’s face was blackened from soot.

Surrounded at the hospital by a throng of relatives and his 15-year-old son Omar, the bereaved father fought back tears Friday, as he spoke about his children. He said Mohammed had worked with him in his carpentry workshop and that Ahmed was a kind boy.

The sadness then turned to anger.

Read more here.


Meet Norleen Nosri! Norleen will be our next Clay Artist-in-Residence, taking over from September 2014 - August 2015. She comes to Craft Alliance after completing her MFA in Ceramics from the University of Missouri-Columbia. 

The body of work pictured features drinking and serving vessels arranged in various compositions. Norleen creates these arrangements as a metaphor for social cohesion. Her work is rooted in the idea that art can be transformative and help both individuals and groups find meaning through making. She looks forward to continuing that community-based approach during her residency at Craft Alliance. 

Why SpaceX’s failure’s such a big deal:

After the Columbia disaster, President George W. Bush ordered the oncoming retirement of NASA’s space shuttle program. President Barack Obama completed this order and in 2011, NASA’s Atlantis space shuttle completed its last mission.

Since then, NASA’s had no vehicle with which to send astronauts to space. America had completed its retreat back to Earth.

NASA now pays Russia $70,000,000 per astronaut to allow Russia to put aside a seat for them when they launch to orbit.

Both pride, progress and the Ukrainian crises has led to pressure on NASA to finally develop a means to get astronauts to space again.

The political stance the U.S. adopted during the Russian annexation of Crimea led to intense tension between the two countries. NASA, Congress decided, could no longer consider them a reliable ally in their endeavors.

Soon after this tension built up, one of NASA’s most-used rockets, the ULA’s Atlas V rocket, was found to be using rocket engines from Russia known as RD-180′s.

NASA’s reliance on Russia went deeper than most people realized.

What’s worse is that the Air Force had only certified one company to launch their payloads to space: The United Launch Alliance (ULA).

Yes, the Air Force got their material to space due exclusively to Russian rocketry.

So you see this issue is really bad from a political standpoint, but all this…

…is actually good news.

If the ULA had been using entirely American rockets for the Air Force, I’m not sure Congress would’ve been under pressure to allow changes to the launch market. A lot of the people in Congress get lots of money from the aerospace industry (like Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the two parent companies of the ULA). 

The fact that one company had sole access to Air Force contracts for decades (yes, it was a monopoly) meant that the price to launch things to space ever since the Apollo era have only gone up. Rocket technology hasn’t really changed nor have prices dropped despite the fact that the ULA has been subsidized by U.S. taxpayers in addition to them being the only company allowed to launch Air Force (and most of NASA’s) payloads to orbit.

A month ago, SpaceX won their lawsuit against the Air Force and broke the ULA monopoly.

Both the ULA and their friends in Congress (People like Senator Shelby from Alabama) aren’t happy about this.

Additionally, NASA had to start seeking an alternate and independent method to get to space.

…and they had to do it without any significant raise in their budget.

Right now NASA’s budget is about 0.4% of the United States federal budget.

Together, President Obama and NASA came up with a plan to get NASA some new vehicles to carry their astronauts to space again - without an increased budget.

This plan is known as the Commercial Crew Program. The idea is that NASA would put some money aside to help companies seeking to make their own astronautical spaceships.

The ones showing promise would continue to get some funding and move on to the next “stage”. Eventually, NASA selected the top two competitors, Boeing and SpaceX, and awarded them contracts that contain sufficient funding to both finish their spacecrafts and carry NASA astronauts to space again.

The cost of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is about $69,000,000. This rocket will be bringing the Dragon V2 to space, a new space shuttle capable of carrying 7 astronauts. This is 1/10th the price of what NASA pays Russia to carry us into orbit.

What’s more, SpaceX has been working towards lowering the overall cost to get to space by doing something no one thought possible:

By turning their rockets into reusable vehicles, just like we reuse our cars and airplanes.

If they succeed at this then the cost will go from $10,000,000 per astronaut to get into orbit…

to just $28,571 per astronaut (the cost of fuel per person on a Falcon 9)

Yes. This would change the world.

Now, do you remember those Congresspeople and their funders from the Aerospace community?

Many of those people, for reasons beyond me, are vigorously opposed to anything the President tries to do. In addition to this, many of them aren’t happy about SpaceX’s intrusion into the previous cash cow that was the ULA monopoly on Air Force contracts.

Until SpaceX’s rocket exploded, they had an essentially perfect record and no one could stop them. Now, there’s a chink in their armor so to speak.

It’s not a big one, as space is hard and even NASA’s had their share of disasters, but I don’t expect SpaceX and the president’s political enemies to play fairly.

Even now NASA’s budget for the commercial crew contracts (which they’ve already awarded!) was cut down from the minimum requirement of $1.2 billion to $1 billion by the House and then by the Republican Senate (led largely by Ted Cruz) to $900 million.

That was before the explosion. We’ll have to see what sort of political fallout occurs now.

I’m personally still optimistic that they will make a comeback from all this, though I fully expect there to be political consequences to this setback.

(Image credit: NASA)