Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Mars Rover Inspects Beagle Crater

Leonard David
Senior Space Writer

Those industrious robots on Mars--NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers--remain on duty as they gather new science data from their respective spots on the red planet.

Opportunity has just concluded a survey of Beagle Crater, a relatively young feature, said William Farrand, a research scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. He is also a member of the Mars Exploration Rover science team.
Farrand told that Beagle is named after the ship, H.M.S. Beagle, that naturalist Charles Darwin served on.
Over the weekend, Opportunity's Panoramic Camera was busy collecting a color sweep of Beagle Crater and its blanket of tossed out material. "So that should make for a pretty spectacular data product when all the full frame scenes are finally downlinked," Farrand said. In addition, Opportunity ground handlers snagged multispectral views of the scene. In addition, by using the robot's Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrometer (Mini-TES), data on the mineralogy of rocks and soils at Beagle was obtained, he said.

Opportunity will next be examining a banded ripple and then resume its drive towards Victoria crater, Farrand said. The 115-foot (35-meter) Beagle Crater and the rover are both about 1,837 feet (560 meters) from the rim of Victoria.Victoria Crater is nearly half a mile (800 meters) in diameter. That's nearly six times wider than Endurance Crater, the feature that Opportunity explored for several months in 2004 studying rock layers affected by ancient water. Victoria

"Everybody on the team is pretty excited about the prospect of getting to Victoria crater," Farrand added. When the robot pulls up to that feature, scientists are expecting to see something like 65 feet (20 meters) of stratigraphic section exposed on the walls within Victoria. "That will give us a deeper view into the past history of Meridiani Planum than we got at Endurance crater or any of the other craters examined to date on the mission," Farrand explained.


The rovers have been exploring Mars for just over 30 months.
They had a planned lifetime of 92 days. (90 Martian days).

While that's cool enough, that we're exploring another planet all Star Trek-like, and that the rovers are still going strong although they're the human equivalent of 700 years old, another thought did cross my nationalistic and Anglocentric mind.

America built, delivered, and safely landed two exceptionally reliable rovers to ANOTHER PLANET. In that we are not alone, as most large European nations, plus Japan, Russia, and Australia, could and/or have done similar feats, but it's a pretty small list compared to the world as a whole, and the U.S. are acknowledged by all to be # 1 on that list.

On the other hand, we are witnessing now in Israel the deployment of a related technology, Hezbollah's Iranian rockets.
Now, Iran has to be considered one of the Middle East's most technologically proficient nations, simply because they're widely considered to be capable of building atomic weapons, which while fairly simple to design, aren't easy to build.
(And perhaps I should note that although they're capable of executing assembly, they wouldn't be anywhere near to atomic weaponry except for the help, directly and indirectly, of China, France, and Russia).

And yet, the rockets that they've supplied to Hezbollah are stunningly ineffective. (Not unlike the Soviet-made Syrian anti-aircraft missiles that failed to bring down even a single Israeli aircraft during Israel's invasion of Lebanon in '82, although they did manage to kill several people on the ground when they fell back to Earth. But I digress).

Hezbollah has launched over 3100 rockets, and has managed to kill a mere 50 Israelis thereby, for a kill ratio of over 60 rockets/fatality. (That stinks out loud. Is Iran satisfied with spending at least a half-million dollars per random Israeli death ?)
These rockets are unguided, and of a design that was obsolete 40 years ago.
Poster "Susan's Husband" could design and assemble something similar in his backyard, given the materials and a deathwish.

So, that's the contrast. We are making science fiction into science fact, and the best that their best can do is to copy a design that was state-of-the-art during the Korean War era.

While there will continue to be turmoil day-to-day, and many people will die during the Arab societies' death throes, the ultimate outcome is in no doubt whatsoever, just like the British/Zulu conflicts of the 19th century.

The Arabs/Persians are toast, extra-blackened. Possibly literally, if the Iranians manage to light a nuke in an American city, or in Israel.


Blogger Bret said...

oroborous wrote: "...the best that their best can do is to copy a design that was state-of-the-art during the Korean War era."

The Iranian Zelzal-3 has a 190m CEP, which is pretty good, much better than what the Hezbollum have been firing off so far. Certainly good enough if it has a nuke on the end.

oroborous also wrote: "...the ultimate outcome [in the conflict] is in no doubt whatsoever..."

You're more confident than I. Ruthlessness and a fanatical willingness to die may count for more than technology.

August 09, 2006 11:44 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I have been reading Diamond's 'Guns Germs and Steel,' with increasing disbelief. I mean, if that's what it takes to conquer the world, why aren't we all Hindus? They had steel before anybody else, guns and, lord knows, plenty of germs.

Contra Diamond, technology does not determine outcomes.

It is true that the Muslims have ruined everything they've touched. I have said before that all majority Muslim states are failed or failing states. It occurred to me this morning that in countries where Muslims are a noticeable minority, Muslim grievance is that country's major problem.

I think that's right. Haven't had a chance to work through every single country.

August 09, 2006 1:29 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Heh, don't let the Feds see that.

However, the Katyushas aren't that bad a weapon, Hizb'allah is simply using them incorrectly. They are a type of artillery, which means a mass use area effect weapon. According to Wikipedia, a regiment would consist of 36 launchers, with 18-48 rockets / launcher so 648-1728 rockets. In a major battle one might have several Katyusha regiments which could easily fire 3,000 rockets in the initial barrage and do so in the space of a few minutes. What Hizb'allah is doing is the equivalent of firing buck shot pellet by pellet and wondering why it doesn't work as well as a normal shotgun.

This leads back to the question of why Hizb'allah needs to have these things shipped in. The weapon was designed to be low tech for Soviets in WWII, yet only Iran of Israel's opponents can manufacture them?

I would also be interested in knowing if you have any real data for the cost, as Katyushas were also designed to be cheap (all stamped metal, no milling / forging / drilling required, solid fuel, impact fused, rail launched).

August 09, 2006 1:38 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

No, I have no real data for the cost.

Here is what I do know.
The U.S. have a similar weapons system, a Lockheed Martin product:

"The Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) is a free-flight artillery rocket system that greatly improves the conventional, indirect fire capability of the field Army.

"The M270 launcher, a derivative of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (BFV), carries 12 rockets which it is capable of firing one at a time or in rapid ripples to ranges of more than 30 kilometers. The MLRS rocket is 13 feet long and 9 inches in diameter."

In 1997, the MLRS rockets appear to have cost about $ 17,000 each, when sold to countries we like, in this case Israel. (301 pods, 6 rockets per pod, $ 30MM)

How efficient is Iran at manufacturing simple advanced equipment ?

Between 1966 and 2005, an Iranian auto company manufactured the exact same design of stripped-down econo-box, the "Paykan", which was a design from the UK firm Hillman Hunter.
The vehicle sold in 2005 for US$ 6,000.

Meanwhile, the Volkswagen Beetle was manufactured in Mexico for roughly four decades, ending in 2004, with only slight changes over the years.

Called the "Sedán", until 1999 it was the cheapest car in the Mexican territory, selling for US$ 4,300 in 1996.

Right now, in 2006 America, one can buy an $ 8,000 stripped-down econo-box made in Korea, or a $ 12,000 Japanese subcompact with radio and anti-lock brakes. The cheapest made-in-America car is about $ 14,000. All come with airbags, which wasn't a feature of either the Mexican Beetle or the Iranian Paykan.

Therefore, it seems like a good rule of thumb to say that Iranian manufacturers can't produce well-known, kinks-worked-out, modestly-complex machinery any more cheaply than the Mexicans can, and only slightly more cheaply than the Koreans can.
They can produce such stuff for perhaps half of what Japan or America can.

Using that estimate, their missiles cost them maybe US$ 8,000 to produce, plus more to ship 'em to Lebanon via Syria, and to train the Hezbollah crews.

So I feel comfortable guessing that Hezbollah expending 60 rockets, and getting trained rocket-crewmembers killed and launchers destroyed, costs Iran at least a half-mil, maybe $ 750,000.

August 09, 2006 5:00 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I doubt the Katyushas are any more complex than the Gaza Strip Kassams, although probably made in a factory to factory tolerances, while the Kassams seem to be shade-tree-mechanic level.

Comparing US DOD invoices (hammer: $800) probably doesn't get us anywhere. Katyushas are cheap in material and ought to be cheap in labor as well.

It is a mistake to compare the military purpose of the 'Stalin organ' to the Muslim use of its Katyushas.

The Stalin organ was merely intended to make a dug-in defender take cover for a few moments while a violent assault was launched against his position. The US Navy used boat-mounted rocket batteries in amphibious assaults, as at Normandy.

Used as a barrage, Stalin organ style, the goal of the rockets is not to either cause casualties or materiel damage.

Used one by one, Muslim style, the goal is to create the maximum amount of carnage among non-combatants while keeping risk to its own as low as possible.

It's less like firing buckshot one pellet at a time than like throwing messages in the ocean in bottles and hoping to get back money orders by return of post.

Though I don't think the Israelis have the guts to do it, I've considered the possibility that they should shoot off a Katyusha at Beirut for each one that lands in Israel and defy Kofi and all his terrorist pals to complain about it.

August 09, 2006 5:15 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Ruthlessness and a fanatical willingness to die may count for more than technology.

Maybe, but only rarely, if the high-tech side is willing to kill.

Ruthlessness and a fanatical willingness to die didn't save the Amerindians from the Europeans - no tribe, from any European ethnic group or nationality - ruthlessness and a fanatical willingness to die, plus drugs, didn't save the Moro during the Philippine Insurrection, and ruthless/die didn't save the Japanese during WW II, nor the Chinese in the Korean War...

Those qualities may have worn down America in Vietnam, and the USSR in Afghanistan, causing both powers to eventually give up, but both of those conflicts were foreign adventures that neither powers' publics perceived to be necessary for national survival.

If the Middle East becomes a nuclear playground, I'm confident that a large majority of Americans will perceive that as being a threat to the U.S., and will act accordingly.

But the larger point is the same as Harry's: "[T]he Muslims have ruined everything they've touched. I have said before that all majority Muslim states are failed or failing states."

We don't need to fight them to overcome them, and I suspect that there won't be some apocalyptic war between the West and the Middle East.

All that has to happen is for us to continue moving forward, and for them to continue to stagnate.
There are still stone-age parrot-hunting tribes in the Amazon, but we don't consider them to be any threat to world peace.

Similarly, when the world's most-advanced nations (whichever they may be) have anti-ballistic-missile defenses, force fields, airborne lasers, space-based kinetic weapons, and who knows what-all else, we aren't going to sweat Iran having a few dozen pathetic firecracker-sized nukes.

In fact, the U.S. and Canada already have a deployed and functional anti-ballistic-missile system, the U.S. and many allied nations have theatre-based short range missile defenses, and the airborne laser is less than a decade away. The F/A-22 Raptor is here now, and Iran has exactly as much ability to develop such a weapon as America does to build a faster-than-light stardrive.
Unless Iran et al. change their ways, they will never be capable of building advanced equipment.

And, as weapons systems get ever-more-complex, and the logistical base necessary to support them gets larger, it will become increasingly difficult for rich-but-backward nations to buy advanced weapons systems off the shelf. They won't be able to maintain and operate them.

Finally, if any American city gets nuked by stealth, even if only a few tens of thousands of people die, my guess is that all bets will be off.
The American public will support the President doing anything to combat that threat, even if it means lighting off a few nukes ourselves.
I don't think that we're going to be too particular about who we attack, either. We know who doesn't like us, and it won't really matter which of them was behind it.

Further, if any American city gets nuked, we'll have the full support of every major power on Earth. NO prominent nation can allow terror groups to get away with nuclear attacks, even those nations that might have a heated rivalry with the U.S.

Comparing US DOD invoices (hammer: $800) probably doesn't get us anywhere. Katyushas are cheap in material and ought to be cheap in labor as well.

Sure, good points, but can Katyusha rockets really be only a few hundred bucks apiece ?
The raw materials have to run at least that much, and they're factory-produced, which means a payroll and overhead, and then there's the cost of shipping and technical training for the crews.

I can't believe that they're less than a few grand apiece in total costs.

August 09, 2006 6:12 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

If we win in the long run and half of Israel dies in the short run, I wouldn't be satisfied.

If it were up to me, we'd drop appeasement, go ahead and change a few regimes and be done with it.

August 09, 2006 8:44 PM  
Blogger M Ali said...


You're not really factoring demographics into your analysis, both of the Middle East\Israel and the West.

Katushyas, AK-47s and IEDs are used because they're very cheap, very robust and don't require much training to use, unlike more advanced systems.

Hezbollah aren't seriously trying to kill as many Israelis as they can. They're trying to show themselves as being the only Muslim force willing to take Israel on in a fight.

August 10, 2006 4:57 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Demographic advantage isn't on their side.

The populations of the Middle East are growing faster than those of the West, but their fertility rates are dropping, just as they did earlier in the West.

Also, a crowd of people is only useful if they can be productive.
If you have ten guys and two shovels, you're not going to get a ditch dug any faster than if you had four guys and two shovels.
Currently, no Middle Eastern society is very productive.

Further, they're only able to feed everyone because of oil revenues, which won't last forever.
What happens when they have double the population, and a tenth of the income ?

Population growth can be good, or bad, as can population decline. The fact that they're currently adding people faster doesn't automatically mean that they're gaining an advantage.

August 10, 2006 9:50 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

oroborous wrote: "Ruthlessness and a fanatical willingness to die didn't save the Amerindians from the Europeans..."

The Europeans were plenty ruthless at that time as well. Indeed, each of the entities that prevailed in the examples you gave were, in my opinion, far more ruthless than America is now.

America under Bush is probably more ruthless than America under an anti-war democrat president (which is a distinct possibility come 2008).

I don't see us taking any meaningful action against Iran and radical Islam until we get hit by a few nukes (or possibly other successful WMD attacks). I don't think even a nuclear attack against Israel will shake us out of our stupor.

There's no solution that we're ruthless enough to put into action until we've sustained horrific losses first.

I hope I'm wrong and your right. Unfortunately, if I'm right, we'll probably live to see it.

August 10, 2006 11:40 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

What Bret said.

M. Ali, looked at through Israeli eyes (which are the kind I'm using), it sure looks as if Hezbollah is trying to kill as many Israelis as they can.

That it is beyond their capacity, so far,to kill a great many at once is cold comfort.

And on what grounds do we ignore their statements that they wish to eliminate all the Israelis? Another way of saying that is, if we cannot rely on X's own statements about X's intentions, what do we rely on?

I heard the UN deputy general, Malloch-Brown, say -- with a straight face -- that a settlement would be possible in which Hezbollah would disarm after having proven its point, which was undertaken in order to become a serious participant in the Lebanese political system.

I think Malloch-Brown is bonkers (while I think Annan is a cold-blooded killer, Eichmann type), but suppose we take him seriously. What are we supposed to do about a political party that decides to off a few disinterested people (or even just one person) in order to pick up a few precincts?

August 10, 2006 3:03 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...


I think that we might both end up being right.

While there's no possibility that they could destroy America, we might have to get hit hard again before we respond in kind.
But once we get mad enough... Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki...

However, I strongly disagree that Israel getting nuked wouldn't be a wake-up call for America, and indeed, for most of the rest of the world.

After all, America is merely the favorite target for Islamic bombers - they're quite willing to strike in Europe and Asia as well.

And if nuking Israel is a state action, an official act of war by Iran, then obviously that won't be allowed to stand.

What are we supposed to do about a political party that decides to off a few disinterested people...

Probably not much.
While they're bad news, nobody except Syria wants to run Lebanon, so it's mostly a matter of trying to keep the violence at a low level.

August 10, 2006 8:41 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I was thinking in terms of making a desert and calling it peace, conceptually, anyway.

More practically, pasting corn plasters over the small fry gets you nowhere. Now, let Syria know that it has the choice of throwing Hezbollah overboard or keeping its army would deprive H. of support.

Why did we care that the USSR fell, except insofar as it eliminated a state sponsor for people who were causing us trouble? Surely not because we cared about the happiness of the Russians or the Poles?Harry

August 10, 2006 11:02 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Recently, Nasrallah (the leading Hezbollah Islamofacist, in case I got the name wrong) said they will win because they value death to the same extent we value life.

Since the attack on Israel, and the latest threat to airlines, I have decided I'm on his side.

I value their deaths every bit as much as they do.

August 11, 2006 11:41 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Okay, I know that was a rant.

A couple days ago I spent some time in a book store perusing "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam," which has the gall to take the Q'uran, and Islamofascists, at their word.

Regarding the Q'uran, word for word it beats Mein Kampf in the all world vile text competition. (And should give advocates of divine morality fits).

As Harry once said: it is the monotheistic, universalist religions that are out to get you.

August 11, 2006 11:46 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Winston Churchill said, after it was too late, 'There was a time when Hitler could have been stopped with the stroke of a pen.'

Muslims of peaceful inclinations ought to think long and hard on that text. It means more to them than any Sura.

August 11, 2006 12:56 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...


it is the monotheistic, universalist religions that are out to get you.

You prefer the polytheistic, pagan variety, do you?

Here is a special present, just for you and Harry.

August 12, 2006 4:03 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Reads like Brothers Judd Blog stood on its head, doesn't it?

If you could read that, thank a secularist.

August 12, 2006 10:57 AM  

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