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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Wreck A Satellite And Take A Pay Cut For A Few Months

Okay… so I spotted this press release about two weeks earlier:

Due to the anomaly experienced with X-Ray Astronomy Satellite ASTRO-H (Hitomi), three of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s executive employees have decided to take a 10% pay cut to their monthly salary for four months, to be effective July 2016.

So… I had no idea what this was all about, and see why three executives at JAXA needed to take a pay cut.

Hmm.. turns out a very expensive black hole-spotting X-Ray astronomy satellite that was launched in February of 2016 and began observations in March - stopped working after just a few days.

Hitomi was built with help from NASA and other space agencies as a space observatory, and carried four X-Ray telescopes and two gamma-ray detectors that was supposed to help mankind learn more about Black Holes and, ultimately, the Origin of the Universe.

Sure. That would have been nice, but aside from the Black Hole data it might have culled, I doubt we would have learned anything definitive about the Origins of the Universe… I mean… they keep telling us that the age of the Universe is different from what they had thought… they don’t know why the universe isn’t as heavy as they suspect it should be (sucked into a Black Hole - and not ejected via a theorized but unproven White Hole?)… heck… they weren’t even sure about Pluto being a planet or planetoid until just recently.

It is possible that even with all the data that they found in those three days that Hitomi was working, it might be a century or more until we have the wherewithall to adequately interpret those results.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t try, however.

As for Hitomi: apparently, there was a report from the U.S. Joint Space Operations Center, which tracks man-made objects in orbit, noting that five pieces of debris had apparently separated from the spacecraft.

That’s not good, right?

"The pieces could be blown off insulation from an over-pressure event in one of the instruments," Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who works on other X-Ray satellites including Chandra, said on Twitter. "'Debris' doesn't mean Hitomi's in little pieces. It means little pieces have come off it. Satellite might be basically intact, we don't know."

That was back in late March. But now we do know.

At the initial signs of distress, Hitomi had begun to spin out of control - then the pieces were seen to have come apart from it - and then JAXA lost contact with it.

Below is a video shot by an amateur astronomer and posted to a National Geographic website on March 28, 2016 where via the change of shadow and light, you can see that something is spinning out of control - HERE

JAXA pretty much spent all of April trying to reestablish contact with Hitomi, but eventually announced that “it is highly likely that both solar array paddles had broken off at their bases where they are vulnerable to rotation.”

Those paddles are the ‘wing’s that essentially capture solar energy and turn it into electricity to power the whole she-bang.

Over that month, JAXA thought on three separate occasions that it had received a signal from Hitomi, but follow-ups show that she never actually called, coming from another source with a different frequency.

With the solar panels having broken off, and no electricity to power it, Hitomi is dead in space.

So… did JAXA make these three space executives fall on their sword to apologize for the mission’s failure?

Or was there more?

Quiet reports say that (shh), the Hitomi may have broken up after a poor command from mission control caused an engineering error.

What? Like accidentally bringing the wings into the satellite without closing/folding them first? That would be my outlandish guess.

Anyhow… no real biggie.

As of July 1, through October 31 - four months… three unnamed space executives at JAXA are deciding to take a 10% pay cut.


Only 10%?

What, so, based on an equivalent of a US $100,000 yearly salary, instead of earning the equivalent US $8,333.33 a month… they will for four months make the equivalent of US $7,500 a month.

They would make only US $96,666.64 this year… meaning they lost the equivalent of US $3,333.36.

How much to that satellite cost?

Hitomi cost ¥31 billion (US $273 million), which includes the cost of launching it.

Oh wait! That US $3,333.36 x three space executives = US $10,000.08. Let’s round that down to $10,000.

Of course, this presupposes that these three JAXA representatives all make an equivalent of $100,000 apiece annually.

You know… if someone did give a bad command in error, IE accidentally, I would bet that these three representatives forced (volunteering) to take a four-month pay cut are actually doing so because an underling screwed up - not because of anything they themselves did.

That seems like a Japanese thing to do.

Now... what happened to the person who really screwed up? I guess we'll find out if the next mission will be manned.

Andrew Joseph

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