Weather

Road/Trail/River Conditions 7/14

According to Caltrans, road maintenance will bring 1-way controlled traffic today from Bassetts Station to the Yuba Pass and from the Nevada/Sierra county line to 2.5 miles north of this line. Construction at various locations from the Butte/Plumas county line to 1 mile east of this line will subject motorists of delays of up to 10 minutes; construction from 3.8 miles east of Tobin to 1.2 miles west of Belden may bring delays of up to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, snow has melted off nearly all trails and wildflowers remain in bloom at higher elevations. The snow on trails in the Lakes Basin and on the backside of Mount Elwell is expected to soon disappear completely.

As for the rivers and streams, the volume of water flowing downhill remains below historical norms, However, with precipation close to “normal” over the 7/2021-6/2022 period the flow is significantly above the rate seen at this time in 2021. Warm/hot weather over the upcoming week will be bringing the water temperature up slightly.

Night Sky

By Collin O’Mara-Green

Are We Going Back to the Moon?

So NASA has been making incremental progress on the SLS (Space Launch System), the US proposal to return to the Moon and locations beyond. At the same time, SpaceX is planning a test of its massive booster for the Starship reusable space system. So when are we (as humans) getting back to the Moon?

If I had to place a bet, I would split my luck on either the Chinese space program or SpaceX. Why? Both of those groups are highly motivated to get there. For China, it’s bragging rights. The Cold War saw the US and USSR racing for the Moon, with the Soviets excelling in orbital gains (automated docking, first satellite), but the US with first boots on lunar regolith with Apollo 11. For modern China, the claim of first back to the Moon after no humans since 1972 is a big prize.

For SpaceX, the motivation is marketing and profits. Space tourism could grow in time, albeit for the ultra-wealthy for now, but the same was once true for automobiles, ocean cruises, and air flight. Landing on the Moon would lead to landing on Mars and possible future moons of Jupiter. Elon Musk might be a little wonky, but the people at SpaceX are solid, hardworking, and determined to succeed.

But SLS is likely to end in a whimper rather than a bang. Will it fly? Sure. Will it continue as a program? I don’t think so. It’s a mess of old Space Shuttle components and government contracts that is flying like a penguin. Might sound harsh, but I think NASA should stick with its strength – robotic exploration of the solar system.

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