A “Drone’s Eye View” Of Mars

New imaging technique provides “drone’s eye” view of Mars


Beagle 2 site in high resolution produced by SRR

Beagle 2 site in high resolution produced by SRR (Credit: UCL News). View gallery (6 images)

University College London (UCL) has released images of the Martian surface with five times the resolution of anything previously sent back from Mars orbit. The images come courtesy of the new Super-Resolution Restoration (SRR) imaging technique developed by a UCL research team, which takes images from spacecraft orbiting Mars and stacks and matches them to create new, more detailed images of the Beagle 2 lander, ancient Martian lake beds, and the tracks of the NASA MER-A rover.

  • The Shaler formation and the John Klein drill-spot on the MSL Curiosity traverse comparing original and ...
  • Beagle 2 site comparing original and SRR
  • close up of Beagle 2 site comparing original and SRR
  • MER-A Spirit Homeplate region comparing original and SRR

The fleet of orbiters now circling the Red Planet have added a bonanza of data to our knowledge and in four decades have mapped Mars with a detail that took centuries to do for the Earth. Unfortunately, the images they can send back is limited by the size of the telescopes that can be sent with the orbiters. According to UCL, these smaller optics combined with atmospheric interference and restricted bandwidth of Mars-Earth communications limits image resolution to about 25 cm (10 in).

To help overcome this, UCL’s SRR takes existing images taken from orbit at different angles and stacks and matches them to produce images that can resolve objects as small as 5 cm (2 in) in diameter. In the recent study, the team took stacks of four to eight 25-cm images from the NASA HiRISE camera, which came back with high enough resolution to zoom in on specific objects like the failed Beagle 2 lander.

close up of Beagle 2 site comparing original and SRR

“Using novel machine vision methods, information from lower resolution images can be extracted to estimate the best possible true scene,” says Yu Tao, Research Associate at UCL. “This technique has huge potential to improve our knowledge of a planet’s surface from multiple remotely sensed images. In the future, we will be able to recreate rover-scale images anywhere on the surface of Mars and other planets from repeat image stacks.”

UCL says that the technique was used on Mars because most features on the Martian surface remain stable for millions of years. As a result, the researchers were able to use images taken over a 10-year period and match them with, in the words of Jan-Peter Muller of the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory, “the equivalent of drone-eye vision anywhere on the surface of Mars where there are enough clear repeat pictures.”

MER-A rover tracks comparing original and SRR

By contrast, Earth is a very poor candidate because it is so dynamic due to atmospheric turbulence that images can alter dramatically within seconds of one another.

According to UCL, the new images provide new evidence that the landing site of Beagle 2 has been correctly identified and the team hopes that SRR can find not only other failed landings, but also identify safe landing sites for future missions and provide rover-level images from orbit.

“As more pictures are collected, we will see increasing evidence of the kind we have only seen from the three successful rover missions to date,” says Muller. “This will be a game-changer and the start of a new era in planetary exploration.”

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The FT Of London Talks About The Space-X 2018 Mars Mission


SpaceX to launch 2018 Mars mission

Elon Musk edges closer to colonisation plans with first commercial interplanetary mission

Concept art of Dragon spcaecraft on Mars

SpaceX, the space launch company founded by Elon Musk, plans to send a spacecraft to Mars as soon as 2018, in the first stage of an audacious plan to establish a human colony on Earth’s nearest neighbour.

News of the plans emerged on Wednesday after Nasa, the US space agency, published details of an agreement under which it would support the voyage of a SpaceX Red Dragon craft to the planet.

The plans — the first interplanetary mission by a commercial company — mark the first stage in the realisation of Mr Musk’s vision to turn humans into a species living on more than one planet. However, the small craft — based on SpaceX’s resupply capsules for the International Space Station — will be uncrewed.

SpaceX confirmed the plans on its Twitter and Facebook accounts. It said the Red Dragon missions would support the technologies needed to “land large payloads propulsively on Mars”. Mr Musk is expected to announce fuller details of his plans for a Mars colony at a conference in Guadalajara, Mexico, in September.

“Red Dragon missions to Mars will help inform the overall Mars colonisation architecture that SpaceX will reveal later this year,” the company said.

The Mars announcement came on the same day that the US Air Force awarded SpaceX its first ever contract to launch a US national security satellite. The company will be paid $87.2m to carry a GPS satellite into orbit next May. The company won the right to launch spy satellites — previously a monopoly of United Launch Alliance — in May last year.

Dava Newman, a Nasa deputy administrator, wrote in a blog post about the agency’s plans for a crewed mission to Mars that the agency was “particularly excited” about the SpaceX project, one of several co-operation deals with private companies.

“In exchange for Martian entry, descent and landing data from SpaceX, Nasa will offer technical support for the firm’s plan to attempt to land an uncrewed Dragon 2 spacecraft on Mars,” Ms Newman wrote.

The agreement commits Nasa to offer SpaceX help with deep space navigation and communications, design of the spacecraft’s trajectory and help with developing the landing system.

The SpaceX mission will use a version of the Dragon spacecraft that currently flies to the International Space Station under SpaceX’s resupply contracts with Nasa. As part of work to develop a version of the capsule that can carry astronauts, SpaceX has developed and tested motors that allow the craft to make a safe landing on earth in the event of an emergency during take-off. SpaceX would adapt that system to allow the craft to touch down on Mars.

SpaceX released a YouTube video of a test of the system on a launch pad in Texas, filmed in November.

The craft would be launched on its journey by SpaceX’s new Falcon Heavy rocket, a heavy-lift version of its existing Falcon 9, which it expects to fly for the first time later this year. Because interplanetary missions require spacecraft to be launched from earth’s surface faster than orbital flights such as missions to the space station, they depend on heavy rockets, usually three standard rockets strapped together.

At present, the US’s only heavy-lift rocket is United Launch Alliance’s expensive Delta IV Heavy. SpaceX expects that the Falcon Heavy will offer a far more economic heavy launch capability.

While SpaceX did not say how long it expected Red Dragon’s trip to take, journey times to Mars for space probes are generally between three and six months, depending on the route taken.

In Praise Of Canon Printers

I can say one nice thing about Apple. When you buy one of their products and take it out of the box, you power it up and it works the first time. There is no need for calls to tech support, etc. I decided to upgrade printer capabilities in the house. I bought two Canon printers from Amazon.com.They were delivered. When I pulled them out of the box they were easy to assemble. When they were plugged in, they worked right the first time without any hassles. What a pleasant surprise!!!!!

President Hillary Clinton’s Cabinet Will Be 50% Female

Clinton would copy Canadian PM on cabinet

WASHINGTON — Justin Trudeau’s gender-equal cabinet could soon be replicated in the United States, depending on the outcome of the current American election.

The poll-leading presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, appeared to indicate her intention to follow suit when asked about it in a televised event on the eve of Tuesday’s five northeastern primaries.

A moderator had asked about the federal cabinet to the north: “Canada has a new prime minister, Justin Trudeau. He promised when he took office that he would have a cabinet that was 50 per cent women, and then he did it. He made good on his promise. Would you make that same pledge?”

Clinton suggested she would: “I am going to have a cabinet that looks like America, and 50 per cent of America is women, right?” That prompted the MSNBC moderator, Rachel Maddow, to conclude, “So that’s a yes?”

Canada’s gender-balanced cabinet has gotten a fair bit of attention in the U.S., fuelled partly by how the prime minister responded to a question about it with a shoulder shrug and the sound bite: “Because it’s 2015.”

But in reality, Canada didn’t blaze that particular trail.

Finland’s cabinet is 62 per cent female; Cape Verde’s is 53 per cent; Sweden’s is 52 per cent; and France’s is 50 per cent, according to last year’s statistics from the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Even within Canada, the first gender-parity cabinet was created not by Trudeau — but by the former premier in Trudeau’s home province of Quebec, Jean Charest.

Clinton remains the U.S. presidential front-runner, despite a tougher-than-expected primary challenge.

She retains a significant lead over her more progressive challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and is expected to add to it Tuesday in primaries in Maryland, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Delaware.

She has also consistently led general-election polls against the two Republican front-runners — Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz — although she has performed far more poorly against less-successful Republican candidates like Ohio Gov. John Kasich and the dropped-out Marco Rubio.

Trump has also been asked about the Canadian cabinet — and he won’t commit to copying the Trudeau formula.

JFK: A Motorcade And A Rifle-But This Wasn’t Dallas

JFK. A Motorcade. A Rifle. But this Wasn’t Dallas.

tags: JFK, Cuban Missile Crisis

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Stephen F. Knott is a professor of national security affairs at the United States Naval War College.

JFK in Springfield, Illinois, October 1962

It was Springfield, Illinois – at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Recently discovered evidence in the archives of the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston shows there was a serious breach of security in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis that could have altered the course of history.

The Cuban Missile Crisis is one of the most over-analyzed events in American history, so much so that it is hard to believe there is anything new to learn about the most nerve-wracking confrontation of the Cold War. Yet Americans both then and now were unaware of how close history came to be altered by President Kennedy’s assassination, in, of all places, Springfield, Illinois, the home and final resting place of Abraham Lincoln, on October 19, 1962, four days into the missile crisis.

John F. Kennedy left the White House that October morning in order to divert the media from the fact that a crisis was unfolding in the Caribbean. The President kept a previous commitment to travel to Illinois to campaign for Democratic congressional candidates in the 1962 off-year election. In the interim, Kennedy instructed his ExComm – Executive Committee of the National Security Council – to come up with options to present to him upon his return to Washington.

Springfield’s hometown newspaper, the Illinois State Journal, reported that morning on the president’s impending visit, laying out in detail Kennedy’s schedule and his motorcade route, including a thorough account of whether a particular vehicle would contain Secret Service agents, some of whom were even mentioned by name. Kennedy’s first stop was a visit to the tomb of his martyred predecessor, Abraham Lincoln. On his way to the tomb, two men were spotted along the motorcade route with a rifle, after Kennedy’s motorcade had driven by, but before it was scheduled to return on the same route, some 30 minutes later. The Secret Service would later report that “a few minutes after the motorcade passed, an employee of the Illinois Department of Public Safety saw a rifle barrel with telescopic sight protruding from a second-story window.” Two men, brothers-in-law aged 20 and 16, were taken into custody. The report continued, “A .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle and a full box of .22 long rifle ammunition was seized.” Both men admitted “pointing the gun out the window on the parade route. However, they claimed that they had merely been testing the power of the telescopic sight to determine if it would be worthwhile to remove it in order to get a better look at the President when the motorcade returned. As there was no evidence to the contrary, and neither man had any previous record, prosecution was declined.” Two men, with a box of ammunition, who were apparently planning to share a telescopic rifle sight to “get a better look at the President.”

Had President Kennedy been killed or wounded, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, who, as historian Sheldon Stern has noted, wavered between a hawkish position and a more conciliatory stance regarding the missiles in Cuba, would have faced an impossible situation. Knowing of the Soviet deception in Cuba, how much of a leap would it have been to assume that the president had been murdered as part of a larger effort by the Soviets to launch some type of surprise, coordinated attack? Evidence that Johnson might have responded with force after an assassination attempt on President Kennedy can be found in the secret recordings of the ExComm’s deliberations. At one point Johnson was asked by Secretary of State Dean Rusk whether the United States would be forced to respond militarily. Johnson noted, “I think you’re at that point,” since the public would likely demand action, and while “the President made a fine speech,” the public would want to know “what else have you done?” There was a “great feeling of insecurity” in the country, Johnson added.

Even if Johnson did not have evidence linking the Soviets or the Cubans to an assassination attempt, the American public might well have drawn that link, particularly after learning about the missiles in Cuba, and demanded a harsh response. Planning and conducting a state funeral, not to mention dealing with all the emotions surrounding the death of a young president, in the midst of the worst crisis of the Cold War would have compounded an already delicate situation beyond measure. It seems likely that Lyndon Johnson, unsure of himself in the foreign policy realm, would have followed the advice of the majority of Kennedy’s ExComm, and launched some type of attack.

Tragically, while lessons may have been learned from the missile crisis, nothing was learned from the events in Springfield in October, 1962. Despite the fact that a rifle with a telescopic sight emerged from the upper floor of a building overlooking a presidential motorcade route, carrying a president who insisted on not being sheltered inside a protective bubble, presidential protection practices remained the same. In Springfield, the rifleman held his fire for whatever reason, perhaps waiting for the President’s return trip, or perhaps he was telling the truth about simply wanting to “get a better look” at JFK. Thirteen months later, under similar circumstances, after gunshots echoed throughout Dealey Plaza, some in the Secret Service must have wished that the episode in the shadow of Lincoln’s Tomb had been taken more seriously.




– See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/162604#sthash.qyc3ffLT.dpuf

The FT of London Talks About The Coming Hispanic Backlash


The coming US Hispanic backlash

The Republicans will pay for Donald Trump’s anti-Mexico rhetoric

Matt Kenyon illustration
© Matt Kenyon

What do we want? Donald Trump asks his crowds. “A wall!” they reply. Who is going to pay for it? “Mexico!” Now, here is a question Mr Trump never asks: who will vote in record numbers against me? “Hispanics!” should be the response. The difference is that the last one will almost certainly happen. As the countdown to the final primary in California intensifies, the state’s conservatives might ask another question: Do we want the Republican Party to go the way it went in the golden state? If the answer is no, which it should be, why is Mr Trump leading in its June 7 polls?

If you want a glimpse of America’s future, turn to California. In 2014, when Mr Trump was pondering his White House run, the state crossed a Rubicon. The number of Hispanics surpassed the number of whites. Two years earlier, California passed a related political milestone. For the first time it failed to elect a single Republican to statewide office. Not only is the state’s governor, Jerry Brown, a Democrat but roughly two-thirds of each legislative chamber are too. If a Republican were elected governor, the assembly could override his veto. The state that produced Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon has relegated the party to a veto-proof minority, which is where it is likely to stay.

Mr Trump is doing his best to chart a similar course for the national party. In the last presidential election in 2012, Mitt Romney received just 27 per cent of the Hispanic vote — a sharp drop from what George W Bush had attracted. It was a key factor in Mr Romney’s defeat. He had urged Hispanics to “self-deport”. At the time his words seemed hardline. Mr Trump has taken it up several notches by referring to illegal Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “murderers” and vowing to deport them forcibly. Unsurprisingly, he is polling at barely double digits among Hispanics. A generation ago, Latino Americans were concentrated in California, Texas, and Chicago. They are now spread nationally. In states such as Colorado, North Carolina, Florida and Virginia, non-Cuban Hispanic voters could tip a race. All the signs are that Hispanic groups are determined to make that a reality in 2016.

Their hurdle is pretty low. Univision, the dominant Spanish-language television network, is leading a drive to register 3m new Hispanic voters led by its celebrity journalist, Jorge Ramos — a man whom Mr Trump last year had physically removed from a press conference. Every time a Hispanic turns on their TV, or goes on to their Facebook page, they are urged to register. The only comparable drive is what Barack Obama’s campaign did with African-American voters in 2008, which was a blowout success. Univision is even more ubiquitous than his campaign. Its ratings often exceed the English-language networks. If Univision achieves its voter drive targets, it is hard to see how Mr Trump could win the White House.

But that is only the start. Hispanic Americans are younger than their white counterparts, which means they will vote in ever greater shares at each future election. The median age for Hispanics is just 28 according to Pew Research Center: Hispanic Trends, against 43 for whites. The younger you go down the age scale, the higher the share of Hispanics. Last year, for the first time, whites dropped below half of all Americans under the age of five. This is roughly where California was 30 years ago. Then came Pete Wilson, a Republican governor, who in 1994 put forward proposition 187, which banned illegal immigrants from using non-emergency services, and set up a screening system to identify them. To documented, electorally-registered, Hispanics “Prop 187” was the equivalent to Mr Trump’s wall. California’s Republicans have been on a downhill slope ever since.

There are two great ironies to Mr Trump’s coming Hispanic train wreck. The first is that the outcry against illegal immigrants is several years out of date. In the past five years, more than 1m have followed Mr Romney’s advice and “self-deported”. The number has dropped from 12.7m to 11m according to the US census. America’s immigration crisis is over and has to some degree gone into reverse. The number of people caught crossing the US-Mexico border in the first quarter of 2016 fell to its lowest level since 1969, according to the US border patrol. Politics is about perception, rather than reality, so such facts have little sway on Mr Trump’s supporters. Rightly or wrongly — but mostly wrongly — they see a link between their declining wages and the impact of illegal labour.

The second irony is that Republicans have been here before. The party is likely to pay a price for its amnesia. In the 1920s, the largely Protestant Republican party pushed through US restrictions that kept out Catholic newcomers for the next generation. The torrent of Sicilians, Irish, Poles and others slowed to a trickle. In so doing, Republicans cemented Catholic loyalty to the Democratic party for the next generation. It was only in the 1980s that “Reagan Democrats” felt able to vote Republican.

How long will Republicans pay for Mr Trump’s anti-Hispanic rhetoric? If history offers a guide, it will be a long time. If America’s future offers another, nominating Mr Trump could mark a point of no return. California provides the writing on the wall, so to speak — a wall that Republicans will pay for.


A Very Kind Man Who Gave Me A Job Almost 20 Years Ago Is Now A Facebook Friend

Everyone Facebook is amazing. On September 11, 1996 I arrived in San Jose, California on a Greyhound bus. I checked in at the Plaza Hotel near the bus station. I desperately needed a job. When you were 52 years of age, employment was hard to find. I was low on cash and found that bus drivers would let you ride for free if you were broke. I got on one bus and plead poverty. The driver was this very nice but very tough African-American lady. She told me that there was no excuse for me to be in these circumstances. She told me that she was going to give me a ride to the Veteran’s Center in downtown San Jose where I could find employers. She dropped me off in front of the Veteran’s Center and I went in. There was a board there with several jobs. One caught my eye. It was with the manage consulting firm George S, May Company. I called and made an appointment for a job interview. I got directions and rode the bus to the company. It was located in a beautiful brick building. When I got up to the reception area I was greeted by a beautiful woman from Trinidad named Lovern. She spoke with an elegant British accent and is my friend until today. She directed me to the office of Scott Ocheltree. We had a nice interview and got along well. He made me an offer of employment in the telemarketing department. It was only $8.00 an hour but it was a start. I was told to report to work the following morning. I did and started a one-year career at the George S. May Company. My housing situation was precarious. I was staying in a hotel that charged $30.00 per night. A friend in Texas sent me $100 to keep me at the hotel 3 days longer. When that money ran out, I asked Scott to loan me $60 for two more days. He did so and I repaid him later. Scott was a great boss and a wonderful human being. I’m so glad to be reunited with him and to tell him that I have not forgotten his kindness in that dark moment in my life.

My Home In San Jose, California Was Saved From Foreclosure

My friends since the foreclosure crisis began in 2007 some 6,325,000 American families have lost their homes to foreclosure. One dear friend of mine lost his home of 49 years. I have been in a pitched battle to save my townhouse in San Jose from foreclosure. I have had a great San Jose realtor representing me. I got the joyous news yesterday that my home had been taken off the foreclosure list.

She Came North To Canada Because The USA Made Her work FOr Free: Why The Tubman $20.00 Bill Is Great For Canada

She came north because the ‘land of liberty’ made her work for free: Why the Tubman $20 is great for Canada

Harriet Tubman in 1911, two years before her death.

Library of CongressHarriet Tubman in 1911, two years before her death.

If Canada could have hoped for anyone on a United States Treasury Note, it would have to be Harriet Tubman.

Here was a woman who lived in Canada, who risked her life to turn people into Canadians and stands as a testament that when it came to basic human freedom, the so-called “land of liberty” couldn’t hold a candle to a cold, agrarian British colony.

“I wouldn’t trust Uncle Sam with my people no longer, I brought ’em all clear off to Canada,” said Tubman during her lifetime.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that the U.S. $20 bill will soon feature Tubman in place of seventh president Andrew Jackson, one of four men featured on U.S. money who owned slaves.

“We’re ecstatic that we can call her one of our own,” said Rochelle Bush, historian for Tubman’s former church in St. Catharines, Ont.

Between the 1851 passage of the Fugitive Slave and the opening shots of the Civil War 10 years later, Tubman was a well-known attendee at the Salem Chapel British Methodist Episcopal Church.

That is, when she wasn’t slipping back over the border to smuggle more people to Canada via the Underground Railroad.

In total, Tubman freed roughly 300 former slaves by bringing them to Canadian soil, and hundreds of their descendants remain in the country to this day.

Within Tubman’s own family tree, in fact, Bush estimates there are roughly 100 descendants living in Ontario and British Columbia.

As she noted, it’s a further testament to Canada that some of these Tubman descendants look black, while others look white.

“Thank god for Canada; interracial marriage was accepted,” she said. In several former slave states, meanwhile, interracial marriage would not be legalized until 50 years after Tubman’s death.

Tubman has been named by Parks Canada as a person of national historic significance. Saint Catharines just opened the Harriet Tubman Public School, complete with a life-sized bronze statue of Tubman.

In fact, as Canada tries to find its own woman to put on the money, Tubman has been in the running.

Kathleen Powell, manager of the St. Catharines Museum, similarly touted that “someone from St. Catharines” was now on a U.S. banknote.

That banknote, incidentally, is currently worth $25.33 Canadian.

The honour will soon make Tubman among the most recognizable visages in the world, up there with Albert Einstein and the ubiquitous portrait of Mao Zedong.

National Post files

National Post filesSt. Catherine’s British Methodist Episcopalian Church, which was founded by many who fled slavery via the Underground Railroad.

United States currency is used well beyond the country’s borders, and greenbacks remain the official or unofficial means of monetary exchange in several Central American countries and unstable corners of Africa.

And among this vast array of international transactions, it’s the $20 that changes hands the most.

“There’s more $20 bills than human beings out there,” said Douglas Mudd, director of the Edward C. Rochette Money Museum in Colorado.

The choice of Tubman is of sort of a no-brainer. In her 90 years, Tubman ran the gamut of United States history; a former slave, an abolitionist, a Civil War hero and an early suffragist.

And, like any archetypal American hero, she always carried a gun.

“In one person, she covers a number of different bases,” said Mudd.

The right-leaning National Review, for one, praised the addition of a gun-toting, Jesus-loving spy in place of “overheated pompous populist” Andrew Jackson.

Appearing on a U.S. treasury note has a way of thrusting people into immortality.

Alexander Hamilton was an influential Secretary of the Treasury, to be sure, but it was likely his face on the $10 that kept his legend strong centuries after his death.

It was the prospect of taking Hamilton off the money, in fact, that inspired a revival in the Founding Father’s life story, including the hit Broadway musical Hamilton.

The National Post recently spoke to the Alexander Hamilton Birthplace, located in the Caribbean country of St. Kitts and Nevis. Despite its remote location, the house still gets 3,000 visitors a year, most of them Americans.

U.S. history has long been unusually coy about pointing out where the Underground Railroad actually ended. Often, textbooks will merely say that slaves were fleeing “north.”

Canadians, of course, have a bad habit of smugly talking up their country in the presence of Americans, be it the benefits of socialized healthcare or noting that the Canadian Armed Forces largely sat out the Iraq War.

And Bush said it’s entirely fine now to “proclaim it to everybody” that the woman on the $20 bill appreciated Canada’s policy of not forcing black people to work for free.

Of course, in addition to former slaves, Canada also took in the people who owned them.

After the Civil War, in which Tubman served as a valuable Union spy and armed scout, British North America accepted many exiled Southerners from the defeated Confederacy, including Confederate president Jefferson Davis.

“Canada was the gateway to freedom,” said Bush, “not only for freedom-seekers (the name for Underground Railroad refugees) but for Confederates as well.”

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Texas Independence Day

Today is Texas Independence Day.On this day in 1836, General Sam Houston Walked into the tent of General Santa Ana who was having a siesta with a couple of his mistresses. General Houston drew his gun and put General Santa Ana under arrest. At that moment Texas won its independence from Mexico and became the Republic of Texas. General Santa Ana survived his captivity. He did get revenge for his humiliation by the gringos. In 1847 he went to New York City. He got involved in a fraudulent stock deal. He and several million dollars went missing. It is assumed that General Santa Ana disappeared into the Mexican country side.