Friday, February 28, 2003

There's a push in the Congress to double NASA's research and development budget by 2008. There is nothing in the article which suggests what is considered R&D. However, since NASA is choosing a kind of technology development path toward getting people beyond Low Earth Orbit and since cheap access to space research seems underfunded, this move may be a good thing.
Both monarchy and terrorism seem to be lucrative occupations, according to Forbes Magazine.
Chirac is facing discontent within his own party over his anti American policy.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

President Bush last night overturned fifty years of US Middle East policy. And about time, too.
Condi Rice for Governor of California in 2006? I should think that the now moribund California GOP will think it had gone to heaven while still alive.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

There's a new strain of genetically altered corn which can feed tens of millions and will cut down on pesticides. Naturally the environmentalists are against it.
Phil Donanue, not content to go quietly into that good night, charges conservative bias as the cause of his cancellation.
John Carter McKnight gives Bruce Moomaw (see below) a damn fine thrashing.
Of course, while space is exciting, not everybody likes excitement. Oddly, in the entire history of naval aviation, no one is on record as objecting to it because most people would rather hoist a beer than hook a wire.

Risky pursuits from piloting to mountain-climbing have been recognized as the passion of some odd few, and the tame majority has largely gone about their business, either catching a vicarious thrill from their exploits or ignoring them entirely.

Only space has attracted the busybody, the Puritan (in the definition of "somebody desperately afraid that somebody, somewhere is having a good time"), the seeker of the universal wet blanket.

Some robotic partisans come to their position from an opposition to adventure.

Looks like the discussion of whether a probe will be sent to Pluto and if so how has been concluded.
Gary Martin, NASA's technology guru, says that developing the technology to send humans beyond LEO is a slow, step by step approach. Just reading between the lines, I believe it is too slow. NASA ought to be thinking about how to break out of the Low Earth Orbit trap in years, rather than decades.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Democrat Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson has discovered late in life that tax cuts can be a good thing.
The anti Estrada fillibuster may be starting to crumble.
Bruce Moomaw makes a positively silly arguement that goes like this. "The space shuttle and space station have been boondoggles." A true statement. "Both programs are human space flight." Also a true statement. And therefore: "Human space flight is a boondoggle." A fallacious arguement, on the same leval as, "The Titanic sank." and "The Titanic was human travel across the ocean." And therefore. "Ocean travel by humans is too dangerous and should be stopped."

Moomaw also commits the same fallacies which most anti human space flight zealots commit. First he suggests that space flight is all about exploration and science as ends in themselves. They are not. They are means to the end of spreading human civilization beyond the Earth in order to ensure humanity's long term survival. The second fallacy that he commits is by claiming that robots can do all the science which needs doing as well if not better than humans, for the most part. It is a "fact" which people claim is true in space which no one has seriously claimed is true for field science conducted on Earth.
David Frum says that Canada is divided on the necessity of war with Iraq on linquistic lines. The English speaking Canadians are all for it. The French speakers are, like their cousins in Europe, against it.
Mackubin Thomas Owens examins the film Gods and Generals as both history and myth.
Looks like Phil Donahue is finally off the air. I seems that liberal harrangues coupled with whining self pity does not have much of an audience.

Monday, February 24, 2003

According to Done Deal, Michael Moorcock's Elric saga has been optioned for the movies.
Will NASA's budget become a partisan issue? I sincerely hope so. There needs to be some kind of arguement to shake up the status quo.
A group called Citizens United are calling for a boycott of French and German products. Included is a list of such products to avoid until the French and the Germans get their minds right.
We may be close to finding out what exactly killed Columbia and her crew.
There is a lot of disdain for the clueless, political activism on the part of the Hollywood Left. Increadibly, some of the celebs are starting to notice.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

The idea of a space race with China, or even a space war is gaining some traction. I say, bring it on. It'll be just the thing to focus our attention.
George Will examins the aweful and silly at the same time phenomenom know as the "European street."

Friday, February 21, 2003

Howard Dean had them rolling in the aisles at the DNC with his dead on impression of George McGovern.
We saw Gods and Generals Friday and overall we were impressed. It is certainly satisfying to see a historical epic which actually resembles the real events it is said to depict. Steve Lang gives a solid performance as Stonewall Jackson, as does Robert Duvall as Robert E. Lee, and Jeff Daniels reprising his Gettysburg role of Joshua Lawrence Chambelain. I did not find the nearly four hour long movie too long, as others have, and in fact look forward to the six hour version which will air on TNT some time later. Perhaps the later version will show Jackson's splendid campaign in the Shenedoah Valley, which was absent from the theatrical film. Nor did I find the film's light hand on slavery or the relatively symphathetic portraits of southerners to be offensive. We certainly to do need a film director to remind us that slavery was-well-evil. In fact the indictment was all the more powerful thereby.

One minor nit. In the famous death scene, Jackson is dying of pheumonia and yet utters his famous last words ("Let us go across the river and rest under the shade of the trees.") in a remarkably clear voice.
One of the assumptions people have been making when evaulating the Orbital Space Plane is that it will be launched atop the Delat IV and Atlas V. But perhaps not the current versions of those launch vehicles, if the following has any truth to it.
Peter B. Teets, undersecretary of the Air Force and the Defense Department's executive agent for space, also has pushed to work more closely with NASA.

"For us to be secure as a nation, we're going to need better eyes, ears, warning and rapid ability to respond to crisis," he said. "Clearly, space is the high ground, and we need to capture that high ground and exploit it."

Top on his list is the development of smaller, cheaper evolved expendable launch vehicles (EELVs) to replace the current Atlas V and Delta IV rockets that are used to launch military satellites. Future rockets could be erected quickly on a launch pad, bolted to a variety of spacecraft and fueled by a tanker truck, Teets said, cutting the cost and increasing their usefulness to both the military and NASA.

Of course the questions arise. What is the time frame for the development of these launch vehicles? How much cheaper will they be to launch than the current ones? Can they be "man rated" easily?

Seventeen people have started competing for the Darwin Award by becoming human shields in Iraq. Hmm, I wonder if this could become the latest reality show. The first human shield to actually turn back an attack gets a date with Joe Millionaire.
Roger Ebert thinks that, contrary to rumor, the film The Life of David Gale is a polemic for the death penalty. And that makes him really mad.
Rod Dreher suggests that Gods and Generals commits the politically incorrect sin of depicting the motives of the men who fought the Civil War as complex. He also has some things to say about the differing views on the nature of God of Stonewall Jackson and Joshua Chamberlain.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

The One Ring of Mass Destruction has itself been destroyed. Honestly.
Jonathon Last, on the other hand, seems to like Gods and Generals, for the most part, religion and all.
Jean Oppenheimer, crack film critic for the Houston Press, wonders why so many charecters in the up coming Civil War epic, Gods and Generals, address the Almighty so frequently. Well, Jean, maybe it is because 19th Century people were-well-religious. Especially just before marching out to get killed.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

George Will suggests that it's time for the UN to join the Hanseatic League on the dustbin of history.
The romantic tragedy of Tristan and Isolde is once again getting the big screen treatment.
Meanwhile the Democrats are alienating Hispanics over the Estrada nomination.
Donna Brazile is afraid that the Democrats are losing black voters to the Republicans and independents. If so it could be the beginning of the end for the Democrat Party.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

The initial requirements for the orbital space plane have been released.
Now here's a military development which will really enrage the PETA folks.
The Daily Mirror reports that the tabloid's "not in our name" "anti war" campaign is being financed by none other than Jimmy Carter. It just goes to show that in a contest between Carter and Clinton for the title of worse ex President, sometimes age, stupidity, and treachery trumps youth, mendacity, and dishonesty.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Chirac is very miffed at certain Eastern European countries for being uppity.
The hapless Governor Gray Davis of California may well face the wrath of the voters sooner than anyone thought possible.
Here is living proof that the so-called "peace movement" lacks any kind of seriousness. Probably not suitable for children, the more sensitive, or anyone with a little bit of taste.
The same technology which images stars and nebuli may in our lifetimes make eye glasses and contacts obsolete.
Mathew Spalding points out that today is not "President's Day", but rather George Washington's Birthday. The idea of a holiday which elevates people like Warren G. Harding and Bill Clinton to the save leval as Washington, Abe Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan is a bit tiresome in any case.
Rand Simberg doesn't like the idea of an Orbital Space Plane, even a little bit. I think he's right that the idea that the OSP is going to save money is a silly one. But that's not entirely the justification of building and operating a fleet of these space craft. The other main justification is to expand our options for sending people and cargo to and from space. The question is, ought NASA be the entity which operates such a fleet. I think not.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Tony Blair proves himself as much a lion as Thatcher and Churchill when it comes to opposing despots.
I'm not sure that the scheme by Democrat operatives to make Carol Mosely-Braun the "official" black candidate for President, thus siphoning votes away from the seriously scary Al Sharpton, is working very well.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Tony Blair had a great line about the "anti war" protests in London. The five hundred thousand who marched to support appeasement on Saddam Hussein were less than the number of people Saddam has had murdered over the years.
The "anti-war" protest in Houston also drew the usual freaks and weirdos.
Reader Mark Reif passes the following along:
Saudi Commentary on Arab 'Blindness', 'Rejoicing' at Columbia Crash

Abha al-watan (internet version-www) in Arabic 10 feb 03

[Commentary by Ali Sa'd al-Musa: "Arabs in the Columbia Crash"]

I have so far compiled a huge file on Arab reactions to the us space shuttle crash. I printed out all the commentaries on my personal computer, which is coincidentally American-made, so is the technology used by those who rejoice at other people's misfortune today to access information.

A simple reading into this file shows Arab reaction to the enemy's disasters and the Arab nation's exceptional ability to write prose while the alleged enemy is busy with more important issues. Our enemy has been busy learning and deriving scientific information from the tragic incident ever since the shuttle exploded. We, on the other hand, devoted ourselves to rebuking and belittling the incident and ended up exchanging pictures of the explosion via email, which is owned by American companies. Not only that, had America not volunteered to send us the satellite images, we would not have been able to rejoice at the misfortune and celebrate because the only other choice we had was to go and see the debris in person.

Our enemies control and monitor space with remote controls and microscopes while we treat cataracts using US and German made equipment. Can you imagine what it would be like if they were to deprive us from this equipment. Tell me how will we continue to rejoice at their misfortune or access any website? Will you translate the word electronic to me? If you succeed, let me know.

We have not been able to translate this scientific word, not even for the purpose of rejoicing at their misfortune.

The gap between our enemies and us has become so wide it cannot even be measured with the tools and measurements known to us. Arabs invented the number zero and stopped there since that is where they belong. In Israel, the space agency has decided to give 25 scientific lectures about space travel to each secondary student, which started the day the shuttle left with an Israeli pilot on-board. After his death, the government decided to double the number of lectures given. It also decided to send 1000 excelling students in stages to join a specialized scientific program in NASA. In Israel, 98 percent of the population voted in favor of taking part in the first shuttle trip to be scheduled.

As for me personally, I still remember a story connected to Columbia. I visited the launch site in Cape Canaveral in Florida once. It was ready for launch in less than 24 hours. I was among the dozens of visitors who stood meters away from the shuttle. I was able to enter this great scientific fortress without being asked about my nationality or passport and without being considered a possible terrorist or a suspect, but that is all in the past. The problem is that every time we get close to the sources of education and the hotbeds of technology, those among us who find joy in the misfortunes of others and practice one-upmanship disappoint and take us back to nomad times where we should be. The Arab nation has become incapable of seeing things with the naked eye. The
Arabs suffer from night blindness.

[Description of source: Abha al-Watan (internet version-www) in Arabic -- daily newspaper known for its exclusive reports and in-depth coverage of local, Arab, and foreign news; strongly critical of Israel; financially supported by ASIR Governor Prince Khalid al Faysal.

Observing the outpouring of appeasement, pacifism, and anti-Americanism from the usual suspects in Europe and elsewhere, I could not help but remember the last time this sort of thing happened. Cast your mind back twenty years ago. The usual collection of communists, environmental wackos, left wing lunatics, and just plain America-haters poured into the streets of London and Berlin. But the issue then was not appeasing the Beast of Bahgdad, but rather the Soviet Empire. While now the slogan is "No blood for oooiiilll!", then it was "Nuclear Freeze!" The US President and British Prime Minister being hanged if effigy were Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher instead of George W. Bush and Tony Blair. Then, Reagan and Thatcher held firm against the ravings of the mob. As a result, the Soviet Empire fell and the threat of global thermonuclear war receeded.

Now, with the addition of Islamic fascists, the same crowd is in the streets again, with the same worn out slogans and the same tiresome ideas. We can expect President Bush and Prime Minister Blair to hold just as firm as did their predecessors. And when Iraq is liberated, the chanting mobs will melt away, without-unfortunetly-a hint of embaressment. Until the next time.

Friday, February 14, 2003

With the Columbia Disaster and the space shuttle fleet grounded for the time being, attention is being directed on some private alternatives.
If Gary Hartpence is running for President, he has certainly made an interesting start. He has managed to insult Jews, Irish, and Cubans all with the same gaffe.
Speaking of the Frogs, there's a story going around about one of my favorite Congressmen, Tom Delay of Texas, the House Majority Leader. It seems that Tom encountered a Frenchman and had a frank exchange of views with him over French appeasement of Iraq. At the end, was this dialogue:

Congressman Delay: By the way, do you speak German?
Frenchman: Why, no.
Congressman Delay: You're welcome.

I wonder if the Frenchman even got the point.
Perhaps after dealing with Iraq, the United States and her true allies should deal with France. I'm not sure that it's the smug arrogance, the cowardly appeasement, or the ingratitude of the cheese eating surrender monkeys which is the most tiresome.
One of the Harry Potter producers is looking for a screenwriter to adapt Robert Heinlein's epic novel of space and rebellion, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Looks like some environmentalist wackos are getting introduced to an aspect of nature they rarely have had to think about. I guess one other term for "eco tourist" might be "happy meal with legs."
Bob Novak suggests that Al Sharpton is an even worse nightmare for the Democrats than President GW Bush.
Anthony Tate is thinking really big. He proposes a nuclear powered heavy lift, reusable launcher to really open up the heavens.
Dr. Paul Spudis, author of The Once and Future Moon and leading advocate of a return to the Moon, weighs in about the robots vrs humans in space controversy:
Perhaps there is a debate to have on the merits of humans v. machines, but Robert Park is not the guy to make the case for robots.

The example he picks -- Mars Pathfinder -- is telling: although technically a complete success, scientifically, we learned NOTHING about Mars from Pathfinder that we did not already know. Even its much-touted "discovery" (silica-rich compositions) is scientifically meaningless because we don't know whether this composition represents weathering product, a sediemtary rock, an igneous rock, or an impact melt breccia. Each has totally different implications for the history and processes of Mars.

In short, Mars Pathfinder could NOT do what a human astronaut would have taken about a minute to do -- identify the sample collected and put it into some type of geological context. And that's fundamentally the value of people in space. They adapt and use accumulated experience to inform decisions and actions. They are thus the ideal exploration tool -- they can think AND they are on the scene.

Park is probably right about people doing HIS science in space -- if you're measuring plasmas or detecting magnetic fields and particles, people cannot sense these things directly and are largely reduced to button-pushing. If, on the other hand, you want to search a planetary surface for telltale clues about its history or look for fossils, only people provide the requisite experience base and capability of action.

But this has long since stopped being a scientific debate -- it has moved into thr realm of theology. No amount of contrary argument could ever convince Park that there are some things machines cannot do. On the other hand, I'm willing to be convinced. In fact, I'll start off easy, with a task any second year geology graduate student could do. Make me a machine that can make a geologic map of a quadrangle on the Earth. I get to pick the field area.

John Carter McKnight says that space advocacy groups have been ineffective in fostering reform of space policy. True enough. But McKnight is a bit vague, in my opinion, on how that changes.
Eric Fettman suggests that the Democrats are making fools of themselves over their most pressing issue of our times. It's not Iraq, terrorism, or tax cuts. It's a piece of cloth,
According to the Washington Times Inside Politics section, Bill Clinton let slip his real opinion of Hollywood actors:

Bill Clinton lashed out yesterday at CNN's Judy Woodruff for asking about actor Richard Gere's recent comments that Mr. Clinton did nothing to fight AIDS during his time in the White House.
"Let me turn to something, President Clinton, that you're also very involved in, and that is AIDS," Miss Woodruff said on the program "Inside Politics."
"As I'm sure you know, the actor Richard Gere made a comment the other day that you hadn't done anything about AIDS in your years in the White House. Obviously, that is not true.
"Given how much President Bush is now directing to the global fight against AIDS, do you, in retrospect, wish you had done a little more?" she asked.
Mr. Clinton replied: "I think that's the silliest question I ever heard, and I don't blame Richard Gere, because he is an actor. He doesn't know."

Hmm. I wonder if he ever expressed such thoughts when he was hobnobbing with folks like Tom Hanks and Anthony Hopkins. (Hanks, by the way, has actually had some intelligent things to say about space exploration.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

The tiresome robots vrs humans debate has cropped up again in the US Congress. Note the testimony of a fellow who is designing a "robot astronaut."

I happen to agree with him. How is it that some folks like Robert Park think we can replace astronauts with robots when we haven't found a way to replace waiters or chambermaids with robots?
Senate Democrats are getting ready to slap down Miguel Estrada for being uppity enough to think he can be a judge without toeing the line.
If Sean Penn is telling the truth, then this is the first time since the Red Scare that a Hollywood person suffered for being a lefty.
Can anyone seriously argue that missile defense is a bad idea now.
Come to think of it, if you're tired of a bunch of bad poets, like the ones who recently dissed First Lady Laura Bush, preaching pacifism and appeasement, Poets for the War would like to hear from you.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Tired of movie actors and rock stars preaching appeasement and pacifism? Citizens Against Celebrity "Pundits" wants to hear from you.
Laura Billings compares Sheryl Crow to Martin Luther King, Ghandi, and Jesus Christ for opposing war with Saddam Hussein. Seriously.
The first attempts to gold plate the Jupiter Tour probe (to explore some moons of Jupiter with a nuclear propulsion unit to be developed under Project Prometheus) have already begun. They should be resisted.
Keith Cowling has some interesting ideas about what a Congressional investigation into the Columbia disaster should do. He'd like to go back all the way to decisions taken during the Nixon Administration. Excellent notion, in my humble opinion.
The first regime change caused by Gulf War II may be in Germany.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Is Ian Bayne the new Lee Atwater? Could be.
Glenn Reynolds imagines what America would be like if it were a real imperial power. I'd like to be Proconsul of-say-Italy. The food is excellent.
Dude, you're going to jail!
In his zeal to have everything both ways, John Kerry has announced that he is Jewish as well as Gentile.
Cooky Oberg looks to Lewis and Clark as inspiration for what a proper space program two hundred years later should look like.
Liberal Democrat opposition to Miguel Estrada is alienating Hispanics, it seems.

Saturday, February 08, 2003

We are called to open up the heavens.
The New York Times actually has a thoughtful article about the history of the shuttle. The Clinton Era NASA does not come out very well.

Friday, February 07, 2003

John Edwards goes out of his way to slap black Americans in the face. Oddly he may get away with it.
The superb Homer Hickam, author of Rocket Boys and Back to the Moon, has some thoughts about Columbia.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

It looks like that Senator John McCain is taking an interest in the future of the US Space Program. Other people who have an interest in that subject should look upon that prospect with a little dread.

McCain is not a man known for calm, reasoned judgement. His abortive 2000 campaign for the Presidency seemed to have the sole purpose of annoying Republican voters. His blind support for Campaign Finance Reform seems to have resulted from a deep seated shame he feels over his brush with scandal during the Keating Five Affair. CFC is an assault on the First Amendment of the US Constitution and is expected to be enviserated by the US Supreme Court probably this summer. He has opposed tax decreases seemingly in a fit of pique against the man who beat him to the White House. What he might do to space policy can only be imagined.

Now I could be wrong. McCain could rise to statemanship and instead of using the hearings to grab headlines for himself (or talking points for Chris Mathews on Hardball) and to launch dubious legislation come up with a plan which will revitalize and reform the US space program. But that might be elevating hope over experience.
The National Space Society is circulating an online petition to oppose those who they say want to end human space flight in the wake of the Columbia Disaster. Now, there are certainly a few of those. See below where I give one of them, Robert Park, the back of my hand. But it seems to me that these nay sayers are by far outnumbered by the people from a wide spectrum of American society who are calling for something more than a space program that goes around literally in circles. Perhaps NSS should get on this wave and try to shape events by suggesting-well-policies to create a private launch industry and, having freed NASA up from being a glorified trucking company, direct our attention to human exploration and settlement of the Moon and of the planets.
Howard Kurtz takes a dim view of the media's coverage of the Columbia Disaster and the space program in general.
Here is a series of images of Columbia debrie in a slide show format.
Happy birthday President Reagan.

His victory over the Soviet Empire shall be celebrated for all time.
I, among many other people, have been pushing the space as aviation model for years. However, Terrence Yee suggests another model:
Why should it take a billion dollars to design and build a single spacecraft over ten years, when the Ford Motor Company comes out with new car models on a yearly basis, which include GPS navigation, millisecond computerized traction/braking control, solid rockets (in airbags) all designed for a horrendous vibration and contamination environment, while being so robust that the vehicle is fully reusable for thousands of hours of operation?

NASA has lost its edge, lost its focus, and lost its heart. Instead of learning new technologies and performing actual experiments with hardware, most of NASA's best spend their time filling out paperwork and procedures that have at best a dubious impact on the final quality of the product.

Instead of building things and testing them in a lab or test range, most of their energy goes into endless review cycles and rehashing of design minutia with people who are thoroughly convinced that if a part hasn't been used the exact same way for years, then it is magically unfit. They routinely sacrifice innovation to the false god of "heritage".

If automakers had been like minded, they would never have allowed delicate electronics under the hood amid the drastic temperature extremes, soot, solvents, water, and constant vibration and shock.

But yet hundreds of millions of cars use state of the art commercial and industrial parts while NASA largely restricts itself to obscure S-class parts in a misguided quest for mythical quality improvements.

Hmm, indeed.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Now this is a very curious development concerning a possible cause of the Columbia Disaster.
The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) responds to the controversy over the use of the word "arrogance" by it's anchor in charecterizing the way NASA conducts shuttle flights:
As is the custom here I have asked CBC News management to respond to your concerns about Newsworld's coverage of the shuttle disaster. Attached is the response of Mark Bulgutch, Senior Executive Producer of CBC News and CBC Newsworld.

Yours truly,

David Bazay


The CBC Ombudsman has sent me your complaint about part of our coverage of the Space Shuttle disaster last week.
I must tell you that I was driving to the CBC building when the remark in question was made so I didn't hear it. But since I was in our control room producing our coverage beginning about 15 minutes later and ending after midnight, I know the tone we set. There wasn't a hint of anti-Americanism in what we did. So I was very surprised to hear about the nature of the complaint.

I have now watched the videotape of the interview you cited. You are, of course, accurate in saying that our anchor used the word, "arrogance" in a question. It came in a conversation with a writer about how confident NASA had become with shuttle flights. The shuttle had a proven track record, said the writer, so naturally there was a high level of confidence at NASA.

Our anchor then asked, albeit in an awkward fashion, if that "confidence" had spilled into "arrogance". Her intent, it seems to me, is clear. She wondered if healthy confidence had become willful blindness to trouble, based on the belief that any problem could be overcome with NASA's combination of brain power and ingenuity. I think, in the context of the conversation, that was a reasonable thing to ask.

But I concede that the anchor mangled enough words into her question to blur her meaning.

I have spoken to her about the question. She is aghast at the interpretation that some people have put on her words. She says anti-Americanism never entered her mind. I believe her.

I think her true sentiments were expressed just a minute or two earlier when she said, "We are all watching horrified..."

As I am sure you appreciate, anchoring a LIVE news special as a story is happening, is not easy. The anchor is getting information from untold numbers of sources and trying to formulate articulate questions at the same time.

As I said, I think the question could have been worded much more clearly. I'm sorry it wasn't. It left some viewers reaching conclusions we had not intended.

Mark Bulgutch
Senior Executive Producer
CBC News and CBC Newsworld
Apparently Condi Rice is to be responsible for a new White House space policy in the wake of the Columbia Disaster.
Colin Powell proved today to anyone who is reasonable that Iraq has no more intention of disarming or cooperating with inspectors than Hannibal Lecter would have of giving up eating people. Unfortunately, the French-being unreasonable-has responded that all that is needed are more inspectors.

Bill Kristol, however, thinks that the French are slowly moving toward the US position.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Cooky Oberg suggests that the roots of the Columbia Disaster lie within the policies of the previous administration.
There will be weapons used in the upcoming Iraq War which in living memory existed only in science fiction.
Carol offers this sentiment for the Columbia Seven.
Jim Pinkerton offers a powerful arguement for spreading human civilization to space. It is vital for both human freedom and human survival.
For the first time, I think, ever, there is a push from the Congress to increase NASA's budget.
Reader Michael Montagne comments on the environmentally correct shuttle external tank insulation controversy:
I was listening to the Rush Limbaugh show today, Rodger Hegecock was sitting in for Rush. He read from a NASA report prepared after an earlier flight in which insulation debris from the external tank caused significant tile damage. The report stated that they began having much more foam debris, and much more attendant tile damage, after the method of foaming the external tank was changed. The method was changed because the new method is considered more environmentally friendly. No details were given on how or why it is more friendly. Good God! If it should turn out that this could have been avoided but for somebody kowtowing to some idiotic environmental concern I will be sick.

Of course if true it would not be the first time environmentalism has caused needless deaths. For example, environmentalists will go nuts over supposed dangers attributed to nuclear power. But they are silent about the very real deaths suffered by coal miners since we burn coal instead of uranium.
Sadly, but inevitably, the enemies of space exploration are coming out from under the rocks. Typical was the statement by the High Priest of Humans in Space Delanda est Robert Park:
"The plain fact is, shuttle and space-station science can't be justified in terms of the science," said Robert Park, a physics professor at the University of Maryland and the spokesman for the American Physical Society. "No research has been conducted that has significantly benefited any field of science."

No research? That's a particularly bold statement and one I suspect could be easily refuted. Park seems willfully ignorent about how science is conducted in the real world. Very few laboratories on Earth, for example, are staffed entirely by robots. It can be argued that there is a cost/benefit problem with conducting science research on 400 million dollar shuttle launches or on a thirty odd billion dollar space station. But Park will not go there because he knows that the same arguement might be made about five hundred million dollar probes to Mars.

Park and his ilk also have a problem with believing that all space exploration is about is "good science." It is not. Properly speaking, space exploration is about expanding human presence and human opportunities beyond the Earth. "Good science" is only a small part of that.

But the real reason for Park's religious-seeming opposition to human space flight is a cynical and not very realistic view of budget politics. The theory is that if we were to end human space flight tomorrow, money would be freed up to launch more robotic probes. That won't happen because there are a myriad of demands on federal dollars and plenty of politicians willing to lay their hands on that money should it become available. Robotic space exploration certainly did not benefit in the 1970s when we truncated Apollo and deferred dreams of lunar settlements and missions to Mars. But, alas, some people never learn and prefer to adhere to their biases rather than real world experience.

Did you hear about the German peacenik who decided to make his point clear to an American with a Swiss Army knife?

Monday, February 03, 2003

Since everyone else is offering suggestions of what to do about the space program, I offer this, first published and syndicated by the LA Times last July.
According to Done Deal, the next film by Randall Wallace (Braveheart, We Were Soldiers) will be something called Love and Honor.
Set in 18th century Russia and framed around the Revolutionary War, an American is sent to seek out Catherine the Great to prevent her from joining the British to put down the American Revolution. In the process of convincing her to side with him, he falls in love with her.

Glenn Reynolds tries to provide some answers to some of the questions Rand asks.
Rand Simberg would like to ask some questions about the future of space travel.
Chantal offers the following as a sentiment for the Columbia Seven.

Sunday, February 02, 2003

The 2004 NASA budget will be rolled out without a lot of fanfare. There's money for Prometheus, the Orbital Space Plane, and other inititiatives. I suspect that as a result of Columbia, a lot more money will be added in later in the year.
Besides the Iraqis (who by the way know not the meaning of the phrase "God's vengence", though they soon will) it looks like Bruce Garnon of the Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space is dancing on the smouldering graves of the Columbia Seven. Scum.
The following is from Steven Pipar. Thanks to Chantal for directing me to it:
Seven Are Gone

Sunna has risen, bright in the East
Washing starlight, out of the sky
Wispy skysheep, in their blue lea
Calmly, gently, day has begun

Within the black, high above Earth
A small spark glows, grows in our sight
Out from the dark, lying in West
Skyfaring wain, Starheim Seeker

Columbia, bearing seven
Brave hearts all, and good minded
Men and Women, Worthy in Deed
Road flame pillar, seeking to Do

At the Skyhall, duty they did
Working to build, working to Learn
Living a Dream, Far Travelers
Beyond the bounds, of earthly home

Fortnight, twinnight, both together
Was the length of, venture journey
Sixteen full days, beyond the Winds
Sixteen full days, beyond Sun's Warmth

Came the morning, tools put away
All were seated, ready to fare
Winging to home, hearth and kinfolk
Looking forward, gladly longing

Ship's underbelly, tickled the clouds
Something went wrong, badly amiss
Skywain glowed hot, much too brightly
The great white ship, became embers

Shattered, falling, torn asunder
Columbia, and the brave seven
Into our hearts, tragically thrust
Such a great loss, for Kin and Kith

No more to hear, words from their lips
No more to feel, loving embrace
No more to see, them anymore
No more, no more, but Memory

In this regard, all will recall
Darkness of day, brightness of death
Better still is, bringing to mind
Names they did build, Fame they did have

Sunna has risen, bright in the East
Washing starlight, out of the sky
Wispy skysheep, in their blue lea
Calmly, gently, day has begun.

Saturday, February 01, 2003

Peggy Noonan offers a wonderful sentiment.
Never let it be said that the President lacks elloquence when it is sorely needed:
My fellow Americans, this day has brought terrible news and great sadness to our country. At 9:00 a.m. this morning, Mission Control in Houston lost contact with our Space Shuttle Columbia. A short time later, debris was seen falling from the skies above Texas. The Columbia is lost; there are no survivors.

On board was a crew of seven: Colonel Rick Husband; Lt. Colonel Michael Anderson; Commander Laurel Clark; Captain David Brown; Commander William McCool; Dr. Kalpana Chawla; and Ilan Ramon, a Colonel in the Israeli Air Force. These men and women assumed great risk in the service to all humanity.

In an age when space flight has come to seem almost routine, it is easy to overlook the dangers of travel by rocket, and the difficulties of navigating the fierce outer atmosphere of the Earth. These astronauts knew the dangers, and they faced them willingly, knowing they had a high and noble purpose in life. Because of their courage and daring and idealism, we will miss them all the more.

All Americans today are thinking, as well, of the families of these men and women who have been given this sudden shock and grief. You're not alone. Our entire nation grieves with you. And those you loved will always have the respect and gratitude of this country.

The cause in which they died will continue. Mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand. Our journey into space will go on.

In the skies today we saw destruction and tragedy. Yet farther than we can see there is comfort and hope. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."

The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home.

May God bless the grieving families, and may God continue to bless America.

The funeral pyre of the crew of Columbia 107 streaked across the Texas sky like some horrible comet. In ancient times comets were considered to be a prelude to Earth shaking events, the fall of empires, or the death of kings. What turns of history this tragedy will begin I’m not sure anyone could predict. I can offer, though, some suggestions of what should be.

First I should hope that there will be no months and years long orgy of self doubt and recrimination. The inevitable voices which will use this tragedy as an excuse to end human space flight should not be heeded. Find the problem, fix it, and then push on.

However the loss of Columbia and her crew does illustrate with great urgency a great problem in the area of access to space. The United States has only one vehicle, the space shuttle, as a means for carrying people to and from space. This situation should not be allowed to continue. The nation should figure out how to expand our means of space travel in the most expeditious way possible. While I suspect one option along those lines will be to accelerate the development of the Orbital Space Plane, I hope that commercial solutions will be pursued as well. Let the genius of the private sector finally be brought to bear, to develop new and creative means of space travel.

Finally there have been stories in the media about the intentions of the Bush Administration to find great things for NASA to do, beyond just being a glorified space trucking company. Project Prometheus, which is said to be to build space nuclear power and propulsion systems, should not be deferred. Prometheus should proceed with all due speed and diligence. While Robert Heinlein was right when he said when you get to low Earth orbit, you’re half way to anywhere, nuclear power and propulsion is the key to get us the rest of the way.

Let this be the memorial for the crew of Columbia 107, as well as those of Challenger 51L and Apollo 1: a renewed purpose to open up the high frontier of space not just for the few, but for all people.
Oh my God, not again!

Update: It looks like the space shuttle Columbia is lost with her entire crew. Terrorism so far has been ruled out. Much more when news becomes available.
Speaking of space races, 45 years ago yesterday the original space race was joined with the launch of Explorer 1.
The X Prize Foundation has a prize for the first team to fly a piloted space craft in a suborbital flight. Now we have the Mars Prize with a slightly more ambitious target.