Sunday, November 30, 2003

Frank Sietzen suggests that the Orlando Sentinal scenario is false and that President Bush is sending us back to the Moon.
Whomever is working on a new space policy at the White House would do well to listen to Dana Rohrabacher.
Rand Simberg misses the point about the Chinese space challenge again and misreports your humble servant's position on it:
And Mark thinks that this will, or should, have the American public quaking in our collective boots?

Well, no, I don't. I do, however, think that this challenge requires some kind of response. I will however start to quake if Rand's advice of complacency and denial becomes standard operating proceedure. The Orlando Sentinal suggests that the Bush administration is considering doing nothing. (Free registration required for linked story.) I trust this will not be the case.

Any policy that does not address the fundamental fact that the American space program has been literally going in circles for the past thirty years will be, in my opinion, a failure of imagination and of courage. The United States needs to encourage a commercial launch industry to replace the aging shuttle fleet and to redirect NASA's energy to the human exploration of the Moon and beyond. Anything less will constitute a failure to rise to an opportunity of epic proportions.
George Will weighs in on the subject of gay marriage without revealing which side, if any, he is on.

Friday, November 28, 2003

Official vagueness about China's lunar ambitions ended yesterday. They plan to have taikionauts on the Moon by 2020.
Now that the holiday season has begun, I should like to humbly make a couple of suggestions for gifts.

Nocturne is the espionage thriller I wrote with the wife Chantal back in the late nineties. Nocturne had its origins in a trip we took to Italy in 1987. We just happened to find ourselves in Venice a month before the economic summit of industrialized nations that took place there that year. 1987 was also the year that Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestroika policies, which would eventually help lead to the fall of the Soviet Union, were just beginning to take off.

So, Chantal and I thought, what if a group of communist hard liners, seeing the possibility that the Soviets might lose the Cold War, decided to take desperate measures to try to prevent that loss? The center of that plot would be the assassination of the seven world leaders in Venice, including President Reagan and Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher. We invented an American couple, much like ourselves, visiting Venice at the time of the summit, and a college friend of theirs who is in charge of the summit’s security. Without giving away too many plot details, I’ll mention that one critic thought the story could be summed up as “Nick and Nora Charles meet the Manchurian Candidate.”

Nocturne is available in trade paperback and hardcover.

Children of Apollo, my alternate history novel that came out last year, is so far my most personal effort. Children of Apollo takes place during the Apollo program, but one that is slightly altered from the history we know. Instead of truncating the Apollo moon expeditions, President Nixon decides to expand them, primarily as a way to pressure the Soviets to make arms control and other concessions. I illustrate Nixon’s “Tricky Dick” side by having him at the same time propose a joint space exploration program with the Soviets as a way of furthering d├ętente.

The main character is a female geologist who eventually becomes an astronaut and flies as lunar module pilot on Apollo 23’s expedition to the lunar south pole. Other characters include an African American astronaut who goes on to be involved in a slightly different space shuttle program, a liberal Democrat politician who opposes the space program, and a CIA analyst haunted by the idea that he might have changed history.

Children of Apollo is also available in trade paperback and hardcover.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Here is the President's address to the troops in Baghdad.
President Bush's visit to the troops in Baghdad was a gesture of heart felt solidarity with the boys and girls fighting terrorism and tyranny, as well as an act of personal courage. Naturally his enemies will view it as a nefariously clever political gambit.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Rich Lowry shows us how Howard Dean is positively scary in his rage:
At an afternoon union rally in New York City, Howard Dean is trying to be uplifting. He is talking about progress made in the civil-rights revolution, despite awful setbacks. Dean recalls how we "lost" Martin Luther King Jr., "lost" Robert Kennedy, and "lost" schoolgirls in the Birmingham, Ala., church bombing in the 1960s. But before he can finish his riff with a burst of inspiring rhetoric, a voice rings out from the back of the hall: "Let's 'lose' George Bush!"

And so it goes on Planet Dean. Even when the former Vermont governor tries to inspire, he provokes from his audience a call — by implication — for the assassination of the president of the United States. The rule for a Dean crowd is: Don't be uplifting if you can be angry instead.

Some of this may not be quite Star Trek technology, but it seems awefully close.

Monday, November 24, 2003

John Kerry's death dive continues as a poll shows Dean beating him in Kerry's own state of Massachusetts
The President of the Czech Republic says that Old Europe is living in a dream world.
Taking a giant step backward, both Rice University and the University of Texas decide to resume discrimination on the basis of race in admissions.
R. H. Sager offers a conservative case for gay marriage. So does David Brooks, though Brooks is mistaken about the utility of sowing wild oats before settling down.
You got to love the Democrats. First they turn on the AARP, once one of their most loyal special interest groups, then they diss Joe Lieberman, a respected Democrat US Senator.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Newsweek discusses Jim Benson's SpaceDev company.
The Democrat position appears to be that it is illegitement to say that, "The President is right and the Democrats are wrong on the war of terror issue."
Two more ancient history film epics are in the works, another about Alexander and one about Cyrus of Persia.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

An interesting piece on India's space ambitions. The fascinating part is how eliminating poverty and space exploration seem to be linked.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Christopher Hitchens turns his gimlet eye upon John F. Kennedy and the myth of Camelot and finds both wanting.
Looks like Walter Duranty will keep his Pulitzer, even though he covered up Stalin's crimes against humanity.
The ACLU apparently thinks that school Christmas pagents are human rights violations. Since I was in my own school's Christmas play in the 6th grade (in the role of--if you can believe it--an alien who flew his spacecraft round the world with a couple of Earth children to observe Christmas customs in various countries), I guess I must be as one with Pinochet and John Ashcroft. For all of those I taumatized with this brutal denial of human rights (as well as questionable acting), please forgive me.
Here is more on the Saddam-Usama connection that the anti war left assures us doesnot exist.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

President Bush is likely to sign a bill boosting funding for nanotechnology research, and a good thing too. It also looks like that, along with biotechnology, Old Europe is likely to remain backward in this area, mainly because of irrational fears:
Elsewhere, particularly in Europe, talk of the perils of nanotechnology research has led to stricter controls on scientists. Some researchers have suggested it might even become the next issue to go the way of genetically modified crops, which, in Europe, have generated public opposition strong enough to stop the sale of such products.


Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Rand Simberg informs us that George Walker Bush is no Jack Kennedy. He is in fact better than JFK and that may well be especially in matters of space exploration.
Speaking of someone who was never a man, prepare yourself for months and months of unadulterated, wall to wall awefulness on the cable channels. Michael Jackson and child molestation are just too perfect for the likes of Greta, Geraldo, and company.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is a movie for and about real men. And, I might add, the women who appreciate them.
A series of films about Young Merlin is in the works. The pitch was apparently, "It's Harry Potter in fifth century Wales."
An ancient Roman disaster movie, about the destruction of Pompei, is in development.
NASA is trying to shoe horn the orbital space plane into the humans beyond LEO plans. But the OSP still has problems.

I still say that for the "first 100 miles and the last 100 miles", we should go to the private sector in a prize competition.
NASA is already planning for missions beyond LEO. The infrastructure includes a huge, heavy lifter. Now, I don't think this new HLV should be a prerequisite for starting to go beyond LEO, since we could assemble things in orbit using Delta IVs and Atlas Vs. But, later on, it might be useful.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

I guess they don't all hate us for Iraq, at least in Great Britain.
The problem with the gay marriage ruling is similer to that of Roe V. Wade. (And first let me stipulate that I agree with both the right to an abortion and the right of gays to marry as general princibles.) The fact that gay marriage, like abortion, is going to be established by judicial fiat is going to cause a huge backlash, in my opinion. If both of these issues were settled in the court of public opinion, by legislation, with the use of appeals to reason and fairness, then that would be one thing. But because the question, which many find controversial at best, odious at worse, is to be settled by the dictate of a few judges, then many people are going to find the very process tyrannical and will revolt.

Update: Jim Oberg at www.jamesoberg.com offers some other reasons why the subject of gay (or same sex) marriage should be resolved through public discussion and legislation and not judicial fiat:
Precise terminology is the only hope in seeing through this fog, and the issue isn't marriage which requires some specified form of sexual activity ("gay marriage"), but marriage in which the partners have a different-than-usual physical identity ("same-sex marriage"). To use the former term requires some state certification of the sexual orientation and activities of the partners, a level of obstrusiveness that goes far beyond the general acceptance level (like, should 'gay' be an option on a census form? -- I don't THINK so). Now, once the concept of same-sex legal unions with civic equivalence to opposite-sex unions becomes acceptable, the obvious question is, why doesn't EVERYBODY who likes such advantages use them? Two same-sex but not gay male or female roommates where one needs cheap medical coverage? Why not two siblings? Why not a single man and his widower father, to gain the same 'rights' (including medical coverage)? What's to stop such 'abuse' of the provisions, and who's to say it's abuse, and how would you PROVE it was 'abuse' and then what would you do? I'm not advocating any option here, but I'm asking why the logical consequences of these new civil arrangements aren't being more widely discussed?

To be sure. I suspect that the kind of judicial overreaching such as we saw in Massachuttes is going to make a "Defense of Marriage" Constitutional Amendment more likely.
Jeff Foust examines two innovative means of financing space efforts. These are space sector mutual funds and X prizes.
Taylor Dinerman has an interesting piece on what should be the response to the Chinese space challenge. I think he is a little naive about the nature of China's long term grand strategy, which has as its goal to match and then eventually replace the United States as a super power. But at the very least he does not counsel complacency.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Rush Limbaugh is back. Let the enemies of freedom tremble.
Even with the UN fig leaf, this is still cyber imperialism and should be resisted to the utmost.
An observatory on the lunar surface would open up the universe.
Florida Today has come up with a fifty year space exploration plan. I'm pretty sure I'm a bit leary about trying to plan out the next fifty years down to the nth degree of detail. I also think that, properly done, we could get people on Mars a lot sooner than 2054.
The death spiral of the Kerry Campaign proceeds apace, as Dean closes for the kill.
Robert Rodat, who penned Saving Private Ryan and The Patriot, is writing the screenplay for The First Olympics, about an Athenian warrior who hopes to beat his Sparten rival in the Olympics, win the respect of his General, and win the heart of the General's daughter.
The European notion of "usage rights" (as opposed to property rights) on the Moon and other celestrial bodies is, in my opinion, a bureucratic train wreck ready to happen and a non starter if one is interested in the commercial development of the high frontier. Some provision has to be made for the private ownership or land and natural resources in space and a mechanisim must be put in place to enforce the rights of owners. An international agreement is certainly preferable, but if other countries become intransigent, then there is an alternative. The United States could abrogate the Outer Space Treaty, claim the Moon as soverign territory, and then negotiate a new treaty from a position of strength.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

I once thought that John F. Kerry's Presidential hopes would be over just as soon as Howard Dean whips him in New Hampshire. But I now wonder if I was giving Kerry too much credit for supposing he would even make it that far.
George Will suggests that if the Dems don't nominate Howard Dean, Dean will run as an independent. Then the fun really begins.
Rand Simberg gives the back of his hand to the revived idea of a shuttle derived heavy lifter. I have to agree with him on this point. We've learned enough about on orbit assembly to not need such a thing, for now.
Karen Sisco, the best new drama on network TV, is going on hiatus until March. The crime drama about a Federal Marshal in Miami has not been doing well in the ratings, due to its being run opposite NBC's Law and Order. I suppose ABC should be congratulated for not cancelling the series entirely, as is the usual practice, but it had better give it a better time slot when it comes back.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

But I thought that Saddem and Osama had no relationship and so the invasion of Iraq is just a distraction from the "real" war on terror.
Space resource utilization is a key to opening up the high frontier.
Marcia Smith provides a good overview of the Chinese space program.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is, bar none, the greatest film ever made about the era of wooden ships and iron men. Even if you have not read the Patrick O'Brian series of books about Captain Aubrey and Dr. Maturin (and you should), this movie is over two hours of pure entertainment.
More evidence that Liberal Democrats not only think that women and minority conservatives are unqualified for the federal bench, but that they are literally sub human.
Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., said Democrats will continue to resist what he describes as "any Neanderthal" the president nominates.

Friday, November 14, 2003

It seems that Liberal Democrat opposition to Bush judicial nominees is, at least in part, based on race.
Your Humble Servant offers a detailed historic background of the recent flight of the Shenzhou 5. My conclusion? The 15th Century Mandarians were foolish to stop the deep water voyages of Zheng He, just as their 20th Century counterparts were foolish to stop Apollo.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

I'm not sure what about this the Dean people find upsetting. After all, Dean has expressed such an appreciation of symbols of southern heritage.
Word has it that director Shekhar Kaptur is working on a sequal to his Oscar nominated historical epic Elizabeth, to be entitled The Golden Age. Elizabeth depicted the rise to power of Elizabeth 1 of England and starred Cate Blanchett.
A film based on the life of Galileo is in development.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Keith Cowing muses on the process of creating a new space policy to send people beyond Low Earth Orbit, first back to the Moon, later beyond.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Next thing you know, these intrepid girl scouts will be shooting bears and building log cabins.
The turmoil rocking the John Kerry campaign is proceeding apace. The problem, of course, is the candidate and the message and it can't be solved by staff shake ups.
Another attempt is going to be made to revive that cult classic TV series Dark Shadows, this time for the WB. The original series about a mysterious rich family in Maine that featured vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and other occult matters first aired in the late sixties.
The GOP has been unfairly pegged as the party of plutocrats since the time of FDR. Actually the Democrats have more than their share of well heeled qadzillionaire supporters. A case in point is George Soros, who has pledged millions to the personal destruction of President George W. Bush. Soros' hatred of the President is so intense that he has compared Bush to both the Nazis and the Soviets.

I wonder how the media would have reacted if--say--Bill Gates had openly announced that he would pay millions to take down Bill Clinton? Certainly Gates had every incentive, but I think the media would be somewhat less calm.
SpaceDev is offering your very own space mission on EBay.
Most earth orbiting small satellite missions can cost $25 million or more, not including the launch. To demonstrate the affordability of private space missions, SpaceDev has posted a “Buy it Now” price of $9.5 million. The high bidder will win a spacecraft based on SpaceDev’s Maneuvering and orbit Transfer Vehicle (MTV™).



“I founded SpaceDev to accelerate the development of space, to get the public involved in space and to have fun,” said Jim Benson, SpaceDev founder and CEO. “With our successful launch and operation of CHIPSat earlier this year, and after being competitively selected to provide safe hybrid rocket propulsion for manned space flight, we are offering this unique space mission to the public.”



The high bidder has the right to supply his or her own payload, to name the SpaceDev MTV™ satellite and to name the mission. The winning bidder, which could be an individual, company or government agency, can also be involved in the mission design, satellite assembly and testing (including putting small personal items on the spacecraft), can attend the launch, and can participate in on-orbit operations.



The nominal payload is a camera that provides a view of the launch separation on-orbit, a buyer-controlled camera on the spacecraft looking back down on earth and into space 24 hours a day, or the buyer can supply a SpaceDev-approved payload. The microsatellite camera can be operated over the Internet by the winning bidder, similar to SpaceDev’s CHIPSat microsat, which is the world’s first orbiting node on the Internet. Specific terms are included in the eBay auction listing. Search eBay for “SpaceDev.”


Jeff Foust offers a pretty good summary of the various efforts to forge a new "vision" to take humans beyond Low Earth Orbit. He suggests that whatever the current President Bush offers, he needs to avoid the mistakes of the previous President Bush and devote sufficient time and energy to getting the vision to reality. Jeff doesn't mention, but I will that opposition to going back to the Moon or even on to Mars will be far less in 2003 than in 1989.
Deborah Orin suggests that President Bush's call for democracy in the Middle East is as historic as President Reagan's call for democracy in Eastern Europe.

Monday, November 10, 2003

China's lunar exploration goals seem to have in mind resource utilization.
I wonder if General Clark would consider this as much of a "joke" if it had contained the words, "black and stupid?"

Sunday, November 09, 2003

I suspect that the only way Al Qaeda will recover from this blunder is to try to blame it on the Mossad.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Senator Fritz Hollings wants to address the problems brought on by NASA bureaucracy by creating more bureaucracy.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Actually Bush Haters can be pretty funny. But sometimes I worry they will do harm to themselves and others.
About a month ago, Julianna Liu of Reuters asked Your Humble Servant about the implications of Shenzhou 5.
Dr. David Criswell, Dr. Roger Angel, Dr. Harrison Schmitt, and Dr. Paul Spudis inform United States Senators about the hows and whys of a return to the Moon.
Sean O'Keefe says that a new direction for the US space program is drawing nigh.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Dick Morris suggests that President Bush do to Howard Dean what Bill Clinton did to Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich.
The Democrats tried to make the governors races in Kentucky and Mississippi a referendum on President Bush. Looks like they succeeded, but perhaps not with the results they were hoping for.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

This Thursday, the Senate Science, Technology, and Space Committee will hold hearings on lunar explorations. The following will testify:

Harrison Schmitt
Paul Spudis
Roger Angel
David Criswell

First of all, in the spirit of full disclosure, I'm the author of a motion picture screenplay now being shopped about Hollywood by an agent about the early life of Julius Caesar. I've also written an alternate history novel, Children of Apollo that has certain historical personages in situations they never participated in, but behaving in such a way that I believe is consistant with their actual charecter.

Well, it is official. CBS has cancelled The Reagans miniseries. Already we are hearing the cries of "Censorship!" Cannot we right winger, Reagan worshipers take a little free speech?

Well, of course we can, though sometimes we wish we could be afforded the same privledge. What we can't tolerate is a pack of malicious lies pretending to be biographical entertainment.

We also wonder why this almost always happens to conservative heroes. (With the exception of course of GW Bush in the splendid 9/11: DC.) Liberals get Sunrise at Campobello and PT 109. We get trash like The Reagans.

It's not that we object to made up dialogue. We understand that is necessary for dramatic purposes. We do object to such when it is meant to lie about a beloved historical personage.

I think that heads should roll at CBS and I suspect they will. I also think that some attempt should be made to produce an accurate and balanced drama about the Reagans. It's a compelling story.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Drudge is reporting that CBS has cancelled The Reagans miniseries. More on the fallout anon.
Dr. Jeffrey F. Bell summons the ghost of Wernher von Braun from the vasty deep, in an attempt to exorcise him.

Update: Reader Mike Shupp has a tart response:
And I for one find it damned annoying. Von Braun's been dead for a quarter century and the Collier articles came out half a f*****g century ago. There are other people to blame the plight of the American space program on -- Presidents Nixon to George W. Bush come to mind, as well as the entire BoB-OMB crew over the past forty years. One might reflect that the sad fact that Apollo came to fruition at the same time as an unpopular war which soured much of the public on high tech projects in general and high tech aerospace projects in particular had something to do with matters. Ignoring all these factors.IMHO, moves Bell's blatherings from the dignity of "journalism" or even "an opinion piece" to blatant libel.

I'm beginning to wonder, in fact....if I were a college prof and wanted my students to learn research methods by writing papers on any particular subject, would I accept any references to "facts" found on the internet? I'm starting to think No.

Too bad in a way. I think one can make the argument that (a) the 1957-1969 period in world astronautics was shaped by great power rivalries and ideological disputes; (b) the period through say 1990 was shaped by declining international rivalries; the mainstreaming of ecological awareness and limited government growth as dominant ideologies; (c) the period since is being shaped by US unilateralism (or "hegemonism" if this really ticks you off) and the mainstreaming of libertarian economic values; (d) ergo, it is reasonable to expect that late 21st century space programs will be largely determined by ideological values and cultural traits which would seem bizarre and maybe even obnoxious to current observers. But I think it's an argument that deserves more than the 750 words of the typical internet article-posting.

Oh well. No one's likely to remember this after a week's gone by.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

The sniping over a possible Bush return to the Moon effort has already begun (Via CD Hall).

There are the usual objections. It'll take too long. It's too expensive. There's no political support. We need to develop a lot of fancy technology to do it. All of those supposition are, of course, either wrong or illrelevent.

I point the gentle reader to the plan championed by Paul Spudis using mainly off the shelf technology (Delta IVs, solar electric propulsion, etc) for about $2.6 billion over five years (from start to boots on the lunar ground.)

NASA's First Lunar Outpost plan, developed under the Space Exploration Initiative, came out to about $19 billion and involved building a new, heavy lifter.
The complete meltdown over the CBS hit piece mini series The Reagans continues. The awesome thing is that the people who perpetrated this actually thought that a drama that depicts the former President as an idiotic, bumbling fool who hates gay people and thinks he might be the anti Christ is "fair and balanced."

I agree with some that burning this thing and then producing a complete remake with the consultation of real historians like Lou Cannon is in order. Also people at CBS who wasted nine million on this trash should have their heads in a basket. One should never try to distort history (and all too common practice in Hollywood) when the people who made it are still around.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Iraq has joined Russia in shaking off the bonds of liberal fiscal policy and now has a flat tax.