Thursday, December 30, 2004

The American Physical Society came out against the President's Moon, Mars, and Beyond Initiative. That opposition was not based on scientific objectivity, but on purely partisan and power politics.
Here are some space related predictions for the year 2005.

The return to flight of the space shuttle will proceed on schedule and without a hitch. By the end of the year, there will be a myriad of stories in the media along the lines of “is NASA getting complacent?”

The flight of the Shenzhou 6 will be a success, leading to rumors of further Chinese space exploits.

The new NASA Administrator will be a former military officer,

At least one of the companies selected to build the CEV prototype will be one of the new, entrepreneurial companies (Scaled Composites?)

Russia will threaten to pull out of the ISS coalition and join with the Chinese. This will be (partly) a ploy to extract more money from the West.

A fourth country will announce a serious, independent human in space program.

President Bush will make a “Rice University” style speech supporting his Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision—possibly at Rice University. The speech will include economic justifications. Probes to be launched to the Moon in the 2011-15 time frame to test certain commercial applications (lunar mining, solar power, etc) will be announced.

One or more of the losers in the X Prize race will nevertheless fly a sub orbital vehicle.

NASA’s budget request will fare better than most next year and will pass, after a lot of noise and confusion, pretty much intact.

Cassini will not discover a monolith floating in Saturn space.

There will be three crew members on board ISS by the end of next year. Also, one or more private companies will be signed to develop alternate resupply capabilities.

At least one well know player will quietly join Bigelow’s race for the orbital prize.

Serenity, the space opera movie by the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, will be a massive hit, leading to rumors that it will be developed as a TV series.
The Times of India plays one of the most tiresome games in politics. The game goes like this. Oppose some space exploration project by pointing out something that isn't being funded (according to the entity playing the game) and suggesting that's where the money would be better spent. In this case, the Times of India suggests not exploring the Moon, but rather set up an effective tsunami warning system in the Indian Ocean.

I have another idea. How about doing both?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Council on American Islamic Relations is mad as hell that the new season of 24 will depict (gasp!) Muslim terrorists. I should not be too concerned. It will likely turn out that the real terrorists are either Republican, corporate oil billionairs or Central European Neo Nazis or some other politically correct group of baddies.
Looks like America hater and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark has joined Saddam's defense team. Looks like the trial may become a circus.
Jonah Goldberg examines the "stinginess" of American disaster relief funding and along the way gives the United Nations the back of his hand.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Hugh Hewitt celebrates the destruction of the Old Media.
Charles Murrays book on Apollo, focusing on the unsung heroes who made the program work, has been reissued. I highly recommend it.

Can earthquakes be prevented? Not any time soon, as it turns out.
Sir Arthur C. Clarke has, fortunately, survived the great tsunami that has devestated South Asia.

Monday, December 27, 2004

The drug companies are fightened that Michael Moore is going to trash them in his next "documentary." I would not worry. Bowling for Columbine has followed by the collapse of gun control as a viable issue. Fahrenheit 9/11 was followed by the electoral triumph of George W. Bush. So, if the pattern persists, Moore's latest screed will be followed by unparalleled profits and prosperity for the drug companies.
For those of you who doubt the utiliry of deep space exploration, I submit this story about an asteroid that may be headed our way.
NASA has some choices to make concerning the Hubble Telescope.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Time now for the year in space awards. I’ve been struggling with some of these categories so, in the spirit of wussing out, I have decided to divide them into public and private space. It is, in any case, appropriate for the new age we find ourselves in.

Winner in the private space category goes to Burt Rutan and his team at Scaled Composites. Before SpaceShipOne made its series of flight, the idea of private space flight seemed, to most, to be fanciful. But there is nothing like actually doing a thing to make prove that the thing is possible. The coming age of sub orbital barnstorming, cruises in low Earth orbit and, in the fullness of time, tourist hotels in Earth orbit and on the Moon owes its prospect to Rutan and his people.

Winner for public space goes to President George W. Bush for announcing the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision and, more importantly, for proving that he meant it. The Vision will take NASA out of low Earth orbit, leaving it to the activities of the new space commercial sector, and transform the space agency from a high tech, space taxi service to a modern day Corps of Discovery. A lot of people, including some of the President’s friends, didn’t think he was serious. During the fight to fund the Vision, the President and his true allies proved the skeptics wrong.

Loser in the private space category goes to the Canadian Da Vinci Team in the X Prize race who, for a time, looked like was going to give Rutan a race. They did not.

Loser for public space goes to Lori Garver, the erstwhile NSS Executive Director and NASA Associate Administrator who discovered that the price of being considered for John Kerry’s NASA Administrator would be to turn on the President’s Moon, Mars, and Beyond Initiative which she had initially supported. To paraphrase the playwright Robert Bolt (who was paraphrasing God), “It profits not a person to sell her soul even for the whole world, but Lori, for NASA Administrator?” Turns out she did not get even that.

Best pictures from space. Saturn and her Moons from the Cassini probe.

Best pictures from space runner up. The surface of Mars from Spirit and Opportunity.

Most hopeful development in space. Transformational Space’s free market proposals for fulfilling the President’s Moon, Mars, and Beyond Initiative.

Runner up. The passage of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act.

Most fun development in space. Sir Richard Branson’s announcement of Virgin Galactic and sub orbital jaunts on two ships that will have familiar names: VSS Enterprise and VSS Voyager. I hear that Captain Kirk and Flight Officer Ripley have already signed up.

Best space opera movie (by default, I think, for being the only one released this past year.) The Chronicles of Riddick, which was not half bad given its poor box office.

Best space book (that I have actually read). Moonrush by Dennis Wingo, for presenting an intriguing rationale for going back to the Moon, though an insider tells me that the idea has been percolating in certain quarters for years.

Best space book runner up. New Moon Rising by Frank Sietzen and Keith Cowing for the inside look at the development of the President’s Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision.

Best space reporter. James Oberg, for actually knowing of what he writes and talks about, which is not necessarily true for all reporters on the space beat.

Award for most idiotic statement on space policy. Sherwood Boehlert for suggesting that the President’s Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision was the right way to go, but that Congress should not fund it adequately.

Space hero in the private space category. Mike Melvill for flying SpaceShipOne not just once, but twice

And, finally, space hero in the public space category. House Majority Leader Tom Delay for standing like a stone wall against the House Appropriators’ attempts to gut the President’s Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Snow? In Houston? On Christmas eve?!

God has a sense of humor.
President George W. Bush has signed into law HR 5382 and thus, once again, has summoned the future.
Here are my wishes for Christmas, 2004.

For President Bush, more people for that ever lengthening list of enemies who have gone up against you and have lost, never understanding why nor how.

For those bravest of the brave fighting for civilization in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, success and--in the fullness of time--a ticket home, safe and sound.

For NASA, an adequate budget and the wit to spend it wisely.

For those in the private sector striving to make space travel profitable, more markets and more access to venture capital.

For the main stream media, enlightenment of what ails them and the wit to fix it.

For the French, a better government and an understanding that the bureaucrat is not their friend.

For Ridley Scott, for The Kingdom of Heaven to be a hit, thus bringing the historical epic from the ashes where Oliver Stone left it.

For Peter Jackson, a quick production schedule for King Kong so that he can get to making The Hobbit.

For for all the rest, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas.
A group of medical students have put Gollum on the couch.
His two personalities -- Gollum and Smeagol -- convinced some students it was a case of schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder.

But schizophrenia was ruled out because delusions were not in keeping with Gollum's culture. The interaction between the two personalities shows Gollum is aware of both Smeagol and Gollum at the same time, which is inconsistent with multiple personality disorder, in which one is usually suppressed.

His bulging eyes and weight loss also suggests a thyroid problem, they added.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The use of lunar resources could make space settlements not only self sufficient, but economically viable.
Merry Christmas, Fidel Castro.
Is the opening of the high frontier of space worth the loss of human lives?

Yes, it is.
Kathy Wright notes a big problem that Los Angeles has with timidity in facing rampant political correctness. Then she pays my city a great compliment:
You see, in Houston, people would be in your face across the restaurant, collaring each other in the streets to take back their City from the ACLU. This problem goes beyond the right to shout, “Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas! and Happy Kwanza!” It’s about the City itself, it’s sbout the “Good Will to All!” that is the hallmark of a great city, where there is a community of purpose and feeling that “good” prevails.

Durn right.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission is beginning to take shape
Ann Coulter puts things in perspective as only she can.
Since the attack of 9-11, we've won two wars, liberated millions of people from monstrous regimes, presided over one election in Afghanistan and are about to see elections in Iraq and among the Palestinian people. Focusing like a laser beam on the big picture, liberals are upset that, during this period, the secretary of defense used an autopen.
China's bid to become a major space power will proceed apace with the launch of Shenzhou VI with a crew of two for five days.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Space travel is but one aspect of human activity that will be enabled by nanotechnology.
Rand Simberg returns to Bastogne in the year of grace 1944, and has some more fun at the expense of the main stream media.
As all the world knows now, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is coming out July 16th, 2005. It is now number one on the Amazon list where it will remain, I suspect, for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Jeffrey Bell launches a hysterical attack on his critics, calling them everything from "extremist" to something resembling religious fanatics to simple scam artists, while assuming upon himself the mantle of a "moderate" who is being persecuted by some vast, "space cadet" conspiracy. The article is the most damning study in cynicism and self absorption that I have seen in a long time. The telling paragraphs in this latest embarrassment goes thus:
Now many readers have rightly asked, "Since you say the Clinton/Kerry space program was pointless, the Bush space program is unaffordable, the space activist program is technically impossible, and most firms are investment scams, what kind of moderate, centrist manned space program DO you support? When will you write an article giving all the programmatic and technical details of this program?"

All I can say to that is: I'm trying. But every time I start doing background research for that article, severe problems turn up with most ideas for a meaningful and sustainable manned space program.

Very convenient. And very sad. Translated that means, "I don't really want to have you think that I think space flight is utter bilge, but that is what I have been telling you fools who are too stupid to believe me." Bell has spent a lot of time attacking people and no time offering any positive solutions.

And I'll leave the finding of Bell's many factual errors, not to mention his many ad hominen attacks, as an exercise for the reader. It will be a very easy exercise.
Dr. Gregory House, M.D., featured in the TV show of the same name, is certainly the fellow I want treating me if I were sick with some horrible wasting desease. However, as S. T. Karnick points out, House is in need of a little healing of a spirtual kind.
John Barnes offers and appreciation on one of my guilty pleasures of a few decades ago, the TV series UFO.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Bob Novak points out that if Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist unleashes the "nuclear option" to break Democrat obstruction of the President's judicial nominees, he will only be following the example of one Robert Byrd.
Jeff Foust looks at the year 2004 in aerospace and finds it good.
Sam Dinkin talks to Mike Gold of Bigelow Aerospace, and then examines that company's dreams for the future.
Taylor Dinerman provides an appreciation of outgoing NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, while Dwayne Day gives Alex Roland a long over due, and well deserved beating.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Ursula Le Guin offers a common lament of the author whose work is translated to the screen and finds it wanting. Still, isn't the use of the word "honky" to descibe a white person kind of--well--quaint? Also perhaps the equivilent of using the "N word" to refer to a black person.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Your Humble Servant examines the legacy of Sean O'Keefe upon his departure as NASA Administrator.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Charles Krauthammer, a practicing Jew, gives the back of his hand to those weenies who want to ban Christmas to avoiding offending people.
When Sean O'Keefe cancelled the Hubble servicing mission out of concern for safety, the not unreasonable question arose that if one thought sending people to the Hubble was unsafe, how does one justify an even more hazardous mission to the Moon or Mars? While I don't think I agree with this analysis that the National Research Council's contradiction of O'Keefe's decision had anything to do with O'Keefe leaving, I do think that O'Keefe's departure makes a shuttle mission to Hubble all the more likely. And that is a good thing.
Rand Simberg is having too much fun again with a retelling of the Battle of the Bulge with modern sensibilities. Of course in a universe in which this would happen, Ike would have already been sacked because of D-Day.
The smoke of Fallujah has barely cleared and now Hollywood want to make a movie about it, staring Harrison Ford. Considering how Hollywood feels about the War in Iraq, this fills me with apprehension.
Speaking of stealing elections, Dick Morris describes Vladimir Putin's attempt to hijack the one in the Urkaine, with results that do not seem to be what was expected. The Russians used to be more adroit at assassinating people.
Sixty years ago today, the Battle of the Bulge began.
Are Democrats trying to steal the election for Governor of Washington State? Looks like it to me and it's as brazen as a highway robbery in daylight.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Speaking of the Moon as a power source, I had a fascinating lunch with Dr. David Criswell about his concept for lunar based solar power. I will be discussing more about this and other economic potentials of space exploration anon.
A group is touting the potential of lunar mined Helium-3. All well and good, but this group also claims to have mineral rights to a large part of the lunar surface. I suspect that is very debatable.
Serenity, the film version of the short run TV show Firefly is looking good.
Newt Gingrich sees health care as an economic opportunity instead of a problem.
Terence Jeffrey offers two very weird arguments against space exploration. First, if Sean O'Keefe is not willing to sacrifice his children's education to remain at NASA, then obviously what NASA does is not worth anything. Second, Americans ought not to go back to the Moon if it means that the evil Russians and the even more evil French get to go too.

It boggles the mind.
One of the many things that needs reforming before people return to the Moon, is NASA's technology transfer process, according to a new report. Among the recommendations:
Establish technology transfer as a core element of NASA's mission.
Move the Technology Transfer Office to the NASA administrator's office.
Let associate administrators identify outside technology that NASA needs to bring in.
Let field center directors oversee outward technology transfer.
Develop a comprehensive evaluation scheme that includes output measures, economic impact assessments, and performance standards for the responsible individuals.
Streamline NASA's national technology transfer network.
Increase use of information technology in daily operations and public outreach.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

One person who has been mentioned as a successor to Sean O'Keefe is retired Admiral Craig Steidle. He has already accomplished much at the Office of Exploration, making NASA ready to be a modern day Corps of Discovery.
If Oliver Stone has wrecked the historical epic with Alexander, Ridley Scott may yet save it with The Kingdom of Heaven, just as he did with Gladiator. Warning, contains spoilers.
Lunar exploration will focus on the South Pole of the Moon where, it is presumed, deposits of ice lay.
Looks like Americans have a chance to look down their noses at the Europeans for a change. The Dutch kill babies deemed to be terminally ill. Now a British lawmaker wants old people to commit suicide lest they be a burden. I wonder if Britain's vaunted socialistic health care system will pay for that.
Radiation, in various forms, would be a hazard for future astronauts on deep space missions. The solution may be an electronmagnetic shield.

Monday, December 13, 2004

In case anyone cares, it looks like it's up the tall ladder and down the short rope for Scott Peterson.
Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness has been optioned for a movie.
Mark Helprin warns of the next great super power challenge from China.
As if liberals didn't have enough problems, it seems that people in the Red States are out breeding the people in the Blue States.
Sam Dinkin looks upon the Commercial Space Launch Act and finds it good.
Dwayne Day examines media myths about the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Initiative.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Film critic Michael Medved gives the back of his hand to Hollywood for marketing films with a left wing agenda, thus alienating the majority of its audience who are not left wing.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

It used to be an old joke that fusion energy was fifty years away and has been that way for decades. That may no longer be true.
Film Director Peter Jackson has a video production diary from the set of King Kong.
Fred Kiesche has some good things to say about Children of Apollo, my alternate history novel about the Apollo program. The book in planning that Fred refers to is tentitively called Children of Orion and will be about an Orion space craft built during an alternate Reagan administration. The project will be quite a long time, because of the need for research and other writing projects.
Sean O'Keefe will shortly step down as NASA Administrator. According to NASA Watch, General Ronald T. Kadish, currently director of the Missile Defense Agency, is in line to replace O'Keefe.

Addendum: I'm informed that General Kadish retired in September.

Second Addendum: More on O'Keefe here and here. Looks like besides General Kadish, Bob Walker and former astronauts Bob Crippen, Ron Sega, and Charles Bolden are on the short list to replace O'Keefe.
Among the other candidates, Sega is perhaps next closest to the White House staffers advising the president. The former shuttle astronaut is serving as a director of research and engineering for Pentagon and was involved in drafting Bush's moon-Mars policy.

Crippen, retired and living in Florida, piloted Columbia on the first shuttle mission in 1981 and once was director of the Kennedy Space Center.

Bolden also recently served on a National Academy of Sciences panel that recommended reversing O'Keefe's January decision to cancel a shuttle repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. Without O'Keefe's opposition, the shuttle mission to Hubble would be easier to reinstate.

Walker retired in 1997 after two decades in the House of Representatives, where he had become one of Congress' leading experts on aerospace and space exploration.

Third Addendum: Pete Worden's name is now being mentioned. Still, I would not be surprised if O'Keefe's replacement turns out to be none of the people being talked about.
NASA's concept for a return to the Moon seems very much like the Earth Orbit Rendezvous configuation first proposed by Von Braun over forty years ago.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Brent Bozell piles on Oliver Stone.
One of the "and Beyond" parts of Moon, Mars, and Beyond might be a nuclear powered probe to Neptune.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Here's another view on the recently passed Commercial Space Launch Act that should give commercial space advocates some pause.
Nonetheless, some of the new bill's language contains ominous possibilities for squelching this hatchling industry. For example, one clause requires AST to regulate as soon as any "unplanned event or series of events during a license or permitted commercial human space flight (occurs) that (poses) a high risk of causing a serious or fatal injury."

If this language had been in force last October, the uncontrolled spins experienced by SpaceShipOne during its first X Prize flight would have forced AST to halt the second flight, thereby preventing Bert Rutan's ship from winning the $10 million award.

Sounds like language the needs to be fixed.
The civil war for the Democrat Party has begun with MoveOn.Org declaring, of the Democrat Party, "We bought it, we own it, we're going to take it back."

One simply cannot make up stuff like this.
Gabriele Garibaldi has a fascinating article on super power (US vrs China) conflict in space. It does start with one glaring error:
The Ronald Reagan years saw the introduction of the US space program.

Actually it was Eisenhower who started the modern US space program with the creation of NASA in 1958. I suspect that the author was referring to space based missile defense.
Reader Steve Johnson sends the following from a work colleague about an impediment to lunar mining that really needs to be addressed:
Steve ... Thanks for sending this fascinating article on the space age fuel of the future? ... But who is going to ensure that the He3 miners (collectors) on the moon comply with Env, MESA and OSHA regs? And do they apply?

I vote to send the EPA enforcement people to the moon to check it out when it happens (but without moon suits) - jack

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Looks like H.R. 5382, "The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act", was passed by the Senate this evening by unanimous consent. This is a great victory for the private commercialization of space.

Addendum: Details from Alan Boyle.
Your Humble Servant touts the promise of lunar mined Helium-3.

Addendum: There's a reference to nine tons of oxygen, water, and so on and six tons of hydrogen for every ton of helium 3 that be be extracted from lunar soil. That should have been nine thousand tons and six thousand tons respectively. I regret the error.
Looks like a big screen Babylon 5 movie will start shooting in the Spring.
The following seems to be an unusual alternate history. More like alternate astronomy, in a way:

A robotic mission to repair Hubble is looking increasingly iffy. I predict that it will never fly and if NASA is serious about a Hubble repair mission (something that some folks question) it will have to send a shuttle.

Addendum: Looks like the National Research Council agrees with me.
Future space explorers will grow their own food. But how to process harvested crops into something edible?

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Another view in the Times of India, this time touting space cooperation.
Several people have solcited my comments about Darkside, a series under development at Fox about a party of astronauts who are "lost" on the "dark side" of the Moon. Of course, as anyone with even a modicum of knowledge about astronomy knows, there is no "dark side" of the Moon, as the Moon's orbit around the Earth creates a day/night cycle of about twenty eight days. Fox really should spring for a good science advisor during the development of this kind of series.

Of course, nothing had yet topped Space: 1999, that depicted the Moon as a star ship, visiting a different star system every week.
Sixty three years ago dawned the first Day of Infamy. And speaking of infamy, the most incompetent Democrat Party Chairman ever decides to dish out some of his own.

Monday, December 06, 2004

t/Space is developing some interesting concepts for the return to the Moon.
School choice may be coming to Texas.
What follows is a request to the readers. Does anyone know of any instance when an official of NASA, the Department of Energy, or the White House mentioned lunar mined Helium-3 as a justification for going back to the Moon in the recent past? This is for an article that is scheduled to appear in a major publication.

Thanks in advance.
A movie about werewolves on the Moon. I once suggested that the football team for the first High School on the Moon should be the Fighting Werewolves, but this may be going a bit far.
Greg Zsidisin goes nuts again on the subject of the President's Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision. It seems that just because the first year's funding has passed, it doesn't matter because (a) George Bush is evil and won't be President past 2008 and that (b) Tom Delay, who helped to pass the funding, is also evil and must and will be destroyed by phony ethics charges.

(Yes, I realize that Greg doesn't consider them phony, but they are. Ronnie Earl, the partisan Democrat prosecutor who wants to indict Delay tried to use the same tactics to bring down Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. One suspects that Delay will be a power in Congress well into this century and will likely be Speaker after Hasteret retires.)

Sustaining the Vision past 2008 is a simple matter. NASA should avoid the mistakes it made with the space shuttle and space station, thus giving the enemies of space exploration ammo. Given that, very likely, everything else will fall into place.

The Times of India has some interesting advice about cooperation in space vrs going it alone.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Ben Stein celebrates those proud rebels who have the politics that dare not speak its name---at least in Hollywood and Malibu.
How House Majority Leader Tom Delay helped to summon the future.
All of your Kerry supporters, suffering from PEST, who are contemplating running north to the socialist paradise that is Canada may want to pay heed to Nora Jacobson's story. She moved to Canada in the year 2000 and found a strange kind of passive-aggressive hatred and discrimination because she was American.
Who would have thought that there would come a day when the singing of Christmas carols would become an act of civil disobedience.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Oliver Stone, fresh from the critically panned, box office disaster epic Alexander apparently is contemplating a biop of Maggie Thatcher, whom he claims to admire. Stone's tendency to twist history may get the better of him, though.
He could have fun casting Reagan - and scripting the 'were they, weren't they lovers?' storyline."

This is, of course, as absurd as suggesting that FDR and Churchill were lovers. Not that it would stop Stone.

Mind, a study of Reagan and Thatcher and how they won the Cold War and pulled their respective countries out of economic doldrums would, in the right hands, make a wonderful film. But if all Oliver Stone can think to do is to speculate whether they were doing the nasty thing, then all I can say is stop that man before he films again.

Friday, December 03, 2004

We just saw the film I am David, the story of a boy who escapes from a Bulgarian concentration camp in 1952 and makes a journey of discovery, faith, and freedom across Europe and found the film powerful and compelling. I agree with the sentiments of this review.
Prizes as a means to spark technological advancement has been embraced by NASA as part of the new Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision. Naturally the idea is entangled in a number of legal, bureaucratic, and political impediments.
NASA and the Russians are working a deal that swaps research time on the Internatonal Space Station for rides on the Soyuz.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Speaking of Holiday gifts, I am reminded that the latest Harry Potter movie is out of DVD:

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Speaking of triumphant returns, looks like William F. Buckley is coming out with a new Blackford Oakes novel:

Day by Day makes its triumphant return.
The following are some gifts that we recommend for holiday giving.

Weapons of Choice starts when an international naval battle group from the year 2021 finds itself in the middle of the Battle of Midway in 1942. While the story at times hits some PC themes a little hard, it is still a gem and well worth reading. Alas, it is the first of a trilogy and we'll have to wait for the seoncd and third books:

Grant Comes East is the second in the trilogy penned by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen about the consequences of a Confederate victory at Gettysburg. That development does not necessarily mean a Confederate victory in the Civil War. We also recommend the first book in the series, Gettysburg.

It's the Lord of the Rings. What more need we say:

Rome: Total War is one of the best strategy/military games ever created:

The recent conference on lunar science had some interesting results, including an endoresment for a human return to the Moon, with a "robotic village" and a lunar base. However, there is also this:
Lastly, the statement recommends that the 1979 "Moon Treaty" be "revisited, refined, and revised as necessary in light of the present-day impetus for expeditions, both robotic and human, to the Moon by several nations."

Refined and revised, certainly. The original treaty, with its pernicious "common heritage of all mankind" clause would have had the effect of forbidding commercial development of the Moon. Any new treaty should include a mechanism allow for and governing the same, including protection of property rights.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

It looks like radical liberals and radical libertarians have at last found common ground in opposing the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Initiative. I'm not surprised that a Clintonista like Alice Rivlin would oppose space exploration. The far left have always disdained it. But I thought that the folks at CATO were smarter than that. Especially galling is the hoary old "robots uber alles" cliche. Once again, folks, in order to fully understand the unknown places like the Moon and Mars, not to mention to fully exploit the opportunities there, we have to send people.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Sean O'Keefe speaks about the future of space exploration, China's ambitions, and other subjects.
San Dinkin proposes replacing some current holidays with a set of what can only be described as thematic celebrations. I think his idea is, politely speaking, a bit wacked. However, I have always thought that July 20th should be a federal holiday, called Apollo Day. Even so, I am not ready to junk Thanksgiving and Independence Day.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Steven Spielberg's production of War of the Worlds is having trouble attracting an "ethnically diverse" group of extras willing to be killed by the alien invaders in the course of the movie. '"We want to make it so they don't just kill white people, they kill everybody," casting director Billy Dowd said.'

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Speaking of Oliver Stone, he has some surprising things to say about the parallels between Alexander and President George W. Bush.
“I would not put Bush down. We have to move on,” Stone said. “The election happened, and there’s no point in crying over it. It’s a fresh slate for me, personally. I look at him fresh. People change. ...

“Often second-term presidents do become better presidents. They’re a little bit wiser and they don’t have to run so hard to get elected. So things might change. You hope for that.”

If Bush manages to transform Iraq and Afghanistan into secure, democratic states; if he can negotiate with Iran to disband its nuclear weapons program and calm Islamic radicalism; if he continues to work peacefully with Russia, which has its own historic interests in the region...Stone says the U.S. president may earn the legacy of the ancient hero of “Alexander.”

“It’s a grand scheme,” Stone said. “If he pulled it 20 years, maybe he would be considered 'Bush the Great.'”

Praise indeed.
I’m a real sucker for historical epics, even bad ones. Most of them tend to follow a formula. Broadly drawn characters, simple plots, lots of action, eye popping, computer animated scenes of ancient battles and cities (in the modern era), an obligatory sex scene or two, and often an only tenuous relationship with what the actual historical record was. Gladiator and Braveheart are good examples of the genre.

Oliver Stone did not follow this formula when he made his film, Alexander, and that seems to be the problem. Instead of an historical epic, Alexander is really a character study of history’s greatest conqueror. That means between the action, the sex, and eye popping scenes of the Battle of Gaugemela and the triumphal entry into Babylon, are long scenes of exposition that try to examine Alexander’s formative influences, his motives, and his passions. This can be very tedious if you’re not expecting it and you find that sort of thing boring. It can be rewarding, though, if you can stick with it and pay attention.

Oliver Stone’s Alexander has a number of flaws. His use of accents in dialogue is disconcerting at time. Alexander’s mother Olympia, played by Angelina Jolie, affects a kind of thick, gypsy dialect that has to be heard to be believed. Some of the Macedonians seem Scotch-Irish, including one general with a brogue so thick that he is almost incomprehensible.

Alexander’s main flaw, though, is that it is at once too long and not long enough. At the end of the almost three hour long movie one feels as exhausted as if one had marched to India and back with a megalomaniac in charge. And yet, large swaths of Alexander’s life were left out, to be dealt with a few lines of voice over by Sir Anthony Hopkins as the old Ptolemy. Had I been given the assignment of bring Alexander’s life to the screen, I’d have given it the Lord of the Rings treatment and made it three movies. The first would have followed Alexander’s childhood and young manhood. The second would have covered the conquest of Persia. The third would have depicted the march to the uttermost East.

About the gay thing. It wasn’t as excessive as you might have heard. A few significant looks here, a few innuendos there. There is one scene in which Alexander and his companion Hephaistion declare their love for each other that might make one squirm if one is uncomfortable with two men doing that. More disturbing as the sex scene between Alexander and his bride Roxane which seemed to be either rape or some kind of violent, Sogdonian style foreplay. My group who saw the film with me is still debating the matter.

Colin Farrell and Val Kilmer turn in solid performances as Alexander and his father King Phillip respectively. Rosario Dawson is delicious as Roxane.

One minor historical nit. Alexander’s tendency to massacre populations that resisted him—as at the siege of Tyre—is glossed over. He also seems to have acquired some kind of liberating, multicultural ideology that the historic Alexander did not have. His tendency to having wild, drunken rages during which he as mad, bad, and dangerous to be around is depicted very accurately.

Should you see it? I did not find the movie a waste of the ticket price and there are many parts of it that are rewarding. One should just approach it for what it is and not what one would expect a historical epic to be.

Friday, November 26, 2004

This proposal for "scientific planetary parks" on Mars seems like an interesting compromise with the folks who want to seal off the whole planet against human settlement. But I can see the scheme complicating terraforming efforts a lot.
More on lunar helium 3 as a solution to global energy shortages.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

This communique from the Planetary Society is not unusual, except that the author of it is Lori Garver. We last saw Garver as a space policy advisor to the Kerry Campaign in which capacity she helped to cast aspersions upon President Bush's Moon, Mars, and Beyond Initiative. I'm not sure when she became associated with the Planetary Society, but I find that association rather odd seeing as that organization strongly supports the President's initiative. It bespeaks a certain political nimbleness that is at once fascinating and disconcerting.

Thanks to Jim Rohrich for the heads up.
Ready or not, the new Moon race is on.
America will send two landers, called Moonrise to return samples from the Aitken Basin at the lunar south pole in 2010.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

It seems that the Declaration of Independence has been banned at a California public school. Why? It seems that Thomas Jefferson mentions God in the document.
Film maker James Cameron looks ahead at the coming new age of space exploration.
Robin Lane Fox, one of the greatest living experts on the life of Alexander the Great, recalls his role as consultant on Oliver Stone's much panned film by the same name.
A regulatory hurtle has been surmounted for the test flight of a prototype of a Bigelow inflatable module.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

A private trip around the Moon? Perhaps.
Apparently the American Physical Society slam against Moon, Mars, and Beyond is not being met favorably in certain quarters. I wonder if they will threaten to sue Robert Walker and Bob Zubrin?
Looks like the American Physical Society is threatening to sue NASA Watch. Personally, I didn't find any of Keith's commentary slanderous or even wrong.
Very soon, we shall not have Dan Rather to kick around any more. In a way, considering how he tried to take down President Bush with those forged documents, Rather's resignation adds to that long list of people who went up against George W. Bush and lost.
First Captain Kirk, now Ellen Ripley will be flying into space via Virgin Galactic.

Via Tom James.
Your Humble Servant writes about Space Exploration and A Tale of Two Presidents Bush.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Now that President Bush has beaten Congress into submission and has gotten funding for the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Initiative, NASA is proceeding at warp speed to get it done.

Meanwhile, more silliness from Robert Park's American Physical Society:
Many scientists dissent from Bush's plan. They fear human space travel will gobble up scarce funds that they would prefer to use on pure research.

On Monday, the American Physical Society, which represents 45,000 physicists and astronomers, issued a report protesting that manned missions to the moon and Mars will jeopardize more promising robotic missions, such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the Mars rovers now surveying the red planet.

Of course, if human space flight were banned and no humans would ever go into space again, one suspects that support for robotic space exploration would quickly atrophe and then die. After all, would you rather spend billions finding germs on Mars or billions on health care and education on Earth? That would be the question.
Glenn Reynolds examines the debate on space tourism. Along the way he finds out something I have long suspected. There are certain extreme sports--mountain climbing for instance--that are far more dangerous than rocketing into space is likely to be for the well heeled and adventurous.
The Chinese will complete their unmanned lunar program in thirteen years, it seems. Meanwhile, with the blessings of the State Department, the Chinese are having a look at America's exploration plans.
Greg Zsidisin proves that Post Election Selection Trauma (PEST) is a truly debilitating illness with these lunatic (no pun intended) ravings.
Fundamentalist Christians played a key role in re-electing George W. Bush President and giving the Republicans an even stronger stranglehold on Congress. It is clear that they will continue to move the country to be more conservative, and to further blur the lines between church and state.

The country needs more unity, and I think it's time those of us "obstructionists" oblige. We could well achieve this unity by constructing something I call the Lunar Crucifix.

As the ultimate faith-based initiative, we could task NASA with emplacing a huge cross in lights stretching across the face of the Moon. The cross would of course be best seen during a new moon, when the Near Side is dark. However, because the lunar surface reflects only a few percent of the sunlight it receives, a Lunar Crucifix could be designed to be visible even during a full Moon.

Greg is also under the mistaken impression that Tom Delay is a Senator and is Senate Majority Leader. He is a member of the House and is House Majority Leader.

In the meantime, Sam Dinkin proves the danger of getting one's history from computer games. I would suggest that Sam read a book or two, or at least watch the History Channel. Having done so, he might realize that Martian germs are not the moral equivilent of the gentle Native American nor the trodden upon Irishman.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Radiation will be a great hazard for any future interpanetary explorer. The solution is already being worked on in the form of something that sounds out of Star Trek.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Looks like the President's Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vison will be fully funded for FY2005, thanks to the tireless efforts of the White House, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, and --not the least of all--the Stonewall Jackson of space politics, House Majority Leader Tom Delay.

So much for the President not wanting to do what it takes to pass his own initiative.

Meanwhile, the House has passed the Commercial Space Bill, HR5382, that will enable the embryonic commmercial space flight industry. Now it's up to the Senate.

Friday, November 19, 2004

A group of Greek lawyers are just mad as hell that Oliver Stone is going to depict Alexander the Great as a bisexual. They are threatening to sue.

The problem, of course, is for once Stone is being historically accurate in one of his movies.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

This week marks the thirty fifth anniversary of Apollo 12. That mission has a special place in my heart. I had the occassion, before his untimely death, to exchange some emails with Captain Conrad on a variety of subjects. Pete Conrad went on, after the Apollo era, to a variety of activities, including a brief career as an actor in the TV film Plymouth, about a lunar colony. Conrad is best known, besides commanding Apollo 12, for his involvement in the Delta Clipper project. Unlike many attempts to find a way out of the shuttle trap, the DC-X actually flew. Had it not been for Clinton era politics, DC-X might have grown into something wonderous.

Alan Bean, the lunar module pilot on Apollo 12, went on to become an accomplished artist. His paintings of various incidents during the Apollo missions to the Moon are classic works of art. I met Bean at an art show, many years ago, and treasure the conversation we had to this day.
Ordinarily, I'm not a defender of Oliver Stone. While he is a director of immense skill and passion, a number of his movies have been travesties. JFK in particular was a talky, conspiracy rant that probably poisoned the understanding of history for millions.

But now, Stone is being attacked for being historically accurate in his latest film, Alexander. I haven't seen the film yet, so can't comment on its over all quality. But I think Stone needs to be applauded for depicting Alexander for what he was--a bisexual man in an era when that sort of thing was considered normal and common.
As the end game develops for the fight to fund the President's Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision, the White House plays some hardball.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Canadian columnist and total nut case Thomas Walkom calls for the kidnapping of President George W. Bush and putting him on trial in some kind of kangaroo court for "war crimes."
On the face of it, Bush seems a perfect candidate for prosecution under Canada's Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

This act was passed in 2000 to bring Canada's ineffectual laws in line with the rules of the new International Criminal Court. While never tested, it lays out sweeping categories under which a foreign leader like Bush could face arrest.

In particular, it holds that anyone who commits a war crime, even outside Canada, may be prosecuted by our courts. What is a war crime? According to the statute, it is any conduct defined as such by "customary international law" or by conventions that Canada has adopted.

One doubts that the government in Ottawa would be so inpolite as to do such a thing. But just in case, one should remind people like Walkom what would happen to Canada should it take such an action and since Canada has thoughtfully denuded its armed forces, it could do very little to stop the retibution that would fall upon it.
More excellent material about capitalism, mining, and living off the land on the High Frontier.
This and this are stark proof of an old truism. The biggest racists in America are not a bunch of low browed crackers living in some place like Vidor, Texas. The biggest racists in America are effete, north eastern lefties. For attacking Dr. Condi Rice, I declare that they are no gentlemen. They are stupid people who are unworthy of shining the shoes of the woman they are savaging.

Dr. Rice rose from poverty in the segregated south to enter college at fifteen, to become the youngest college provost in history at Stanford, to sit at the right hand of the greatest US President of the 21st Century.

If I die and am reborn, I hope to get at least half of Dr. Rice's brains.
Some time ago, Ann Coulter suggested (she insisted tongue in cheek) that we should compel the Islamic terrorists to convert to Christianity. My counter suggestion was that they should be forced to convert to Islam, since many of the things practiced by the terrorists were condemned by the Prophet. Ralph Peters suggests that the terrorists, for all their pretensions, have rejected the tenets of Islam and have started a blood, death cult that dates back from before the time of the Prophet.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Colin Powell vrs Hillary Clinton for Senator from New York? Interesting idea, but I doubt that Ms. Powell would approve.
Even in death, Yassir Arafat is causing trouble and controversy by lying on his Death Certificate.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Smart 1, Europe's ion propelled lunar probe, has entered lunar orbit. Scientific observations are slated to begin in January.
James Earl Jones, whom many of you know as the voice of Darth Vader, offers an appreciation of the very first film he appeared in, Dr. Strangelove.
Sam Dinkin, usually a sensible writer, jumps the shark about space colonization.
By not joining the Kyoto Accord or the land mine treaty, working to evade the International Criminal Court, withdrawing from the ABM treaty, and skirting the requirements of the Geneva Conventions, the United States is certainly is going into fast forward and losing its legitimacy

Actually it's those treaties that are illegitiment.
It’s time to reread Sun Tzu’s admonition to determine which of two sovereigns is imbued with “moral law”: “The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger.” We do not have the fortitude to watch our forces get decimated.

I'm not sure where it the world American forces are being "decimated." 1200 KIA in twenty months, while certainly a tragedy for each fallen soldier and their families, is certainly not at Vietnam levals. That leval was a morning's work on D Day. In any event, Bush was reelected.
It is also a lot shorter trip now to Washington, DC from Iraq than from Babylon to Rome during the Roman Empire. How will the world change because of the US missing the opportunity to strengthen anti-proliferation, chemical, and biological weapons treaties?

Yep. Scraps of paper certainly will keep Al Qaeda from setting off WMDs.
I think that America’s new great colonizer, Paul Wolfowitz, should be given the NASA administrator job. For the $150 billion we have devoted so far in Iraq, he could post some great prizes for space colonization. He could send our nation’s finest into space and find all the Earth-crossers, the ultimate weapons of mass destruction. By withdrawing from the Outer Space Treaty, he could set off a huge land rush. That would be the perfect ending for the man who championed the Mother of All Colonization by invading Iraq, home to Babylon, the Mother of Colonization.

The lunacy of that paragraph speaks for itself, though amending the Outer Space Treaty, a Cold War relic, is certainly a good idea.
Greg Zsidisin, who recently had the occasion to compare President Bush to Hitler and supporters of his Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision to Nazis, spews some sour grapes about the implementation of the vision. One of the other fallacies of the far left is that the President "really isn't serious" about pushing space exploration. I suppose that is why the administration threatened to veto any appropriations bill that didn't fund it.
India may become America's next big space partner.
Jeff Foust talks to Lori Garver about her role in the formulation of John Kerry's "space policy". What results is a case study in wishfull thinking and spinning.
Kerry had, in her view, “said somewhat positive things” about space during the primary campaign, but with caveats about the budget.

Like when he slammed President Bush's space exploration vision. Yes, Kerry did suggest that having a space program was a cool thing, but seemed unable to get behind anything specifically.
However, Kerry also had a political reaction against the Vision for Space Exploration since it was introduced by Bush during an election year. “He did have more of a knee-jerk reaction against space, which is one of the reasons I wanted to get involved,” she said.

This has been the number one fallacy of liberal space activists. "Yes, I know that my candidate is hostile to space, but if we can only explain things to him, he'll change his mind." If this is not true about--say--tax cuts or social security reform, I wonder how that can be about going back to the Moon.
One goal was to keep space from become too politicized. “I don’t believe space should be a partisan issue, and wanted to keep it from being a partisan issue,” she said. “I’m not sure we succeeded at that.”

That's putting it mildly. When you candidate slams the cornerstone of his opponents space policy, then one would think that space will get just a little partisan.
She noted that the campaign used the Ansari X Prize as an example of the effectiveness of prizes in an economic policy document.

Of course there were no specific recommedations for prizes from the Kerry Campaign.
She also tried to make inroads on the use of space resources, such as space solar power, and their role in energy independence for the country, although that was eventually not adopted by the campaign.

Not surprising, considering Kerry's hostility toward energy development on Earth.
Most importantly, she said, the campaign wanted to differentiate its policy from the Bush space policy. “That’s what got the most press,” she said, “but I really felt our goals in the campaign were much, much broader than that. On the policy side, we really hoped to keep it so positive that if Kerry was elected, he would be a pro-space president.”

They certainly succeeded in the first goal, by slamming the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision. They clearly failed in the second goal by offering no alternative.
Garver said that the agency did a poll last year surveying the public on what they get out of the space program. While NASA has not formally released the results of the poll, she said that “general knowledge” came out on top, followed by aeronautics and earth sciences; exploration was, she said, “way down on the list.” This led the campaign to adopt a policy that called for a balance between the various facets of NASA’s mission.

I'm not sure what poll that is. The Dittmar organzation did a study, paid for by NASA if I am not mistaken, that showed a huge degree of support for space exploration. In any case, it seems sad that Kerry proposed to return to toe discredited practice of using polls to formulate policy.
“Ultimately, the campaign felt that those NASA public dollars were at risk if all you’re going to do is explore,” she said. If NASA handed over aeronautics and earth sciences to FAA and NOAA, respectively, “and NASA becomes an exploration organization, that puts the agency potentially at risk in the discretionary budget, especially given the deficits and the war and the other things happening today.”

"Potentially at risk" would seem to me to be an improvement over actually at risk, which has been the case for over thirty years.
One criticism that the Kerry space policy received when it was finally introduced in late October was that is was very vague, with few specifics and no mention of the space shuttle or International Space Station. That was a deliberate decision, she explained. “It’s just a no-win to mention existing programs during the campaign,” she said. “We’re not at NASA now, we don’t know what it’s going to take to return the space shuttle to flight, and how much that’s going to cost. It’s not up to a presidential campaign, in our view, to make those kinds of calls during the campaign.”

If it is not up to a political campaign to say what it's candidate will do if he is elected, then what is the purpose of a campaign? To fool people?
One thing that surprised Garver was the strong negative reaction directly at her. “This was a very challenging thing to do, personally. I was attacked and slammed within my own community,” she said. “It is difficult to operate in that kind of environment, since I was very concerned that this would come out negatively within the campaign.”

The heart bleeds. Garver doesn't mention that part of that negative reaction stemmed from the wide spread belief that she wanted to be NASA Administrator and would do anything to achieve that goal.
She noted that, for example, she was vilified for “flip-flopping” on the Vision for Space Exploration, initially supporting it before arguing against it, but insisted her change in opinion was sincere.

A change of heart that just happened to coincide with Garver's attachment to Senator Kerry, a man with a record of being hostile to space exploration.
“I truly believed, over time, that we would have a better chance of sustaining a NASA program that would evolve civilization into space,” she said. “I truly started to believe that Kerry would be a better pro-space president.”

Based on what evidence, either from Kerry's Senate record of hostility to space or his hostile statements against space during the campaign, I'm not sure.
The fact that Garver was the de facto Kerry space representative, while the Bush campaign rotated through a series of spokespeople, was also a problem, she noted. “I think it’s better if you have a lot of people giving the same message to show that this is the message of the candidate and not the individual,” she said.

They out sold us, that is. Of course when you have something interesting and exciting to sell...
She noted that she never spoke directly with Kerry during the campaign, instead relying on intermediaries, such as Senator Barbara Mikulski and her staff, as well as former Senator John Glenn, who she said proved helpful.

A remarkable admission. The Kerry Campaign never talked to its own space policy spokesperson. I wonder if that's how a Kerry Administration would have operated.
Garver also singled out the aerospace industry for criticism. “The aerospace industry wants to be nonpartisan, but 90 percent of PAC [political action committee] dollars go to Republicans,” she claimed. “That’s just not how it works.”

Actually yes it is how it works when the Democrats are hostile to the aerospace industry.
While the Kerry space policy won’t be adopted, it is not necessarily just a historical document. Kerry remains a senator and is one of the senior Democrats on the Senate Commerce Committee, whose jurisdiction includes NASA. Garver said that the policies general themes, including fiscal responsibility and science, “clearly resonated” with Kerry. “I definitely believe that he is more pro-space now than he was eight months ago.”

You mean he's going to start attended committee meetings. That should be interesting.
However, the policy that will shape and define NASA over the next four years will be the Vision for Space Exploration. Garver noted that Bush has two things going for him that his father didn’t have when he promoted the Space Exploration Initiative 15 years ago: Bush was reelected, so he can continue to oversee this policy, and that unlike during SEI, NASA really does want to transform and carry out the Vision.

It's called a mandate. Learn it, live it, love it.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Friday, November 12, 2004

The jockying for the contract to build NASA's CEV is getting interesting.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Good news from the Dittmar Study on public additudes toward space exploration and the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision (at least the Moon part); not so good news for the Mars Direct crowd.
Oh Lord, from where do we get men like this?

As long as there are such men, the Republic will endure.
I don't know who first put down the following words, but they are true.

"It is not the minister, but the veteran who gave us freedom to worship.
It is not the students' union, but the veteran who gave us freedom to assembly.
It is not the journalist, but the veteran who gave us freedom of press."

For all those who gave all they have, for all who continue to give in the current war on terror, thank you."
Is global warming melting the polar ice caps? A Canadian scientist begs to differ.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Looks like the United States is behind in the new race to the Moon.
It's finally official. Yassir Arafat now burns in Hell. I'll bet he's even surprised.

Addendum: Jeff Jacoby explains why.

Second Addendum: So does Max Boot.
Recent incidents, such as the savage murder of film maker Theo Van Gogh, have caused the people of Holland to finally face up to the stark reality of Islamic Fascism. Jim Oberg passes along this note from a Dutch colleaque of his:
It's sad indeed, but what's even sadder is the fact that everybody was predicting things like this were bound to happen sooner or later (but everybody knew it would be sooner).

Everybody was warning for muslim extremism, with Christians and Jews being harrassed by young Morroccans, spit in their faces, beaten up, robbed, etc. Everybody was saying something HAD to be done, except the government. Even when Pim Fortuyn was assassinated (the right-wing politician who dared to say these things aloud in the press) the ruling parties spoke out that the limit had been reached, did nothing and after a few weeks went back to every-day business.

A sad example is the mayor of Amsterdam. Mind you, this major is a Jew, and I feel a Jew should understand more than anyone else how important it is to fight racism and extremism. But this guy is simply too much of a softie for his job.

When young Morroccans were screaming anti-semitic texts during the annual ceremony to commemorate the holocaust, he did nothing, except saying "We must start a dialogue with these people to explain why this is unacceptable."

When they used the wreaths as footballs, he said "We must start a dialogue with these people to explain why this is unacceptable."

When they stood outside Christian churches an spat in the faces of the church-goers, calling them pigs and Christian dogs, he said: "We must start a dialogue with these people to explain why this is unacceptable."

When a small group of these guys (of between 15 and 18 years old) terrorized an elderly couple to such an extent that they had to flee from their street where they had lived for decades, he said "We must start a dialogue with these people to explain why this is unacceptable."

On top of that, he gave them a building where they could meet. Never did he do anything to protect the people that were attacked. The police is afraid to act, since they are always accused of discrimination immediately. Cops that I know are very, very frustrated about this. They resent the fact that issuing speeding tickets is a higher priority than protecting the people (it is!).

I don't know what you heard about what's been happening here in the last week. When Theo van Gogh was murdered, that was the limit for many, many people. The killer stuck a breadknife in his body with a letter addressed to a female (Muslim) MP announcing that she would be next (and several other outspoken people were also named).

This woman had been telling in public about the humiliations women have to undergo in Muslim countries such as Somalia (where she was born), Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. She has had dozens and dozens of death threats since.

The reason Van Gogh was killed, the letter said, was the fact that he couldn't find her and because she has a number of body guards.

Van Gogh was rather outspoken, to say the least. He called Muslims "goat f----s", explaining that he felt he had the right to call them that since these Morroccans call him a dog or a pig.

All in all, it appears that there are elements here that have had it with the undecisiveness of the government and decided to take the law into their own hands. A very bad development, but something most non-politicians had seen coming for several years.
I don't know where you got the info you added in your message, but there weren't 40 arrest teams (equivalent to your SWAT teams). There aren't that many in the entire country!

However, never before have there been this many different police and military units involved in one incident. Three policemen were injured when the house they wanted to raid turned out to be boobytrapped and the people inside threw a hand grenade. Two were hospitalized, one of them seriously wounded, but not life-threatening.

About three hours ago, the BBE and sharpshooters ended the siege and arrested two people, one of them was shot in the shoulder in the process. They suspected that there was some explosives in the house, plus the other weapons. Don't know if they've already found anything: a robot with a camera is searching the place. They're probably afraid that there will be more booby traps and I cant blame them....

Anyway, I'm afraid that it isn't over yet. It's probably just starting.
Tom James has some interesting comments on the Bigelow Orbital Prize.
In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU), a fancy NASA-speak term for living off the land, is the key to opening up the Solar System for human exploration and settlement.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Kerry supporters are seeking professional help from psychotherapists in droves. Now, I understand that it is bad form to question the patriotism of liberals, even those whose sole response to national security threats is to advocate more appeasement. But it now seems unassailable that one can question their sanity. I remember that when Clinton beat Bush the Elder, I and most of my right leaning friends vowed to buck up and have fun (almost too much fun for the sake of the Republic as it turned out.) My suggestion is that liberals do the same. After all, you might grow to like living with a conservative government.
Are you a Kerry supporter and thinking of fleeing to Canada? Alex Beam suggests that you think again.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Frederica Mathewes-Green gives an appreciation of the new, family animated film The Incredibles (a great movie, by the way, that you should see.) Along the way, she shows how great family films are made.
How do you make a kids' movie that adults can stand to watch — and watch over and over again, once it comes out on video? One approach is to load it with references to pop culture, so everyone can feel fashionably knowing. But five years later those same refs will be unfashionable, and in a couple of decades incomprehensible. Or you could go for plenty of gross stuff, bathroom jokes and double-entendres. That might amuse the less-mature segments of the grownup audience, but it wears mighty thin on repetition, and makes responsible parents uncomfortable.

Is there any solution? Well, how about an enthralling plot, compelling characters, genuine humor, and a stirring message? It's so crazy it just might work.

Robert Bigelow has announced the rules for his fifty billion dollar Orbital Prize, which he now seems ready to finance himself.
1 The spacecraft must reach a minimum altitude of 400 kilometers (approximately 250 miles);

2 The spacecraft must reach a minimum velocity sufficient to complete two (2) full orbits at altitude before returning to Earth;

3 The spacecraft must carry no less than a crew of five (5) people;

4 The spacecraft must dock or demonstrate its ability to dock with a Bigelow Aerospace inflatable space habitat, and be capable of remaining on station at least six (6) months;

5 The spacecraft must perform two (2) consecutive, safe and successful orbital missions within a period of sixty (60) calendar days, subject to Government regulations;

6 No more than twenty percent (20 percent) of the spacecraft may be composed of expendable hardware;

7 The spacecraft must complete its two (2) missions safely and successfully, with all five (5) crew members aboard for the second qualifying flight, before the competition’s deadline of Jan. 10, 2010.

8 The contestant must have its principal place of business in the United States of America.

9 The Competitor must not accept of utilize government development funding related to this contest of any kind, nor shall there be any government ownership of the competitor. Usin government test facilities shall be permitted.

10 The spacecraft must complete its two (2) missions safely and successfully, with all five (5) crew members aboard for the second qualifying flight, before the competition’s deadline of Jan. 10, 2010.

The fifty million, by the way, could be just the beginning of what a successful orbital space craft might earn, with the possibility of fat contracts with Bigelow.
Like James Van Allen and Robert Park, Carl Sagan used to be one of those irritating scientists who saw no use for humans in space. Unlike Van Allen and Park, Sagan grew in wisdom as he grew in years and changed his mind.
Sam Dinkin wonders about a "space race" among states of the Union. Now, the idea of California launching it's own Mars mission is, to my mind, a bit silly. However, competition to attract commercial space enterprises is a real possibility.
Taylor Dinerman muses on how President Bush can use his election mandate to advance the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

British fantasy writer Philip Pullman misunderestimates President George W. Bush in a big way.
For children's fantasy writer Philip Pullman, George W. Bush would make a perfect villain in his epic sagas of good and evil.

"He would fit right in," said the British author of the trilogy "His Dark Materials" which now looks set to follow in the cinematic footsteps of Harry Potter and The Lord of The Rings as the next blockbuster franchise.

"Bush has this baying certainty and has imposed this fervent zealotry," said Pullman whose books have been condemned by church groups for attacking organized religion.

"The Christian right in America is the mirror image of the Islamic fundamentalists," he added.

First off, whatever one thinks of the beliefs of what Mr. Pullman calls the "Christian right in America", I'm pretty sure that none of them have flown airliners into buildings, sawed off the heads of hostages while video taping the act, nor blown themselves up in crowded marketplaces or cafes.

Second of all, Pullman is wide of the mark at the appropriate role a character like the President would be in a high fantasy.

Let's see, George W. Bush as a fantasy hero.

We can start with a venerable King of some land, having conducted a successful war against the Dark Lord, but who is subsequently overthrown by jealous and corrupt nobles. The pretender King spends most of his time chasing skirt and neglecting his royal duties, bringing weakness and ignominy to the land.

Meanwhile the young son of the former King is being brought up in secret exile in some outlaying duchy. He has a reputation for drunken carousing at the local tavern until, one day, his attention is brought back to his destiny and duty by a wise wizard. Gathering a motley group of companions around him, the exiled Prince seizes the duchy and then, eventually, regains his father's throne.

Just in time too, as the Dark Lord strikes, taking advantage of the turmoil in the land brought about by the succession crisis, killing many in the capital. The young King gathers an army and strikes back at the Dark Lord. By the end of the first book in the trilogy (it is always a trilogy, you see, thanks to Professor Tolkein), our hero King has won some great victories, while fending off treachery by the same jealous and corrupt nobles who did his father in.

Hmm. Not a bad scenario at that.

Friday, November 05, 2004

No way should Yassir Arafat be buried in Jerusalem. Were it up to me, the old, depraved monster's body should be burned and his ashes scattered in secret.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Looks like Clark County, Ohio, targeted by a letter writing campaign by the far left British newspaper The Guardian to urge the people there to vote Kerry, showed defiance instead and voted Bush.
President Bush's triumph in the election is also good news for the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

One of my more controversial observations is that America is engaged in a space race with the Chinese, whether we know it or not. An objection to this view is that China cannot hope to win such a race by relying on a classic government run space program against countries that encourage commercial space industries. It looks like that the Chinese may realize that.
Fox is just reporting that Kerry has conceeded, thus showing much more class and sense than Al Gore did four years ago.

Addendum: Kerry's speech was unusually gracious.
Dick Morris thinks that the erroneous exit polls may have been deliberately biased.
Another Presidential election, another George W. Bush victory, another bunch of Democrats wondering, "Wha happened?" And vowing to lawyer their way to victory from the jaws of defeat.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Ms. Curmudgeon and I just got back from voting. The traffic was steady, but there was no line. Inclement weather here in Texas means no one was outside trying to get us to vote for their candidate for County Sheep Inspector, which was a blessing.

Monday, November 01, 2004

The Kerry people really ought not to get Stormin' Norman angry with these kind of shannigans.
In the future, space archaeology might become a thriving science. But will those future Indiana Joneses of the heavens be Chinese, as some of the scenarios suggest?
You’ve heard the major arguments of the current Presidential campaign on the issues of the War on Terror, the economy, and even character. I believe that President Bush wins over Senator Kerry in all three areas hands down. But I am not writing now about the present or even the near future, but of the future that stretches out before our species for as long as our species will exist.

Last January, President Bush proposed the most far reaching revamping of the American civil space program in its history. He has proposed to correct a thirty year old public policy mistake, turning the space program into a high tech, space taxi service, and turning the National Aeronautics and Space Administration into a later day Corps of Discover. Its task would be to explore the Moon, then Mars, then beyond. He has also, almost unnoticed, moved to make the space agency more commercial friendly.

This new policy has profound implications for the hope many hold for a space future. It is my belief that the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision provides the best way to finally making our species a multi planet species, ensuring in the meantime its long term survival and prosperity. Whatever happens to our planet, a human race that has spread across the Solar System—and eventually I hope to the stars—will survive. Using the vast resources that can be found in the heavens, the human race can thrive, free of the shortages of resources and energy that a single planet bound civilization might face.

Senator Kerry’s response? To slam and even ridicule the vision. Despite the fact that he has often invoked John F. Kennedy and the spirit of Apollo, he has not offered his own, competing vision. He has offered a space “policy” filled with generalities and platitudes, but no substance. Even Senator Kerry becomes President, our space program will be frozen into the place that it has existed for a generation. Humans will be stuck for the foreseeable future going in circles in Low Earth Orbit.

Worse, we will be one shuttle accident away, under Kerry, from ending human space flight in America.

Those who see the promise of commercial space flight should not take comfort. Under Kerry, with his zeal for high taxes and burdensome regulations, the commercial space flight industry in America would be strangled in infancy and driven to other countries.

Could there be a space future in America beyond a Kerry administration, provided that the United States is not crippled permanently by his policies? Perhaps. But the dream of a space future has been betrayed twice in my lifetime. Once, when I was a boy, when it looked as if Apollo might lead to something, the Left in the Congress and the media combined to crush that dream and the Nixon Administration made the thirty year, space shuttle mistake. Again, when I was a young man, Bush the Elder’s Space Exploration Initiative died of its own weight, happily hurried to its death by the Left again, NASA bureaucrats, and a curious impotence on the part the first Bush White House.

Now we have a third chance. Do we dare pass it up in hopes of a fourth?

I think not.

So, vote for President Bush and Vice President Cheney, so that at long last the future can happen.
Rand Simberg provides a thoughful analysis of the Bush space policy and the Kerry space "policy".
Greg Zsidisin is one of those Kerry supporters who nevertheless is uncomfortable about what passes for a Kerry space policy. Unfortunately he goes into some strange contortions to justify voting Kerry.
It is thus that Wernher Von Braun has helped me make a confident choice for November. I would not suggest that George W. Bush merits comparison to Hitler. However, Wernher Von Braun and his team faced an analogous, if much greater, moral dilemma in developing rocket technology for the Nazis. The V-2 missile work at Peenemunde hastened the day when humans would walk the Moon—indeed, much of the same team was involved in both efforts. Yet in the near term, that team created “Vengeance Weapons” using slave labor at both Peenemunde and the barbaric, underground Mittlewerk production facility (also presided over by key team members). The inaccurate V-2s were purely terrorist weapons, and they led directly to the nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles that have terrorized the world since the late ’50s.

No, no, Zsidisin is not going into Michael Moore territory by comparing Bush to Hitler or pro space Bush supporters to Nazis, he insists. Except, of course, he proceeds to do so.
Even those of Von Braun’s team who were patriotic Germans and/or hated Jews and foreigners as they had been raised to do, must surely have felt some guilt for the concentration camp victims who suffered in front of, and because of, them; for those unknown civilians on whom their weapons fell; and later for the threat their rockets posed to the world. Yet Von Braun and his teammates shilled the notion that they were always looking at the stars, that they all merely wanted was to build space vehicles. This was indeed their great opportunity to do so; it only came at a terrible moral cost, away from which the team members (if not the world) seem largely to have looked.

In other words, pro space Bush supporters are willing to turn their eyes from all the evil things Bush is doing (according to Zsidisin) just to have a space future.
So it is that, at a much smaller and personal level, the example of Von Braun instructs me in voting against Bush/Cheney. Given that I (among many others) are opposed to, and fearful of, what the pair might do in a second term, my urgent desire to see NASA move forward with exploration—born of frustration by the end of Apollo when I was a child, borne out by the space activism work that consumed me as an adult—will take a backseat to concern for the well-being of my country and the world. I will do so knowing that an opportunity to move space exploration forward may be lost.

Never mind that there are many concerns about a political candidate (kerry) with a clear record of duplicity and of supporting appeasement abroad and socialism at home. And one can certainly defend the War in Iraq as part of the larger War of Terror and Bush's tax cuts as a means to jump start the economy. But Zsidisin prefers to engage in the crudest of political hate speech, comparing Bush to Hitler and Bush supporters to Nazis, while denying that he does so.

Zsidisin goes on to comfort space advocates that a Kerry President "won't really" mean the end of their dreams.

John Kerry has overseen NASA for years as a member of the Science, Technology, and Space Subcommittee, part of the Senate Committee for Commerce, Science and Transportation. As such, he is more aware of the agency and its issues than most. (Bush, on the other hand, is reported never to have visited the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston during his time as governor of Texas.) Kerry has also advocated a project on the scale of Apollo to end the country’s energy dependency, which further demonstrates an appreciation and commitment to technology that he is likely to bring to office.

Of course, considering Kerry's poor attendance record on committees, one wonders how relevant that is. Besides, as Keith Cowing has pointed out, Kerry has voted to gut the civil space program a number of times.
The first fully private spaceflights—both of SpaceShipOne this fall and Elon Musk’s privately-financed Falcon launcher early next year—herald the start of a fast-paced race by private industry to catch up to, and eventually surpass, government space projects. This is bolstered by the fact that Sir Richard Branson is funding a fleet of Rutan-designed tourist vehicles for first launch in only three years, and claims a waiting list of thousands of passengers. Here is a bird in the hand that may be better than the two in with Bush.

So how is Kerry going to nurture this new commercial space sector? We'll find out a little later and it's not pretty.
The success of Peter Diamandis and team in mounting the Ansari X Prize, in garnering support for the follow-on X Prize Cup races, and in inspiring NASA and others to follow the prize model, makes it likely that more big, fast-paced developments in space are in the offing. Even considering just the sea-change in public perception of who can fly in space, it is likely that even more daring ventures—private piloted orbital, perhaps Earth-escape, missions—are not far off.

Kerry has made some noises about supporting prizes. No specifics, of course. Then, we have an amazing admission from Zsidisin.
A caveat: it is possible that Kerry’s proposed tax hikes for the wealthiest, should they be enacted, would chill both investment and participation in the early private space tourism industry, which at this point is a playground being built by billionaires in which millionaires will play.

But on the other hand.
While tax exemptions for the industry seem a good bet and have been discussed, a first-order assumption that tax hikes will be a detriment would seem fair. (None of the space-investing billionaires and millionaires to whom I have written have yet replied on this issue.)

What's this? Tax cuts for the rich? In a Kerry Administration? I see no evidence of such a thing happening.

So there you have it. Bush is evil. Bush supporters are like Nazis who turn their eyes from that evil. Vote Kerry. Don't worry. Be happy.