Wednesday, March 31, 2004

John Kerry as Major Frank Burns? Works for me.
NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe let the enemies of space exploration have it. He also seemed to hint that the President will weight in again, in due course.
Houston attorney John O'Neill has some unhappy memories about John Kerry. In 1971, O'Neill was a leader of Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace and debated Kerry on the Dick Cavet Show (a segment recently reaired on C-Span). The smear Kerry put out about American soldiers commiting war crimes still makes O'Neill angry.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

George Will gives Dick Clarke the back of his hand, as only he can.
1634: The Galileo Affair, the latest in the Eric Flint series in which a West Virginia coal mining town finds itself in Germany of the Thirty Years War, is out and, I am told, a bit lighter fare than the other books. The plot involves a plot to rescue the father of modern astronomy from the clutches of the Holy Inquisition.

Space power, not only military, but political and economic, is the key to super power status in this century. The Defense Department is working diligently on the military aspect. Naturally there are some confused people who are against seeking space power in a knee jerk fashion.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Michael Mealing has some thoughts about last week's public meeting of the Aldridge Commission.
Dennis Powell discusses what might happen if an asteroid even as small as five hundred feet in diameter lands on Earth.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

John Fund sums up the troubling aspects of John Kerry's radical past, including the smearing of American soldiers as murderers and being privy to conspiracies to murder pro Vietnam War Senators.
Was Karen Hughes trying to undermine the President's space initiative by excluding it from the State of the Unions?
Ms. Hughes also advocated dropping from the State of the Union address any mention of the president's ambitious proposal to send humans to Mars, which was attacked by members of his own party as extravagant folly. "At some level the policy gesture didn't pass the communications straight-face test," the Bush adviser said.

It would seem to me that, if true, to demonstrate a uncharectoristic disloyalty to the President and his agenda. Since Ms. Hughes is joining the Bush/Cheney 2004 Campaign, I should like to hear a clarification and an explanation from her own lips.

Via Jeff Foust.

I guess that the Pope is not one of the world leaders who is cheering John Kerry on. And a good thing too, I say.

Friday, March 26, 2004

The Chinese have moved up the launch of its lunar orbiter by a year.
Karen Sisco was one of the most intelligent, witty cop shows to air in a long time. naturally the network put it in a bad time slot and then cancelled it. The last three episodes will air on the USA Network on the next three Wendsdays.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Some leaders of labor unions are supporting President Bush's space initiative as a job creator. They are right to do so, but I wonder how many of these same labor leaders are also supporting John Kerry, who is widely supposed would cancel the initiative, for President.
Dr. Mike Duke is building a robot miner that would rove around the lunar surface, eating lunar dirt, and creating rocket fuel.
Meanwhile, John Kerry's radical past continues to stalk his campaign like an unquiet ghost.
The discovery of an ancient sea bed on the surface of Mars may rank alongside Galileo's discovery of the largest four Moons of Jupiter. Some suggest that this cries out for human exploration.
Private space enterprises would like to be full partners in space exploration.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Today, Dick Clarke did not follow the advice of Mansoor Ijaz (see below) and instead choose to engage in a strange, Washington version of American Grandstand. Rich Lowry suggests that when this is all over, Clarke should write a sequal to his scurrilous book, entitled, "Present at the Self-Immolation."

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Mansoor Ijaz suggests that the disgruntled Richard Clarke stop lying and start telling the truth.

Monday, March 22, 2004

The Chinese plan a lunar rover in 2012.
Walter Cronkite tells John Kerry to be a liberal and proud. I rather hope Prince John, the International Man of Mystery takes the advice.
One of the founders of Hamas now burns in Hell.
Dwayne Day discusses the false trillion dollar estimate for going back to the Moon and on to Mars. It illustrates the old saying about a lie being able to go half way around the world in the time it takes the truth to put on it's walking shoes.
Jeff Foust has unearthed a speech on space commercialization from 1966. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Dennis Wingo responds to Jeff Bell concerning the "fiscal nightmare" of the Bush space initiative.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Jeff Foust suggests that the Bush space initiative needs a name that will carry it past the Bush administration (even if brother Jeff gets elected in 2008.)

Just to tweek the politically correct, I suggest: Project Manifest Destiny.
NASA may send a robot to repair the Hubble Telescope.
Today marks the one year anniversary of the start of the Iraq War and therefore the occassion for a few words.

I think that those on the anti war left who harp about the absence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (which I think are likely buried somewhere in the Bekka Valley) are having a little too much fun at the expense of their political enemies while missing the point. Even if Iraqi WMDs did not exist, the destruction of Saddam Hussein's regime was a good thing. It liberated thirty million human beings from a government, the brutality of which would have astonished Adolf Hitler or Joe Stalin. It has provided the prospect of an Arab democracy, a hitherto unknown phenomenom, with every hope of it's spread throughout the Middle East along with the attendent growth of human happiness, peace, and prosparity.

Why is it, then, that one somehow gets the impression that opponents of the war (who also tend to be haters of George Walker Bush) think that this is a bad thing? Oh, they will protest that Yes, we think that the end of Saddam is a good thing, but- And after that "but" comes quibbling about process. It should have been more multilaterial. Meaning, what? The two dozen some odd countries involved in the war and the aftermath does not constitute enough multilaterialism? Or does the term mean, "Deferring to the wishes of the French and Germans."

Or there comes dark conspiracy theories. Bush lied! And people died! Of course to suggest that President Bush deliberately lied about the existence of Iraqi WMDs implies a conspiracy so immense that it would be too increadible even for an episode of the X Files. It would not only have to include President Bush, but President Clinton, the UN, the British, the French, the Germans, and Saddam himself just for starters. An intelligence failure of epic proportions, yes. A conspiracy, hardly likely.

Besides, one WMD was found and taken into custedy. That would be Saddam himself. Since the first Gulf War, Saddam had been killing over a hundred thousand of his own people every year, either through malnutrition (because of massive curruption surrounding the oil for food program) or more directly, in the typical manner of a tyrant. Of course Saddam was also paying the families of Palestinian murder bombers a kind of macabre life insurance after the fact, the better to encourage the wholesale slaughter of Jews in Israel. And if he had no WMDs on hand (something not proven to my satisfaction) he had both the capability and the inclination to produce them in short order, just as soon as the world's collective back was turned.

So, despite the persistence of terrorism in Iraq and elsewhere, I suggest a celebration of a victory in the War on Terrorism rather than more hand wringing and finger pointing. It will be seen as such by history, in my humble opinion.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

As humankind heads for the Moon and the planets, surely lawyers will follow.
Adam Keiper argues that the timetable for the President's space initiative should be accelerated. Orlando Figueroa seems to agree, at least to the extent that the first manned landing should be in 2015 rather than closer to 2020.
Wendell Mendell has some thoughts on the President's space initiative, including how to spin off lunar operations once the Mars effort ramps up.
One of John Kerry's warmest supporters says that the Senator is lying about his anti war past.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Childhood trauma may have made John Kerry unsuitable for the Presidency. Of course his was a particular childhood trauma, of being raised as an overprivledged rich kid with a to the manor born additude that certainly does not play well to the Nascar Dads.
Vice President Dick Cheney pretty much nuked the Kerry candidacy.
More interesting stuff about Mel Gibson and a possible "Jewish Braveheart" film project.
Jeff Bell argues that the President's space initiative is both too expensive and not expensive enough. This assertion has sparked an interesting discussion over at Transterrestrial Musings.
Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise are working on a new, big screem version of War of the Worlds.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Apollo 7 astronaut Walt Cunningham suggests that the safety skittishness that is apparently stopping the Hubble repair mission would have also prevented us from going to the Moon had it existed in the 1960s. More important, it may prevent us from going back to the Moon and on to Mars.
Is John Kerry already in a death spiral? Could be.
A Muppet version of The Wizard of Oz. Er, OK.
Foreign Leaders for Kerry, via Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online.
Contrary to predictions, The Passion of the Christ seems to be reducing anti semitism.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Jeff Foust has a piece this week featuring Aldridge Commission member Neil Tyson, who calls for encouraging bipartisan support for the President's space initiative. Considering the history of left wing opposition to initiatives like the Presidents, I can only wish Dr. Tyson good luck. There is some glimmer of hope, of course, with Senators Nelson and Graham joining Republicans to restore funding for the initiative in the Senate FY2005 budget. Still, the biggest bipartisan reaction to the President's initiative seems to be bipartisan belly aching and hand wringing over what it might cost in the year 2025. Overcoming that is the immediate problem.

I also noticed that the Commission considered inviting John Kerry to testify, but then thought the better of it. That is all for the best, considering the experience it had with John Glenn. You might get Kerry to endorse the elimination of the tax on capital gains before he will support a return to the Moon. Still, I think it would be a good thing to invite some reasonable Democrats (and Republican members of Congress) to speak. Bill Nelson comes to mind.
David Frum suggests that Spain's capitulation to terrorism means we have to brace ourselves for more of the same.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

John Kerry's assertion that "world leaders" (Kim Il Jong? Osama?) are pulling for him is just the latest in a series of wild boasts that have been made by other loser candidates.
Looks like the terrorists have toppled the Spanish government. It's a sad thing to imagine that the Spanish electorate could give in to craven appeasement.

Of course, the new government could reverse that by suggesting that, since no civilized government can give in to terrorist intimidation, that the Spanish contingent in Iraq will stay and in fact will even be augmented. Otherwise, I very much fear that Al Qaeda will try this stunt again and more innocents will die.

Addendum: It doesn't look like the Spanish Prime Minister Elect is going to heed my advice. Mores the pity that he thinks he can buy peace with appeasement.
So far it looks like that the technology is not available to cause robots to complete a race across the desert, something a human in a humvee could do with ease. This should be a warning for those uninformed people who think robots can explore the universe without human beings.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Senator Bill Nelson had some straight talk about the politics surrounding the President's space initiative.
I call on the White House. I call on the leadership of NASA. We cannot take for granted just because the President has announced a major new initiative that it is going to get funded. Indeed, we are swimming upstream. The immediate reaction of the American people to the President's initiative was they didn't support it. There is only one person who can lead the space program. That is the President or the Vice President. A Senator can't lead it. The administrator of NASA can't lead it, particularly on bold new initiatives. It has to be the White House that leads it.

All very true, though it seems to me that six Senators provided a great deal of leadership. I propose that when the first lunar settlement is founded, that streets (corridors?) be named after each of them.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Looks like the President's space initiative is fully funded in the FY2005 budget passed by the full Senate, restoring $600 million cut by the Senate Budget Committee.
A short time ago, John Glenn, retired politician, expressed a certain degree of skepticism about the President's space initiative. However, another son of Ohio is a little more enthusiastic about the idea of returning to the Moon. And for good reason.
Is microterraforming the way to make Mars a habitable planet?

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Looks like NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe is playing a little hardball with members of Congress who are belly aching about the President's space initiative.
Bond offered one of the harshest assessments yet by a GOP lawmaker of the president's directive that NASA send astronauts to the moon and Mars.

"I am concerned that this new vision will become the next space station, consuming resources as costs begin to rise," Bond said at a subcommittee hearing Thursday. "One could question if now is the time to begin the full implementation, or if it would be more prudent to wait a year and let NASA decide what is needed to accomplish the goals set out by the president."

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe offered little direct response to Bond's observations.

Several hours later, however, he met with reporters at NASA headquarters and announced the agency would put a hold on $388 million in congressionally mandated NASA earmarks for the current year.

"We'll see where it goes," O'Keefe said.

Mind you, the fact that this pork eats up a portion of NASA's budget is a scandal and something should be done to stop the practice. Still, I say, you go Sean.

Charles Krauthammer gives the French, including the one running for President of the United States, the back of his hand.
Jim Oberg takes me to task for suggesting that white folks should seek reparations from North Africans (see below):
Your premise that the descendants should seek reparations is flawed, because Europeans enslaved in North Africa didn't leave many descendants. The literature indicates that the common practice was simply to kill any babies, since replacement adults were cheaper to obtain full grown.

Re reparations for African slavery -- again, the majority of Africans sold into slavery were sent to North Africa and SW Asia, where most did not leave descendants for reasons similar to paragraph above -- the idea isn't totally preposterous if one accepts the premise that it's a status-ante-quod question, restoring a situation prior to an illegal act. And the Africans who were paid for the slaves -- the inflation-adjusted and interest-equivalent amounts should be demanded from that quarter as well.

In this proposal, a person accepting reparations for ancestral slavery should be expected, in turn, to accept a current situation equivalent to one if the slavery had never occurred. This, at the very least, should include renunciation of US citizenship and return to region of origin, along with an arguable statistical 'lottery' of mortality -- how likely is it, you'd already be dead, had you been born where you 'deserved' to be. Once the population of those to whom are paid reparations, in terms of demographic mortality, can be 'actuarilly adjusted' to mimic the population of those "without-a-history-of-slavery", then a delta-reparation payment to the survivors might be arguable.

Then there are the many more millions of us descended from Europeans who were slaves, serfs, and other chattel to the masters in Europe, who had no compunction about owning people of any racial or ethnic origin. My own family has oral tradition of why they ran away from this, and why they accepted significant sufferings -- and the deaths of children -- in America rather than ever, ever go back to Europe again.

But we got over it. We're not enslaved to our past. I find that to be a liberating situation.

Of course I agree with every word of that, since my suggestion was made somewhat tongue in cheek.
John Kerry refuses to apologize for calling Republicans "crooks and liars." One thing, that's a bold statement for someone who supported Bill Clinton.

A question: Is John Kerry morphing into Howard Dean?
Some suckers in Germany, who think they bought some parcels of lunar real estate a few years back, are concerned about President Bush sending astronauts to muck up their "property."
Here's a prediction and you heard it here first. With political pressure mounting, NASA will wind up doing some kind of Hubble repair effort.
"David Raven", who seems to be a NASA insider, calls for the repair mission for Hubble to proceed.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Dana Rohrabacher seems to heed my suggestion to talk about benefits (see below) as well as costs by discussing what is to be gained by a return to the Moon.
Perhaps it is time for white folks to demand slavery reperations from the descendents of the Barbary Pirates.
The House Science Committee had a hearing about the President's space initiative. There were several examples of how politics continues to get in the way of the exploration and eventual settlement of the high frontier of space.
(Committee Chairman) Boehlert added that the fiscal 2005 NASA budget proposal needed to be reviewed in the context of the entire federal science budget. "My strong feeling, and I think it's shared by others on this Committee, is that a society unwilling to invest in science and technology is a society willing to write its own economic obituary. So we're looking in the broad category of science...and then NASA is a subset of that, and a subset of our investment in NASA is human versus unmanned. And so we're trying to get answers to some very specific questions involving cost and risk - answers that are not easy to come up with."

Of course the President's plan in not just about science or even technology development. It is meant to help stimulate space commerce as well. Maybe the focus should be as much on the benefits as well as the potential costs of the President's initiative. (And, of course, projecting costs into the third decade of this century as a prerequisite for funding the program this year seems to me to be a little bit silly.)
(Ranking Member) Gordon stated, "I support the goal of exploring our solar system. However, until I am convinced that the President's plan to achieve that goal is credible and responsible, I am not prepared to give that plan my support."

He didn't suggest what would convince him of these things. Perhaps, Gordon being a Democrat, if John Kerry were to endorse it.
Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) asked Dr. Griffin what he would "predict it would take us to go to the moon and then to go Mars?" Griffin answered, "I believe that the first expeditions to Mars should be accomplishable within an amount of funding approximately equal to what we spent on today's dollars, about $130 billion. Certainly that would envelope it. I believe that it should be possible to return to the moon for in the neighborhood of $30 billion in today's dollars. And those are both fairly comfortable amounts." Griffin said those missions could "easily" be accomplished within those dollar amounts in 10 years, but "you would have to decide to do it and to allocate the money, but I think that's the level of resource commitment that's required."

Mike Griffin's numbers seem reasonable to me. Donna Shirley seemed to agree, but with a caveat.
Dr. Donna Shirley, Director of the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle and former Manager of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said she thought Dr. Griffin's numbers were "pretty good, provided that we do the stepping-stone to the moon and we don't stop there and we don't start building infrastructure and don't start doing what we did with Space Station. If we go to the moon and then right on to Mars...those are not bad numbers."

I wonder upon what basis she said that. I think we see a Moon vrs Mars conflict here. Since the whole point of the President's plan is to use the Moon as a testbed and then a jumping off point for Mars, I wonder if Shirley is pushing instead for something like Mars Direct or perhaps doing nothing at all. That impression was buttressed in my mind when Shirley went on to say something that I found troubling, since it seems to mesh with the desire of Congressional Democrats to punt the initiative past the next election.
She recommended that the Administration revisit the nation's space exploration goals and suggested a process including workshops and studies that would bring in a wide-range of new stakeholders and fully engage the public in the effort.

Dr. Shriley, of course, must know that a standard, bureaucratic method of killing an idea is to study it to death. This seems to be what she is proposing. My view is that the time for all that is done. Let us get on with it.

Jeff Foust has some disagreements with Jim McDade's assessment on the Kerry space policy (see below.) He also points out that there is a NASA and Space Budget topic on the comments section on his web site.

Feel free, by the way, to give John Kerry any advice about space you might have.
Tom James has posted a good summary, from one of the Ohio Mars Society people, of what went on during the Dayton, Ohio hearings of the Aldridge Commission.
Glenn Reynolds discusses the asteroid threat and, more important, what can be done about it.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Mohammed Abbas, hijacker of the Achille Lauro, murderer of a crippled, old man Leon Klinghoffer, now burns in Hell.
Jim McDade suggests that under a Kerry Administration, there won't be a lot of money at NASA spent on actual space stuff.
The House Science Committee Democrats have a variety of views concerning the President's space initiative. They are both for it and against it.
While we welcome the President's announcement of long-term goals for the nation's civil space program, we are concerned that the budget request for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) raises more questions about the President's initiative than it answers. Without more information on the costs and impacts of the President's proposal, it would be irresponsible at this time for us to endorse the initiative and the liens it would impose on the NASA budget over the next several decades.

The President's initiative is described as "affordable." However, at the Committee's recent hearing on the initiative, the NASA Administrator and the Director of the President's Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) were unable to provide a clear answer when asked what the President was told about the costs of the initiative, and in particular the cost of returning humans to the Moon. Equally troubling, when asked if the Committee could assume that "what you are allocating and what you think is necessary to complete the mission is the same thing," the NASA Administrator replied: "No, sir. What is occurring in 2009 and out is a projection of what the transition, the transformation of the approach that we are taking here would import if you compare it to the annual cost of an inflation-level increase to the annual top line. That is all that this attempts to do ." When asked the clarifying question: "Does that projection try - is that projecting what it is going to cost to get us to the Moon?," the NASA Administrator responded: "No sir, it does not." We thus must conclude that the case for the affordability of the initiative has yet to be made. That concerns us as we contemplate committing the American taxpayer to an initiative whose major costs will be incurred after this Administration has left office. NASA's recent failure to pass its external financial audit for the second time in the last three years only compounds our concern.

We are also troubled by the impact of the President's initiative on other important NASA programs and activities. In order to pay for the proposed exploration agenda, NASA's aeronautics and Earth science programs - which have suffered over the last three years - would continue to languish for the next decade and a half. Research and development on next generation space transportation systems that could significantly reduce the cost and increase the reliability of access to space would be essentially curtailed. Exciting new avenues of research into fundamental mysteries of the universe would be deferred. Another three quarters of a billion dollars would be removed from the budget for research on the Space Station - research that until recently was touted by NASA as benefiting citizens here on Earth.

Moreover, in order to make the budgetary math work, the President's initiative requires NASA to abandon the Space Shuttle years before a replacement vehicle will be available. In short, the Administration has decided to make the United States dependent on Russia for getting our astronauts into space until the proposed Crew Exploration Vehicle becomes operational - if all goes well - a decade from now. At the same time, the Administration has steadfastly refused to explain how it intends to deal with the prohibitions contained in the Iran Nonproliferation Act against acquiring such crew transfer services from Russia.

We thus believe that the burden of proof is on the Administration to demonstrate both the affordability of the President's request and the wisdom of the policy decisions that have been made to fund it. Unless and until that happens, we believe that NASA's funding request should be reallocated in a manner that strengthens NASA's existing programs, helps address the backlog of deferred maintenance at NASA's facilities, ensures that the Shuttle will continue to fly safely for as long as it is needed, ensures that the International Space Station will be a safe and productive facility, makes a start on a replacement means of getting U.S. astronauts into space, and enables the analyses that will be needed to develop a viable and sustainable exploration agenda. That reallocation should start when Congress considers NASA's proposed FY 2004 Operating Plan and should continue in Congress's consideration of the FY 2005 budget request.

We agree with the President that we need a vision for the nation's civil space program. However, challenging goals have to be tied to a viable and prudent implementation plan if they are to be more than rhetoric. We hope that the Administration will step up to the task of developing such a plan.

I suspect that had Medicare been subjected to these kind of requirements back in the mid 1960s, it would never have passed.

The controversy over John Kerry's lies about Vietnam era servicemen commiting atrocities just will not go away.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Here's the full text of the new Iraqi interim Constitution.
Happy birthday, Yuri Gargarin, wherever you are right now.
Does Kerry and the Democrats suffer from security envy? Their hysterical reaction to the President's 9/11 ads may indicate that they do.
John Kerry is likely right about this.
Without naming anybody, Kerry said he had received words of encouragement from leaders abroad who were eager to see him defeat Bush on Nov. 2.

"I've met foreign leaders who can't go out and say this publicly, but boy they look at you and say, 'You've got to win this, you've got to beat this guy, we need a new policy,' things like that," he said.

I can see why the leaders of North Korea, Iran, Syria, not to mention France, pray nightly for a Kerry Presidency.

So Kerry's official site is riddled with foul language. Next thing you know, he'll be carrying ads for porno sites, complete with jpegs and videos.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Is the President's space initiative in trouble in the Congress? Could be, though it doesn't look like Congress is inclined to obliterate it like it did Bush the Elder's initiative. Still, three things need to happen sooner rather than later.

First, NASA needs to come up with some kind of cost estimate that's crediable and not excessive. One understands why the space agency doesn't want to repeat the fiasco of the eight billion dollar space station that became a hundred billion dollar space station. But some number needs to be put forward.

Second, a grass roots lobbying effort needs to be formed. This appears to be in the process of happening with the Coalition for Space Exploration.

Third, the White House needs to get involved in selling it's own program. I suggest that as soon as possible a meeting be held in the Oval Office with the President, Administrator O'Keefe, and some key members to answer some questions and iron out strategy. Then, at some point, the President needs to make another speech. I suggest Florida (a Campaign 2004 battleground state), say at the Cape with a picturesque backdrop. The President needs to tout the economic development and job creation aspects of the plan. Later, if California turns out to be in play, the President should make another speech there, as at JPL.

Otherwise, Congress may decide to punt the whole initiative to next year. That's not a disaster, but it's a bad precedence that should be avoided.
Will Mel Gibson's next picture be another biblical epic, but this time about heroic Jews.
Alan Nierob, a spokesman for Gibson and his Icon Films, confirmed that the filmmaker has spoken in several interviews, including one with Jay Leno on the Tonight Show, about looking to the Old Testament for stories, but said Gibson has not been specific about which stories.

The first rumor flitting through the evangelical world is that the filmmaker intends to plow the profits from The Passion into a movie about the central characters of the holiday of Hanukkah, fighters called the Maccabees. Their story is told in sacred writings of the biblical period, although the two books of the same name are not officially a part of either testament.

Or perhaps this story.
Last week, the American-born Israeli educator Yossi Katz suggested that Gibson's next film should be a dramatization of the Bar Kochba Revolt of A.D. 132-135. This rebellion took place a century after Jesus' death, and 60 years after a failed uprising against the Roman occupation that led to half a million Jewish deaths and the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

The Bible is filled with these kind of stories. Naturally not everyone is satisfied:
Abraham Foxman, executive director of the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League, predicts that if Gibson dramatizes either Jewish rebellion, "we'll lose."

"He'll write his own history," Foxman says. "I would prefer to leave the fate of Jewish history and Hollywood to Steven Spielberg. The Maccabees and Bar Kochba are our sacred history.

I guess Mel Gibson just can't win in the eyes of some people.

John Kerry, who touts his Vietnam service, tried to defer that service so he could spend a year studying in Paris.
Looks like some (probibly most) families of 9/11 victims support the President mentioning that Day of Infamy in his campaign ads.
Opponents of space exploration have opened a new front in their jihad to keep humankind on one planet. The new argument goes like this: "Shouldn't we be exploring the oceans, which are right here, instead of Mars?"

With all due respect to the marine biology community, don't fall for this ploy. A certain number of planetary scientists have been seduced into opposing human space exploration with the expectation that more money would be allocated to robotic probes. Oddly enough, the deal never seems to pan out. So don't think that if we don't do the President's exploration initiative that the money is going to be spent on submersables prowling over the ocean floor. The money will instead be spent on social programs.

My suggestions is that if one wants more money spent on ocean exploration, one should argue for it on its own merits and not as a club to beat up on space exploration. One might start by making economic arguments. The oceans can be a vast venue for economic development, done properly.
Those who are anciously waiting for Peter Jackson to make The Hobbit, the prequel to Lord of the Rings, will need to exercise patience while Jackson makes King Kong and the lawyers fight over the rights.
This is a rather bold statement coming from John Kerry, considering that he has voted at one time or another to cancel every major weapon system used by the modern armed forces.

Friday, March 05, 2004

More Harry Potter beyond Book 7? Could be.
Speaking of space empires, Andrew Case suggests that we're at the Prince Henry the Navigator stage of building ours. That's not a bad thing. Henry sponsered quite a few voyages of exploration that had the other purpose of testing out the technologies that others that came after him used to spread Western Civilization around the world.
John Rhys-Davies is a hero in real life as well as on the screen.
The Hill has an interesting article about the state of play on the space initiative in the Congress. You need to take some of the editorializing toward the beginning with a grain of salt (along with the repeat of the bogus 400 billion dollar cost figure.) The meat of the article begins with:
But companies in the space business and at least one major union are looking to generate support for the Mars mission, and for space funding in general.

“The industry thinks that the moon-Mars mission is just as important as a policy and as a vision as it is for the future stabilization of future NASA funding,” said Patrick McCartan, a lobbyist at the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA).

The AIA is one of several members of the new Coalition for Space Exploration. Other members include Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which manage the space-shuttle program as the United Space Alliance, and Raytheon, United Technologies, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, the Harris Foundation, ATK, Honeywell, Ball Aerospace and AAI Corp.

One major union has joined as well: the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW).

The coalition’s immediate goal is to protect space funding as lawmakers put together the budget and appropriations bills.

There is some consternation about the fact that the President hasn't mentioned the space initiative since he introduced it that I think is overblown.
Although Bush has not mentioned the Mars mission since Jan. 14, O’Keefe told lawmakers the administration remained committed to the project.

But the apparent waning interest in the effort has been “more and more of a concern,” said Thomas Buffenbarger, president of the IAMAW.

“They haven’t put it on the priority list at all,” he said.

But Chase, of the NSS, said the White House will become more involved and be more willing to expend political capital if the space industries send a “very strong signal” that they are committed to manned space flight.

I suspect that the administration will weigh in this summer when the Aldridge Commission has wrapped up its work and the appripriations process is in full swing.
The Senate Budget Commitee has passed a budget resolution that cuts 600 million out of the President's request for NASA. I agree with Jeff Foust that it's not panic time yet. For one thing, the Committee supported the Moon/Mars initiative in princible and assumed that it would be fully funded in FY2006 and beyond. It is also an early stage in the process but, as Jeff suggests, there is much work that needs doing to close the gap.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Jeremi Suri, an assistant professor of history at the University of Wisconson-Madison, heralds the new age of space exploration.
Mr. Bush's program will create a new American empire in space that will resemble the ocean-born empires of the European states in the 17th and 18th centuries. The United States will stake claim to new "open" territories, leverage their resources, and settle them on a small scale.
As in the first era of exploration, travel to new horizons will inspire some of the national virtues Mr. Bush extols: "daring, discipline, ingenuity, and unity in the pursuit of great goals."

Now how can anyone oppose that?
Astonishingly, John Glenn, former Senator, first American in orbit, and John Kerry supporter, choose to use his opportunity to address the Aldridge Commission to make a partisan, political speech. attacking the whole idea of going back to the Moon and on to Mars.

I somehow think that John Glenn hero astronaut, circi 1962, would be the most appalled at the behavior of John Glenn retired politician, circi 2004. Imagine one of the most famous of all astronauts not wanting to see Americans back on the Moon and eventually on Mars just because it just might politically benefit the man who proposed it, President George W. Bush. The Good Book says that it little profits a man to gain the whole world at the cost of his soul. But, Mr. Glenn, for a John Kerry Presidency?
In the history of bogus controversies, this one pushes the envelope for absurdity. Does anyone imagine that, had there been television commercials in 1944, FDR would not have talked about World War II? Come to think of it, John Kerry can't shut up about his heroics in Vietnam. Sixty thousand Americans died in that war, which was started and bungled by Democratic Presidents. Has Kerry no shame in exploiting that tragedy for his narrow, political purposes?
The House has passed legislation regulating private human space flight.
Time Magazine has gotten a person named Leon Jaroff to write a hit piece against human space flight. Jaroff, to buttress his article, filled as it is with disinformation, has dug up the ultimate scientist dinosaur, James Van Allen. Van Allen is best known for the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts in the late 50s. He is less well know, but is nortorious for, as one of William Proxmire's pet "experts" in the former Senator's jihad against human space flight in the late 70s.

Let's examine the hit piece.
Mars is much in the news these days as the talented little robotic rovers, Opportunity and Spirit, continue their methodical exploration of the Red Planet, sending back remarkable new photos and data nearly every day. That the Mars surface almost certainly once held water is the latest bit of fascinating information provided by the two rovers. But conspicuously missing from news about Mars is any mention of the dramatic proposal President Bush made earlier this year: to land humans on the planet and bring them home safely. Why has there been no followup, and why the deafening silence?

Perhaps because under the President's plan, the first humans will not land on Mars for about twenty years.
One reason might be the very success of the rovers, which show that effective science can be done at a far lower price tag than the $400 billion requried for a manned mission. And the notable lack of public reaction and the generally negative response from the scientific community may have given the Administration pause.

OK, do we really have to point out that all of these numbers being thrown around (400 billion dollars, 500 hundred billion dollars, a trillion dollars) constitute the big lie of the space policy debate? Both Jim Oberg and Dwayne Day have documented how phony these numbers are. A sprint to Mars would cost anywhere from twenty to fifty billion, depending on whom one asks. The Bush plan, which includes a lot of operations on the Moon, might cost a hundred to two hundred billion over twenty to thirty years, much of which would be covered by cancelling old programs like the space shuttle. And there is every hope of argumenting the money available with commercial partnerships.
Like many scientists, James Van Allen, best known for the discovery of the radiation belts that bear his name, is aghast at the Mars proposal. He points to “the difficulty and the danger and the cost, all of them monstrous problems” and notes that the budget the President proposed for the project “is far too anemic to anywhere meet the need.”

How does Van Allen know this? Does he perhaps believe the inflated cost figures we've disposed of already?
A manned mission to Mars, Van Allen notes, would require a minimum of a year and a half — six months to reach the Red Planet, six months of research on the surface and six months to return. Each astronaut would require about five pounds of food and water daily. “They talk about growing broccoli and other vegetables on the spacecraft,” he says dismissively, “and recycling water.” Still, for a five-man crew, a mission of that length would require carrying along some 20,000 pounds of food and water. “Then, too, you have to bring along a good supply of oxygen and reconvert exhaled carbon dioxide to replenish it.”

First of all, that year and a half figure is only one configuration of how long a Mars mission would take. It also ignores the use of nuclear or other high impulse propulsion technologies that would decrease transit times. And why is Van Allen so dismissive about space agriculture? This is a field that has been studied for decades and there appears to not be a lot of show stoppers. Van Allen certainly does not seem to be aware of Bob Zubrin's concept to living off the land on Mars to get oxygen and water, a concept that is widely accepted now by real experts.
The risk would be great, the margin of error tiny, and any kind of rescue effort out of the question. A simple malfunction of equipment or, say, a micrometeorite impact that caused the spacecraft atmosphere to escape, could bring disaster. Some experts say that the first attempt to send a crew to Mars might well be a suicide mission. Yet Van Allen thinks there would be no shortage of volunteers. “The present astronauts are a pretty daring bunch,” he says.

I wonder who these experts are who think that going to Mars would be a "suicide mission." I'd like to know the basis of their risk analysis.
But what about the total cost of the mission, which would include establishing a Moon base from which the spacecraft would be launched? Experts calculate that it would be in the neighborhood of a cool $400 billion, unwelcome news at a time when the national debt stands at $500 billion and is rising.

No big lie is too big that it doesn't merit repeating.
In his proposal, President Bush insisted that a manned Mars mission was necessary because “The human thirst for knowledge ultimately cannot be satisfied by even the most vivid pictures or the most detailed measurements,” obviously referring to the twin rovers. But the editors of the prestigious journal Science disagreed. While acknowledging that human involvement in the space program “initially fired the public’s imagination as an adventure,” they noted editorially that the more recent manned ventures were “more like a version of extreme sport.” And unlike the robotic missions to the planets, the space telescopes and remote-sensing Earth orbiters, manned missions have contributed little to our knowledge of the solar system and the universe.

Obviously by "more recent manned ventures", Jaroff is refering to the shuttle. The scientific uilitity of the shuttle is a subject of controversy, with cost/benefit arguments on both sides. But this is a straw man. Under the Bush plan, the shuttle is going away and we're back to actually exploring places.
“Space exploration carries risks,” the Science editorial concluded, “and ensuring against accidents in human space travel is expensive; when tragedies occur, programs become stagnant” Indeed, NASA, in the wake of the Columbia disaster, has suspended shuttle flight at least until 2005. On the other hand, the Science editors wrote, “Failures of unmanned missions, while disappointing, tend to increase determination.” That is most evident in the current spectacular exploits of Opportunity and Spirit, hard at work after the failure of earlier Mars missions.

Actually, a case can be made that the Columbia accident lended impetus to the desire to find a new direction for human space flight, resulting in the President's initiative. Hardly stagnation.
Indeed the twin Mars rovers have apparently generated more interest in space exploration than any of the more recent missions. Their exploits and images, posted on NASA’s web sites, have drawn 5.5 billion pageviews from an obviously fascinated public.

One awaits with keen anticipation how much more interest a human mission would generate.
Van Allen’s final report card about the manned Mars mission proposal: “I give the President an ‘A’ for rhetoric, a ‘D’ for arithmetic and a ‘D’ for realism.”

I'm afraid that I have to give an F to both Van Allen and Jaroff for their lack of grasp of objective facts and a U (unsatisfactory) in conduct for dishonesty and bias.

Hollywood may be filled with more than its share of liberals, but when it comes to running their business, Tinseltown might as well be an enclave of--well--Republicans.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Tom Hanks is bringing us an IMAX film about the Apollo missions to the Moon.
More news about the return to the Moon. And China is also getting busy.
Dennis Powell describes why Mars once having been wet is a big deal.
John Kerry has triumphed, yet it doesn't matter since Dick Morris says he is doomed.
It's like Pirates of the Caribbean, only with Vikings.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

About a year ago, Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and in my opinion the most significent American statesman of the the 1990s, and SF writer William Forstchen published an alternate history novel entitled Gettysburg, in which Lee's Army of Northern Virginia all but obliterates the Army of the Potomic south of Gettysburg,

Shortly, the sequal, Grant Comes East, will be out. I gather than General Grant, with the bulk of his Army, newly victorious at Vicksburg, will be headed by train to the East to save the day.

It's official. Mars was once wet This is not too much a surprise to those who know about this sort of thing.
NASA is moving at a rapid pace to flesh out President Bush's initiative to go back to the Moon and on to Mars.
Stargate Atlantis, a spinoff series of the Sci Fi Channel's splendid Stargate SG1, debuts on July 4th.
Robert Rodriguez, who brought us the Spy Kids series, has been slated to direct A Princess of Mars, from the first book of the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs series. The story is about how John Carter, late of the Army of Northern Virginia, finds adventure and love on a Mars much different than the one currently being looked at by Spirit and Opportunity.
Looks like the French will get to see The Passion of the Christ after all.

Monday, March 01, 2004

NASA seems set to announce something concerning water on Mars thanks to Spirit and Opportunity. While this is interesting to those of us who dream of Mars settlements, I doubt that it will cause much public excitement.

Jonah Goldberg imagines some things that could be found on Mars that could stirr a little consternation.
• The Bible, a Crucifix or the Koran would definitely cause lots of folks to stock up on bottled water.
• Weapons of Mass Destruction -- with Iraqi lettering on them.
• A happily married gay couple.
• A Starbucks
• The Canadian flag.

Not a French flag?

The last bit reminds me of a a story by the late, great Poul Anderson called The Light. The first expedition to the Moon finds the flag erected by a previous expedition. The flag in question is that of the Florentine Republic, proving that the first man on the Moon was one Leonardo da Vinci. This discovery causes lots of researching at the Vatican Museum to find out how he did it.

School choice has triumphed. Unfortunately it has done so in the curious alternate universe of the TV show, The West Wing, where all Democrats are good, all Republicans are stupid, and even John Kerry has to agree that God is on the side of the United States.
The launch of India's first lunar mission has been advanced by one year to 2007.
Jeff Foust has some interesting thoughts on the commercial possibilities of the President's space initiative. His conclusion seems to be that in the short run they are not as easy as one might hope, but in the long run they are essential to sustaining the initiative.