Thursday, September 30, 2004

The House defeated a Constitutional amendment that would have banned gay marriage. I must say that this is one case, as with the abortion debate, that I tend to wish plague on both houses. Supporters of gay marriage for overreaching. Opponents of gay marriage for overreacting. One would wish that the issue could be dropped so that some kind of civil union compromise (that would naturally evolve into marriage anyway) could be worked out. But the issue is far too useful for both sides for the purpose of drumming up votes and contributions.
Looks like the Canadian monument to the American draft dodger is rejected. A good thing, too, since the whole idea was designed as a finger in the eye of the United States.
Alan Boyle muses on the implications of private space travel.
But for an optimistic view, you can’t beat the perspective of Jenny Pyle of Palmdale, Calif., who had been waiting since midnight with her husband and family alongside the runway to watch SpaceShipOne’s takeoff and landing, far from the VIP section.

“When you get older,” Pyle told her 9-year-old son, Seth, “this will be an everyday thing.”

Of course I could remember thinking that when I was nine. This time, God willing, it will be true.
More evidence that NASA sees the private sector as a partner, rather than a threat as in the past.
An unkown editorialist in Seattle looks on the flight of SpaceShipOne, the prospect of space tourism, and then sneers disdain on space travel for the rich.
If income distribution continues to become increasingly inequitable, Branson may find a growing market of those able to spacesuit up for a brief escape from the planet. The rest of us can star gaze, pondering the possibility of trickle-down benefits.

In my view, though, the well heeled and adventurous will be doing the human race a favor, beta testing space tourism so that, when the costs come down where the rest of us can afford it it (and they will), then it will be a smooth running enterprise indeed.
Looks like the evil Republicans have found a new way to prevent African Americans from voting.
Joanne Bland, the director and co-founder of the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma, Ala., told on Wednesday that the new computerized voting machines are going to intimidate black voters in Florida and elsewhere and surpress their vote in the November presidential election because many blacks are not "technologically savvy."

You just can't make this stuff up, folks.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Your Humble Servant celebrates the second flight of SpaceShipOne in A Space Race to Change the World, courtesy of USA Today.
Just when all hope seemed lost in the Kerry Campaign, Jesse Jackson has come riding to the rescue.
Looks like SpaceShipOne, despite going into a series of rolls, made the 100 kilometer altitude and has now landed safely. Just one flight left to go for the winning of the X Prize.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Chris Hitchens gives the Democrats a well deserved thrashing for playing politics with the War on Terror.
The era of private space travel is drawing nigh, but already the media is finding experts who are willing to explain why it can't happen. Rand Simberg lets them have it.

Addendum: Rand finds a fellow who sees dark conspiracies to cover the Moon with cheap, burger joints. I wonder if Halliburton is involved.
Liberals object to privitizing social security because it would be "risky." But Thomas Sowell suggests that not privitizing it would be even more risky.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Speaking of the X Prize, the first flight is scheduled in two days.
Even before the X Prize is won, Virgin Atlantic's Rochard Branson plans to start the era of sub-orbital barnstorming with an operation he calls Virgin Galactic, using Burth Rutan's basic SpaceShipOne design.

More on the dawn on space tourism.
Sam Dinkin argues that a transition from a fossil fuel energy economy to one based on fuel cells, fusion, and space based solar power may be more difficult than many imagine. I think his premise is a little bit shakey. He doesn't have hard numbers to support it. He ignores factors such as the industrialization of China, India, and the third world which will surely put a strain on the availability of fossil fuels. He ignores political impediments to exploiting sources of fossil fuels (ANWAR for example.) He finally has a charming faith in the willingness of Americans to ramp down their lifestyles to adjust to high energy prices.

But the debate is joined and we'll see more on this anon.
Robert Bigelow, who is developing an orbital hotel built from inflatable modules, is betting on private passenger service to orbit by 2010. To help that along, he's about to announce a fifty million dollar orbital prize.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

News from Iraq that John Kerry and his friends in the media do not want you to know about.
Izz El-Deen Sheikh Khalil and Amjad Hussain Farooqi are now burning in Hell.
Happy tenth birthday, Contract With America. It broke the stranglehold the Democrats had on the United States Congress.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

A musical version of that classic 80s scifi epic, The Last Starfighter? The mind boggles.
90 percent of American Indians are not offended by the name of the football team "Washington Redskins." Adam Clymer, formerly big time--er--reporter for the New York Times can't figure out why.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Will SpaceDev ride the X Prize to profitability? Could be.
Looks like the Canadian Da Vinci team will delay its attempt at the X Prize, pending more testing of its launch vehicle. This means that, baring something unexpected, Rutan has the clear shot. Nevertheless, this is probibly a wise move on behalf of the Canadians.
On top of everything else, John Kerry lacks a sense of humor.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

One of the more tiresome things one must deal with when advancing the cause of space exploration is the claim that such "threatens" space science. However, this report shows a way to defend funding for some of the more esoteric space science research.
But a report released Wednesday says that if NASA proceeds as planned with that type of space exploration, it will put on hold long-scheduled missions to understand the sun's solar blasts. And the report says much more knowledge is needed before astronauts can safely travel to the moon and Mars.

"In order to achieve the exploration initiative, we need to understand space weather," says astrophysicist Fran Bagenal of the University of Colorado at Boulder, who headed the National Research Council panel. The council advises the government on science.

In other words, try to show how such research benefits the over all exploration vision, instead of whining about how exploration "compromises" it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

A lot of people, including Your Humble Servant, made sport of the idea of Cat Stevens being a threat to homeland security. But it seems that actually Cat Stevens is dead and Yusef Islam is a piece of work indeed.
Apparently local education bureaucrats in the town of Muskegon believe that homeschoolers are terrorists.

On the other hand, a lot of public school teachers don't think public schools are very healthy for there own kids.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

I'm not sure why this guy was considered a threat to Homeland Security. True, he wanted Salman Rushdie dead, but so did I after the first few pages of Satanic Verses (not for blasphemy, just bad writing.)

Of course it is possible that no one who interviewed him knows Yusef Islam under his previous nomme de voyager, Cat Stevens. But as Mullah Yusef is not, apparently, in sympathy with the Islamo-fascists, perhaps a few verses of Peace Train would have served as a reminder.
Looks like NASA got at least some of the funds needed to start the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision, through some creative sausage making in the Senate.
Alan Boyle proposes a clever writing contest inspired by a piece by Your Humble Servant.
Fahood Al-Fadhal wants to tell a story of today's Iraq that rarely gets on TV.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Democracy, clean water, and freedom from Saddam's thugs are all well and good. But the best gift we're giving the Iraqi people is baseball.
There's a connection between the Kerry Campaign and CBS in the Rathergate scandal.

Addendum: More.
Is John Kerry in danger of losing New York? Could be.
It's a new day, so John Kerry has something new to say about Iraq. Kerry's position as of this morning: Iraq was a horrible mistake and I will deal with it the same way Bush will, but better. How is that? Because I am John Kerry and I am not to be questioned.
The spacecraft that replaces the shuttle will not necessarily be built by Boing or Lockmart, not necessarily operated by NASA. A hitherto little known company is getting into the hunt for space access for humans.

Addendum: Some more on SpaceDev's manned space program.
Jeff Foust discusses the prospect of space elevators in an era when space exploration may be coming back into vogue.
Looks like CBS, upon due consideration (like interviewing the source) has come to the conclusion that it was--well--duped.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

More proof that a massive backlash against gay marriage is sweeping the United States. The tragedy of this situation is that it could have been avoided with a little finesse. A lot of people who find the idea of same sex marriage odious would have been perfectly happy to have accepted "civil unions", even though there is little of no practicable difference between the two.
President Chirac of the French Republic has the bright idea to tax the world in order to fight extreme, third world poverty.

I have a counter proposal. I propose to tax the world to fight the war on terror. This tax would fall heaviest on countries, such as France and Germany, with high social welfare budgets and low military budgets and therefore have not shouldered their fair share of the burden.

Friday, September 17, 2004

There's some curious sausage making going on in Congress concerning space legislation, including funding for Moon, Mars, and Beyond.
China may soon build a heavy lift launcher as part of its desire to explore the Moon.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Are some Kerry supporters starting to go insane with rage and frustration? The incident with the three year old girl and the air rage case seem to suggest that they are. And I'm afraid it will get worse.

Addendum: Here's the full story about Kerry supporters attacking a man and his three year old daughter.
Is the Moon the Saudi Arabia of the 21st Century? Your Humble Servant poses the question.

Addendum: The Atlanta Journal Constitution gets it partly right. But they need to read Dennis Wingo's book before suggesting that NASA become an energy research agency.

Second Addendum: Rand Simberg tartly reminds me that it is Gerard O'Neill, not Gerald. My most sincere apology to the ghost of Dr. O'Neill.
The fight to get funding for Moon, Mars, and Beyond has become a game of political chicken. I suspect that the whole matter will be punted until after the election and an omnibus funding bill.
Is the recent onslaught of hurricanes the result of global warming? Well, no, say a group of climate scientists.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Speaking of bigotry in Hollywood, there's a group that is accusing Steven Spielberg of bias against Italian Americans because the shark characters in A Shark's Tale act like a bunch of goombas from Jersey. This is, of course, a silly accusation. Next thing you know one won't be able to depict Irishmen as being able to sing and drink beer. What is this world coming to?
The class action law suit that alleges that TV networks, Hollywood studios, and talent agencies discriminate against people based on their age is on again thanks to an appeals court.

Ageism is a very real problem in the entertainment industry. I've have heard of cases, for example, of sitcom writers with credits on MASH and the Mary Tyler Moore Show leaving those off of their resumes for fear of being pegged as "too old" to work.

Another group that lives in fear in Hollywood, according to a documentary now running on AMC, are Republicans. So much for liberal tolerance.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Canada's vaunted socialistic health care system continues to slide into chaos. I have a helpful suggestion on how to stop the slide. Privitize.
The classic book about the Apollo Program, by Charles Murray and Catherine Bly Cox, is back in print with a brand new edition.

Monday, September 13, 2004

The next President of the French Republic may be a pro American Hungarian Jew who is the Finance Minister in the current government.
Jeff Foust reports that the Senate appropriators are looking at only a $600 million cut in the President's NASA request, as opposed to the $1.1 billion dollar cut proposed by the House appropriators. No word as to whether the White House and space advocates in the Congress will be satisfied with the apparent compromise. I am not satisfied.
Universal Pictures is developing a Lewis and Clark project that is called, somewhat confusingly, Clark and Lewis, described as a "revisionist take" on the explorers who were the "first astronauts." That makes me nervous.
Sam Dinkin weighs in on the space property rights issue.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

NASA has recently awarded some study comtracts to certain private companies to come up with methods of going back to the Moon. One such company, a very new one called Transformational Space, has some interesting ideas along those lines that are familier to free market space advocates.
Hugh Hewitt has some expert testimony from a professor of computer science at Rice University in Houston, Texas about the absurd notion that the forged Bush National Guard documents could have been produced by an early 70s typewriter.
Austin Bay, home now from service in the Iraqi Theater, has some thoughts.
It was a match that sparked a conflagration that consumed two edifices and three thousand lives. yet it has also inmolated two bloody tyrannies (so far) and set free fifty million people who on that day were in bondage. It was a day of infamy and horror. It was the beginning of an age of glory and honor. It was the opening battle of the American Iliad, whose end we do not yet see, but envision will be in a world much different, and better, than it was on that day. It was 9/11/2001, when everything changed and a nation awoke from a long slumber to make history once again.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Tom James is reporting that the Bush Administration will shortly roll out it's official space policy, incorporating among other things the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Initiative.
Apparently some material has been recovered from the recovered Genesis probe after all.
John Podhoretz describes the mess CBS now finds itself in. The attempt to take down the President using forged documents and the testimony of a proven liar (Ben Barnes has a colorful career even by the standards of Texas politics.) ought to get a lot of people at the network fired. At the very least, Dan Rather needs to go on the air and apologize.

Addendum: Looks like Dan Rather will not apologize. Looks like CBS has decided to hang tough. It won't make any difference.

Second addendum: More formatting problems with the forged documents.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Jim Oberg details the latest problems on board the International Space Station.
Were the documents, which seem to show President Bush's service in the Air Guard in a bad light, faked using modern computer technology? If so, quite a few people need to explain themselves.
The crafty Sean O'Keefe, NASA administrator and master of political intrigue, has succeeded in getting $75 million of 2004 NASA money reprogramed to jump start the President's Moon, Mars, and Beyond Initiative. But the fight for full funding in FY 2005 continues.

Trent Lott, of all people, has come up with an absurd varient of a hoary old argument against space exploration. The argument goes like this, "Which would you rather have, men on Mars or educated kids?" Or houses for the homeless. Or drugs for senior citizens. Or a clean environment. Or, as Trent Lott suggested, highways in Mississippi.

The problem with that argument is that going to Mars or back to the Moon does not foreclose any of those things. Barring a libertarian take over, the government is going to spend money on all of those things and more regardless of whether Americans ever fly in space again. To wave the bloody shirt of starving kids or homeless war veterans as an excuse to defer yet again the next great age of space exploration is an intellectually dishonest tactic and people doing it should stop it immediately.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

George Will spends a few hundred words explaining how John Kerry is toast, along the way relating kerry's various positions on Iraq.
Bill Gertz, in a new book, has revealed why France was not part of the coalition that took down Saddam. France was arming Saddam.

That's alright, though. John Kerry will win them over. If you don't believe that, ask him.

The Democrats are mad as Hell at Dick Cheney for suggesting that a terrorist attack will occur if we make the "wrong choice" in November. I suspect they are most angry because in their heart of hearts, they known that Cheney is right. Kerry, like Clinton, would not prosecute the war on terror with the same vigor as President Bush. He would show weakness and vacilation. That will make another 9/11 more likely.
Rand Simberg emerges from the devestation of Hurricane Francis with a fascinating essay on space policy. He suggests an interesting possibility:
If progress in the private sector can occur sufficiently rapidly—and based on the progress of companies vying for the X-Prize, it could be rapid indeed—it’s quite possible that by the time NASA’s one Crew Exploration Vehicle is ready to fly with its first crew of government astronauts, it may already be superfluous, superseded by multiple vehicles capable of delivering humans to and from orbit for a fraction of its costs. Indeed, it’s not inconceivable that the first NASA astronauts back to the Moon since 1972—sometime around 2020—could be greeted by the concierge at the Luna Hilton.

I'm not sure about that last bit. Sounds a little like Nikita Khrushchev boasting that, "We'll be there to greet" the first Americans on the Moon. But Simberg does suggest an interesting choice for NASA. Why not acquire the Earth to orbit portion of the CEV from one of the new space launch companies? It would save time and money and might get Americans back to the Moon ahead of schedule and below budget.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Fortune has published a pretty good piece on space commerce that ranges from space tourism to asteroid mining. One glaring mistake, however.
"Near-Earth asteroids contain enough resources to support a population of ten billion people until the sun dies of old age," Lewis said.

Naturally, there's a catch. All ten billion people would have to live in space. Why? It's uneconomical to bring most of this stuff back to Earth. Given that it costs an average of $10,000 to lift a single pound of cargo into orbit, the cost of the fuel would greatly exceed the value of the freight.

Of course a little technology and management would bring that $10,000/pound down considerably. Also there's not a one to one exchange between fuel to get miners to an Earth approaching rock and the haul that can be brought back.
Remakes of the Andromeda Strain (by Ridley Scott no less) and The Thing are in the works, thanks to the Sci Fi Channel.
I'm not sure that Kerry's new handlers had this in mind when they suggested he get more aggressive.
In West Virginia, Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, gave Kerry a rifle as a gift. Kerry, a self-described gun owner and hunter, quipped: ''I thank you for the gift, but I can't take it to the debate with me.''

Was he thinking of something more readily concealable, like perhaps a Glock? This is the sort of thing that really bothers the Secret Service, you know. Hardly a nuanced, calm, way to talk. More the sort of thing some swaggering, shoot from the hip, Texan might say, I should think.

Looks like Kerry's gift is an assault rifle he had once tried to ban.
Glenn Reynolds seems to suggest that the Kerry Campaign is in its death agony. Or so will be if it doesn't change its ways.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Gallup has Bush seven points over Kerry, impressive considering that the poll was taken over the weekend, a period that tends to undersample Republicans.
Jeff Foust has uncovered a Congressional Budget Office report analyzing the cost of the President's Moon, Mars, and Beyond initiative. The report suggests the possibility of cost overruns of as much as sixty one billion dollars over fifteen years, based on a variety of assumptions derived from previous NASA programs. I suspect that the report will be used by enemies of the initiative to try to kill it. However, a close reading of the report might lead one to healthy skepticism about cost projections of a project lasting over fifteen years that has a lot of unknowns inherent within it and with assumptions which may be based on sand.

First from page 10 of the report.
NASA has indicated that it will finish defining the next level of requirements for the new exploration mission (Level 1) sometime during Fall 2004, but even those more detailed plans are likely to lack essential information for preparing an independent cost estimate. For instance, the Level 1 requirements may not specify the number of crew members for the crew exploration vehicle but rather a range of possible crew sizes. Also uncertain is whether NASA will choose to develop a new heavy-lift launch vehicle. That decision might not be made until around 2008—with the result that the vehicle’s specifications would not be known until that time.

Then from page 53.
There is uncertainty in CBO’s estimates of the potential for cost growth in NASA’s proposed exploration programs for several reasons. For example, CBO’s analysis of historical cost growth in NASA’s programs removed the effects of inflation only approximately, basing the adjustment on the average annual inflation and spending that occurred when each program was conducted. CBO used that approximate approach because detailed year-by-year budget data were not readily available for all of the programs that CBO studied. In addition, the cost growth experienced by NASA’s past programs varied considerably. Although it averaged 52 percent (before adjusting for inflation), growth in budgeted costs for the 72 programs ranged from -25 percent to 274 percent (see Table A-1).
Another source of the uncertainty in CBO’s estimates stems from the steady decline in average cost growth in NASA’s programs over the past 30 years. In the 72-program set, average cost growth fell from 140 percent in the 1970s to about 20 percent in 2000 (see Figure A-1). That drop might lead some observers to conclude that CBO’s use of overall average growth since the 1970s overestimated the potential for cost growth in the new exploration vision. But the average cost of NASA’s programs has also fallen, declining from about $3.5 billion in the 1980s to about $500 million in the 1990s. Because the projected costs of the programs that NASA must execute
to return to the moon range well into many billions of dollars, the agency’s recent experience with lower levels of cost growth may not be applicable to the new exploration initiative.

So, in other words, we really don't know how much the thing will cost. Not that it will stop people from making assumptions based on their biases. In any case, the next few weeks and months should be interesting.

Addendum: Dwayne Day has some more analysis of the CBO report. While Day offers some comfort that the CBO estimate is way below the bogus trillion dollars that the media still puts out, and that no serious person believes, his analysis falls down for two reasons. One, because he ignores the caveats in the report that we reference above. Day states, "The CBO has determined that, through 2020, NASA will require $32 billion more than the agency is currently projecting for its budget in order to pursue the exploration plan." This is not what the report says. The report says that, based on previous experience, there is a risk of a 32 to 61 billion dollar cost overrun over fifteen years. The report, in the caveat referenced above, freely admits uncertainty in this analysis.

Two, because he makes the following assumption:
One option is to increase funding for NASA and give the agency the money it needs to conduct the program. However, the current administration has indicated that it will not plan for future increases in NASA’s budget above a relatively modest 2% inflation rate. This means that the agency has to find the money in some other way.

Not necessarily. The current or a future administration can certainly change its mind. Congress could also appropriate more money to cover the shortfall. House Majority Leader Tom Delay has hinted at this possibility.

NASA could also find cost savings within the plan's budget, such as delaying the construction of a heavy lifter, going back to the Moon instead using existing, commercial launchers, assembling lunar ships in Low Earth Orbit. This method was considered for Apollo and was called Earth Orbit rendezvous.
Michelangelo statue of David turns five hundred in a couple of days. Strange, the over four meter statue looks hardly a day over eighteen. I saw it during a trip to Italy about seventeem years ago and it was one of the most impressive works of art in a country stuffed full with impressive works of art.
Hurricane Francis seems to have inflicted some damage to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and a lot of damage to the Shuttle Tile Facility at the Kennedy Space Center. No obvious damage to the shuttle orbiter fleet, however.
Many thanks to Chris Hall for this fine gem of a verse with apologies to Rudyard Kipling.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Newsweek's Poll seems to confirm President Bush's space shot style bounce.
Since shortly after its advent in 1989, Cold Fusion has gotten the same sort of junk science rap as perpetual motion machines. It's possible that this judgement was a bit premature. Thanks to Fred Kiesche for the heads up.
Holidays in space are on the horizon.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Looks like Bill Clinton will stop at nothing to suck all the oxygen out of the Kerry Campaign, focus attention on himself, and thus ensuring a clear path for Hillary to run in 2008.
Anyone who thinks that the War on Terror doesn't matter or that it doesn't matter who is leading it, ought to imagine this carnage happening at their kids' school.
Tom Delay (R) Texas, House Majority Leader, is upbeat about the President's Moon, Mars, and Beyond Initiative being fully funded by the Congress.
This is no bounce. This is a space launch.
Dick Morris has been swept away by President Bush's speech.
I used to back Bush because he offered safety; now I support him because he summons us all to an ideal. Before he spoke, supporting Bush was a duty one owed to the fallen. Now, it is an honor.

Not so John Podhoretz. But he thought the speech was good enough to make Kerry's life a waking nightmare.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

The President's speech was an excellent George W. Bush speech, giving the case for the future while celebrating the past.

Be afraid, John Kerry. Be very afraid.
Have we contacted an alien civilization? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The Dems shall rue the day they alienated Zell Miller.

Addendum: The should Chris Matthews, though a duel live on TV could be just the thing his show needs to improve ratings.
Reader Steve Johnson sent the following:
Just in case you have forgotten your unit equivalences and need a refresher course... (all good engineers/scientists have these committed to memory)

1. Ratio of an igloo's circumference to its diameter = Eskimo Pi

2. 2000 pounds of Chinese soup = Won ton

3. 1 millionth of a mouthwash? = 1 microscope

4. Time between slipping on a peel and smacking the pavement = 1 bananosecond

5. Weight an evangelist carries with God = 1 billigram

6. Time it takes to sail 220 yards at 1 nautical mile per hour? = Knot furlong

7. 16.5 feet in the Twilight Zone = 1 Rod Serling

8. Half of a large intestine? = 1 semicolon

9. 1,000,000 aches = 1 megahurtz

10. Basic unit of laryngitis? = 1 hoarsepower

11. Shortest distance between two jokes? = A straight line

12. 453.6 graham crackers? = 1 pound cake

13. 1 million-million microphones? = 1 megaphone

14. 1 million bicycles? = 2 megacycles.

15. 365.25 days? = 1 unicycle

16. 2000 mockingbirds? = 2 kilomockingbirds

17. 10 cards? = 1 decacards

18. 1 kilogram of falling figs? = 1 Fig Newton

19. 1000 milliliters of wet socks? = 1 literhosen.

20. 1 millionth of a fish? = 1 microfiche

21. 1 trillion pins? = 1 terrapin

22. 10 rations? = 1 decoration

23. 100 rations? = 1 C-ration.

24. 2 monograms? = 1 diagram

25. 8 nickels? = 2 paradigms

26. 2.4 statute miles of intravenous surgical tubing at Yale University Hospital? = 1 I.V. League

Despite this elloquent speech, the Constitution will not be amended any time soon to allow Arnold to run for President. There are two reasons for this. The Democrats who want to run for President in 2008. The Republicans who want to run for President in 2008.