Sunday, October 31, 2004

The Return to the Moon awaits the outcome of Tuesday's election. If Kerry wins, it's over (for Americans at least) for the foreseeable future. If Bush wins, then it will proceed, despite--in my opinion--what appears to be reluctance on the part of the Congress.

Jeff Foust makes a curious statement about the reluctance on the part of some members of Congress to fund a return to the Moon:
However, the article misses the point that there is some opposition in Congress regarding how the initial mission, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), is bring run: while NASA is soliciting proposals for LRO instruments, NASA is building the spacecraft in-house even though there are any number of companies perfectly capable of building it. There have even been suggestions for data purchase and prize mechanisms to obtain the data LRO would acquire, which would seem to better fulfill the commercialization imperative of the Aldridge Commission.

I'd like to know who in Congress is pushing a commercial lunar mission. Also I wonder which companies are actually "capable of building it" in less than four years. There probably are, even though no one as far as I know has gone past the viewgraph stage.

Anyway, that sounds like an more interesting debate to have after the election than some I've seen. If Bush wins, of course.
The Washington Times compares the Kerry space "policy" with that of President George Bush's--and finds the former wanting.

Friday, October 29, 2004

It seems that a hitherto unknown film by a famous and now dead director has been uncovered and will go to DVD. Is it a suspense thriller by Hitchcock? A fourth cavalry western by John Ford? Maybe a scifi epic by George Pal?

Alas it is a sleezy porno by Ed Wood.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

9/11: The Miniseries. Well, they certainly took their sweet time with this. As I recall, Hollywood was churning out war epics before the smoke of Pearl Harbor had cleared.

How much you want to bet that GW Bush will not have a heroic role in either project, unlike the excellent Showtime docudrama 9/11:DC.
Bryce Dallas Howard, the actress daughter of director Ron Howard who did such a good job in the film The Village, will play Mary: Queen of Scots.
One way to look at this oped by John Glenn is that the trial balloon about Kerry ending the shuttle didn't work and Glenn was assigned to shoot it down.

The slam against Moon, Mars, and Beyond is rather sad. Glenn the astronaut would be shocked to see what Glenn the retired politician is saying.
The story of the missing high explosives (and perhaps even WMDs) can be explained by Russian perfidy rather than American incompetence. Kerry should be ashamed.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Are the gates of Hell now yawning wide for Yassir Arafat, Nobel Laureate, terrorist, mass murderer, and fashion disaster? For the sake of both Arab and Jew, I pray so.
The New York Times story on the missing explosives in Iraq has been discredited. Kerry's top foreign policy advisor suggests that it may untrue. Nevertheless, the Kerry Campaign is going to accuse the President of incompetence anyway.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

John Logsdon, Kerry's space policy advisor, made a remarkable statement about Kerry's space policy.
The whole point of this statement is to demonstrate that human exploration is not at risk under a Kerry administration.

Color me just a little skeptical. Kerry's posted policy has nothing positive to say about human exploration and a lot negative about Bush's initiative that would further human exploration. There's a lot of wordage about "balancing" space exploration with "other priorities."

Logsdon doesn't explain how Kerry, who has proven to have an almost unmitigated hostility toward human space flight and exploration as a Senator, would suddenly become its friend as President.

Logsdon himself published an oped in the industry newsletter Space News on June 10th, 2002, in which he opposed human space exploration beyond Low Earth Orbit. I responded in the same publication on July 22nd of the same year.

I'll need a lot more proof that Kerry has had a moment on the road to Damascus concerning the space program. I know President Bush supports a very expansive and creative space effort.

Looks like the administration may be rethinking the Outer Space Treaty, for its effects on national security and propertry rights.
Global warming, alleged to be caused by human activity, has been a holy grail of enviornmental activists who like to panic people with scenarios of ecological doom. But now it looks like those scenarios are based on a math error in a computer model.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Looks like the Kerry campaign has posted something they call a "space policy" on its website. It is, in fact, a political rant disguised as a space policy. It mentions Bush nine times and the shuttle zero times.

Apparently the Democrats have gone from "We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things..." to "The Bush administration's push for the Moon/Mars mission is designed as a purely political stunt, without being backed up by the necessary funding. If we went forward with the Bush agenda, other NASA programs would be gutted."

The ghost of John F. Kennedy must be weeping.
John Kerry has been caught in yet another bold faced lie
Sam Dinkin looks at some initial takes on how to implement the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision. Meanwhile, Taylor Dinerman suggests that whether the vision becomes reality or not deeply depends on who gets elected President of the United States in about a week.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

John Kerry has been boasting that when he is President he'll run the war in Iraq a lot better than has George W. Bush. But, when Bob Woodward proposed to ask him for details, the alleged war hero ran for the tall grass.

Bush, by the way, sat down with Woodward and answered his questions.

Addendum: Dubya is apparently not only braver than Prince John, but smarter as well.
President Bush whipped up a huge crowd of supporters at the Space Coast Stadium down in Florida on Saturday. Curiously he did not mention his Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision even though a lot of space workers from KSC and their families were in attendence. However, the man who introduced him, one Buzz Aldrin, did have some nice things to say on the subject. That's a curious compromise between those who think that space shouldn't be a political issue and those who think (as I do) that the President, having made a major space initiative, ought to at least mention it from time to time.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Some weeks ago someone at the far left British newspaper, The Guardian, had the bright idea to ask its readers to write letters to people living in Clark County Ohio, a swing county in a swing state, and ask them to vote for John Kerry. Anyone familiar with American political culture would have been able to predict what happened next, which was an upsurge of support for President George W. Bush and a rise of indignation at the British unseen since a bunch of gun totting, tax resisting red necks (from New England no less!) sent the King's soldiers packing. The Guardian, wisely, has declared victory and stopped the letter writing campaign.

It may be too late. If Ohio is as tight as the polls says it is, and if the reaction to The Guardian's campaign provides Bush with the margin of victory, then one of the great ironies of history would have taken place.

Addendum: The Guardian is now all but calling for the assassination of President George Bush.

Second Addendum: Looks like the Guardian has drawn back from this solution to a second Bush term as well.
Now sending "Captain Kirk" actually into space constitutes public relations the infant space tourism industry could not buy. Shatner, by the way, is playing the role he was born to play (not Captain Kirk) as the smarmy lawyer Denny Crane in the TV series Boston Legal.

Friday, October 22, 2004

More proof of what overwelming political ambition will make people do.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

A marketing research firm called Dittmar Associates did a study of public attitudes toward space exploration and NASA and has published some interesting results in a summary.

(1) 69% of Americans support the Moon, Mars, and Beyond program and 26% oppose, roughly confirming the results of the Gallup Poll of a few months ago.

(2) There was some concern about NASA's relevancy to the public and a design on the part of the public that NASA increase its efforts to include the public in its activities. 42% believed that NASA was relevant or very relevant to their lives. 79% believed that NASA marketed itself poorly or very poorly.

(3) When asked before being informed what NASA's budget was, 35% supported maintaining the budget at its current levels, 30% supported and increase, and 35% said it should be decreased. When informed that NASA's budget was .7 percent of the overall federal budget, 42% supported an increase, 29% supported maintaining the budget at current levels, and 29% supported a decrease.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The 4400 was a miniseries that ran on the USA Network earlier this year. The premise was that 4400 people, presumned to have been abducted by aliens over the past fifty or so years, suddenly returned on the shores of a lake in the North West. The miniseries depicted the government's efforts to find out why and by whom these people were abducted, why they were returned, and their purpose for being returned. The truth, oddly enough, was stranger than one would have thought. The miniseries was well written and well acted. And I'm please to note that it will return with 13 new episodes next summer.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Day by Day, a comic strip that is kind of like Doonsbury only funny and so far only on the web, will be back after a long hiatus December 1st.
Keith Cowing gives Lori Garver, self proclaimed NASA Administrator under a Kerry Administration, the back of his hand, using her own words to show that she shares with her candidate an unwholesome tendency.
Your Humble Servant muses on a "debate" that was more like a trial of President Bush's space vision. Along the way I warn of the awful price of naked political ambition.

Addendum: Rand Simberg begs to disagree with one of my points.
The letter writing campaign inspired by the far left English paper The Guardian, designed to influence the good people of Clark County, Ohio, has seemed to have the opposite effect to that intended. As I predicted.
Various companies are already developing ideas for sending humans beyond Low earth Orbit. See PDF files at the bottem.
There is one way I suppose that the Europeans could definitely contribute to the art of space travel. However, I would be inclined to consult Emeril for thoughts on space cuisine.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Kerry and his supporters believe that importing cheap drugs from Canada, where they are subject to government price controls, is a panacea to the problem of high drug costs in the United States. However, Kerry may want to think again.
Another argument that the Moon can be the Saudi Arabia of the 21st Century.
Jeff Foust has some more thoughts on the space debate between the Bush and Kerry campaigns. A couple of things stand out.
Garver countered that Kerry does have a vision for NASA, one that calls for a “strong, stable, and balanced” space program that “continues to deliver many benefits to society.” Such an approach, she said, would include support for exploration programs, but not at the expense of earth science, space science, or aeronautics. “Exploration is exciting, but it isn’t the only thing we get from space,” she said. “Sending a few people to Mars maybe isn’t the most inspirational thing that we can be doing.”

Sietzen was unconvinced. “Nobody sitting here can tell me there’s anything more exciting than exploring the universe,” he said. “Why is it such a hard thing to grasp? The purpose of the space program is to explore space.”

Garver, though, insisted that NASA must be seen as an agency that does more than exploration, saying that a single-minded focus on exploration would be as if the National Institutes of Health decided to focus solely on curing cancer. “Exploration is valuable, but what will we give up along the way?”

It seems to me that the Kerry space policy, as imagined by Garver, would have an unfocused NASA, trying to do everything and none of them well. It might be an argument, in my mind, for spinning off things like aeronautics and Earth science.
Garver also used the debate to explain Kerry’s past record regarding the ISS. For months people have pointed to a series of votes in the Senate by Kerry from 1991 through 1996 in support of efforts to kill the space station—Sietzen referred to them in dramatic style during the debate, pointing towards Garver as he read details about each vote. Less well known, though, are votes Kerry cast in 1997 and 1998 to block similar efforts to kill the program.

Garver explained that those votes against the station came early in the program. “At that time the space station was supposed to be an $8-billion program, and he didn’t believe it was going to be an $8-billion program,” she said, triggered a few laughs from the crowd. Once the station finally started getting built, she explained, “he did get on board.”

The problem is that by 1991, the fact that cost overruns had added to the space station's original price tag was well known, with the only argument being how much. Nor were cost overruns the princible reason Kerry stated for his opposition to the station; he instead suggested that the money would be better spent on social programs or reducing the deficit.

Truth to tell, Garver was spinning Kerry's lack of a space policy and the fear among many that the one he would implement would squash dreams of a space future for the United States.
How best to encourage space settlements? Alan Wasser argues for prizes while Sam Dinkin proposes auctions.
Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is bound to have competition. And this is a very good thing indeed.
I'll bet you people like Bin Laden and the Saudi Princes will be shocked to learn that the oppression of women may just be contrary to the teachings of the Koran.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Andrew Ferguson believes he has found the epicenter of Bush Hatred. Oddly enough it is in Austin, Texas.
Michael Moore does The War of the Ring in a searing indictment of the George W. Bush of Middle Earth, Aragorn.

Friday, October 15, 2004

The Guardian, a left wing newspaper in Great Britain, urges its readers to write letters to American voters in Clark County, Ohio to offer advice on whom to vote for in the coming election. The Guardian offers three example letters from three prominate idi-er-Britains for help.

Now, this is one of those unintentionally funny things that should shortly be the butt of every late night comic's jokes in North America. If there is any move that is certain to reelect George W. Bush by a landslide, it is a blizzard of letters from a bunch of snotty Brits telling the colonials whom they should vote for. It was for a lesser insult that my ancestor, Cornelius Whittington, took his musket down from the mantlepiece, kissed his wife and kids good-bye, and marched off to spend seven years shooting the heads off of lobster backs. So I say, bring it on. Indeed, expand the operation to every county and state in the Union.

Captain's Quarters has some thoughts on this foolery.
Zogby is reporting that President Bush is surging.
The search for a way to travel across the Solar System swiftly has led to ideas like magnetized plasma beams.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

There was a debate--of sorts--between the Bush and Kerry Campaigns on space policy. Looks like the Bush Campaign won on the princible that something always beats nothing.

I have never before, by the way, seen Lori Garver's naked ambition depicted so vividly, though I have been away of it for a decade and a half. It seems that she'll willing to see human space flight itself end, if only she could be put in charge of NASA. To paraphrase John Bolt, "Lori, it little profits a man to gain the whole world at the cost of his soul. But NASA Administrator?"
More zero tolerance nonsense involving a replica of a civil war musket, not designed to fire actual bullets, and a teenaged Civil War reenactor who was arrested and will be made to suffer for accidentally bringing the replica on school grounds.
Looks like the Sinclair Broadcast Group's First Amendment rights are safe for now.
Looks like the Kerry Campaign and the Democrats are hell bent on winning by any means necessary.
Burt Rutan has some fascinating predictions about the new world of cheap space travel, including how Boeing and Lockheed Martin will benefit, even though they don't know it yet.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The producers of an important new film, In the Face of Evil, about President Reagan's role in winning the Cold War, have a commercial upon the theme of Senator Kerry, you are no Ronald Reagan.
HBO ranter Bill Mahr recently called the President of the United States a "retard." Looks like the Democrats have taken up that accusation in their campaign literature.
Jeff Foust reports that Richard Morrison, the sacrifical lamb candidate that the Democrats are putting up against Tom Delay, has some remarkable things to say about the President's Moon, Mars, and Beyond vision.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Space elevators are moving from science fiction dreams to practical business plans.
Rand Simberg has discovered that the issue of Space Travel for the Rich has indeed reached the shores of North America.
Senator John Edwards, candidate for Vice President, has actually said that should John Kerry be elected President, the lame will walk. Not word as to whether the blind will see, the deaf will hear, or the dead will rise again.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Zell Miller, who is Andrew Jackson come back from the dead, imagines how the modern media would cover Iwo Jima.
Looks like despite embryonic democratic reforms in the Kingdom, Saudi women will remain chattel for the foreseeable future.
Vincent Fiore suggests that the Democrats are hell bent on winning the election by any means necessary, even if it means the collapse of democracy in America.
In this year’s presidential election, I see much that leads me to the conclusion that the Democratic Party has given up on trying to win elections within the purview of the law. The nation is decidedly polarized when it comes to the two main political parties. Some call it partisanship. I call it natural, as rooting for one’s candidate is as old as politics itself.

But in regards to the rule of law which we all live under--in this case voter registration law--vestiges of the Democratic devotee and the party machinery itself seem more than willing to flout these laws nationwide, and brazenly so.
TV stations owned by the Sinclair Broadcasting Group plan to broadcast a documentary critical of John Kerry. The Kerry Campaign and Democrat Seantors are trying to use campaign finance laws to squash this plan and to deny Sinclair its First Amendment rights.
Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a guy I usually find agreement with, is sponsering legislation that would cripple archeology, anthropology, and hence the spirit of free, scientific inquiry in the name of political correctness. This measure is related to the Kennewick Man controversy in which American Indian activists tried to lay claim to remains of a man under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act even though the man was clearly not related to any modern American Indian people.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

John Kerry has made a little Freudean slip about how he really views terrorism. He is, of course, in full spin mode to try to deny he said what he actually said.
Max Faget, designer of the Mercury capsule space craft, has died at the age of 83. Faget also had a hand in the design of every American manned space craft up to the space shuttle. Faget was also a cofounder of a company called Space Industries, which would have deployed a man tended space factory in the 1980s had things turned out. Thus, Faget's career spanned both NASA's glory days and the beginnings of the commercial space era.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Looke like Australiam Prime Minister and Bush ally in the War on Terror John Howartd has been returned to power in the Australian elections. The defeated Labour candidate had vowed to withdraw Australiam troops from Iraq.
I recently completed a novel, entitled Weapons of Choice, that I should like to commend to you. The novel, naturally the first of a trilogy, depicts a multinational battle fleet from the year 2021 being sent back in time to the Battle of Midway in 1942 with disasterous results. The book could have been a wet dream story about future sailors and Marines wiping out the Japanese and Nazis with futuristic weapons (though there is plenty of that, especially in the climax of the book.) But the Australian born author chose to focus on instead the clash of cultures between the 21st Century warriors, fresh from twenty years of the War on Terror, and the people of 1942. The 21st Century fleet is multicultural with women and ethnic minorities often in command positions. (In fact, the gays in the military nonsense, which Bill Clinton blundered on, seems to have been finally resolved by 2021.) People in 1942 often took a dim view of minorities and women and find the idea of either being in position to order white males around to be bizzare and shocking.

The author makes a few technical and historical mistakes. The F 22 Raptor is not designed to be a carrier based plane. And the notion of Hillary Clinton as a strong, war time leader does not pass the giggle test, in my opinion. Still, Weapons of Choice is a strong entry into the alternate history/time travel genre and I recommend it highly.

One thing that fat, lying fraud Michael Moore seems to have wrought is the rise of the film documentary as both an art form and as a political weapon. This is something that he may live to regret, because some of them advance conservative causes.

Yesterday, before coming come to witness President Bush thrash his opponent during the debate, we saw a remarkable film entitled In the Face of Evil. It depicts President Ronald Reagan's lifetime war against communism against the backdrop of the wider conflict between civilization and what the film called "The Beast." The Beast has many names: Fascism, Nazism, Communism, and Islamo-Fascism. In the Face of Evil was both awe inspiring and intellectually challenging to watch.

I think everyone needs to see this film before voting in the upcoming election, the better to understand the stakes our civilization faces.
I think that there can be no doubt that President Bush defeated Senator Kerry in detail during last night's debate. The President was confident and assertive while Kerry was nervous and evasive, covering both up with a haughty demeaner.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Jeff foust reports that not all hope is lost for getting a commercial space bill done this year.
The joy most people greeted the triumph of SpaceShipOne and the prospect of a space tourism industry has not, it seems, been universaly shared. Indeed, the political barriers to a space tourism industry may be just as difficult as the technical ones.

This piece was written a day or so before the collapse of HR 3752.
The X Prize Foundation is expanding its scope to a whole variety of technology solutions.
According to the X Prize Foundation and the World Technology Network, examples of privately-funded solutions in scientific and social fields might include the following:

1. Transportation: Demonstration of a 4-seat vehicle able to achieve 200 miles per gallon in a cross country race

2. Nanotechnology: Construction of a pre-determined molecule by an assembler

3. Aging deceleration: Extension of mammal life, or demonstrated evidence of aging reversal

4. Education: Demonstration of a self-sufficient education facility able to operate independently and educate villagers anywhere on the planet.

Looks like a bill that would have permitted passenger carrying spacecraft is dead for this session of Congress over unexpected wrangling over safety issues.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

The political move to strangle space tourism in its crib has begun, it seems.

Addendum: Jeff Foust suggests that even if the bill with the damaging language is passed in the Senate, it can be fixed in conference as the House version does not have the language.
Glenn Reynolds instructs the British on the religious roots of the right and left in American politics and why he is uncomfortable with both.

I think Professor Reynolds' analysis is, as usual, dead on. America is probably one of the most religious countries in the Western World, exceeded perhaps only by Ireland. So it is quite natural that American politics should have religious roots no matter what strain it is.

I am also not the biggest fan, by the way, of social conservatism. I support abortion, gay marriage, and probably quite a few other things that would shock the religious right. But part of the reason I am comfortable with being a conservative Republican is that these issues are somewhat lower in my set of priorities than security, cutting taxes, shrinking the role of government, and even space exploration. Also I find reason to wish a plague on both houses in some of the social debates. The right because of it's tendency to overreact (though I am sympathetic to the idea the values are important as a public issue and am just as apalled at, say, political correctness in education and some of the silliness of organizations such as the ACLU) and the left for overreaching (the tactics used, for instance, to support gay marriage have been appallingly counterproductive, in my opinion.)

It's not, of course, that the Republican Party is perfect or that President George W. Bush has done everything right. But I am old enough to know that there is no such thing as perfection in a world run by fallible people. The GOP, with all of it's faults, best represents my hopes and aspirarions for our civilization, vigorous war against enemies of our republic, encouragment of self reliance, and a sense that national greatness is a thing to be honored and enhanced, not ridiculed. The Democrats, for all the proud tradition of JFK, Truman, and Thomas Jefferson, represent much of what I loath, especially appeasement abroad and socialism at home. At the risk of seeming partisan, I can never support such things.
In some parts of the country, showing support for the President seems to invite vandalism and violence from Kerry supporters. I wonder at the depths of hatred and rage that would inspire such terrorism and also I wonder when Kerry will condemn it.
Robert Garmong, of the Ayn Rand Institute, makes the case for complete privitization of space exploration. I'm not sure I entire agree with his position, but in the wake of the triumph of SpaceShipOne it is certainly one that has resonance.
The consequences of not invading Iraq would have been very dire indeed.
What can't be known is what would have happened had Mr. Bush chosen not to invade. Here the new report suggests some answers. Saddam Hussein, it says, was focused on ending international sanctions, which were crumbling before the crisis began. Had he succeeded, he would have resumed production of chemical weapons and probably a nuclear program as well. Mr. Kerry suggested recently that Saddam Hussein's regime would have collapsed under the inspectors' pressure. That is one possibility; another is that it would have reemerged as a significant power in the Middle East, and as a de facto or real ally of the Islamic extremist forces with which the United States is at war.
A lot of conservatives, while cheering President Bush's handling of the War on Terror, are unwasy about the President's domestic policy. But they may be making a mistake by focusing solely on spending and missing a revolution that the President is crafting. The liberals have not missed it, says George Will, and that explains their unmitigated hatred of the man from Crawford.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Brian Binnie, who piloted the flight of SpaceShipOne that clinched the X Prize for Burt Rutan's team, is also the first Scotsman in space.
A Hollywood Republican discusses the recent Liberty Film Festival of conservative films and documentaries that recently took place in LA. One thing Michael Moore, that fat fraud, has wrought that may benefit our civilization is a parcel of right wing documentaries in response to his body of--er--work.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The latest news about India's lunar probe, Chandrayan 1.
Dick Cheney gave the Breck Girl a sound thrashing on national TV.
A mob of union thugs stormed and sacked the Bush-Cheney campaign HQ in Orlando, Florida.

Addendum: A similer thing happened at the Bush-Cheney HQ in Milwaukee. I wonder whom these terrorists are trying to impress?
Best of the Web suggests that Kerry's global test means not only seeking permission from the French and Germans before going to war, but the Klingons and Vulcans as well.

More goodies as well.
I thought that it was conservatives who are violent, gun toting fanatics.
The President of Poland gives that master diplomat, John Kerry, the back of his hand. One wonders how Kerry is going to add countries to the coalition when he keeps offending those that are already part of it.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Gordon Cooper, one of the original seven Mercury astronauts, has died.
She played the best death scene in all of film history, in the film Psycho. But now, Janet Leigh really has died.
The Kerry people cannot be please by this bit of news about a poll that doesn't show their guy gaining anything after the debate.
Looks like Iraq had both WMDs and ties to terrorists as late as 2000.
SpaceShipOne has flown again and hence the X Prize has been won. And so the future has begun.
A pretty good review of a book you ought to read, Moonrush by Dennis Wingo.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

This news of a major victory in Iraq cannot bring joy to the Kerry Campaign. It kind of contradict's Kerry's theme of things getting worse over there.
On top of everything else, is John Kerry also a cheat?
More nonsense about space tourism, this time from across the pond in the auld sod. First some stupidty about man vrs robots:
Man can’t land on Venus, where the surface temperature is 800 degrees Fahrenheit, but a robot can. Distances are also self-defeating. Insisting that the explorer must be a man implies that the mission must be a round trip, which rules out any venture further than Mars.

The early space pioneers, Werner von Braun among them, played to this egotism. He realised that the only way to get money to fund his dreams was if space had a face. No bucks without Buck Rogers. The massively complex problems of keeping men alive limited the extent of exploration. Billions were spent on the ego trip to the moon and the Space Shuttle. Meanwhile, the really stupendous feats of exploration were achieved by robotic explorers sent into deep space on relatively meagre budgets.

Then some good old fashioned left wing class hatred:
Branson wants to capitalise on this vulgar obsession with personalising space. His plans have nothing to do with the dreams that inspired Galileo. They’re space exploitation, not space exploration. Virgin Galactic is simply a new type of extreme sport, a carnival ride, a not-so-cheap thrill.

Passengers on the VSS Enterprise will travel high enough to see the curvature of the earth. I’m told the view is fantastic. From that altitude, Earth is a lovely pearl dappled in shades of blue, pink and white.

It’s pretty precisely because you can’t see the hunger, the cruelty, the pollution and the hatred that despoil the planet. Aids, poverty, crowded schools and homeless people - all the problems crying out for money - magically disappear.

The best thing about Branson’s idea is that the selfish rich who take his short stomach-churning ride will be forced to come back to this troubled planet. Or maybe that’s the worst thing.

In other words, the writer hopes that all those well heeled space tourists die and not come back.

The Times of London rants in a similer vein.
He (Richard Branson)says that within three years he’ll be in a position to offer seats on a spaceship at something like £150,000 a pop. Apparently it’ll be no more risky than early commercial jet flight which, if you remember the Comet, means it’ll be extremely dangerous and very many rich people will be killed.

But then the Americans came out with the 707 and air travel has not been the same since.
The Political Vice Squad has an analysis of the Newsweek Poll that shows Kerry ahead post debate. It looks like that this "poll" is as genuine as CBS's National Guard documents.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Rand Simberg has found John Kerry's global test for preemptive military action. And you can take it to see if you are to be trusted in the nuanced world of international diplomacy.
Burt Rutan explains the rolling motion that gave us all such excitement during the last flight of SpaceShipOne.

This breakin of a Bush-Cheney campaign headquarters sounds to me like a Watergate caper in which the perps didn't get caught. I wonder how closely the media will cover it.
The effort to develop production methods to make carbon nanotube fibers proceeds apace at Rice University in Houston. This effort is important because, among other things, carbon nanotubes constitute the best material for building space elevators.
Steven J. Dick begins to muse on the nature of and rational for exploration and discovery. In so doing, he cites one example of a country that made a bad decision concerning those:
The case most often cited for a societal decision not to explore -- with generally recognized bad effects -- is Ming China in the 15th century. You will find this case, for example, made in Bob Zubrin's books on Mars, and before that made by NASA Administrator James Beggs. Is it hype, or is it history?

Some day historians will be writing about whether or not WE chose wisely, not only to make a proposal to explore, but also to fund it.
The historical facts are quite clear. Historian Daniel Boorstin -- the recently deceased Librarian of Congress -- pointed out that in the early 15th century the biggest Chinese ships were up to ten times the size of Columbus's later in the century. While Columbus had 17 ships and 1500 men on the largest of his four expeditions, the Chinese Admiral Zheng He had 317 ships and 27,000 crewmen on the first of his six expeditions. Following a maritime tradition stretching back to the 11th century, from 1405-1433, these ships plied the seas of Southeast Asia, sailed to India, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and down the East Coast of Africa. (And yes, these are the voyages that Gavin Menzies addressed in his book 1421: The Year China Discovered America, although in my view that claim is not supported by good evidence.)

But what is important is this. Although Chinese state revenues were probably 100 times Portugal's, after the 1430s the Ming emperors had other priorities, and it was the Portuguese and other European countries that led the way in exploration. As Boorstin noted "When Europeans were sailing out with enthusiasm and high hopes, land-bound China was sealing her borders. Within her physical and intellectual Great Wall, she avoided encounter with the unexpected... Fully equipped with the technology, the intelligence, and the national resources to become discoverers, the Chinese doomed themselves to be discovered."

In their recent world history, historians J. R. and William McNeill come to the same conclusions, and historians in general tend to agree that the Chinese chose poorly in the mid-15th century. By the 1470s, the McNeils wrote, even the skills needed to build great ships were lost. Boorstin called the withdrawal of the Chinese into their own borders, symbolized by the Great Wall of China that took its current form at that time, "catastrophic... with consequences we still see today." The parallel with what is happening now, despite renewed attempts at space exploration, is striking. Some day historians will be writing about whether or not WE chose wisely, not only to make a proposal to explore, but also to fund it.

I've always had a certain impatience with idealogical people who claim that the choice of the Ming Mandrians was in fact rational, given that the voyages of Zheng He lost money. A lot of European voyages lost money too (and indeed more than that.) But the difference is that the Europeans stuck with it and eventually owned the future. The Chinese are still recovering.

That's something to think about while discussing whether to send explorers out beyond Low Earth Orbit.

Via The Eternal Golden Braid.

Friday, October 01, 2004

The one thing I find most fascinating about the debate last night is the behavior of the media talking heads. Predictably, because Kerry did not drool on himself, the media seems to have declared him the "winner." I'm not sure that is correct, despite the fact, as Dick Morris suggested, Kerry won on style, but Bush on substance. In fact, I have to agree with Joe Lockhart who, in an unguarded moment near a live mike, suggested that the debate was a draw. And that means that Kerry loses because he really needed a clear win to move the race in a different direction than it has been going.

Also, the debate transcript will prove a gold mine to Bush Campaign opposition researchers. The "global test" for going to war alone (which Kerry didn't explain) will prove an effective sound byte on the campaign trail.

My prediction, though, is that the polls won't move much, if at all. Of course, if they narrow even by one point, the media will declare that the "race is tightening", that Kerry is "on his stride again", and is proving, as in the past, a "good closer." That is, of course, until the next debate.