Random thoughts on politics, current events, popular culture, and whatever else interests me.
Mark R. Whittington is a writer residing in Houston, Texas. He is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including the novel of suspense Nocturne which he coauthored with his wife, Chantal, The Children of Apollo trilogy, The Last Moonwalker and Other Stories, Gabriella’s War, The Man from Mars: The Asteroid Mining Caper, and Why is it So Hard to Go Back to the Moon?
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Saturday, July 31, 2004
This is what happens when you try to glad hand a group of Marines when they want to eat their fast food in peace.
Friday, July 30, 2004
Rand Simberg has the choice sound byte for the whole Kerry bunny suit affair. It's wabbit season!
After listening to Kerry's acceptence speech, John Podhoretz thinks he's a Howard Dean with medals" and Dick Morris thinks he "wasn't much there then (in the Senate), and he's not much there now."
Thursday, July 29, 2004
Part One on how we will return to the Moon.
Addendum: Some more cool stuff on the Return to the Moon.
Those who imagine that robots can do all that humans can do in space exploration, really need to read this interview with Ken Ford, director of the Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of Human & Machine Cognition. I was particularly struck by this:
Space exploration will need both humans and robots. There is a better way to pose your question: Where will the human explorers reside in the exploration process? One can imagine the human involvement being from Earth, from Earth orbit, from a libration point, from an orbit around the planet to be explored, or on the planet's surface. Arguments can be made for each option or, more compellingly, some combination of these in sequence.
The first Chinese lunar mission has some ambitious goals indeed.
Courtesy of Keith Cowing over at NASA Watch, we have a message from Kerry's space guru, Lori Garver:
This is, putting it very politely, partisan dreck. The Bush Initiative is certainly not "hot air." One does not issue a veto threat on a bill that includes veterans and housing funding to support "hot air." The second statement, that the Bush Initiative has made it "impossible" for Kerry to say much about space does not pass the laugh test. In fact, if any thing, the initiative is a challenge for Kerry to say more.
Then the defense of the Kerry position, so far, as being "more than most Presidental candidates" (except of course the other major party candidate), is silly. The jibe about Bush taking "3.5 years and a tragic shuttle accident" is a little rich coming from a Clintonista NASA bureucrat. What were the Clinton space initiatives in eight years? Cutting NASA's budget. The disasterous (though politically astute) Russian space station partnership. X 33. Not very much evidence that "Democrats will be able to pull-off a better record." And while Lori may agree that ISS doesn't make a good drug factory and that the shuttle needs retiring, Kerry seems to disagree with both suppositions and, despite what Lori says, there is no evidence so far that he will flip flop on those.
The snide praise of the Moon-Mars Blitz, considering that Lori thinks is hot air, is an insult.
In my opinion, Lori Garver's involvement with the Kerry campaign is not about the advancement of space exploration or anything else but the advancement of Lori Garver.
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
If the news of Lori Garver as Kerry's space policy advisor is correct, then it is a strange choice indeed. Garver, in my opinion, is one of those curious people, like Robert Strange McNamara, who have managed to "fail upwards." She worked for the abortive 1984 John Glenn campaign. She was Executive Director of the National Space Society during a period of marked decline in that organization's membership and influence. She was first NASA Administrator Dan Goldin's assistent, then his Associate Administrator for Policy and Plans at NASA when there was very little if any of either done.
Of course, the Kerry policy being worked on seems to preclude Americans going beyond Low Earth Orbit any time this century.
This story about John Kerry's glory hunting in Vietnam makes the jaw drop. Imagine a man so ernest about becoming JFK the Second that he reenacted his exploits on film, using his men as extras and camera crew.
The whole story is in an upcoming book, Unfit for Command.
Addendum: The book also seems to suggest that Kerry lied about many of his supposed Vietnam exploits. If true, it pretty much destroys his rational for being President, as he is running on his 4 and a half months in Vietnam and not his twenty year Senate career.
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
The Kerry Campaign sees an evil plot by NASA in the release of those embaressing photos. Of course, the truth is somewhat less dramatic. The photos were taken and then posted to the Kennedy Space Center website as a matter of routine.
Not that this will matter to the Kerry folks. I predict dire vengence if Kerry gets elected.
Looks like Burt Rutan and company will go for the X Prize on September 29th.
Monday, July 26, 2004
Keith Cowing provides a detailed analysis of John Kerry's space policy record. It is, to say the least, disturbing.
President Bush is very serious with his veto threat. And he has allies:
The Senate's action on NASA funding is yet to come. Former O'Keefe mentor Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is widely expected to make sure the full Bush request for space plan funding will be contained in the Senate's mark-up of the legislation. If so, it would set up yet another chance for NASA to prevail, because the House-Senate conference would have to reconcile both versions of space spending.
James Van Allen, PHD, has declared human space flight obsolete. Of course he has been saying that since, I think, 1958.
Van Allen is apparently basing his argument on the space shuttle and space station, claiming that they prove that human space flight is inherently too expensive and too difficult. The problem is that both are merely examples of bad management and bad policy choices and do not prove Van Allen's assertions.
John Kerry went to the Kennedy Space Flight Center, from wence man first traveled to the moon, and aside from a few meaningless platitudes about the "spirit of exploration", had nothing to say about space.
It used to be a canard that President GW Bush cared nothing about space. That lie has been put to rest, I think, except for the most hate crazed Bush bashing partisan. But now I think we see who really finds the whole idea of space exploration a bit boring.
Sam Dinkin discusses land auctions on the Moon and Mars as a way to pay for space settlements. Then he gives the mad cap Bruce Gagnon a well deserved back of his hand.
Saturday, July 24, 2004
John Kerry is coming to the Kennedy Space Center on Monday. Florida Today takes the occassion to offer a challenge and then some questions.
The questions are OK as far as they go, but somewhat incomplete. Allow me to add one more.
Senator Kerry, will you support measures to encourage private space travel, including tax incentives, regulatory relief, and NASA and DOD contracts? If not, why not?
Those who imagine that environmental groups are a natural constituancy to support space exploration may find this sobering. Apparently the Friends of the Earth have not heard of the potential for--say--space based solar power to replace fossil fuels as an energy source.
Friday, July 23, 2004
Meanwhile, it looks like a compromise has been reached on HR 3752, the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act, which will make approval of private spacecraft easier.
The President has issued a veto threat over the House Appropriators' defunding of the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Initiative.
Michael Novak is appalled at how much vocanic hatred of George W. Bush drives the Kerry Campaign.
When one looks at Bush, and then at the hatred nurtured for him, it is very hard to grasp the connection. Why? Why do they hate him so?
Thursday, July 22, 2004
The latest talking point of the Bush hating peacenicks is that we ought to have invaded Iran instead of Iraq. Charles Krauthammer gives these born again war hawks the back of his hand.
Of course, there are other means besides invasion to knock over the Mad Mullahs. The vast majority of the Iranian people hate their clerical masters and, given a little help and encouragement, will surely overthrow them. That kind of aid will be far easier with a base in Iraq, just next door.
The author of this delusional rant must be auditioning to be Kerry's space policy advisor.
Addendum" Tom James makes his triumphant return with a good fisking of the rant referenced above.
Rand Simberg speculates about Tom Delay's motives for standing up to the budget cutters. I'm not sure I agree entirely with his conclusions, much as I would like to.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Congressman Dave Weldon (R) Florida proves incapable of embracing the future.
Weldon voted for the budget bill, but that he hoped more funding could be found later. "This bill takes care of most of our needs at Kennedy Space Center, so I'm hard pressed not to support my chairman when he's taking care of Florida," Weldon told the Sentinel.
He's also a bad politician. Does he know what will happen when the shuttle goes away in 2010, taking all those jobs with it, and there is no Moon, Mars, and Beyond program to take it's place?
The Senate appears ready to pass an authorization bill that will fully fund the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Initiative. Also, in the House, Tom Delay remains combative:
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Rand Simberg has asked the question about trouser-gate. "What did John Kerry know and when did he know it?"
Tom Delay is having none of the nonsense coming out of the Appropriations Committee about space funding.
"To me, that's unacceptable, and it would be very hard to get this bill to the floor if it's unacceptable to me," he said.They don't call him the Hammer for nothing.
Sandy Berger must think people are really stupid. His excuse for making off with a bunch of top secret documents is sort of like a crack head saying, "Gee, officer, how did that get in my back pocket?"
Jim Oberg suggests that healthy fear took us to the Moon the first time and may well again.
As Adam Kepier suggests, the fight is not over by any stretch of the imagination.
This appropriations bill descends to new depths of irresponsibility. If it were the final version, not only would Americans not venture beyond Low Earth Orbit, but would not any time soon travel in space at all. The effort to bring the shuttle fleet back to flight would halt. Construction of the space station would be suspended indefinately.
This must not stand.
Today is the thirty fifth Apollo Day. Over a generation ago, two men first explored another world, while hundreds of millions on this world stopped--if only for just a moment in the midst of war and civil strife--and watched in wonder and in awe.
This Apollo Day has a keener significance than most of the previous ones. A challenge has been issued, by another young President, full of vigor and vision. Shall we explore the universe, and then move outward to make other worlds our own abode? Shall we do it in a different way, one that plays to the strengths of entrepeneurial capitalism? Shall we take advantage of all the opportunities in science, technology, and commerce?
Or shall we, once again, for all the old, tiresome reasons, shrink from the challenge, to wither, and fade, and to eventually become one with Nineveh and Tyre? All because we were too afraid or too weak or maybe just too distracted.
The choice is ours.
Monday, July 19, 2004
Edward Hudgins celebrates the big government space achievments of the past, as well as the private, entrepeneurial space achievements of the preasent and future.
Looks like Congressman James Walsh (R) New York, Chairman of the House VA, HUD, and IA Appropriations Subcomittee, is about to "celebrate" the 35th Apollo Day in very nasty way.
Actually, he could do just that, if he had the will, which it looks like he doesn't.
Of course it likely doesn't matter. House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R) Texas assures us that the final bill will be written in conference.,
Will the next space station be privately built and operated, with both NASA and private industry renting space? Could be, if Bob Bigelow has his way.
The Gallup Poll finds, contrary to news accounts, broad support for the President's Moon, Mars, and Beyond Initiative.
To build Heavy Lift or not to build Heavy Lift, that is the question.
On the occassion of the 35th Apollo Day, minus one day, I imagine the night we return to the Moon.
Sunday, July 18, 2004
This explanation of the cause of global warming may be a little too simple for some to accept.
It is clear from this account of the Return to the Moon Conference that President Bush has started something remarkable with his Moon, Mars, and Beyond Initiative. The question is, will we have the courage to seize the opportunity presented us?
Thursday, July 15, 2004
Charles Krauthammer gives foul scorn to the International Court of Justice in The Hague for ruling that Jews living in Israel have no right to defend themselves. Let me add a little scorn of my own. These judges seem to have as much regard for human beings--if they happen to be Jewish--as the Nazis. Their utter corruption demonstrates the foolishness of trusting them or the UN on anything.
Alex Roth has made an inane assault on the space program and indeed the very concept of space travel. It contains an astonishng contradiction:
The Cold War era ideology spawned not only space travel, but also dozens of instances of technological overreaching here on Earth. In 1960, R. Buckminster Fuller was hailed as a visionary, in part because of his plan to build a 2.5 mile-wide air-conditioned geodesic dome over midtown Manhattan.
I wonder if Roth knows how many people in the Third World have died from maleria and other ailments because we don't use DDT. Anyway, I get the impression that he doesn't like technology too much. However, he later suggests:
That money could be spent on math and science teachers, a sane alternative to educational development based on interplanetary Buck Rogers bravado.
But won't science and math teachers just encourage people to dream up all that technology Roth loaths?
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
More on the efforts of Bigelow Aerospace to build the places where people will live beyond the Earth.
Work on the Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter proceeds apace. I propose that we name the thing, though. I propose Calliope, one of the Muses and a lover of the god Apollo.
The National Research Council has informed NASA that humans are better than robots when it comes to fixing the Hubble Telescope.
At the Convention in Boston, Democrats are going to try to protray their candidate as a war hero. But man of the men who served with him have a different story to tell.
Robert Zubrin discusses the science and ethics of terraforming Mars.
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
The Law of the Sea Treaty, or LOST, has emerged from the depths like a B movie creature. It should be sent back in the same fashion.
Your Humble Servant once again opines in the pages of USA Today. This time I use the Cassini mission to discuss the nature of exploration, along the way settling the whole, tiresome robots vrs humans argument for good.
President Bush seems to be on fire on the stump. But then Kerry is giving him so much ammo.
Monday, July 12, 2004
So, we're finally going back to the Moon. But how? The answer to that question is still very much a work in progress.
Sunday, July 11, 2004
Two hundred years ago today, Vice President Aaron Burr ended the political career of Alexander Hamilton as well as his own with a single shot from a dueling pistol. Today, in order to do the same thing, a politician has to do something really aweful. Like get caught trying to entice his wife to have sex with him at an S&M orgy club.
Two gentlemen, Robert Oler and Rich Kolker, launch an assault on the Moon, Mars, and Beyond plan that quickly collapses into incoherence. Let's examine it, shall we?
WHAT are you going to be doing in 2021? If the Bush administra-tion has its way, 15 years and billions of dollars later a small number of Americans, who are probably now in middle school, will return to the moon.
That's part of the truth. Partly because of the private sector enablement part of the plan, there will likely also be scores, perhaps hundreds of people visiting low Earth orbit for various reasons. Only a small number of them will be government employees.
It will have taken 50 years to revisit a past national glory.
I would phrase it differently. It will have taken at least forty three years to put right a huge public policy mistake, which was to stop going to the Moon in 1972
The argument for going to the moon goes something like: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration needs a goal in space.
That's not exactly the reason for going back to the Moon and on to Mars. The reason is to transform NASA into a space faring Corps of Discovery, to therefore open up the high frontier of space much in the same way Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery did the American Frontier.
Post Apollo, it has had at least two. The first was to make human spaceflight operational and affordable with the space shuttle. The second was to build the International Space Station. It is hard to view them as successes. Worse, it is hard to see that they have value anywhere near the dollars and talent invested in them.
That is certainly true, but later on we'll find a contradiction or two in this article.
Any future goal will have a similar fate. It will take longer, cost more and accomplish less than promised.
This is what I call the space version of the Vietnam Syndrome. Back in the seventies and early eighties any attempt to exert American military power was opposed by a certain class of people, for fear that such an undertaking would result in a replay of the Vietnam quagmire. Thus, the authors of this piece oppose a return to the Moon, for fear of replicating space shuttle and space station,which were failure, even though previously they condemned it as replicating Apollo, which was a great success. There is no notion that the lessons of the space shuttle and space station have been learned and will be applied, just as the lessons of Vietnam were learned and applied in the Gulf War and the War on Terror.
Human spaceflight in the past 30 years has suffered from one basic defect. It has no tangible connection to our economy or society.
This is certainly true, though one might argue that Burt Rutan and Mike Melvile have started the great change to that state of affairs.
Southwest Airlines started with three old planes and novel ideas. Any future space policy must put the space station into a structure where the innovation of the private sector can be stimulated.
Here is the first contradiction. The space station is both a failure and the sole hope of stimulating the private sector. It's gets better.
Success will spur competiton. JetBlue, Air Tran and others are not an accident of history; they are a response to Southwest’s success. That cycle renews every industry. Innovation is copied and adapted. Such a cycle can start in human spaceflight.
This is all true, but we still don't have any public policy proposals that would help these gentlemen.
What stillborns federal policies is NASA’s political protectors— such as House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land.
People who use the word "stillborn" as a verb must be watched very carefully. The slam against Delay is interesting, since the authors equate support for NASA as opposition to private space. In the past this may even have been true. No longer, to my observation.
It is time to formulate federal policies that integrate human spaceflight into American industry.
This all sounds like what the Bush Administration is doing. The FAA have been quite expeditious in giving Rutan and his competitors the necessary approvals to fly their space craft. And it looks like the effort to return to the Moon and go to Mars will be the air mail writ large. For example, NASA is partnering with Bigelow Aerospace to develop inflatable modules. This will provide NASA with the technology to build future space stations and lunar bases and Bigelow the technology to build space hotels and other private facilities. And that's just one example.
That stage can be set in human spaceflight. The space station is the first step. The station’s completion and expansion should be used to stimulate private enterprise and a new method of doing business in human spaceflight. That requires a new mind-set focused on the station not as an engineering or science project, but as an economic one.
How? Again, the authors do not mention the answer to that question.
That means change. NASA should be sent back to its NACA roots. Instead of technology for a lunar trip for a few, the talents at NASA need to be put to work developing the technology that allows America as a nation to go into space.
Funny. I think Rutan and company are doing that already. Turning our backs on the Moon will not advance their efforts by a day. Proceeding to the Moon and using that as part of a core market (i.e. the air mail) just might be of enormous help. Wouldn't it be ironic if the first explorers to return to the Moon took the first leg of their trip via private charter?
A structure needs to be put in place for the space station, which allows industry to use that technology to build new products that create private infrastructure in human spaceflight one, but not the only model. Government efforts should nurture that infrastructure.
Again, how? One could suppose that the authors are implying that the space station should be turned into a micro gravity research center, subsidized by the government. But one cannot be certain.
Absent that refocusing, human spaceflight is doomed to whatever dollars that the political process can coerce out of the taxpayers. For all the billions spent, the great frontier will never be conquered. Industries that help reverse the flow of high-tech jobs overseas, or bring products that change America will never be created.
And instead will be created in China and India, both of which have humans to the Moon ambitions.
What would change look like? NASA’s aircraft that simulates microgravity, The Vomit Comet, could today be mothballed in favor of private enterprise. A company that provides the service on a comparable type aircraft under federal certification could do what politicians such as DeLay are always in the abstract clamoring for: privatize federal services.
This is, of course, a tiny thing, though privitizing the Vomit Comet is certainly a good idea.
Change would be hard. If the Comet is grounded and its services provided by a private company, there will be a new reality. Jobs would change, but the ones created would no longer be one federal budget from vanishing. Instead of flights a few times a week, a private company would on its off days do what it is doing now — fly private citizens. Because the government is paying part of the fixed cost, those flights might be cheaper and attract more people. That means they would come to Houston and rent hotel rooms and cars and do what most travelers do — spend money that creates jobs.
I'm a little puzzled by this notion of the government "paying part of the fixed cost." Sounds like a subsidy to me.
This is the reason politicians in Houston chase a National Football League team and all the other attractions that make our city what it is. It is time to make our national human spaceflight effort a tool that — instead of spending billions of taxpayer dollars as far as the eye can see — enables the industries that will grow our economy, enrich our city and nation, and open space to American enterprise and the American people.
Space flight as Houston Texans football? The mind reels from such an image.
Saturday, July 10, 2004
While Burt Rutan and his compatriots are working on ways to get to space cheaply, Bigelow Aerospace is working on comfortable places to stay once we get there. And NASA is actually helping.
Friday, July 09, 2004
Seriously, guys, this is not how you want to start a political campaign.
Kerry and Edwards should get into deep trouble over this.
Whoopi Goldberg delivered an X-rated rant full of sexual innuendoes against President Bush last night at a Radio City gala that raised $7.5 million for the newly minted Democratic ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards.
The candidates' reaction? Outrage? Disgust? Not exactly.
Kerry could be seen laughing uproariously during part of Goldberg's tirade - and neither he nor Edwards voiced a single objection to its tone when they spoke to the crowd.
Thursday, July 08, 2004
John Kerry has been a bad Senator and would be a worse President.
John Kerry’s ability to work with others in the political arena has led to him being instrumental in a whopping eight pieces of legislation. Of those eight, five were ceremonial in nature, two related to the fishing industry and one had to do with federal grants for female owned small businesses. For someone who has been in the Senate as long as Kerry this record proves one of two things, he is either completely ineffective as a legislator or his agenda is so far from the mainstream that even his Democratic colleagues can’t in all honesty vote for the bills he proposes. Either way, his past political productivity is such that it would be hard to imagine him getting any “tight vote” legislation passed on Capitol Hill. In contrast we have seen President Bush do this on several occasions…successfully.
Michael Moore, the Leni Riefenstahl of the War on Terror, seems to have a new slogan. Today the United States, tomorrow, the world!.
Wednesday, July 07, 2004
Looks like Burt Rutan is ready to go for the X Prize for real.
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
There is one group of Democrats who are as mad as hell at the pick of Edwards as VP candidate. And they have the potential to make the Democratic Convention in Boston an entertaining one indeed.
Could this film be the cure for Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11? Maybe.
Samual M. Coniglio waxes elloquent about space commerce.
Frankly I'm a litle bit puzzled at the pick of Edwards. True he brings a much needed touch of southern to the ticket and he is said to be entertaining on the stump, as Kerry is not. On the other hand he barely won his own state during the primaries and comes across a little bit boyish. Besides, I can't say I like someone who made his swag by seperating doctors from their money with croc tears and jumk science.
Monday, July 05, 2004
Looks like John Kerry opposed abortion, before he supported it.
One of the objections I've heard to the idea of China as a major space competitor is that the Chinese eschew private, space commercial ventures as much as NASA used to do in the 1990s. That seems to be about to change.
As humanity moves out into space, the need for a space going military service will become more and more obvious. But will it resemble the Air Force or the Navy?
Sunday, July 04, 2004
Happy Independence Day to one and all.
Saturday, July 03, 2004
Reps James Walsh (R-NY) and Alan Mollohan (D-WV)seems to put their own egos ahead of the good of the country by denying NASA's desire to repogram 2 million dollars in FY 2004 funds to jump start prizes. They should both be ashamed.
Thursday, July 01, 2004
Bill Cosby persists in being politically incorrect.