Thursday, December 29, 2005

They greenlight a movie about a couple of gay cowboys and next thing you know, a woman marries a dolphin.
The World War I Christmas Truce of 1914.
Visit Turin.
The folks at National Review Online have their predictions for 2006. My favrorite:
Aliens from Mars will invade the Earth. Using their giant spider-legged attack vehicles, the invaders will lay waste to human civilization. President Bush will be named to head a hastily assembled International Council of Nations. He will begin a last-ditch effort to counterattack by launching nuclear warheads at Mars on Saturn V rockets. Rep. Nancy Pelosi will immediately condemn his plan as "unnecessary and irrational." Peace activists will march outside the charred remains of the White House, mourning the tragic loss of innocent Martian life. Michael Moore will release a documentary alleging links between Bush and the Martians. Then all the Martians get sick and die. The End. (I know, what a lame ending, but I couldn't come up with anything better.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Mossad agents weigh in about Spielberg's Munich. They are not happy.
Paul Martin, Prime Minister of Canada, is showing himself to be utterly clueless about the causes of violent crime.

Or else, he is rather cynically pulling the Anti-American card in a desperate attempt to stay in office.
NASA's gigantic ESAS Document is now available for downloading and viewing. A cursory glance causes me to make the following evaluation:

Pro: The plan follows an incremental process that evolves fairly rapidly from a series of sortie missions to a permanent lunar base.

There is lots of consideration for local resource utilization (i.e. LUNOX, water from the poles.

Con: The base seems to stop at four people in a "steady state" phase that lasts at least until 2030.

There seems to be no consideration for commercial participation, at least in the documents I've read so far.

I predict that these last two will confirm in the minds of many people the idea that NASA is not serious about enabling the large scale colonization of the Moon. However, I think that these problems can be fixed rather easily. Indeed one (commercial participation) leads to the other (expansion). The good Dr. Griffin seems to agree, at least implicitly, if belatedly.

I conclude that there needs to be consideration sooner rather than later on how the commercial sector can be brought in as an active participant in the lunar effort. That means bringing down the cost and expanding the scale of transporting people and things to and from the Moon. Also, expanding the capacity of the lunar base to support more people. More power, more oxygen, more water. And, the one thing I see lacking, a lunar greenhouse.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

When the ancient Egyptians had to erase the memory of one of their disgraced Pharoahs, they had to topple his monuments and chisel out his heiroglyphs. When the Soviets wanted to make someone an unperson (after shooting him) they had to airbrush out his photos from official records. But now, the city fathers of Graz, the home town of one Arnold Schwarzenegger, were able to obliterate their former favorite son with a few key strokes.
Carnival of Tomorrow: Christmas Edition is now up.
Apparently RedOrbit has named this place Red Hot Blog of the Day.
How private companies are paving the way to the high frontier of space. Irony of ironies, the piece is in Pravda.
Steven Spielberg actually thinks that his new film, Munich, could be an instrument for reconcilliation of Israelis and Palestinians. A gentleman named Mohammed Daoud begs to disagree.

Who is Mohammed Daoud? He planned the operation that killed the Israeli athletes.

There is a lesson hidden in this irony.
J. K. Rowling is preparing to write the final adventure of Harry Potter.

Of course, I'm reminded of what happened when Arthur Conan Doyle tried to end the Sherlock Holmes series by killing him off in The Final Problem. He was harassed so much whenever he ventured onto the streets of London about when he would write a new Holmes story that he was finally forced to do so. It is not my impression that Potter fans are as respectful of an author's wishes as Holmes fans were over a hundred years ago. I somehow think that when the "last" Harry Potter comes out in a year or so, it won't really be the last.
Paul Spudis makes the case for returning to the Moon.
The moon is important for three reasons: science, inspiration and resources. All three are directly served by the new lunar return architecture. This program has the potential to make significant contributions to our national economy and welfare.


Monday, December 26, 2005

I shall be on the Space Show this Wendsday, December 28th, between 10 and 11:30 PM Eastern Time discussing things space with David Livingston.

Listeners can talk to me or the host using toll free 1 (866) 687-7223, by sending e-mail during the program using,, or chatting on AOL/ICQ/CompuServe Chat using the screen name "spaceshowchat."

The Space Show is now podcasting effective May 3, 2005. Subscribe your pod casters to

The show will be rebroadcast on New Years Day between 3PM and 4:30PM Eastern.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

On Christmas Night, 1776, George Washington and what was left of the Continental Army crossed the Delaware River and the following day destroyed a garrison of three Hessian mercenary regimnents at the Battle of Trenton, thus bouying what was up until then a faltering war for American indepedence. Some folks reenacted the crossing this Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, happy Holidays to one and all, especially those who must spend the season far from home, facing peril so that the rest of us will not have to.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Captain Ed goes to see Spielberg's Munich to confirm the awefull truth, that it is a tissue of lies. Journalist Aaron Klein, on the other hand, has just published a far more accurate account.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Once, a long time ago, a troubled world got the perfect Christmas present: The Flight of Apollo 8.
300, Frank Miller's epic about the Battle of Thermopylae, now has an offical website.
Captain Ed heaps disdain on Spielberg's Munich. Virtually everyone who has seen this flick thinks it's a love letter to the terrorists. Spielberg seems to have blown the credibility he got for Schindlers List.
Looks like we get to fight over the Patriot Act in about month. Oh joy of joys.
While the Senate was covering itself in ignominy by once again allowing a minority to block drilling in ANWR and by punting full consideration of the Patriot Act to the middle of an election year, it actually did something useful. It passed the NASA Authorization Act.

The Act does two important things. First, it gives Congresses full stamp of approval on the Vision for Space Exploration. It is now the official policy of the United States to go back to the Moon and then beyond. That makes it just a bit harder for a future Congress or President to cancel the program.

Second, the Act fully authorizes the Centennial Challenges program. Now, up to ten million dollars can be spent on each technology competition without prior approval of the Congress. This has profound implications for the way NASA does business. By using just a little bit of seed money, NASA can provide incentives to private groups to create technological innovation that will help open the High Frontier.

Interesting times lay ahead.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Mrs. Curmudgeon offers some advice to any gentleman who finds himself in a dysfunctional relationship.
The Democrats, with the help of a couple of RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) have voted to uphold a filibuster that blocks passage of a Defense Authorization Bill which funds our armed forces in time of war. The excuse is to block drilling for oil at ANWR, a desolate tundra in the north of Alaska. Earlier, the Dems voted to continue another filibuster to block the Patriot Act, a collection of sensible law enforcement reforms that make it easier to locate and capture terrorists, thus preventing another attack like 9/11. The remarkable news that the President has authorized wire taps of suspected terrorists has got the Dems in a state of apoplexy, with some hinting at impeachment.

I understand the political motivations surrounding this. The Dems will do anything to get at the Great Satan in the Oval Office.

But imagine if you are Osama bin Laden hiding in his cave or Zargawi, hiding wherever he's hiding. Imagine what you must be thinking, of the joy in your heart at the idea that the Infidels seem to be falling apart.

Then ask yourself this question. When does irresponsible politics become something else? When does it become treason?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Another review of Spielberg's Munich, that suggests that the director of Schindlers List blew it big time when it came to doing a film about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Karl Rove--super genius.
One of the slams against the Chinese space program is the suggestion that it is too government centric. By that, the critics mean that without a commercial component, the Chinese space effort is doomed either to failure or to be limited in scope. However, it seems that the Chinese recognize the value of commercial participation in space after all.
The DVD of the best SF film of the year 2005 is now out:

As are ten episodes of the best SF TV show on the air:
Anthony Dick profiles Dr. Jacques Chaoulli, healer and rebel against Canada's Stalinist health care system. Increadibly, despite the demonstrable horrors that Canada's government run health care bureaucracy has inflicted on patients, Dr. Chaoulli remains very much a voice in the wilderness.
The film and television business, as it currently is, will shortly change in ways that frightened Hollywood executives cannot possibly imagine.
Technology is democratizing entertainment by empowering audiences and artists. Imagine this: Audiences will watch their favorite shows when they want, how they want, and at any hour, through any visual device -- I-Pods, laptops, cell phones, even satellite televisions in cars.

CSI at 11 a.m. in a taxi-cab? Fine. Good Morning America on the treadmill at midnight? Not a problem. As a result, live events -- such as sporting events, concerts, and news -- will proliferate. Traditional local news stations? Gone. So are 30-second commercials.

Or go even further. Movie theaters will become agile, free-wheeling art houses that show King Kong on one screen, E.T. on another, an independent documentary on yet another, while beaming in a live performance of a U2 concert for a private party -- all on the same night, all at the same time. For a nominal fee, blockbuster opening nights will be held at churches and synagogues, community centers and trade shows, anywhere an audience gathers. Former network show-runners with devoted fans, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon, will charge subscribers a small fee for original programming. Three million subscribers, each paying $1.99 per show. You add it up.

Small film industries will pop up in Boise, Idaho and Kansas City, Missouri. Millions of loyal fans will receive the latest episode of their favorite soap opera via email just in time for their lunch breaks. Businesses and non-profits, universities and government agencies will launch their own television networks -- all of which will benefit consumers and “creatives.”

I can hardly wait.
I will make an early prediction. If the Dems start to seriously push to impeach President Bush because of disagreements over national security, they will have crafted for themselves the biggest political debacle in history.

Dick Morris has more on how the Dems are cutting their own throats.
ANYONE who wonders whether the Democratic Party in general and Sen. Hillary Clinton in particular are really tough on terror — or are just posing for the cameras — needs to look at the vote by the entire Democratic Senate delegation (excepting only Nebraska's Ben Nelson and South Dakota's Tim Johnson) to prevent closure of their filibuster against the Patriot Act extension.

While the legislation President Bush proposed extends the entire act, certain key provisions are set to expire at year's end. (The rest of the act is good until September 2007.) By voting to allow these provisions to lapse, the Democrats have shown a total disregard for national security.

Monday, December 19, 2005

A visit to historic Bruges.
Looks like the flight of the Falcon 1 is delayed again, this time due to structural problems in the first stage.
Saturnalia: The Reason We Celebrate Christmas in December.
Carnival of Tomorrow: The King Kong Edition.
A "planet" named Buffy?
Eric Hedman discusses space spending, why and how much.
Dwayne Day and Jeff Foust discuss some of the background of the Vision for Space Exploration, which included secret studies done in the 1990s when such things were very politically incorrect.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A UCLA political scientist did a study of the media and came to a shocking conclusion.

The media is liberally biased.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Is Hillary Clinton about to blow what some once thought was an inevitable march to the White House?
Andrea Peyser does not like Spielberg's Munich at all.
Here lies the film's biggest flaw — and its greatest danger. Munich reeks of moral relativism. It puts the terrorists and those who respond to terror on even moral footing. It suggests that Israel must pay, one way or another, for vengeance.

If true, this is very sad. Another example of Hollywood not getting it.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Happy Birthday, Sir Arthur C. Clarke.
History and Sights for Your Visit to Geneva.
Mark Trulson points to this piece about how Christmas hurts the environment. It is not, by the way, a satirical piece from The Onion.
My old Deaniac buddy, Rich Kolker, has opened up a file in Wiki so that he and his fellow Deaniacs can compose an insiders account of that magical mystery tour known as the 2004 Dean Campaign. It's barely started now, but in the future it should be very entertaining.
The Dish: Reaching for the stars from down under.
Looks like the Democrats in the Senate have actually blocked renewal of the Patriot Act. That means, barring some last minute occurance, that we shall be naked onto our enemies again in the new year. Increadible.

Here are the provisions scheduled to expire.

Addendum: Here's the rollcall. Note that Frist switched his vote to No as a parlimentary means to keep the issue alive in case some of the other Senators voting No come to their senses.
Ramesh Ponnuru agrees with me, in part, on the legacy of William Proxmire, but with an added caveat.
The late senator gets too much credit from conservatives for having been tough on spending (which he wasn't, particularly)--and not enough for having been a pro-lifer (back when pro-lifers were a serious force in the Democratic party).

Of course, as I am more on the pro choice side, that does not lend credit to the late Senator in my eyes.
Victor Davis Hanson casts his scholarly eye on the situation in Iraq and concludes that we're winning and are going to win, despite the liberal Copperheads preaching defeat.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Motley Fools examine the implications of the new Space Race.
Flashman on the March by George McDonald Fraser.
William Proxmire, former Senator from Wisconson, is dead. If there is a just God, then he is answering for a lot as he is weighed in the balance. He was a remorseless, rentless foe of publically funded space exploration and, perhaps more than any other person who was in public life in the 20th Century, is responsible for the sad state of the American space program has been these past thirty years. He fought the Apollo program with the zeal that bordered on fanatical. His efforts to stop spending on post Apollo space projects is credited by this analyst with crippling those efforts. We are only now just beginning to recover.

Proxmire presented himself as an an opponent of "wasteful spending", which oddly enough did not include spending dear to his constituents in Wisconson, like dairy price subsidies. His behavior was most henious when dealing with science grants for the National Science Foundation. He and his staff would choose grants whose descriptions sounded absurd, but was not necessarily so, and then drag scientists before his committee to demand why they were "wasting" public money. In grilling happless researchers, many of whom were unused to communicating with laymen, not to mention hostile politicians, Proxmire would often use the tactics pioneered by his predeccessor, Joe McCarthy. Indeed, Proxmire was in many ways to government waste (a real problem) as the Tailgunner was to communism (a real evil.) Proxmire cared less about combating real waste than in promoting William Proxmire, even if it meant persecuting innocent people.

For example, one winner of the "Golden Fleece Award", a grandstanding stunt Proxmire used to highlight his own self appointed role as a fighter against "government waste", a scientist named Ronald Hutchinson, was compelled to sue Proxmire for defamation. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. Proxmire was forced to pubically apologize, promise not to engage in similer activities, and pay Hutchinson 25 thousand dollars. More on the suit here.

A number of other Golden Fleece Awards went to projects that later provided important breakthroughs, like the Aspen Movie Map, a revolutionary hyper media system developed by MIT in the late 1970s. Proxmire frequently had to apologize to recepients of his Golden Fleece Awards.

Proxmire was featured in at least two science fiction stories, under a different name in Death and the Senator by Arthur C. Clarke and under his own name in The Return of William Proxmire (in which he appears with the late, great Robert Heinlein) by Larry Niven. His name has become a verb, to proxmire, meaning to unfairly oppose science and space exploration for political reasons.

It may seem a little extreme to suggest that the world would have been better off had Proxmire never lived, but it is irrefutable that it would have been a better place had he not been a Senator.

Proxmire died today from complications of advanced alzheimers. Would it not be a bitter irony (though I do not know if this is the case) if some science project that he suppressed in the 70s or 80s might have led to a treatment for that illness, thus perhaps sparing him that most horrible of endings? Something for everyone to think of.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

More pronouncements from China about a man to the Moon program.
World renowned paleontologist Robert T. Bakker maintains that a giant ape like King Kong is--well--far fetched.

Is there anyone, renowed paleontologist or not, who does not know that?

Addendum: Rand Simberg agrees.

Addendum 2: Also racist?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Speaking of gay cowboys, the problem with Brokeback Mountain is not in its gay characters and themes, but rather that it is apparently a western without a lot of gun fire. Had I been in charge of development, I would have changed the story to have the principles be wild west bandits. Then we could shoe horn in some train robberies, bank robberies, confrontations in the middle of the street, and chase scenes with the posse. It could all end up with a final conflagration in some South American hell hole--say Bolivia.

Ah, you find the depictions of gay sex a little gross, do you? Well, you're an unenlightened bigot, but since the business of film is to sell as many tickets as possible, I have a solution. Make the two principles lesbians and cast Sharon Stone and Angelina Jolie in the roles. The tickets that would be bought by fans of Howard Stern alone would make the film the most successful western in history.
Apparently Prince Caspian, the sequel to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (a great film, by the way, even if there are no gay cowboys in it) is all but greenlit. And a good thing too.
One of my major problems with how the Soviet Empire fell is that there were never any trials of former communist leaders for the various crimes against humanity that they commited. The Poles, at least, seem ready to address that situation.
Michael Mealling has an account of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) initiative NASA gave to potential vendors. Some very interesting points.
The briefing opened with meta-comments from Neil Woodward about NASA HQ's point of view. He appeared to be trying to be as adament as possible that "The primary way we want to do ISS resuply is commercial". Using the CEV as ISS resupply is a risk mitigation step. Its development process has internal milestones that require a determination about whether COTS can replace it. If so then they dialback their internal effort as industry takes over. At Headquarters there is a "perfect storm" for support for COTS for various reasons. Everyone is saying "if it was there, we would use it. And therefore we want to help develop it." "Its difficult for us to think differently. But we have to because the old ways don't work anymore." Many interpreted much of that as a way of saying that if the industry steps up for COTS that they might consider COTS for all CEV crew deliveries, not just ISS. That could mean that if the industry does its job, the Stick might never go beyond the prototype stage.

This would tend to address the major gripe a lot of people have against ESAS, that it is insufficiently commercial. Of course, the commercial sector has to step up.

Michael has an interesting conclusion:
As you can imagine there was a lot of skepticism in the room. NASA is going to have to prove itself here and that's going to be hard for them to do. But its also going to be hard for the industry to prove itself too. Both sides need to have a little faith.


Monday, December 12, 2005

Looks like it's up the tall ladder and down the short rope for Tookie Williams, mass murderer and domestic terrorist chieftain. And a good thing too.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Gregory Benford and Michael Rose have a new essay out, available for downloading from Amazon:

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Richard Pryor has died. He was a comedian who could make you laugh and make you think all at the same time. However, it was always clear that his humor was born of pain and of demons that he often found difficult to control. The manner of his last years, slowly being destroyed by MS, is proof that life is often not fair. Hopefully he is now in a place beyond pain, but not beyond humor.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The paramilitary police of the third space faring nation massacred some peasents and is now trying to cover up that fact.
Looks like very soon Britain's socialist health care bureacracy may deny health care to people who eat, smoke, or drink too much. The idea is that lifestyle choices contributed to whatever made one sick, so it's unfair to burden the public with treating such people. I can see this sort of thing being expanded to denying treatment to AIDs patients or anyone else with an STD.

Of course, if socialist medicine ever got imposed in the United States, Dr. Gregory House could just not treat someone, under these rules, because, "You irritate me." After all, one doesn't have to do that.
After making a good splash several years ago with 1901, a novel depicting a German invasion of North America in the same year, Robert Conrpy returns to the alternate history genre with 1862 about the British intervention in the Amercian Civil War. I suspect this one will be far better than the Harry Harrison take on it.

The X Prize Foundation wants NASA to offer an orbital X Prize. If so, it should somehow compliment rather than replace Bigelow's America Orbital Prize.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Imperial Governor by George Shipway.
Day of Decision: The Battle of Tours.
Looks like the Congress is about to agree on the first NASA authorization bill in quite a while. The bill will do two things that are very important. It will officially put Congress's stamp of approval on the Vision for Space Exploration. This will make it a bit more difficult for the VSE to be cancelled in future years. And it will authorize the Centennial Challenges program, which offers prizes for technology demontrations. This is a great change in the way NASA does business and has a great deal of potential to expand the technology envelope for not a lot of money.
America's rejection of Kyoto was praised by someone very surprising.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Scott Adams, the superb, gives us a guide of how to argue on the Internet. Many of us have been victims of these methods (and I can say in my case, some others not mentioned.)
NASA's plan to commercialize space station resupply and crew transfer is gaining some interest among some of the smaller start up space companies.
Stan Crock has a dim view of the plan to alleviate the sky rocketing costs of the EELV by combining the two (Delta IV and Atlas V) into what amounts of as a rocket launcher cartel. His solution?:
So what should the Air Force do? What it wanted to do at the start: Pick one company and fully fund it. Otherwise, the EELV program will eat up so much of the space budget that other programs will suffer irreparably. It may not be easy to choose between a Boeing that cheated and its all-American Delta IV, which has few launches under its belt, or a Lockheed Martin Atlas V that relies on Russian technology but has five successes to date.

But, hey, that's why they pay the brass the big bucks. The Air Force also should leave open the possibility that new, lower-cost entrants, such as SpaceX, could compete for launches in the future. The best way to safeguard both reliability and taxpayers is to rely on competition and make a choice.

Interestingly enough, some of the opponents of NASA's return to the Moon plan actually think that one of the alternatives, assembling a Moon ship using EELVs, is "commercial." Methinks Mike Griffin is smarter than some folks give him credit for by rejecting that option.
Apollo 13: a True Life Space Adventure.
Michael Schiavo, who succeeded in having his wife Terri put to death by slow starvation and thirst before the eyes of the world, has decided to add insult to injury by starting a political pac to defeat those politicians who tried, albeit ineffectively, to stop him. To add something indescriable to insult, he is calling it Terri Pac.

Meanwhile, Diana Lynne, takes stock months after Terri was put to death.
House MD: The Misanthrope as Hero.
Designated Targets by John Birmingham.
This is, of course, the sixty fourth anniversary of that other Day of Infamy, the one that took place at Pearl Harbor. Just as 9/11 resulted in the deaths of two tyrannies--the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Baathists in Iraq, Pearl Harbor resulted in the death of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Then as now, one strikes at the Eagle at ones peril.

There was a difference back then. Can one imagine a Republican Senator accusing American boys fighting in the Pacific and Europe of terrorism? Can one imagine a Republican Congressman demanding a withdraw of American troops from the fighting fronts? Can one imagine the head of the Republican Party claiming that victory over Japan and Germany was impossible?

No one cannot. The loyal opposition in the 1940s would never have sacrificed their country's intrest for sordid political gain. They would not have even conceived that such a thing was possible, not to mention desirable. Why is it different today? Is it the times? Or just the charecter of the people demanding defeat?
How the CEV will work.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Looks like Steven Sommers (Van Helsing, Mummy, Mummy Returns) is back on as writer/director of the remake of When Worlds Collide. Spielberg will still produce.
Apparentlty Global Warming is not only bad for the environment, but it is sexist as well.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Looks like John Kerry, who once accused Vietnam vets of being war criminals, is trash talking American soldiers again, this time on Face the Nation.
And there is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night,terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the--of--the historical customs, religious customs.

What a piece of work is this man.
Ryan Zelnio has a proposal to establish an international framework for developing the Moon. I'm a little bit skeptical. I'm all in favor of a Lunar Development Authority that can buy goods and services from the commercial sector, but Zelnio's idea seems to be overly bureaucratic, cedes too much authority to foreign countries, and imposes arbitrary rules concerning contracting.

Addendum: Tom James has a good analysis of some of the proposals flaws.
Hugh Sidey and the Decision to Go to the Moon.

This is not a very flattering protrait of JFK and the best and the brightest as they wrestled with the implications of the Gagarin flight.
Taylor Dinerman examines the problems with trying to balance efforts to wind down the shuttle program with building the space craft that will take America back to the Moon.

Addendum: Robot Guy has some thoughts.
If President Bush is serious about the VSE, then it is essential to retire the shuttles as soon as possible, preferably before he leaves office. If the shuttles are still flying in 2014, then the VSE probably won't happen at all, and Mark Whittington will get an "I-told-you-so" moment as China sets up a base on the moon before NASA does.

Lord, I hope not.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

One would think that if one were doing a movie about the modern Middle East, one would have fanatical Islamofascist terrorists as the bad guys. But in Syriana, this is not so. Instead the bad guys are the old Hollywood standby of CIA agents in cahoots with the evil oil companies.
Mike Mealling has some interesting thoughts on the whole NASA return to the Moon kerfluffle that still seems to be bothering some of the internet rocketeers. He even has a good historical analogy, even though his conclusions are wide of the mark.

Of course, Mike does not seem to be aware that mainframes are still marketed by IBM and still have their place in the great scheme of things. Steve Jobs (as well as Bill Gates and others) didn't make Big Iron obsolete, but rather expanded access to computer technology from large companies and government to--well--just about everybody with PCs and client servers. The universe of data processing includes a wide variety of technologies, which still include mainframes (some of them, by the way, hooked up to server networks.)

That might be the role that smaller space companies--the Apples and the Dells of the aerospace industry--have, not to supplant NASA or Boeing, but to expand access to space travel by adding new technology. I suspect that just as IBM is still going strong today, albeit differently, as it was in the 1970s, NASA and the big aerospace companies will thrive just as well in--say--the year 2050 when SpaceX and SpaceDev (or it's equivalents) are fortune 500 companies

Mike is also wrong when he suggests that NASA's return to the Moon technology is "flawed." It actually does what it is supposed to do, which is to get people back to the Moon with as little fuss as possible (given the inefficient and wasteful ways of government agencies.) It is not meant to be the be all and end all of opening up the Moon or any place else to human settlement and industrial development. Another Mike, a fellow named Griffin, recently made some useful suggestions along those lines. The commercial sector can expand NASA's return to the Moon into a large scale movement to open up the high frontier of space, if it will step up to the challenge. I would add that to Mike Mealling's good ideas about what folks who are serious about making a go at making money on space travel should pursue.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Will there be new Serenity on the SciFi Channel?
Abu Hamza Rabia, a top Al Qaeda operative, has joined the growing Al Qaeda contingent in Hell.
Torture is still used as a regular tool of law enforcement in China. Nor does the word refer to making prisoners stand around naked while being photographed by depraved, bored prison guards.
"There is much that still needs to be done; there is a need for many more structural reforms," said Mr. Nowak, a law professor in Vienna, Austria.
Torture methods he cited include the use of electric-shock batons, cigarette burns, submersion in pits of water or sewage and exposure to conditions of extreme heat or cold.
In Tibet, Mr. Nowak was told that sleep deprivation was frequently used, in one case for 17 days.

The world's latest space faring nation is also a police state. Something to think about.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Apparently I'm educated enough to be a US citizen.

You Passed the US Citizenship Test

Congratulations - you got 10 out of 10 correct!

Thanks to Fred Kiesche.
One of the raps against NASA is that it's a little bit hide bound, resistant to innovation, and incapable of thinking outside the box. For a long time, that rap was pretty much on target. The Centennial Challenge has been evidence that the space agency is at least trying to change its ways. Two more, in fact, have been added.
The space agency is challenging innovators to build an autonomous aerial vehicle to navigate a tricky flight path or robots capable of building complex structures with only limited guidance from their human handlers, NASA officials said.

The sticking point for getting this worthy program expanded is not NASA, but the Congress (speaking of institutions that are hide bound, resistant to innovation, and incapable of thinking outside the box.) I think that if the space activism community would spend a part of the effort it spends picnicing on one another lobbying for some of this stuff, great things can be accomplished.
Rand Simberg directs more ire at the Chinese space program, apparently based on a faked video derived from a Dutch beer commercial.
Here is a copy of our strategy for winning the war in Iraq, apparently geared toward liberal democrats.
The palace of King David may have been discovered in Jerusalem. Considering the religious politics of archeology in the Holy Land, the yelling and the screaming has just begun.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Let's wish the ACLU a Merry Christmas.
Day of Decision: The Battle of Hastings.
Rick Tumlinson, of the Space Frontier Foundation, fires a shot at NASA's return to the Moon program. Like all of the other shots, it starts a little weak as it relies not on evidence but on assertions unsupported by evidence to make his point. However, unlike most other critiques, Tumlinson actually has deigned to make some suggestions, many of them useful.
• NASA (with Congress) should change its central contracting method to pay for services and pay for delivery. It should make cost-plus contracts the exception rather than the norm. Multi-year appropriations should be a part of this package.
• Starting with low Earth orbit, NASA should set up a management authority to run at least our part of the international space station (ISS) and mandate that its focus be on supporting and enabling commercial infrastructure. At the same time, that authority should not encourage commercial activities on ISS that might compete with real enterprises such as the space facility being developed by Bigelow Aerospace.
• All nation-to-nation barter deals should be banned unless a U.S. commercial solution has been tried first. On the other hand, NASA should push for exemptions to the export controls known as the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations to encourage international commercial partnerships.
• Greatly expand the Centennial Challenges program.
• Immediately cut contracts for commercial ISS resupply and eventually propellant transport to LEO.
• Immediately allocate money for vouchers, to help kick start the NewSpace sub-orbital transportation industry, creating a market for ever higher rides for science payloads, astronauts and even teachers.
• Announce the shuttle program is over except for one last glorious flight to save the Hubble telescope. The agency should swallow a little short-term pride and buy a package deal of astronaut rides on the Soyuz (buy them at the current commercial rate, and get a discount for quantity - this really works every day outside of government).
• If NASA cannot wiggle out of agreements to carry ISS components, often cited as the reason for keeping the shuttle going, either quickly build a shuttle-based side mounted, arm equipped, low-tech container or convert one of the shuttles to remote control (DARPA and the Russians know how to do this one).
• With money saved by canceling the shuttle NASA should offer at least three U.S. firms a total of $10 billion for the first demonstrations of fully reusable people carriers to low Earth orbit – to be delivered by 2010.
• NASA should offer the winners multiyear contracts to carry astronauts to ISS and to board the trans-lunar spacecraft. Offer to pay them around $5 million per LEO ride, and let them sell the extra seats to anyone they want.

Back to the Moon - Frontier Style
• Moving outwards, the Moon/Mars architecture should be redesigned to one that is frontier enabling rather than a dead end.
• NASA should restart its long lead research support for interplanetary spaceships such as Prometheus and nuclear power sources for use in space.
• NASA should begin development of fully reusable LEO/Moon transportation systems.
• The agency should make all lunar robotic missions frontier science oriented, surveying resources and sites for the place we will put our first base. Once selected, focus efforts on the chosen site and its environs.
• Load the landers with commercially sponsored energy production and In Situ Resource Utilization experiments and send rovers to explore the shadows and ice.
• There should also be a priority search for big money payoffs like asteroid impact based platinum.
• Build up the base using transportation/habitation systems that are designed to be rough, tough and growable – nothing expendable allowed.
• Put out a long-term lease-based prize/contingency contract to rent lunar surface habitats from the first two firms to demonstrate them here on Earth by keeping them going for six months or so in a lunar analogous environment.

There are a few nits I would pick. Such as, I suspect Mike Griffin would claim that a cost plus arrangement is going to be the exception rather than the rule, if you look at the over all picture. The ESAS is just one part of that. Also, I'd rather see the private sector develop a "fully reusable" LEO/Moon transportation system rather than NASA. The latter is the sure way to another shuttle at best, another X-33 at worse.

Still, I give Tumlinson points for offering solutions as well as complaints. Good work.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Jon Goff gives Jeffrey Bell the back of his hand, while offering some good thoughts on the effects of microgravity vs low gravity.
These numbers suggest that NASA is trying for a big increase for next year in spending.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Did Hu Jintoa pull off a JFK moment?
Serenity, the movie spin-off of the TV series Firefly, did not do as well as one might have hoped, so therefore the likelihood os sequals would seem to be dim at best. Glenn Reynolds suggests a solution.
More fascinating discussion on China's lunar plans.
Living on the Moon.

Addendum: Yes, I'm aware of the editing screw ups the content site has made on the piece. They've been informed and the problem should be fixed ASAP.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Jason Verheyden is deeply mortified that Paul Hellyer is Canadian. Then he makes an alarming suggestion:
How do they know for sure that these guys are peaceful and ethical? We're the Indians, they're the Europeans. I'm sorry, but ethically speaking, I'm thinking that an advanced good natured race would leave us alone and let us be. That way they don't take the risk that they could do what the Europeans did to the Indians.

In fact, I would take it as a sign of bad things if an alien species were abducting people in secret and sporadically popping in randomn areas... I would call that a prelude to invasion. If they were really advanced, they would recognize how uncivilized we are, and would give us time to mature.
Meanwhile, Burt Rutan quietly works to bring about the new era of suborbital barnstorming. One reason I like Rutan is that he lets his deeds, which are impressive, speak for him.
Daniel Handlin concludes his defense of NASA's return to the Moon plan.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

For some, it must be wonderful to have been alive to work on the last series of moon landings and now be able to work on the next.
Harrison Schmitt's Return to the Moon is finally out.

Addendum: Then again, perhaps not. This is a puzzlement because earlier today it was available. But it should be soon, we trust

Meanwhile no word yet on the other Return to the Moon.
Here's more on Bruce Willis' plans to make a movie based on the exploits of Deuce Four. I hope the deal comes to fruition, but caution gentle readers that a lot of Hollywood films don't get made in the end. Remember when Johney Rambo was going to personally go to Afghanistan and kill Osama bin Ladin? Still it would be nice to see a film about modern war in which the Americans are the good guys.
More indications that the Chinese intend to send astronauts to the Moon sooner rather than later.

Addendum: With unrelenting predictability, Rand Simberg disagrees:
If Mike Griffin's deputy said, "I think that in about fifteen years, we could have the capability to send humans to Jupiter," would Mark then agree with the headline "US Aims To Put Man On Jupiter By 2020"? Would he say that there are "indications" that this is a US goal?

Well, given his apparent gullibility, perhaps he would.

Of course landing a man on Jupiter and landing one on the Moon are exactly analogous. At least it seems Rand thinks so. For the record, I think not.

Of course Rand might be suggesting that it would be as hard for China to launch a lunar expedition as it would be for America to launch a Jupiter expedition (the latter of which would actually land on a gas giant.) It's hard to be sure what he's thinking when he imagines that an American public official would say the sort of thing he suggests that he or she would say.

Addendum Two: Peoples Daily also has a story on China's possible lunar plans.
China plans to achieve extravehicular activity by astronauts and locking of spacecraft by 2012, basis for establishing the future space station and even the moon probing, he said.

It appears that an Earth orbit assembly of a lunar craft is being considered, as I read between the lines.
Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng, who recently flew in orbit aboard the Shenzhou 6 space craft, will shortly visit Hong Kong to whip up patriotism and otherwise buttress the legitimacy of the current regime. Totalitarian governments like China's, which regularly violate human rights and hide little embarrassment like SARS and the full extent of Bird Flu, tend to find these little shows useful. The public relations aspect of China's space program (or anyone's space program for that matter) is not something to be despised. One of the main purposes of Apollo, after all, was to showcase the technological superiority of the United States, which it did very successfully. Considering what else was happening at the time, this was a good thing. We need to remember this when regarding out current space efforts.

And that applies to those being undertaken by plucky entrepreneurs like Rutan and Musk, as well as NASA's. America, after all, is still the land where individuals can move the Earth if they have but the will and the ability.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Friday, November 25, 2005

Dr. Duncan Steele makes the case for exploring the asteroids with human beings.
Jeffrey Bell has been reading posts on various BBS and is thus incited to write another diatribe. Now, I think it's all kind of quaint to go searching for rational discourse on internet BBS; it's sort of like trying to find an honest man in Congress. You'll probably discover what you are looking for, but it will be a hard search indeed.

Bell also goes postal over a famous painting.
This dream palace is symbolized by one particular image that one sees far too often these days. This is an artist's concept of a future Moon base/colony with a small spacesuited child playing joyfully in the regolith like it was a gigantic sandbox.

Logically, this image makes no sense.

1) Spacesuits are so expensive and so tailored to individual measurements that no Moon parents could afford to have a whole series custom-made for a growing child.

2) EVA is so dangerous that no one would allow an irresponsible child out in vacuum. (Even the Robert Heinlein kid's SF novels that we Boomers grew up on were relatively sane on this point.)

3) The child would be exposed to deadly cosmic rays at a critical time in its development.

4) No child could grow normally in the low lunar gravity. Even adult astronauts are carried away on wheelchairs after only 6 months in space (the last American to return from the ISS actually fainted from the stress of normal gravity).

I remember the picture, a bit of whimsy as I recall. Even so, point (1) seems to me to be a bit silly. Is Bell suggesting that off the rack space suits are never going to be invented?

Point (2) seems also silly. Dangerous compared to what? And I'm sure kids taking a walk outside the habitat will be under adult supervision.

Point (3) has a little more basis for concern. But I think data is lacking about how much exposure to cosmic rays would be bad for little children. More research is needed before we come to any definative conclusions.

Ditto for point (4) Bell is suggesting that long term exposure to low gravity (one sixth on the Moon and about one third on Mars) is just as bad as exposure to micro gravity. There's no data to support any conclusion either way. Nor is there sufficient data on possible counter measures.
Mark Trylson has an interview with aviation legend Dick Rutan.
This particular story might have come from The Onion, except it seems that the people involved are dead serious.
On September 25, 2005, in a startling speech at the University of Toronto that caught the attention of mainstream newspapers and magazines, Paul Hellyer, Canada’s Defence Minister from 1963-67 under Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Prime Minister Lester Pearson, publicly stated: "UFOs, are as real as the airplanes that fly over your head."

Mr. Hellyer went on to say, "I'm so concerned about what the consequences might be of starting an intergalactic war, that I just think I had to say something."

Hellyer revealed, "The secrecy involved in all matters pertaining to the Roswell incident was unparalled. The classification was, from the outset, above top secret, so the vast majority of U.S. officials and politicians, let alone a mere allied minister of defence, were never in-the-loop."

Hellyer warned, "The United States military are preparing weapons which could be used against the aliens, and they could get us into an intergalactic war without us ever having any warning. He stated, "The Bush administration has finally agreed to let the military build a forward base on the moon, which will put them in a better position to keep track of the goings and comings of the visitors from space, and to shoot at them, if they so decide."

I suppose it must be an evil plot by the Neocons to foist democracy on the Klingons and the Romulans.
The first flight of the Falcon draws nigh, currently scheduled for Saturday.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Chris Matthews suggests that he was misquoted about terrorists and says that they should be killed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Day of Decision: The Battle of Trafalgar.
More proof that some environmentalists will find a reason to hate any source of energy. Just as they discovered that wind mills hurt birds, they have now discovered that biofuels will destroy the rain forest.

Monday, November 21, 2005

So which science fiction writer are you?
Capote: a Film about a Book and its Author.
SpaceDev claims it can do a manned lunar mission for ten billion dollars, about one tenth the estimated cost of NASA's return to the Moon plan. Of course the trick is raising that amount of capital in the private market.

For those who will inevitably jump up and down about this and demand that Jim Benson just be given ten billion and then told to have at it, should bother to read the following legal language at the bottom of the article:
Except for the factual statements made herein, the information contained in this news release consists of forward-looking statements that involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions that are difficult to predict. Forward-looking statements are based on the Company's current expectations. Such forward-looking statements are not guarantees of performance, and the Company's actual results could differ materially from the Company’s current expectations based on many factors that are directly or indirectly related to the items discussed above.
Chris Matthews tries to understand the differnt point of view of people who slice off peoples' heads, blow up women and children, and are at war with the whole world and find that they are not evil.
Jeff Foust makes the case for going to the moons of Mars before Mars itself.
Jeff Brooks, a partisan Democrat, wonders why his fellow liberals oppose space exploration and suggest they ought to because it fits with "Democratic values." They should, in my opinion, because it fits American and Western values. But Brooks' argument falls down because of a misunderstanding of what Democratic values are.
Since this was about politics, it didn’t come as a surprise. Bush was for it, so Democrats were against it. Had President Clinton announced an identical program of space exploration in the middle of his time in office, Republicans undoubtedly would have viciously attacked him for it, probably using many of the same arguments.

Actually, not true. Realizing that a lot of liberals would stop bathing if President Bush were to expound on the virtues of cleanliness, conservatives to my observation don't share that tendency. After all, Bill Clinton did support the space station (mainly because it would have hurt him politically to oppose it) and as it turns out, Congressional Republicans agreed with him far more than Congressional Democrats.
If unsurprising, I did find the sudden Democratic opposition to space exploration rather ironic. After all, the Democratic Party has historically been very supportive of space exploration. It is no coincidence that the two most important NASA facilities in the country, Kennedy Space Center and Johnson Space Center, are named after Democratic presidents. John F. Kennedy had the political courage and wisdom to launch the Apollo program and Lyndon B. Johnson had the political skill and willpower to see it through. When John Glenn ran for the Senate, he did so as a Democrat.

Brooks seem unaware of more recent history. Democrats like Senators Proxmire, Mondale, Ted Kennedy, and George McGovern were early opponents of space exploration in the late 60s and 70s. In the 1980s and 1990s opposition to the space station project was largely Democratic (with a smattering of budget hawk Republicans). Congressman Traxler, an appropriations subcommittee chairman, tried to kill the space station. Senator Kerry was an opponent of the space station and seemed indifferent (at best) to going to the Moon and Mars during last years campaign. Oddly enough, recent history has given us more hope for a bipartisan consensus. While uberlefty Barney Frank is opposed to the Vision for Space Exploration, funding for it has passed by wide, bipartisan margins. Of course that may be reflective more of the attitude among elected Democrats than the Michael Moore fans Brooks hangs out with.
The Democratic Party supposedly stands for progressive values, while the Republican Party ostensibly stands for conservative ideals. It sometimes seems that these identifications have ceased to have any real meaning, but in terms of classical political philosophy, conservatism seeks to maintain society as it is or go back to what it once was, while progressivism seeks the transformation of society from what it is to what it should be. If the Democratic Party still holds true to its progressive beliefs, it should be a staunch defender and supporter of space exploration. Rather than jeer Bush for the Vision for Space Exploration, the Democrats should have cheered him for it.

Shall I be impolite and talk about conservative attempts to reform the tax code, social security, health care, and other things and liberal opposition to the same? Brooks seems to have the matter exactly backwards.
It might strike some as odd to associate space exploration with political progressivism. But space exploration is about far more than sending robots to take pictures of the rings of Saturn or sending astronauts to pick up rocks on the Moon. Like political progressivism itself, space exploration is about a glorious and hopeful vision of the future. It’s about making the future better than the past.

To be further rude, but accurate, it seems to me that the "progressive" vision for the future is not an expansive, space faring civilization, but an inward looking, isolated welfare state, more France than America.
Consider protecting the environment, which Democrats claim as one of their main issues. A solid reason to support a robust space program is that, in the long run, genuine solutions to our planet’s environmental problem will require easy access to space.

The single greatest cause of environmental damage is the production of energy. Conventional power-generation technology involves the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil or the use of nuclear fission reactors, and we know that renewable energy sources can only go so far in replacing fossil fuel and nuclear fission power. In the long run, the only genuine solutions to these problems require the use of space resources. Space-based solar power is one possible answer; nuclear fusion using lunar helium-3 is another. Energy beyond imagining, more than enough to lift the entire world up into an acceptable standard of living, without polluting a single environment, is ours for the taking. We simply have to decide to do it.

Others have pointed out the immense potential of exploiting the resources of the asteroid belt, which contains sufficient raw materials to meet every conceivable need of humanity. Automated mining operations could dismantle the asteroids and transport them to Earth orbit, where they could brought down to the surface using space elevator technology, now under development. If we could successfully exploit the resources of the Asteroid Belt, we would never again have to carve huge scars into our planet’s surface in our quest for resources.

So, imagine a world without smokestacks or stripe mines, a world where the air we breathe and the water we drink is not tainted with noxious chemicals, a world where all our energy and material needs are met by the resources of the solar system, freeing the Earth to be the paradise we all want it to be. Rather than simply complaining about environmental problems, easy access to space would give us the power to actually do something about this.

All very true and arguments I have used. But Brooks seems unaware of the fact that many environmentalists oppose any new power generation or industrial development whether they are environmentally benign or not. I have even heard of people opposing "strip mining the Moon."
The advocates of space exploration tend to be a starry-eyed bunch. We envision a future that sees humanity thriving in colonies on the Moon, Mars, and beyond. We envision a future where heroic tales of exploration and discovery have replaced stories of bloody warfare in the collective imagination of humanity—where the exploration of space has become what the philosopher William James called “the moral equivalent of war.” We envision a future where the resources of the solar system have created such abundance that no human being is in need. In short, we envision a future here humanity lives up to its full potential.

That reminds me of an occassion I witnessed when Bob Zubrin, the famous Mars advocate, was presenting just such a vision, comparing it to the winning of the American West. Some fellow in the audience made a crack about the dispoiling of the hapless Native Americans, seemingly not to realize that there are no Native Martians to oppress. That didn't stop Ben Bova, the science fiction writer and someone who should know better, from opposing the settlement of Mars lest it's prestine lands be dispoiled.
The people I had the honor of working with during the 2004 campaign season were some of the most intelligent and idealistic people I have ever known. They also had a hopeful vision of the future, where poor children had access to proper healthcare, everyone was given to a good education, and one could take a deep breath and not worry about inhaling pollution. To these people, if not to people in the upper echelons of the party, being a Democrat was all about wanted to create a good future for all people. They also want to help humanity live up to its full potential.

By taxing the bejesus out of everybody. Which reminds me. Not at one point in this piece does Brooks touch upon why Democrats ought to support private space enterprises.
Far from being antagonistic, it seems to me that these two visions are natural allies. Each is oriented to the future and each is full of hope. More importantly, it pursued in the right way, they can mutually support one another. The space program can provide the solutions to many of the problems Democrats care about, while the pursuit of egalitarianism, international cooperation, excellence in education and other Democratic issues can contribute to a successful space program.

Welfare states do not explore space very well. There's no money in the private or public sectors for it, since it's all being spent on social programs.
All this is not to say that Republicans are opposed or should be opposed to space exploration—far from it. There are many aspects of Republican ideology which should make it supportive of space exploration, too.

Mr. Brooks, President Bush and Congressman Delay thank you for this insight.
In my mind, space exploration should not be a partisan issue. Space advocates can come from both parties and might be bitterly divided over the war in Iraq, abortion, tax policy, and uncountable other things. However, on the subject of space exploration, there is no reason why Democrats and Republicans cannot be allies.

The fact that it has fallen to a Republican president to issue the Vision for Space Exploration should not keep Democrats from supporting it. Divided as Americans are on so many other issues, the expansion of humanity throughout the solar system is a cause worthy of a Grand Alliance.

If Hillary Clinton gets elected President, I trust she will remember this.
Daniel Handlin provides an examination and defense of NASA's return to the Moon plan.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Has al-Zargawi at last been sent to the flames of Hell? I have my fingers crossed.
Being a person who is at once attractive, smart, articulate, conservative, and a minority, Michelle Malkin has gotten far more than her share of hate from the far left. Now it looks like some people are going beyond that leval of viciousness to attack her family. I have the greatest sympathy. My own family was once the subject of a racist attack because of my views. So I have naught but scorn for people who do that. It is a vile, stupid, and ungentlemanly.
John Weidner discusses some of the weird political mythology in Steve Baxter's book Titan. Sadly, while he almost gets it, he throws in a little mythology of his own.
And, far from losing interest in space and letting NASA die, people now, young people, are starting thrilling new space ventures (and letting NASA die). The big-government/NASA/send-only-the-elite-few vision of space travel is being replaced by one where young billionaires want to let everybody get to space. And it's not a movement that has much connection with traditional politics, but it fits more with conservative thinking than liberal.

The problem is that's not entirely so. Far from dying, NASA is being revitalized thanks to the Vision for Space Exploration proposed by that right wing, conservative President who is somehow so different from the right wing, conservatives of liberal myth. Most polling shows a great deal of enthusiasm for exploring space beyond low Earth orbit, even if it's done by big gummmit. Also, NASA seems to at last be embracing the entrepreneurial spirit and would like very much to buy services from the commercial sector, if the commercial sector will step up and start providing them.

Liberals, as John Weidner points out, are captives of their own myths. But I think that to some extent and for some of them, libertarians are too. There is no dichotomy between evil big gummit and those plucky entrepreneurs. Both have their place in the great process of opening the high frontier of space. Helping them find their place is the great challenge of space policy of our age.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Cochlear Implants: Helping the Deaf to Hear.
One of the slams against NASA's return to the Moon program is that it's "not commercial" and that it relies on government built and operated hardware. Mike Griffin suggests that this is not so. He suggests that the ESAS is simply the bare core of what needs to be done to get people back to the Moon. Commercial participation, in the form of fuel depots, will greatly enhance our ability to mainatin a vigorous program of lunar exploration and settlement. Now, will the crowd learn to take yes for an answer?
The Foresight Exchange is one of those online markets where people bet money on the future: everything from the price of oil next year to who will be President in 2009. Some of these markets have proven to be pretty accurate predictors. The most recent prediction for China landing a man on the Moon by 2020 is at sixty five percent.

The prediction for an American landing by 2020 now stands at forty percent.

The prediction for private space companies is a little more promising at sixty percent.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Dan Schrimpsher has some good suggestions on how NASA TV could be improved.
Charles Krauthammer offers the most clearly stated polemic against "Intelligent Design" that I've read.
Britain's Sky One means to remake the 1960s classic series of paranoia and intrigue The Prisoner.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Frank J talks about Boston Legal, a great show often ruined by far left pontification. It sparks a great debate about TV and politics.

For a great right wing show, give me 24, which as Keifer Sutherland blowing away and otherwise abusing terrorists with great gusto.
John Murtha (D) Pennsylvania for all intents and purposes call for a surrender in the war on terror. He should be ashamed.

Addendum: According to Hannity, this has not been the first time.
John Lewis, a senior fellow and director of technology policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, suggests that China is about thirty years away from a manned lunar landing. That would be ok if there is a US government presence on the Moon before then, but not so good if we dither and argue over whether our effort is politically correct or not.

Of course, Lewis' estimate is based on the Chinese building a Long March 6 super heavy lifter first. They could get to the Moon much earlier with Long March 5 and Earth orbit rendezvous.

Addendum: Rand Simberg breathes a sigh of relief and then repeats something that both John Goff and Nikita Khrushchev have said.
Of course, when they do, they won't need to bring much in the way of supplies--they'll be able to check in to the Lunar Hilton.

Maybe. But if there is no US government preasence to help enforce property rights (and if Rand were to have his way, that's how it will be whether he cares to admit it or not) the Lunar Hilton might shortly thereafter be under new management.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

SpaceX's problems with Falcon 1's engines will keep James Doohan's ashes grounded until at least February. Of course if Scotty worked for SpaceX, they would be ready for a Christmas launch, in my opinion.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Michael Griffin articulates a vision of a space faring future.
Riches in the Sky: The Promise of Asteroid Mining.
On the eve of the President's Asia trip, Frank Gaffney warnes of the danger of coddling the Chinese.
It flows from this basic insight that we must be concerned about such developments as:
The persistent assertion by the Chinese leadership to their political cadre and military officers that America is the "main enemy" and that war with the United States is "inevitable."
Official Chinese efforts to secure energy resources from all over the world to meet its yawning needs (notably for oil, coal and natural gas) in a way that seems meant to deny such resources to the U.S. and other global competitors.
The PRC's predatory trade practices and intellectual property theft that continue in violation of past commitments and World Trade Organization obligations. In part, the result is a bilateral trade deficit that has increased "over 140 percent in only four years." The wealth thus garnered by China is used -- among other things -- to fuel the plundering of America's remaining high-technology industrial base and the utter liquidation of our manufacturing sector.
Wealth transfers from the United States are underwriting Beijing's ominous build-up of its armed forces, as well. The commission says: "China is engaged in a major military modernization program, the motives of which are opaque and unexplained. It is building a modern navy and air force, upgrading its nuclear-armed ICBM force and beginning to operate in a power-projection mode. It has markedly expanded its information warfare operations to a level that is clearly designed to disrupt American systems."
The commission has also helpfully warned about the PRC's increasingly bringing economic dinosaurs -- its biggest "banks" and other state-owned enterprises -- to the U.S. capital markets. By so doing, it is offloading the financing of otherwise unsustainable entities onto American investors. As a result, the latter are unwittingly helping underwrite the unsavory activities of such enterprises -- including: China's proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, arms build-up, environmental depredation, technology theft (including the Navy's Aegis fleet air defense system and nuclear warhead designs), espionage and slave-labor manufacturing operations, etc.
Finally, China is engaged in activities that pose a more immediate danger. Two of its nationals were recently arrested trying to sell Chinese-made QW-2 man-portable surface-to-air missiles in this country. Had they done so, the result could have given rise to a potentially grave threat to American airliners. And Chinese micro-satellites are being readied to attack our space assets as another, potentially devastating manifestation of Beijing's pursuit of what the Pentagon calls "asymmetric warfare" capabilities against the United States.

Of course I am assured that the Chinese would not even think of behaving badly in space. That would be "stupid."

Addendum: Rand Simberg reacts in his usual manner.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Condi Vs Hillary: the Next Great Presidential Race by Dick Morris.
Recently Britain's Royal Astronautical Society issued a report endorsing human space flight. Taylor Dinerman speculates on the report's implications.
Elon Musk, of SpaceX, is not a person shy of articulating big dreams for his company. Among them appear to be a heavy lifter that would seem to be competition for NASA's planned heavy lift launcher that is designed to take people back to the Moon and on to Mars. That would seem to me to undercut the notion, put forth in some quarters, that a heavy lift launcher can't be developed commercially. Also, oddly enough, if it's ready by 2018, NASA would have a commercially available backup launcher for it's exploration plans. Not to mention what the private sector could do with it.

On the other hand, SpaceX still has not launched so much as an ant into low Earth orbit. But one hopes that it will succeed in lowering the cost of launching things larger than that and hence expanding the market.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Serenity, with a doubt the best space adventure movie to come along in a long time, did not find the mass audience it deserved. My theory is that a lot of people were confused by the title. Perhaps if it had been called Star Ship Serenity or, perhaps, Serenity: The Alliance Strikes Back, things might have been differnt.

Anyway, the movie is available for order on DVD, just in time for the holidays.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Bruce Willis proves that not everyone in Hollywood is a leftist idealogue.
In an interview that aired last night on MSNBC's "Rita Cosby: Live and Direct" (9 p.m. ET), actor Bruce Willis told Cosby he would offer one million dollars to any civilian who would turn in Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Willis talks to Cosby about his support for embedded blogger Michael Yon, and the actor says he is in talks about a possible film about the Deuce Four, the soldiers Yon is embedded with in Iraq.

I can't wait to see that movie.
President Bush has dropped the hammer on the Fifth Column in America.
And our debate at home must also be fair-minded. One of the hallmarks of a free society and what makes our country strong is that our political leaders can discuss their differences openly, even in times of war.

When I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support. I also recognize that some of our fellow citizens and elected officials didn't support the liberation of Iraq, and that is their right, and I respect it. As president and commander in chief, I (accept ?) the responsibilities and the criticisms and the consequences that come with such a solemn decision. While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decisions or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began.

Some Democrats and antiwar critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war. These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs. They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein. They know the United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions citing his development and possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Many of these critics supported my opponent during the last election, who explained his position to support the resolution in the Congress this way: "When I vote to give the president of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hand is a threat and a grave threat to our security."

That's why more then a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate, who had access to the same intelligence, voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power.

The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important for politicians to throw out false charges. These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will. As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send to them to war continue to stand behind them. Our troops deserve to know that this support will remain firm when the going gets tough. And our troops deserve to know that when -- whatever our differences in Washington, our will is strong, our nation is united, and we will settle for nothing less then victory.

Bravo, Mr. President. Bravo. And about time, too.
Some of the countries trying to grab control of the Internet from the United States are also some of the worst human rights abusers in the world, especially where it comes to stopping free speech. China is the prime example.

I see certain parallels with a controversy that will surely occur in the future, over who will "control" the Moon (see one scenario below.) That's a reason why there needs to be a US government presence on the lunar surface sooner rather than later.
Moon dust was the bane of the Apollo astronauts. It got into everything and actually could prove to be a health hazard. But is also could be a good building material for future space settlers.
XCOR's EZ-Rocket will shortly attempt to break a distance record for point-to-point rocket-powered take off and landing, It may be a prelude of things to come as the "NASCAR in the sky" starts up.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Dr. Ron Sugar, President and CEO of Northrop Grumman, sings praises of the new age of exploration.
You all have probably met them, the armchair warriors who claim to have won a chest full of medals in Vietnam but actually had never put on a uniform in their lives. Anne Morse writes about these annoying people. Now that we have a new war, they'll be plenty of folks who will claim that they were in on the capture of Saddem or rode in that cavalry charge at Mazar-al-Sharif. Beware of them.
Happy 230rd Birthday to the United States Marine Corps.
Looks like the SciFi Channel has (sort of) found Saddem's weapons of mass destruction.
S. M. Stirling, the author of such series as the Draka and Island in the Sea of Time, is preparing to publish a new series of novels called Lords of Creation. The premise is that Venus and Mars are habitable planets, just as the old pulp SF stories from the fifties said they were. Earth history is about the same up until 1962. Then the West and the Soviets get into a real space race. Here are some sample chapters of the first book, set on a very strange Venus, The Sky People.
Her Majesty's Spymaster by Stephen Budiansky.
Rand Simberg has actually asked an interesting question. Why is the current plan by NASA to return to the Moon worthy of support? In answering this question, we have to make an assumption and then recognize some painful truths.

First, the assumption. Sending people to the Moon and eventually beyond is a desirable national goal. The Moon especially is a venue for a great many scientific and commercial opportunities. A subset of this assumption is that concentrating on this goal is the best use of NASA resources.

Now the painful truths.

First, the budget for doing this is not going to be unlimited. The upward limit, given the current political balance of power is between about .6 and 1 percent of the federal budget. Therefore, no Apollo-like sprint, but rather a slow, steady development cycle lasting for a number of years.

Second, a number of political constituencies have to be satisfied for any plan to return to the Moon to receive funding. That includes the shuttle constituency (based on jobs in the district), planetary science, and aeronautics. If any of these constituencies feel too short changed, they will oppose the plan.

Third, enabling commercial development is only one subset of the goal. There are also science and national security aspects of the goal of getting back to the Moon.

Fourth, the Moon is just one destination. Beyond it, lays Mars.

Given this, it seems to me that the plan put forth by NASA to return to the Moon best recognizes these facts.

First, it gets people back to the Moon.

Second, it does so with a reasonable (i.e. not Apollo sized) budget.

Third, is satisfies the various political constituencies by not impacting them too severely. There has to be a balance between this and the second aspect. That’s proving to be difficult. Getting the shuttle back into service is proving more costly than previously estimated. I have proposed cutting the Gordian knot and retiring the fleet, perhaps after a Hubble servicing mission. But will not hold my breath for that to happen.

Fourth, it satisfies all the subsets of the goal, by facilitating commercial development, doing science, and helping national security. This is because it is to lead to a permanent outpost on the Moon, which can be a focus of both commercial and science activities, as well as constituting a US government presence. Commercial interests would be enhanced by providing services to a lunar outpost, which would involve expanding it to a full fledged settlement in the fullness of time as activities like mining and tourism increase.

Fifth, it recognizes that Mars is also a goal. Hence, one of the reasons there is a heavy lifter as part of the plan.

There have been some objections, as the gentle reader might have heard. I’ll deal with those in another post.
One would think that in an era of high energy prices that encouraging new oil drilling would be a no brainer. Apparently not for GOP moderates however.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Keith Cowing has been kind enough to provide a list of pork tucked away in the NASA budget, most of which has little if anything to do with space exploration and research. All thanks to our representatives in Washington.
Jon Goff tries again:
I don't doubt that China might have bad intentions. What I do doubt is that they're stupid enough to act on those bad intentions when the costs would obviously far outweigh the benefits. I couldn't care less about the "intentions" of dictators, so long as they lack the capability to act on them. As I pointed quite clearly, if China broke this particular treaty, they would be putting billions of dollars of existing assets at risk, not to mention commiting a blatant and premeditated act of war upon the US if it were dumb enough to murder alt.spacers.

If China murdered a bunch of US citizens in a case where they were obviously the aggressors, do you think for a second that the US wouldn't retaliate, or at least sanction some sort of retaliation? Do you honestly think that China is so freaking stupid that they would do something like that? And for what? A chunk of rock that they probably couldn't even get any economic benefit out of during a shooting war?

Actually there is a precedence. In 2001, the Chinese illegally detained an American air craft and it's crew, also technically an act of war. They are not shy of being aggressive if they want to. Nor do I think they would have to murder anyone. The threat would be enough.
I don't worry about their intentions because I know that they fully understand how stupid it would be to act upon them.

In any case, Jon's citing of the Outer Space Treaty does not address the scenario. The Outer Space Treaty applies to national states, not to private entities. The Chinese would not, under the treaty, be able to restrict access to the Moon by--say--a NASA expedition. But the treaty is silent about private entities. So, the Chinese giving the boot to Lunacorp (or pick your favorite name) may be aggressive and bad, but it would not be illegal under the Outer Space Treaty.

Actually Mark is wrong here, but that's just par for the course. If he actually bothered to read a little about this treaty, he would see that private entities are treated as subsets of the state under which they operate. China has no right to prevent Lunacorp for instance from landing on the moon. If they took force against Lunacorp, it would be an act of war against the US. How dense is Mark? How desparate is he to find some straw he can grasp to justify a stupid and irrational space transportation architecture?

The text of the treaty is very clear. The only part where nongovernment entities are even mentioned is Article VI. "States Parties to the Treaty shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities, and for assuring that national activities are carried out in conformity with the provisions set forth in the present Treaty. The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty." That's it.
Oh, threatening to murder citizens of another country is kosher, but even hinting that such an action might have negative results for China is terrorism? Maybe in Mark's wingbat world. No, placing a military base on the Moon in the first place would be illegal, using it to threaten others would be more so. Acting upon that threat would be an act of war. Reminding China that were it to commit an act of war, and a violation of the treaty it's supposedly trying to defend, would result in them no longer being protected by said treaty isn't terrorism.

I never said it was kosher. I did suggest that it is not covered in the Outer Space Treaty. There is also a provision in the treaty that states, "The use of military personnel for scientific research or for any other peaceful purposes shall not be prohibited." There is nothing that forbids weapons for self defense. A fine line, considering that Jon is right that a "military base" is prohibited, but one I think that China might be willing to cross.
And can anyone imagine China trying to start a shooting war with the US over a private company trying to land on the Moon? Private US companies are still made of US citizens. If they are acting legally, and are attacked illegally by China, that would be murder, and an act of war against the US.

Now, if the private company were dumb enough to actually attack China's space assets first, he might have a point. But since the private company is within its rights to land on the Moon in the first place, they would probably call China's bluff and remind them that any action they take would be an act of War. I ask again, does Mark seriously think China is dumb enough to risk so much for so little?

There again we have the scenario of a private company threatening to get into a fight with the largest country on Earth, which I find very unlikely. And would the United States start a war, which might turn nuclear, over the Moon? If I were in Beijing, I might be willing to roll the dice in order to corner the 3HE market.