Monday, July 31, 2006

Was the Qana "massacre" staged? More here. And here.
Fidel Castro has handed power in Cuba over to his brother Raul "temporarily", due to illness. Knowing what an iron grip Fidel has kept on the reins, I have to think that the gates of Hell must be yawning wide for him for that to happen.
The conversations on this road trip should be fascinating.
Jeff Foust points out a point /counter point piece on the robots vrs humans argument that demonstrates, if nothing else, the complete ignorance about space policy issues in some parts of the mainstream media. The writer championing robots seems to think that human space flight is a plot by President Bush to do onto the Moon and Mars as he has allegedly done onto Iraq. Haliburton is even mentioned. The writer champion humans does not know how to write or how to argue.
Back when President Kennedy first suggested sending a man to the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth, someone had the idea of cutting out the second part and making the first expedition to the Moon a one way trip. The idea that such an expedition could be mounted sooner, thus making it more likely that the United States would beat the Soviets. Of course either the astronaut in question would have to be resupplied until someone figured out how to get him back or else he would sooner or later give the last full measure for the cause of space exploration.

The idea has rearisen, this time to send a man or woman on a one way trip to Mars.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Zulu is one of my favorite films. It's worth a see, even after forty years, for the sing off between the Zulus and the mostly Welsh British soldiers alone.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Democrats have not benefited among Hispanic voters over the immigration controversy.
Day of Decision: The Battle of Yorktown.
Second Life: A Virtual World to Make a Life In.
When The Passion of the Christ came out, I was one of the first to defend it against the unfounded charges of anti semitism. This account of Mel Gibson's DUI arrest just saddens me, therefore. I hope that it was just the liqour talking, because otherwise a great talent is tainted with a horrible bigotry.

Addendum: Gibson has apologized, which is not only the smart, but the right thing to do. Now he needs to seek serious help.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Looks like Daniel Radcliffe (aka Harry Potter) is going to leave off performing magic in order to torture horses in a revival of the play Eguus. And that's not all:
In one scene the actor playing Strang is required to simulate sexual ecstasy while riding a horse naked. But Davies said nudity was not the focus of the play.

Richard Griffiths, who plays Harry's Uncle Vernon in the films, is lined up to play the psychiatrist who interviews the troubled youth.

I'm not sure which part of this creeps me out more.
Charles Krauthammer looks on with astonishment at the grief Israel is getting for trying to defend itself against terrorism. I think that the Israelis are, in fact, behaving with far too much forbearance. Were I in charge, I would mobilize enough Israeli troops to clear Lebanon up to the Latani (and that means everybody) and to move on Syria, taking Damascus if necessary and hanging Bashir Asaad from the highest minaret.

Then I would get really Roman on the terrorists.
Just as I predicted the proposed alternative to the "stick" version of Ares 1 has caused a reaction.
Are the Democrats the "party of death?" Well, maybe, maybe not. But I wouldn't want this odious man campaigning for me.
A sentence in this piece on the Chinese lunar program caught my eye.
In addition, China calls for the peaceful use of resources from the moon and beyond for the benefit of all people, Luan Enjie told an audience of about 300 Beijing college students.

Now, at first glance, that sounds good, but then one remembers the infamous Moon Treaty, particularly Article 11:
1. The moon and its natural resources are the common heritage of mankind, which finds its expression in the provisions of this Agreement, in particular in paragraph 5 of this ARTICLE.
2. The moon is not subject to national appropriation by any claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or byany other means.
3. Neither the surface nor the subsurface of the moon, nor any part thereof or natural resources in place, shall become property of any State, international intergovernmental or non-governmental organization, national organization or non-governmental entity or of any natural person. The placement of personnel, space vehicles, equipment, facilities, stations and installations on or below the surface of the moon, including structures connected with its surface or subsurface, shall not create a right of ownership over the surface or the subsurface of the moon or any areas thereof. The foregoing provisions are without prejudice to the international regime referred to in paragraph 5 of this ARTICLE.
4. States Parties have the right to exploration and use of the moon without discrimination of any kind, on the basis of equality and in accordance with international law and the provisions of this Agreement.
5. States Parties to this Agreement hereby undertake to establish an international regime, including appropriate procedures, to govern the exploitation of the natural resources of the moon as such exploitation is about to become feasible. This provision shall be implemented in accordance with ARTICLE 18 of this Agreement.
6. In order to facilitate the establishment of the international regime referred to in paragraph 5 of this ARTICLE, States Parties shall inform the Secretary-General of the United Nations as well as the public and the international scientific community, to the greatest extent feasible and practicable, of any natural resources they may discover on the moon.
7. The main purposes of the international regime to be established shall include:

1. The orderly and safe development of the natural resources of the moon;
2. The rational management of those resources;
3. The expansion of opportunities in the use of those resources;
4. An equitable sharing by all States Parties in the benefits derived from those resources, whereby the interests and needs of the developing countries, as well as the efforts of those countries which have contributed either directly or indirectly to the exploration of the moon, shall be given special consideration.

8. All the activities with respect to the natural resources of the moon shall be carried out in a manner compatible with the purposes specified in paragraph 7 of this ARTICLE and the provisions of ARTICLE 6, paragraph 2, of this Agreement.

In plain, non lawyerly language, this common heritage of mankind princible would have forbidden the exploitation of the Moon and it's resources, especially by private companies for profit. Now does "the benefit of all people" herald a future attempt to revive the Moon Treaty, in order to impede China's rivals from developing the Moon's resources? Maybe. Maybe not. But I would keep a sharp eye for just such an attempt.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

NASA seems to have an alternative to the five segmented SRB Ares 1. It has a liquid fueled core with two three segmented SRBs on the sides. The alternative, which is now just a concept, is said to have major cost savings over the current design due to the ability to use current launch and processing infrastructure with little or no alteration.

If nothing else, this is going to complicate the arguments over what kind of launch vehicle is most appropriate for the return to the Moon.
Students for the Exploration and Development of Space have issued something they called a Space Policy Proposal. It is less that, however, than a description of where SEDS thinks the nation's space effort is at and where it is going. It is, however, well worth a read.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

NASA's plans to return to the Moon will open up all sorts of business opportunities.
Just to prove that good TV science fiction never dies, it looks like we're about to be treated to direct to DVD Babylon 5.
Is the upcoming kid's film, The Ant Bully, communist propaganda? Aintitcool seems to think so, which is remarkable considering that site's political slant.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

From the producers of Riverdance and the authors of Les Misérables, a new Broadway musical, The Pirate Queen, the story about the 16th Century Irish pirate lady who defied Elizabeth 1st. This will be very cool.
The Space Frontier Foundation white paper condemning NASA's plans to return to the Moon is now out. More on it anon.

Addendum: It's rather worse than I thought. The White Paper is very long on heated pronouncements about the impending doom of NASA's return to the Moon, but very short on proof. It tries to buttress it's points by quoting a number of internet stories, like the one in Flight International that suggested that COTS funding was being cut, that have already been refuted or other stories that we've also covered that are poorly sourced or not sourced.

The paper starts out with a very embaressing statement:
Until now, however, the Foundation has remained largely silent about the details of NASA’s implementation of the VSE. Instead, we chose to give our friends inside NASA a chance to succeed, even though many Foundation members wanted us to speak up in opposition. And we specifically praised the appointment of Dr. Mike Griffin as Administrator, hoping his record of innovation in industry signaled an opportunity to “dramatically transform” how NASA conducts its mission. But we cannot remain silent any longer.

The problem is that "largely silent" must be another phrase for knee jerk condemnation. A piece in Space Review suggested that SFF cofounder Rick Tumlinson had very little good to say about NASA's return to the Moon plans as early as last October:
"The Vision for Space Exploration as currently enacted is a dead end, and some may even call it a ruse" said Foundation co-founder Rick Tumlinson in a talk immediately following Zubrin’s at the conference Friday. “At the end of this administration it’s dead. I don’t think we’re going to be able to change the program that much that quickly to save it.”

The white paper has some dire predictions that will come to pass, it says, if NASA chooses to stay the course:
Assuming nothing significant changes, we predict:

· NASA will attempt to delay and avoid reporting
to the public and Congress on the increasing
costs in the Constellation program (CEV, CLV
and CaLV). NASA public statements on the
Constellation program will be characterized by a
distinct lack of cost information.

· In spite of NASA’s best efforts to keep it quiet,
there will be a constant trickle of news about
mounting costs by the increasing number of
blogs with access to NASA information. The
Internet empowers and frees, and is the enemy of

· As NASA’s credibility deteriorates, serious
space reporters will increasingly ask NASA
executives questions about cost (affordability)
and schedule (sustainability)

· The Constellation Program will (continue) to eat
the budgets for science, COTS, aeronautics, and
other NASA activities

· The CEV will be overweight, and over budget

· To fix the CEV weight problems, the capabilities
of the CEV will be reduced, or the size and cost
of the LVs (CLV and CaLV) will be significantly increased.

· The near-term CEV schedule will slip to the

· The gap in U.S. human spaceflight will increase.
There will be no U.S. government human
presence in space in 2014 (unless COTS
succeeds, which is possible but unlikely with
only two-three under-funded winners.)

· There will be no US government presence on the
Moon in 2020

· There will be no US government presence on the
Moon in 2025

· There will be no US government presence on the
Moon in 2030

· Public support for a civilian space program will
continue to decline

· Seeing all this, the next Administration will
decide to go in a different direction in 2008

· Twenty years from now the VSE will be little
more than a footnote in a history book.

Very bold. Will they come to pass or will it prove, as I think, to be the result of a space form of Vietnam Syndrome, brought about by the failures of the shuttle and ISS being projected on to the new exploration plans? Of course, the CEV has already dropped weight without losing capacity, thanks to some good engineering, and there is no evidence that support for exploration has declined at all. There is a bipartisan effort to increase NASA's budget to cover unexpected space shuttle costs, thus restoring some cuts to science and aeronautics.

I will repeat my own prediction. This white paper will go the way of SFF's MIR scheme, which is to say on the dustbin of history.
Jeff Foust spotlights a real ignoramous named Joann Warkala who thinks, among other things, that space launches causes both global warming and rain.
Jeff Foust has some interesting thoughts on how to reform NASA and how NASA is already reforming itself.
The latest volume in Harry Turtledove's long running Southern Victory series is now out:

Monday, July 24, 2006

Speaking of "technically off the rails" it appears that the CEV has shed a little size and weight without, it looks like, shedding capacity.
Looks like the Space Frontier Foundation is going to issue a white paper condemning NASA's plans to return to the Moon and advocating it's own plan. I suspect that the SFF suggestions will suffer the same fate as it's previous suggestion to scrap ISS and instead build upon MIR. The paper is not out yet, but the description seems to suggest that it is filled with contradictions. For instance, it's reported that there is a lot of verbage about "capitalism" and the "spirit of free enterprise." But there is also the policy recommendation to transfer 2 billion dollars of government money to COTS, the better to provide a subsidy to capitalism and free enterprise.

It also suggests that the White House and Congress should specify, as a matter of policy and/or law, that NASA cannot develop, build, own or operate a new vehicle for crew or cargo missions to the ISS or any part of low Earth orbit. For those missions, NASA must buy a service from U.S. companies. I think that's a good plan, when those services actually become available.

There also seems to be the usual heated predictions of doom and gloom, that VSE will "collapse of its own weight." Why this would happen is rather unclear.
The current NASA architecture of spacecraft and boosters to put in place a space vision of exploration is not going to happen, Tumlinson advised. “It’s going to collapse of its own weight. What I worry about is that it’s going to take science down with it … going to take down all the other possibilities at the same time…it is politically unsustainable and is technically off the rails.”

Politically unsustainable? I see no evidence, especially in an era where a moderate conservative Senator and a liberal Senator are leading a fight to add money to NASA's budget, something which I'm not sure happened even during the glory days of the 1960s. Technically off the rails? I hear contradictory arguments on that one. Being no more of a rocket scientist than Tumlinson, I can only repeat my suggestion that every plan to go back to the Moon has its trade offs. Making a technical decision into a political argument seems to me to be at best counterproductive, at worse bizzare.
Some people are just up in arms over Israeli kids scrawling missives of greeting on artillary shells destined for Hezbollah terrorists. It's an old custom, however, dating back to World War II.
Calista Flockhart is set to play a conservative pundit who is not Ann Coulter and not insane. Now, in the hands of a show helmer who actually understood conservatives, this idea could be pretty good. I'm afraid, though, this will not be the case and Flockhart's charecter will be a "conservative" in much the same way as Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe is a "conservative."

Of course, I would love to see a TV charecter who is both Ann Coulter and "insane."
Why the accusation of "Chicken Hawk!" is such a silly one.
"Chicken hawk" isn't an argument. It is a slur -- a dishonest and incoherent slur. It is dishonest because those who invoke it don't really mean what they imply -- that only those with combat experience have the moral authority or the necessary understanding to advocate military force. After all, US foreign policy would be more hawkish, not less, if decisions about war and peace were left up to members of the armed forces. Soldiers tend to be politically conservative, hard-nosed about national security, and confident that American arms make the world safer and freer. On the question of Iraq -- stay-the-course or bring-the-troops-home? -- I would be willing to trust their judgment. Would Cindy Sheehan and Howard Dean?
All joking about Hezbollah space colonies aside, Muslims will be among those people who will settle the high frontier of space. This will present some unique challenges for followers of Islam.
Day of Decision: The Battle of Waterloo.
Some day soon, the high speed police chase my be on the dustbin of history. Starchase: A New Way to Catch Lawbreakers.
John Kerry makes one of his absurd boasts.
"If I was president, this wouldn't have happened," said Kerry during a noon stop at Honest John's bar and grill in Detroit's Cass Corridor.

I just had a flash from this alternate reality. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's version of Hitler, is musing, "While it might be a good idea to unleash our Hezbullah brothers against the Zionists, I'd better not. John Kerry is President." Then I spill my tea.
Mark Trulson interviews Charles Wood, of the Lunar Photo of the Day site.
I'm not sure how exposing seeds to space radiation is supposed to enhance crop yields, but the experiment looks interesting nevertheless.
A new front in the War on Terror has flared in the Middle East. Our Ambassador to the UN John Bolton is earning great credit in keeping that body's feet to the fire, working tirelessly to keep the UN honest.

Naturally the Democrats want to fillibuster any move to extend his term in office. More proof that they cannot be trusted with the security of the United States.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

One of my pet peeves is the tendency of some space fans, including some very prominate ones, to make statements that range from just off the wall to plain crazy. Whether it consists of boasting that private sector astronauts are going to beat both NASA and China to the Moon or that ramping up space spending is just the way to show the Islamofascists what's what, such rhetoric causes people living in the real world to think that space fans are just a little bit--well--crazy. It makes the job of serious folks, who are working to create a space faring future, whether in the private sector, the government, or--as in my case--as an advocate/explainer all that much harder.

This, however, takes the prize as the most outlandish statement ever uttered, in my humble opinion, at a space conference.
There is a dream in this room that we all hold--an incredible future for humanity, that we can all participate in, and paint that future in the stars. There's a dream outside, and they want it too, but they don't know that they don't know. They would rather have that future than one in which Israel and Hezbollah are bombing each other. Sees a future of space colonies, in which we can have a Hezbollah space colony.

The last thing that space settlers need is to have those people as neighbors. Part of the reason for people to migrate to space settlements, in my opinion, is to get away from people like the Hezbollah.

Addendum: Rand is now trying to back track.
If I don't put quote marks around words, one shouldn't assume that they are literal quotes. When I type these things, I'm typing as fast as I can, and doing as much gist gathering as possible. Sometimes I'm mistaken (I often don't even know what I've typed until I go back and read it later--there seems to be a direct short between my ears and the keyboard, with little time for processing in the brain (not that my feeble brain would be able to do much with it anyway)).

In addition, it's quite churlish to jump on extemporaneous speeches.

Well, gracious. Leaving aside the utter obligation serious people have to come down hard on gaffs like that, a question arises. Where did the whole notion of Hezbollah space colonies come up? Did Rick Tumlinson say it or not? Or was Rand putting words in his mouth? If anyone else was present who would like to weigh in, please contact Your Humble Servant or leave a comment on Rand's original post.
Bigelow's triumphant success continues to excite.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Some information about Frank Miller's 300, a film about the Battle of Thermopylae. It looks pretty cool, but an executioner with swords for arms and an armored rhino? I think these details must have escaped Herodotus.
For the past ten years, Vin Diesel has been trying to develop a movie based on the life of Hannibal. (That's the Cartheginian general, not the somewhat twisted gormound.) It looks like now that Hannibal will come out as an animated series on the BET Network.

Friday, July 21, 2006

When he's not working on being the Prince Henry the Navigator of the space age, Elon Musk is bankrolling the development of a luxury car that runs on electricity.
Thomas Sowell suggests that peaceniks have caused more wars and suffering due to wars than anyone can imagine.
Paddy Buchanan reminds me of a probably apocryphal story of what someone said about the Arab Israeli conflict. "I wish those people would settle their differences like good Christians." Versions of who that person was differ. He was either an official in the British Foreign Office or the US State Department.

Of course, Paddy is far more virulently down on the Jews than this unnamed diplomat ever was. He doesn't mention who started the current war and who is lobbing missiles, not at military targets, but at civilians, including Israeli Arabs. Before Paddy gets all huffy about not really hating Jews or approving of terrorists, I would remind him of the adage made by Saint Thomas Moore, that silence implies consent. Paddy is silent on Islamofascist terrorism.
Remarkably there is more support for the space shuttle in the US House than there is for State of Israel, which is currently engaged in a campaign against terrorists.
Robert Bigelow gave the keynote address at the NewSpace Conference. He had a number of excellent points.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Mans Chest.
The latest surgical tool is called the Habib Sealer.
Rand Simberg celebrates yesterday's space anniversaries and in so doing makes a remarkable prediction.
On this anniversary of two major space events of the old space age, it's perhaps not too optimistic to hope that we are seeing the beginning of a new one, and that perhaps, on the fiftieth anniversary, that first Viking landing will be celebrated on the planet Mars itself, not by government employees, but by many more people who paid their own way to get there.

In other words, in twenty years (which is when the fiftieth anniversary of Viking will occur) "many more people" will have paid for commercial trips to Mars. I have heard boasting that the private sector was going to beat NASA to the Moon, even though there are no serious private sector return to the Moon programs. But this goes beyond absurdity and is an illustration why many people think that space fans are just a little bit mad.

Now, commercial entities do things, for the most part, to make money. Robert Zubrin, who has studied and championed Mars expeditions more than any other person in the modern age, suggested that a commercial expedition to Mars would cost five to seven billion dollars, mainly because it would not be saddled with the bureaucratic and political impediments of a government run operation. The baseline crew for Zubrin's Mars Direct plan is between four and six people. Just a little simple math suggests that a ticket to Mars would therefore cost between about 833 million dollars and about 1.75 billion dollars. The cost would be even higher if we're thinking of people wanting to be settlers, since they would be bringing with them more equipment and supplies than if they were just explorers with the intention of returning to Earth.

How many people are on this planet who (a) have that kind of money to spend and (b) are not only willing but enthusiastic about undergoing the rigors and dangers of a trip to Mars? To illustrate how this is a problem, a company is offering trips around the Moon in a modified Soyez for a hundred million dollars. So far there have been no takers.

I'm willing to bet that the first people to land on Mars will be those despised "government employees", simply because the commercial sector does not have an incentive to undertake a Mars program, likely could not raise the money if it did, and have all sorts of easier ways to make a buck, even in space. For the foreseeable future (measured in several decades) only governments will have the resources to mount expeditions to Mars. This will eventually change, perhaps within the lifetimes of some of us. But suggesting that in twenty years there is going to be a thriving, private sector Mars transportation infrastructure is not rational. It is, politely speaking, wishful thinking.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

So, it seems that the CEV that will carry people back to the Moon is to be called Orion. So if we ever revived that idea of a nuclear pulsed space ship, what would we call it, since it was also called Orion?
Cal Thomas likes Oliver Stone's World Trade Center.
Not only is today the 37th Apollo Day, but also the 30th Anniversary of the first Viking Probe's landing on Mars. I shall lift a glass anon.
China will shortly commence deep space exploration, suggests Sun Laiyan, administrator of the China National Space Administration.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The bitch slapping of Richard Cohen, historical revisionist, continues.
I must say, this is a creative, but perhaps dangerous way to ask ones girl to become ones wife. One would hope that Security was alerted that this was only a scenario.
Some of our friends in the Internet Rocketeer Club have maintained that as commercial space ramps up operations, NASA will become increasingly irrelevant. Commercial space will be nimble, flexible, and cheap, as opposed to NASA's klutzy, bureaucratic, and expensive ways.

What seems to be happening instead is a growing synergy between NASA and some of the more successful commercial space companies. This is an example of what is going to be happening more and more often in the future. NASA takes advantage of the nimble, flexible, and cheap services offered by commercial space companies to fly missions that otherwise would not fly. The commercial space companies get another customer. Everybody wins.

Except, perhaps, for certain idealogues.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Richard Cohen has written one of the most bizzare and ultimately evil columns ever published in the United States. Israel has itself to blame for all of those blood crazed Islamofascists who want to destroy it:
The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel itself is a mistake. It is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable, but the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now. Israel fights Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south, but its most formidable enemy is history itself.

One wonders, though Cohen does not, why certain people were down on the Jews before Israel was created and indeed even before there was a Zionest movement. That statement assumes that antisemitic, blood crazed terrorists have the moral high ground over their victims.

Mind, Cohen doesn't join the chorus of Israel delanda est! But he does propose an equally bizzare and evil response to terrorism:
The smart choice is to pull back to defensible -- but hardly impervious -- borders. That includes getting out of most of the West Bank -- and waiting (and hoping) that history will get distracted and move on to something else. This will take some time, and in the meantime terrorism and rocket attacks will continue.

In other words, just hunker down and take it. After all, Israelis, living in a country that was a "mistake", deserve what they get. The mind boggles.

Captain Ed gives Cohen the back of his hand.
Looks like Ms. Sarah Lang of New Port, South Wales has won a million pounds on a game show (that's about a million eight hundred thousand dollars.) She would like to buy a plot of lunar land with her winnings.

Now, I think that owning lunar real estate is a cool ambition and I really wish that it could be done. But no one can actually own extraterrestrial real estate, mainly because of the Outer Space Treaty which prohibits nations from extending sovereignty over celestrial bodies like the Moon. Hence, there is really no one to buy lunar land from. Those companies that claim that they can sell one lunar real estate are committing fraud.

Now, I think there should be some kind of arrangement, perhaps with a new treaty signed by space faring powers, that should allow people to buy extraterrestrial real estate, with the proceeds financing space technology development. But until that time, I recommend that Ms. Lang instead invest in a conservative portfolio of income producing investments and live off the proceeds.
A TV show called Eureka is set to premier on the SciFi Channel tonight. The premise is that back in the Truman Administration, the government founded a science and technology colony of genius researchers isolated from the rest of the world so that they can churn out the high tech wonders that we all now enjoy, like the PC and the cell phone. (And you thought that these things came from the private sector. That's what they want you to think.) Anyway, the town has a web page. It all looks very impressive, if occasionally a bit silly. I'll let you all known anon if the show is cool or if it sucks.
Your Humble Servant discusses the latest reimagining of the Man of Steel.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Space Cynic gives the Internet Rocketeer Club another bitch slapping. Mind, I'm a warm supporter of COTS (which Space Cynic may or may not be referring to), but he does have a point.
Steven Spielberg discusses future projects, including Indiana Jone IV, which seems to be in never ending development hell, Jurassic Park IV, the Lincoln project, and his space film, to be called Interstellar. IMHO, any one of these projects would be cool and would make me forgive Spielberg for Munich.
One of my major complaints about people who grouse about the current plan to return to the Moon is a conspicuous lack of alternatives, at least beyond vaguely worded proposals. Chair Force Engineer makes the first cogently argued proposal for an alternative to the current Ares I have seen. I'd love to see someone who supports the Ares 1 address his points.
Another story claiming that funding for the Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems program is getting cut. Notice that there is a quote from something called "the Space Agency" and not an actual human being at the Space Agency. No word is offered about who at "the Space Agency" is cuttng COTS or why. Your Humble Servant will look into this, but as with all of the other poorly (and not even) sourced stories of this nature, I urge caution. For instance, the FY 2007 NASA budget has not even been passed yet, so one wonders how Flight International knows for sure that the 120 million dollars planned for that fiscal year is getting reduced to 91 million dollars. Indeed, the version working its way through the Senate fully funds COTS.
NASA selling off transhab technology to Bigelow may have been one of the most brilliant moves the space agency has pulled off since Apollo. For those folks who still sneer at NASA's return to the Moon plans, just imagine a lunar base built by Bigelow and leased by NASA as an anchor tenant.
Taylor Dinerman explains why the successful launch of Bigelow's Genesis 1 prototype module is a big deal.
Jeff Foust discusses the subject of space cooperation with the Chinese from the point of view of two members of Congress who visited China recently. I naturally do not agree with some of the conclusions the two Congressmen have reached, but there is one excellent point in the article:
What becomes less clear, though, is how China wants to cooperate with the US, and why. “What struck me the most is that there is a lot of talk about it would be in the US interest to cooperate with China, but that’s kind of where it ends,” Larsen said. “To have our potential competitor or potential partner say it’s in our interest doesn’t mean it’s in our interest, and we need to do a better job of defining our own interests.”

Indeed. Is it in our interest to enter into an arrangement with a country that does not respect human rights and wishes to supplant the United States as the Earth's sole super power? I think not, especially if that arrangement would help China do the latter.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Do liberals actually need things like--well--ideas? The answer seems to be, quite literally, feh!
Looks like the Discovery Channel will be broadcasting a few convenient lies about global warming.
In a blatant attempt, one supposes, to have it both ways, it seems that the Senate, having voted to authorize a fence to help keep out illegal aliens, has turned around and refused to spend any money to pay for it.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Jon Goff seems to take issue with the editorial slant of this blog and in so doing, falls into error and self embaressment.
I haven't had as much time lately to blog, so I ended up missing a couple of the recent bruhaha's over COTS funding and VSE costs. But I did notice a rather amusing theme that I felt was worth pointing out.

So you get a news report released. Say one saying that VSE costs are starting to overrun. A couple of people whose personal analysis was already leaning in that direction run with it, and blog about the news, saying stuff about how unsustainable the approach is, and how this whole Apollo on Steroids approach is a waste of taxpayer money.

Jon is referring to the story in NASA Watch which we touched on before.
Then someone who claims to be a conservative Republican, but who doesn't seem to have found a Republican sponsored piece of pork he doesn't like, jumps on them about how we shouldn't go off speculating about poorly sourced reports until more official verification comes out. Not being hasty with poorly sourced reports probably isn't a bad idea, but....

That "someone" I gather is me. Now, it's untrue that I haven't found a piece of pork that I haven't liked, GOP or not. Indeed, I have publicly advocated the abolition of earmarks. But, I suspect that Jon doesn't mean "pork" as meaning "spending program inserted into a bill for the sole purpose of providing a benefit to a crony/campaign contributer of a Senator or Congressman." Rather, I think he views "pork" as being "Spending that Jon Goff does not like."

Now, the term "poorly sourced" is a rather exact one. Jon probibly hasn't written much outside his blog, but I have from time to time been published in newspapers and magazines, so I have some understanding of what sources are. These are people with knowledge that pertains to a particular story or, in some cases, internal documents that happen to fall into the reporter's hands. (The latter provided the basis of an expose on the Space Station I wrote for Space News that proved that public statements that NASA was making about the said station did not match what was being stated in internal documents. It made me many enemies at NASA in the 1990s.)

Anyway, using the phrase, "Word has it" or "Hall chatter" seems to me to be slightly below that of "informed sources suggest" or even "NASA denies."

Now, we still don't know how much truth there is in the NASA Watch story about VSE costs exploding. No other news organization has reported it nor has any of my sources heard anything about it. The COTS story, to which Jon also refers to, was proven to be false.

The funny thing is that this same person who was suggesting that the others are being overhasty with poorly sourced articles is the same person who regularly posts long and dire warnings based on...wait for it...poorly sourced articles about China's ambitions in space. All it takes is some peon in the Chinese space program saying something that gets mistranslated by some Western newspaper, and our friend is wetting his bed about how if we don't fund the VSE, we'll be having to fight them Chinese Commies on the moon....

While I don't have time to go back to every piece on the Chinese space program and possible lunar plans the Chinese might have that I've referenced, I'm pretty certain that most if not all quoted an actual person, usually a highly placed official in the Chinese space program and/or government (not "peons", as Jon so snarkily calls them.)

Jon and other people who deny that the Chinese want to eventually land people on the Moon have a big problem. They have to disprove a supposition for which there is a considerable amount of evidence to support it, not only the statements of highly placed Chinese officials, but current and projected Chinese technology development. Jon is in the same situation as people in the 1930s who suggested that Hitler didn't really mean it and that all of that hardware being built by the Nazis was just for show. In fact, one gets the impression that Jon and others think that the Chinese are quaint little people in Mao jackets and pig tails who make pretty good General Tso's Chicken but can't actually build something as sophesticated as a rocket. I, on the other hand, view them as a technologically sophesticated people with a very long and proud history who want very much their place in the sun and view the conquest of space as part of the means of getting it.
I guess is just highlights that old song line about how a "man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest." It seems like an such a universal occurance to almost be a truism that bloggers tend to trumpet reports that support their predetermined conclusions, no matter how preliminary, poorly sourced, etc, and only really apply sufficient skepticism when the report goes against their predetermined conclusions.

See above. Jon goes on to destroy his credibility by going off on a tangent on Iraq and the war on terror.
Just look at your average war-blog for tons of bed-wetting over even the thinnest of reports about how some Iraqi document taken badly out of context and without further analysis absolutely PROVES that George Bush was right, that Saddam had all sorts of WMDs that will be found Real Soon Now (TM) and that all those Liberals are a bunch of traitorous losers who can't admit they were wrong. But if a report comes out about prison abuse or a possible massacre done by our troops, and its "probably just a few bad apples", "we shouldn't jump to conclusions on preliminary reports", "thats still under investigation", "it's probably all just distortions by the 'Evil MSM (TM)'"

Jon obviously hasn't heard of the artillery shells filled with mustard and sarin gas that were found. The WMDs were found. I guess that by denying it, Jon adfmits to being, in his words, a "traitorous loser." But to be fair, Jon tried to be even handed:
Then go to an antiwar site, and the opposite is true. Even the shakiest report that some soldier somewhere did something wrong must be obviously true. Any report that Saddam was actually a jerk, or that any of their preconceived notions might be wrong are treated with skepticism.

Jon, having stumbled about in error, makes his conclusion:
Go to Mark's site, and even the slightest hint of a report that China might someday want to send men to the moon is read into them trying to take over the moon, claim it for the UN, base missles there to shoot down rockets flown by private companies, and generally try to sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids...but if the report is critical of NASA pork, suggests that the usual suspects who've never delivered a contract under budget in their lives might be coming in over budget, and "this is poorly sourced", "it is better to wait and see what the real facts are before jumping up and down and yelling, 'See! See! I told you so!'".

It's all rather amusing actually.

Yes it is, though not in the way Jon imagines. I suspect he imagines that if the Chinese do make it to the Moon first, they will play nice (like they did at Tiamanmen Square) and share in the Moon's bounty. And who knows, maybe the lion will lie down with the lamb as well. I, however, would like to have a US government presence up there to make sure that they do.
Looks like the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved the Hutchison/Mikulski Amendment.
Regrowing teeth with ultrasound.
Israel is now engaged in the latest Middle East War, which is all part of the wider war on terror. Not that the world very much cares.

To my mind, the real enemies in this theater of conflict are Syria and Iran. Hamas and Hezbollah are just the surrogates. Strategists should be devising means to make Syria and Iran pay for what amounts to unprovoked aggression.
Bigelow's Genesis 1 module has successfully deployed. I think we can name this event the most significent commercial space development of this year.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Looks like the Bigelow Genesis 1 prototype module is in orbit. This constitutes a major advance for commercial space toward the day in which privately built space stations will be common. Congralutations to Robert Bigelow and his company for this mighty achievement.
There's another story that suggests that VSE is in melt down, with exploding costs, etc. The story is poorly sourced, has no confirmation, and is not being reported by any other news site or organization I can find. However, these facts have not stopped speculation from some of the usual suspects.

I can only repeat, as with with every other story of this type, it is better to wait and see what the real facts are before jumping up and down and yelling, "See! See! I told you so!"
Dr. Morris Jones speculates on what a Chinese manned lunar mission might look like.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Apparently the Hutchison/Mikulski Amendment will cover return to flight shuttle expenses (estimated at two billion dollars) over two years.
"Coming soon." Return to Serenity.

If only it were actually true.
Michelle Malkin suggests that Mother Sheehan has a very strange approach to fasting. It seems to include smoothies and ice cream. If I were to "fast" in that manner, my doctor would admonish me for cheating on my diet.

Hmm. On the other hand, maybe there's some money to be made marketing the "Cindy Sheehan Diet."
Tomorrow, if all goes well, the first Genesis 1 test module of what might one day become a space hotel will launch into low Earth orbit.
Saved!: A film by Brian Dannelly.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Looks like, barring any last minute court reversals, that Tom Delay's retirement from politics may be the shortest in human history. The Democrats got a judge to force Tom Delay to stay on the November ballot, thinking that this would make it more likely that Democrat Nick Lampson will pick up the seat. The problem is that the 22nd District of Texas is heavily Republican, which is an advantage to Delay despite his legal problems. Delay, if he runs, will run a campaign that would be like a war to the knife, knife to the hilt as Nathan Bedford Forrest once said. I have a funny feeling that the Dems may have proved too clever by half. Between the trumped up charges brought by Ronnie Earle and the rather outrageous machinations by the Texas Democratic Party, the Dems may well have bought themselves the return of the Hammer. And then, gentle readers, it will be a case of not having been careful what one wished for.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

In getting a judge to keep Tom Delay on the ballot, have the Democrats bought themselves a return of the Hammer? Maybe, maybe not. But it is a delicious thought.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The "string theory" of string quartets.
Joe Lieberman and his wild eyed,, radical opponent had a debate . It seemed to me that Lieberman wiped the floor with his opponent, which is a good thing, oddly enough, for the Democratic Party. Lieberman would have been comfortable alongside folks like Truman, JFK, and Hubert Humphrey, a liberal on social and economic issues, but hard nosed when it comes to defending the nation. Alas, for too many liberals, that means that Lieberman is not a real Democrat. But then, by their standards, neither would be Truman, JFK, or Humphrey.
It used to be that Hillary Clinton was the first female President in waiting, a woman of destiny whose election in 2008 was all be assured. I never believed that. Now, David Limbaugh is also not believing it.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Cal Thomas asks the question: can a Mormon be President?
Consider the following scenario: four candidates are running for president in 2008. One is a pro-choice
Check Spelling Protestant who believes in balanced budgets and would cut spending and lower taxes, but is divorced and remarried to someone who has also been divorced. The second candidate is a Catholic, who is pro-life, but who believes in tax increases and more government spending to help the poor. This candidate is married, but during the '60s he smoked dope and lived in an ashram with two women. The third is Jewish and supports the Iraq war and Israel against those who wish to destroy it, is married to a gentile and thinks same-sex marriage is OK. The fourth candidate is a Mormon, who is married to the same woman he started out with, is pro-life, opposes same-sex marriage, wants taxes and government spending cut, would put more conservatives on the Supreme Court and appears consistent in his private and public behavior.

According to a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll, if you are a conservative Christian voter, you are more likely to vote for the Protestant, Catholic or Jewish candidate before you would vote for the Mormon, though he is more in line with your political philosophy.

I would be inclined to vote for the Protestant or the Jewish candidate, based on the issues. Nevertheless, I think that Mitt Romney bears watching. He is, after all, the hypothetical Mormon Thomas is referring to. And yet he's managed to be a successful governor of the bluest of blue states,

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

John Stossel discusses some convenient lies being told by Algore about global warming.
When they were trying to gut spending for VSE, Barney Frank and others kept harping on the idea that the program was a "man to Mars" project, despite the fact that the immediate goal was returning to the Moon. Jeff Foust has a theory about that.
One possibility: sending people to Mars sounds just outlandish enough, like something out of science fiction, that opponents of the program can play it up and make it sound like we're throwing tons of money away on that rather than spending it on down-to-earth (figuratively and literally) healthcare and education (to give two examples specifically noted by Obey.)

What's interesting is the debate focused on Mars, and not sending people back to the Moon. Perhaps that's because it involves going back to the Moon, something that sounds a little less incredible since we're done in the past (unless you're a conspiracy theorist…)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Diane Wilson, a certifiable nut case, explains why she will fast for peace. Apparently she has done this for various causes seven times.
The question that remains is: Are we who want the killing to stop as committed to peace as those who are committed to war? The war machine will certainly commit the lives of our children and Iraqi children. But will we commit our own lives? Would we exchange our lives for those of the soldiers being shipped out? Would we risk our lives so Iraqi children could live?

Well, gracious. One thing I would like to know is how all this would impress the Islamofascists whose idea of a good time is to dismember prisoners while they are still alive. I would also want to know how Ms. Wilson would feel, should we bug out of Iraq, about the inevitable blood bath that the Middle East would be plunged into. Probably we would hear the sounds of silence, just as we did after Vietnam when the anti war folks were nonchalant about the Killing Fields in Cambodia, the reeducation camps, and the millions of refugees braving the hazards of the sea to get away from the workers' paradise that was formed in the wake of General Giap's panzers.

I, of course, will spend the 4th grilling for victory There's a brisket and some links soaking in some herb and garlic marinade, waiting for our barbeque pleasure.
Happy 230rd Birthday, America.
DC: 911: A Docudrama about 9/11.
Malaysian Cuisine in Houston.

Monday, July 03, 2006

July 13th, a bipartisan fight to increase NASA funding will commence in the Senate. In one corner, Barbara Mikulski and Kay Bailey Hutchison. In the other corner (perhaps) John McCain. This should be fascinating to watch.
Rand Simberg has news from a source he trusts that in fact the Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems program will not be cut. I suspected that was the case, but I'm obviously glad to hear it.
Tales of the Heliosphere has some more comments on the COTS funding story. He quotes a NASA document:
"In order to maximize capability coverage, participants are expected to secure additional funds to supplement the NASA funding as shown above. ... The Government’s obligation to enter into agreements is contingent upon the availability of appropriated funds. NASA’s contribution will be a fixed amount and will not be increased based on the participant’s ability to obtain private funding.

That means, unlike what some folks seem to believe, COTS does not mean NASA is going to pay for the full cost of the winning space vehicles. The winning companies will have to raise funds in the private capital markets to make up the difference. And that, in my humble opinion, is how it should be.
Bob Clarebrough points out that failure can often be the father of success, especially in aerospace.
Taylor Dinerman suggests that instead of fighting over budget scraps, science advocates and exploration enthusiasts should be joining forces to increase overall NASA funding.
It's a sad state of affairs when academic freedom is something that has to be legislated. But, it seems that the far left has made it necessary.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

What if Al Gore were President during 9/11? I haven't read the book yet, but the result does not look pretty.
Richard Lindzen, Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, slaps Algore upside the head with some inconvenient truths about global warming.
Is the Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems (COTS) program in for major reduction for the next fiscal year that could "which could make the project’s targets unobtainable?" This is very unclear, despite Mike Griffin's statement, which may hinge on the ability of the companies to meet the 2010 target date (which some have suggested would be "challenging", no matter what funding is available.) Reading between the lines, one would have to ask who these "sources close to the companies" are and how do they know about the NASA budget process which, at this point, would be very preliminary and somewhat confidential.

Of course, this has not prevented some of the usual suspects from leaping the lengths of their chains. Rand Simberg opines:
I'm sure that Mark Whittington will chime in with his foolish mantra any minute, about us being "unwilling to take 'yes' for an answer."

Clark Lyndsey chimes in:
A friend warned me awhile back that COTS would turn out just like the Alternate Access to Station program. In that program NASA also promised to invest in new space transport companies but the money never appeared despite Congressional pressure to do so. I thought Griffin's commitment to COTS was much stronger than that but it apparently is not.

John Kavanagh over at COTS Watch speculates:
Gobbled up by the Shuttle or Constellation?

Well, gracious, I've have never seen so many people so anxious to accept vaguely worded bad news in all my life. My advice is to wait and see how this shakes out before declaring COTS a fraud and a conspiracy by NASA to fool The same story says that the winners get fifty million this year to start their orbital space craft, not exactly small change for most of these firms. There is nothing in the story to suggest that the over all COTS funding of five hundred million is going to be reduced, just a possibility of stretching out funding, which is not unusual for these kinds of projects. If this happens (and this is an moderate to big if right now), it might actually be a boon to the winners of the COTS competition, giving them more time.

Now, a word about people who won't take "yes" for an answer. I've been hearing since I lacked gray hair that private companies can build and operate space craft at orders of magnitude cheaper than the government can. I think it happens to be true. So, when COTS was first announced, it seemed to these tired, old eyes that NASA itself had finally conceeded that it was true. The reaction of the folks who are actually trying to grow companies and bend metal seemed to be also favorable. A couple of dozen companies participated in the first round of COTS and there are six that are competing in the final round.

But there's a group of folks whom I call the Internet Rocketeer Club who just can't seem to be satisfied with anything the space agency does. We've been hearing for decades that NASA just wants to grab all the space transportation market for itself and is hell bent on crushing any private sector competition. Valid points, back in the eighties and nineties. But when NASA changes course, offers to nurture the private sector and, in essence, outsource space transportation, what is the reaction?

A half a billion dollars is not enough. NASA is not serious. It's a conspiracy to fool COTS is fraud.

Well, gracious me. If a half a billion dollars, a guarunteed ISS contract, and the NASA seal of approval on a series of space craft designs (no small thing when one wants to raise private funds from the venture capitalists for those space craft), then what would be enough? I hear the sounds of silence from the complainers when asking that question.

I cannot help but think that while the members of the Internet Rocketeer Club talks a good game about capitalism, private markets, and so on, but when it comes right down to it, they expect the government to pay for the development and operation of "private rockets." To be fair, the folks who are actually building those rockets do not think that. They seem to know that they are going to have to get some funding from private capital markets and find private markets for their space craft.

I stand amazed, therefore, at some of the folly that passes itself off for analysis. It's very sad.

Addendum: Clark Lindsey has an interesting theory based on the fact that the COTS finalists will be picked in September and the next fiscal year starts in October. I think it suggests that everything gets shifted over one year, so that the fifty million previously mentioned gets paid in the next fiscal year and then so on.

A delay of about a year or less does not in my mind prove that COTS is a fraud or some kind of plot to fool people into believing NASA is serious about space commercialization when it is not. Indeed, it makes a kind of sense, all things considered. But that depends on whether the original story, which seems vague and poorly sourced to me, is actually true.

And don't forget. Congress has the final say on how money gets spent. So far COTS funding for FY 07 remains at 120 million dollars in the bills working their way through Congress. NASA would have to have some kind of sign off by Congress if it wanted to shift funding a year.

Meanwhile, Tom Stafford at Rocket Dungeon has his own ideas

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Reader Stacy Bartley finds this two month old gem from Canada in which Mother Sheehan is told, in essence, yankee go home. But, really, why does Canada hate us so that she would wish such a person on us. I think Mother Sheehan should go to some place where her talents as a pest would be appreciated. Like, Iran.