Saturday, September 30, 2006

A friend of mine, having read my piece on space cooperation with China, had this to say:
Well, your article made sense to me. I'm sorry you're getting flak over it.
And while I'm not equating the two, it's not just the human rights
violations that bother me -- China has some of the most horrific policies
towards animals I've ever heard of in a modern nation.

This made me snicker a little bit. I'm not much of an animal lover, unless they're on my plate with the appropriate sauce. But then I came upon this story that demonstrated to me that the Chinese powers that be are not just cruel to human beings unfortunate to be under their control.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Looks like Neil Armstrong has been telling the truth all of these years.
Looks like Congressman Mark Foley (R) Florida is resigning over some very inappropriate emails he sent to a sixteen year old male Congressional page. I am reminded of the Gary Studds scandal in which the Massachuttes Democrat actually had an affair with an teenaged page and despite being censured for it, was able to brazen it out and serve for another thirteen years. But of course standards are a bit different if you're a liberal Democrat.

Addendum: I am reminded that Dan Crane, a Republican from Illinois, was censured at the same time as Studds for a fling with a teenaged female page and was defeated for reelection the following year. Point proven again.
Some of the things we'll see, for the first time in decades, when Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter starts imaging the lunar surface, are the original Apollo landing sites. Not that it will stop certain conspiracy nuts from believing that we never went to the Moon.
According to Algore, cigarette smoking not only causes cancer, but apparently global warming as well.
One of the interesting arguments used by people who objected to my bringing up Chinese human rights violations in my recent space cooperation piece was a variation on, "Oh, yeah? What about Guantanamo?" The respondents seem to think that there are all sorts of horrors being inflicted on innocent, inoffensive terrorists. Rich Lowery, however, recently went down to Club Gitmo and tells the truth of the matter, which seems quite different from the imaginings of the people who have filled my inbox.
The Iranians may have accomplished the impossible. Two Middle Eastern countries, once thought as different as two countries could be, may be having a rapprochement to meet the threat of the Mad Mullahs.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

It seems that the Chinese are testing a laser weapon on American satellites with a view of finding out ways to disable their electronics. The fact that that they would do such a thing while begging the United States for joint space cooperation arrangements speaks not only to the arrogance of the Chinese government but also their perception of the weakness of the American government. Via Stacy Bartley.
Recently, science fiction and fantsy writer John M. Ford died at the far too young age of forty nine. While he is best known for his Star Trek novels, The Final Reflection and How Much for Just the Planet, he also did some excellent alternate history. One was a story, whose title escapes me, of a community in upstate New York still struggling to survive thirty years after the Cuban Missile Crisis went nuclear, in which both John F. Kennedy and Elvis are still alive. The other is this curious novel that combines the Byzantine Empire, the Florence of Lorenzo di Medici, and the Wars of the Rose.

John will be missed.
It seems that Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) is nt happy that Michael Griffin even went to China.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

In which I imagine what The Next Voyage to the Moon will be like.
The Dittmar study, that suggests that the 18-24 Year old demographic is disinterested in the Vision for Space Exploration is somewhat less than meets the eye. This demographic is disinterested in quite a few things, including actually getting out to vote.
More fallout from my piece on Chinese space cooperation, this time positive.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

My Houston Chronicle piece on US Chinese space cooperation has stirred up quite a bit of controversy. Besides my email box being filled with messages objecting to the premise of the article (and in a couple of cases objecting to Your Humble Servant), Lucy Sherriff of The Register responds with a couple of points that need looking at.
Writing in The Houston Chronicle, he argues that the US should think very carefully about making friendly overtures to a country that is prone to holding US soldiers captive.

He's probably right, but it is disingenuous to pretend that China was the only one behaving badly in that case. After all, the US plane in question was "gathering intelligence" [Er, is that the same as spying? - Ed] on a new Chinese warship.

True, but irrelevant. The EP-3 plane was over international waters when the Chinese fighter collided with it, forcing it to land. The Chinese eventually released the Navy crew without charging them with spying, so one can conclude that they had not been doing anything illegal.
He also contends that NASA should consider the morality of working with a government that routinely tortures and kills its own people.

Could he really be suggesting that NASA should tell the Bush administration that it can stick its annual funding until: Guantanamo Bay is closed, there are promises that no similar facilities will be re-opened, and Bush has scrapped the death penalty?

Well, gracious. The problem is that there is no torture nor human rights violations going on at Club Gitmo. Despite various allegations of that sort of thing, no one--even human rights organizations which have visited the facility--have found any evidence of it. And we in the United States find that the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for certain heinous crimes, such as murder. In any case, the President would have to have the cooperation of the Congress to eliminate the Federal death penalty and has no power at all regarding death penalty laws in the various states of the Union.

To be fair, Ms. Sherriff does agree with some of my points.

One other thing, the quote Ms. Sherriff offers at the end was not from Sun Tzu. At least I was not able to find it in my copy of The Art of War. It is a quote from that great strategist and man of respect, Vito Corleone.

Addendum: Fred Kiesche writes:
I don't have "The Art of War" handy, but her bit:

"Perhaps Whittington should consider whether Griffin
has had reason to consider General Sun Tzu's phrase:
keep your friends close, but your enemies closer."

Might be a variant on the Sun Tzu quote that goes
something like "Know your enemy as you know yourself".

Or maybe it's a variant on that other bit of
philosophy: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend?"

Yep. I think your interpretation is closer!

Addendum 2: A thoughtful reader has sent me this link that suggests that "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer", while not in The Art of War, is still attributed to Sun Tzu.
While I thought that NASA Administrator Michael Griffin's visit to China was of limited utillity, it seems to have been even more limited due to the fact that the Chinese did not invite Griffin to visit their Mission Control or their launch facility in the Gobi. That's sort of like taking a tour of American space facilities without seeing the Johnson Space Center in Houston or the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. One would think that if the Chinese were eager for a space cooperation arrangement with the United States, they would be a little bit more open and forthcoming.
Condi Rice responds to Bill Clinton.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Apparently space exploration still polls very well.

Addendum: More on polls via Jeff Foust.
Rocket Plane/Kistler's COTS program seems to have suffered a set back Rand Simberg has some insights.
Two pieces on commercial space in this week's Space Review, one about Kistler and the other about Bigelow.
Space exploration: A cultural and historic perspective.
Mr Paul's first mistake was to believe that any business deal with the Clintons would be on the up and up.
A somewhat more hopeful view of the prospect of US-Chinese space cooperation than I happen to hold.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The latest cause for Democratic Party internal strife? racism and anti semitism. By Democrats.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

With victory seeming to slip through their fingers, the Democrats are getting ready for the circular firing squad. First to go to the wall, Howard Dean.
NASA Administrator Michael Griffin is journeying to China in a kind of get acquainted visit that might lead to space cooperation. I urge extreme caution.
There are national security and other implications inherent in space cooperation with China. China's interests are often at odds with those of the United States. Its government has behaved on occasion with unseemly aggressiveness. Its human rights record is abysmal.

Feel free to read the entire piece.
What does the British government, the US Air Force, and the Chinese have in common? They all seem interested in the idea of a spacecraft engineer named Robert Shawyer for an engine with no moving parts that generates thrust purely from electromagnetic radiation - microwaves to be precise - by exploiting the strange properties of relativity. It could lead to advanced space craft, flying cars, and aircraft without wings. Via Stacy Bartley.
Unlike the esteemed Professor Reynolds, I'm not so much bored with Clinton criticism as I am bored with Clinton. Seeing the clip of him going berserk over the Osama bin Ladin question, with his finger waggling in the air, reminded me of the infamous press conference. You know, the one in which he declared, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." Not a good image to impart if one is trying to repair an image of total fecklessness on terrorism.

As for "at least I tried", I can only quote that great Jedi philosopher, Yoda, who said, "There is no try. There is only do or do not." And he did not.

Clinton would do himself and the world a load of good by just shutting up and going off somewhere where he can't be seen for a while. Then the world won't be reminded of how much of an ass he is.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Death of A President: Assassination Porn or Political Propeganda?
There are, of course, quite a few problems with this movie. First of all, the film makers pat themselves on the back for being “bold enough” to depict a real President being assassinated. But one wonders why they wimped out and didn’t depict a real person as the assassin. Why not depict Cindy Sheehan as the actual killer? She actually did lose a son in Iraq.

After all, in her latest book, Peace Mom, on page 29 in fact, Sheehan admits that she “has fantasies” about going back in time and slaughtering George W. Bush as an infant. Talk about preemption. She is a public figure, so imagining her doing a Lee Harvey Oswald on the current President would not be a stretch nor would it be actionable for a libel suit. She already has admitted that she wants to do it. Truth is a defense in court. The only difference is that she would be depicted as having the courage to go after the President as a full grown adult rather than a helpless infant.
One part of Clark Lindsey's analysis of the Lockheed Martin-Bigelow deal needs examining, I think:
If this plan goes forward and Lockheed-Martin begins developing a manned version of the Atlas V, it's difficult to believe that NASA could continue with the Ares I/Orion program as currently configured. Arguing that the Orion couldn't possibly be made lighter is not going to be sufficient reason to justify a multi-billion dollar duplication of a launch capability that's available at a much lower price.

Of course that is dependent on a couple of things happening. First, that Lockheed Martin can actually get a version of the Atlas V working that can deliver an Orion to Low Earth Orbit. It's plausible, since there is the suspicion that any cargo/crew carrier that LockMart builds for a man rated Atlas V is going to look pretty much like an Orion, if not actually be an Orion.

However, LockMart will also have to have this system up and running sufficiently before a lot of money is spent building the Atlas V. I doubt that will happen, in any case.

But that brings us to an interesting scenario. One of the criticisms of NASA's Ares 1 is that it constitutes only one way to deliver an Orion to LEO. Therefore, if something should happen that would cause the Ares 1 to have to be down for any length of time, then there goes the lunar program. However, if there is a commercially developed, man rated Atlas V capable of lifting an Orion, that problem goes away. There will be two ways to get an Orion into orbit.

Of course we'll have to ignore the fact that NASA has said that man rating an Atlas V would be too difficult and expensive. It would be a little embarrassing if LockMart managed it anyway.

Addendum: Chairforce Engineer has some more thoughts.
Unfrazzled by the throw-weight issue, LockMart is aggressively promoting the "Phase I" and "Phase II" evolutions of the Atlas V. Phase I would widen the upper stage to match the 5.4 meter payload fairing, while Phase II would combine the new upper stage with a 5.4 meter first stage, using one or two RD-180 engines. The evolved Atlas V would essentially be a new rocket, but it's necessary for launching an Orion-sized capsule.

Sounds like LockMart is indeed developing a commecial alternative to the Ares 1. Now, some one more inclined to believe conspiracies than I would wonder: Is Lockmart just doing this on it's own or with perhaps a wink and a nod from NASA, which may be desirious to have a back up booster for Orion?

Addendum 2: Tom James suggests that Lockheed Martin has become

Addendum 3: Alan Boyle discusses.
Looks like Anousheh Ansari is having the time of her life up in space.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Looks like Bigelow intends to have a three person module operating in Low Earth Orbit in 2009 or 2010. If he makes this enterprise work, the era of private space commerce beyond just jaunts into space will have begun with all the implications inherent.

More from Space.Com.
Lockheed Martin and Bigelow have signed a deal to study ways that a man rated Atlas V could handle cargo and passenger traffic to Bigelow's planned space hotel. This does not necessarily mean that SpaceX, et al has suddenly gotten a big competitor. For one thing, one wonders if Lockheed Martin can make Atlas V work as a cheap access to space vehicle. Still, it's interesting that one of the traditional aerospace giants is thinking about space tourism markets. It's a clever move on Bigelow's part as it helps nurture another option just in case the efforts don't pan out.

Of course this move will heat up the argument about using a man rated Atlas V instead of an Ares 1 for launching Orion.

Addendum: Jon Goff and Clark Lindsey have some more thoughts.
Not doubt Wal-Mart's many enemies on the Left will find an evil plot somewhere in this initiative.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Are some of the big, bureaucratic aerospace companies starting to get creative? Jon Goff seems to think so.
It seems that some women in Columbia are reenacting Lysistrata, the play by Aristophanes, to stop political violence in their country.
Not surprisingly, not all Iranians are thrilled with Anousheh Ansari's space adventure. It seems that one hardline (i.e. pro Islamo fascist) newspaper thinks that an intelligent, independent woman flying in space makes a "bad role model" for young Iranians.

Clark Lindsey has some more up to date info and links on Ansari's flight.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I'm in the middle of reading the new Frederick Forsyth thriller, The Afghan. While it's not as good as Day of the Jackal, the book is a suspensefull read filled with information about the War on Islamofascism.
Pluto: The Once and Future Planet?
In previous times, scientists have taken a dim view of space exploration, especially by humans. However, the President's return to the Moon initiative seems to have gotten a very warm reception from a special National Research Council panel of the National Academy of Sciences.

Addendum: Then again, the same panel had a rather bizzare reccomendation.
A typical lunar landing "will inject some 10 to 20 tonnes of non-native gas into the atmosphere, severely perturbing it", the report warns. That makes it important to study it now, because gas released from landings and other activities at a human outpost might "completely transform the nature of this pristine environment."

Over thirty years after Apollo, it seems a bit late. But it will especially be true for the most valuable lunar real estate.
Human activity might likewise taint the lunar polar environment, where spots of water and other volatile gases freeze out on crater floors that are permanently shaded from the Sun. Those ices could contain clues about the history of impacts in the solar system over billions of years and could provide sustenance to thirsty human explorers.

I can see it now. The same folks who won't let us drill for oil at ANWR will now try to stop us from drilling for water at Aitken.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Children of Hurin, a new tale by Tolkien, started by the father, completed at last by the son.
Anousheh Ansari's space adventure has begun. Clark Lindsey provides coverage and links.
John Howard Gibbons remembers what it was like being Oriana Fallci's assistent when she was covering the Moon landings.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The screenwriter of The Path to 9/11 defends his work.
Both Keith Cowing and Rand Simberg are complaining that Anousheh Ansari's space adventure is being overhyped. I'm not sure how anyone can say that. While the blogosphere is covering the event pretty thoroughly, it gets barely a mention in the mainstream media.

And, of course, who would you rather see overhyped? Anousheh Ansari or--say--Anna Nicole Smith?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Contrary to rumor, Peter Jackson has not added The Hobbit to his schedule, despite the fact that MGM says they're making it. Not that he doesn't have some interesting ideas.
If I was doing THE HOBBIT I'd try to get as many of the guys back as I could. I mean, there's actually a role for Legolas in THE HOBBIT, his father features in it, obviously Gandalf and Saruman should be part of it. There's things that you can do with THE HOBBIT to bring in some old friends, for sure. I have thought about it from time to time... Elrond, Galadriel and Arwen could all feature. Elves have lived for centuries. Part of the attraction would be working with old friends. I wouldn't want to do it unless we could keep a continuity of cast. I have zero interest in directing a Gandalf who wasn't Ian McKellen for instance...At that implied stuff with Gandalf and the White Council and the return of Sauron could be fully explored.
Kinky Friedman, former musician, former crime novelist, and now candidate for Governor of Texas is, if nothing else, colorful and original. Besides, I rather like his idea for controlling the borders by bribing Mexican Generals to do the job for us. However, I think that his TV commercial in which he sort of compares himself to Jesus Christ (aka "the Good Shepherd") maybe goes a little too far. As Kinky himself once said, in a well known song from back in the 70s, they don't make Jews like Jesus anymore.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Clark Lindsey provides a number of links about Anousheh Ansari, immigrant, entrepreneur, philanthropist and--soon--space traveler.
Oriana Fallaci, RIP.

Addendum: Rand Simberg provides a rememberance, including links.
Looks like Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman are coming to the big screen.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

John Kerry is slamming Vietnam vets again. If Kerry's mouth was heavy artillery, he could lay waste to all of South East Asia and destroy Charlie all on his own.
Orion to the Moon.
Clark Lindsey has a new page up devoted to
One of the great fears expressed by critics of NASA's approach to return to the Moon is that it must inevitably get out of control, with ballooning budgets and slipping schedules. So far the Ares 1 part seems to be on track, at least according to Danny Davis, manager of the Upper Stage of the new Ares I.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

First they diss Pluto, now they are dissing the Warrior Princess. Still, Eris does sound like a cool name for a celestial body at the edge of the Solar System.
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's latest Sr. Germain novel is out.
In a bit of bad news for the Moveon.Org crowd, the Gallup Organization found that Jews are the most popular religious group in America.
Let me get this straight. It is alright to kill the enemy in a cemetary in Iraq, but not in Afghanistan. As a result, a slew of Taliban bad guys escaped the death they so richly deserved. Somebody needs to lose their job over this one, at the very least.
Tony Blankley imagines the odious Harry Reid as leader of the "loyal" opposition in the British Parliement, in June, 1940.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Apparently Russ Feingold, Senator and prospective Presidential candidate, thinks that the term "Islamic Fascist" is too politically incorrect and as inpolite as--well--calling someone a German Nazi or a Liberal Appeaser.
Kim Poor is well known to many people who have been interested in things space. He was, until about eleven years ago, a painter of art depicting space subjects of various kinds. His company, Novaspace, sells space related art and memorabilia. These have included limited edition prints of Alan Bean's magnificent work depicting the Apollo moon landings that have made the former astronaut world famous. I've met Kim on a number of occasions and found him to be one of the friendliest, personable men I've had the honor to have met. Works I've bought from him grace both my home and office.

Unfortunately Kim has been suffering from a condition called Machado-Joseph Disease which has robbed him of the ability to paint and make music and is affecting his balance and some of his motor function. If left untreated, the condition will eventually kill him.

Kim does not intend to go into that good night without a struggle He is traveling to China for a stem cell treatment which is apparently available only in that country that he hopes will provide some improvement and sustain him until a permenent cure is found. He is going to blog his experiences, which I pray will meet with success. If you all are moved to, drop a comment of encouragement in the comment section.
Looks like Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings, King Kong) will be taking on Naomi Novik's Temeraire series or--as I like to call them--The Dragon Riders of Britannia.

More here.
In which I bid a fond farewell to Stargate: SG1.
More details emerge about Orion.
Human rights in space? I rather thought that would be a given, except in the Chinese colonies.
Spinoffs, i.e. technologies developed for a certain project that have other applications, are not often used these days to justify public space projects. The thirty year old Chase Econometrics Study, though disputed in certain quarters, still is useful in arguing that the Apollo program did have some positive effects on the US economy.

Orion might be even better, as it will be conducted at a slower pace and will be more investor friendly from the start.
Oh, well. I guess Oliver Stone just can't help himself.
Recently Andy Rooney, one of the more senile of the folks on 60 Minutes (and that is saying something) made one of his more absurd suggestions during his decrepit ravings at the end of the show when he said that, "if we figured out how to behave as a nation in a way that wouldn't make so many people in the world want to kill us." This has really caused my good friend Publius to be upset and to say unkind things about Mr. Rooney, something he rarely does.

I disagree with Publius. Rooney may have something here. The problem is that my friend Publius thinks that Rooney is suggesting that we be more nice in order to not have many people want to kill us. There is another way, though, to stop people from wanting to kill Americans. That way is to not be nice.

Let us suppose that an American soldier is blown up by an IED somewhere in Baghdad. Now, certain armies that will be nameless would grab about a hundred people at random near the site and give the terrorists twenty four hours to turn themselves in and, failing that, shoot them. Rooney, being a World War II vet, knows how this works.

Ah, you say, Rooney must be crazy to suggest such a thing. (A) It is inmoral and counter productive to kill innocent civilians and (B) the terrorists won't care. True in both cases. The terrorists won't care about innocent lives. They would just be headed for the 72 Virgins.

But maybe Rooney is being too subtle for us folks who are too young (under 80) to grasp what he is getting at. The trick is to threaten something that the terrorists do care about. How about, instead of threatening the local populace, threatening the local mosque? Wire the place with explosives and demand that those who set the IED be given up or else.

A few demonstrations that we are serious, I think Rooney is saying, and soon the terrorists will lose the desire to kill us. Of course, other people might become angry, but then they will only sue us. Then again, maybe that would be worse.

Monday, September 11, 2006

While trying to think of something profound to write upon this anniverary of the Second Day of Infamy, I was reminded of something from Roman history. In the year 390 BC, a Gallic tribe called the Senones invaded Italy. They were met on the river Allia by six Roman legions under the command of Quintus Sulpicius. The Romans were all but anniliated and the Gauls went on to take and occupy the city of Rome itself, giving it over to the sack, with only the Capitoline Hill holding out. The Romans were forced to buy off the Gauls with a thousand pounds of gold. To add insult to injury, the Gauls used heavier weights than were standard to weigh the gold. When the Romans complained, the Gallic leader was quoted as saying, "Vae victis." Translated that meant "woe to the vanquished."

The Romans never forgot. It took them almost three and a half centuries, but Caius Julius Caesar eventually avenged Allia and it's aftermath, making sure that it would never happen again. In a campaign lasting ten years, Caesar expunged the indepedence of Gaul. Of the three million Gauls that were alive at the beginning of the Gallic Wars, a million were killed, a million taken into bondage, and a million became Romans.

Vae victis indeed.

Even so, the Gauls were so impressed that they worshiped Caesar as a god. More importantly, the Gauls would never threaten Rome again nor--at least for four centuries--would Gaul become a highway for other barbarians headed for the Roman homeland with the lust for plunder, rape, and murder.

It seems to this writer that twenty centuries later, in the current war against another group of barbarians, we might well prosper to be like the Romans. Not as ruthless as they, of course, for though we make war with weapons unimaginable by the Caesars, we do so with a gentler regard for noncombatants. We would be well advised to emmulate the Romans' persistence. No matter how long it took, no matter the cost in lives and treasure, the Romans never quit and never stopped. Where other nations would have sued for peace, the Romans pervailed through sure determination.

In the five years of the War against Terror, or the War against Islamo Fascism, of just World War III, the worse we have suffered took place on the first day. Since then fifty million people have been given a chance for freedom and peace. Many terrorists who rose in jubilation as the twin towers fell and the Pentagon burned, celebrate no more. And it has all been at the cost of lives of what was often a days work in World War II.

This writer is therefore astonished to hear voices counseling retreat and surrender. Do the people giving this craven advice think making war is an easy, painless thing? Do they think that peace can be bought by quitting? Even more absurd, do they think that we can cut and run from one theater of the war and hope to pervail in another?

We must recognize that this war will not end until one of two things happen. Either every soul in the Dar es Islam, from North Africa in the west, to Indonesia in the east, will be free and the very desire to commit terrorism will be dead along with the terrorists. Or, our civilization goes down, as that of Rome eventually did.

Think on that, the next time some liberal Democrat whines about the cost of making war or slimes the people trying to prosecute it.

I have more recent thoughts on this day and what it means here and here.

Popular culture is just beginning to come to grips with what happened to us on that day. World Trade Center, Oliver Stone's finest work, is still in its first run. United 93, the story of the first warriors who fought back, is out on DVD. An older film, DC:911, which tells the story from the point of view of the White House, is also recommended.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Jon Goff sparks a discussion of an idea I have been pushing for a Lunar version of COTS. He has mixed feelings about it.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Hartford Courant celebrates Robert Bigelow's big idea.
The final version of the hotel will weigh 20 tons, have three or four guest rooms and provide 12,000 cubic feet of space.

The rate will be steep: $8 million for a weeklong vacation. Accommodations will be spare. But what a view: A beautiful blue orb swathed in clouds, with sunsets and sunrises about every 90 minutes.

Just how many stars would you give a hotel like that?
The Last Moonwalker writes about the program that will finally deprive him of that dubious honor.
Forty years ago today, a little known, soon to be forgotten space scifi series premiered on TV.

Addendum: Trust some left wing Brit to make this analogy.
Thanks to a process of osmosis from perennial reruns, Star Trek has propagated the belief that it is proper to interfere in other societies, that it is America’s duty to assume the role of (inter-)world policeman, and to correct the errant ways of other cultures — for their own good. And Spock was to Kirk what Blair is to Bush, a lackey willing to assist his master in his curious mission that seemingly has no specific objective.

Some may contend that this is unfair, in that Star Trek promoted gender equality and that the crew of the Enterprise was multi-ethnic.

True, but it was an American alpha-male who was at the helm of the ship, with a Brit (Scottie), a Russian-Ukrainian (Chekov) a Japanese man (Sulu) and an African- American woman (Uhuru — or should we say Condi Rice) remaining decidedly subservient. Tellingly, having dabbled with employing a female as ship’s captain in the unsuccessful 1990s incarnation Star Trek: Voyager, the most recent manifestation, Star Trek: Enterprise, reverted to type, with a white American male back in the saddle, his principal underling now an Englishman.

Just in the way of information, Captain Archer's XO was a Vulcan, though at the time depicted Vulcan seemed to have the same snotty attitude toward Earth that some of the Euros have toward America. And let's not even discuss Next Gen, when the skipper was a Frog and his XO was an American.

Do I detect the usual snotty, British condesension toward all things American? And, perhaps, just a tad bit of envy? What has Britain ever contributed to television scifi except for that irritating twit, Dr. Who?
Time travel? Perhaps on the atomic level, at least. Via Stacy Bartley

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Jeffrey Lord muses on the changing face of anti-semitism, from America First to
Peggy Noonan meditates on the sounds of 9/11.
Looks like S. 2590, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 has passed the Senate.
It seems that the Senate Democratic leadership is making threats to Disney over the upcoming Path to 9/11 miniseries. To my mind this is more the behavior of a gang a fascists than people claiming to be the heirs of Jefferson, FDR, and JFK. They should be ashamed of themselves and certainly should not ever be allowed in any position of power until they learn to behave as office holders in a republic, not a peoples' republic.
Apparently ABC has caved in to pressure from Clintonistas and other liberals and are altering certain parts of The Path to 9/11. This kind of cowardice is despicable.
Since every cause needs at least one protest song, the Canadian group Sub Plot A gives us Pluto Rocks, protesting the demotion of Pluto from being a planet.
Cindy Sheehan, it seems, has a fantasy about going back in time and killing President George W. Bush when he was an infant. Is it just me, or does that seem to be just a little bit sick?

OK, a lot sick.
Your Humble Servant muses about the Great 9/11 Conspiracy.
I was never a big fan of Steve Irwin, the "Crocodile Hunter", partly because I'm not much of an lover of animals unless they're on my plate and partly because the man was a little bit weird, albeit in a loveable way. But even I found Germaine Greer's slam of him a little bit mean spirited. John Birmingham, the author of the Axis of Time series and himself a gift to the world from Australia, replies.
More praise for The Path to 9/11 here and here.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

David Limbaugh has a new book on the Democratic Party:

Addendum: David Limbaugh explains.
The Space Frontier Foundation, with its usual resort to purple prose, is aghast that NASA is "rushing ahead" with its selection of Lockheed Martin as the prime contractor for the Orion Moon ship. Only disaster and catastrophe will follow if NASA continues to ignore SFF. After all, did not SFF issue a "white paper" saying so?
More proof that liberal hatred of Joe Lieberman is motivated by anti-semitism.
Dwayne Day examines a Japanese version of a space faring future.
Dr. Donald Rapp has a crtique of NASA's plans for lunar ISRU. Some of his numbers appear to come out of the ether, but the piece does bear reading nevertheless.

Monday, September 04, 2006

More suggestions that the certain rout of Congressional Republicans may be just a fantasy. Call me a bit silly, but this year smells to me more like 1998--when overconfident Republicans thought they could ride Monicagate to increased majorities and then got a cold wake up, than 1994.
Clark Lindsey has a ton of links about the selection of Lockheed Martin to build the Orion Moon ship, here and here.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Smart 1, Europe's ion propelled lunar probe, crashed successfully into the Lake of Excellence.

More here.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Amy Biancolli casts the Star Trek movie now in development. Christian Bale as Kirk? Yeah, I can see that. Reese Witherspoon as Chapel? Yep, ditto. But Heath Ledger as Spock? Because of Brokeback Mountain? I think not.
The Commercial Orbital Tranportation Systems competition. And the Winners are....

Addendum: Rand Simberg rightly corrects me on a point about cost. The figures quoted in the piece could be seen as the price charged for customers of the two launch vehicles compared rather than the cost to launch something on it.
A fascinating discussion on private property rights on the Moon. Looks like, to no ones surprise, the UN is against it.
According to the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, says legal officer Sama Payman, there can be no private property rights, because countries would have to claim sovereignty to award their citizens titles of ownership. "This would be breaching laws on Earth," she says.

Others disagree. "The Outer Space Treaty is ambiguous as to the precise nature and scope of the property rights that an individual may hold in celestial bodies," says California-based space law expert Ezra Reinstein. Glenn Reynolds, who teaches space law at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, goes further. "Personal property rights are not banned by the Outer Space Treaty."

That provides wiggle room that many are keen to exploit. Alan Wasser is chairman of the Space Settlement Institute, a Texas-based organization that campaigns for individual and company property rights to be extended to celestial bodies such as the Moon. Capitalist economic principles, he says, are the only way the human race will be able to properly fund the establishment of permanent bases on the Moon and beyond.
Soon members of MySpace can sell downloads of their original music.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Jason Verheyden weighs in on the whole private vs public space travel kerfluffle. He thinks all of us Americans are wrong. I'm not, to clarify things, in favor of government supported or controlled monopolies. My notion is that for government to be a core market for several companies. The model to think of is the Air Mail in the 1920s and 1930s.
Jon Goff makes yet another argument for cancelling the Ares 1 (i.e. the Stick.) The gist of the argument is that if COTS fails and the Orion plus Ares 1 is needed to service the space station, there won't be enough money to build the rest of the return to the Moon system (Ares 5, LSAM, EDS, etc.) If COTS succeeds, then what need is there for Ares 1?

My question, concerning the latter scenario, is can Orion be launched on a Falcon 9 Heavy or a K1? I suspect not, without at least some heavy modifications, but I could be wrong. NASA has already rejected the EELV because it maintains that modifying it would be even more expensive than building Ares 1. Jon and others dispute this, though without so far as I can find a thorough analysis to back that up.

My suggestion has always been, for what it's worth, is to stop flying the shuttle and try completing ISS with expendables and space tugs. That would free up some money to advance the return to the Moon. NASA is not going to do that either, being obviously more comfortable with proceeding with the original plan of using the shuttle to complete ISS.

Unless someone can prove that NASA is wrong (or being dishonest) about launching the orion on an EELV or someone comes up with a way to launch the thing on a Falcon 9 Heavy or K1, it looks like Ares 1 is going to be Orion's launch vehicle for the foreseeable future.

The folks who think that using the Ares 1 (the Stick) is a complete disaster have the burden to prove why that is, with some easy to understand numbers, and to come up with alternatives with the same kind of numbers to back them up. NASA, on the other hand, should be more forthcoming on why it's building the Ares 1, with numbers to show why they are doing that over other alternatives.

Unfortunately, I suspect that there's just going to be a lot of yelling and purple prose on the Internet, with NASA ignoring the folks doing that because they have no power to alter policy. In a way that's a pity. There's needs to be a group of outsiders who can effectively ask hard questions and raise concerns. That way NASA can be made more accountable. So far, I have not found any such group. Certainly none of the space advocacy organizations have been effective. They lack the numbers and they lack the political skills to do anything but attract a little media notice, but little else. I am open to any suggestion of how to change that.
The producer/writer of the upcoming ABC miniseries The Path to 9/11 is interviewed. There are rumors floating about that the Clintonistas are so angry about how the miniseries depicts the Clinton Administration's mishandling of the terrorism threat that they are preparing an all out campaign to stop the airing of The Path to 9/11. Clinton himself is said to be preparing to call the President of ABC to demand that the miniseries by censored.

The left wing blogosphere is certainly mad as hell. The Free Republic folks seem to be eager to see it though.
The attacks, for the most part ill informed, on Lockheed Martin for winning the Orion contract have already begun. Tom James responds.
A TV series about aliens in Ancient Rome? Interesting if true.
Undeterred by good taste and rationality, Mark Almond imagines a world without Bush. Turns out that it's not a pretty one.
Clark Lindsey confesses that he is bored with NASA's plan to go back to the Moon.
Frankly, it all seems a bit boring. Maybe this program will successfully return the US to the Moon by 2020. There are lots of great engineers working in it and they are quite capable of making it a success. However, the price tag is far too high for far too little. I want spaceflight to become practical, useful and broadly available. That's when it gets exciting. NASA will achieve none of these with the Constellation program. They are not even goals the agency recognizes.

Frankly, this whole business of private vs public space flight is getting to be as tiresome as human vs robotic exploration. Just as a certain group of planetary scientists continue to strain credulity by attacking the idea of human space exploration, a certain group of space advocates are doing the same to themselves by snearing at projects like return to the Moon.

The truth of the matter is that both the private and public sectors have their place in the scheme of things. The prospect of private flights to low Earth orbit would be a distant dream if it were not for (a) hefty amounts of funding from NASA under the COTS program and (b) the existence of the International Space Station, as misbegotton and dysfunctional as that project has been, as a core market. The tens of billions of dollars spent on ISS have made whatever science that will be accomplished on board that facility not worth the money. But, if ISS helps to facilitate a commercial launch industry, it might well be a case of a lemon becoming lemonaide.

And that brings us to the Moon. A fellow named Neil H. in the comments section quotes one of my favorite people, Robert Bigelow:
I'm reminded of the comment by Robert Bigelow in his recent Space Show interview, where he estimated that there was a 50/50 chance on whether or not private industry would beat the US government to the moon.

Now, I like Bigelow, but please let us not be ridiculous. If needs NASA funding and a core NASA market just to get into LEO, how can it be expected to get to the Moon--an order of magnitude more difficult--on its own?

Private industry will get to the Moon. But it will very likely start, as with LEO, with a COTS--type program to farm out resupply and crew transfer services for a NASA lunar base. That, if for nothing else, is the reason why Clark and others who support private space should be a little bit thrilled that, with the choosing of LockMart as prime contractor for Orion, the return of humans to the Moon is just a little bit closer.

Addendum: Rand Simberg misreads the above and then calls me delusional. I am awestruck by the power of that logic.
Apparently there is a revolt brewing against the IAU giving Pluto the royal order of the boot from the planets of our Solar System.
Genetically altered cells seem to have wiped out all signs of melanoma, a very deadly form of skin cancer, in two patients. The bad news is that it had no effect on fifteen other patients. Research continues.