Curmudgeons Corner

Random thoughts on politics, current events, popular culture, and whatever else interests me.

Mark R. Whittington is a writer residing in Houston, Texas. He is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including the novel of suspense Nocturne which he coauthored with his wife, Chantal, The Children of Apollo trilogy, The Last Moonwalker and Other Stories, Gabriella’s War, The Man from Mars: The Asteroid Mining Caper, and Why is it So Hard to Go Back to the Moon?

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006
 
Looks like having insulted the troops and blustered defiance about it, John Kerry is cutting and running.


 
John Kerry suggests that people better get a good education or wind up in Iraq, suggesting that members of the armed forces are uneducated. The mind boggles on a number of levels.


 
More evidence that a little outside the box thinking has snuck into NASA.
While NASA is very interested in the newest thinking in rocket and space technology, the agency is also looking for strategies and products related to keeping astronauts safe and healthy in space for long periods of time, Lockyer said. The kind of cosmic radiation astronauts will face if they go to Mars or remain on the moon for long periods is known to cause significant bone loss and can lead to central-nervous-system injury and increased risk of cancer. If innovators and researchers cannot find ways to protect the astronauts, then long-term space travel will be impossible.


 
Looks like the Hubble repair mission is a go.


Monday, October 30, 2006
 
Chair Force Engineer likes (sort of) the shuttle derived Direct Launcher concept now being pushed by a group of self described NASA rebels.


 
Michael Barone takes a look at polls and finds them to be a poor predictor of turnout.


 
Taylor Dinerman gives the back of his hand to the Berkshire Eagle, a newspaper which seems to take a dim view of the new White House space policy.


 
The winners of the COTS competition have begun to reveal what they intend to do with the money NASA has granted them.


 
Dwayne Day begins a speculation on how enthusiastic JFK was about Apollo anyway. Would he have tried to cut it back or delay it had he lived?


Sunday, October 29, 2006
 
It's been widely assumed that the 22nd District House seat in Texas--the Tom Delay seat--has been lost to the Democrats. Write in candidates never win, according to the chattering classes. Well, maybe this time will be different.


 
Looks like Studio 60, the latest TV project from Aaron Sorkin, he who brought us that left wing fantasy series The West Wing, is about to be cancelled.

Addendum: This however is just a tad bit snarky and Jonah should know better. If Firefly had Studio 60's timeslot and had been shown in the proper order, I'm certain that we would be starting Season Four of everyone's favorite anti Star Trek.

Addendum 2: Jonah Goldberg wants it made clear that he absolutely loves Firefly.


Saturday, October 28, 2006
 
There is yet another alternative proposed for the return to the Moon. Unlike most of the others, it goes sort of in the opposite direction by replacing the Ares 1 and Ares 5 with one really big launcher. Two launches are still required for a lunar mission, but the savings seem to be in developing one launcher rather than two. Plus two of these new launchers greatly exceed the capacity of the Ares 1 and Ares 5.

Now, I think that at this point arguing with NASA over hardware is a fool's errand. NASA is not going to be convinced and certainly no one who can tell NASA will be convinced. (Of course this proposal seems to have arisen from some elements within NASA, so who knows?)

This "Universal Launcher Solution" has the virtue, at least on the surface, of simplifying rather than complicating things. Maybe it can be used by somebody when my idea of a lunar COTS is adopted (g).


 
The folks at both Armadillo and Masten look ahead to next years Lunar Lander Cup.


 
The Liberty Film Festival kicks off for the third year next month. My favorite documentary on the schedule:
"This is DNN" - World Premiere! (29 mins., 2006)

Directed by: Bruce Wittman. Produced by: Bart Ely. A satirical look at how today's mainstream media might cover a typical day during World War II, complete with FDR protesters, war protesters, hurricane protesters - and a mockery of FDR in a Hollywood blockbuster titled "Fahrenheit 12/7." "This is DNN" is a hilarious and long overdue lesson in historical perspective. (Comedy, 29 minutes, 2006)

I always thought that if we had today's media and political class sxity odd years ago, Ike would have been forced to resign because of D-Day.


Friday, October 27, 2006
 
All of this stuff about raunchy sex scenes in Jim Webb's military thrillers are certainly in good fun and, following Foley-gate, etc, certainly an example of turn about is fair play. They are also likely taken out of context. Not that it will matter to a lot of Virginians. Jim Webb is toast as a candidate for the Senate.

And, I think, so am I. So is Mrs. Curmudgeon as well. Some years ago we published a thriller, Nocturne which seems to have two scenes which would wreck any political career we might have contemplated.

Warning. The following may be too intense for young people and more sensitive adults. The first is a scene between a sixteen year old girl and an adult who should know better:
It does not, Eric Picard decided, get better than this.

As it turned out, Gabriella not only had a soft, nubile body, but a very inventive mind. She had just spent the past two hours driving Picard nuts in ways that would have shocked the Empress Messalina. It was unbelievable the things she knew how and was willing to do.

Picard now lay, exhausted and spent, with Gabriella resting her head on his chest, a tangle of dark hair, her soft breats on his stomach, and her dusky, slender legs tangled up with his somewhat whiter, stouter legs. He reveled in the gentle, relaxed feeling of lassitude.

This scene takes place in a hotel room in Venice, where the age of consent is fourteen. Not that it would matter to the voters. Nor would it matter that later in the book, Mr. Picard gets into a lot of trouble indeed because of his dalliances.

The next scene, I'm afraid, is even more disturbing. It has elements of bondage, violence against women, attempted rape, and attempted murder. Be warned.
He threw himself on top of her, fumbling with his pants with one hand, hitting her repeatedly with the other. Allison shut her eyes and tried to will herself away. The wave of pain was almost unbearable, but she did not cry out. She felt him rubbing against her, tryingf to penetrate her. He was not stiff enough, though, and that seemed to enrage him and make him hit her all the harder.

"Scream, damn you, scream!" he yelled.

So that's it, she thought. Instead of screaming, she spat at him. Spittle mixed with blood got him right in the eye. He gasped and reared back as he tried to wipe it off with the back of his hand. He screamed something incoherent and raised his hand to strike again, hard enough for a killing blow. Good bye, David my love, she thought and shut her eyes.

Then the lights went off.

Without providing spoilers, let me reassure one and all that things turn out alright, that Allison survives and her attacker gets what he deserves.

The point, of course, is that suggesting that a writer approves of everything his or her charecters say and do is rather foolish. Neither of us approve of older men dallying with teenagers in one instance and rape in the other. But taken out of context, the two scenes you just read would certainly be very bad for the writers were they seeking public office.

Not that I have much sympathy for Mr. Webb, mind. He has pulled enough stuff during the campaign that makes cries of unfairness in this case fall on unsympathetic ears.

By the way, Nocturne, besides at the usual venues such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble, can be found at the publishers web site.


 
David Freedman does an analysis of the Vision for Space Exploration that falls apart here:
Griffin has committed most of NASA's expected funding for the next several decades to a program that stands a very good chance of falling far short of the Red Planet, thanks to what may prove to be a trillion-dollar price tag.

How does Freedman arrive at that price tag, which many analysts have shown to have come out of the ether? It's unclear, but here's a clue:
This budget shift still won't come close to solving the problem, says Marco Caceres, a senior space analyst at the Teal Group, an aerospace and defense research firm. "It's sexy to talk about the moon and Mars, but it's going to be at least 2 or 3 times as expensive as NASA is estimating, and most big aerospace programs end up being 5 to 10 times as expensive as original estimates," he says. "We spent $100 billion and 30 years to build the space station, it's still not complete, and that's just hardware in low Earth orbit."

Griffin won't put a price tag on going to Mars, but NASA has released enough information over the years to permit some back-of-the-envelope calculations. The agency has predicted that getting to the moon will cost $104 billion (about 55 percent of the cost of the Apollo program in today's dollars, according to Griffin), and studies dating back to the 1960s predicted that a Mars mission would cost at least five times as much as getting to the moon. A price tag of $500 billion, then, is not unreasonable. At current funding rates, that would keep NASA off Mars for at least 50 years. In 1989 a detailed three-month study headed by Richard Truly, then the chief of NASA, put the cost at about $800 billion in today's dollars. Caceres thinks NASA will need as much as $2 trillion to complete its mission.

Now we're up to two trillion, partly based on a more than fifteen year old study that many people believe was not so much designed to facilitate beyond Low Earth Orbit exploration as to kill it. And does Caceres have any figures to support the statement "...it's going to be at least 2 or 3 times as expensive as NASA is estimating, and most big aerospace programs end up being 5 to 10 times as expensive as original estimates." If so, it's not in the article.

Freedman also used John Pike as a source. A sure sign of sloppy reporting. For example:
For example, Pike says, NASA could have got by with a much smaller vehicle than the CEV, which is three times the size of the Apollo capsule, requiring a scaling up of the launch vehicle and everything else in the program. "It's not designed to carry astronauts, it's designed to carry contractors," he says.

Neither Pike nor Freedman enlightens us as to how many astronauts would be carried in this "smaller vehicle." Launch more than one to the Moon? A possibility, one supposes, but do two, smaller rockets cost more or less than one larger one? I haven't seen a sensible analysis on that question.

More sloppiness:
A third problem is the steadily shrinking tolerance for risk at NASA, in Congress, and among the public. Some of this is obviously due in large part to the trauma of losing two shuttle crews, but it is also related to the loss of a sense of necessity. "During the Apollo program this nation was in a race, and we perceived the outcome as important to national security," says Lennard Fisk, former NASA chief scientist and a space science professor at the University of Michigan. "Now we may not be prepared to go ahead when we encounter setbacks."

I guess the men who died in the Apollo fire died in vain, since Freedman seems to have forgotten about them. Not to mention the near miss of Apollo 13. Both incidents added delays and cost to the Apollo program.

After breezily disdaining the idea of a space race with the Chinese, Freedman trots out the alt.space folks as a panacea for keeping costs down for a Mars mission. How this will be the case remains unmentioned.

Then, Freedman actually makes a few valid points about the why, as opposed to the how, of exploring space:
Ultimately, NASA's future depends not on better mission concepts and cheaper hardware so much as on the agency's ability to convince the public that space exploration is a crucial part of human destiny. "The problem with the president's vision is that there's no sense of urgency to it," Pike says. "He's the first American president since his father who has no idea why we have a space program. Up through Reagan we had competition with the Russians, and Clinton had cooperation with the Russians. Space was always a foreign policy initiative for us, and now that leaves NASA a 'how' agency with a 'why' problem." The public's interest could simply fade away, leaving America, a nation of immigrants and pioneers, without a frontier to explore for the first time in its history.

Posing the problem that way suggests a solution, however. What motivates people to open up frontiers has always been the desire to get away from problems back home, or the promise of riches. NASA could tap into either, or both.

Now, if Freedman had stuck to that he would have published a fairly good article.


 
Jeffrey Bell, a guy who gives cynicism a bad name, hoots derisively at the just completed X Prize Cup. I hoot right back at anyone who takes cheap shots at those who are--well--doing more than just taking cheap shots on the internet. Welcome to the Internet Rocketeer Club, Mr. Bell.


 
Considering Russia's long history of militarizing space, Andrei Kislyakov is certainly not in any position to have the vapors over the new White House space policy. Space will, sooner or later, be a venue of human conflict. It's inevitable. And it would be best if the United States was dominate.


Thursday, October 26, 2006
 
Some blind people have actually been able to learn how to navigate in the same way bats, dolphins, and nuclear submarines have Human Echolocation.


 
The first lunar mining robot may be made in Australia.


 
Captain Ed asks, is it time for an Apollo project for energy?

I suggest, no. But there are ways that government could help. Technology prizes would be one example of how government could provide incentives for alternate energy.

Two possible means of producing energy--fusion and space or Moon based solar power--could be done as a government project by building pilot plants, etc. In fact, how about a pilot plant capable of burning Helium 3 combined with a prize for the first organization to bring back--say--a ton of Helium 3 from the Moon?


 
Clark Lindsey admonishes the Senate for passing a version of the NASA funding bill that zeros out funding for the Centennial Challenges. It has wide support in the House and the funding really needs to be restored in conference.
If it's not too late to save the CC funding, I would hope that space advocates will push for the House allocation for CC funding. If that isn't possible, then there should be a campaign next year to restore funding in 2008.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006
 
Looks like the military will soon test an exoskeleton that has many of the functions of a Starship Troopers combat suit. Via Stacy Bartley.


 
Hitchhiking to Mars on an asteroid.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006
 
Clark Lindsey has some speculations of how the results of this years Lunar Lander Challenge might affect the overall return to the Moon program.


 
That bloggers and the main stream media see the world differently is hardly a new insight. But it seems to extend, not surprisingly, to the probable outcome of the election two weeks from today.


 
National Review Online defends the White House space policy. Apparently attacking its "tone" is the tactic being used by the far left.


 
Speaking of hysterical reactions to the new White House space policy, check out this one from Al Gore, posted by our friends at Pajamas Media.


Monday, October 23, 2006
 
Some of the reaction to the new White House space policy has verged on the hysterical. One example comes from Louis Friedman, the Executive Director of the Planetary Society. Friedman does not so much object to the substance of the policy, which recognizes that space will be a venue of military conflict just as the oceans and atmosphere have been, but the "tone."
The policy is officially a revision of the policy issued ten years ago by the Clinton Administration and, in content, it makes relatively minor changes from previous U.S. policy. But is not the content that has attracted so much attention—it is the tone in which it is expressed. It is belligerent and bellicose, and reminiscent of a schoolyard bully.

Well, with all due respect to Dr. Friedman, his "tone" is irrational. I found the new space policy to be a forthright and honest document. It sets out US national security priorities in space in a clear and concise way so that they cannot be misunderstood. Friedman's use of purple prose like "schoolyard bully" does not constitute a reasonable critique of the policy. Rather it demonstrates a total lack of understanding of the national security implications of the entry of the human species beyond the Earth. Not every country (China for example) that operates in space is going to be friendly. No amount of wishing is going to make it so. The White House would be irresponsible to ignore this fact, something which seems to escape the notice of Friedman and people like him.


 
Fifty years ago today, the people of Hungary rose against their Soviet oppressors. Their freedom, won by young people with molotov cocktails battling against tanks, was to be short lived. The Hungarian Revolution was crushed by a Soviet invasion on November 4th, 1956.

But, in a sense, the ultimate victory of the Hungarian people was just delayed, albeit for over forty years.

Good retrospectives can be found here and here. Also recommended is the James Michener book on the subject:


 
Jeff Foust has a good roundup of this years X Prize Cup.
Both the overall Cup and Armadillo’s efforts in the Lunar Lander Challenge illustrated one thing: the entrepreneurial “NewSpace” industry is in a particularly demanding phase of its development. The public’s expectations—and those of some in the industry—have risen because of past successes, like SpaceShipOne. Yes, most companies are still in the earliest phases of developing vehicles and related technologies, a phase prone to failures as new technologies and approaches are tried and often discarded. It’s a steep part of the learning curve, and even more difficult when it’s on public display.


Sunday, October 22, 2006
 
Is the society depicted in Star Trek fascist? Nope says Daffyd ab Hugh. Just a failed attempt to described a post economic society inabled by replicators and holodecks. One question that Ab Hugh fails to address, who pays for the energy required to run the replicators and holodecks?

I have to admit, I found the notion of a "post economic utopia" in the later Treks profoundly irritating. That's one reason why I (and a lot of people) are fans of the TV series Firefly and its movie sequel, Serenity, which are basically an "anti Trek."

And the Ferengi as Jews (not real Jews, but every anti semitic stereotype one can imagine)? Yeah, I picked up on that one from the very beginning.

One of the Trek spin offs I imagined but of course would never be made was a concept called "Star Trek: Free Enterprise", which was to be about a crew of rebel capitalists trying to make a living on the fringes of the Federation. The idea predated Firefly by about a decade, but it goes to show great minds think alike.


 
Looks like the Lunar Lander Challenge was not won. Better luck next year.


 
Apparently the theocracy in Iran is under assault from folks who seem to be even more religious than the Mullahs.


Saturday, October 21, 2006
 
One precursor mission to the Moon would start by creating a new crater.


Friday, October 20, 2006
 
A Final Commercial Frontier by Your Humble Servant.


 
Glenn Reynolds, having gotten a lot of hostile reaction for suggesting that the Republicans don't deserve to stay in power, has nevertheless voted for the Republican in the Senate race in Tennessee.
As I mentioned before, the Republicans don't really deserve my vote -- though as Bob Corker hasn't been in Washington that's not really his fault -- but nonetheless the Democrats have blown it again. Not long ago I was thinking that a Democratic majority in Congress wouldn't be so bad; but the sexual McCarthyism from the pro-outing crowd, coupled with the Dems' steadfast refusal to offer anything useful on national security, has convnced me that they just don't deserve a victory with those tactics.

If a lot of folks feel that way, the Foley affair may well have backfired on the Dems.


 
Kim Poor's stem cell treatment in China seems to have had some sort of benefical effect.


 
Rand Simberg is reporting what appears to be a successful first (90 second) flight by Armadillo's vehicle. Also a successful tether climb.

Addendum: Looks like the Armadillo's vehicle had a very hard landing.

More from Clark Lindsey, including pictures.


 
Possibly another reason to support medical marijuana.


 
It seems that at the the height of the Cold War, Senator Teddy Kennedy actually proposed to the Soviets that he could help them thwart President Reagan's efforts to win the Cold War. This is according to a new book, The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism.

And yet, Kennedy is still in the Senate.


 
Looks like Armadillo Aerospace has gotten FAA approval to particpate in the Lunar Lander Challenge. My congratulations to John Carmack and the Armadillo team.


Thursday, October 19, 2006
 
This story contains far less than meets the eye. Lunar Prospector data suggests that lunar ice is likely not deposited in sheets, but is mixed in with regolith.


 
Dean Barnett, who guest blogs at the Hugh Hewitt site and suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, describes what amounts of a remarkable treatment for the disease that started when some doctors noticed that Australian surfers had superior pulmonary health.


 
Will the next X Prize be a race for the first private lunar lander?


 
Scott Elliot at The Blogging Caesar has the latest thoughts on the fight for control of the US House. The numbers he has crunched on interesting and he concludes:
The big news heading into the election is how depressed the GOP side is and how energized the Democrats are. To a certain extent, perhaps, this is true. However, the numbers don't tell me that the GOP is in for whooping in 20 days. Yes, we're probably slightly behind right now, but we're not getting creamed. I'd say we're down by a touchdown going into the fourth quarter and we've got the ball. There is still plenty of time left to pull it out. As the headline above reads, the outcome truly is in our hands. Neither side can or should let up going down the home stretch, from despair nor over-confidence. This game is far from over - the side who finishes strongest will win.

Meanwhile, Riehl World View has an interesting historical note about how polling and actual voting are often two different things.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006
 
Newt Gingrich, more than any other person, was instrumental in shattering the decades long rule of Liberal Democrats in the Congress. Indeed, I would suggest that he was a more consequential politician in the 1990s than Bill Clinton.

Is he about to come and clean house again? I will be fun to watch. No one has more ideas or is more capable of thinking out of the box than Gingrich.


 
Allegory in Battlestar Galactica or Why New Caprica is not Iraq.


 
The list of judges for the Lunar Lander Challenge, via Clark Lindsey.


 
Randall Wallace, most famous for writing the screenplay for Braveheart, is set to write the screenplay from the film version of Atlas Shrugged, to star Angelina Jolie as Dagney Taggart and, if I'm not mistaken, Brad Pitt as John Galt.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006
 
Looks like Ames Director Pete Worden has an academic partner for his idea of microsats to the Moon.


 
The Lunar Lander Challenge starts this Friday. Let the games begin.


 
Former astronaut Tom Jones has some advice on microgravty hygiene and grooming for future space tourists.


 
Martin Fridson suggests that we don't need a Manhattan Project to develop alternate energy sources. Instead, how about a series of prize competitions? The advantages?
1 Encourage scientific exploration on multiple fronts, rather than put a thumb on the scale for any single technology.
2 Spend the taxpayers' money on outputs, rather than inputs.

Sounds good to me, though I wonder how that would work for fusion energy or space based solar power, both of which may be too expensive for a small, private outfit to develop.


Monday, October 16, 2006
 
Looks like Eric Flint's latest alternate history novel, set in 17th Century Europe, is now out:


 
The interesting thing about Jawbreaker, a film to be about the liberation of Afghanistan and the hunt for Bin Laden, is not just that Oliver Stone is doing it, but that Cyrus Nowrasteh, who wrote The Path to 9/11, that film that gave the Clintonistas such fits, is doing a rewrite of the script. Now, if Stone can keep hold of the spirit of World Trade Center and not lapse into weird conspiracy theories and such, this could be a great film about the War on Islamofascism.


 
Jeff Foust has a chat with Jim Benson, of SpaceDev and now of Benson Space.


Friday, October 13, 2006
 
One of the most tiresome controversies of the space age for the past few decades has been the robots vrs humans argument. A small but very vocal group of people, some of them famous scientists, tended to over sell the capabilities of robotic space probes and concluded that human beings were not really needed to explore space. This view, as anyone who examined the matter closely would conclude, was errant nonsense. The recent report by the Royal Astronomical Society and the endorsement of the Vision for Space Exploration would seem to have ended that argument. It now seems to be the consensus, even in the scientific community, that human explorers are needed after all. (Sorry, Robert Park, but that's just the way it is.)

Unfortunately a new controversy seems to have replaced Robots vrs humans in its banality and its capacity to make otherwise intelligent people take absurd positions. I call it, Public vrs Private Space Exploration. The argument is that the public sector (aka NASA) is so bureaucratic, so inefficient, so wasteful of resources, that it is at best irrelevant to the expansion of humankind into space and at worse actually an impediment.

To be sure, NASA's unfortunate thirty year detour with the space shuttle and space station helps to buttress this argument. But the people making it take their position to absurd heights by suggesting that any space endeavor conducted by a government is to be distained and even opposed.

An example of how this view is expressed is a quote of a post by Henry Spencer, a fixture on space related boards, made by Rand Simberg. It would be a useful exercise to examine the post:
Nonsense. What we've seen so far (and what NASA is trying to return to) is just incidental dabbling. The days of real space exploration by free men still lie ahead, and in fact are getting pretty close. The cartoons are ending, and the curtain is about to go up on the main feature.

I'm not sure that the exploration of the Solar System can be considered "incidental dabbling." Nor do I know what Henry considers "real space exploration." I assume he means by the commercial sector. So far the commercial sector is concentrating its efforts either on serving both private and public customers (i.e. COTS) or on space tourism. Worthy activities, to be sure, but not space exploration.

And what is this business of "free men" anyway? First, the idea that explorers who happen to work for a government agency are not "free" is laughable and a little insulting. And where are the "free women" in this vision.
If all this sounds bizarre and fantastic, you need to stop thinking in terms of the socialist dream -- spaceflight for the glory of the almighty state, the way NASA does it -- and start considering the sort of space exploration that free people might do for their own reasons. It's already possible to fly in space for any reason you think sufficient, if you've got the price of the ticket. It hasn't worked out quite the way we thought -- who would have *imagined* a world in which the only commercial space line requires you to learn Russian to get a seat assignment?!? -- and it's too damned expensive, but these nuisances will change soon, when real competition begins.

Like many people, Henry tends to misuse the term "socialistic", which for him means "any government activity that I disapprove of." "Socialistic" and "socialism" have very exact definitions and they do not encompass all government activity.

It is also not possible to fly into space for only the price of a ticket. The only way that a private person can fly in space is through the Russian program that Anousheh Ansari used. One also has to pass the very exacting medical tests that the Russians require. One could be as rich as Croesus and still not get to go if one is not fit.
NASA will never, ever put men on Mars. Their target date for it is receding more than a year per year. But the first footprints on Mars almost certainly will be those of free men.

I'm not sure about that. Currently the target date for a mission to Mars is somewhere in the late 2020s or early 2030s. There is no target date for a commercial mission to Mars because no commercial entity is seriously considering it.

And there's that troublesome phrase "free men." NASA astronauts are not "free" according to Henry. And it also looks like that Mars does not need women after all.


Thursday, October 12, 2006
 
At first I wasn't sure what to make of this. It seemed like the ravings of a mad woman. But then I remembered that they gave the Nobel Peace Prize to Yassir Arafat, so then it didn't seem too far fetched. Via Stacy Bartley.


 
Looks like Victor Davis Hanson likes the upcoming film 300, which is about the last stand of the Spartens at Thermopylae, despite the liberties it takes with history.


 
NASA has come up with a mission manifest for Orion, which includes a first crewed flight in 2014 and the first return to the Moon in December, 2019. A couple of questions arise, one serious, the other frivolous.

(A) Why the over one year slip from 2018?
(B) Why call the first lunar mission "Orion 13?" Remember what happened the last time a "13" mission went to the Moon.

Of course this is likely a document for planning purposes only, representing the most conservative assumptions concerning schedule, and will not resemble the actual manifest that flies.


 
Apparently after Stargate: SG1 finishes its run on the SCIFI Channel, two direct to DVD films will follow.

Now, if this could set a precedence for other brilliant but cancelled shows (like--say--Firefly) I would be very happy indeed.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006
 
Nuremberg-style prosecution for skeptics of global warming? My, I'm surprised that the greenies are willing to give people like that trials. You would think that they were so sure of their virtue that they would just advocate summary executions.


 
Dexter: Portrait of an Ethical Serial Killer.


 
Well, if imitation is the most sincere form of flattery...


 
Who says one has to be real to be influential?


 
Glenn Reynolds muses on the national security and other implications of transporters.


 
Oil refining seems to be the latest thing to be outsourced to India, thanks to environmental extremists.


 
Alan Boyle discusses the Lunar Lander Challenge in particular and lunar landers in general.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006
 
Andrew Ferguson celebrates the incomperable Ed Bearss, who has taken many a lucky person on tours of battlefields around the world. My wife and were very fortunate to accompany him with a small group across Gettysburg a few years ago. He recounts such battles as if he had actually been there. He is, in fact, a World War Two vet, having been badly wounded on a Pacific island.

And he has a new book out.


 
You know all of those polls that show the Democrats sweeping all before them in the wake of Foleygate? Well, there is a reason for that and not what one might be led to believe.
Yet, nowhere did the authors let their readers know that 41 percent more Democrats were questioned for this survey than Republicans. That’s right. The breakdown was: 38 percent Democrats; 27 percent Republicans, and; 31 percent Independents. This was the largest skewing of Democrats to Republicans in a WaPo-ABC News poll since at least April. By contrast, in last month’s poll, the breakdown was 33 percent Democrats, 32 percent Republicans, and 30 percent Independents.

It reminds me of the exit polls done during Election 2004 which predicted a Kerry landslide. Turned out they oversampled Democrats as well, hence the great surprise on the faces of a lot of TV pundits when actual voters reelected George W. Bush.


 
Jon Goff has some thoughts about apogee Tugs and cryo Transfer (of fuel). He believes that it could replace the Ares 1/5 infrastructure. I suspect that this sort of thing would extend the capabilies of those two launch vehicles.


 
Al Qaida thinks they are losing the war. Now someone should let the defeatists in the Democratic Party in on the news.


 
Of course North Korea's nuclear ambitions create a greater urgency to build up missile defense systems. The Democrats will oppose this.
U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has opposed a ballistic missile defense program for many years.

In 2003, Pelosi said that "by shredding the ABM Treaty and flirting with the unthinkable -- 'usable' battlefield nuclear weapons - the Bush Administration turns the clock back on three decades of arms control." She noted that ballistic missile defense was not "technologically possible" and has not been proven to work.

"The United States does not need a multi-billion-dollar national missile defense against the possibility of a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile," Pelosi said three years ago.

"What we need is a strong nonproliferation policy with other nations to combat the most serious threat to our national security and to the safety of the world - weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists who would smuggle them into our cities," she said.

Yep. That kind of policy certainly has restrained Kim. Do we really want this woman to become Speaker of the House?


 
Looks like the North Korean nuclear test was a dud. That would be very bad for Kim Jong IL.


Monday, October 09, 2006
 
One of my pet peeves has been the horrid state of the NASA public relations. Who else could manage to make voyages to the Moon seem--well--a big bore? Now someone has come up with some sensible solutions to the problem.


 
A nuclear armed North Korea is part of the legacy of William Jefferson Clinton.


 
Is there a private sector solution to the problem of settling Mars?


 
John Barber revives the old idea of free flying space settlements as first imagined by Gerard K. O'Neil


Sunday, October 08, 2006
 
The North Koreans claim that they have exploded a nuclear weapon. If confirmed, the world has changed and not for the better.


 
I'm told that a film called One Night with the King is premiring this Friday. The film is the biblical story of Esther and it appears to have very spectacular production values.

Also, besides little know, minor actors such as Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharrif, and John Rhys Davies in the cast, One Night has the thespian talents of John Callis, better known as Battlestar Galactica's Gaius Baltar, as Haiman. Haiman was the fellow who conspired to wipe out the Jewish people within the Persian Empire during the reign of Xerxes.


Saturday, October 07, 2006
 
Clark Lindsey points out this piece about Helen Sharman, the second private space traveler.


 
Looks like Fidel Castro has terminal cancer.


Friday, October 06, 2006

 
Toward the First Private Space Station: The Latest News from Bigelow Aerospace.



 
An analysis of economic plans being cooked up by the Democrats conclude that they are a serious threat to the US economy. More than enough reason to think before giving in to the temptation to "punish" Congressional Republicans. The people that will be punished might be ourselves.


 
The soil is horrible and the climate worse. But researchers are confident that one day there will be gardens on the Moon and Mars.


 
A small group of fanatical Muslim clerics are causing a polio epidemic in India.


 
A nuclear powered battery developed in Israel might provide power for future space craft and even space settlements.


Thursday, October 05, 2006
 
Clark Lindsey teaches John Pike how physics does and does not affect launch costs.


 
Rand Simberg has some thoughts about Lockheed Martin dipping its corporate toe into the space transportation market. He does have one supposition that must be highly questionable:
NASA is no doubt concerned (and some of its personnel perhaps infuriated) about Lockheed Martin's announcement. They are currently trying to justify the development of a new launch system, partially based on Shuttle hardware, for their new Orion lunar exploration spacecraft, the contract for which was awarded to Lockheed Martin only three weeks ago. Part of the justification for that new launcher was that it would be "safe, simple and soon," and that the existing expendable launch vehicles available from Lockheed Martin and Boeing would cost too much to "human rate" for the new crew system. Lockheed Martin's claims are potentially a body blow to this argument. After all, if Lockheed Martin is contemplating doing this with their own money for commercial purposes, it's hard to imagine that it costs the several billion dollars that it would have to in order to justify spending that amount on a whole new launcher. NASA will no doubt continue to argue that the Atlas doesn't have the necessary performance for the job, but Atlas performance improvements could probably also be included in the human rating process. NASA administrator Mike Griffin and Associate Administrator Scott Horowitz (whose former employer, ATK, is lined up to build the new vehicle) can't be pleased.

What NASA feels about this is pure conjecture, since no one at NASA has actually expressed any feelings. An equally valid conjecture is that NASA is either not concerned (as Rand points out, there is no commitment to actually build a man rated Atlas V), or even delighted, since as I have suggested in the past, a man rated Atlas (at least one capable of lofting an Orion) would be a good back up for the Ares 1. The "embaressment" about being proven wrong about the cost of man rating the Atlas V (should that occur) would be drowned out by the increase in flexibility at having two launch vehicles capable of lofting an Orion.

The rest of Rand's piece is well worth reading and echoes some points I've already made.


 
Well, part of the sloganeering for Foleygate goes along like this: "Our children need to be protected from perverts in Congress." Drudge is now reporting that some of our confused, gay congressmen need to be protected from the children.


 
Looks like Katie Couric has taken a shot at the space program.
"There are some who argue that money would be better spent on solid ground, for medical research, social programs, or in finding solutions to poverty, hunger, and homelessness," she says.

This is the same tiresome stuff we've gotten from the Left since the dawn of the space age. Space exploration and all of that other stuff are not an either/or supposition. A big country can do all of those things, as well as fight the War against Islmofascism.

I hope Couric has an opposing view from some articulate, knowledgeable person on the Free Speech segment real soon. I would volunteer for the job my own self, but be warned that I have a face for radio and a voice for silent pictures (g).


 
Flyboys.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006
 
The Wall Street Journal urges everyone to calm down over the Foley affair. The prospect of Democrats taking over the House and making themselves a Fifth Column in the War on Islamofascism is too horrific to get worked up over a pervert who actually didn'ty touch anyone.

Of course, if North Korea cooks off a nuke before election day, none of this will matter.


 
Alan Boyle has an excellent piece on the state of private space flight, which includes the somewhat contrarion (and to my mine ill informed) opinions of John Pike. There are quite a few ways to reduce the cost of launching something into space that weren't mentioned. One is not so much paying people less than having less people involved in launch operations. Flight rate is another cost factor.

Pike reminds one of those experts at the beginning of the last century who were very sure that aviation would just be the province of government or the very rich. We've had his like throughout history and always will.


 
The Battle of Franklin kerfluffle continues with the Mayor digging himself deeper into the hole he has made for himself.


 
Mrs. Mallory, Harry Potter is neither satanic nor wiccan.

Addendum: Nor does Harry approve of or encourage school shootings. It can be argued that the climax of Half Blood Prince involved school magic blasting, but it was made clear that only bad people do that.


 
The economy and population of Texas are both booming, which means that more electric power needs to be generated. But not if the ultra liberal Mayors of Dallas and Houston have their way.
The leftist Democratic mayors of Dallas and Houston, Laura Miller and Bill White, are taking a play right out of the California political playbook as they try to turn out the lights—literally—in Texas.

California, which has refused for over 30 years to allow any new electric power generation plants to be constructed in the state, is repeatedly plagued with brownouts and total electrical power failures during the summer months. For no other reason than pure partisan politics, Mayors Miller and White view replicating the California experience as a winning strategy.


 
The Chinese, who are so ever anxious to get into a space cooperation agreement with the United States, have a very extensive espionage operation designed to steal western technology, especially with military applications. The latest is an attempt to buy the services of the inventor of a weapon called Metal Storm, capable of firing a million projectiles a minute. Useful if one proposes to go up against--say--the 7th Fleet. Via Stacy Bartley.


 
Corporate jet travel for the masses? Glenn Reynolds dreams of the day when it happens.


 
I'm very certain that Jefferson did not have this in mind when he wrote that letter about the wall between church and state. It also looks like Amber Magnum's rights were flouted in violation of her school's policy and of federal law.


 
I'm in favor of free speech, even the vile kind, but these people really and truly aint right. God has nothing to do either with the slaughter of innocent school girls or the deaths of soldiers in Iraq. One would wish that God would explain it to these hate filled mockery of human beings.

Addendum: Apparently the threat to picket the funerals of those murdered Amish girls was just a ploy to get air time. Michael Gallagher is a good guy and will hammer these creeps with pointed questions. But I recommend a long bath and a stiff drink after the show.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006
 
Civil War reenactors are very meticulous about authenticity, which for them includes flags and guns. Mayor Miller of Franklin, Tennessee is taking political correctness to its usual absurd extremes by forbidding both.


 
As expected, the Lunar Surface Access Module (LSAM) will be named Artemis.


Monday, October 02, 2006
 
Mickey Kaus suggests that the Mark Foley seat is not necessarily lost to the GOP after all.



 
Martin Luther King was a Republican? Who knew? But considering the additudes of Southern Democrats toward race at the time, it does make sense. And "...not by the color of their skin, but the content of their charecter" is a good, sound Republican virtue, which really annoys the current civil rights crowd when pointed out.

Mind, it looks like that the same people who think that ads suggesting that President Bush supports the lynching of African Americans are just cool are really offended by an ad that suggests Dr. King was not actually a Liberal Democrat.


 
Jeff Foust takes a sneak peek at SpaceShipTwo.


 
Dwayne Day examines the effect television science fiction has had on society and our additudes toward space exploration, starting with the original Star Trek and ending with the current Battlestar Galactica. He has some good points, but one I must take issue with:
Space exploration no longer has the positive cachet for Americans that it once had. Astronauts have died, and space no longer represents the bold and limitless frontier that it was early in the space age. Even popular and positive visions of the future and spaceflight are unlikely to be received without skepticism by today’s public.

Current polling data would tend to contradict this statement. Our additudes toward the space frontier are a little bit more nuanced and sophesticated now than they were forty years ago, but I think no less positive. (More positive in fact when one looks at polling data from the 1960s.) And I think that the newer shows like Babylon 5, Battlestar, and Firefly reflect that. The space frontier is not a panacea to all of our problems. It represents an opportunity to address those and to realize unfullfilled potential.


Sunday, October 01, 2006
 
For the would be space explorer who thinks he has everything, but obviously does not:

Great for Halloween in any case if not for ones first trip to Club Med Moon.