Monday, December 31, 2007
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Rand Simberg, not surprisingly, disagrees.
And as Meade points out, the government is not sufficiently stable to risk the popular uproar that might be engendered by large numbers of people who are unhappy to see their national wealth spent to send a few taikonauts off to Luna, while they continue to have no running water. I expect the Chinese program to continue at its current snail's pace, but to think that they will beat us back to the moon any time soon, or at all, remains a fantasy.
The problem with Rand's analysis, aside from the fact that Meade doesn't even mention China's space program, is that China is not ruled by the sort of people who care overmuch what the people think. In fact, it is ruled by people who are quite willing to imprison and even slaughter dissidents. If and when China goes to the Moon will not be determined by popular vote, but by a few people in Beijing making decisions based on what they (not Rand, myself, or anyone else) view as China's self interest.
And the Chinese might well beat us if we make some bad decisions, like bringing the choice of hardware to go back to the Moon with into the political process and thus waste a number of years wrangling about it.
I'm finally amused by the assumption that the Internet Rocketeer Club has lots of new recruits among the Chinese proletariat:
That means that the Chinese peasants, the vast majority of whom are still in poverty by US standards, are likely to be even less happy about boondoggles to the moon than we are.
Has Rand actually talked to even a single Chinese peasant? How does he know what the attitude is concerning China's space efforts? Do they actually consider efforts to go to the Moon a "boondoggle?" And who is this "we" Rand is referring to?
Addendum: Sam Dinkin suggests that there is less than meets the idea here and that China still has a lot of potential.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Friday, December 28, 2007
Oprah may, in fact, have hurt herself in this regard. She used very partisan rhetoric and took some very controversial opinions, especially on the War on Terror, while touting Obama in terms worthy more of introducing the next Messiah than the next President.
How else to explain this:
This is my 2008 slogan: Reasonable Person for President. That is my hope, what I ask Iowa to produce, and I claim here to speak for thousands, millions. We are grown-ups, we know our country needs greatness, but we do not expect it and will settle at the moment for good. We just want a reasonable person. We would like a candidate who does not appear to be obviously insane. We'd like knowledge, judgment, a prudent understanding of the world and of the ways and histories of the men and women in it.
Well, heavens, who might that be? Noonan explains:
Here are two reasonables: Joe Biden and Chris Dodd. They have been United States senators for a combined 62 years. They've read a raw threat file or two. They have experience, sophistication, the long view. They know how it works. No one will have to explain it to them.
Sorry, but no. Both Senators are hacks who favor appeasement abroad and socialism at home. I'm not very impressed by years in the Senate either. We used to have a saying that there are people with thirty years of experience and people with one year repeated thirty times. Biden and Dodd fit in the latter category.
She likes Romney, which shows that she hasn't taken leave of all of her senses, and even McCain who--despite his being a lion on the War--I have serious doubts about. Then she falls for the Obama as JFK myth.
Barack Obama? Yes, I think so. He has earned the attention of the country with a classy campaign, with a disciplined and dignified staff, and with passionate supporters such as JFK hand Ted Sorensen, who has told me he sees in Obama's mind and temperament the kind of gifts Kennedy displayed during the Cuban missile crisis. Mr. Obama is thoughtful, and it would be a pleasure to have a president who is highly literate and a writer of books.
The problem is that in substance Obama is the opposite of JFK. Can you imagine him making a speech with these words: "Pay any price, bear any burden...?" I think not. And hw about: "We choose to go to the Moon!" Obama wants to stop all of that.
But he's not ready yet, as even Noonan can see:
Is he experienced enough? No. He's not old enough either. Men in their 40s love drama too much. Young politicians on fire over this issue or that tend to see politics as a stage on which they can act out their greatness. And we don't need more theatrics, more comedies or tragedies. But Mr. Obama doesn't seem on fire. He seems like a calm liberal with a certain moderating ambivalence. The great plus of his candidacy: More than anyone else he turns the page. If he rises he is something new in history, good or bad, and a new era begins.
Actually Obama, like most Democrats, is very much a man of the 1970s. And worse, while Noonan calls him "calm" I call him boring.
Noonan still can't stand Hillary. But then, not even her husband can do that.
One problem is that we sometimes don't really know for certain how a candidate will behave as President. George W. Bush was, as Noonan suggested, the moderate in 2000. 9/11 forced him to be the man who stood up on the rubble of Ground Zero and become what he is today, hammer of terrorists and liberator of nations.
Even Reagan, whom I suspect is still Noonan's favorite President, was misjudged and underestimated. He dared to dream the death of communism and then set about to achieve that dream. Most people, even in his own party, thought he was a bit touched for daring that. And yet, within a year of Reagan's departure from office, the Berlin Wall fell. And Reagan lived to see the Hammer and Sickle lowered for the last time.
Noonan should remember that as she pines for "reasonableness."
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Addendum: John Podhoretz proclaims an end to the holiday from history in the Presidential primary.
I tend to agree. This has the potential for calamity on an epic scale, as it is taking place in an unstable country with nuclear weapons.
US political effects? Bad for the Democrats. Any reminder that the world is a dangerous place tends to make people run to the adults in the Republican party. McCain and Giuliani perhaps benefit.
Addendum 2: A more comprehensive take on the story, The Murder of Benazir Bhutto and the Future of Pakistan and the War on Terror
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
If you're even half as angry about this as I am, then it's time to let Congress know that you're mad as hell and not going to take it any longer. Even if it doesn't do any good, won't it just feel grand to let your Representative and Senator know how you feel!? And while you're at it, write a letter to your local newspaper editor.
All very appropriate suggestions, if a little late in the game. Here is my suggestion to SFF and space activists in general. The time to raise hell about this sort of thing is before and not after the fact. That way there is a chance of actually stopping it. If you don't have contacts within Congressional staffs to give alerts about this sort of thing, it's time to make them.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Monday, December 24, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Some of my readers wonder why I am so hard on those people whom I collectively call the Internet Rocketeer Club. It's not just the hyper rhetoric (which by the way turns off a lot of people who are not space fans), or the desire to turn the selection of hardware into a political football, or the tendency to whine. Incessantly. Constantly. Without pause.
What really makes me want to reach for a baseball bat is the total waste of time these people are indulging in. Let's face it. The Space Activism community is too small and too divided to affect things like what kinds of rockets and space craft we build to take people back to the Moon. This is especially true if for some reason the person in question chooses not to reveal his or her name. Anonymous posts in the comments section of someone else's blog is the equivalent of graffiti on the bathroom wall and is generally treated as such.
In the mean time, while people are posting comments about how horrible the Ares is and how NASA generally sucks, Congress is free to slash funding for the Commercial Orbital Transportation Systsms program. That august body also still refuses to fund the Centennial Challenges adequately. They did these things apparently without debate or hearings, in the middle of the night, to slip into an Omnibus Spending Bill along with a lot of other dubious provisions to jam down the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Here's my own challenge. The next time you feel tempted to post on some blog your deathless thoughts about how the Vision for Space Exploration is going to hell in a hand basket, try to resist that temptation. Instead use the time to call your Congressman and Senators and mention that you're unhappy that COTS got cut and the Centennial Challenges aren't really getting funded at all. Try to use calm, sensible language (that is to say, don't come off as a raving lunatic.)
I think you will find that you have done more for the cause of making our civilization a space faring one than a thousand fervent posts on the Internet.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
And one would be wrong."
If we look at that data and compare 2004 (latest year for which data is available) to 1997 (last year before the Kyoto treaty was signed), we find the following.
Emissions worldwide increased 18.0%.
Emissions from countries that signed the treaty increased 21.1%.
Emissions from non-signers increased 10.0%.
Emissions from the U.S. increased 6.6%.
A scaled-back approach to closing the gap -- suggested by Florida's senior U.S. senator, Democrat Bill Nelson -- is more practical: Lawmakers would focus on finding up to $500 million for one extra shuttle flight to put in orbit a $1.5 billion space experiment that is now grounded, and keep fighting for more money to speed up the Constellation program.
We share Mr. Weldon's hope that his plan will spur a national debate about the space program's future. All the presidential hopefuls need to weigh in.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
December 18, 2007
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Space remains the only environment where there has been no crime, no fighting, no weapons, and no aggressive behavior. Space has shown itself time and time again to be the best path possible to a peaceful existence on Earth. Space also presents us with the possibility of solutions to our terrestrial energy and resource problems we all know only too well. Both The Space Show and OGLF are playing an important role in helping humanity to become space-faring and accomplish visionary goals. We hope you decide to help us reach these goals.
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In a new Fox 5-The Washington Times-Rasmussen Reports survey, 64 percent of Republicans, 42 percent of third-party or independent voters, and 17 percent of Democrats said the candidate they most want to keep from the White House is Mrs. Clinton.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Addendum: More details. Jeff Foust wonders why offer a bill with no chance of passage. A possible answer:
So why introduce it at all, besides demonstrating to constituents that you’re trying to help the local economy by keeping the shuttle and its jobs in place for a while longer? Weldon hopes that his bill will “force a national debate over the future of America’s space program”, in particular among the presidential candidates. Weldon criticized the Republican candidates for not being forthcoming about their proposed space policies, according to the Sentinel.
"There's so much we can do together if we work together as a world. Remember that movie Independence Day, where invaders were coming from outer space and the whole world was united against the invasion? Why can't we be united on behalf of our planet? And that's what I want to do, to get more and more people to understand that and to be involved to protect our environment."
Hillary, as usual, is rather wide of the mark. If aliens showed up to take our planet, such liberal Democrats who were left after New York, Washington, and Los Angeles were dusted, would be to blame President Bush for not pursuing the diplomatic option.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Friday, December 14, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Al-Attas said the focus seemed to be not on making the car "Islamic," but "rather on using the term 'Islamic' as an advertising tool purely for economic gain."
He said Islam was not "the handmaiden of politics or a cliche for advertising, business and economics ... far from ennobling the Muslims and the Muslim world, such proposals like an 'Islamic car' bring shame, and invite unnecessary ridicule."
One would think that someone would object to that.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Dennis' history is a bit faulty. SEI was never really funded as anything other than a study program, despite efforts of the Bush 41 administration. VSE, on the other hand, is relatively well funded. One can argue that it could use more money, but the fact is that NASA is bending metal and seems on track to actually flying hardware when it says it will.
SEI was strongly opposed by the Congress. Some of the same members of Congress (Senator Mikulski for example) who opposed SEI now support VSE.
That is not to say that VSE cannot get into political trouble. Neither Senator Clinton nor Senator Obama seem to be supportive. And the program might even suffer due to the budget chaos now extant because of the incompetence of the current Congressional leadership.
Still, Dennis' ideas about linking VSE to energy production are sound ones.
Addendum: Rand Simberg, not surprisingly, jumps in with both feet to agree with Dennis' thesis.
With VSE, it's more a case of negligent manslaughter, rather than premeditation. ESAS, and NASA's lack of vision, is killing the Vision. And the administration is too preoccupied with other things, and long in the tooth, to do anything about it.
Dennis and Rand might be able to sell this proposition with more credibility if they could offer some meaningful metrics to back it up. Making a vague complaint about "lack of vision" doesn't quite cut it, especially when one notes that every speech Mike Griffin has made on the subject is filled with vision.
What sort of metrics would indicate that VSE is "dying?" Let me help here:
(1) Lack of public support. Most polling data indicates that there is still strong support for the idea of going back to the Moon and on to Mars. Of course there is room for improvement in this area, as Mary Lynne Dittmar suggested in a two part article in Space Review. But there is no organized opposition to VSE, as there for a number of other government activities (say, the war in Iraq.)
(2) Lack of political support. Again there doesn't seem to be much evidence here. Unlike SEI, Congress has tended to fund VSE relatively lavishly. Unlike with the project that became the International Space Station, there has been only one near death experience for SEI, which took place in its very first year, but was quickly squashed by the first veto threat made by the Bush Administration and the efforts of then House Majority Leader Tom Delay.
That is not to say that there isn't a potential for politics to seriously damage or even kill out right VSE in the future. The project suffered a half billiob dollar shortfall caused by the budgetary chaos which in turn was caused by the transition from GOP to Democratic control. Budget chaos continues under the current, incompetent leadership of the Democratic Congress.
Support for VSE seems lukewarm, at best, among the Democratic Presidential candidates. Most of the GOP candidates strongly support the project, however, in principle.
(3) Technical and fiscal problems. ISS was plagued by lots of budget overruns and schedule slippages, some caused by technical and design problems, some by managerial incompetence. Despite the rumor that crops up on the Internet every three months of the "imminent death" of the Orion/Ares space craft, this doesn't seem to be the case for VSE. Mind there are technological challenges, often exaggerated for political reasons by foes of the project, that need overcoming and it is conceivable that one or more might trip things up.
In conclusion, while one can seriously point out shortcomings in the VSE program and suggest solutions, to suggest that "VSE is dying" seems to this analyst to be super heated, hysterical rhetoric, on the level of Harry Reid braying that "the war is Lost." This sort of thing tends to complicate any serious analysis of space policy, since it allows NASA and others to automatically dismiss any criticism, constructive or otherwise.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Sunday, December 09, 2007
SEC. ____ . (a) The National Aeronautics and Space Administration shall take all actions necessary in fiscal year 2008, including renegotiating necessary prime contracts and subcontracts and ensuring that they do not expire, in order to ensure the option of operating the Space Shuttle beyond the currently planned Shuttle end-of-operations date in 2010. These actions shall be accomplished using existing funds made available by this or any other Act, and shall include --
(1) permitting no contracts necessary for suchoperation to expire;
(2) keeping all necessary production facilities active, or readily available; and
(3) conditioning any turnover of Shuttle facilities to programs other than the Shuttle program so as to ensure that such turnover will not affect the option to operate the Space Shuttle after 2010.
(b) Actions taken by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under this section shall not negatively affect Constellation program development, schedule, or delivery.
(c) Not later than March 1, 2008, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration shall report to Congress on how it intends to implement actions under this section within existing funds. Such report shall include a description of the proposed disposition of facilities and how the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will keep all Shuttle operations operating while still maintaining the schedule for the development of the Constellation pro gram.
No word as of yet whether Rep Weldon wants NASA to turn lead into gold, raise the dead, or find an honest person in Congress.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
“Slavery is a part of Islam . . . Slavery is part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long there is Islam.” —Sheikh Saleh Al-Fawzan, author of the religious textbook At-Tawhid (“Monotheism”) and senior Saudi cleric.Demography is destiny. In the 22nd century European deathbed demographics have turned the continent over to the more fertile Moslems. Atheism in Europe has been exterminated. Homosexuals are hanged, stoned or crucified. Such Christians as remain are relegated to dhimmitude, a form of second class citizenship. They are denied arms, denied civil rights, denied a voice, and specially taxed via the Koranic yizya. Their sons are taken as conscripted soldiers while their daughters are subject to the depredations of the continent’s new masters.
In that world, Petra, a German girl sold into prostitution as a slave at the age of nine to pay her family’s yizya, dreams of escape. Unlike most girls of the day, Petra can read. And in her only real possession, her grandmother’s diary, a diary detailing the fall of European civilization, Petra has learned of a magic place across the sea: America.
Friday, December 07, 2007
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Whoever is crafting the Congressional language is falling into the same trap that many if not most people do when discussing space and NASA's role in it: the idea that space is for "exploration" and nothing more. And they compound this error with the use of "exclusively"...apparently intended to avoid curtailment of robotic exploration, the language in fact only limits activities on or related to Mars whose sole function is human exploration. Call me optimistic, but it would seem this proposal would not in fact curtail human activity on Mars -- it would instead force it to be something more than exploration.
Such as, maybe, settlement.
Governor Mitt Romney has given the speech, not so much about his Mormon faith but about his personal view on religion, which many people have been waiting for. It is sad that there is still an unspoken "religious test" that compelled him to do so. But he delivered with great eloquence and should lay to rest any anxieties that any reasonable person might have about a Latter Day Saint in the White House.
Addendum: This proposal, by the way, should proove as a caution to our friends in the Internet Rocketeer Society who want to--in effect--open up the design of the Orion/Ares to the political process. There is no telling what the Fools on the Hill will do should that happen.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Addendum: Was US Intelligence duped by Iran? Ken Timmeerman thinks it might be so.
Addendum 2: The Mossad is also skeptical.
Addendum 3: It can be argued that if the report is true, it constitutes another major success of Bush's foreign policy.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Saturday, December 01, 2007
The question is central to Orion's unusual design philosophy. For every challenge facing Orion's engineers, there is a simple mantra: Borrow or buy before you invent.
That is, borrow technology NASA has already used, if it works. Buy technology from the commercial world that has been introduced in the past three decades, technology NASA didn't have to pay to develop or debug. And if you can't find a solution in stock or off the shelf, only then do you go into the NASA workshop and mix up something new. Everything is ultimately adapted for Orion, but the resourcefulness provides two things the manned space program needs: efficiency and confidence.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Talking Green vs Being Green
FWIW, I work in the Pentagon, on the Iraq policy desk.
I just finished reading Children of Apollo. I loved it.
But. (always a "but" ain't there?)
You mispelled Dana Rohrabacher's name.
I worked for Dana as his original space aide and for his first six years in Congress (then I went over to the Senate Commerce Committee staff as a space expert) (they paid more).
Now, I have to tell ya, Dana pays *very well* for his staffers, given what he could pay them, and given what other Congresscritters pay. But it ain't enough for a newly-wed with kids.
I also loved the way Pete Conrad kept popping up throughout the book. I worked for Pete as his Washington guy from 1997 until his death in 1999 -- and for Universal Space Network until 2002. You got the Pete *I* knew dead-on IMHO. What a guy. *sigh*
Just wanted to drop a note. I read the blog every day (although I gotta tell ya, I'm one of the Internet Rockteer Club bozos).
-- Tim Kyger
This is praise indeed, as Tim has worked very tirelessly to advance the space frontier from a political/activism angle since I can remember.
The book he is refering to, of course, is my alternate history book, Children of Apollo, the cover of which can be seen to the left.
My apologies to the good Congressman for getting his name messed up. It will be among a number of editing glitches that will be corrected, especially in an upcoming ebook edition for the Amazon Kindle.
I am also reminded that soon I must write an essay about the Internet Rocketeer Club, how does one spot a member, and how to avoid being a member.
We recommend that the NASA Administrator direct the Ares I project manager to develop a sound business case--supported by firm requirements, mature technologies, a preliminary design, a realistic cost estimate, and sufficient funding and time--before proceeding beyond preliminary design review (currently planned for July 2008) and, if necessary, delay the preliminary design review until a sound business case demonstrating the project's readiness to move forward into product development is in hand.
In other words, do what you're doing anyway. Talk about stating the obvious.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
In fact, maybe not just a race.
The moon may lack traditional loot — there's no gold, no oil, no trade route — but that doesn't mean it's worthless. Harrison Schmitt, the only astronaut to walk on the moon who was also a scientist (in fact, a geologist), advocates mining it for helium-3, a rare isotope thought to be an ideal fuel for fusion reactors. Since 2002, Ouyang Ziyuan, the chief scientist of China's lunar exploration team, has made his country's intentions clear: "Our long-term goal is to set up a base on the moon and mine its riches for the benefit of humanity." But by far the moon's biggest asset is its primal cachet. Lunar settlers could brandish their nationalism over all of Earth every night. Add to that the fact that the moon is perfect practice for conquest of Mars, the Asteroid Belt, and moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and beyond. In human history, anywhere there's value, there are eventually property rights.
It's been several hundred years since a virgin patch of Earth was successfully claimed by anyone. Now that we may be facing valuable unsullied territory again, it would be wise to come up with a better system. Do we really want to see a repeat of the Americas, colonial Africa, or the Middle East? "As I tell my students, when humans have a conflict there are only two options: to reach agreement or to fight," Gabrynowicz says. "Even agreeing to disagree or doing nothing simply puts these options further into the future; it does not create additional options. At the level of nations, these options are law or war."
Lunar war? Over helium-3? Over a barren, inhospitable rock that costs a fortune to get to? It's not worth the effort. Of course, people once said that about the North Pole.
The GOP YouTube Debate started with a country and western song about the candidates. Then it proceeded with a bang when Rudi Giuliani accused Mitt Romney of employing illegal aliens and, in effect, operating a "sanctuary mansion."
The night kind of went downhill from there.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
My response, by the way, would be, "Yes, but not by 2020."
But all is not lost, cinema fans. It may be that if the Surge continues to be successful, in the not-so-distant future a wholly different kind of Iraq War movie will emerge. And they will be made by the veterans themselves. If we are particularly lucky, they will seem more like Casablanca than Redacted.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Addendum: Green technology? Well, OK, but I always liked Tom's adventures in space the best. Still, I disaagree with Quint about setting the series in the 1910s (very politically incorrect if you've read the books) or even the 1950s-60s (the era when I read them.) Tom is eternal and is available for each generation.
Monday, November 26, 2007
"If China can go to the moon, eventually with a manned program, it will represent the ultimate achievement for China in making itself essentially the second most important space power, accomplishing what even the Soviets had not," says Dean Cheng, a China military analyst for CNA, a private research corporation. Watch China's lunar rocket blast off »
According to Cheng, the Chinese are now embarking on a systematic space program the world has not seen since the 1960's and for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States is facing real competition. That may explain why the head of NASA, Michael Griffin, recently warned that "China will be back on the moon before we are . . . I think when that happens Americans will not like it."
But there could be a lot more at stake than just lunar boasting rights. It's unlikely the Chinese will land at Tranquility Base and pull down the Stars and Stripes. But the goal could be mining resources. One powerful, potential fuel source is helium-3. Helium-3 originated from the sun and was deposited in the moon's soil by the solar wind. It is estimated there are up to two million tons on the moon, and virtually none on Earth.
That being the case, one wonders why Teddy Kennedy is still opposing Cape Wind.
China continues to dump huge resources into its space program, in 2003 becoming just the third nation after the U.S. and Russia to launch its own citizens into space.
Now leaders in Beijing are seriously pursuing ways to send taikonauts -- their name for astronauts -- to the moon before America's scheduled return around 2020.
That fits China's strategy to prove it's a 21st century force to be respected and reckoned with, and something experts say the Chinese could pull off.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Addendum: Rand Simberg, Jeff Foust, and Clark Lindsey all weigh in on the Obama scheme.
There's a depressing pattern in some of the comments section. First is the mindless cheering coming from some of the Internet Rocketeer Club since Obama would essentially destroy human space flight in this country, at least as practiced by NASA. There seems to be no awareness that there would be nothing under an Obama administration to replace it. No EELV based schemes. No Launcher Direct. No commercial alternatives. Just a yawning, ten year gap during which the US would be utterly dependent on the kindness of strangers to get people into space and the commercial launch industry, such as will exist, driven off shore by high taxes and draconian regulations.
The other bit of foolishness coming out is the proposition that had X been done (the spiral plan, the EELV plan, or whatever) Orion would by flying by 2009 and thus would be harder to kill. Both propositions are doubtful. But even if true, say goodbye anyway to the return to the Moon under Barack Hussein Obama.
Not that I expect the Senator to ever become President, even if he does beat Hillary. And I must say that Obama and Clinton seem to be competing with one another over who can say the most foolish things. Obama, with his snickering about having been a coke head and boasting about how he got his foreign policy credentials at age 10, and Hillary with her multiple flip flops, maniacal laugh, and massive duplicity seem to be proving the proposition that Democrats are not ready for prime time.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
That makes two major Democrat candidates who are hostile to space.
Addendum: The RNC responds.
Monday, November 19, 2007
A key conclusion:
Finally, there is no predetermination that the process of discovering new VPs would distract from NASA’s ability to execute its current programs. Instead, the process of discovering, developing, and delivering new VPs will help NASA to define its mission and strengthen its offerings to the stakeholders it must serve across many Administrations and Congressional sessions. Those who argue that the expenditure of resources necessary to discover, develop, and deliver new VPs will distract NASA from existing program challenges ignore the possibility that the process will produce results that are synergistic, amplifying both the relevance and longevity of the VSE as well as the non-VSE VPs that accrue from it.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Saturday, November 17, 2007
According to NASA sources, the Ares 1 first stage, as currently designed, would produce a frequency of 25 Hz at liftoff. The concern is that this oscillation could shake the Ares 1 upper stage and Orion capsule designed to carry human passengers, causing considerable damage and that it could also adversely affect the Guidance, Navigation, and Control avionics in the rocket's Instrumentation Unit.
This sounds really bad. But Keith, following sound journalistic practice, asked for official comment. He got this response:
"The Ares Project Office identified Ares I thrust oscillation as a potential integrated stack challenge as a part of its system definition review which concluded in October. Thrust oscillation or resonant burning is a characteristic of all solid rocket motors. It is caused by vortex shedding inside the solid rocket motor, similar to the wake that follows a fast-moving boat. When the vortex shedding coincides with the acoustic modes of the motor combustion chamber, pressure oscillations generate longitudinal forces that may affect the loads experienced by the Ares I during the last phase of first-stage flight. NASA is assessing the analyses in more detail, looking for any potential impacts to the integrated stack and ways to mitigate those impacts. Results are due in spring 2008. It is a normal part of the development process to identify, mitigate and track challenges such as this."
One wonders, therefore, what to make of this. There is no space system ever developed that has not encountered technical challenges that have to be studied, worked through, and solved. The combustion stability problems of the F1 engine that eventually powered the Saturn V and the weight problems experienced by the original lunar module come to mind. Indeed, some private efforts--Elon Musk's Falcon 1 comes to mind--have had problems that have to be worked.
So is this oscillation problem just one of the normal problems that have to be solved in the course of developing a new space system? Or is it a major design flaw that will actually prevent the development of the Ares 1 into a viable launcher? The knee jerk reaction I'm seeing on the Internet seems to be that it's the latter. But a glance at the history of space technology leads me to think that it's likely the former. In any case, stay tuned.
Friday, November 16, 2007
A an interesting analysis of the political dynamic this is causing has been posted by Jeff Foust. The comments are worth the time reading it, if only for the entertainment value. Especially the one suggesting that Griffin should have lied to a committee of the Senate.
The reaction of the politicians are, oddly, somewhat encouraging. Time was when a NASA Administrator offered a Congressional committee such a stark choice, he would be given an impossible one. "You will cut the gap between the shuttle and Orion. And by the way, we'll also be cutting your budget. Have a nice day." Both Senators Nelson and Hutchison should be lauded for not going down that road.
Of course there are the folks who want to trash the current approach and do something else. It's a matter of debate that any of these new approaches would reduce the gap or even work. In any case I suspect that if we went down that road, we might spend years arguing over which one was best.
It seems that there are two options. One is to hope that the supporters of NASA in Congress get the rabbit out of the hat, along with the needed two billion dollars. The other is to hope that Elon Musk (or someone else) can deliver in a timely fashion.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Of course there is another possible development. Some studios are already outsourcing productions to places like Canada and New Zealand where espenses, because of lower labor costs, are lower. Electricians, carpenters, and other people who work behind the scenes work cheaper in these and other countries than in heavily unionized California.
What if the studios decided to go all the way, terminating their agreements with creative unions like the Writers Guild, and go looking for creative talent overseas? Except for high end name talent, one could conceive of the idea that writers, actors, and directors in Vancouver, Christchurch, and Sydney can turn out product just as well as higher priced people in California.
Indeed, there are other states of the union where creative talent can be found, states where labor laws are a little more favorable to business. There are some productions already up and running in Florida. Texas, a large, cosmopolitan state would be another possibility.
The problem, of course, is that NASA will likely have answers that might satisfy the committee but will not satisfy the Internet Rocketeer Society since it will not result in the above answer. (By the way, the NASA answers might--indeed even likely--be accurate. While during the early space station era, NASA folks were adroit at obfuscation, that does not seem to be the case now.)
The other problem, besides the possibility of NASA trying to hide problems until it's too late, is the possibility that Congress will decide to help and be aerospace engineers, just as they did for the space station. That was one factor in the mess that became the International Space Station.
Rand Simberg, oddly enough, touches on this. I'm not sure about his solution. The political class has been as eager to intefeer in private business as it has in public programs.
Addendum: Mike Griffin's actual testimony.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
My skepticism withered in the face of somebody potentially accomplishing the impossible, particularly since Musk came across as a pleasant guy rather than a blowhard wallowing in his own dot-com buzz.
Read the whole thing.
We polled his suburban Houston district and found that voters resist his contrarian and stark libertarian perspective that even sells out local interests. When told that “Ron Paul consistently opposes taxpayer funding for NASA and wants to eliminate the agency,” 61 percent of Republican primary voters said this information would make them less likely to vote for Paul’s reelection.
It is too bad that Paul is stark raving mad, especially on the war, and has among his supporters people who are, charitably speaking, unsavory. Otherwise I know of certain people who would support him with enthusiasm just for that stand alone.
Issued 31 January 2007
(Click here to
confirm these are legitimate.)
#5: Marcy Meckler. While shopping at
a mall, Meckler stepped outside and was "attacked" by a squirrel that
lived among the trees and bushes. And "while frantically attempting
to escape from the squirrel and detach it from her leg, [Meckler]
fell and suffered severe injuries," her resulting lawsuit says.
That's the mall's fault, the lawsuit claims, demanding in excess of
$50,000, based on the mall's "failure to warn" her that squirrels
#4: Ron and Kristie Simmons. The
couple's 4-year-old son, Justin, was killed in a tragic lawnmower
accident in a licensed daycare facility, and the death was clearly
the result of negligence by the daycare providers. The providers were
clearly deserving of being sued, yet when the Simmons's discovered
the daycare only had $100,000 in insurance, they dropped the case
against them and instead sued the manufacturer of the 16-year-old
lawn mower because the mower didn't have a safety device that 1) had
not been invented at the time of the mower's manufacture, and 2) no
safety agency had even suggested needed to be invented. A sympathetic
jury still awarded the family $2 million.
#3: Robert Clymer. An FBI agent
working a high-profile case in Las Vegas, Clymer allegedly created a
disturbance, lost the magazine from his pistol, then crashed his
pickup truck in a drunken stupor -- his blood-alcohol level was 0.306
percent, more than three times the legal limit for driving in Nevada.
He pled guilty to drunk driving because, his lawyer explained, "With
public officials, we expect them to own up to their mistakes and
correct them." Yet Clymer had the gall to sue the manufacturer of his
pickup truck, and the dealer he bought it from, because he "somehow
lost consciousness" and the truck "somehow produced a heavy smoke
that filled the passenger cab." Yep: the drunk-driving accident
wasn't his fault, but the truck's fault. Just the kind of guy you
want carrying a gun in the name of the law.
#2: KinderStart.com. The specialty
search engine says Google should be forced to include the KinderStart
site in its listings, reveal how its "Page Rank" system works, and
pay them lots of money because they're a competitor. They claim by
not being ranked higher in Google, Google is somehow infringing
KinderStart's Constitutional right to free speech. Even if by some
stretch they were a competitor of Google, why in the world would they
think it's Google's responsibility to help them succeed? And if
Google's "review" of their site is negative, wouldn't a government
court order forcing them to change it infringe on Google's
Constitutional right to free speech?
And the winner of the 2006 True Stella
Award: Allen Ray Heckard. Even though Heckard is 3 inches
shorter, 25 pounds lighter, and 8 years older than former basketball
star Michael Jordan, the Portland, Oregon, man says he looks a lot
like Jordan, and is often confused for him -- and thus he deserves
$52 million "for defamation and permanent injury" -- plus $364
million in "punitive damage for emotional pain and suffering", plus
the SAME amount from Nike co-founder Phil Knight, for a grand total
of $832 million. He dropped the suit after Nike's lawyers chatted
with him, where they presumably explained how they'd counter-sue if
he pressed on.
Come caveats on a few of the points, though:
Visit Williamsburg and talk about how Jamestown was settled and how the frontier spirit is alive and well in America and how 400 years from now the Moon and Mars will be settled.
I'm not sure that people can be made to be very excited about something 400 years from now. I suspect the emphasis should be on things that can happen now and in the near future.
Make fun of the new race for the next humans to set foot on the Moon and suggest that you'd like to see Google offer a prize to the winner of that race, too (on top of their rover prize).
Does anyone see a contradiction here? I suggest playing up the race, hinting that the prize is who gets to expand their political and economic system not only to the Moon, but beyond. I'm not sure, also, that tell Google that it should offer a humans to the Moon prize would be very useful. Touting more realistic prizes would be, however.
I would finally suggest making a space policy speech, most certainly in a private space setting like Los Crucas or Mojave. Bring together the themes of private space and public space and demonstrate how they support one another.