Monday, April 30, 2007

The interesting thing about this story is how Russia seems to be reverting to an old Cold War technique of accusing the United States of plotting to do something that it (i.e. Russia) would like to do. Not that I think Russia is capable (by itself anyway) of grabbing 3HE resources on the Moon.
Choosing Country over Party: Time for Joe Lieberman to Become a Republican.
Looks like Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe are going to do an historical epic again. This one is about the brave and just Sherrif of Nottingham fighting against that terrorist wolfshead, Robin Hood, with whom he also has a love triangle including Maid Marion. King John is still evil, though.
Dan Simpson wants to take your guns. All of them. Or else.
Now, how would one disarm the American population? First of all, federal or state laws would need to make it a crime punishable by a $1,000 fine and one year in prison per weapon to possess a firearm. The population would then be given three months to turn in their guns, without penalty.

I'm sure that this will motivate the Crips and the Bloods to do their civic duty.
Hunters would be able to deposit their hunting weapons in a centrally located arsenal, heavily guarded, from which they would be able to withdraw them each hunting season upon presentation of a valid hunting license. The weapons would be required to be redeposited at the end of the season on pain of arrest. When hunters submitted their request for their weapons, federal, state and local checks would be made to establish that they had not been convicted of a violent crime since the last time they withdrew their weapons. In the process, arsenal staff would take at least a quick look at each hunter to try to affirm that he was not obviously unhinged.

The mind really starts to boggle at this point. But there is more.
It would have to be the case that the term "hunting weapon" did not include anti-tank ordnance, assault weapons, rocket-propelled grenade launchers or other weapons of war.

Rednecks blasting the hell out of deer and ducks with TOW missiles has been a major problem, I'm sure.
All antique or interesting nonhunting weapons would be required to be delivered to a local or regional museum, also to be under strict 24-hour-a-day guard. There they would be on display, if the owner desired, as part of an interesting exhibit of antique American weapons, as family heirlooms from proud wars past or as part of collections.

As has mass murders with muskets.
Gun dealers could continue their work, selling hunting and antique firearms. Dealers would be required to maintain very tight inventories. Any gun sold would be delivered immediately by the dealer to the nearest arsenal or the museum, not to the buyer.

Yep, I'm certainly I'm going to be anxious to purchase a deer rifle that I can't actually own.
The disarmament process would begin after the initial three-month amnesty. Special squads of police would be formed and trained to carry out the work. Then, on a random basis to permit no advance warning, city blocks and stretches of suburban and rural areas would be cordoned off and searches carried out in every business, dwelling and empty building. Thoroughness would be at the level of the sort of search that is carried out in Crime Scene Investigations. All firearms would be seized. The owners of weapons found in the searches would be prosecuted: $1,000 and one year in prison for each firearm.

I thought that one had to get warrants for this sort of thing. Oh well, I suppose if one proposes to ignore the 2nd Amendment, also ignoring the 4th Amendment would be just as easy.
Clearly, since such sweeps could not take place all across a city, county, state or the country at the same time, guns would move. But fairly quickly there would begin to be gun-swept, gun-free areas where there should be no firearms. If there were, those carrying them would be subject to quick confiscation and prosecution. On the streets it would be a question of stopping and searching anyone, even Grandma with her walker, with the same penalties for "carrying."

Just the perfect place to commit a murder or robbery.
The "gun lobby" would no doubt try to head off in the courts such new laws and the actions to implement them. They might succeed in doing so, although the new approach would undoubtedly prompt new, vigorous debate on the subject.

Like, resolved: this guy is fricking insane.
America's long land and sea borders present another kind of problem. It is easy to imagine mega-gun dealerships installing themselves in Mexico and perhaps in more remote parts of the Canadian border area to funnel guns into the United States. That would constitute a problem for American immigration authorities and the U.S. Coast Guard, but not an insurmountable one over time.

There has been such success keeping out drugs and illegal immigrants I'm sure that the border patrol has lots of time on its hands to keep out illegal deer rifles.
There also could conceivably be a rash of score-settling during hunting season as people drew out their weapons, ostensibly to shoot squirrels and deer, and began eliminating their perceived two-footed enemies. Given the general nature of hunting weapons and the fact that such killings are frequently time-sensitive, that seems a lesser sort of issue.

Another problem: rednecks blasting each other in the woods. My experience is that it usually happens by accident (insert your favorite Dick Cheney joke.)

In any case, I wonder if this bozo really wants to live in a country where this sort of thing would be tried.
Taylor Dinerman finds a huge error in an otherwise informative history book.
Eric Hedman proposes an infusion of cash for NASA.

Addendum: Rand Simberg, not surprising, is dubious. But as one of the comments suggest, spending too little on something can be just as wasteful as spending too much. There are also just not any "commercial solutions" to exploring space beyond Low Earth Orbit. If one wants to start doing that now, one has to do it in house. Once there is a human presence on the Moon--say--then commercial entities will have a tangible market to service.

Jeff Foust is also skeptical.

How does Your Humble Servant feel? I think we need to decide what we want to do, how, and when, and how much it costs, and then pay for it. Setting arbitrary budget levels, whether too low or too high, seems to this analyst to be a prescription for trouble.
Commercial space has tended to be a tough sell for the investment community. Jeff Foust suggests that is changing, though problems remain.

Friday, April 27, 2007

I ask the question: Should Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Resign? I think yes.
The Democrats maintain that they are just following the will of the American people by surrendering in Iraq. Well, not really.
More on the scandal surrounding PBS's censorship of Islam vs Islamists. Remember this when pledge week comes around.
Looks like SpaceX has cut a deal with the Air Force to launch the Falcon 9 from Launch Co,plex 40 at the Cape.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

My wife and myself heard this speech by Joe Lieberman while coming home this evening. My wife blurted out, "Why is this man not President?"

I replied that Joe Lieberman, at least on issues of national security, is a Jack Kennedy/Harry Truman Democrat and Democrats don not nominate his kind any more.

Hopefully, in the very near future, Senator Lieberman will join the Republican Party where he will be welcome.
Looks like Professor Hawking had a blast on his micro gravity flight.
How to make it through a prison sentence alive, unhurt, and with an intact colon.
The (Un)Fairness Doctrine: An Assault on Free Speech on the Airways
Congressman Dennis Kucinich has introduced a bill that would reimposed the "Fairness Doctrine" which would require radio and television broadcasters to present controversial subjects in a "fair and balanced manner." On the surface, the move seems reasonable. But if Kucinich were to succeed in reimposing the Fairness Doctrine, the effect would be to throttle free speech on the airways. And that might be what Kucinich has in mind.
The very first Carnival of Space is now up, thanks to Henry Cate. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Taylor Dinerman celebrates Stephen Hawking's microgravity flight.
The Virginia Tech Massacre: An Argument for More not Less Guns
Yet another rumor about the impending demise of the Ares 1. I'll believe it when and if it actually happens.
Looks like Rosie O'Donnell is being given the Royal Order of the Boot from The View. Clearly my suggestion was not listened to.
Looks like Pacific War, to be brought to us by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg who previously produced Band of Brothers, is greenlit.

It'll be based on both "With The Old Breed" by E.B. Sledge and "Helmet For My Pillow" by Robert Leckie, the miniseries will follow two U.S. marines who fought and lived to write books about their experiences.
More on the scandal surrounding the censorship of PBS of the documentary Islam vs Islamists here and here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Mythbusters are themselves busted.
Fred Thompson: Can Another Actor Become President?
Scientists have discovered a planet that may be Earth like It's called Gliese 581 C and circles a red dwarf star about twenty and a half light years away.
When Worlds Collide: The Peril and Promise of Remaking a Classic
My sister-in-law sent the following:
A chicken and an egg are lying in bed. The chicken is leaning against
the headboard smoking a cigarette, with a satisfied smile on its face.
The egg, looking a bit pissed off, grabs the sheet, rolls over, and
says, "Well, I guess we finally answered THAT question.

If anyone needs it explained - read it a second time

I always wondered about that.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Is it Time to Boot Rosie O'Donnell off the Air?
Jeff Foust makes a curious analysis of justifications for public space programs and public attitudes toward the same which, I think, fall apart on close examination:
At last, it seems, we have the ultimate reason NASA needs to return to the Moon: to seize the ultimate high ground.

“China also wants to go to the moon, and they want the moon to become a military base in space,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) last week in a meeting with a group of business leaders from northern Alabama visiting Washington, according to the Huntsville Times. “We’ve got to get back to the moon first and be able to stay there. The nation’s investment in space should be one of our top national security priorities.”

The Moon as a military base? It sounds like something from the early days of the Space Age, when military leaders and pundits suggested that the Moon could be used as a military base of some kind, perhaps as a location where missiles could be launched towards Earth—nevermind that it would take three days for those missiles to arrive (see “Heinlein’s ghost (part 1)”, The Space Review, April 9, 2007). Unfortunately, Senator Mikulski doesn’t explain what the Chinese will do with their lunar military base: perhaps guard supplies of helium-3 for reactors that don’t yet exist?

While the idea of a Chinese military base on the Moon may sound preposterous, it’s hardly the first time that NASA’s supporters in Congress have used China’s ambitions in space—real or perceived—as an argument for continuing or increasing support for NASA in general, and human spaceflight in particular. Such comments also fit into a larger theme that has emerged in recent months, one endorsed by NASA administrator Mike Griffin himself: that the US must continue human spaceflight simply because that is what great nations do, with the corollary that if the US abandoned human spaceflight it would no longer be a great nation.

It's unclear what Senator Mikulski meant by Chinese military base, though since the Chinese space program is run by its military, it would seem that any Chinese lunar base would, by definition, be a military one. The idea that a Chinese military base would be designed to lob missiles at Earth is ludicrous enough to suggest that bringing up the idea is more of a strawman than a serious objection. If one believes that a long term benefit of going back to the Moon includes access to resources like helium 3 (and many serious people do; this writer once published in USA Today upon that very subject) then a military facility designed to protect (i.e. deny to others) such resources is not outside the realm of the possible.
That approach is something of a departure from late last year, when NASA rolled out its plans for establishing a permanent base on the Moon by the early 2020s (see “Moonbase why”, The Space Review, December 11, 2006). The space agency went to great lengths to explain why a lunar base was worthwhile, from science and exploration to settlement and commerce: enough rationales, it seemed, to appeal to almost anyone. Yet the public response, as gauged in particular by reaction in the press, was lackluster at best. None of the reasons put forward by NASA seemed particularly compelling, particularly when weighed against the cost of establishing and maintaining such a facility.

I'm not sure what "reaction in the press" Foust is referring to. I can list quite a few stories that wax enthusiastic about establishing a lunar base, tempered only by the fact that the planned return to the Moon is just over ten years away. I'm also not sure about the phrase "particularly compelling." By whom? Foust does not enlighten us.

Foust goes on to comment on various justifications for human space flight, focusing on the national security/national prestige aspect. Then he states:
It’s less clear, however, just how strategic human spaceflight is to the US today, given that the geopolitical landscape is very different than what it was a half-century ago. Yes, China has developed an indigenous human spaceflight capability, and India is showing a growing interest in developing its own, but that doesn’t mean that human spaceflight remains a proxy for technological leadership: after all, Europe and Japan have emerged in the last half-century as two of the leading world powers, particularly from an economic and technological standpoint, yet neither has shown more than a halfhearted interest in developing their own human spaceflight capabilities.

Are Europe and Japan really "world powers?" In what sense are they? Econcomically, to be sure, but neither seem to possess the political or especially military power necessary to define them as a "world power." Right now, the United States is the sole world power, with China aspiring to that status. Oddly enough, China has a space program as well.

Foust goes on to suggest another "alternative" to space flight as a means of national prestige.
In the early 21st century, the United States can exert soft power influence in science and technology areas beyond human spaceflight, and perhaps more effectively. One example is the growing global concern about climate change, for which the evidence mounts that human activity is either the primary cause or a critical exacerbating factor. Imagine if the US decided to take the leading role in combating climate change, through the development of alternative energy sources (particularly those that have the desirable side effect of reducing US reliance on energy imported from unstable regions of the globe) and other mitigating technologies. How much soft power would the US accrue, particularly in counterpoint to China, whose economic expansion has been powered primarily by coal and oil? And, of course, space technologies—although not necessarily human spaceflight—would have a role to play here as well.

There is considerable debate as to how much or if all climate change is a real problem. In any event, one can cite numerous examples of how the US private sector is developing alternative sources of energy. And one is not sure how space based energy sources (3he from the Moon and space based solar power are two often cited examples) can be developed without human space flight.

Foust then cites a single poll to suggest that people are really not enthusiastic about space flight.
Yet Americans, it seems, would be perfectly willing to abandon spaceflight. In a poll performed last month by Harris Interactive, Americans were asked to name up to two federal programs they believed should be cut if federal spending overall had to be cut. A whopping 51 percent named the “space program”, far ahead of welfare, defense, and farm subsidies. (Education and entitlement programs, like Social Security and Medicare, finished at the bottom of the list.) Space finished ahead of defense among Democrats, and far ahead of defense and welfare among independents; space was in a statistical dead heat with welfare among Republicans, which is not terribly encouraging given the low opinion of welfare among many conservatives. These figures may be a result of misperceptions among the general public about how much of the federal budget is spent on NASA, as past polls have found, but they do indicate that many Americans see spaceflight as a luxury, not a necessity.

Foust does admit that the poll results are likely skewed due to an inflated perception of how much money is spent on public space. One is less likely to name NASA as the top candidate for getting its budget cut if one knows that its current budget is about 16.5 billion or .6 poercent of the overall federal budget than if one believes, as many people seem to, that the NASA budget is much higher, even in the hundred billion dollar range.

But the Harris organization provides a warning on the very website where it reports its findings:
All surveys are subject to several sources of error. These include: sampling error (because only a sample of a population is interviewed); measurement error due to question wording and/or question order, deliberately or unintentionally inaccurate responses, nonresponse (including refusals), interviewer effects (when live interviewers are used) and weighting.

With one exception (sampling error) the magnitude of the errors that result cannot be estimated. There is, therefore, no way to calculate a finite "margin of error" for any survey and the use of these words should be avoided.

With pure probability samples, with 100 percent response rates, it is possible to calculate the probability that the sampling error (but not other sources of error) is not greater than some number. With a pure probability sample of 2,223 adults one could say with a ninety-five percent probability that the overall results would have a sampling error of +/- two percentage points. However that does not take other sources of error into account. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

In other words, roughly translated, "We don't know whether these numbers actually have any meaning or not."

Other recent polls, taken by the Gallup Organization and the Dittmar Group, suggest that public support for public space spending is much wider than Foust believes on the basis on a single poll.

Foust concludes:
Griffin’s discussion of “real reasons” versus “acceptable reasons” likely resonates with many in the space community, who have been drawn to work in the field for reasons less tangible than science or economics. Griffin, in January, noted Sir George Mallory’s famous reason for climbing Mount Everest: “Because it is there.” However, in an era when the geopolitical landscape is vastly different than what it was at the beginning of the Space Age 50 years ago, and in a world where there are other, potentially more fruitful opportunities for the United States to exercise “soft power” for the benefit of both itself and the world, “because it is there” many not be reason enough for NASA to send humans back to the Moon.

Perhaps, though Foust does not present any compelling evidence to back up his conclusions. In any case, in the same speech by Dr. Griffin that he quotes selectively from, Griffin did suggest that the "acceptable reasons" (i.e., economic) are no less valid that the "real reasons." Something to chew over when pondering the reasons for expanding human presence into space.
It has been so often stated that the International Space Station has not paid off in terms of "good science" is proportion to the money spent to build it and maintain it, that it's become a cliche. Taylor Dinerman suggests that the private sector may well change that due to private sector initiatives in bio medical research.

One quibble, though:
One hopes they will have learned from Monsanto, which promised that genetically modified crops would solve many of the world’s problems with pollution and hunger. They brought down upon themselves the wrath of the environmental movement and the industry has not yet recovered.

In fact genetically modified crops have proliferated as a source of food and other materials, despite attacks by environmental extremists.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Jim Oberg, who is a renowned expert on Soviet and Russian space efforts, has dropped me the following note that I should like to share:
I would like to draw the world's attention to what looks like a bogus Bill Clinton quote with alarming implications for current Russian government propaganda campaigns against opponents both domestic and foreign. I've rarely seen such a blatent falsification -- usually it's more a matter of selective editing or semantic shifting. That it is being disseminated in a 'house organ' of a Russian defense industry giant is additionally worrisome.

The original article, published March 28 last in Russian, here.

Its title (my translation) is "We Have Exhausted the Right to Geopolitical Mistakes:
Information-Ideological Influence--New Class of Weapon" and it appeared in the "Voyenno-Promyshlenniy Kuryer" ("Military-Industrial Courier"), a weekly newspaper that focuses on military and defense industrial complex issues. It is published by "Almaz Media", a subsidiary of the defense industrial firm Almaz-Antey which builds, inter alia, Russian anti-aircraft missiles.

My translation: the author, Leonid Barinov, writes that "Bill Clinton, the then US president, spoke on 25 December 1995 [sic! Christmas Day!!] at a private conference of the committee of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and this is what he said: "For the past 10 years policy regarding the USSR and its allies has convincingly shown the validity of the course we have adopted to eliminate one of the strongest world powers, and also a very powerful military bloc. Taking advantage of blunders of Soviet diplomacy and of the extraordinary presumption of Gorbachev and those around him, including those who were sworn pro-American, we achieved what President Truman had intended to do to the Soviet Union with the atom bomb.

With one appreciable difference, true -- we acquired a raw-material vassel, not a state destroyed by atom [bombs], that would have been hard to create. Yes, we expended for this many billions of dollars, but that is even now close to what the Russians are calling cost-recovery.

In the last four years we and our allies have acquired various strategic raw material for $15 billion, hundreds of tons of gold, jewels, etc. In the years of so-called perestroyka in the USSR many of our military and business experts didn't believe in the success of these impending operations.

They were wrong. Having torn loose the ideological foundations of the Soviet Union, we were able to bloodlessly remove from the struggle for world domination the one state that constituted America's main competition. When, in early 1991, CIA officers reallocated to the East $50 billion to put our plans into effect, and subsequently the same amount one more time, many politicians and military personnel also didn't believe in the success of the venture. Now, however, four years along, it is evident thatour plans have begun to materialize. But this doesn't mean that there's nothing for us on which to ponder: yes, we permitted Russia to remain a power. But only one country--the United States--will be an empire.""

end extract....

This is a blank check to persecute and prosecute ANY anti-Putin people as paid agents of Western powers.

BTW, I checked with the Clinton library, they refused to comment on the speech's validity (they demanded I file a FOIA), but did look up for me Clinton's Xmas schedule. He was home at the White House with family, and no official activities listed.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The lunar robotics office at NASA Marshall is still slated to be closed, which sets up a fascinating game of chicken between NASA Administrator Mike Griffin on the one hand and Senators like Richard Shelby and Barbara Mikulski on the other.

Keith Cowing, I think, has nailed the situation:
Keith Cowing, a former NASA employee who runs the Web site, said the feud between Shelby and Griffin seems silly compared to NASA's overall budget challenges "because it is over 32 people who won't even lose their jobs."

"I don't think Mike Griffin is in trouble or will lose his job because of Richard Shelby. Shelby's in the minority now," Cowing said. "I think Mike Griffin thinks he can run NASA without Congress, sometimes, and that's not the case."

But Cowing said NASA's budget is shrinking. Because Congress failed to approve NASA's budget for fiscal 2007, the space agency is working under a continuing resolution that freezes budget money at the 2006 level.

That means NASA has to keep programs going with a budget shortage of more than $500 million, NASA leaders have said.

"What's Mike Griffin supposed to do? What's NASA supposed to do? They have a mandate from the president and Congress to perform a task - return to the moon," Cowing said. "But (NASA) wasn't given enough money to start with, and now NASA has to deal with even less. Priorities have to be set, and money has to be shifted in the budget.

"Again, what's Mike Griffin supposed to do? Where's the money come from?"

Keeping an office open with twenty million to plan for missions that haven't been funded seems silly to me. If Shelby, et al are serious, they'll add in far more money than that to take care of NASA's funding gap.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The classic film The Day the Earth Stood Still is being made. I ask why?
Indian Guilt and the American View of Islam: Part 1 and Part 2. By far one of the most cogent attacks on multiculturalism and defenses of Western Civilization I have ever read.
Apparently Hillary Clinton's strong arm tactics are driving big Democratic doners to raise money for her opponents.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

There's tp be a Charles Dickens theme park in Kent. I have great expectations for what might be the best of theme parks and the worst of theme parks.
One of the critical features of future interplanetary ships will be an electromagnetic shield. Not quite like Star Trek, but it should serve against cosmic background radiation and other hazards.
Rocketplane Kistler seems to have found a Japanese partner.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Art of the Apology: When It's Time to Say I'm Sorry,
Senator Mikulski has a dire warning about Chinese intentions for the Moon.
"China also wants to go to the moon, and they want the moon to become a military base in space," she said. "We've got to get back to the moon first and be able to stay there. The nation's investment in space should be one of our top national security priorities."

Now on the surface the sounds like plans thought about at the height of the Cold War to put rocket bases on the Moon, a silly notion as it turned out. On the other hand, if one assumes that China is serious about exploiting the Moon's resources, a military base would be required to protect that country's economic interests.

And even if that is too much to swallow, remember that China's space program is run by its military. Therefore it would follow that any base it would place on the Moon would be "military."

I am fascinated, though, the Mikulski is sounding like a right winger when it comes to the Chinese threat. It's welcome, of course, but quite a change from when she was going through the funding for Bush the Elder's space exploration plan like the Visigoths through Rome.
Exploring the universe with smart dust.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Steve Hayward responds to Al Gore.
Hayward, as a global warming skeptic, has an advantage over Gore. Unlike Gore, he is calm and reasonable, avoids hyperbole, and sticks to the facts, some of which are confusing or contradictory. The result is that he is closer to what he calls "the general consensus" among scientists about global warming than Gore is.
The Funding Gap for Space Exploration.
The actions of the new Congress concerning funding NASA's program to send human explorers to the Moon and Mars can seem puzzling. This is especially so for anyone who is unfamiliar with the capacity of politicians to practice double think. On the one hand, the vast majority of the Congress slashed a half billion dollars from spending on the exploration program in the 2007 Omnibus Spending Bill. On the other hand, some of the same people are complaining that the White House's 2008 request spends too little on the exploration program.
John Lott, the author of More Guns, Less Crime, is pretty sure that a contributing factor to the Virginia Tech Massacre is that, despite Virginia's concealed carry laws, the campus was a gun free zone by edict of the university administration. I would tend to agree. So does Alan Caruba.
A new book by J.R.R. Tolkein, Children of Hurin is now out:

And may become a major motion picture.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Keith Cowing has an epiphany on Yuri's Night.
I had a somewhat profound experience several days ago in California - at NASA Ames Research Center to be exact. The true impact of this event is still growing on me. You see, I saw things I never thought I would see on a NASA base - things that give me hope that what NASA does can be truly relevant to people outside NASA's traditional constituency. Moreover, I saw indications that NASA can adapt to rapidly changing trends. The experience? Yuri's Night.

While this was a marvelous experience, one such event alone does not a paradigm shift make. But it certainly gives the current paradigm of how people and the exploration of space interact a powerful nudge. You see, the current paradigm is entrenched in the status quo in such a way that it would require a powerful force to shake it loose. Often times, forces the eventually shift paradigms - and cause changes - and revolutions - emerge from unsuspected and unconnected places - only to converge - and merge in unlikely places.

In this case, one place where such an emergence happened was in a large aircraft hangar, located on an immense military base that has housed weapons - and now houses space agency research - for more than three quarters of a century. One of the featured speakers was a Brigadier General who once led space defense efforts focused at the Soviet Union. Yet, in this most unlikely of places, thousands of young people whose parents were in grammar school when humans last walked on the Moon gathered at a party - a party that focused on the accomplishment of a communist cosmonaut nearly half a century ago at the height of the Cold War.

And they danced all night while images of spacecraft and galaxies floated over their heads.

Read it all.
Kinky Friedman comes to the defense of Don Imus.
Political correctness, a term first used by Joseph Stalin, has trivialized, sanitized and homogenized America, transforming us into a nation of chain establishments and chain people.

Take heart, Imus. You're merely joining a long and legendary laundry list of individuals who were summarily sacrificed in the name of society's sanctimonious soul: Socrates, Jesus, Galileo, Joan of Arc, Mozart and Mark Twain, who was decried as a racist until the day he died for using the N-word rather prolifically in "Huckleberry Finn."

Speaking of which, there will always be plenty of Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons around. There will be plenty of cowardly executives, plenty of fair-weather friends, and plenty of Jehovah's Bystanders, people who believe in God but just don't want to get involved. In this crowd, it could be argued that we need a Don Imus just to wake us up once in a while.
Dwayne Day concludes what I think may be a controversial analysis of the legacy of Robert Heinlein.
Jeff Foust examines Bigelow's very big plans.
Looks like the lunar robotic office will stay open for the time being.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Partly because of the five hundred million dollar hole the current Congress blew in this year's NASA budget, NASA is planning to shut down the lunar robotics office at Marshall and cancel the planned lunar robotic lander. Senator Richard Shelby (R) Alabama (where, by coincidence, NASA Marshall and the office in question is located), is taking exception and wants the office to remain open with twenty million to "plan" for lunar robotic missions which have not been funded yet.

Friday, April 13, 2007

I suppose that a Harry Potter theme park was inevitable. Still, I think that a quidditch ride would be pretty cool.
Recently the French Wallonia region of Belgium decided to tax backyard barbeques. I have some thoughts on this and the possibility it will be tried on this side of the Atlantic.
Captain Ed (and others) point out that by doing in Imus, the left may have deprived itself of one of the few center-left conduits for sending messages to white males.
The Rutgers basketball team has accepted the apology of Don Imus, which makes them the most gracious and most honorable participants in the recent scandal. It also makes for a horrible irony, since Imus's career is still in ruins because of the outrage of people who were not the object of his insult.
Tom Delay asks if Don Imus, why not Rosie O'Donnell?

Maybe because Rosie can always invoke the insanity defense?
Now, along with last year's film Death of a President, there is now a one act play called President and Man which also depicts the murder of President Bush. I suppose that means that it is offical and that there is a new genre which we can call "Bush Assasination Porn." This is how the Left deals with it's demons.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Rudi Giuliani: Will the "Rock of 9/11" become the Next President?
Jon Goff turns his fertile imagination to the problem of "finishing" ISS without using the shuttle. I'll leave it to other to examine the technical details of his suggestion, but I've always wondereed if cost savings could be thus garnered to help accelerate the return to the Moon. It may be too late to do something like this, even if desired, but it's an interesting what if.
Announcing The Carnival of Space.
A Washington Kabuki Dance: Why the Democrats will Blink and how they will Suffer.
The Tudors: Is it Really Good to be the King?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Grindhouse isn't doing too well at the box office. But if you like sex, violence, car crashes, and big breasts, it might be worth checking out.
Rep Calvert has an interesting idea for creating a revenue source for the Centennial Challenges.
A cure for type 1 diabetes?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Apparently PBS is censoring a documentary about the plight of moderate Muslims.
Another remake of a classic film, in this case The Day the Earth Stood Still, that is in my humble opinion totally unnecessary. No doubt Klaatu will be mistaken for a terrorist this time. Of course, what Al Qaeda would think of having Gort set against them would be interesting to think about.

I vote to have Brit Hume in the Drew Pearson role.
NASA has signed a contract with the Russians for ISS Cargo Delivery. Clark Lindsey is appalled.
find it amazing that NASA is able to get away with this without having to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that no US company or companies could provide ISS cargo delivery before 2011

Of course if that were the test, NASA could not plan for maintaining ISS with any option that does not involve a US company or companies. But unfortunately, at this point in time, no such option exists. We hope and can even expect that COTS will help provide that option. But I should think that it is only being responsible for NASA to have alternatives just in case Rp/K and SpaceX fail to step up.

Addendum: It looks like the Russian deal won't affect the market for ISS resupply and crew rotation past mid 2011. So I rather think the huffing and puffing does not have any justification.
United Launch Alliance and SpaceDev are conducting a fesibility study to see if SpaceDev's Dreamchaser liftbody vehicle could be launched on an Atlas V. Now even before the study is started, not to mentioned completed, some folks are suggesting that it therefore proves that NASA is all wet for suggesting that an Atlas V may not be the best vehicle to launch the Orion.

At the risk of stating the obvious, Dreamchaser and Orion are two different vehicles with two different purposes. And just because a study has been announced does not mean that the thing being studied is ever going to happen.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Charles Simonyi is having his turn as a space tourist on ISS and The Nation is fit to be tied.
Is there a more perfect symbol of the excesses of global capitalism than Charles Simonyi's 13-day joyride into outer space? Simonyi, a Hungarian-American software programmer who made his fortune at Xerox and Microsoft before launching his own start-up, paid $20 million to be escorted to the Kazakh steppes, packed into a Russian Soyuz rocket and blasted towards the international space station. En route, he'll enjoy a meal of roasted quail, duck breast confit with capers, shredded chicken parmentier and rice pudding with candied fruit -- all carefully selected by his girlfriend, Martha Stewart. (Martha, whatever happened to astronaut ice cream and Tang?) No word yet on the threadcount of his sheets or if there's 24-hour concierge service in orbit.

Think about it. Most people think it's rather glorious that someone can fly in space by buying a ticket, albeit a twenty million dollar one. But apparently the Bolsheviks at The Nation has better ideas about how people other than themselves can spend their own money.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Sam Dinkin is asking some tough questions about Bigelow's big space plans.
Travel by air has become more than a minor hassle. But for people with disabilities, it may be just about to get better thanks to a non profit company called Air Mobility Transport.
James Webb, Senatorial Privledge, and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
Apparently not all is peaceful at the Cindy Sheehan Crawford Peace House.
Let me get this straight. A Navy Seal who fell in battle, protecting the lives of his men, is the moral equivalent of the thugs who committed Columbine and therefore ought not to be honored with a statue which includes him carrying a weapon?

My own opinion is that certain people really need to reexamine their premises and then apologize.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Newt Gingrich is going to debate John Kerry on climate change. I see an opportunity for a good thrashing taking place.
What would Francis Urquhart have Done?: A Fictional British Prime Minister Confronts the War on Terror and the New Iran Hostage Crisis.

Who is Francis Urquhart?
Victor Davis Hanson, whose splendid book A War Like No Other I have just finished, says that Iran is begging for a bombing. Interestingly enough, bombing may not be necessary to bring down the mad mullahs.
Nancy Pelosi demonstrates the dangers of amateurs dabbling in diplomacy.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

It seems that Hollywood is not the only place where there is some difficulty grasping the concept of Islamic Terrorism.
Last month, New Jersey's Burlington Township High School held its own mock terrorism drill. "You perform as you practice," Superintendent Chris Manno told the Burlington County Times. "We need to practice under conditions as real as possible in order to evaluate our procedures and plans so that they're as effective as possible."

But the "real as possible" conditions included no bomb-vest-donning jihadists shouting "Allahu Akbar." No red bandana-wearing martyrs with visions of 72 virgins dancing in their evil heads. No America-hating plotters enraged by the existence of Israel or driven to establish a worldwide caliphate. Nope. According to the paper, two local police detectives took on the role of hostage-taking Christian gunmen.

"Investigators described them as members of a right-wing fundamentalist group called the 'New Crusaders' who don't believe in separation of church and state. The mock gunmen went to the school seeking justice because the daughter of one had been expelled for praying before class." Upset Christian students reported on the drill to their parents.
How the Democrats are Trying to Buy Appeasement of Terrorism with Your Money.
Apparently the Democrats in Congress have banned the phrase, "Global War on Terror" as being too politically incorrect.
“You have to wonder if this means that we have to rename the GWOT,” said a Republican aide, referring to the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medals established in 2003 for service members involved, directly and indirectly, in military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world.

“If you are a reader of the Harry Potter books, you might describe this as the war that must not be named,” said another Republican aide. That is a reference to the fact that the villain in the Harry Potter series, Lord Voldemort, is often referred to as “he who must not be named” because of fears of his dark wizardry.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

You know that even a European government has jumped the shark when they impose a tax on barbeque grilling to combat global warming. And of course to monitor compliance, Belgium is using helicopters with thermal sensors.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Plans to explore Europa, Titan, and Venus.
300: A Film about the Batle of Thermopylae.
Barack Obama recently admitted that if the President vetoes the surrender bill Congress is sending him, Congress will have no choice but to quickly pass another bill funding the war without a timetable for withdraw.

The amazing thing is that after alienating some folks by trying to buy surrender in the War on Terror with pork barrel spending (in effect our own money), Congress is about the alienate the rest by failing.
Can lunar science benefit from lunar colonization? Looks like it.
Michael Huang argues that opposition to human space flight should best be left to robots and not imperfect human advocates.
This year's lunar lander challenge should be exciting indeed as there will be more than one competitor and there may be a winner.
Two years after the untimely death of Terri Schiavo, laws protecting the disabled are still weaker than those protecting convicted felons.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Yet another alternative return to the Moon plan has surfaced, this time from a shadowy group of engineers and middle level managers who wish to have their identities kept secret for fear of losing their jobs. Some of them appear to work for NASA, some for big aerospace, but some actually seem to come from some of the new, commercial space companies.

Their plan is called RTMRSSS or Return to the Moon Real Soon via Space Shuttle. The idea is that we do not actually retire the "proven capable" space shuttle system, but rather use it to deliver the Orion system of vehicles into low Earth orbit. This makes the RTMRSSS unique as it not only rejects the Ares rockets that NASA is building, but the "commercial" Delta IV and or Atlas V.

The idea is that one orbiter will deliver the Earth Departure Stage and the Artemis Lunar Module into low Earth orbit. Then a second orbiter will deliver Orion along with a four person crew. The four astronauts will board the Orion, fly it out of the shuttle cargo bay, then dock with the Lunar Module-Earth Departure Stage. Then the return to the Moon will proceed as the Earth Departure Stage blasts the vehicles into a lunar trajectory.

The authors of RTMRSSS admit that there are challenges to their approach, not the least of which are sizing the space craft to fit the shuttle cargo bay. And the safety rule that disallows any liquid fueled vehicle from riding in the cargo bay will have to be "done away with as a failed, bureaucratic regulation." The RTMRSSS paper points out that neither the Challenger nor the Columbia were brought to grief by anything in the cargo bay.

By not grounding the orbiter fleet (and perhaps building a new orbiter, which the RTMRSSS group calls "space shuttle Apollo"), it is claimed that the five year "gap" in publicly funded space travel will be avoided. There will also be savings in not pursing the "unreliable, unproven, and unsustainable" Ares vehicles and is "cancelling the even more outrageous Commercial Orbit Transportation Systems program."

"Despite two fatal accidents, the space shuttle fleet is a proven, reliable system of delivering people and cargo to space. Retiring it now will be the height of folly, matched only by the retirement of the Saturn V." The Earth to LEO version of the Orion will also be cancelled as being redundant.

The shadowy RTMRSSS group claims that with their approach, human beings will return to the Moon by 2012, "2013 at the latest" at a cost of tens of billions of dollars less than any other approach now contemplated.