Saturday, June 30, 2007

James M. Taylor debunks Al Gore's assault on reason with a few inconvenient truths.
A photo of Professor Indiana Jones and son.
A pretty good piece on the Centennial Challenges.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Why Do Politicians Hate Talk Radio?
Why do politicians hate talk radio? The short answer is that politicians do not like the criticism or the scrutiny. They would much rather that the hoi polloi shut up and allow the folks in Washington to get on with the job of messing up immigration, raising taxes, and growing government.
Those of us who observed the annual fights to slash NASA spending in the 1980s and 1990s find this development extraordinary.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A proposal to make the Earth Departure Stage of an Ares V nuclear powered. Aside from the obvious advantages, it would give Bruce Gagnon a heart attack.
Bigelow's Genesis II module has launched successfully. Another step toward the private development of space.

Addendum: More.
Historical Epics I'd Like to See on the Big Screen
Robotic Fruit Pickers: Revolution in Harvesting
More on the planned private trip around the Moon. Apparently the first flight has already been booked.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Fredrick Kagan explains our current strategy in Iraq. One hopes that Senator Lugar is listening.
Dr. David Gratzer MD gives the latest smackdown to Michael Moore in particular and socialized medicine in general. I wish Lindsay McCreith is his suit, by the way. The Canadian system that Moore so praises almost killed him.
The Ares V as a conveyor for really big space telescopes.
Ken Blackwell takes after Michael Moore and champions a free market solution to health care. So does Fred Thompson.
The Senate version of the 08 NASA spending bill is taking shape. No huge increases, but no big cuts either. One interesting item:
The funding bill includes $48.7 million for a “Lunar Lander” mission plus $20 million for the lunar robotics program office at NASA Marshall, which Shelby fought to keep open earlier this year.

Hardly enough for a lunar lander if done in house. But surely a good down payment if the thing were done as a Centennial Challenge.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

It seems that now one can actually go to Rick's American Cafe in Casablanca.
Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods
One of the great myths of this century being perveyed by the liberals is that Iraq is a "bad war" from which we must retreat, but Afghanistan is a "good war" which we must win. Captain Ed has uncovered thsi first indications that this is a lie. The liberals want to bug out of Afghanistan too.
The interesting thing about this story seems to me to be that NASA has actually done market research, something that would have been inconceivable in past years. Like Jeff Foust, I wait to see if the resulting communications plan will succeed or not. But I think the space agency is on the right track, which is remarkable considering how poor its public affairs operation has been traditionally.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A treat for fans of Children of Apollo.

The First Woman on the Moon which recounts how Wendy Pendleton first decided to become an astronaut and what it cost her.
Lowell Wood, recently retired from Lawrence Livermore, actually sees the terraforming of Mars this century. Space Cynic hoots with ridicule and perhaps rightly so. But one wonders if some near future advances in nanotechnology might make Dr. Wood more right than not.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I suppose it was inevitable that the arduous task of picking fruit would be automated.
Shortly before an assasins bullet ended his political career, Huey Long actually wrote a book imagining what a Huey Long Presidency might be like, even going so far as to choosing a cabinet and some Supreme Court justices.

Friday, June 22, 2007

A gentleman named Ross, who is behind the Direct Launcher concept, has done an analysis of the costs of using EELVs for going back to the Moon and on to Mars. The results seem to be rather sobering.
Biodiesel from Algae
Zero Tolerance Equals Zero Intelligence
Monte Davis tells the story of the last thirty or forty years of space travel using a very strange alternate history Antarctica.

I found the alternate history metaphor somewhat forced. We know that the history of the exploration of Antarctica went in a different direction, with Admiral Byrd using air transportation, the various scientific outposts, and the ban on all commercial development. One suspects that if the last were lifted, interesting things would happen on the seventh continent.
Fred Thompson suggests a federalist (i.e. state level) solution to the malpractice crisis. It seems to have worked pretty well in Texas.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

More evidence that Michael Moore knows nothing about how health care or anything else works.
Remember the battle on spending and earmarks? It's about to get ugly.

The Coming Battle on Spending: President Bush Picks Up the Veto Pen
The Clintons as the Sopranos
Hillary and Bill Clinton have produced a video spoofing the finale of the Sopranos. By casting themselves as Tony and Carmela Soprano they revealed a little too much about themselves while at the same time managing to be a little creepy.
TexasBestGrok has a wonderful new twist on a well used but still funny metaphor.
You have one cow.
The cow just runs around in circles in the field.
You miss your old cow.
You can't rely on any other farmers (because farming is just too hard).
You retire your cow, dig up your old cows bones and wrap it in new leather.

Alt Space
You have fifty cow designs.
Any one of your cows would put out 50 times the milk of government cows!
If only you had money...

Addendum: Looks like Dan Schrimpsher posted the space cows over a year ago. And he seems to have gotten it from Jon Goff. It's still funny, though.
Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Class, Politics and the Battle for Our Energy Future on Nantucket Sound
Michael Moore's latest screed, Sicko, is not yet on the big screen and already folks are lining up to debunk his ludicrous claims. These include another documenatary film maker, Stuart Browning.

More here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A fluid mirror has been built, bringing the advent of a lunar observatory closer.
What's Next for Jericho?
The competitors for the next Lunar Lander Challenge has been announced.
Acuity Technologies, Menlo Park, CA: The Acuity Technologies team is led by Robert Clark, who founded the company in 1992. The team, which has previously designed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for the Department of Defense, hopes that the light weight of their XHopper will give them an advantage in the Challenge.

Armadillo Aerospace, Mesquite, TX: As the only team to fly a vehicle in last year's challenge, Armadillo may have a leg up on the competition. After their successful test flight on June 4, this team of volunteers is anxious to show what they can do at the 2007 Wirefly X PRIZE Cup. They are led by John Carmack, founder of id Software.

BonNova, Tarzana, CA: Allen Newcomb, an engineer who was part of the team that won the Ansari X PRIZE, helms this group. The team, which includes both a fiction author and an IndyCar crew member, founded the company for the sole purpose of winning the NG-LLC.

Masten Space Systems, Mojave, CA: With a team comprised almost entirely from Silicon Valley internet technology veterans, Masten Space Systems is currently working on launching tethered flights. The company, helmed by David Masten, is currently selling "SodaSats" -- opportunities to launch and recover very small payloads -- for only $99.

Micro-Space, Denver, CO: The Micro-Space team, along with Armadillo Aerospace, is one of two Ansari X PRIZE teams to compete in the NG-LLC. Many of the components of Micro-Space's NG-LLC vehicle have already been successfully flown as components of other high-powered rockets.

Paragon Labs, Denver, CO: This team is comprised of 16 industry experts from all of the necessary subsystem disciplines and led by Kevin Sagis, founder of Paragon. The team's vehicle is called Volkon.

SpeedUp, Laramie and Chugwater, WY: SpeedUp is the only team using a monopropellant engine for the Challenge. They are led by Robert Steinke, a former employee of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, and have long-term plans to sell low altitude rocket rides to the general public.

Unreasonable Rocket, Solana Beach, CA: Most of the work from this small team has been done by the father-son pair of Paul T. Breed and Paul A. Breed. The members of Unreasonable Rocket are determined to show that a small, family team can compete in serious rocketry, and are building their vehicles in a garage for under $200K.

The ninth team has requested to remain confidential. Their confidentiality period ends 60 days before the start of the competition at which time the X PRIZE Foundation can publicly announce the name of the team.
Ferris Valyn has started up something called Space Revolution within the nortorious left wing web site, Daily Kos. This has made Rand Simberg a little uncomfortable, which is understandable. However, I have found that one of the great problems space activists have is a tendency to preach to (and argue with) the choir. Ferris is going among the heathen to preach the space gospel and should be commended for it.

His content is, on the whole, pretty good. But there is one bit I might argue with.
BTW, a warning if you want to respond to Mark Whittington in the comments section - he is firmly of the belief that liberals/progressives/Democrats who support manned spaceflight, space development, and space colonization are freaks of nature, despite plenty of other evidence.

Well, it is true that I know that "liberals/progressives/Democrats who support manned spaceflight, space development, and space colonization are freaks of nature", whereas I do not know that there is "plenty of other evidence" to the contrary, at least beyond examples of the odd office holder/activist who support such things.

If you don't believe me, look at the records of the last two Democratic Presidents. And most measures I know of that have come before Congress that concern space have more Republicans supporting the pro space side than oppossing and more Democratis opposing than supporting. The vast majority of bills or amendments that are designed to gut some major space project or (more recently) regulate out of existence commercial space have come from the left.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Civil War in Gaza
Biodiesel from algae.
The proof is in the numbers. About 140 billion gallons of biodiesel would be needed every year to replace all petroleum-based transportation fuel in the U.S. It would take nearly three billion acres of fertile land to produce that amount with soybeans, and more than one billion acres to produce it with canola. Unfortunately, there are only 434 million acres of cropland in the entire country, and we probably want to reserve some of that to grow food. But because of its ability to propagate almost virally in a small space, algae could do the job in just 95 million acres of land. What’s more, it doesn’t need fertile soil to thrive. It grows in ponds, bags or tanks that can be just as easily set up in the desert—or next to a carbon-dioxide-spewing power plant—as in the country’s breadbasket.
You've read the story, I suspect, and laughed about it, albeit perhaps nervously. So I've decided to muse on The Gay Bomb: Forcing the Enemy to Make Love, not War.
Fred Thompson, former Senator and--perhaps--future President--gives Harry Reid the back of his hand.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Taylor Dinerman seems to understand the potential of space as an arena of super power conflict.
By the mid-21st century space power may permit those states that possess it to ignore the rest of the world and to pursue prosperity throughout the solar system. Once they become accessible at a reasonable cost, the resources of the asteroids and similar stores of minerals and energy will become the objects of a “scramble for space” similar to the late 19th century “scramble for Africa”.
Have the feminazis turned on Hillary?
Looks like NASA has signed with three more commercial space companies, including SpaceDev, SpaceHab, and Constellation in order to help develop a commercial space sector. There's no money involved, but the sharing of information should be invaluable.
In which I suggest It is Time to Bomb Iran.
A V Prize to be awarded to the first point to point suborbital flight from Virginia to Europe.
One development that may have a bearing on future NASA spending, as well as the wider political world, is that President Bush, wary of using the power in his first six years, plans to veto a bunch of Democrat spending bills, including the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill which covers NASA.
Has Frank Tipler proven the existence of God? Maybe, maybe not, but the attempt seems interesting.
Don Beattie has an an analysis o the candidates on space policy which is, by necessity, thin because we don't know a lot about that. Beattie also makes a couple of questionable claims:
An interesting result of the meeting of Senator Clinton’s supporters was a call for balance in our civil space programs. This is a good position to start from, for balance should mean that NASA programs, such as aeronautics, would once again receive a share of NASA’s budget that would permit it to conduct pioneering research for the benefit of one of our most important business sectors, the aviation industry. It means conducting missions in Earth orbit to understand how to protect our home planet. It means that, for space exploration, the challenge is to send missions beyond our immediate neighborhood in the solar system, where important questions remain to be answered.

Actually, the idea of "balance" doesn't necessarily mean anything of the sort, especially if NASA's budget remains flat. It could mean that NASA becomes unfocused, trying to do everything with too little and thus doing nothing. In any event, there is also a question of just how much influence the folks in the space policy breakout session have with the Hillary Clinton Campaign.
What was Coats implying? That if Russia or China sends its citizens to the Moon it will result in some type of closed colony, or a presence that would threaten us? Such nonsense. The political environment that prompted the Apollo program no longer exists. Certainly we do not agree with the political philosophies that govern Russia and China, and military threats still abound. However, the former overt challenge of world domination by communism no longer requires a response by demonstrating our technological superiority in space. Rather, overall political, economic, and technological leadership must be shown in many areas, space being just one. We have already demonstrated we can send sophisticated robots and astronauts to the Moon. Let others try to catch up to what we accomplished more than 30 years ago. There is no need to become concerned or involved in another race to the Moon. There are much bigger space prizes to be won where we have shown technological leadership and where our astronauts can also lead the way.

Actually Beattie downplays the potential threat of China and even Putin's Russia, now flush with oil cash. We may have proven that we could send people to the Moon thirty years ago, but certainly not lately. The Moon represents the potential of being the Persian Gulf of the 21st Century as a source of energy and if we get too complacent because of past Apollo glories, we might find ourselves with that source in control of unsympathetic men in Beijing and/or Moscow.
Apparently there are good hopes for the Republicans to win back the majority in the Congress. I think they would improve their chances if they were to earn it and not just rely on Democrat mistakes.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Mrs. Clinton's campaign held an issues forum/fund raiser recently which, as Jeff Foust reports, had a breakout session on civil and commercial aerospace.
An article in this week’s print edition of Space News (not available online) has a few more details about what took place at the event. About 20 people attended the session, led by Lori Garver; Clinton herself did not attend but one of her domestic policy advisors, Jake Sullivan, was there. Garver and others expressed support for the general concept of the Vision for Space Exploration, but thought there should be more balance with other NASA programs, including earth science and aeronautics. Sullivan reportedly was particularly interested in emerging commercial space companies, asking how the government “could incentivize” companies like Virgin Galactic and Bigelow Aerospace.

We last saw Ms. Garver about three years ago when she had appointed herself space spokesperson for the John Kerry Campaign (much to the surprise, we are told, of the John Kerry Campaign.) She was selling the idea of "balance" between exploration and the rest of NASA then too, which many (myself included) suspected meant gutting exploration for science and aerospace projects.

More intriguing is Mr. Sullivan's interest in "incentivizing" commercial space companies. One has to point out that this doesn't really compute with Mrs. Clinton's stated desire to take from the rich and give to the government bureaucrats. One suspects that under a hypothetical Clinton Restoration, folks like Elon Musk, Burt Rutan, and Jeff Bezos will be too busy avoiding the tax man to build too many rockets.

Addendum: A number of corespondents have suggested that Ms. Garver did have some kind of formal connection with the Kerry Campaign. If so, the error is solely mine.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Gene Kranz speaks his mind about the space flight gap.

Addendum: Rand Simberg takes umbrage.
Because, you see, only NASA can put people into space, and keep America a leader.

We assume that is meant sarcastically. Rand seems to forget that NASA is providing the seed money for the Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems (COTS) program. Without COTS, one suspects that in the fullness of time the commercial sector will start putting people into low Earth orbit, but not one suspects in time to address the space flight gap that Krantz and others are worried about.
Rand Simberg has discovered that European bureaucrats oppose space tourism. It's space travel for the rich and has to be stopped.
Apparently Michael Moore's latest pack of lies, Sicko, will be available for free on the Internet even before it opens at theaters. And worth every penny too, one suspects.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The end of Harry Potter revealed.

With apologies to Tony Soprano.
Chang-Diaz's Ad Astra Rocket Company has run a prototype VASMIR plasma rocket for four hours, a major breakthrough.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The House appropriations sub committee that handles NASA funding has reported out the 2008 funding bill. There's no increase for exploration, but also no gutting of the exploration account for other priorities. The sub committee scrapped together about two hundred ninety million extra dollars for the aeronautics, science, and education accounts. The break down is thus:
$5.3 billion for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, or about $180 million more than requested
$690 million for NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, or about $150 million more than requested
$218 million for NASA education programs, or $64 million than requested.
$3.9 billion for NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, the same as NASA's request.

There's some language forbidding NASA spending any of the new money funding any research, development or demonstration activity related exclusively to Human Exploration of Mars. That has no real effect, since the main forcus of the exploration program is getting back to the Moon.

More serious is language prohibiting NASA from implementing a reduction in force. This also may not have too much real effect, since much of the NASA work force is near retirement any way.

One should caution that this is just the first step in a long budget process. The full approrpriations committee will mark up the bill on June 18th. Also the Senate has not weighed in with its priorities yet.
David Portree writes a polemic against commercial space that falls rather flat upon close examination.
I think that the odds are against it mainly because piloted spaceflight is expensive and difficult. I think that it’s inevitable that, assuming any tourist spacecraft are built, one will fail early on and kill its wealthy passengers. When it does, the fledgling industry will die. A space voyage to low-Earth orbit would be a joyride, not something anyone needs to do. If it becomes recognized that there is a high probability that people will die, then few will want to make the trip. For that matter, when the word gets out that half the people who travel into space spend a week or more being sick, it will discourage many potential customers.

Newspace people like to use the early days of aviation as an analogy, but it doesn’t make sense. Aviation worked because it provided a better way of accomplishing something people wanted done; that is, traveling quickly to and from cities and countries where they had business. Tourist spaceflight won’t do anything similar any time soon.

Several points. First, Portree commits the John Pike fallacy by suggesting that since space flight is "expensive and difficult" it must always be so. There is no reason that given advances in technology, the economies of scale, better management, and the dynamic of a competitive market that space flight cannot become cheaper and easier.

His point about an accident on a space tourist ship causing people not to want to fly makes some absurd assumptions on human nature. People die in extreme sports like mountain climbing all the time and those sports do not suffer from lack of willing participants. Indeed, the possibility of dying is part of the thrill.

Airliner crashes do not dry up customers for air travel. (Bad service and maddening security procedures do, but that is another story.)

Now, there may be a problem of survivors of dead space tourists suing the space tourism line out of existence, but that is a problem that the legal system needs to address.

Portree also makes a mistake by suggesting that early aviation flourished because it simply provided an easier way to get from one place to another. First, this was not so for a long time, until perhaps the thirties. The first experiments in air mail delivery were disastrous. But the kinks were worked out by trial and error.

There is one aspect of early aviation that parallels the idea of space tourism. During the 1920s, aviators would make some extra money "barnstorming" at county fairs and other venues, putting on flying demonstrations and even taking up paying customers on short jaunts just for the thrill.
I’m all for people trying to make a buck. I do have a problem, however, with Newspace people who say NASA should “get out of the way.” NASA is not in their way; the realities of spaceflight and economics are.

I also think that it’s ludicrous when Newspace people want NASA to give them taxpayers’ dollars. This amounts to a subsidy for an activity that’s not in the national interest. Sometimes Newspace companies seem to me like hobby clubs for wealthy people who don’t understand the difficulties of spaceflight or for retired NASA and aerospace industry managers who want to keep busy. I don’t think taxpayers should be called upon to subsidize such a hobby, any more than they should be called upon to subsidize model railroading, knitting, or beer can collecting.

There are too many people who simultaneous maintain that NASA is involved in a vast conspiracy to crush NewSpace and at the same time have their hands out for government money.

However there was a time during which NASA was less than commercial friendly. That time, however, is passed. With programs like COTS (which oddly enough Portree has not heard of) NASA seems to have gotten the message that commercial space can be a great partner and not an enemy.

As for subsidies for hobbies, Portree is missing the point about the utility of space tourism. In the great scheme of things, joy rides in space are a means to an end, just as barnstorming was in the 1920s. The same companies that develop the space craft for space tourism will get the experience and expertise needed to develop that space craft that will take people to and from settlements on the Moon, Mars, and other places. By providing subsidies for hobbies, we're opening up the future.
Clark Lindsey makes a remarkable statement about the virtues of in space assembly.
I've noted before that I find it odd that a fundamental goal of the Constellation project design is to minimize in-space assembly. This is a task in which NASA has actually become quite good. If NASA went to the next stage and combined its in-space operations capabilities with fuel depots and a space tug, it would have the tools and skill sets to do some amazing stuff, especially if it worked in close cooperation with private ventures like Bigelow.

Unfortunately, as with building Ares 1/5 instead of using existing (e.g. EELV) or nearly ready vehicles (e.g. Falcon 9, K-1), the aim seems to be to time warp back to 1972 and continue on to Apollo II, ignoring much of what was learned and developed subsequently.

The problem is that using dozens of flights of the shuttle and (on occasion) Russian expendables to assemble the space station was a plan the grew more out of politics than common sense. Back in 1993, when the Clinton Administration was doing a redesign of the space station project, then mired in budget and schedule problems, three options arose. A and B were variants of the on orbit assembly idea. Option C would have boosted the bulk of the space station all in one launch, with the European and Japanese modules, plus some solar arrays, to be added later. As a bonus, a shuttle derived heavy lifter would have been developed that would have been all so useful for going back to the Moon and so on.

Politicians in Congress, including the late George Brown, rejected Option C as being rather too much of a redesign. The Clinton Administration, typically, chose none of the options, opting for the current arrangement in partnership with Russia.

Option C would have saved a lot of money and time. As it is, the International Space Station has been a work in progress since 1997 and won't be "finished" for another three years. That's thirteen years to build a space station that was originally supposed to be operational in time to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the first voyage of Columbus.

Having experienced the cost and time it takes to assemble things in space, it is only natural that NASA would like to avoid that as much as possible for now on. Engineers call it the KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) principle. Something to think about before turning oneself into a pretzel trying to find an alternative to the current architecture.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Captivity of Paris Hilton
Let me see if I understand. The military was developing a chemical weapon that would literally cause the enemy to make love, not war? It sounds rather silly, but I sure I don't understand the outrage. It would seem to be the perfect peacenik style weapon. It doesn't kill anybody and it makes people feel good. Mind, there is likely to be a lot of embaressment when the effects wear off. Via Stacy Bartley.
Classic Science Fiction Begging to be Made into Films
Fear of global warming has caused people, especially government bureaucrats, to behave in odd ways. The latest the British Environment Agency wants people to give up the Roast Beef of Old England.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Keith Cowing at NASA Watch has the following, with unfortunately no permalink at this time:
Over the past several weeks I have had an opportunity to talk with people who are working space policy - and related issues - for both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates and party organizations. One common theme is readily apparent (so far) - on both sides: a greater use of private sector solutions - i.e. the use of commercial launch vehicles - specifically EELVs - as the launch vehicle of choice for the CEV. No one seems to be all that fond of continuing the development of Ares 1 (a government-owned solution) or the cost of developing something that already exists i.e. something you can buy now (EELVs). Of course, much can change between now and the election - and who will run NASA in 2009. But the writing on the wall is starting to become rather clear.

Now I should like to know which space policy folks in which campaigns are floating the EELV idea. Doubtless they spoke off the record, but my curiosity is piqued nevertheless. I'm an agnostic on the question of hardware, though I've maintained that no one has give proof to my satisfaction that retrofitting an EELV is a superior solution. There have been other potential solutions (L1 fuel depots for instance) that seem to have more utility in my opinion.

Those who might cheer this potential development might want to think about two things. How much savings really would happen if the Ares 1 were cancelled in 2009 or 2010 and NASA had to essentially start all over again with--say--an Atlas V heavy? One supposes that it would depend on how far along the project is. And, what sort of pandora's box is going to be opened if politicians start designing the architecture to send people back to the Moon? We've been down that road before and the results have not been pretty.

Addendum: Link now here.
The Flight of the Mars Phoenix
I expand on the question Will Hugo Chavez Go to War with the Dutch?
Are computer games now sophesticated enough to be an aid for historical analysis of past and present conflicts? Naill Ferguson seems to think so.
It seems that the death penelty saves lives.
Michael Barone muses on two Americas. One America thinks that the main threat is global warming. The other America knows that the main threat is Islamic terrorism.
I just finished 1945 by Robert Conroy, which is another alternate history Pacific War book. The premise is that a military cabal takes over Japan in a coup before the Emperor Hirohito can broadcast the order to surrender. So, despite Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the allies have to invade after all. 1945 is a crackling good read, with a good mixture of historical characters (Truman, MacArthur, etc) and fictional characters (for instance, a one armed, Japanese-American OSS operative who become crucial to ending the war). Highly recommended.
Jeff Foust expounds on the challenges of funding space startups.
A Honeymoon in Space

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A radio telescope on the lunar farside. It has been talked about for decades.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

NASA officials think they can get the Orion/Ares system up and running by 2013. I must admit some confusion. I thought that the project was a "slow moving train wreck" that is on the point of collapse.

Addendum: Rand Simberg jeers. Orion/Ares is still going to collapse real soon now.
Looks like Sean Connery will not be back for Indy 4. He said:
I get asked the question so often, I thought it best to make an announcement. I thought long and hard about it and if anything could have pulled me out of retirement it would have been an Indiana Jones film. I love working with Steven and George, and it goes without saying that it is an honor to have Harrison as my son. But in the end, retirement is just too damned much fun. I, do however, have one bit of advice for Junior: Demand that the critters be digital, the cliffs be low, and for goodness sake keep that whip by your side at all times in case you need to escape from the stunt coordinator! This is a remarkable cast, and I can only say, 'Break a leg, everyone.' I'll see you on May 22, 2008 at the theater!"
Check out my recently published content on AC:

Fantasy Epics I'd like to See as Movies

Addendum. Mike Shupp suggest TIGANA by Guy Gavriel Kay and WITCH WORLD by Andre Norton.
You think that the Iraq War is an unmitigated disaster? Victor Davis Hanson puts it all in historical context by looking at another horrible disaster that started at D-Day.
When the disaster in the bocage near the Normandy beaches ended over two months after D-Day, the victorious Americans, British and Canadians had been bled white. Altogether, the winners of the Normandy campaign suffered a quarter-million dead, wounded or missing, including almost 30,000 American fatalities - losing nearly 10 times the number of combat dead in four years of fighting in Iraq.

Read the whole thing.
Have a road runner problem? ACME has just the tool for the job. Via Stacy Bartley.
When CBS cancelled Jericho, a drama about life in a small, Kansas town after a nuclear attack, it seemed a repeat of that tiresome old story in which a quality genre program gets the ax for sub par ratings. But then, a remarkable thing happened. Now Jericho has been uncancelled and will be back.

If only the Fox Network had been as responsive about Firefly.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

How to Become Energy Independent
Running with Dinosaurs: The Terrible Lizard in Popular Culture
A cure for macular degeneration (a common form of blindness) is drawing nigh.
As predicted, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has been forced to recant (sort of) on global warming.
Trying to latch on to the high fantasy wave started by the film versions of Lord of the Rings and Narnia, Warner Brothers has optioned Terry Brooks's Shannara series. I have one question about that.


I found Shannara to be derivative to the point of it's verging on plagiarism. There are also so many superior high fantasy epics out there just begging to be made into major motion pictures. Ray Feist's Riftwar series and anything by David Eddings comes to mind.
Is Hugo Chavez thinking of doing a Falklands by grabbing the Dutch ruled islands of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire, located just off the Venezuelan mainland? Austin Bay thinks probably not, but also that one ought not to underestimate the folly of blowhard dictators.

Addendum: More on what a possible Venezuelan attack on the Dutch islands would look like, via Stacy Bartley.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Why Rush Limbaugh Deserves the Nobel Peace Prize
Alan Boyle reports on preparations for this year's Lunar Lander Challenge, especially by Armadillo Aerospace. Note also the comments about another proposed competition.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Sunday, June 03, 2007

So, you think that pollution free wind power is part of the solution to the world's energy needs? A lot of hard headed businessmen think so, but apparently Rep Nick Rahall (D) West Virginia does not. He says that wind farms hurt birds, bats, and other living things and is proposing legislation to make sure they don't, even if it means essentially outlawing wind power.

Now a cynical person would point out that Rahall's West Virginia district has coal mines. Burning coal is another form of energy which, oddly enough, does pollute the air and hurt people.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

In which Your Humble Servant discusses An Easier Way to Get to the Moon.
The Lunar Robotics Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., will be staying put, at least for another six years at $20 million a year. The office was originally slated for closure by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin as part of a cost-cutting move. Unfortunately, Griffin did not reckon on the wrath of Sen. Richard Shelby, Alabama's senior senator. Shelby balked at the closure and, working with other senators and representatives of both parties, successfully prevented it.

Addendum: Some comments here and here.
Browncoats in space via Stacy Bartley.

Friday, June 01, 2007

More on Pete Worden's ideas on virtual space exploration via Alan Boyle.
There are some folks who snear at the idea of a new space race, largely because it doesn't fit inside their indealogical framework. But Dan Schrimpsher suggests that both Russia and China thinks it's already on, with Helium 3 as the prize.
As part of her retirement from protesting, Mother Sheehan has placed the five acre plot of land in Crawford, Texas dubbed "Camp Casey" that she bought to hold anti war rallies in the very shadow of President Bush's Prarie Chapel Ranch on the block. In a bit of irony too delicious for words, a group called Move America Forward proposes to buy the land to place a monument honoring all those who fought in the War on Terror.