Friday, November 30, 2007

Who are the Most Environmentally Friendly Politicians?

Talking Green vs Being Green
Occassionally we get emails that brighten ones day. Such is the following:
Mark ---

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.
The GAO has offered a report on the status of the Ares 1/Orion project. What it actually means depends on where one is at. The Internet Rocketeer Club, of course, suggests that it is "proof" that the entire project is folly and should be scrapped for something else. This is not a conclusion that the report arrives at. It does recommend:
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.
Bender's Big Score: The Return of Futurama
One thing about the negative pronouncements of Obama. Clinton, and now Tancraedo is that now space is an actual, albeit small, issue in the 2008 race. This seems to make the Aerospace Industries Association happy.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Imaging other worlds by blocking our starlight.
If you can get pass the clear liberal bias against manned space flight, this piece in the Columbia Journalism Review does make an interesting point about how the media seems to have ignored Obama's plan to gut NASA funding.
Is the jostling for territory up in the Arctic just a prelude for a land race on the Moon?

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.
Apparently the Chinese are very serious about waging war in space.
The Bible, The Confederate Flag, Mars, and Other Silliness at the GOP YouTube Debate

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

The transcript of the question on Mars at the GOP YouTube Debate is here. As fascinating as it is to actually see a space question at one of these things, make no mistake, CNN included it because they thought it weird and embaressing, on par with the Bible guy and the guy with the Confederate flag.

My response, by the way, would be, "Yes, but not by 2020."
Elon Musk is entrepreneur of the year and well deserved too.
Roger Simon continues his analysis of why all of those anti Iraq War movies have bombed. He ends with a note of hope:
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.
The person calling himself "Chairforce Engineer", lists some technologies that he says are essential for a space faring civilization, implying that NASA is not working on them because of the return to the Moon program. Actually either NASA or the private sector are working on most of these technologies. The one thing I would put more money into is space nuclear power, but I've heard rumors that is about to happen.
One of the great political canards is how conservatives are somehow "anti-science." The recent breakthrough in adult stem cells seems to have suggested that stereotype is a false one and that it's the left, with its opposition to genetically enhanced food and weird environmental enthusiasms, who is really anti science.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Political Movies I'd Like to See
The top ten cheesiest monsters from classic Star Trek.
Tom Swift - The Movie

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

Alan Boyle has more on Obama's plan to gut NASA funding.
More on China's space ambitions.
"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.
One of my favorite nut cases, Bruce Gagnon, notes that George H. W. Bush is putting in wind turbines at his home in Kennebunkport. Now most people would think, well, how nice, leading by example with alternative energy. Not Bruce, of course. He sees a dark plot of the rich getting ready for the inevitable oil crash once we invade Iran.

That being the case, one wonders why Teddy Kennedy is still opposing Cape Wind.
Florida Today plays the China card to support the return to the Moon.
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.
Will there be a "Netscape Moment" for commercial space?
A portable nuclear battery capable of powering 25,000 homes for five years.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Battlestar Galactica: Razor: The Price of Survival

Addendum: Jonah Goldberg has some impressions. Cain as George Bush? That's really a stretch. Besides, I thought that the Cylons were supposed to be George Bush.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Orlando Senatinal argues for coughing up the extra two billion to advance Orion/Ares, implying it should be taken out of farm subsidies.
The Washington Post has an analysis of the various candidates' positions on space. Except for Hillary and Obama, they consist mainly of mom and apple pie sentiments or silence, according to the Post. As predicted, though, the Hillary Clinton Campaign has slammed Obama for his plan to gut the Constellation program.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

According to this book President Kennedy did not die alone fourty four years ago today.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The 10 Most Unfortunate Movie Titles
Forget flying cars. How about a car that drives itself?
Obama's plan to gut the Constellation program is causing consternation over at the Daily Kos.

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

An Ares V delivering a huge space telescope to the Earth-Sun L1 point.
South Korea is the latest country to join the Moon race.
Apparently Barack Obama wants to slash NASA's budget in order to pay for an education initiative. The result, as the Obama people admit, would be to delay the advent of the Orion by five years. That means that baring a successful commercial alternative (and how much you want to bet Obama will cut that too) it'll be 2020 before we have a way to launch people into space.

That makes two major Democrat candidates who are hostile to space.

Addendum: The RNC responds.
It looks like is the latest comany to try its hand at a portable ebook reader. It's called the Kindle.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The the following recipe was created by my maternal grandmother and has been a holiday tradition in my family for generations.

By the way, do not ask me why it is called Million Dollar Salad. That is something lost in the mists of time.
Night life seems to have returned to Baghdad. The Copperhead Caucus is in despair.
So what does Barnabas Collins and Sarek of Vulcan have in common?
It's been a while, but Rand Simberg returns to World War II to have far too much fun at the expense of the Democrats.
I suppose that New Space can be said to have truly arrived now that a company is involved in a sordid, political corruption scandal.
Beowulf: Heroism, Destiny, and the Cost of Greed and Lust
Someone has actually written a history of George H. W. Bush's Space Exploration Initiative. I'll put it on my reading list and will have a fuller report anon.
Jonathon Card has an idea for a space western. Call it the "3:10 to Port Apollo."
What does Lori Garver and Lance Bass have in common? (Note, I'm rather astonished to see how close Garver got to going into space. I thought at the time--and still do--that her rationale was a little bit silly. Sort of like me calling myself "Astrodude" and expecting others for pay my way to a space adventure.) Lance Bass, on the other hand, at least had the rationale of being a celebity and had an actual business plan, i.e. of doing a music video in orbit.
Reusable Launch Vehicles and Space Based Solar Power.
Mary Lynne Dittmar continues her fascinating study of NASA, space exploration, and marketing.

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

While the Dems are still braying that the war is lost, the Iranians seemed to have surrendered.
Brian De Palma's anti war porn flick, Redacted, opened unnoticed to most everybody, especially audiences. To understand how abortions like this are made, read the following review on the film site aintitcool. Warning. The review reads like the ravings of a mad man. The comments are priceless too.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Keith Cowing has broken a story based on anonymous sources about problems the Ares 1 is experiencing in development. One passage has attracted notice across the Internet:
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

Every year, as the fall leaves begin to fade away to winter snows, as the smell of turkey and stuffing fills the air, as pretty lights go up all around, the opening salvos of the perennial War on Christmas begins.
The title of this post, if we had such here, might be called the Cold Equations, after the science fiction story by the same name. The numbers the reader should be focused on are 5 years, 16 months, and two billion dollars. For an explenation of what that means, go here.

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.
One of the many Democrat indictments of George W. Bush is that he has alienated the world and destroyed our alliances. As with many pronouncements coming from the Democrat Party, this is delusional.
More proof that in Hollywood, conservatism is the politics that dare not speak its name.

Addendum: Ron Silver, who apparently is no longer a liberal because he wants to win against the Islamo Fascists, has this tale of woe.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Great Writes' Strike of 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 Japanese are already considering a follow up to their lunar probe.
This barbaric atrocity which involves a rape victim being given 200 lashes is a reminder of the price we pay for not developing our own energy resources, including oil drilling in Alaska and off the east and west coasts, nuclear power, and so on. Until then we have to grit our teeth and deal with savages that would order such a thing.
Rand Simberg quotes a person calling himself Anonymous with questions that he would like to see asked at an upcoming Congressional hearing. As I suggest in the comments section they are all quite loaded, some verging on, "Why don't you admit that you're all idiots and are destined to fail?" Of course it would not be the first time those kinds of questions were asked in a Congressional comittee room.

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

Bob Zubrin, who showed the way of how to get to Mars, now has an idea to break the oil cartel.
David Brooks, a science columnist who is apparently not the token conservative writing for the New York Times op-ed page, describes how he was converted to the idea of private space development by Elon Musk. One part of his piece jumped out at me which illustrates how some space advocates can be their own worse enemies.
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.
It seems that the IRS and the FBI are not the only federal agencies that Ron Paul wants to eliminate, at least according to The Hill.
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.
The writers strike is all Rush Limbaugh's fault, according to Variety. Seriously.
The 2006 True Stella Awards

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
live outside.

#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: 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
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.

©2007 by Randy Cassingham,
target="new"> Reprinted with permission.

Governor Spitzer of New York thinks he has found a way to tax the Internet.

Addendum: Never mind.
Sam Dinkin has some talking points for Mayor Giuliani on space that seem, on the whole, reasonable and even interesting.

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.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Great Britain is now planning to get in on the lunar race.

This, a belated Veterans Day Tribute. It is a recruiting video, but is pretty cool nevertheless.

This is so very cool, courtesy of KAGUYA.
Opposition to the Iraq War is turning out to be a loser for the Democrats.
The first rumors of the plot for the up coming Star Trek film have arise. Warning, possible spoilage.

Harlan Ellison is not pleased, by the way.

Meanwhile, a first look at Young Spock.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The man who gave us Jack Bauer speaks.
One of the ineteresting aspects of the current space race is how the players shift alliances, as in this story of a joint Russian/Indian lunar probe.
Hillary Clinton's coronation seems to have turned into an unseemly brawl for the nomination.
The Wonder of it All.
Chris Carberry makes the case for why the "Save Mars" effort is actually important.
Mary Lynne Dittmar has an excellent piece on NASA, public opinion, and marketing.
Taylor Dinerman has an analysis of Hillary Clinton's space policy that strikes me as woefully incomplete. It fails to mention the interview condeucted by the New York Times in which Senator Clinton revealed her policy on returning to the Moon.
"But in a telephone interview afterward, she said that in the short term she would subordinate Bush administration proposals for human exploration of the Moon and Mars to restoring cuts in aeronautics research and space-based studies of climate change and other earth science issues.

"Travel to the Moon or Mars 'excites people,' she said, 'but I am more focused on nearer-term goals I think are achievable.'"

In other words the exploration initiative would be gutted under a Hillary Clinton Administration.

And also, Dinerman had little or nothing to say about Clinton's silence on commercial space. Considering her desire to tax and/or regulate everything in sight, the prospect is not bright.

I have a somewhat more sobering analysis of the Clinton space policy.
All of the sudden, a lot of countries are sending or planning to send probes to the Moon. There seems to be renewed interest not only in the scientific exploration of the Moon but also commercial development. Is there a space race developing? Dwayne Day is not convinced despite evidence to the contrary.

My view is that yes indeed there is a race to the Moon, but it is far more complicated and nuanced than the one waged in the 1960s. To suggest otherwise would seem to this analyst to engage in simple denial of what is occuring in front of our eyes.
A ploy by the Democratic Congress to cobble together pork laden appropriations bills that could survive a Presidential veto seems to have fallen apart.
It seems that casualty rates for American soldiers are actually lower in the midst of the War on Terror than during peacetime in the 1980s.
While the number of combat deaths is higher in the military now than two decades ago, the suicide and homicide rate was substantially higher in the 1980s, as were accidents and fatal illnesses, all of which led to a higher death toll among military personnel than in recent years.

The study measures the death toll for every American war and also measures the total death toll per year from 1980 - when 2,392 military personnel died of various non-combat related causes - through 2006, when 1,858 soldiers died in both combat- and non-combat-related action combined.

Read it all.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

American Gangster: A New York Dope Epic.
Jon Goff posts some interesting thoughts from Jorge Frank about the past, present, and possible future of developing reusable space craft. Some of Frank's analysis of the failures of the space shuttle can be echoes in more detail here.
A number of points jumped out at me.
In the absence of real-world examples, the wishful thinking of armchair designers leads to a "grass is always greener" mentality: *every* alternative must be better than what has been tried already, because we know all too well the disadvantages of what we have tried, but of the road not taken, we can see only the advantages.

That brings me to mind the reoccurring kerfuffle over NASA's chosen method to return to the Moon. Every disadvantage of the Ares boosters are highlighted (and at times exaggerated) and every advantage of whatever chosen alternative is being discussed is touted.

Jorge Frank goes on to suggest a road not taken:
The alternative - the real "road not taken" - would have been to build small experimental vehicles, starting from suborbital and working our way up, that explore all the different "corners" of the design trade space resulting from this multi-variable problem, and learning, one painful step at a time, what works and what doesn't. Since these experimental vehicles would neither have carried payloads nor flown operational missions, there would be no attachment to them; they would have flown for a few years each and then retired and replaced with the next X-vehicle, just as happened with all the previous X-vehicles up to and including the X-15.

Very sound engineering practice and likely something that would have been very difficult to finess politically in 1972. The demand put on NASA by the Nixon Administration was not to indulge in technology R&D that would one day in the future maybe result in a family of operational vehicles. The mandate was to come up with the solution to cheap access to space. Do it as soon as possible and, by the way, with half the budget you want. NASA was to so this thing or cease to be.

It is fortunate that the dynamic of space politics is not quite so on the edge thirty five years later. There are now a number of small companies trying out different approaches, some of which presumably will fly in the fullness of time. Meanwhile NASA can stick to exploration and science and let the private sector do the job it was meant to.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Can You Buy Cybernetic Happiness?

Robot Prostitutes, Lovers, and Spouses

David Levy, a world renowned expert in artificial intelligence, recently suggested that by 2050, people will not only have sex with robots on a regular basis, but will actually marry them. He is not actually the first to imagine this.
Adam Baldwin, aka Jayne Cobb, is auctioning off the shirt off his back, i.e. as worn during Firefly and Serenity, to benefit the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, the same charity that was so enriched (unwittingly) by the Senate Democrats' attempt to smear Rush Limbaugh.
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Friday, November 09, 2007

Finessing the Environmental Issue: A Suggestion for Republican Candidates.
The current slew of anti Iraq war films are tanking and already some fallcious analysis is beginning to crop up.
Lew Harris, the editor of website, said the films have struggled to be successful because the subject matters of Iraq and 9/11 remain too close to home. And in many cases, the films have not been entertaining enough.

"These movies have to be entertaining," Harris told AFP. "You can't just take a movie and make it anti-war or anti-torture and expect to draw people in.

"That's what happened with 'Rendition' and it has been a disaster," he said.

"People want war movies to have a slam-bang adventure feel to them ... But Iraq is a difficult war to portray in a kind of rah-rah-rah, exciting way.

"And it's just too close to home. The Vietnam war movies didn't start until long after the war was over.

"But here for the first time you're seeing things that you're reading about in the newspaper or seeing on television in movie theatres. I'm not sure that's something that people want. A lot of people go to the movies to escape."

Harris is missing the point. These films depict America in general and America's soldiers in particular as being evil. No matter how weary one is about the war, most people are not going to pay money to have that kind of message pounded into them.

I also disagree that the Iraq War is "difficult" to portray in an exciting way. This is only the case if one has the view that we (that is to say the United States) are the bad guys and the terrorists are not. There are plenty of stories coming out of Iraq that would make great cinematic fare, if someone in Hollywood had the courage to make it. Which, alas, no one does.

Gitesh Pandya comes closer to the truth:
"I just think it's something that people are not willing to pay top dollar to see, especially when we get so much coverage at home for free," Pandya told AFP. "At the end of the day it's not content people are willing to pay for."

Pandya said the subject matter of the films also made them particularly vulnerable to poor reviews.

"Older-skewing films are affected by reviews a lot more than a movie aimed at teenagers. It's possible for a teen movie with horrible reviews to be a commercial success; but for films targeting an older audience, the reviews can make or break them," he added. "And the reviews for these films have not been great."

What is left out of this analysis is that coverage of the Iraq War, for the most part, has been horrible and biased against the American effort. Of course people will not pay to see a movie that is just as horrible and biased. But she's right about poor reviews affecting box office. People have become quite cynical about Hollywood's political slant and are just refusing to see any film with a hint of political subtext. That's what, in my opinion, hurt The Kingdom, a film that actually depicted Americans fighting the War on Terror in a good light.

Stephen Bochco, on the other hand, is totally clueless:
Veteran television producer Steven Bochco, whose 2005 television series "Over There" about a platoon of soldiers fighting in Iraq ended after just one season, said it was hard to engage audiences in a "hugely unpopular war."

"TV is fully saturated with this war and I don't know if you can do a serious drama about this war and locate any angle that would overcome the negativity about it," he told the New York daily Newsday.

Iraq films remain a difficult sell for audiences because of the swirl of confusion surrounding the rights and wrongs of the conflict, he added.

"World War II was hugely romanticized in terms of its fiction. There were unambiguous villains, and the feeling we were fighting the right people over the right issues, as opposed to this war, which many people feel is misguided.

Over There was a horrible series, which not only was filled with technical and historic mistakes (using Vietnam era Huey helicopters, for instance, rather than modern Blackhawks), but was just badly written, badly directed, and badly acted. Its failure had nothing to do with the alleged "unpopularity" of the war (which I think is over stated by the polls.) Bad television tends not to prosper no matter what the subject matter.

And, I'm sorry, we are fighting unambiguous villains, the right people over the right issues. But Bochco, not being able to recognized this fact, was incapable of creating and running a television show about the war in Iraq.

Here's an idea. Let's recruit some Iraq and Afghan war vets and give them a chance to write and direct their own stories. And not just folks with the approved, Hollywoood lefty atttitude. One thing wrong with Hollwyood is a lack of idealogical diversity. An infusion of folks who have actually "seen the elephant" would enrich the film business and help it to break out of the stale, horrible rut of one America hating film after another. The people on the European film festival circuit may be appalled, but I'll bet actual audiences will cheer.
The place we stayed at in New Orleans recently is called Terrell House and comes with our recommendation.
It looks like Winona Ryder will play Spock's mother, Amanda in the upcoming Star Trek film.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Hillary Clinton Plays the Girl Card
The Space Based Solar Power report from the Pentagon has attracted the notice of Rand Simberg. He makes a good suggestion:
It's been noted many times in the past (and Coyote's report notes as well) that one of the reasons that this concept has had trouble getting acceptance and ownership within the government is that it's had no natural home. DoE thinks it's a space program, and NASA thinks it's an energy program, and both agencies consider it to be outside their charters. I do like the idea of the establishment of a quango, perhaps using COMSAT as a model, to provide a government-blessed (and at least initially, funded) focus for this.

SOLARSAT, I think, would be a great name for this.
Can the Arnold make a deal to settle the Hollywood writers' strike?
Hillary Clinton seems to have a huge gender gap problem. Men really hate her.
The Carnival of Space is now up.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

More on the idea of sending Orion to an Earth approaching asteroid.
More evidence that the race to the Moon is getting crowded, with the entry of Germany.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Michael Griffin muses on space exploration as a measure of competitiveness.

One item jumped out at me:
China has also emerged as one of the three spacefaring nations, because they understand the value of space activities as a driver for innovation and a source of national pride in being a member of the world's most exclusive club. China today not only flies its own taikonauts, but also has plans to launch about 100 satellites over the next five to eight years. It should be no surprise, especially to those who have read Tom Friedman's book "The World is Flat" or John Kao's "Innovation Nation", that this environment in China is breeding thousands of high-tech start-ups.

The Chinese have adapted the design of the Russian Soyuz to create their Shenzhou spacecraft. However, the similarity between the two ends at the out mould line; the Shenzhou spacecraft is both more spacious and more capable. They plan to conduct their first spacewalks and orbital rendezvous operations, and to build their own space station - admittedly simpler than ours - in the coming years. While they have not stated an intention to do so, the Chinese could send a mission around the moon with the Shenzhou spacecraft, as we did with the Apollo 8 mission, which inspired our nation and the world during the Christmas season of 1968. China could easily execute such a mission with their planned Long March V rocket, currently under development and reportedly rivaling any expendable rocket in the world today. I have no doubt that they will have it in use, as they plan, by around 2012.

Of course some people are still dissmissive of the Chinese space effort.
Looks like Jennifer Connelly will play the Patricia Neal role in the upcoming remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Chinese lunar probe, Chang'E 1, has entered lunar orbit.
CalTech and olive oil are not exactly two terms I would have put together. I wonder what the label will look like.
This week's Space Review has two analytical pieces on Hillary Clinton's space policy. Eric Hedman has a somewhatoptimistic view, arguing that if nothing else it will motivate other candidates to come out with their own policies. So far that hasn't happened. Taylor Dinerman examines the problems inherent behind her emphasis on Earth science.

Neither piece touches on Clinton's hostility to the exploration initiative, as evidence from the interview of her in the New York Times. Fortunately, I do.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Texas, a state generally regarded as a center for the petroleum industry, is becoming a leader in alternate energy, in this case from the ocean waves.
Even by the debased standards the Academy has obtained, this story about a college professor offering extra credit for burning a flag or the US Constitution is a bit bizarre.
Dog the Bounty Hunter is the latest white guy to get popped for saying one of the words you can't say ever. It was inpolite, but I rather think ruining him is a little steep. Perhaps if he were to kick off the next episode of his show by publically washing out his mouth with soap (a common punishment back in the day for using bad language) we can consider all to be forgiven and Dog can get back to apprehending and attempting to redeem bad people.

Friday, November 02, 2007

RIP Paul Tibbets. It is a scandal that he felt obliged to be buried in secret, without a headstone. It may be counter intuitive to some, but millions owe him their lives.
A space elevator as the modern day Erie Canal. Even though I used the analogy of the transcontinental railroad, it fits.
The Pentagon Endorses Space Based Solar Power
My own reply to Plundering the Moon by Andrew Smith, entitled The Economic Development of the Moon
Looks like Lions for Lamb, the new upcoming Redford-Cruise anti war epic, promises to be a disaster on a number of fronts.
Visiting New Orleans Post Katrina
Using nanotubes to fight cancers.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Speaking of the lovely and gracious Ms. Whittington, she offers this morality tale.
Recently Chantal and I went to New Orleans to spend a wild weekend in celebration of our wedding anniverary. My impressions of the French Quarter.
Is there a new Hollywood blacklist? Roger Simon seems to think so.