Curmudgeons Corner

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

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

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007
 
China Hits Its Target says Jim Oberg.


 
More details on the idea of a human rated Atlas 5 supporting the Bigelow private space station.


 
Molly Ivins, RIP. I guess she's aggravating God now.


 
Chair Force Engineer offers the suggestion that publicly travel beyond Low Earth Orbit is now doomed. It will be cancelled in 2009, with the new President. He offers no evidence to support his view, since no candidate for the Presidency has suggested that he or she will do that. Chair Force Engineer also repeats some the tiresome mantra that we've been getting from the Internet Rocketeer Club:
The only way for NASA to have started developing lunar hardware was for the private sector to develop the earth-orbit hardware in NASA's place. If NASA had offered a prize for Orion in the same vein as COTS, and if NASA had purchased a commercially-available or near-term launch vehicle, such as an Atlas V with a wide-bodied Centaur and/or a wider core, it may have rebuilt its post-shuttle manned spaceflight capability without sacrificing its ability to develop lunar hardware.

I'm not sure what he means by that. The COTS program is not a prize program as such, but a public/private partnership in which commercial entities agree to develop Earth to Low Earth Orbit vehicles and NASA agrees to provide part of the seed money and the prospect of a space station resupply contract. Nor are there any "commercial vehicles" available that could launch an Orion with the degree of safety and reliability that NASA is demanding. The Atlas V with a wide bodied Centaur and/or a wider core is vaporware and would cost quite a bit to build, even if it were praticable.

The return to the Moon program is not in danger of being cancelled outright. As suggested below, it could be stretched out, with a resulting increase in cost and expansion of schedule that would make in vunerable eventually. Even that, in my judgement, is a distant prospect. The other danger is that a future President or Congress might morph the program into something few people would like, stripping out the commercial aspects of it, for example.

Chair Force Engineer compounds his error with this:
The silver lining to this dark cloud is that the door will now be open for private, free enterprise to carry the lunar return mission on a sustainable schedule.

What "private, free enterprise?" There is no commercial return to the Moon project happening in any private company. Most private companies are concentrating on sub orbital barnstorming. The only companies with viable humans to Low Earth Orbit projects are being partly financed, as we have mentioned, by NASA.

It's time to stop spouting nonsense and stop substituting wishful thinking for objective reality. Effective space policy cannot be discussed when it is based on fantasy. There are enough problems in the real world without having to constantly deal with that.


 
Back in the waning days of the last Congress, the Republican leadership decided to be too clever by half. A lot of appropriations bills had not passed for FY2007. Instead of finishing up the bills, the previous Congress decided to punt them into the next, Democratic led Congress. The idea was that the Democrats would be tied up dealing with this lose end, distracting them from such pressing matters as raising the minimum wage and defunding the Iraq War.

Unfortunately the Democrats in the current Congress refused to cooperate with this scenario. They decided to take all of the unpassed appropriations and fund the parts of the government covered at last years level. Take that you rascally Republicans.

This meant that NASA, for example, would suddenly get a half billion less than expected. There was some talk, of course, that some flexibility would be allowed so that money could be moved around from lower priority accounts to higher priority accounts. However, it looks like that the House appropriators will not even do that. The five hundred million short fall, according to the bill that just came out of the House Appropriations Committee, will come almost entirely out of exploration. That means, in at least the House version, the program to go back to the Moon will be stretched out

Of course the Senate version could turn out differently, as mentioned in the article. The White House could even veto the bill, which contains not only NASA but every other part of the government that was not funded by the last Congress. There is, by the way, likely to be all sorts of chaos inflicted in other parts of the government besides NASA if the same inflexible standards apply. To my mind this makes the bill choice veto bait, if the White House chooses to make it so.

One thing that will not happen, contrary to some of the more fanciful comments in the linked post, is some kind of massive change of policy. Such an idea stems more from wishful thinking on the part of the comment makers than it does from the way things work in Washington.

Addendum: More from Florida Today. Interesting that Senator Nelson is talking about restoring some funding in a supplemental bill or in the FY2008 bill. The process is not done by any means.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007
 
Fred Kiesche mentions that google books continues to expand. For instance, there are now entries for Children of Apollo and Nocturne, including sample pages, key words, places mentioned in the book, and--not the least--places where to buy the book.


 
Final Impact, the third in the John Birmingham series in which a 21st Century battle fleet winds up in World War II, is now out.

It's been available for months, down under, lucky Aussies.


 


Heinlein Centennial web  site

Looks like there is to be a celebration of the Heinlein Centennial in Kansas City, Missouri on June 7th of this year.

This event will have a special emphasis on the nascent but burgeoning commercial spaceflight industry that so closely represents Heinlein's fictional history of space. Dr. Mike Griffin, the current NASA Administrator, will speak (he’s a big Heinlein fan). Dr. Peter Diamandis will also speak, as will Sir Arthur C. Clarke via video. Dr. Diamandis, as you may be aware, was the winner of the first Heinlein Prize Trust Heinlein Award, a cash award of $500,000, putting it on a par with a Nobel. The prize is awarded for having been the individual in the past year that has done the most to encourage commercial space activities. Diamandis credits Heinlein for interesting him in science and engineering, and thus for shaping everything else he has done in his life.

Others speaking in the Space Track so far: Brian Binnie, Jeff Greason, Bat Bahn, John Carmack, the Space Frontier Foundation, the National Space Society, Henry Vanderbilt.



 
Newt Gingrich may be forgiven for thinking that life must have its ups and downs. Back in the late seventies and eighties, he was considered a little odd, not the least of which for having the idea that the Republicans could take over the House. In 1994 no one considered either Newt or his idea odd at all. For a time he was considered a more significent politician than President Bill Clinton. (In terms of things actually accomplished, he still is.) But by 1998 all had turned to ashes as he was obliged to resign from the House after a less than successful midterm.

Now, once again, Newt Gingrich is hope of the nation. No doubt, especially if he runs for President and wins (something more possible than many people think) all that will change as well.


Monday, January 29, 2007
 
Looks like the farce that is the "peace movement" is almost complete. According to Hannity, they were spitting on a wounded soldier at the demonstration in Washington.

Michelle Malkin has more


Sunday, January 28, 2007
 
Michelle Malkin pays tribute to Deborah Orin-Eilbeck, a woman who did honor to journalism and died far too soon.



 
The only thing left to make the farce of Hanoi Jane returning to the "peace" movement complete is for her to go the Tehran and be photographed at the controls of an anti aircraft gun.


 
More on a lunar greenhouse.


Saturday, January 27, 2007
 
Sometimes one might think that NASA has in Michael Griffin not so much an administrator as it has a philosopher king. One case in point, a speech about acceptable vrs real reasons for space exploration. And this talk on space and economics is very interesting.
So, with the economic growth and technology development we have seen since the 1960s, I believe that we are now entering a Renaissance period of space exploration where we can realize the vision that eluded us earlier. And as in the Renaissance, wealthy individuals will play a role in advancing the work of our architects, engineers and technicians. These will be entrepreneurs who have made their wealth in other endeavors -- Jeff Bezos from Amazon, Bob Bigelow from Budget Suites, Richard Branson from Virgin and Elon Musk of Paypal fame are examples. These gentlemen and others have put their personal time, resources and energy behind the notion that many more people can have personal experience in space than do so today. It is one thing to view pictures of Earth from the vantage point of space, even on an IMAX screen, but it is another thing entirely to see it with one's own eyes. Many friends of mine have spoken of the epiphany they experienced from this.

But let me be clear. NASA's job is not to sponsor space travel for private citizens. That is for private industry. My hope is the reverse; that when the public can purchase rides into space, NASA can leverage this capability. Likewise, I hope that one day NASA can leverage the expertise of companies not unlike FedEx or UPS today, to meet our cargo needs for the space station and future lunar outposts. And one day, maybe, astronauts onboard our Orion crew exploration vehicle on their way to the moon and Mars can top off on liquid hydrogen from commercially available orbiting fuel stations.


 
Iraq as Vietnam: Anatomy of a Fallacy.


 
In which Senator James "Copperhead" Webb gets put on the deck by a fellow Canoe College grad.


 
"Fight the forgetting," implores Jim Oberg.


Friday, January 26, 2007
 
Looks like the whole Pluto is/is not a planet controversy is not dead yet.


 
It seems that environmental extremists don't want people to better their lives if it means industrial development, even suggesting that the poor folks prefer to live in squalor.


 
The good news about this, I suppose, is that it makes fembots possible. That bad news is that it makes Cylons possible.


Thursday, January 25, 2007
 
More evidence that Jimmy Carter is an anti semite.


 
The NRSC Pledge may be the most important grass roots campaign this decade.
If the United States Senate passes a resolution, non-binding or otherwise, that criticizes the commitment of additional troops to Iraq that General Petraeus has asked for and that the president has pledged, and if the Senate does so after the testimony of General Petraeus on January 23 that such a resolution will be an encouragement to the enemy, I will not contribute to any Republican senator who voted for the resolution. Further, if any Republican senator who votes for such a resolution is a candidate for re-election in 2008, I will not contribute to the National Republican Senatorial Committee unless the Chairman of that Committee, Senator Ensign, commits in writing that none of the funds of the NRSC will go to support the re-election of any senator supporting the non-binding resolution.


 
I am:
Robert A. Heinlein
Beginning with technological action stories and progressing to epics with religious overtones, this take-no-prisoners writer racked up some huge sales numbers.


Which science fiction writer are you?


Looks like I am Robert Heinlein. Yet there is no group incest in Children of Apollo.


 
Did Senator James Webb propose ending the Iraq War with nuclear weapons? Jonah Goldergh thinks he might have.


 
Apparently there is no interest by anyone to distribute a movie in which Dakota Fanning suffers a fate worse than death for her art. Not only is the scene in question disgusting, but apparently the whole movie is aweful.


 
The minimum wage increase, one of the "hundred hours agenda" seems to have run aground in the Senate.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007
 
Walter E. Williams gives a rhetorical smackdown to global warming hysterics like Heidi Cullen.
The environmental extremists' true agenda has little or nothing to do with climate change. Their true agenda is to find a means to control our lives. The kind of repressive human control -- not to mention government-sanctioned mass murder -- seen under communism has lost any measure of intellectual respectability. So people who want that kind of control must come up with a new name, and that new name is environmentalism.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007
 
This proves that there are at least some folks at NASA who are finally taking the public relations part of space exploration very seriously. I would caution Dr. Ivins that a lot has to happen beyond just expressions of enthusiasm at a studio before even a TV special is a done deal.


 
If Star Wars Was Set in Glasgow via Stacy Bartley


 
Looks like NASA is studying a concept for a robotic mine to be landed near the lunar base.


 
There seems to be a concerted effort to silence skeptics of the notion of human caused climate change. One of the perpetrators, the ever green Union of Concerned Scientists, is itself being scrutinized.


 
The technology to interface people with machines--thus making true artifical limbs possible, among other things, draws nigh.


Monday, January 22, 2007
 
Clark Lindsey has a post on a study conducted by Spaceworks Engineering that suggests that the Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems program will be a win/win for NASA and the commercial space sector.


 
Hugh Hewitt gives the cut and run Republicans (yes, you read that right) the thrashing they deserve.


 
Rand Simberg has an analysis of the recent Chinese test of an ASAT weapon.


 
Has the notion of global warming been oversold? Well, yeah...


 
So why do so many you people think we never went to the Moon to start with, asks Anthony Young.


 
Paul Spudis provides some much needed clarity on the subject of returning to the Moon.


Sunday, January 21, 2007
 
Apparently Celtic Films and Picture Palace are developing a series of TV films based on George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman novels. Both companies were involved in bringing the adventures of Richard Sharpe to the small screen. First up: Flashman at the Charge.


 
Ron Rosenbaun explains why he likes Hillary.
Because she’s a woman and because she’s mean. Even if she doesn’t have a 16 point foreign policy plan, I feel her heart is going to be in the right place when she looks at the aggressive worldwide spread of a vicious and murderous medieval theocratic movement (jihad) that promotes the “honor killing” of rape victims, denies all the hard-won rights of women (not to mention gays, and liberals, and dissidents of all religious and political stripes). A culture that essentially wants to lock women up in the home, deprive them of the right to vote, to an education, to a full life as human beings.

The problem is, there doesn't seem to be any evidence that the fury that exists in that woman would be directed toward the Islamic barbarians should she become Goddess Empress of America. Her latest side step concerning Iraq is certainly a case in point. She is more likely to direct her ire at those of us who want to fight these people to the death. She remains, at heart, a sixties appeaser.


Saturday, January 20, 2007
 
Marano's Law states: "private space industry needs 50 years to accomplish the same missions of space agencies". Of course, the "50 years" figure must have a ±10% error margin, since this is an "empirical" law.

I'm not sure I entirely agree. For one things, if one includes within "private space industry" big aerospace firms such as LockMart and Boeing, private space has been launching things into orbit for decades (Comsats mainly) well within the firty year time span.


Friday, January 19, 2007
 
Battlestar Galactica: Science Fiction for the post 9/11 world.


 
Looks like another documentary about the Apollo program is in the works.


 
The next attempt to launch the SpaceX Falcon 1 has slipped to mid February at the earliest.

Addendum: Alan Boyle has more.


Thursday, January 18, 2007
 
So why are 18 to 25 year olds apathetic toward NASA and space exploration? And what can be done about it?


 
Despite some nay saying by certain armchair generals, the prospect of the "surge" seems to have provided an incentive for the Iraqi government to finally deal with the Shiite militias.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007
 
A couple of weeks ago, we saw a disturbing yet fascinating film, Children of Men.


 
More concern for the poor in Pelosi Country.


 
Looks like HBO is going to make a series out of a book cycle by George R. R. Martin called A Song of Fire and Ice. It appears to be like Lord of the Rings, only with a lot more sex, violence, and political back stabbing.


 
Captain Ed has some sobering news for all of the armchair Generals who think that the "surge" is doomed to failure.


 
Conservative talk radio has been the bane of the far left ever since Rush Limbaugh first started his nation wide show. Naturally our new Democrat overlords want to crush free speech on the air with a revival of the Orwellian named "Fairness Doctrine."


 
The irrepressible Jeffrey Bell has decided to dump on COTS. His piece is rife with factual errors, such as the whopper that Elon Musk has "run through" most of his personal fortune. The problem is that Musk is worth perhaps about a billion to a billion and a half and has thus far spent about a hundred million on the Falcon.

There are more like that. There is also a nice conspiracy theory. COTS, according to Bell, is just a "reserve fund" to be raided at will for Orion. It's something that might resonate with the Internet Rocketeer Club, but does not seem to have any basis in reality.


 
Looks like SpaceX will try to launch Falcon 1 again on the 21st.


 
Earth observation from the Moon? Some problems and opportunities.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007
 
Walt Disney is the latest prodco interested in making a film of John Carter of Mars.


 
The Direct Launcher concept, touted as a promising alternative to the NASA Ares 1 and 5 architecture, seems to have fallen short under close analysis. To my mind this should serve as a warning for all of those people pushing back of the envelope "alternative" back to the Moon proposals. A little more humility and a little less chest thumping may be called for, in fact.


 
Research and development proceeds apace on a plasma rocket concept.


 
France joining the United Kingdom and accepting Queen Elizabeth II as sovereign in the 1950s? Surely the ghost of Henry V is smiling somewhere.


Monday, January 15, 2007
 
The two Stargate SG1 films have been greenlit.
"Stargate: The Ark of Truth"

As SG-1 searches for an Ancient artifact which they hope can defeat the armies of the Ori, they learn more Ori ships are about to be sent through the supergate to launch a final assault on Earth. Daniel discovers that the artifact, the Ark of Truth, may be in the Ori home galaxy, and SG-1 embarks aboard the Odyssey to find it, and pre-empt the attack. The IOA has a plan of their own and SG-1 ends up in a distant galaxy fighting two powerful enemies.

"Stargate: Continuum"

While SG-1 attends the execution of Ba'al, the last of the goa'uld system lords, Teal'c and Vala inexplicably disappear into thin air. Carter, Daniel and Mitchell race back to a world where history has been changed: the Stargate program has been erased from the timeline. As they try to convince the authorities what's happened, a fleet of goa'uld motherships arrives in orbit, led by Ba'al, his queen, Katesh, (Vala) and his first prime, Teal'c. SG-1 must find the Stargate and set things right before the world is enslaved by the goa'uld.

I wonder. Is Ba'al going to be given the needle? Or--following recent precedence--sent up the tall ladder and down the short rope, preferably with people taunting him?


 
Taylor Dinerman discusses certain implications of colonizing space. An interesting prediction: the Outer Space Treaty will not so much be cancelled or modified as it will whither away into ilrelevance.


 
Jeff Foust has a mostly good analysis of the state of the Vision for Space Exploration on its third anniversary.
Given the depth of public support (or lack thereof) for the Vision to date, a new president could shift NASA?s direction away from the Vision with little outcry, especially if the program appeared flawed. However, space is unlikely to be a high priority for the next president, given all the other pressing issues in the nation and world. A Vision that is running relatively smoothly isn'?t immune from significant change or even cancellation, depending on the desires of the new president, but it will help the program avoid undesirable attention and give it a fighting chance to continue in more or less its current form by the next administration. That makes the next two years as critical as any for NASA and supporters of the Vision for Space Exploration.

My best guess is that two years hence, VSE will have built up too much of constituency base for it to be killed outright. The historic parallel that needs to be remembered is Space Station Freedom around 1993. The newly installed Clinton Administration seemed at the time eager to kill the project, but an outcry--mainly from Congressional supporters--caused Clinton to instead "reform" the project, morphing it into the International Space Station. The space station had far more Congressional opposition than the Vision has ever had, surviving at least one near death before 1993 and another during.

The main danger (or opportunity depending on ones point of view) may be the desire of the new President to put his or her own stamp on the program. One could see--for example--a Gingrich Administration trying to make the Vision more commercial (though what that would entail one cannot be certain.) A Hillary Clinton Administration might--following the lead of her husband--make the project more of an instrument of foreign policy, bringing in the Chinese for example, deemphasizing the commercial aspects.

As they say, only time will tell.


Saturday, January 13, 2007
 
Back when Gerald Ford was being buried to testimonials from some of the same people who excoriated him when he wasin office, I was moved to wonder Are Dead Republican Presidents the only Good Republican Presidents? For some, I fear it is so.


 
When I first heard of Steve Kagan's little "confrontation" at the White House, I thought to myself, "What an ass!" Then, I considered that he was openly boasting of his boorish behavior, I added, "What a brainless ass!" Now, apparently, I have to add a further adjective. "What a dishonest, brainless ass!"


Friday, January 12, 2007
 
Barbara Boxer really needs to be hit with a rolled up newspaper for this snarky remark. The idea that Condi Rice is not qualified to deal in matters of war and peace because she has no kids is astonishing.


 
The starvling workers really deserve a raise in their minimum wage. Unless, of course, they work for a company that is headquartered in Nancy Pelosi's district.


 
I can hardly wait to see how Randall Wallace takes 1200 pages of Atlas Shrugged (including 60 pages of John Galt's speech) and turns it into a two hour movie.


Thursday, January 11, 2007
 
Ever Since the World Ended seems to be a fascinating faux documentary, not the least of which it has one Adam Savage from Mythbusters in the cast. Adam is just the fellow I would like to be a fellow post-apocalyptic survivor.


 
Looks like we're finally getting serious about dealing with Iranian mischief in Iraq.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007
 
Even if this happened in "tolerant" San Francisco, I think that this is taking music criticism a little too far. And what's up with this?
A couple of uninvited guests started mocking them, and allegedly the words "faggot" and "homo" were tossed -- and so were a couple of punches.

Yep, real tolerance indeed.


 
Jon Goff marks his upcoming appearance on The Space Show (and by the way, Jon, break a leg--that's what folks in the performance arts field say instead of "Good luck!", but the sentiment is the same) with a well intentioned pep talk for space enthusiasts. I have just a couple of problems with it.

First, I'm not sure that a pep talk is really needed. The prospects for a space renaissance are brighter, in my humble opinion, than they have been since the 1960s. Brighter than then, if you look at it closely. Both the public and private side are starting to do great things that just might lead to a multi world civilization in our life time.

Second, Jon had to spoil things with the following bit of revealed wisdom:
First off, we need to realize that NASA isn't going to get us into space. I repeat, NASA will not get us into space. There are thousands of excellent engineers working there, but NASA has lost the vision, the drive, and the leadership it needs to really do anything significant. $15B per year is a lot of money, even if it is only 1% of the total government spending. With good drive, management, and incentives, NASA could accomplish a lot with this. They have accomplished some pretty impressive things over the years with their unmanned space probes and landers, but in most of their other endeavors, they have done rather poorly. They are currently tied down by the need to complete the International Space Station, which should keep them preoccupied well into the next decade. Between that, trying to fund the Orbital Space Plane, and trying to keep the Shuttle Program running, they really do not have the resources or energy to pursue anything outside of Low Earth Orbit before the the mid-2020's, if that soon. They will send probes to various places, and will do some good aeronautics research between now and then, but the soonest that they could realistically place a man on the moon again (barring the cancellation of ISS, STS, and OSP, or a massive funding increase), is around 2025. The fact is, if we want to go, we can't wait for them. They're too preoccupied and too bureaucratic to do much anymore.

First, I need to point to a few factual errors in this paragraph. NASA's current budget is about 16.5 billion, not 15 billion, and it constitutes between .6 and .7 percent of the federal budget, not 1 percent. The Orbital Space Plane was cancelled back in the early 2000s (funny to be refering to that era in the past tense, by the way.) His assertion that NASA will not have "the resources or the energy" to pursue anything outside of Low Earth Orbit before the mid 2020s does not pass the laugh test. That pursuit has already begun, even before the end of the space shuttle program or the completion of ISS.

Second, I need to examine the statement "NASA will not get us into space." On the surface, it seems obvious, if by "us" one means most people. But if one does just a modicum of analysis, one has to conclude that the statement is a little misleading. It would be more accurate to suggest that "NASA alone will not get us into space." The space shuttle experience proved that over twenty years ago. This is not some hidden truth that one should be shocked about finding out in this Year of Grace 2007.

I'll have to add my own sad truth. Private business will not get us into space alone. Certainly not any time soon and certainly--in the near term at least--unless you are very rich. Most people do not have a spare quarter million to go on a sub orbital barnstorming jaunt.

However, NASA (and the government at large) and private business together, working in a kind of synergistic relationship, just might get "us" into space. The COTS program is just one example of how the newly commercial friendly NASA is empowering and supporting private business. If it works, private companies will be able to relieve NASA of the burden of supporting ISS and allow it to fully focus beyond Low Earth Orbit. In turn private companies will get a core market to nurture them while they develop other, private markets. Like servicing things like Bigelow's space station, for example.

History is filled with examples of how this has worked. NACA and the contracting out of the Air Mail helped grow American aviation. The transcontinental railroad was built with government land grants and other incentives. Lewis and Clark and Columbus were funded by governments. Prince Henry the Navigator was--well--government.

So do not be seduced by libertarian, received wisdom. It is as phony as the other received wisdom, still propounded by folks like John Pike, that only government or even coalitions of governments can do space. Both are fallacious on their face and need to be set aside.


 
Tony Blankley examines that curious phenomenon known as "Pelosian Honesty." It's defined as "lying" by most people, by the way.


 
The next Indiana Jones film is slated to open in May, 2008. It's plot is as closely guarded a secret at the contigency plans to bomb Iran. That has not stopped me from speculating on it, though.


 
With the success of the film versions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it was only natural that thoughts would turn toward making a movie version of The Hobbit. But studio politics and certain bruised egoes have complicated things.


 
Will Britain join the race to the Moon? I rather like the names of the proposed lunar missions. "Moonlight" and (of course) "Moonraker."


 
Something called the Space Generation Advisory Council is asking for your input for Key Events in the Next Fifty Years in Space.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007
 
Death of a Dictator: How Justice Finally Caught Up With Saddam Hussein.


Monday, January 08, 2007
 
Apparently the US Air Force has been busy in Somalia, sending Al Qaeda types to Hell.


 
Will the new race to the Moon be based on who controls Helium 3? Looks like some people think it might.


 
Taylor Dinerman suggests a more narrowly focused PR effort to reach a certain, select portion of the 18-25 year old demographic.


 
We celebrate--properly so--enterprising entrepreneurs who invest their own money into private space ventures. How fortunate that none of the space pioneers in the real world are like the various Bond villains who have started private space programs for nefarious purposes.

The last paragraph reminds me of something:
Now considering that most of the above movies had some pretty clever space elements, it would be neat if somebody stole them (okay, in Hollywood they don’t steal, they pay homage) and put them in a better movie. Maybe something where the hero travels to the former Soviet Union and “acquires” a derelict Buran space shuttle to fly into orbit to prevent the detonation of an electromagnetic pulse weapon.

A few years back, Homer Hickam wrote a novel, Back to the Moon, in which the hero steals the space shuttle Columbia and outfits it for a mission to the Moon. It was even optioned for a movie, but has lanquished in Development Hell ever since. Mind things have changed since the book was written. Columbia is no longer with us and there is an actual NASA return to the Moon program, but with some tweaking I think there is still a good flick here.


 
Is Great Britain about to have its own space program? Not yet, apparently.


Saturday, January 06, 2007
 
I suspect that a lot of people will pretend to be apalled but will be secretly relieved if Israel drops some nukes on Iran's enrichment facilities. I don't intend to pretend if it does happen. If Iran wants to play with nuclear weapons, it might be good for them to learn what they are like when they detonate.


 
Harry Reid seems to have executed a classic political flip flop on the issue of troop surge in Iraq.
Reid, installed yesterday in the Senate's most powerful post, said Dec. 17 on ABC's ``This Week'' program that he would support a surge of American forces for two or three months as part of a larger plan to withdraw combat troops by 2008.

The letter he and Pelosi sent Bush today said: ``Rather than deploy additional forces to Iraq, we believe the way forward is to begin the phased redeployment of our forces in the next four to six months, while shifting the principal mission of our forces there from combat to training, logistics, force protection and counter-terror.

Changed His Mind

Reid's action was surprising ``because a week ago Senator Reid was quoted as saying he would support a surge if there was some plan for withdrawal,'' said Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, in an interview on ``Political Capital with Al Hunt'' to air this weekend on Bloomberg Television. ``This is sort of a 180 in a very short period of time.''

Reid told reporters he changed his mind after learning that U.S. commanders on the ground didn't think a surge would work.

I suspect he meant after learning that Cindy Sheehan didn't like it.


Friday, January 05, 2007
 
Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are demanding that President Bush not do the troop surge to scour Iraq of the terrorists. Instead, they propose to:
Rather than deploy additional forces to Iraq, we believe the way forward is to begin the phased redeployment of our forces in the next four to six months, while shifting the principal mission of our forces there from combat to training, logistics, force protection and counter-terror.

I'm not sure I understand that paragraph. Are the Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader proposing to "redeploy" (code word for withdraw) our armed forces from Iraq and do things like train and engage in counter terror operations. And how does one "shift from combat" to "force protection and counter-terror?" Do they think that these things can be done without combat?

Now Pelosi and Reid belong to a party that had been spectacularly wrong about national security for at least the past forty years. They fought Reagan every step of the way when he was trying to win the Cold War. They denied our allies in SE Asia ammunition and fuel, resulting in the deaths of millions. So how can these two people expect to be listened to or their utterance regarded as other than the ravings of mad people?


 
Is the State Department proposing that the United States pay billions in social security to Mexican citizens, including illegal aliens?


Thursday, January 04, 2007
 
Looks like Mitt Romney is going to be subjected to a curious religious test because of his membership in the Church of Latter Day Saints. Ironicly the parameters of the test would disqualify anyone with religious faith from the Presidency.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007
 
Looks like Mother Sheehan has decided to be a pain in the ass to the Democrats. What fun.


 
John Keegan, the world's greatest living military historian, comes out in favor of the surge in Iraq.


 
Jeff Foust reports that Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos' start up rocket company, has started to lift the veil. Check here for more info and some cool pictures



 
Michael Medved muses about two peoples in search of a country--the Palestinians and the Scots.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007
 
Xavier Hollander has gotten married? What is this world coming to?


 
The ever entertaining Charlie Rangel indulges in a little borderline racist humor while once again misunderestimating the one white guy he hates more than every other white guy who ever lived.


 
NASA is apparently studying the idea of building a launcher called Ares IV. The idea is that the Orion would be launched on one Ares IV and the Artemis Lunar Surface Access Module on another and both would dock in lunar orbit. It sounds remarkably like Direct Launcher concept being bandied about in certain quarters. No need for Ares V or an Earth Departure Stage in this concept, which is still described as being in the study stage.

Oddly enough, an Ares IV without the strap on SRBs would suffice to take an Orion to the International Space Station.


 
Looks like Nancy Pelosi is going to launch an attack on free speech.


 
Will NASA's planned lunar base include a lunar garden? It had better if the lunar base has any hope of becoming a lunar town.


 
Captain Ed notes that Nancy Pelosi has yet another ethically challenged senior Democrat to deal with.


 
Jeff Foust comments on recent findings that young people are "disengaged" from space exploration. Meanwhile Michael Huang seeks to answer the question: Why the Moon?

Jeff suggests that young folks may be more interested in what is going on in the alt.space sector than in NASA. It would be only natural. Private space travel is a new phenomenon. I think NASA's "public outreach" should include its more entrepreneurial, commercial partners as well. COTS and the Centennial Challenges are certainly things that ought to bear mentioning in an attempt to sell space exploration.

Addendum: Jeff's article has gotten Rand Simberg very excited indeed. As he sees it the Dittmar Study proves that NASA and the Vision for Space Exploration is "illrelevant." Fortunately the facts within the survey to not bear out this conclusion.
Perhaps the clearest result of this study is that it confirms the results of a July 2004 Gallup Poll6 as well as the results of the 2004 Market Study describing ongoing public awareness and engagement with the idea of human space flight. However, among young persons, the majority (aware) is somewhat less than in the earlier study. Figure 1 presents the results of the question that solicited information regarding whether or not respondents were aware of the Vision for Space Exploration in 2004, with 62% of the sample indicating that they were aware of the VSE, 20% indicating that there were not aware, and 18% who were not sure. In 2006, slightly less than half (49%) indicated that they were aware, 25% were unaware, and 26% were not sure. Of those who indicated they were aware, follow-on queries regarding specific domain knowledge revealed that awareness was vague, with “something about going back to the Moon” characterizing the majority of positive responses (61%).

Support for the Space Exploration program is also slightly less than is 2004 while opposition appears greater. In 2004 55 % of young Americans endoresed the plan with 30 % opposed. in 2006 45 % reported support for the plan and 40 % opposed it.

Still a plurality. There also seems to be a relationship between awareness of a program and knowledge of it and support for it. There are also demographic differences. Whites, Asians, and men tend to be more supportive than blacks, hispanics, and women.


 
Back in the 1970s it was suggested that falling space transportation costs added with rising comodity and energy prices would lead to exploiting energy and resources in space. So far that prediction hasn't panned out. But was the problem simply that the people making those predictions were ahead of their time?


Monday, January 01, 2007
 
Looks like Newt Gingrich and Bill Forstchen are starting another trilogy, the first book to be entitled Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8, Book 1 of the Pacific War Series. No word yet on whether it is alt.history or not.

Addendum: It appears that the novel is alt.history. The point of departure is that Yamamoto himself leads the attack rather than Nagumo. Nagumo had stopped after two attack waves, leaving targets like the dry docks untouched. Yamamoto presumably would have launched the third attack wave. This will mean interesting alternate history results, I'm sure. After the excellent Gettysburg trilogy, this book is something to look forward to.


 
Twenty years ago when one thought of Ethiopia, one thought of starving third worlders. Now, apparently, Ethiopia is the Prussia of the Horn of Africa.


 
Happy 2007 to one and all.