Thursday, January 31, 2008

Peggy Noonan has an interesting insight on the problem of John McCain.
Mr. McCain seems to me to have two immediate problems, both of which he might address. One is that he doesn't seem to much like conservatives, and never has. They can't help admire him, but they've disagreed with him on so many issues, and when they bring this up his demeanor tends to morph into the second problem: He radiates, he telegraphs, a certain indignation at being questioned by people who've never had to vote in Congress and make a deal. He's like Moe Greene in "The Godfather," when Michael Corleone tells him he's going to buy him out. "Do you know who I am? I'm Moe Greene. I made my bones when you were going out with cheerleaders." I've been on the firing line, punk. I am the voice of surviving conservatism.

This doesn't always go over so well. Mr. Giuliani seems to know Mr. McCain is Moe Greene. Mr. Huckabee probably thought "The Godfather" was kinda violent. Mr. Romney may be thinking to himself, But Michael Corleone won in the end, and had better suits.
Bill Clinton makea a very odd proposal for a politician.
"Everybody knows that global warming is real," Mr. Clinton said, giving a shout-out to Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize, "but we cannot solve it alone."

"And maybe America, and Europe, and Japan, and Canada -- the rich counties -- would say, 'OK, we just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions 'cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.' We could do that."
Chair Force Engineer gives a fascinating post called The Rise of the Internet Rocketeer Club. It's actually quite worth reading, as it provides a window not only into motives but also self image.

Chair Force Engineer makes a pretty valid point by pointing out NASA's somewhat spotty record in human space flight since the end of Apollo. He suggests that the record alone justifies a certain skepticism concerning the way that NASA is executing the Vision for Space Exploration.

Unfortunately, to my observation, healthy skepticism has often been expressed as outright paranoia and hyper rhetoric that would be more worthy of 9/11 "Truthers" rather than observers of the space policy scene. It is accepted, by at least some people on the Internet, as an absolute fact that the Ares 1 design is so dysfunctional, so flawed, that it is worth launching a political fight to force NASA to scrap it in favor of some other design, likely using some modified model of the EELV. This view is held without a single scrap of evidence to support it.

Here's a question for you. Does the record of the space shuttle and the International Space Station actually mean that the Vision for Space Exploration is going down the same path. Or are critics of the VSE engaging in a space version of the Vietnam Syndrome?

What is worse is some of the behavior of what I term the "Internet Rocketeer Club" toward those who disagree with them. NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, who recently gave a rather cogent speech laying out the rationale behind the Ares design, is pretty much considered either a lunatic or a crook or both by some in the IRC. I have personally gotten vile hate mail and profanity laced comments on my Internet content page.

Much of this commentary is posted under pseudonyms which, to my mind, rather detracts from the credibility of the posters. If one is afraid to post under one's own name, one must be not as confident in one's position as one might be.

There has also been the tendency to spread false rumors. I think I have counted four times in the past year and a half in which Ares 1 was going to collapse of its own contradictions. None of these predictions have come to pass.

Space Force Engineer suggests that the role of the Internet Rocketeer Club is to "hold NASA's feet to the fire" and "ask tough questions" in the manner of muckraking journalists. Would that it would actually do that.

A real journalist (and I have some experience in this, having written commentary for major news outlets) publishes under his or her own byline, checks the facts, and tries to be fair and balanced. I see none of this coming from the Internet Rocketeer Club. I see, instead, paranoia, hyper rhetoric, rumor mongering, and general rantings disguised as analysis, often posted under psuedonyms.

That is really too bad. Because Chair Force Engineer is right. There should be outsiders holding NASA accountable, just as every other part of the government. But in order to do so effectively, the people doing it should not only themselves be accountable, but credible. I see neither quality coming from the Internet Rocketeer Club.

Nor do I see the ability to actually focus on the real issue. Primarily the real issue is what the proper roles of NASA and the private sector are. My contention is that while NASA has talked a pretty good game in making the private sector a full partner in the Vision for Space Exploration, action has lagged a little behind rhetoric. There are also problems that go above Mike Griffin's pay grade. While certain people were having fun posting messages on the Internet about "alternate" methods for going back to the Moon, Congress saw fit to take a big wack out of the COTS budget. Congress has also not adequately funded the Centennial Challenges. The administration has been a bit stingy in funding the over all Vision, IMHO. And let us not forget the gambit by some planetary scientists to cancel the return to the Moon altogether. Finally, there's space as a sleeper issue in the 2008 Election. With two Democrats promises to do horrible things to space exploration, one Republican supportive, and another "studying" the question, this is plenty of work to be done.

So let's get to it.
Fifty years ago, the first space race was joined with the launch of Explorer 1.

Addendum: More from Alan Boyle.
James Piereson, the author of Camelot and the Cultural Revolution, disputes the whole Obama/JFK comparison.

Our own take on the question.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Why Conservatives Detest John McCain

And Why it May Not Matter
More news about the new Indiana Jones film. Notice the heavy duty hardware Indy is packing.
The vile Fred Phelps is demanding to be informed of the location of Heath Ledger's funeral in Perth, Australia.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Captain Ed has a good analysis of McCain's win in Florida and what it means going on. Mind, I support Romney for a host of reasons, but if McCain is the nominee I will support him. I am not of the view that he will be a complete disaster, as some of my conservative brethren suggest. For one thing, among the issues he is right about is the War. Neither Hillary nor Obama would be naught but a disaster.
One vision of the perfect television lineup. I would certainly quibble with some of the selections, including the selection of Next Gen over Classic Trek.

Forget about politics. The real big event is happening Thursday with the beginning of new Lost episodes.
Glenn Reynolds discusses space and the technology issues on the RedBlue Podcast. There's one area of disagreement I have to point out. Glenn contends that governments are very bad at doing long term projects, as opposed to quick, neck or nothing leaps like Apollo. The problem is that we've had the space shuttle project for about thirty five years and the space station for almost twenty five years. Say what you will about the ultimate utility of these two undertakings, but the fact is that they exist and have persisted. My theory is that at a certain point, projects like the shuttle, the station, and presumably the Vision for Space Exploration become institutionalized and become impossible to terminate in our political system.
Alan Boyle discusses the current status of commercial space.
CBS seems to have found a way to deal with the writers' strike. outsourcing.
The politics of earmark reform, as articulated by the President, appears to unite the Republicans and divide the Democrats.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Aviation Week reports on the thrust oscillation problem in the Ares 1 design. There is a bit of news that should prove disappointing for those who have been hoping that the problem would be the stake that kills Ares 1 and allows for the adoption of whatever their favorite option is.
But the focus team has since calculated that the problem may not be as severe as originally feared. Nominally the oscillation frequency of a five-segment booster is 12 Hz. (compared with 15 Hz. for the four-segment version). But after that it gets complicated. Translating RSRM ground-test data into accurate forcing function figures and the stack’s response to that force is extremely difficult, particularly since the upper-stage and Orion designs remain immature and oscillation data are based on ground tests.

Lyles says oscillation may not be as well-organized—and destructive—as feared, and may even be random instead of a steady wave that can resonate with the rest of the vehicle. And even if it isn’t, the vehicle response may not be as severe as possible. The shuttle stack is “insensitive” to the frequencies generated by its four-segment boosters, and because of the timing of the oscillations the Ares I structure may already be robust enough to handle the most serious loads. That would limit needed fixes to subsystems, which should be easier.

In other words, more easily managed and certainly not a show stopper.

Addendum: Rand Simberg engages in a little selective quoting and snarky commentary that seems to pass for analysis in certain quarters. An example toward the end:
Well, apparently, they're not allowed to see it as a show stopper. People get fired for pointing out that the emperor is naked.

Remarkable. If all the evidence points to the conclusion that the problem is solvable, then clearly there must be a conspiracy to suppress the "truth" that it is otherwise. I suppose that anything is possible, but it raises the question. If there are hordes of engineers cowering behind their desks for fear of getting fired for "speaking out", is there not at least one person with the courage to do so anyway? If the Ares is such a train wreck, where are the whistle blowers? I'm not talking about some joker who posts something on some web site calling himself "Anonymous" or "Joe Space" or "Pissed Off NASA Veteran." I'm talking about someone with first hand knowledge (i.e. not someone who heard something from somebody who heard a rumor that someone knew something) willing to raise his hand and swear an oath in front of a Congressional Committee. If there are people who seriously think that billions of tax dollars are being deliberately wasted on a bad design, then someone needs to be a patriot and take the lumps. If we can ask nineteen year old kids to risk their lives in Baghdad or Kandahar, at least one middle aged engineer can put just a little less on the line.

Now, I'm not suggesting that there isn't a vast conspiracy to conceal the "truth" that the Ares is a turkey and that the obvious solution is just to plop the Orion on top of an EELV and then light the candle. I'm suggesting that there is zero evidence that this is the case. Twisting the meaning of news stories and being snarky does not constitute offering evidence.

But (and I get mail about this) am I not being just a little hard on people who are just expressing an opinion? Not really. If these people in the Internet Rocketeer Club are fixated on a controversy, that seems to be bogus, about hardware, then they are not only wasting their time (and mine) but are also neglecting real issues. VSE, as it is currently constituted, does have insufficient commercial participation. COTS is being under funded as are the Centennial Challenges. Space has actually become a sleeping issue in the current Presidential campaign, with some candidates pointing the way off the cliff, but others showing at last some promise of understanding where things need to go. Where are the serious discussions (not snark) about how to address all that? I'm talking about positive solutions, not endless grousing. So far I see very little if anything, especially coming from the "Ares Truthers."

By the way, for those of you who accuse me of being a NASA shill, let me remind you that I was one of the harshest critics of the ISS during the 1990s, even going so far to publish a piece in Space News based on documents obtained that seemed to indicate what NASA was saying privately about problems surrounding ISS was different from what it was saying publicly. If anyone has such documents that there are similar shenanigans going on with Ares, my email address is public.
An official of NOW accuses Teddy Kennedy of betraying women.
“Women have just experienced the ultimate betrayal. Senator Kennedy’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic presidential primary campaign has really hit women hard. Women have forgiven Kennedy, stuck up for him, stood by him, hushed the fact that he was late in his support of Title IX, the ERA, the Family Leave and Medical Act to name a few. Women have buried their anger that his support for the compromises in No Child Left Behind and the Medicare bogus drug benefit brought us the passage of these flawed bills. We have thanked him for his ardent support of many civil rights bills, BUT women are always waiting in the wings.

“And now the greatest betrayal! We are repaid with his abandonment! He’s picked the new guy over us. He’s joined the list of progressive white men who can’t or won’t handle the prospect of a woman president who is Hillary Clinton (they will of course say they support a woman president, just not “this” one). ‘They’ are Howard Dean and Jim Dean (Yup! That’s Howard’s brother) who run DFA (that’s the group and list from the Dean campaign that we women helped start and grow). They are Alternet, Progressive Democrats of America,, Kucinich lovers and all the other groups that take women’s money, say they’ll do feminist and women’s rights issues one of these days, and conveniently forget to mention women and children when they talk about poverty or human needs or America’s future or whatever.

“This latest move by Kennedy, is so telling about the status of and respect for women’s rights, women’s voices, women’s equality, women’s authority and our ability – indeed, our obligation - to promote and earn and deserve and elect, unabashedly, a President that is the first woman after centuries of men who ‘know what’s best for us.’”

Of course I knew Teddy Kennedy was bad news for women ever since Chappaquiddick.
Mike Moore proposes that we react to the test of a Chinese anti satellite weapon by "calling their bluff" by proposing an arms control treaty. One would have thought that we had learned the particular folly of doing this during our experience with the Soviet Union. Arms control treaties negotiated in the 1960s and 70s were generally to the disadvantage of the United States as the political leadership at the time seemed to desire such treaties at any price. Indeed, Moore undercuts his own argument with this:
The Chinese government may be corrupt and repressive, but it is not collectively stupid. China learned a live-or-die lesson from the collapse of the Soviet Union: in a direct arms competition with the United States, the United States wins.

In other words, the successful strategy employed by President Reagan that Moore seems to reject out of hand. Reagan knew how to get an enemy to negotiate seriously. That was to challenge the enemy to an arms race that Moore admits that they couldn't win. Do that and, if Moore is right about the Chinese, they'll come to the table with a far better attitude than if we just went to them hat in hand.
Looks like President Bush will drop the hammer on earmarks, but for 2009 and not this year's spending. Less than one would have hoped, but better late than never.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Looks like John McCain supports the Vision for Space Exploration. Nothing about commercial space or any specifics.
Is Barack Obama the Second Coming of John F. Kennedy?
Remembering those who paid "the Price of Admiralty" for the airless sea of space.

As Kipling said:
"We must feed our sea for a thousand years,
For that is our doom and pride,
As it was when they sailed with the 'Golden Hind',
Or the wreck that struck last tide --
Or the wreck that lies on the spouting reef
Where the ghastly blue-lights flare.

If blood be the price of admiralty,
If blood be the price of admiralty,
If blood be the price of admiralty,
Lord God, we ha' bought it fair!"
More on space as an issue in 2008. One bit of misinformed analysis, though:
More than likely the White House space plan is seen as a campaign negative, said Dr. Holly Brasher, an assistant political science professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

"I think that especially rings true for Republican candidates and that they haven't found any use for the subject," Brasher said. "They saw what happened with the Bush plan and space exploration went over like a lead balloon. Also, it could be thought of as an issue for Democrats because of its very strong ties to John F. Kennedy and the first missions to the moon."

The problem is that most polling data shows substantial support for sending human explorers back to the Moon and even beyond. Republicans, especially Mayor Giuliani, have reacted favorably. The negative stance, despite alleged ties to JFK, has come from the Democrats.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Two Old Men: A Children of Apollo Story
An hour or so after he left his hotel, Bill, a retired politician, arrived at the former President's ranch. There was a Secret Service post at the entrance to the ranch. Bill stopped his car and gave the young man his ID. There were two agents manning the post, both of them dressed more appropriately for the balmy weather than he would have thought; golf shirts, khaki trousers, the sun glasses of course, and shoulder holsters. Bill noticed a couple of Uzis in the guard shack as the agent called in the ID.
Rambo: The Return of the LOnely, Troubled Super Warrior
The interesting thing about Giuliani's space statement is not the support for the Vision for Space Exploration, but the fact that he's the first candidate to specifically support the Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems program. Of course he will get criticized for a lack of specificity, including in the matter of exact dollar figures. But it is a good start and one would hope that Romney and McCain would be inspired in respond with their own statements.

Addendum: Jon Goff is actually kind of pleased.
I have to admit, having now read the rest of his comments, I am
impressed that he did specifically mention COTS and commercial space
launch. I still don't like him as a candidate for other reasons, but
I'll probably put something up on my blog at least commending him for
being the first to even show he's heard of COTS.


Addendum 2: The New York Times, which hates Rudi, is not pleased, to the surprise of no one.
And now here comes Rudolph W. Giuliani to show these amateurs how it’s done. Campaigning in his make-or-break state of Florida last week, Mr. Giuliani released a statement promising to “make space a priority.” Apparently, America is facing a crisis far greater than health care or education reform: when the current fleet of space shuttles is retired in 2010, it’s going to take as much as five years—five years, people!—before we can send another guy into orbit.

Pandering? From a politician? I am shocked, SHOCKED that such a thing could happen. Though it actually is kind of pleasent to be the one being pandered to for a change.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A cure for Alzheimer's?
It looks like Rudi Giuliani will formally call for an increase in NASA's budget, presumably as a means to help narrow the space flight gap.
Don't count on that rebate check yet. Senate Democrats may screw things up by lardingh the stimulus package with a lot of spending.
One of the things that peeves me about the kerfuffle over the Ares 1 is how much effort is wasted whining about how much of a turkey the rocket is supposed to be and how much more wonderful some alternative is. Meanwhile, Congress saw fit to slash appropriations for COTS and not fund the Centennial Challenges adequately.

Nice to see, though, that ProSpace seems to get it in the agenda it is pushing for its annual March Storm campaign. There's no push to have a Congressional mandate to scrap the Ares for some other politically acceptable alternative.

The agenda for this year, still under development, seems to concentrate on resources and energy from space and commercial space infrastructure, both laudable and worthy of support.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Looks like Obama is still pitting space explorers against school kids. It's a clever albeit a nasty tactic.
Heath Ledger RIP
Apparently the Sherrif of Harris County is in big trouble for distributing via e-mail a cartoon. It depicts Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton wishing for an end to bigotry and then vanishing.

So it is now, from what I understand, racist to accuse a couple of black guys of being racist.
Victor Davis Hanson suggests that Bill Clinton is at last getting what he deserves from the Greek God Nemesis.
Looks like our friends at the Westboro Baptist Church has decided that the cause of death of Heath Ledger was that God smot him for playing a gay guy in Brokeback Mountain and will picket the funeral.

The mind boggles.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mike Griffin gives a recap of some of the rationals that went into the Orion/Ares architecture, including trade offs. To these somewhat old eyes he seems to have blown both the EELV and the Direct Launcher arguments out of the water. Not that the proponents of either option will be convinced, of course.
The design for SpaceShipTwo unveiled.
Apparently Hollywood is not done spitting on soldiers. Here's a lovely film for you. Aaron Eckhart stars as a racist, hypocritical First Gulf War era soldier who molests a thirteen year old Lebanese girl. To top it off, it takes place in Houston, Texas.

From the guy who brought us American Beauty, about another middle age guy enraptured with a teenager.
What If Ronald Reagan Came Back from the Dead?
Space as a political issue? Jeff Foust is somewhat skeptical.
Mike Griffin addresses some of the questions surrounding the development of the Ares.
Griffin sounded a little exasperated about all the attention given to the issue, as well as the impression in some corners that NASA was not being forthcoming about discussing the problem. “We’re kind of in a no-win position,” he said. “If we encounter issues and take them seriously, people think it’s a big deal and it’s a showstopper. If we encounter issues and say, ‘this is stuff everybody’s seen before, we’ll get to it’, then people think we’re not taking it seriously and we get beaten up for that. So it’s hard to know how to win.”

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

It looks like there is less to the vaunted revolt against the return to the Moon than meets the eye.

Addendum: Mike Griffin reacts.
More on the bionic contact lense.
Fred Thompson has dropped out of the race for the Presidency. He had a lot going for him that would have made a good and even, perhaps, a great President. Unfortunately votes were not among those qualities.

Still, Thompson might make a good running mate for Rudi or Mitt.
The reader would be best advised to ignore the snarkiness at the beginning of this post, about which we will resist the temptation to comment, and go to Griffin's response on some of the schedule changes in the Orion/Ares development timeline.
Rudi Giuliani and Mitt Romney Discuss the Space Program

Monday, January 21, 2008

Romney emerged from his space policy round table meeting and, while expressing support for the Vision for Space Exploration, only promised to study ideas for closing the space flight gap.
Captain Ed reports some good news concerning the chances of Republicans taking back the Congress. I always thought that the media conventional wisdom that this year would be a Denocratic year was just--well-conventional foolishness.
Flashman at the Charge
David Livingston, of The Space Show, expands on his Freakonomics piece on Is Space Exploration Worth the Cost?
Dwayne Day examines proposals to make China a space partner. Since I seem to be one of those right wing "China hawks" (albeit one who also doesn't buy the "inevitable decline" of America theory), I have to remain unconvinced.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

One of the great joys of reading the news is when one occasionally comes upon a headline writer who likes to pun, as in this story of the oscillation problem in the Ares 1 design. Shaky indeed.

My perusal of the Internet has yielded two theories about how this will all turn out.

The first, from our friends in the Internet Rocketeer Club, is that the problem will quickly prove to be unsolvable, forcing those ignoramuses at NASA kicking and screaming toward someones favorite solution, likely an EELV derived launcher.

The second, from those same folks at NASA, is that design problems are to be expected in developing new launch vehicles and there is every confidence that this one will be solved.

Both sides have some history to support their view.

On the one hand NASA has had some recent history of not being quite as forthcoming about technical problems as it might have been prudent to be. On the extreme side, this tendency has resulted in the destruction of two space shuttles and all sorts of problems in the development of the space station.

On the other hand, there is also plenty of recent history to suggest that these sorts of problems have cropped up before and have been fixed. The vibration problems that plagued the Saturn V is a case in point.

Who will prove to be right? No one can say for certain and be honest. But we'll know more (probably) in the Spring.
Now Oliver Stone wants to do a film about George W. Bush. The mind recoils.
Michael Graham suggests that there is less to McCain's victory in South Carolina than meets the eye.
In 2000, running against George W. Bush and the entire Carroll Campbell machine in South Carolina, John McCain got 42% of the vote, and 240,000 votes out of 573,000 or so cast.

Tonight, he got 33% of the vote in a field where his top challengers—Romney and Giuliani—aren't even running, and 135,000 actual votes. If just the same people who voted for McCain in 2000 had voted for him today, he would have won 50+% of the South Carolina vote. That would have been truly impressive.

Instead, John McCain LOST the support of 100,000 people—and he's the winner?
Tom James and Jon Goff comment on the scheme to substitute expeditions to asteroids for a return to the Moon. Both gentlemen are still fixated on the idea of scrapping the Ares 1 with an EELV, which is said to be a "commercial solution." Of course if it were a question of sticking an Orion on top of a Delta IV or Atlas V and lighting the candle, the idea would have some obvious merit. But what often doesn't get mentioned is that the EELV is not really designed to carry crewed space craft and would therefore have to be retrofitted. There is also the question of hidden costs. Two of the components of the Ares 1--the J2X engine and the five segmented SRB--are also components to the Ares V. Scrap the Ares 1 for an EELV and there might be some short term savings, but then the cost of the Ares V suddenly goes up. There are also some infrastructure costs related to going with an EELV, or so I am told by my sources.

I've not seen any in depth analysis of the real costs of using an EELV (or actually an EELV-derived launch vehicle) vs going with the Ares 1. The mantra seems to be "Ares 1 is a turkey. Go with the EELV." repeat over and over. I wish something resembling evidence could accompany the mantra.

On the subject of asteroid missions. I'm all for them as an add on for the Vision. But any effort to cancel the return to the Moon in favor of them just sets up an unnecessary political fight that's going to alienate people and set up the possibility that nothing gets done. Louis Friedman and his planetary science buddies should get a clue and start making alliances instead of enemies.
Sylvester Stallone tries to explain why Rambo won't be killing Islamo fascists in the next movie.
I thought the idea of Rambo dealing with Al-Qaeda, etc. would be an insult to our American forces that are actually dying trying to rid the world of this cancer. To have at the end of a 90 minute movie the character of Rambo seizing Osama bin Laden in a choke hold then dragging him into the Oval Office then tossing him in the President’s lap declaring “The world is now safe, Chief” would be a bit insulting. We’ve seen today every film that deals with the Middle Eastern situation has failed because it is a subject people find incredibly painful to sit through while it is ongoing. Maybe ten years in the future a good film will be produced on the subject. Right now I believe revealing a situation like the ongoing genocide in Burma provides a compelling story simply because it is true and is the longest running civil war in the world.

Sounds plausible, but I'm not buying it. First of all, the scenario Stallone describes is silly. There are also sorts of plausible story lines that could have Rambo laying waste to Al Qaeda. I also don't see how that would be "insulting" to our troops. Quite the opposite actually. Finally the reason why previous films that deal with the Middle East have failed is because they've been propaganda that depicted Americans in a terrible light.

Mind, the Burmese government is evil and deserves whatever fifty caliber justice Rambo is capable of dishing out. But so is Al Qaeda.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Mitt Romney will now hold his own space policy round table in Florida. Looks like space is now an issue in this year's election.
Cloverfield: A Monster is Stalking New York.
Cloverfield reminds one of that line from Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park II. "Ooh. Ah. That's how it's starts. Then comes the running and the screaming." And in Cloverfield, the bleeding, the dying, and the explosions.

Addendum: The teaser trailer for Star Trek that plays with Cloverfield:

Friday, January 18, 2008

More on the thrust oscillation problem in the Ares 1 design.
Giuliani emerged from the space policy round table promising to make space a priority in his potential administration and to narrow or even close the space flight gap. Good for him, though some details, especially on the exploration vision and commercial space, might be appropriate.
Apparently a group of people from the planetary science community are plotting to cancel the return to the Moon in favor of manned missions to Earth approaching asteroids.

A big mistake on a number of levels that might lead to no manned flights beyond LEO at all for the foreseeable future. The reason for that is that it is clear that, reading between the lines, the real agenda for this group is an early mission to Mars. The last thing the Vision for Space Exploration needs is a way for the opposition to demagogue it as a "trillion dollar Mars mission."

Instead this group should be pushing the asteroid missions as additions to the return to the Moon. The idea would get more support than an attempt to play predatory budget games.
NASA Space Flight is reporting a 700 million dollar shortfall in the development of the Ares 1, threatening some major schedule slippages in the test regime. This is likely due to issues having to do with oscillations in the Ares 1 stack.

The chart provided suggests that the slippages may be somewhat less than meet the eye, since the 2015 start of orbital operations and 2019 lunar return are still scheduled. Still, we can predict that calls for scrapping the Ares entirely and going with something else will intensify on the Internet and will be ignored by the powers that be.

One interesting question. There are a lot of ISS resupply flights scheduled for Orion through 2020. This suggests that the lifespace of ISS will be extended from 2016. It also suggests a possible cost savings should COTS produce a commercial alternative.

Addendum: Interestingly NASA is denying that the budget and schedule problem has anything to do with technical problems being experienced by the Ares 1 design.
The finalists for the Rp/Kistler share of the COTS funding have been selected. They are SpaceHab, Andrews Space, Orbital Sciences, and PlanetSpace.
A screening of the film "The Wonder of it All" will help raise funds for an Apollo Monument. A good idea, though I'd like to see it erected on the lunar surface.
Not exactly a bionic eye, but more of a bionic contact lense.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Monica Lewinsky Ten Years On
John McCain suggests that drilling in ANWR is the same as drilling in the Grand Canyon or the Everglades. As Hugh Hewitt suggests, this is another reason why people who might be disposed to support McCain for President do not.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Now Obama is comparing himself to Ronaldus Magnus. And Clinton to Nixon.
Karl Rove discusses the strategy of how to beat Clinton and Obama.
How Not to Deal With China as a Space Power
Jeffrey Manber wants us to cooperate with the Chinese in space. I'm not sure why we should do so, especially when Manber admits:
The United States has reason to mistrust Chinese intentions in outer space. The successful demonstration of a satellite-killer missile a year ago created a debris field of more than 40,000 pieces that will orbit Earth for years. This abuse of the precious resource of near-Earth space demonstrated the belligerence of China's high-frontier military planners.

Not to mention China's human rights violations and it's imperial ambitions. I'm not sure what the United States gets for cooperating with such a regime except providing it with an opportunity for stealing more technmology it can later use against us.

Others, of course, prefer to deal with the matter by sticking their heads firmly in the sand.
Senator Mel Martrinez (R) Florida actually talked some sense about shortening the space flight gap.
Was a top Pentagon anti terrorism analyst let go for being too crtical of Islamic law?
Coughlin - who supporters say had one of the most important jobs in analyzing how Jihadists think -- crossed Hasham Islam, an aide to Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, according The Washington Times.

The paper reported, without attribution, that the aide told Coughlin to "soften his view" on radical Islam. When Coughlin refused, Hasham Islam called him a Christian zealot "with a pen," according to the report.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

There's a movement to take advantage of's offer for people to submit questions for a pair of upcoming Presidnetial debates by offering space related questions. By all means drop by, submit your own questions, then vote on your favorites.
Cape Wind, an offshore wind farm project proposed for Nantucket Sound which is opposed by, among others, the Kennedy family, has passed a major regulatory hurdle.
Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles

Monday, January 14, 2008

Apparently the film version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be a two parter.
This week, ten years ago, we first learned the name of Monica Lewinsky, beginning what has to be among the most sordid political scandals in history. The good thing about it was that the scandal tied up the energies of the Clinton White House during its last years, preventing it from committing more serious mischief.

I remember traveling to Canada that year from a friend's wedding and having to endure no end of merriment at the expense of the United States because of Bill's teenaged romance with Monica. The Canadian Prime Minister at the time was a comparitively dull fellow (Canada hasn't had a good sex scandal that I know of since Margaret Trudeau graced the dance floor of Studio 54.) I don't know what they think of George W. Bush.
One thing I wish Sam Dinkin could have mentioned in this interview with Nobel Laureate Steve Weinberg is the Royal Astronomical Society study on the Scientific Case for Human Space Exploration (scroll down for the link to the PDF). Weinberg seems to be the sort of person who is capable of making bald statements like this:
TSR: You called it “an infantile fixation on putting people into space.”

Weinberg: That’s what it is.

Weinberg does not seek to prove the supposition. I should have liked to have seen his reaction to an actual scientific study that contradicts his clear emotional bias against humans in space.

He is also, apparently, a socialist:
TSR: If someone has $10 or $20 billion to finance a shoestring Mars mission?

Weinberg: I would say go, “OK, go ahead and do it.” But I would question the economic system that let him have $10 or $20 billion.

The mind boggles at the kind of thinking that suggests that people shouldn't be allowed to keep the money they earn and use it as they see fit, even financing private space ventures.

The main problem with Weinberg and people of his ilk is not their ignorance of any subject outside their narrow field of speciality (in Weinberg's case that includes geology, geophysics, economics, among much else), but rather their political cluelessness. They actually think that if human space flight were abolished tomorrow, the money thus saved would flow into grants that would benefit them and projects that they favor. This has never happened in the history of the space age, ever since Van Allen was inveighing against the Apollo Program. What generally happens is that both the robotic and human space flight sides suffer. But Weinberg and company insist on providing the definition of insanity by trying to do the same thing over and over, hoping for a different result.

Mike Griffin recently had a good point when he suggested that if these people were to join in an effort to expand the whole pie, then everybody's budget would benefit. But it appears that some of the scientists are still in the mode of, "How dare you talk like that to me! Do you know who I am?"

Yes, we do. And it's not pretty.

Addendum: Clark Lindsey has some more thoughts.
Jeff Foust has a great analysis about 2008 being a critical year for the Vision for Space Exploration.
Apparently some researchers at Rice University have created the darkest substance on Earth.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

In the Name of the King

In the Name of the King is the latest in a string of sword and sorcery epics that have been green lit based on the success of far better movies like The Lord of the Rings and Narnia. It's also based on a computer game, so be warned.
Scientists have created a beating heart.
Apparently some of the political benchmarks are being met in Iraq after all. What is the Copperhead Caucus going to do?
Ferris Valyn is not pleased with Barack Obama's space policy.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Romney has pulled ahead of McCain in the polls in Michigan. If this holds up, there will be a lot of disappointed folks in the MSM.
Happy birthday, Rush Limbaugh.

May you live forever.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Is a race war developing in the Democrat Party? I always suspected that the worse racists in modern American were white liberals, but this seems to be more evidence of the same.
Elon Musk looks to the future of SpaceX.
Is Space Exploration Worth the Cost? The answer seems to be: yes. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton please take note.
Barack Obama, by the way, shares one quality with Bobby Kennedy. The willingness to be utterly ruthless with people who are in the way of his political ascent.
A drug that reverses the effects of Alzheimer's?
The Hanoi Zoo is apparently trafficing in tiger corpses.
Obama has issued a more comprehensive version of his space policy. There is verbage about developing the Orion, completing the space station, during unmanned missions, doing climate change science, and education. Also he wants arms control agreements in space.

The policy is somewhat conspicuous about what is not mentioned. Nothing about a return to the Moon, expeditions to Mars, or supporting commercial space. It appears that under Obama we're back to the Clinton 1990s of astronauts going in circles in low Earth orbit and hostility to the private sector.

Addendum. More thoughts in Barack Obama Publishing his Space Policy: A Scaling Back of Vision and Ambition.
Apparently an attempt will be made once again to get two billion in emergency funds to close the "space flight gap". It's very smart for Nick Lampson to join in the effort. He faces a dim prospect of reelection and might be helped if he could help pull this one off.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Helping the lame to walk again.
An Appreciation of Deep Impact and Armageddon: 1998 The Year Hollywood Almost Destroyed the World Twice
Shubber Ali, who has occassionally provided an interesting balance for people who think--for example--that the private sector will beat both NASA and the Chinese to the Moon, goes off the deep end and proposes to become the Ron Paul of space activism. Anyone who proposes to become at once Al Pacino and Jean Luc Picard needs watching very closely.
Chairforce Engineer has a response to a previous post commenting on one of his. He makes the very common mistake I have seen on the Internet of assuming that the budget problems NASA is facing for the Vision is somehow based on its architecture. It's not. The shuttle would still be a mess, the administration still stingy, the Congress still irresponsible whatever architecture NASA was using. And it is, in any case, not proven that any other approach would be cheaper, not to speak of better, than the current one.
A few years ago, a Russian promise to be first on Mars would seem to be idle boasting. No more. The Russians have the cash, thanks to high oil prices, the technical expertise, experience in long duration space flight, and--thanks to Vladimir Putin--the will to restore its status as a super power.
China's space ambitions continue to grow.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Well, that was very unexpected. It looks like Hillary and Obama are now in a dog fight for their nomination. Meanwhile, while the MSM has all but nominated McCain, I think he's reached his high water mark, just as in 2000. Eventually he'll go to states where they only allow REpublicans to vote and will start getting beatr. However, unlike in 2000, we have little idea who benefits? Does Romney grind him down at last. Does Huckabee (horrors!) sweep the south? Or does Rudi late state strategy finally pays off.

Alas, I think Fred is gone after South Carolina.
Mike Griffin gives some tough love and realism to the American Astronomical Society.
Here's a video of Iranian speed boats making a run at some US Navy ships in the Straits of Hormuz.
How to Beat Barack Obama

Monday, January 07, 2008

Apparently the Democrat Congress's war on science continues apace with huge budget cuts in some rather important high energy physics projects. There are promises to restore some funding for the next fiscal year, but promises are not cash on hand.
January 25th: Robert Burns' Birthday
Showing some desperartion in the search for material during the writers' strike, CBS will be showing edited versions of Dexter, the Showtime series about an ethical serial killer. I'm not sure how that would work.
I know Rush thinks that this onrush of female tears on the part of Hillary is all affected, but I'm not sure. I think we may see how she reacts under pressure. And that would bode badly for her reaction to some crisis.

Video here.
Cars that drive themselves in ten years? It would be cool to catch up on my reading and whatnot during car trips. My wife wants a model, by the way, that is voice commanded and responds with the voice of the actor William Daniels.

Friday, January 04, 2008

If I were a more empathic person, I would come close to being sorry for Hillary Clinton. The subjects were not suppose to come after the Queen with pitch forks.
NASA has hired ZeroG to do some microgravity research flights. This buying of services has met with approval all around, even from Jon Goff, who nevertheless laments:
Now if only we could get the guys at ESMD to follow their lead...

One suspects that day will come when someone actually offers a private lunar taxi service.
I haven't much to say about the results of the Iowa Cauci, since the implications of them will only unfold in the next days and weeks. It was delightful, of course, to see Hillary Clinton come in third. On the other hand, Huckabee is hardly the sort of well rounded conservative the Republicans need to win the general election. Both Obama and Huckabee do prove that a certain charisma and style can trump money and organization, at least in the short run. But we'll see what happens in the stretch.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

What If President John Kennedy Came Back from the Dead?
Would going back to the Moon settle climate change controversies?
Barack Obama seems to have shifted somewhat his space policy. He will no longer delay that part of Orion/Ares that can go into low Earth orbit, if Jeff's interpretation is correct, but rather he will delay going back to the Moon and on to Mars. The revised policy is still very bad, albeit expressed in Orwellian language--the Obama advisor must have a new definition of the phrase "strengthen America's leadership in space", for example.

The way I see it, the man who aspires to be the African American JFK will keep our space explorers going in circles in low Earth orbit for the indefinite future.
Vanity Fair reports from the set of Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Included a shot of Cate Blanchett as Soviet bad ass Agent Spalko.
A Republican Party rebound?
India looks forward to its first lunar mission.
"Chairforce Engineer" has a few helpful suggestions to NASA that I suspect won't be listened to.

Why? First, the folks actually designing the Orion/Ares system would likely disagree with the premise of the posting. Also, hyper heated rhetoric like this:
The year 2008 represents NASA's last shot at getting the Vision right. Drastic changes need to be adopted in order to ease Congress's justified frustration in the short term. Even more deviations from ESAS will likely be required to make the moon and Mars affordable over the long term. I do not wish ill upon Mike Griffin, Doc Horowitz, Doug Stanley, or anybody else associated with ESAS. I want them to succeed, as much as they want to succeed. I merely ask of them to fix the Vision, and make sure it isn't discarded along with the Weekly Readers and the dreams of American schoolchildren.

There is nothing quite so off putting than someone claiming that "Unless you choose my plan, than doom and destruction will ensue." Unless, of course, one can prove it. But, of course, it is not proved. So the above is wasted bandwidth.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year to one and all. Best wishes for a glorious 2008.
Fiscal discipline for NASA science projects. Who would have thought it?