Saturday, May 31, 2008

Space Shuttle Discovery is on it's way to ISS.
The Rules Committee of the Democratic Party has reached a compromise about Florida and Michigan that has made the Clinton people very angry.
The Obamas have quit the Trinity United Church of Christ. They are shocked, shocked to learn that there has been hating going on in there.
Good news. It looks like Lieberman-Warner is headed for defeat in the Senate.
Tom James has come upon a site promoting The Overview Effect and has discovered just a whiff of liberal fascism.

Now, to be fair, Tom does admit that he is likely being overwrought. Still I'm beginning to see more and more folks who have read Jonah Goldberg's splendid book who are now seeing liberal fascists under their beds. Or in their soup. Or on the Internet.

I can even see HUAC-style hearings taking place. ("Mr. Whittington, are you or have you ever been a liberal fascist?") (G)

As an aid to those who want to divide the real liberal fascists from those people they just find off putting, I have to point out that liberal fascism, just as the regular kind, has to have two elements. It has to be coercive and it has to be totalitarian.

By coercive it has to advance its doctrine by force, whether by government regulation and legislation or by the more naked kind, rather than by moral or rational persuasion. A Church, for instance, only becomes fascist if it says, in effect, "Convert or die."

By totalitarian one means that it doesn't admit to anything or any activity outside itself. There is no private anything under fascism, whether of the touchy, feely liberal kind or of the more traditional goose stepping kind. (Under this criteria, despite what I've seen on the Internet, the modern NASA is not liberal fascist. The modern NASA not only admits to the legitimacy of private space endeavors, but encourages them.)

Mind, I find the site advertising The Overview Effect somewhat off putting. My impression is that the "effect" is an individual phenomenon that is formed quite a lot by what an astronaut takes into space. Some, due to their experience of space flight, have become deeply committed Christians. Others have taken a more new age approach. Interestingly if Soviet era cosmonauts ever felt a mystical experience due to their viewing the Earth and the universe from space, they were smart enough to keep it to themselves.

In any case, the anti capitalist message implied in the site is something I have to rebel against. The early explorers of the Americas were motivated by "God, glory, and gold", and I don't see why the new explorers of the High Frontier can't be as well motivated. The prospect of finding wealth and finding meaning are not mutually exclusive.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The winners of a lunar art contest have been announced. The winners can be seen here.
Glenn Reynolds reports on the current state of the Chinese space program and has a warning for those who disdain its significance:
China views space as an asset at numerous levels: technological, political, commercial and militaristic. Now the U.S. remains the strongest military power in East Asia, and depends heavily on space. But when China proves its technological prowess, that gains political and diplomatic points among its neighbors and with client nations around the world. It also makes Chinese citizens proud—part of the government's effort to harness nationalism. And the Chinese government hopes that a big push in space will help produce a generation of scientists and engineers, as the Apollo program did here in the States.

Space experts differ on whether China wants to compete directly with the U.S.—perhaps, given our slow and fumbling efforts, beating us back to the Moon—or simply displace Japan as the prime technological power in Asia. On the one hand, the U.S. retains a huge lead, while China is still building up spacecraft, like lunar probes and orbital docking equipment, that we mastered back in the 1960s. On the other hand, like America in the 60s, China is forging ahead, while the U.S. in the 21st century is, at best, standing still.
Newt Gingrich's petition to open up domestic oil drilling seems to have really taken off. More here
Thanks to the good offices of C-Span, I was able to watch a space policy/politics panel at the ISDC moderated by CNN reporter Miles O’Brian and featuring surrogates from all of the three extant Presidential campaigns.

O’Brian actually did a pretty good job, asking some tough, probing questions of all three surrogates and covering a wide range of space policy topics, including the exploration initiative, Earth science, ITAR, and commercial space.

Hillary Clinton’s surrogate, Lori Garver, came off pretty well. She said everything that the audience wanted to hear. Exploration good. Earth science good. Commercialization good. And there was a promise to increase NASA funding. Of course, two caveats to this are (a) Politicians named Clinton tend not to be trustworthy, even to their staffers, and (b) Hillary Clinton is not likely to be the nominee, not to mention President. Garver also mentioned how Hillary Clinton's space and science agenda was not well receieved, especially by "the bloggers" (for an example, go here) and had to be clarified.

John McCain’s surrogate, Floyd Deschamps, performed well, pretty much echoing what Lori said, but with certain nuanced differences. He mentioned that McCain wrote the authorization legislation for the exploration initiative and had experience in managing costs and such at NASA. He held out the possibility for upping NASA’s budget, but made no promises. McCain likes Earth science and commercial space and would reform ITAR.

Obama’s surrogate, Steve Robinson, was not really that well prepared. He tried to suggest that Obama supports exploration, but could not conceal the idea that maybe robots are “more inspirational.” He liked Earth science, but had nothing to say about ITAR reform. He also contradicted himself by defending the education initiative that would gut NASA funding and suggesting that Obama would increase NASA funding.
Lost Season Four Ends On An Even Weirder Note
Rev Michael Pfleger, the Latest of Barack Obama's Scary Friends
Bob Dole doesn't like Scott McClellan.
"There are miserable creatures like you in every administration who don’t have the guts to speak up or quit if there are disagreements with the boss or colleagues," Dole wrote in a message sent yesterday morning. "No, your type soaks up the benefits of power, revels in the limelight for years, then quits, and spurred on by greed, cashes in with a scathing critique."
Cars of the Future: The True 21st Century Driving Experience
Al Qaeda is now publishing computer generated images of what they intend to do to us.

Addendum: Apparently Al Qaeda lifted its image of a nuclear ruined Washington from a video game.

The next Futurama movie draws nigh. It's called The Beast with a Billion Backs

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Scott McClellan, Bush's former press secretary, seems to have published a tell all book that has annoyed just about everyone. But then every administration finds that it has members who are persuaded to stick knives into the Man's back for money.

Vets for Freedom give Barack Obama a good thumping in a new ad.
Ron Moore, who brought us the reimagined Battlestar Galactica is set to produce a TV movie/pilot for Fox called Virtuality, not to be confused with the film a few years back staring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. The plot is that the first star ship launched by NASA has virtual reality modules that allow the crew to be anyone and go anywhere they want, the better to pass the time during the ten year voyage.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Recently I watched Recount: A Political Polemic about the 2000 Election
Greg Zsidisin announces the Space VidVision Contest.
Space explorers have already adopted some interesting and peculiar customs.
Stephan Metshcan offers Part 2 of his polemic on the "Direct" architecture for VSE.
Jeff Foust discusses the mission of Mars Phoenix.
Apparently when Bob Ballard was searching for the Titanic, he was also on a secret mission for the US Navy to find two subs, the Scorpian and the Thresher, which had gone down during the 1960s.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Moe Lane takes note of yet another awesome gaffe by Barack Obama:
On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes -- and I see many of them in the audience here today -- our sense of patriotism is particularly strong.

Imagine if Bush had said that.
The Mars Recognisance Orbiter managed to take a photo of Mars Phoenix descending to the Martian surface on its parachute.
Senator Bill Nelson (D) Florida is leaning on the Presidential candidates about spac3e policy. He has teh interesting notion that space is the key to winning Florida and hence the election. Of course, so far, John McCain is running well ahead of Obama in Florida and in the other space state Nelson mentioned, Ohio.
For those who are or who ever have stood between us and war's devastation, thank you is not enough, but thank you regardless.
Is Indiana Jones Unfair to the Communists?
Ferris Valyn seems very disenchanted with Barack Obama's whole (non)approach to space policy. He even compares the Messiah to Dick Cheney, which for a liberal is like comparing him to the Anti Christ.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Mars Phoenix has landed and is returning pictures.

John Culberson, who happens to be my Congressman, dropped by to witness the event live.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rand Simberg uncovers a remarkable group of people who seemed very enthusiastic about entering the Google Lunar X Prize until they discovered that it was supposed to promote space commercialization and human space flight. It's sort of like being all for the Apollo program until discovering that the goal was to land a man on the Moon.
If the hope that somehow Obama will get killed is all that is left for Hillary, then it may be time for her to quit and start getting ready for 2012.
There's to be a space panel at the annual Daily Kos convention. The "progressive" approach to space policy could be summed up, apparently, thus:
NASA is in crisis–overburdened, under-funded, and inefficient. Yet the progressive legacy of space, which dates back to JFK, is being quietly reborn: NASA can reinvent itself as a critical resource in climate change mitigation; the UN and some in the U.S. military are collaborating to prevent space weapons from becoming an arms race with China; progressive “NewSpace” entrepreneurs are creating new domestic high-tech jobs. Before 2009, a new progressive space policy needs to be devised and advocated beyond the traditional space constituencies, to upgrade Bush’s failing space exploration vision. Who better to initiate this work than the Netroots?

One suspects that JFK would have loved Bush's "failing space exploration vision", but of course there is not much that is of JFK that is tolerated in the modern American left. And NASA as a "cimate change mitigation" resource? Words fail me.

There is more:
This year, NASA’s policy of returning humans to the Moon has come under fire from the Left since it is generally thought of as one of George W. Bush’s signature policy goals– his “Vision for Space Exploration.” Progressives in the space community are working hard to dissociate this policy agenda from the failed Bush Presidency so that it may be considered on its own merits. They are also formulating new space policy goals more central to the Progressive agenda, such as expanding NASA’s role in understanding Earth systems to mitigate climate change, as a bulwark against declining science and technology education in the US, and as a diplomatic tool for peaceful international collaboration with Europe, Russia, and even China.

Translated, we're going to end the Vision for Space Exploration because it was conceived by the evil George W. Bush and it is not "central to the progressive agenda" and we're going to have NASA do politically correct things like low Earth orbit naval gazing and cooperation with the butchers of Tiananmen Square. And we're going to have arms control in space treaties which the Chinese will then ignore and cheat on.

Count me as underwhelmed.
My review of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Friday, May 23, 2008

It seems that the Russian Communist Party does not like the new Indiana Jones film. I thought it was great my own self. More about that anon.
The following was sent by Donna Calcote:
A man was being tailgated by a stressed out woman on a busy boulevard.

Suddenly, the light turned yellow, just in front of him. He did the right thing,
stopping at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating
through the intersection.

The tailgating woman was furious and honked her horn, screaming in frustration as
she missed her chance to get through the intersection, dropping her cell phone and

As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the
face of a very serious police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with
her hands up.

He took her to the police station where she was searched, finger printed, photographed,
and placed in a holding cell. After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the
cell and opened the door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting
officer was waiting with her personal effects.

He said, 'I'm very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your
car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you, and
cussing a blue streak at him. I noticed the 'What Would Jesus Do' bumper
sticker, the 'Choose Life' License plate holder, the 'Follow Me to Sunday-School'
bumper Sticker, And the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk. Naturally...
I assumed you had stolen the car."
Global warming on Jupiter.
There are going to be two Obama space related meetings at the International Space Development Conference. One on Thursday evening calling itself the Space Policy Advisory Group and the other May 31st that has something to do with aerospace community outreach.

I do not envy the tasks of people who support space and support Obama, which seem to be contradictory things.

In the meantime, the Orlando Sentinal takes a dim view for what passes for the Obama space policy.
Jim Oberg discusses the impending landing of Mars Phoenix.
Sometimes one just despairs of the intelligence of our political class. A number of Senators are all in favor of drilling for oil, just not in their states.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Oliver Stone's love letter to President Bush is getting to be weirder and weirder with the selection of Richard Dreyfus to play Dick Cheney. Even weirder is the reaction by Harry over a aintitcool.
. The Hollywood Reporter broke today that Richard Dreyfuss has been cast as the shotgun wielding maniac, Dick Cheney. There's probably never been a Veep with the Dick's gaze of evil incarnate. Can Mr Holland capture this Sith Lord's air of pitbullishness?

Sith Lord? I understand that Harry has made a great success for himself at being a professional media geek, but someone ought to tell him that life is not Star Wars.

More like Serenity...
The latest Carnival of Space is now up.
Apparently anti immigrant violence in South Africa has featured the return of necklacing.
More thoughts on Barack Obama's attempt to Hoodwink Florida Aerospace Workers
It seems that Pelosi's and Reid's Congress is so incompetent that it can't even jam a pork barrel laden spending bill past a Presidential veto correctly.
Looks like, now that he's down in Florida, Obama now supports a strong space program. He had previously promised to gut space spending to pay for an education initiative.
"I want us to understand what it is we want to accomplish, so we can continue to build this program," the Democratic presidential candidate said, as he spoke during a "town hall-style" meeting Wednesday in Kissimmee. "Other countries are in position to leapfrog us if we don't continue to make this investment."

Count me as just a little bit of a skeptic when it comes to these kind of election year flip flops. Even though:
Obama said he would fund a strengthened space program, including the Orion program, which is designed to return Americans to the moon and later get them to Mars.

Obama said he wanted to revive the energy the country had for the space program during the Mercury and Apollo programs. The Mercury program launched the first Americans into space, and the Apollo program landed Americans on the moon.

Of course supporting the Orion program does not necessarily mean supporting the exploration aspects of it. One could consign Orion to a low Earth orbit vehicle, resupplying ISS (and, incidentally, pushing out any commercial vehicle that might be developed under COTS) and call it a day.

Addendum: The video clip that accompanies the story shows a somewhat more disturbing view of what Obama is thinking regarding space exploration.

"I want to review with NASA what are we doing in terms of manned flights to the Moon or Mars vs for example things like Hubble which yields us more information and a better bang for the buck."

Leaving aside that the Hubble was deployed and is serviced by the space shuttle, that statement suggests that under an Obama space program we'll be flying more robots than humans.

The statement also suggests that the argument that replacing the Ares 1 and Ares 5 with some kind of more "politically viable" architecture will be an exercise in futility. Obama seems to be of the mind that human space exploration is not "politically viable" no matter what kinds of rockets are used.

Addendum 2: Obama's plan to gut NASA spending to pay for his education initiative seems to have magically vanished from his web site. At least I was not able to find it in the usual issues area. Curiouser and curiouser.

Addendum 3: Still there. Go here and scroll down to the bottem.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It appears that James Marsters (aka Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) will play Buzz Aldrin in an upcoming film, Moonshot, about the days leading up to the launch of Apollo 11.
It looks like while liberals fight wind power tooth and nail in the North East, Texas is rapidly becoming a wind farm giant, thanks to oil tycoons like T Boone Pickens.
Roswell Beacon Puts Barack Obama in the Crosshairs.

Of course Barack Obama is hardly the first or only politician whose death people have imagined.
More thoughts on Remaking Highlander

Should there be only one?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Apparently a lack of zoning laws spared Houston the brunt of the housing crisis.
A Highlander remake? There are truly no original stories left in Hollywood.
It may be that if we strike at Iran, the Iranian people will welcome it.
Teddy Kennedy has a malignant brain tumor. This is not good.

Addendum: More thoughts, including political fall out.
The Mythbusters test electric car myths.
Glenn Reynolds discusses private property rights in space, calling for an international treaty that would recognize such.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Food Gestapo at the Democratic Nationa Convention has gone to see the little people as my Irish granny would say. Forbidding fried foods is one thing. But mandating blue food? Blue food?
Democrats Unleash McCainpedia
More thoughts on Remaking Red Dawn
Vincent Bugliosi, who prosecuted Charles Manson and pretty much put the JFK assasination conspiracy theories to rest in his last book, has now published a new book in which he advocates that President George W. Bush be tried for murder and, if convicted, for what I can tell, put to death. The depths of hatred and insanity that this idea must take is mind boggling.
NASA and space solar power. Taylor Dinerman suggests not yet.
Can the Europeans turn the ATV into an actual manned space craft?
Stephen Metschan gives us Part 1 of what one supposes is an advocacy for the Direct launcher scheme for returning to the Moon.
The first review of the next direct to DVD Futurama film, The Beast with a Billion Backs.
Who Owns the Moon?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

It appears that Barack Obama has revived John Kerry's "Global Test", but proposes to apply it not just to foreign policy but to the way Americans live their lives.
"We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK," Obama said.

"That's not leadership. That's not going to happen," he added.

The mind boggles at the arrogance of a man who could say that and propose to enforce that view as President.

I vow this. They will take my car, my air conditioner, and my barbeque grill when they pry them from my cold, dead hand (g).
Apparently Indiana Jones not only fights Commies in the new movie, but is accused of being one. One would think that accusations of grave robbing would have been enough to have given him the boot from his teaching job.
Dennis Wingo discusses living off the (lunar) land.
Drake Bennett writes about private property in space.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A remake of Robocop I could see. But Red Dawn? Maybe as alternate history. Or, perhaps, this time we get invaded by the Red Chinese.
Senator Tom Harkin, who once boasted (and even exaggerated) his own military service, seems frightened by John McCain's service.
How far is the "international cooperation" language in the House version of the NASA Authorization bill meant to go? Opinions seem to vary, but trying to make the exploration program "more acceptable to a future Democrat President" (i.e. Obama) seems to me to be valid. Cooperation with China, for a variety of reasons, illustrated most recently by the political fuss surrounding the Olympics, should be off the table for the time being, though.
Congress is pushing something called participatory exploration I wonder if it has something like this in mind.
Senator Teddy Kennedy is in the hospital with a couple of seizures. Despite the obvious political difference, we wish him and his well and a speedy recovery.
President George W. Bush Condemns Appeasement

Democrats outraged.
It looks like the Senate is dragging its feet on opening up huge shale oil deposites in the Rocky Mountain West.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Thursday, May 15, 2008

More on Same Sex Marriage and Election 2008
Sometimes President Bush reminds me why I do still like the guy. He has come out against appeasement and in the process has sent the Democrat Party into paroxysms of incoherent rage,
I find myself warmed by the California Supreme Court decision on gay marriage for two reasons. One, I'm in favor of gay marriage. Two, I'm in favor of social conservatives being annoyed enough to turn out to vote for conservative candidates.
The latest carnival of space is up.
Let's see. The population of polar bears has more than doubled in recent decades, so naturally they are now "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act, the better to destroy the oil and gas industry in Alaska.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Karl Rove has a very cogent analysis of what Republicans face after having lost three special House races in a row.
Space Cynic joins in a pile on on Gene Kranz and in the process demonstrates an breath taking ignorance of Chinese history, Chinese culture, and the role of power politics in world affairs:
As such, it pains me to hear him make the kind of simplistic, and erroneous, arguments that are regularly heard in the sector - in this case the mixing of examples by applying a poor or irrelevant analogy to try to make a point. Granted, this actually works in many cases because the listener is too ill-informed to recognize the weakness of the analogies (e.g., the “we can’t abandon our space effort because we’ll be like the Chinese emperor burning the fleet in the 1400s” argument is a classic example of stupidity at it’s finest)

Actually the stupidity is on the other side. Look at the matter from the Chinese perspective. The Mings burned Zheng He's fleet and China became a door mate for Europeans for centuries later. The argument that the show the flag, tribute gathering nature of Zheng's expeditions were not profitable doesn't exactly wash. A lot of European voyages of discovery lost money, alomg with lots of lives. Columbus never found the western route to the Indies. Magellean didn't even survive his voyage around the world. English Sea Dogs like Drake only made money by pirating Spanish cargos during the "Cold War" period between Catholic Spain and Protestant England.

Some expeditions opened up unexpected markets. The folks who settled Jamestown were looking for gold and found tobacco. Lewis and Clark's expedition had a commercial purpose of opening up the fur trade but also found lush farmland in Oregon and mapped out routes that later travelers took to the California gold fields.

One of the comments is even more egregious.
There is a good analogy between Apollo/Shuttle/ISS and the Ming Fleets, but it’s not a flattering one for NASA. The short version: it requires economic size, compact muscle, and the meeting of existing commercial needs, rather than grand plans, grand size, and political glory, to effectively explore frontiers and conquer trade routes.

Actually the shuttle had a primary commercial purpose, to achieve cheap access to space. It was just a very bad solution to the problem.
As a result the Portuguese conquered the Asian trade routes rather than China conquering the European trade routes, despite China being far larger and wealthier and sending far larger missions overseas much sooner than Portugal. The Ming Fleets, like the big NASA projects, were dead-end exercises in fleeting glory.

The Portuguese, as part of a government funded operation started by Prince Henry the Navigator that was the NASA of its era, took about a century mapping routes around Africa before they arrived at the spice markets of the Indies. Using the Space Cynic approach, they should have given up some time in the early 15th Century. But the Portuguese persevered and became a major trading power in their time.

If the Ming Chinese had been as far sighted, trade and political power would have surely been developed in the wake of Zheng's voyages. The modern Chinese know this and in my judgement have no intention of being left out of things a second time.

Addendum: The Space Cynic responds:
The point I was making with the use of bad analogies is that the
normally trumpeted argument against "burning the fleet" is that the
Chinese were then blindsided by the Europeans who stepped in and
filled the gap.

Tell me, then, which race of space aliens is going to swoop in and
colonize Mars or the Moon if humanity takes a brief pause and - here's
a thought - actually designs an infrastructure for space access (i.e.
- reusable) rather than throwing one more expendable after another
away to maintain the illusion of a thriving manned space program?

Unfortunately he mischaracterizes what exactly is going on. There a number of national space programs, as well as private ones, that are ongoing. "Humanity"--barring some planetary wide catastrophe--is not going to "take a brief pause" to colonize space. Someone is going to do it in the next century. I would rather that process not be dominated by the Chinese, the Russians, or even European socialists.

As for "designs an infrastructure for space access", I sincerely hope that he doesn't mean NASA. NASA is good at some things. Being a space taxi service, as the past three decades have proven, is not among them. Fortjnately, with at last NASA's cooperation and encouragement, entities with a far better chance of success are engaged in that very thing.
Apparently Darth Vader will not go to jail for attacking acolytes of a Jedi Church.
Chicago has repealed a ban on foie gras, a small but satisfying victory for gourmands and everyone opposed to the nanny state.
Speaking of the House, it looks like that it having failed to include increased NASA funding in the emergency war appropriatiions bill, it's now up to the Senate to step up. Of course the bill is likely to be vetoed in any case for a variety of reasons.
Bjorn Lomborg, the Skeptical Environmentalist, has some advice for folks like John McCain who "freak out" about climate change.
Looks like Russia and the European Union are exploring the possibility of joint expeditions to the Moon. Russia seems to be more enthusiastic about the idea than Europe right now.
Republicans Lose Third Special House Election in a Row
Yes, I can see why this kind of bedroom behavior could be a turn off.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Is John Hagee John McCain's Jeremiah Wright?

Apparently not.
Reimagining Classic TV Shows for the 21st Century
It seems that Alan Shore, the bad boy of TV's Boston Legal, got to inflict on the Supreme Court one of his famous uber liberal rants, in this case about a mentally retarded man sentenced to death for child rape.

Shore argumentative technique, which would never work in the real world, is rather unique. After insulting most of the Justices, accusing them of everything from perjury to conflict of interest, he gives one of the most shrill rants about the evils of the death penalty that has ever aired on the small or large screen. All that was needed was the bailiff hauling him out (which would have happened in real life), with Shore screaming, "You're out of order! You're out of order! This whole trial is out of order!"

Mind, in the real world, Scalia and company would have cut Shore and what passed for his arguments to tiny bits and left him weeping on the floor. One does not make these kind of speeches before the Supreme Court. Shore would have gotten in abut thirty seconds of his rant when someone would have asked him a question on the actual case before the court. Shore would have tried to glib his way out of it, since he was clearly unprepared to argue the law (something he rarely does on the show) and then another Justice would have cut him off and asked him another question.

But that doesn't fit David Kelly's weird conception of how the law works.
I am frankly very surprised that this conspiracy theory has not gotten more play, despite the obvious flaws, the main one being that it is impossible to launch a Saturn V in secret as described. Maybe if someone were to tell Richard Hoagland that NASA launched a secret Apollo mission from Vandenburg in 1976 to explore a crashed alien space ship on the far side of the Moon and that the last surtviving crew member is hiding out in Rwanda...

Hmm. I wonder if it would make a good alternate history story...

Addendum: I am informed by someone who prefers to remain anonymous that this scenario has a suspicious resemblence to a Stephen Baxter short story:
It looks like somebody cribbed Stephen Baxter’s short story ‘Marginalia’ right down to using a secret launch of a Saturn V. In his story it was to do a manned flyby of Mars and was launched from, wait for it, Area 51. Baxter writes it as a collection of documents that were anonymously sent to an author who wrote an alt-history book about a Mars program. No conclusions are drawn but the ‘author’ in the story considers them a hoax. Either version is pretty good for an idea I think!

There is still the problem of concealing a Saturn V launch in the middle of New Mexico.
Michael Moore is threatening to release a sequel to Fahrenheit 9/11. Oh boy.
More evidence of deep fissures in the Democrat Party.
21 Examples of Gratuitous Television.

Monday, May 12, 2008

NASA Watch asks an interesting question about the circumstances surrounding one of the alternate architectures for returning to the Moon and in the process seems to have stirred some things up.

Addendum: What do I think? Well, even though I think that the concerns (i.e. rage against) Ares 1 are overblown, I also think it's always prudent to have a plan b just in case. If NASA managers are winking at the use of governement resources, even after hours, then that idea may be what is in mind.
President Obama of these Fifty Seven States of the Union
Jeff Brooks cast a wary eye upon that sad spectacle known as the Massachusetts Congressional delegation. For a more in depth study of why this must be done, read The Bluest State
Eric Hedman tries to answer the question: Why the Moon? A better set of answers is to be found in one of the later chapters of The Once and Future Moon
More on the state of the RLV industry.
Jeff Foust discusses propellant depots, especially as an enhancement to NASA's return to the Moon architecture.
The House Republicans seem to understand they have a problem. But will this be enough to turn things around?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

It looks like Spielberg is going to do the Lincoln biop after Tintin is completed. The Chicago & epic is delayed (one hopes forever) due to script issues.
Mike Thomas of the Orlando Sentinal sneers at NASA and the entire space effort in such a way that it is even too much for Rand Simberg.

Some of these projects sound pretty lame, though I like the idea of Knights Templar going toe to toe with an army of vampires.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

There are likely some people who watch too much TV who are not as impressed by this as they should be. A tech on one of the CSI shows usually take no longer until the next commercial to recover data from a beat up hard drive and not four years.
Speed Racer: A Phantasmagorical Visual Experience
Speed Racer, based on the 1960s Japanese cartoon, is a phantasmagorical, eye searing mess of the movie with weirder editing and more CGI than any ten other films. If you are prone to motion sickness, take medical precautions before seeing Speed Racer.
Michael Barone casts a critical eye on the critics of the Iraq War and, among other things, finds this:
Unfortunately -- and here Feith is critical of his ultimate boss, George W. Bush -- the administration allowed its critics to frame the issue around the fact that stockpiles of weapons weren't found. Here we see at work the liberal fallacy, apparent in debates on gun control, that weapons are the problem rather than the people with the capability and will to use them to kill others. The fact that millions of law-abiding Americans have guns is not a problem; the problem is that criminals can get them and have the will to kill others. Similarly, the fact that France has WMDs is not a problem; the fact that Saddam Hussein had the capability to produce WMDs and the will to use them against us was.

To paraphrase an old gun control debate slogan, "WMDs don't kill millions of people. Power mad dictators who want to get WMDs and then use them willy nilly kill millions of people."

Friday, May 09, 2008

Looks like McCain's next tour will have as its theme climate change/energy, which will have true conservatives grinding their teeth since McCain has drunk of the environmentalist wacko koolaid. But if McCain can keep an open mind, such a tour could become an educational experience.

I have suggestions for two stops.

First, actually go to ANWR, accompanied by a geologist and a driller engineer. McCain will learn two things. First, that the frozen desert there is not the equivalent of the Grand Canyon or the Everglades. Second, the oil can be extracted with little or no impact to the environment.

Second, go to Nantucket Sound along with some people from the Cape Win project. He'll learn about wind farms, nimbyism, and the hypocrisy of certain liberals who advocate clean energy in the abstract but oppose it in the reality.
Latest news in the development of the Orion/Ares.
So let me get this straight. A guy can be accused of being a racist at a university in Indiana for reading a book that recounts how students at Norte Dame gave the Klan a good thumping back in the 1920s? Someone should give these college bureaucrats a good thumping, in my humble opinion, in libel court.
The Code Pink harpies are apparently trying to use witchcraft to try to end the war in Iraq. Now I'm cool with trying to put a hex on our enemies there (which, if it worked, would actually end the war), but I have a funny feeling that is not what this lunatics have in mind.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

What if Hillary Clinton Ran as a Third Party Candidate?
The Carnival of Space, hosted by--God help us--Space Cynic is now up.
The Ares V a boon or bust for space science?
Is John McCain in Trouble with Republicans? My conclusion: not yet.
Oliver Stone's epic about George W. Bush proceeds apace and is beginning to look more and more like a cartoon that will make JFK seem like a documentary,
The Hollywood Reporter even asked historians, including Robert Draper, author of Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush, to vet the early script. ''My quarrel with the script isn't that it departed from factual reality here and there, but that it just misses the guy,'' Draper tells EW. ''You come away with an even more hyperbolized caricature of Bush the Cowboy President than is already out there.''

Addendum: Harry's reaction to this coming soon turkey has to be read to be believed, as does the reaction in the comments section.
The lobbying to get more money for NASA in order to close the space flight gap appears to be intense and wide spread.
Rand Simberg, bold fellow that he is, picks a fight with Gene Kranz. I'd pay money to see that transpire in person.

Jeff Foust has a more nuanced view of things, though the comments section has some of the usual off the wall posts.

Cobra Commander 2008. Yes we shall!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Lord Mayor of London as a stepping stone to--President of the United States?
Dennis Wingo has an interesting article called "bootstrapping the Moon", a thought experiment on how to commercially develop and eventually settle the Moon. He assumes several dubious things at the same time:

NASA's ESAS Architecture is cancelled by a new administration with no determinate system to replace it.

NASA's existing infrastructure, technologies, and expertise is available to the effort.

Congressional passage of the long standing effort to enact "Zero G Zero Tax" legislation as recently reintroduced in congress.

The purpose of the effort is to establish a foothold for humanity on the moon and provide as much return to the "investors" as possible.

I have no problem with item 4. But Items 1, 2, and 3 are not going to exist in the real political world in which we live. An administration (Obama's) that woud cancel the return to the Moon is hardly going to allow Zero G Zero Tax to pass. Nor do I see anything for NASA being made available for such an effort, since in this circumstance NASA would be downsized/redirected toward other things (Earth observation most likely.)
Rush Limbaugh Unleashes Operation Chaos
Stephen King proves once again that a ghoul from one of his books is eating his brain.
That a right-wing-blog would impugn my patriotism because I said children should learn to read, and could get better jobs by doing so, is beneath contempt,"

Actually we're impugning your patriotism because you suggested that soldiers in Iraq are stupid and illiterate, Stephen.
Then, of course, the horror writer tried to claim that he "supports the troops" but not, however, what the troops are doing. Sort of like claiming one is a Cubs fan while at the same time trying to ban baseball.
The Modular Common Spacecraft Bus might just save millions in the cost of unmanned space exploration.
George McGovern Jumps the Sinking Clinton Ship
Killing Rommel by Steven Pressfield. The author usually writes about Ancient Greece, but here does honor to World War Two.

Nazis on the Moon

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The asteroid 2000SG344 appears to be under consideration as the target for an Orion deep space mission. Via Stacy Bartley.
Recently I saw the Charlton Heston epic Khartoum on cable. I have some thoughts on the film.
The Daily Mail outs a group of celebrity eco-hypocrites who lecture the hoi polloi about living green, but do not do so themselves.
Stephen King demonstrates what happens when a ghoul from one of his novels sucks out a human brain, in this case King's.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Dennis Wingo presents the latest "alternate" architecture for a return to the Moon. He revives one of my favorites from the late 1980s, the Shuttle C.

Addendum: Rand Simberg snears.
Alan Wasser and Douglas Jobes suggests an interpretation of the Outer Space Treaty that permits private property rights. The idea is that a lunar settlement can claim the land it is situated on (about the size of Alaska) and that a nation state or group of nation states agree to defend those rights on behalf of the settlement without claiming sovereignty which is forbidden by the treaty.

It's an interesting idea. I have a couple of questions.

First, would a lunar settlement be considered a "country" and thus itself be subject to what is considered settled international law?

Second, the authors suggest that the following scenario is unlikely, because of other provisions of the treaty as well as certain practical considerations, but there might be certain countries (alright, one anyway) that will have other interpretations.

Let us say that China establishes the settlement of New Beijing at the lunar south pole. The term "settlement" might be a loose one, depending on the number of settlers. The government of China promises to defend the claim by New Beijing of the territory that comprises, oddly enough, large deposits of lunar ice.

Now New Beijing is controlled by a shell company that it a wholly owned subsidiary of the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army (which is more common than many westerners think.) New Beijing goes further and signs trade agreements with other Chinese companies for sole mineral rights and other economic goodies that freeze out competitors from the West.

Now, while tourists and even scientific expeditions will be permitted to visit New Beijing on a "case by case basis", it is still clear that China has, in effect, seized some economically valuable real estate without actually violating the Outer Space Treaty.

It puts a whole now dimension on the new space race or, as Mike Griffin calls it, the silent Sputnik.

Addendum: Alan Wasser responds in an email.

Good questions.

First, would a lunar settlement be considered a "country" and thus
itself be subject to what is considered settled international law?

No. Definitely not.

In several places in the paper, such as on page 27 (of the PDF,
page 62 of the Journal) we make the point that, in claiming land,
the settlement is acting as a de facto but not de jure sovereign.

That is - it isn't a nation, but since no Earth nation can claim
sovereignty on the Moon, the settlement itself will have to step in
and handle some of the functions that nations handle on Earth
- such as supervising property rights.

Next your question about China, or any country, using our plan as
a cover for a thinly designed national power grab.

Why would they bother using our plan? It would gain them nothing.

The only benefit of our plan is to enable a private entrepreneurial
settlement to recoup its investment and make a profit by selling
pieces of its land to people in the US and other Earth nations.

Obviously, in the scenario you describe, the Chinese government
wouldn't need to do that. They wouldn't want to sell the land to
non-Chinese, and it wouldn't work if they did, since other nations
wouldn't recognize the claim if it smelled like a fraud.

It makes no sense for any nation to finance and build a true
permanent space settlement solely by itself. That's why we need
to get private enterprise involved, and it's much more likely to be
a multi-national effort. True for-profit Chinese companies would
certainly be participants in that if the possibility of land sales made
settlement potentially profitable.

But, say for argument sake, some Chinese or other government
decided to throw financial logic to the wind and spend much of
its GDP on a solely Chinese grab for the Lunar south pole.

All it would have to do is withdraw from the treaty - which the
treaty itself says can be done on only one year's notice.

That wouldn't have any worse consequences for them than
using our plan for an obviously phony "private" set-up.

By the way, we deal with that sort of thing in several parts of the
paper, such as in section VII (page 17 of the PDF, 52 of the
Journal) although that talks more about why it wouldn't be a US
land grab.

That would be the case, in my opinion, if the Chinese were to behave as we would. The scenario I suggest would have a benefit for the Chinese of denying access to the Moon by other countries without Chinese permission.

The question then arises, would the world community really have the will to push back? Considering some current situations (Iran comes to mind) I have my doubts.
The robots vs humans debate is being waged in Great Britain. For the robots, Lord Martin Rees. For the humans, Dr. Stephen Hawking.
Charles Miller and Jeff Foust have part two of their study on the political environment for the Vision for Space Exploration. In essence, having concluded that rising entitlements must doom the current effort (a dubious assertion, for a variety of reasons already stated), they propose a "Plan B" called "CRATS" or "Cheap and Reliable Access to Space. We'll have to wait for Part 3 to find out how this can be accomplished after thirty years of government efforts to acheive this goal have failed. Apparently it will be a mix of government programs and free market incentives, however.

I would argue that COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems) is already an effort in this direction, but the mind must be kept open.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Howard Dean never fails to disappoint. After squirming before Chris Wallace's merciless questions about the DNC's lies and distortions about what John McCain did and did not say about Iraq and the economy, Dean actually said that Republicans were using "hate" and engaging in "race baiting" for bringing of the Jeremiah Wright issue, even though Barack Obama himself such that the issue is legitiment.
Tom Hanks endorses Barack Obama, which comes as no surprise, though it marks him as the latest former friend of Bill and Hillary to jump ship. The motivation doesn't appear to be connected to the issues, like Obama's desire to gut the US space program (ahem!) Boiled down to the essential, Hanks seems to like Obama because Obama is black and the country needs to have a black President. I like Hanks, who is a fine actor and a better producer who brought us such gems as the recent John Adams miniseries, but I really think that better qualifications for President include competence and policies best suited to addressing the nation's problems,
I suppose this adds a new dimension to bugging the enemy.
British defence giant BAE Systems is creating a series of tiny electronic spiders, insects and snakes that could become the eyes and ears of soldiers on the battlefield, helping to save thousands of lives.

Prototypes could be on the front line by the end of the year, scuttling into potential danger areas such as booby-trapped buildings or enemy hideouts to relay images back to troops safely positioned nearby.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Chairforce Engineer equates the whole space program from Apollo, through the shuttle, through the current exploration effort to fascism.

I'm pretty sure that people who engage in this sort of rhetoric have no earthly idea how they sound to other people. "But in order to beat the Soviets, America had to become like the Soviet Union and beat them at their own game." Well, no, actually America didn't. That was the whole point of Apollo, to prove that the American system was superior. Most of the actual work of getting to the Moon was done by commercial companies, not by "socialist design bureaus", as someone else recently suggested.

I think anyone wanting to learn about the utlitity of publicly funded space will recoil from superheated rhetoric such as "socialist" and "Fascist" (and yes, I've read Jonah Goldberg's book too and understand he thinks they are much the same thing. Goldberg makes some interesting points, but wonders upon reading his book if he thinks that anything a government does is not "fascist.")

I suppose by a certain definition, Thomas Jefferson was a fascist for sending out Lewis and Clark or Lincoln was a fascist for helping to build the transcontinental railroad. Throwing around terms like "socialist" and "fascist" that are onlyu defined as "government I don't like" is a silly exercise and makes the person engagiung in it seem silly and without credibility.

Addendum: I was rereading Liberal Fascism and discovered, as I suspected, that Mr. X was misusing the word "fascism." Jonah Goldberg has a definition I refer to on page 23:
Fascism is a religion of the state. It assumes the organic unity of the body politic and longs for a natural leader atuuned to the will of the people. It is totalitarian as it views everything as political and holds that any action by the state is justified to achieve the common good. It takes responsibility for all aspects of life, including out health and well-being, and seeks to impose uniformity of thought and action, wheather by force or through regulation and social pressure. Everything, including the economy and religion, must be alligned with its objectives. Any rival identity is part of the "problem" and therefore defined as the enemy.

Only a madman would suggest that the US space program, especially the current one, which embraces commercial space, not as "rival identities", but as full partners is or has been in any wall "fascist."

So why does Mr. X throw the word around. Goldberg has an explanation that should prove sobering, on Page 2:
There is no word in the English language that gets thrown around more freely by people who don't know what it means than "fascism." Indeed the more someone uses the word "fascist" in everyday conversation, the less likely he is to know what he's talking about


Addendum Two: Rand Simberg joins the chorus of yelling "Fascist!" at NASA. That's the one thing I love about the Internet Rocketeer Club. It's a great echo chamber where talking points spread at warp speed.
Iron Man
Iron Man is the latest Marvel Comics super hero to make it to the big screen. The film is filled with interesting, well acted characters and lot of cool action sequences. It also has enough plot holes big enough to fire a cruise missile barrage through.
Jeff Foust has a post on his Space Politics site that could be titled "Why it is Silly to be a Libertarian."

Richard Hoagland? My God.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Jon Goff celebrates the entry of a number of European commercial space companies to the great game of private space. It's the policy of this blog to wish any serious private effort well, without passing judgement over the likelihood or unlikelihood of their success (the question of which are worthy of investment is another matter.)

Jon goes off the rails, though, with this:
There are some bloggers who seem to be perpetually stuck in a Cold War mentality, always looking for the next USSR, and a return of the glory days of the Space Race. The fact that this would be totally counterproductive is apparently lost on these people (as is the weirdness of people who claim to be free-market capitalists rooting for socialist design bureaus that would've been right at home in the former Soviet Union).

First, of course, Jon is being decorous by not mentioning that by "some bloggers" he means Your Humble Servant. I'm not certain what he means by the phrase "perpetually stuck in a Cold War mentality, always looking for the next USSR, and a return of the glory days of the Space Race."

As for "socialist design bureaus" (one supposes he means NASA)that would be right at home in the former Soviet Union, Jon is wide of the mark. NASA is certainly not as ineffecient or as incompetent as its Soviet counterparts, despite the hyperbole. The Soviet Union never made it to the Moon nor did it fly the Buran space shuttle more than once. Nor is NASA as brutal as its Soviet counterparts. One is not subject to being shot or sent to Siberia for screwing up at NASA. It would tend to violate civil service regulations...

Jon unfortunately sounds like a 1930s appeaser scoffing at the idea of Nazi Germany as a threat or a 1980s liberal bad mouthing those who regarded the Soviets with concern. The fact of the matter is that in the real world of international relations there will always be competition over which country or alliance of countries will dominate the world. China, frankly, is looking for "it's place in the sun", to coin a phrase first used by Kaiser Wilheilm and space is part of that strategy. Considering the aggressive and totalitarian nature of the Beijing regime, that drive for domination should be one of concern. To pretend otherwise is to pretend that utopia has finally arrived.
I really think that it is entrepreneurial space ventures like Orbspace and Project Enterprise that really represent the future of international space competition.

To a certain extent that is true, but it will ad an extra dimension to national rivalries, not supplant them.
I'm not afraid at all of the Chinese national space program beating us back to the Moon--they're following a dying and deprecated model of space development that hopefully won't last too much longer into this century. What does cost me a little sleep every now and then is wondering what's going to happen when Chinese entrepreneurs start seeing the success of US and European commercial space groups, and decide that they could make a buck at that too...

Jon demonstrates here very little awareness of how Chinese style crony capitalism works. It's true that Chinese citizens have a greater freedom to make money than they do to--say--speak their minds, but a good relationship with well placed bureaucrats and politicians are even more important for business success in China than it is in the West.

The idea of scrappy entrepreneurs growing a space business from the ground up (as it were) unfettered by the government would be foreign to the typical Chinese. A corporation that uses influence with the Chinese government, partly by serving Chinese government policy, is an idea more familiar to the Chinese.

I also, finally, have to express astonishment at the suggestions in the comments section that companies that seek out the US government, especially NASA, as a customer are ill advised. A good businessman (such as, say, SpaceX's Elon Musk) would be quite mad to pass up such an opportunity.

It's actually a pretty good model for an industry such as space launch that has a high startup cost. Use a government agency with a large pile of cash and a need to cut operational costs to get the service off the ground (as it were) then use the capability to pursue private markets. It worked for air transport and the air mail. It will work for space transport and COTS.
The Tesla, the Ferrari of electric cars, is at last rolling off the production lines and into its first showroom.
Apparently the Left is discovering even more excuses to oppose win power, once thought to be a pristine renewable energy source.
Ed Morrissey talks about the latest idiocy to arise in Campaign 2008--the Windfall Profits Tax. In a previous life, Your Humble Servant helped to maintain a winfall profits tax system for a medium sized oil company. It was, putting it mildly, a complex nightmare with every changing requirements.
Alan Boyle and Dr. Gerald Kulcinski discuss fusion power, especially the kind fueled by lunar helium 3.
It looks like Labour took it in the solar plexis in British local elections. The Tories are triumphant. Most satisfying result is the fall of Red Ken Livingston from his office of Lord Mayor of London, which an ancestor of Your Humble Servant occupied in the late 14th and early 15th Centuries.
It looks like that the next country to put a person in orbit will be India.

The Clinton/Obama War apparently as told by George Lucas.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Rand Simberg looks at this call for space based solar power and is not impressed.
The problem (as always) is that this doesn't account for the costs of competing energy sources dropping even more.

The question one has to ask is that would those other costs actually drop? Rand doesn't offer any data. He may be right. He may be wrong. There is no data to suggest other way. In any case, the market as always will tend to decide what will be the optimal means of generating energy,

Rand goes on to say:

And of course, the notion of building SPS with the existing space transportation infrastructure remains ludicrous.

Absolutely correct. But then Rand gets things backwards.
Get the costs of access down (a good idea for a lot of other reasons), and then see if it makes sense.

Rand's approach is just clearly wrong. There are no market incentives to decrease the cost of space travel, outside the COTS competition. The current cost of space travel is just fine for satellite communications, GPS, and other private operations that deliver information from space. Just saying one is going to decrease the cost of space access without some kind of incentive will simply not work.

A commitment to build an SPS system might just be an incentive to decrease the cost of space access, however. (That access, by the way, might just be from the Moon for the purpose of mining, refining, and delivering materials to build an SPS.)
Unfortunately, current space policy (or at least the vast amount of expenditures on space transportation) seems aimed at increasing the cost of access to space.

That's wrong. COTS should decrease access to space. Ares/Orion will enable access to the Moon which, currently, is nonexistent for human beings as it has been since Apollo 17.
Jack Shaheen thinks that Hollywood vilifies Arabs. If by Arabs we mean "Arab terrorists", I can only respond Would that it were so.
The first anniversary edition of the Carnival of Space is now up.
The Earth is going into a ten year cooling period. An inconvenient truth if I ever encountered one.
Hamas has a new spin on Holocaust denial. They now admit that it happened, but suggest that the Jews did it to themselves to get rid of disabled people who would be a burden for the future State of Israel.

I am not making this up.