Monday, June 30, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke: Visionary
Hammond of Texas (aka Don S. Davis) has died. RIP.
The Prisoner reimagined.
has confirmed that Sir Ian McKellen and Jim Caviezel will star in the network's reinvention of the 1960s thriller, The Prisoner, to be broadcast next year.

Caviezel, who shot to fame playing the role of the idealist private Witt in The Thin Red Line, has been cast in the Patrick McGoohan role as Number Six, the hero who finds himself trapped in a mysterious and surreal place known as The Village, with no memory of how he arrived.

McKellen, who is best known globally for playing Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, will take the role of Number Two, the sinister head of The Village.

"We want information. Information"

"You won't get it."

"By hook or by crook we will."
The War Over Offshore Wind is Almost Over
For almost eight years the critics have stalled the project, called Cape Wind, which aims to place 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound about five miles south of Cape Cod. Yet surprisingly, Cape Wind has largely defeated the big guns. In a few months it may get authorization to begin construction. Meanwhile, a string of other offshore wind projects is starting up on the Eastern Seaboard, in the Gulf of Mexico, and in the Great Lakes.
George Johnson defends prizes against Barack Obama.
David King, director of the Marshall Space Center, responds to the advocates of Direct Launcher
A Letter to my Revolutionary War Ancestor
Ed Morrissey asks the question, how stupid is Wesley Clark?
Phil Smith, via Ferris Valyn, suggests that Barack Obama needs a competent space policy advisor. That would be a good start.
Apparently Barack Obama doesn't believe in paying women equally when it comes to his own campaign staff.
Eric Hedman suggests that NASA's biggest problem with the Constellation program is not vibration or weight problems, but communication. Communication is a good thing, but I suggest that there are a group of people who not only expect the project to fail, but want it to, and will seize upon any news to buttress that belief. Any bit of communication that contradicts that belief will be dismissed as spin or even downright lies.
Dwyane Day takes a two by four to people who read Jonah Goldberg's book and therefore have concluded, "Aha, NASA is fascist!" Mind, I think Day is just a little hard on Goldberg and his book, Liberal Fascism. Idealogues are just misusing the text (as they tend to do) to justify their own biases. Still, Day makes some pretty good points that should anger some people who do not use the language very wisely.

Addendum: Rand Simberg responds unapologetic, though without actually answering Day's points.
Recently, Neil degrasse Tyson had some interesting and provocative things to say about space exploration.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I suppose it was inevitable. Solar power, the great panacea for all of our energy woes, still requires an environmental impact study by the federal government. They say it will take two years.
The Shame of Congressman William Delahunt
Ainitcool's Harry Knowles has a review of Wanted, the scifi assassin movie with Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman. He liked the movie, but that's not important. Knowles has a weird story at the end:
Btw - fun story. The Weinsteins went to Moscow to negotiate for the release rights of NIGHT WATCH in the United States. The deal was going good - when all of a sudden Timur's cel phone rings. On the other end was a gentleman named PUTIN. Apparently the leader of Russia told Timur not to sell the film to the Weinsteins because they support the Democrats with Campaign donations and political work - and it was "better for Russia" that the Republicans be in power. Thus NIGHTWATCH got sold to FOX SEARCHLIGHT... a company controlled by noted conservative, Rupert Murdoch. Red States indeed. Isn't that an amazing story? Every word is true.

I've heard some weird conspiracy ravings in my day, but this one is slightly original, if slightly wide of reality. After all, why would Tsar Vlad care who in Hollywood gives what to which party? Why would Tsar Vlad prefer Republicans to Democrats, since the latter would be more prone to appeasement? Besides, didn't Rupert Murdoch give money to Hillary Clinton at one point?
Apparently there will be two Greek myth films coming coon, using the same techniques as were done to film 300. War of the Gods is about Theseus, he who slew the Minotaur. The other is a remake of Clash of the Titans, about Perseus.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The father of Canadian government health care has disowned his own creation and called for the immediate legalization of private insurance and private medicine in Canada.

The sound you hear is Michael Moore screaming.
The X Prize Foundation has gotten an enfusion of cash to fund new prizes. Next up, a cancer prize.
Looks like one could grow asparagus and turnips in Martian soil. What about jalapenos or tomatoes?
North Korea Nuclear Disclosure a Foreign Policy Triumph for Bush
Sometimes when one looks upon the yelling that sometimes goes on on the Internet about NASA and its approach to the return to the Moon, one comes upon items that prove to be real head scratchers.

Dennis Wingo had the following to say in the comments section of this Space Politics post on the Glenn, Garn, Nelson letter to the Orlando Sentinel:
The ESAS architecture, from an economic development of space perspective, is the worst possible architecture.

Clark Lindsey chimes in with this item:
These Senators don't seem to know that NASA could have chosen to pursue an innovative low cost approach to space development and lunar exploration rather than choosing a very long and very expensive path to two new vehicles, both of which will be very costly to operate.

Dennis and Clark are both pretty intelligent and knowledgeable, but there seems to be a number of facts they are not aware of.

First the idea that NASA, a bureaucratic government agency, would be capable of directly engaging in economic development of anything, not to speak of the Moon, is just a little bit quaint. It's sort of like expecting an elephant to do the ballet. The elephant can try, but the result is not going to resemble anything that Baryshnikov was capable of in his day.

Nor have I seen an "innovative low cost approach" proposed. Using EELVs? Expensive. Likely to cause a total redesign and down sizing of the Orion. Much more likely to get the crew killed. Direct? Possible, maybe, but I think that absent any answer from its proponents to some of the objections to it, I have to remain skeptical but open minded.

Ironically, it was Your Humble Servant who once published a proposal to get the economic development of the Moon rolling. It wouldn't depend on the Elephant being anything but an elephant (in fact it kind of relies on it.) And, if COTS works to open up Low Earth orbit to commercial development, it will follow a tried and true precedence.

Well, then, let's just abolish NASA, I'm sure the response will be in certain quarters. That idea suggests that commerce is the only reason for exploring and developing space. There are both national security and scientific aspects that won't be satisfied with a laisser faire approach. Also NASA as a core customer tends to foster economic development, albeit indirectly.
Apparently, miracle of miracles, the Supreme Court has ruled that an amendment to the Constitution, in this case the 2nd having to do with the right to keep and bear arms, actually means pretty much what it says.
Former Senators John Gleen and Jake Garn and current Senator Bill Nelson takes President Bush to task for underfunding NASA. A good point, but undermined by the fact that so far Congressional appropriators are pretty much funding NASA at just a tad above the President's request.
Apparently in Canada, a misbehaving kid can take mommy and daddy to court if he/she doesn't like the punishments meted out for the misbehavior. Mind, a country that has a socialist health care system is capable of anything, but the fear is that creative judges might want to bring this kind of jurisprudence to the United States.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Barack Obama as Dr. No.
Looks like Ares V will be even bigger than the Saturn V. Some folks will be appalled, no doubt, but I want to be there when it first lifts off. It should be an awesome sight.
George Lucas thinks that Barack Obama would make a great Jedi Knight. I would tend to agree up to a point, but I rather think he would be one of those incompetent Jedi who let Palpetine and Darth Vader take over the Republic in Episode Three because they were too blind to see what was happening all around them.

Of course there is also another cruel argument over whether Obama is Palpetine or Jar Jar.
Tim Minear, who has been involved in among other things Firefly, wrote a script for the proposed film version of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, courtesy of the Southern California Fans of Firefly and Serenity.
More thoughts on Barack Obama, Prize Competitions, and Technological Innovation

Ania Egland, military wife, mother, patriot responds to the Not Alex Ad. Looks like neither Alex nor her demented mom should worry. Here are two boys who will grow up to be men who might put themselves between us and war's desolation.
In this story about the candidate's views on energy issues, Barack Obama has something interesting to say about prizes, in reference to John McCain's proposal for a three hundred million dollar prize for an improved car battery:
"When John F. Kennedy decided that we were going to put a man on the moon, he didn't put a bounty out for some rocket scientist to win; he put the full resources of the United States government behind the project and called on the ingenuity and innovation of the American people," Mr. Obama said. "That's the kind of effort we need to achieve energy independence in this country, and nothing less will do."

A couple of interesting points can be derived. First, it looks like that Obama sees everything though the lens of an Apollo Program. That is to say nothing can be done, even making a new and improved car battery, if it is not done through a massive government program.

Second, Obama seems not to have heard about the concept of prizes as a means to spur technological innovation. Certainly he might be surprised by the X Prize that brought into being the first private manned space mission. Or of the Google Lunar X Prize designed to spur an robotic private race to the Moon. Or NASA;s Centennial Challenges designed to create a variety of technologies. That ignorance is very disturbing.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

If the carabou are keeping us from drilling at ANWR, then clearly something bad has to happen to them. I hear carabou are good eating.
An interesting NASA internal email. Apparently Orion/Ares is not on the brink of disastrous collapse after all. This news may cause distress for some people.
Anyone who claims Jeremiah Wright as a spirtual godfather ought not to get into biblical controversies. Focus on the Family's James Dobson Takes Umbrage with Barack Obama
The Chinese manned space prgram proceeds apace with the planned space walk on the Shenzhou 7 this Fall.
NASA's Doug Cook responds to questions concerning the Direct concept.
The "direct" variation fails to meet NASA's needs on several grounds. It is vastly over-capacity and too costly to service the International Space Station, but worse, its lift capacity would not be enough for NASA to maintain a sustained presence on the moon.

Advocates for the "direct" variation are touting unrealistic development costs and schedules. A fundamental difference is that the Ares I and Orion probability of crew survival is at least two times better than all of the other concepts evaluated, including "direct"-like concepts.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Back from the Dead Who to Bring Back?

Addendum: Mrs. Curmudgeon slapped me upside the head and asked, "What about Pete Conrad?" Indeed, call him back to life. He represented all that was best in the conquest of space, at NASA and then in the commercial realm. Mea culpa for forgetting him.
David Freddoso Publishes The Case Against Barack Obama
Space and economic "long waves"
John McCain proposes a three hundred million dollar prize for a better car battery suitable for a hybrid or electric car.
George Carlin, RIP

Addendum: Jim Oberg points out an error in the AP story referenced:
"Carlin was born May 12, 1937 and grew up in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan, raised by a single mother. After dropping out of high school in the ninth grade, he joined the Air Force in 1954. He received three court-martials and numerous disciplinary punishments, according to his official Web site."

Like, what's the plural of court-martial?

That's the kind of arrogant ignorance you'd expect from the NY Times and its infamous
obit over a guy who was awared a 'Purple Star' for being wounded in battle.

It is, of course, courts martial

Addendum 2: More memories of George Carlin

Sunday, June 22, 2008

James Hansen wants to put oil company executives on trial for publicly doubting global warming. One would think that if the case for human caused global warming were so obvious, it would not be necessary to threaten Soviet style tactics to punish people who dissent.
The Japanese probe Kaguya revisits places on the Moon not seen for a generation.
Get Smart the Movie
George W. Bush will be the Harry Truman of the 21st Century.

At least.
I guess it's on. India has just challenged China to a space race.
The Direct alternative to the Ares architecture seems to have gotten traction, at least in the media. Sadly for the hopes of those who are advancing it, it has not yet gotten traction either with NASA management nor with Congress.

And what do you think now, smart guy?

As I've always said, I'm agnostic about how to break out of LEO. But Direct advocates (who have at least, IMHO, done their technical homework far better than the EELV crowd) have to make a convincing case for reopening the whole hardware debate. There is validity to the idea that at some point the studies have to stop and the bending of metal has to begin.

They also have to answer criticisms that their approach provides too much capacity for the ISS resupply mission and too little for the Mars mission. I'm not sure that question has been adequately addressed.

And, of course, that means that someone competent to speak for the Direct advocates should be invited to testify before Nelson's committee,

More on the idea here.

Addendum: Keith Cowing suspects that something funny is going on. I would not be surprised to find out that there is a little winking and nodding taking place. The thinking may be that it's always a good idea to have a plan b just in case technical problems or (more likely) political shifts make plan a untenable.

Addendum 2: Chairforce Engineer reads a little too much into my suggestion above that unlike the EELV advocates, the people working on Direct have at least done a little technical homework. This is not to say that I've joined the people who think that Ares 1 and 5 are disasters; I've not convincing evidence that ESAS is. Nor am I convinced that Direct is either a viable alternative or even viable enough to merit scrapping the current approach.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Christian Bale as Ridley Scott's revisionist, terrorist Robin Hood? Hmmm.
The Private Space Age Turns Four
The four years since June 21, 2004, underline just how unpredictable frontiers can be. Many of the things that were predicted have not come to pass: Back then, it seemed as if the first suborbital space tourists might be climbing aboard Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo within two years after SpaceShipOne's historic test flight. Today, that milestone still looks as if it's two years away.

Which just goes to show the danger of making too many exact predictions. However:
If you're looking for the "better" half of the spaceflight revolution, four years after its start, you'd be best advised to look at the low end and the high end of the scale, rather than the middle-range suborbital challenge. Arguably, things have turned out better than expected for semi-space experiences and the full orbital treatment


Friday, June 20, 2008

Apparently the Oregon state health care system will not pay to save your life, but is willing to pay for your doctor assisted suicide.

Even so, the evil Pharmaceutical company did step in and pay for the women in question's medication.
More on the Google Lunar X Prize.
Affirmative action for left wing broadcasters? That's apparently the purpose of the (Un)Fairness Doctrine. Of course it would destroy political talk radio and then possibly the entire FM band. And that would be alright too for the people pushing the idea.
The Secret of Digging on the Moon

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Carnival of Space is now up.
What Really Happened on Battlestar Galactica?
Rand Simberg expresses astonishment that NASA's Constellation system will not be the interstate highway of space.

The problem is that it was never meant to be and that the idea that the government will build such a thing is as laughable as expecting Lewis and Clark to lay the tracks of the transcontinental railroad as they headed west to explore. Complaining that the common man (or woman) will never go to the Moon on board an Orion is a straw man of cosmic dimensions. It is not NASA's job (nor should it be) to take you, me, or anyone else on our lunar vacation. It will be the job of some future Elon Musk or Burt Rutan, possibly with public financing to make maintaining a lunar base more economical.

To be fair, as Rand points out, Michael Griffin made the analogy to the interstate highway system without, I imagine, thinking it through. But Griffin's hyperbole should not an excuse for suggesting that the Constellation system, as a first step, is somehow not valid.

Of course the whole analogy with roads (barring a space elevator) is not exactly a valid one. People are not going to hop in a car and head off to the Moon or Mars. They're going to board a ship and voyage to those and other destinations, either from the Earth or the terminus of a space elevator.

Hence the real analogy is that of Prince Henry the Navigator, who ran what was in effect an ocean going NASA in the 15th Century. Most people didn't voyage to the New World in a caravel; Columbus's voyages were government funded. But High Highness's efforts paved the way for the opening up of the New World as a frontier of settlement and commerce.

Addendum: Rand Simberg reacts.
Only Mark Whittington would have the native talent to so misread this piece as to think that I was "expressing astonishment." Of course, it's not the first time that he's fantasized about my views.

So I wonder what the emotion really was. Ennui? Boredom? A Vulcan-like total lack of any emotion whatsoever?

Still, one finds the greater fantasy of a bureaucratic government agency (which is what NASA is, even though what it does is more interesting than what HUD does) building a way for me and thee to fly to the Moon far more charming.
The recent Gallup Poll, which shows massive support for space exploration in general and NASA in particular, is getting some tortured analysis in certain quarters.
In essence, a razor thin majority in this poll supports more budget money for NASA - so long as it comes from somewhere else - but not if it means that they have to pay more taxes. Sounds like broad, but thin and diffuse support for NASA.

Actually, historically, it's quite high. During the Apollo era, for example, polling showed pluralities and sometimes even outright majorities in favor of cutting NASA funding. And I wouldn't put too much significance into an unwillingness to pay more taxes. Americans oppose paying more taxes for anything, correctly surmising that the government take in quite a lot thank you very much.
I'd be curious to see what a poll of the same people would show if mention of "NASA" was omitted and questions were simply asked about space exploration - as a concept - regardless of how it would be done (private and/or private sector).

It would be an interesting, albeit meaningless question to ask. Most space exploration, like going back to the Moon or going to Mars, would be publicly financed simply due to the fact that there is as yet no commercially viable reason to do such things.
People might not want to pay more taxes for space exploration, but they might be interested in buying a ticket.

I wonder what the answer would be to the following: "Would you be willing to pay $250,000 for a sub orbital flight that would include about six minutes of weightlessness and a view?" The answer might prove to be a disappointment to arm chair political analysts but not to marketing experts. I suspect that while, as the poll suggests, a lot of middle class people are in favor of NASA funding, very few in that group are willing to shell out five years pay for a sub orbital joy ride. On the other hand it doesn't take too many people willing to pay for a quarter of a million dollar sub orbital joy ride to make such a service economically viable.

Rand Simberg has this to add.
In any event, these polls should always be taken with a grain, if not a whole shaker of salt. They're based on public ignorance, and once again demonstrate that support for the current plans are a mile wide and an inch deep.

The public ignorance gibe has some validity and would explain the non concern found for the space flight gap and the Chinese space threat. But Rand has no basis for his conclusion, at least from that particular poll, for "a mile wide and an inch deep." The poll showed that increasing NASA's budget has a "strongly support" plus "support" of fifty two percent vs "oppose" plus "strongly oppose" of forty five percent.

No political scientist in the world, and certainly no politician, would dismiss such findings as casually as Rand does.

Oh, and for those folks who take comfort in the Dittmar findings that young people find NASA "irrelevant", the support plus strongly support numbers for the 18 to 34 year old age group is 62 percent, actually higher than other age groups.
More proof that we just can't conserve our way out of the current energy crisis.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The latest Democratic solution to the current energy crisis: nationalize oil refineries. The mind boggles.
Baby Alex, John McCain Wants You

Addendum: Another mom says, "Take my kid, please!" Warning, pungent language.

Addendum 2: Not my wallet:
"We Can't Drill Our Way Out of This"

Yes we can!
Sienna Miller will be Maid Marion in Ridley Scott's Nottingham, also staring Russell Crowe as the Sherrif. In this version, the Sherrif is a noble lawman and Robin Hood is a terrorist.
Ben Shapiro explains why he is voting Democrat.
Ferris Valyn demonstrates the quandry that pro space liberals find themselves in and why they continue to be ineffective in influencing space policy from the Left:
There was actually 2 meet-ups through the Space Policy Advisory Group, the first one was merely a meet and greet, with alcohol. However, the second meet-up really turned into a workshop, in terms of helping to get the Senator elected, and raising space as an issue. It was a great opportunity to meet people who support Senator Obama, and spaceflight - we had a variety of people, some concerned about national security, some concerned about space commercialization, Nasa policy, and so on. The backgrounds of people were also varied - we had people from the X Prize foundation, the Personal Spaceflight federation, the FAA, Nasa, and so on.

The results of that meeting were a list of 3 things we have to do:

Get Senator Obama elected
Raise the importance of space, so the Senator will develop a broad space policy platform,
Help to insure that we get good space policy.

The problem is that Barack Obama, who seems to disdain space in general and NASA in particular, has no incentive to change his mind if support for his candidacy is unconditional. If I were giving out free advice to my good friends on the Left, I should suggest putting action item (1) (Get Senator Obama elected) last and make it conditional on the other two happening. There is nothing that can concentrate a politician's mind than the idea that a number of people will not vote for him because of a stupid policy he suppports, like gutting NASA to fund what is in effect the nationalization of pre kindergarten education.

"Yes," I suspect the reply would be, "but we like Obama's stand on Iraq, energy, taxes, etc and we hate John McCain." Well, if all of that is more important than space, then best to say so directly and not pretend to try to influence Obama on that issue.
It would be a delicious irony if when baby Alex becomes a strapping lad of eighteen, he joins the Navy and serves on the aircraft carrier John McCain.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Apparently the latest (May, 2008) Gallup Poll still shows wide spread public support for NASA and its programs. Details here.
Movies I Will Not See
John McCain comes out for both conservation and drilling.
Winnie the Pooh as a national security treatise? Silly me. Here I was relying on such minor experts as Sun Tzu and Machiavelli.

The message of the above video appears to be that Obama girls are not only insane but also more than a bit shallow. Either that or some film makers lack the concept of editing and lighting.
Stan Winston RIP

Monday, June 16, 2008

Rich Lowry concludes that indeed Iraq is another Vietnam--but for Al Qaeda and not us.
Texas Polls: John McCain Dominates Barack Obama
Ready or not The Progressive Book Club Launches
The latest on the development of the Ares 5 and the Ares 1.

Addendum: This news has caused a little bit of consternation here, here, and with no doubt more to follow.

Now, far be it for me to suggest that the inevitable predictions of disaster will not at last come true. Your Humble Servant lacks the gift of prophecy, as anyone would know who has read our attemnpts at it (g). I do rather like the conspiracy theory that goes like this: We never went to the Moon to start with, so we are never going to the Mooon ever and this, what is apparently a paper study, proves it.

If you're confused by that chain of logic, join the club.

Addendum 2: Oh, and here.

Of course, this also means that the development cost is growing and that the cost of each vehicle will be higher.

Probably so, no matter what transpires. But that would be consistant with almost every large aerospace project ever undertaken, including highly touted ones being done of commercial space companies.
Victor Davis Hanson, a real historian, gives Patrick J. Buchanan, a fake one, a damn fine fisking.
Charles Miller and Jeff Foust in Part 3 of The Vision for Space Exploration and the Retirement of the Baby Boomers argue for an approach to Cheap and Reliable Access to Space that eschews both a big government program (i.e. like X 33) and pure laissez-faire. Their "third way" sounds a lot how aviation was developed.
Donna Calcote sends this story about a heterosexual man who accidentally say Sex and the City the Movie and lived to tell about it.
Barack Obama and the Chicago Way
Recently Senator Barack Obama demonstrated once again why he should not try to ad lib. Or at least should he try to do so, he ought to find better lines and practice them. Obama is no Sean Connery. He is not even Kevin Costner.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

It looks like the Denocrats are just a little bit short of the mother's milk of politics.
The Incredible Hulk: The Big Green Guy Goes Back to His Roots
Stacy Bartley points to a couple of articles in Air and Space. The Million Mile Mission discusses the idea of sending Orion to an asteroid as a precursor for a Mars expedition. Also Orion's Brain. Orion seems to be not just Apollo on steroids but Apollo with a computer system that eningeers in the Apollo era could not have imagined. "Smarter than HAL, but better behaved," so goes the claim.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Ed Morrissey suggests that Barack Obama is what they call in Hispanic culture "a man of the mouth."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Thursday, June 12, 2008

It looks like that the US House is both praising and cutting funding for commercial space. It's hard not to be cynical about this sort of thing.
The Ares 1 first stage has passed the preliminary design review.
Jonah Goldberg manages to link Senatorial food with space.
If only the Dems could apply the free market common sense they reserve for their cafeterias to the space program, we could be having piƱa coladas on Mars by the second Obama term. Okay, not quite.

Certainly not by a seconed Obama term. Maybe a second Jindal term, though.
Ann Coulter actually has something nice to say about someone.

The Incredible--er--McCain Girl
School Choice for New Orleans children has passed the Lousianna State Senate. Another victory for Bobby Jindal.
Having become concerned with all of the rumors, Barack Obama Launches Fight the Smears
So now the Supreme Court has given foreign unlawful combatants captured and imprisoned on foreign soil habeus corpus rights? What is next, one wonders. Miranda rights?

Outrageous doesn't even begin to describe it.
Would Teddy Roosevelt Drill at ANWR?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

One more example of how NASA and private business benefit one another, is the announcement of a plan to use ISS, which has had its share of criticism (including from Your Humble Servant), as a port of call for the first entirely private orbital mission. President Reagan, who first proposed the space station and was also a friend of private business, must be smiling.
Glenn Reynolds has a piece in the Atlantic about the current state of space activism. It's more of a good snapshot of some of the attitudes held by space activists than of the reality of the space age. "Private space=cool. NASA=uncool," would sum up the attitude.

It is somewhat wide of the mark where reality is concerned, though. People who are actually involved in private space development (with maybe one or two exceptions) regard NASA as a potential customer and a source of funding than as something quaint and irrelevant. There is very little chest thumping about "private business will beat NASA to the Moon!" over at SpaceX or Virgin Galactic. They're too busy at the long, tedious process of just getting their rocket ships to work properly to think about private space colonies or private expeditions to Mars, which are decades in the future. Making a profit now supersedes all that. That can often mean trying to sell launch services to NASA.

Which NASA is apparently glad to buy, when they become available. That allows quaint, boring old NASA to concentrate on things that private business can't yet do, like go back to the Moon. All in all, a good arrangement all around.

Addendum: I am reminded that the Bigelow space station, that Glenn mentions in his piece, was the result of Bigelow buying under license inflatable hab technology developed by NASA under the transhab program. Again that tends to buttress my point, that Bigelow would be no where near as far along as it is now without NASA's assistance, anymore than SpaceX would be without COTS.

Glenn, I think, is mistaken that the future is going to be like fifties scifi, with rich, eccentric tycoons taking us to the stars. That'll be part of it, but also part will be the increasing use of NASA as an instrument of what foreign policy experts call "soft power", which is to say national power exerted by means other than military or other kind of coercive force. That too will propel us to the stars.

More on that, I think, anon.
John McCain has some good qualities, but admitting to error, even when it is obvious, is not one of them. The idea that the trackless, frozen waste that is ANWR is the equivalent of the Grand Canyon is a little bit crazy to me.

Not that I don't like caribou. They's good eating, I'm told.

Of course, just as soon as John McCain gives me heart burn, we get this endorsement of high gas prices from the Messiah.
NASA's GLAST is Launched into Earth Orbit
The US Senate is all in favor of privatization when it comes to something they really care about. Which is to say their lunch.
Parents and students seem to be well satisfied with the Washington DC school voucher program. So, naturally, Eleanor Holmes Norton wants to kill it.
Hmmm. A Three Musketeers prequel.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I think that the Administration has some valid points in its reaction to the House version of the NASA Authorization Bill. I'm in favor of adding more money, but not if it's just for more shuttle missions. Advancing the schedule for Constellation and maybe adding some funding for space science and aeronautics seem a little more important IMHO.

In any case, this sounds like a good opportunity to revive Mikulski's idea for a space policy meeting between the White House and Congressional space leaders.
The Houae Republicans have come up with a bold, economic agenda that includes eliminating earmarks, a flat tax, and other reforms. This sounds awfully like a new Contract, which kind of jibes with rumors I've been hearing that Newt Gingrich is advising Congressional Republicans about how to fight the next election.
Maybe the third time really is a chartm for SpaceX's Falcon 1.
So what is this business with Barack Obama's Birth Certificate?
Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, and a Brief History of Presidential Sex Scandals
Spike Lee Picks a Fight With Clinton Eastwood

Go ahead, make my day.
Chuck Norris, the latest action hero who may have a future in politics, lays out the diminsions of the current energy crisis, who is to blame, and how to fix it. Meanwhile the Democrats are trying to revive that horror from the Carter 70s, the windfall profits tax. Obama is all for it of course.

Monday, June 09, 2008

When I heard that Brokeback Mountain, that poignant story of the two star crossed sheep herders, was becoming an opera, I was naturally appalled. But then the question occurred: What Movies Would Make Great Operas?
Taylor Dinerman lets Chucky Schumer have it over European missile defense.
What are the space policy choices facing the next administration?
Which (SF) Writer Should Replace Philip K. Dick as Hollywood's Idea Spigot? They left out a few names.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Fred Barnes thinks that high gas prices may be just the issue the Republicans need to stave off electoral disaster. But they have to take the opportunity.
What Shall We Do With the Moon Once We Get There?

Addendum: I rather like the whole Moon is a Harsh Mistress location shoot idea. The Moon could be the venue for a whole lot of movies.
A conservative Republican Senator and a liberal Democrat Senator are locked in a fight over human rights in Burma vs oil company profits for the Burmese military junta. But you might be surprised to find out who is taking which side on the issue.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Rand Simberg repeats a rumor that Admiral Craig Steidle is advising John McCain on space policy and is in line to be NASA Administrator under a McCain Administration. There's no confirmation to the rumor, however it does have a whiff of plausibility. Now, as to whether an Adminstrator Steidle would suddenly put a stop to the Ares project and do a downsized Orion on top on an EELV seems to me to be dubious at best and wishfull thinking among certain people at worse. Barring a complete collapse of the Ares project (often predicted, but far from taking place), such a move would not make sense. It would blow a big hole in the space flight gap and cost far more money than people seem to imagine. This sort of willy, nilly changing of design for political reasons was one of the major causes of the space station fiasco.

Besides, my pick for a successor for Griffin is Pete Worden, a man quite adroit at outside the box thinking.
Lest we forget, the prayer offered by Franklin Roosevelt on the occassion of D Day.

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest -- until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them -- help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too -- strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment -- let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace -- a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.

Want to know why gas costs so much? Silly environmental laws and regulations are the cause. There seems to be a partisan divide over what to do about it.

Now, if the Republicans were smart (which these days I sometimes think is like saying if I has super powers) they would exploit this as an issue.
A space engine using the Earth's magnetic field.
Looks like John McCain wants to spend more money on NASA and likes the idea of humans to Mars.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

This week's Carnival of Space is now up.
NASA administrator Mike Griffin supports the development of a European manned space ship.
George Will suggests that if people want lower oil prices they should stop electing fools like Chucky Schumer to the Senate.
Of all of the utterly silly movies to remake, Capricorn One?

For those not exposed to this post Watergate, 70s piece of offal, it depicts the faking of a Mars landing followed by the hunt for the alleged crew of the same by the crack NASA hit team. It starred James Brolin and a washed up jock named O.J. Simpson.
Looks like space and NASA funding is a hot issue in one Florida Congressional race.
Obama: selected, not elected. Ouch.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Another NASA official not only points out that there is a race to the Moon with the Chinese, but that they are likely to beat us. I'm not sure that's true, but I am sure that half the Internet Rocketeer Club will be mad because Gilbreth pointed this out and the other half will be mad that this is thought to be a big deal:
The Chinese lead will be even longer if the American schedule slips, as some space experts predict. Beating the United States back to the moon would be a feather in a resurgent China's cap with psychological as well as military implications. Last year, China became the first nation to shoot down a space satellite, setting off alarm bells in the Pentagon.
Space Tourism: What's Next in 2009?
Pending the law suits and other obstructions thrown up by environmentalists, it looks like that the first refinery to be built in America in a generation will be built in South Dakota.
What's next for Mars exploration?
Apparently NASA has found a way to build a lunar telescope with carbon nanotubes, epoxy, and lunar dust.
John McCain vs Barack Obama on the Issues

The RNC is already running ads against Obama featuring his fellow Democrats.
Now Rep Bud Cramer (D) Alabama is lobbying Barack Obama on space.
Cramer did say he's been talking to both the Clinton and Obama campaigns about missile defense and space exploration -- two critical economic issues for the Huntsville area.

"I had a terrific meeting with Barack Obama a few weeks ago," Cramer said. "I was very impressed with Barack Obama ... I think he's likely to be the nominee and I want to continue to be a voice to his campaign about space and missile defense."

Cramer said Obama had positions about space exploration and how far along the space agency was in funding a return trip to the Moon and on to Mars.

He said Obama made it clear that the exploration program was not just a signature of the Bush Administration, but one that many congressmen had wanted for years.

"I wanted them to look at the issues more thoroughly ... I just got a commitment that they would," he said.

Of course what those positioos about space exploration are can only be guessed at.

Monday, June 02, 2008

John McCain Hammers Barack Obama on Iraq, Iran

SpaceX recently conducted a five engine test of the Falcon 9 on the test stand.
What Would Barack Obama and President Ahmadinejad Talk About?
The outrageous experiences that former PFC Amber Bryant is having with the VA is more common for diabled vets than should ever be allowed to happen in a civilized country. It is also a foretaste of what Obama or Clinton style national health care would be like.
The season finale of Lost had a couple of alternate endings. See them here.
It looks like Tim Burton will be directing the big screen version of Dark Shadows, staring Johnny Depp as Barnabus Collins, the tormented New England vampire.
Speaking of the intersection of space travel and politics (or perhaps humor) Tom James has found The Ron Paul Rocket! (Trumpet fanfare please.)
Proving that everything old is new again, Phil Bowermaster has an idea to jump start human Mars exploration with a one man, one way expedition. This is an old idea because it also came up in the 1960s as a scenario for the first man on the Moon. The idea was that we land a man on the Moon quickly, somehow keep him resupplied, and then figure out a way to get him back. Bowermaster does not envision his Mars explorer ever coming back, though.

Rand Simberg loves is because it won't be done by any government.
It won't be done by NASA, though, or likely any government space agency. They simply can't afford to take the risk when it's funded by taxpayers, as we've seen when the nation gets unreasonably hysterical over astronaut deaths.

I'm pretty sure he's wrong about that. The "hysteria" he mentioned were shuttle deaths that pretty quickly were attributed to avoidable technical glithes. Two years between Mars expeditions, mandated by launch windows, would be plenty of time to fix something that caused the failure of one mission in time to do the next.

In any case, I wonder if governments of another culture--say China or Russia--would be as finicky as Americans are about astronaut deaths.
It will be a privately funded expedition, which will be able to do so without the intrusion of politics.

I find that a quaint notion. There is no private activity on Earth, particularly on the scale of a Mars expedition, that is without the intrusion of politics.
Speaking of bad ideas, Taylor Dinerman's notion of inviting both Taiwan and China to become partners on ISS pushes the envelope. For one thing, China would never go for it since it would tend to treat its "rebellious Provence" as if it were an actual country. Not to mention the real potential for conflict in space and the folly of doing anything that would enhance China's drive to become a space power so long as it is an aggressive totalitarian regime.
Jeff Foust has a comprehensive review of the space policy panel that took place at ISDC and suggests that it raised more questions than answers.

In particular, IMHO, the McCain people have gotten themselves into a quandary. How to reconcile McCain's desire to freeze discretionary spending with concern about the "space flight gap" and support for the Vision for Exploration? There are ways around that, of course, including declaring NASA a national security priority and thus exempt from the freeze, but it's unclear what a McCain Administration would do at this point.

Meanwhile Greg Zsidisin has some free advice for the candidates that I suspect will not be taken. The notion of throwing open rocket design to the political process, thus injecting chaos into the entire Constellation Program, strikes me as a particular non starter.
Should child rapists be executed> Mike Adams thinks so.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Garrison Keillor is occassionally funny, but sometimes he proves that he hangs around with the chardonnay and brie PBS crowd far too much when he dissses Operation Rolling Thunder bikers.
You don't quite see the connection between that and these fat men with ponytails on Harleys. After hearing a few thousand bikes go by, you think maybe we could airlift these gentlemen to Baghdad to show their support of the troops in a more tangible way.

Cultural snobbery aside, Keillor was obviously not aware that most if not all of those bikers are Vietnam vets and have seen their share of combat.
Bill Clinton seems to be on the the path to self destruction. "Whom the Gods would destroy, first they make bored."
Ed Morrissey reports on that curious phenomenon of Al Qaeda feminism.