Saturday, August 30, 2008

NASA continues to wrestle with mass problems on the Ares. One cautionary note:
New launchers customarily have development issues. One rocket veteran, for example, told Flight: "On Apollo there were so many unknowns we gave ourselves plenty of [design and performance] margins. They [Constellation programme] thought they knew a lot more...[because of Shuttle]. They haven't given themselves enough margin."

That could be driving a lot of the problems facing the people working on Ares. Are they insurmountable? Some certainly seem to think so. Of course if we're relying on anonymous posters to declare the Ares project "dead", then the problems faced by Ares designers are as nothing compared to those facing Ares critics.
Rich Lowry imagines Sarah Palin the Movie:
IF it were the plot of a political movie, it'd be too cheesy to watch. An obscure governor of a small state, a working mom of five, is secretly spirited to a political rally four months after giving birth to her latest child and named the running mate on a national ticket as the country watches, agog.

All true, one supposes. But the one thing that would cause The Sarah Palin Story to never be made is the scenario of a soft spoken, attractive, young, hockey mom, former basketball star, former beauty queen, reformist, hunter, working class pol who is a conservative being elevated just so. Hollywood believes in space aliens more than they could believe in such a person actually existing.

On the other hand, The Sarah Palin Chronicles sounds too cool to not greenlight.

Friday, August 29, 2008

How to Write a Fantasy Screenplay
It looks like the Hollywood creator of a show about a fake female commander-in-chief doesn't think much of Sarah Palin.
Knowing that one does not have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing, NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has ordered a study for how the shuttle fleet could be kept flying to 2015.
Reactions to Sarah Palin. About what you would expect.
Sarah Palin is Choosen

The Democrats are already is full attack mode:
Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency. Governor Palin shares John McCain’s commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade, the agenda of Big Oil and continuing George Bush’s failed economic policies — that’s not the change we need, it’s just more of the same,” said Bill Burton, Obama Campaign Spokesman.

That is rather bold talk, considering the sort of foreign policy experience Barack Obama has.
Analysis: Barack Obama's Acceptance Speech

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It looks like McCain is moving toward retaining the shuttle for a year or so past 2010 while continuing to accelerate development of Constellation. That suggests a huge cash infusion into NASA's budget, likely more than the two billion that people are talking about.
John McCain Trades Barbs with Jay Leno
Obama Attempts to Spike William Ayers Ad
Michelle Obama Reintroduces Herself
Apparently Micheal Totten has found out who really started the War in Georgia. Contrary to apologists for Russia, it looks like it was South Ossetian terrorists working on behalf of Moscow.
A research outpost on the Moon.
Ted Kennedy's Last Hurrah
Yet another scientific report that suggests that man made global warming is a myth. Don't these scientists know that the debate is over? Al Gore said so.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

George Will gives Barack Obama the back of his hand.
Barack Obama has made his economic thinking excruciatingly clear, so it also is clear that his running mate should be Rumpelstiltskin. He spun straw into gold, a skill an Obama administration will need to fulfill its fairy-tale promises.
Rand Simberg has a very strange post wherein he quotes a stranger comment on the space politics board,
Let me list a few obvious ones.

- The Pyramids
- The Great Wall
- The Empire State Building
- The Hoover Dam (or pick your favorite dam)
- The Eiffel Tower
- The Kremlin
- The U.S. Capitol Building
- The Statue of Liberty
- The Golden Gate Bridge

They all have at least ONE thing in common. The pieces of each & every one of these great engineering projects were transported to the final site in pieces, and then assembled on site.

Great engineering in enabled by low-cost transportation and the ability to assemble the technology on site.

Hence, we don't need to use heavy lift launchers to assemble space craft in fewer pieces, but a lot of little rockets to assemble space craft in smaller pieces over presumably a much longer period of time.

Where the analogy obviously falls down is that none of those great works were built in low Earth orbit, but on Earth either close to the materials needed at hand or close to easy transportation networks that could move said materials.

The better analogy is off shore oil rigs. These are massive structures, easily dwarfing anything we propose to build in space. Using the logic Rand is using, we really ought to assemble these rigs on the very site where they would be used, in the middle of the ocean, with tiny boats scurrying back and forth carrying the parts and crews being maintained on construction.

However, petroleum engineers, rather than taking Rand's sage advice, insist on building most offshore rigs in harbors and then towing them out to middle of the ocean where they are put to work. (The exception consists of certain fixed platforms that can be built in shallow water, close to shore.)

It seems to me that people who go on a tear against heavy lift have forgotten all about the KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) principle. Of course there are other objections to building lunar or interplanetary craft over a period of months or years with a myriad of tiny launches, not the least of which is that it is by no means certain that one gets any cost savings. One certainly gains a time and risk penalty, however.

Addendum: In the comments, Carl Pham gives the analogy of submarines to demolish Rand's analogy:
Do we assemble submarines by sinking hull plates and piping and electronics et cetera, then assembling it all underwater and pumping the water out? Nope, we build it on dry land, then move it to its operating environment.
Barack Obama Introduces Joe Biden. Some more thoughts.
Jeff Foust searches for Joe Biden's space policy and mainly comes up empty. One chilling fact, though. Biden is apparently in favor of making China a full partner. A bad idea.
The solving of the thrust oscillation problem on the Ares 1 could have been predicted by anyone who knew anything about the history of rocket development, but has surely come as a shock and surprise to the Internet Rockteer Club. They were counting on the thrust oscillation problem to help derail the Ares 1 and force another direction or even an outright cancellation of the Vision for Space Exploration. Now that's not going to happen.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Looks like Barack Obama has picked Joe Biden. All I can say right now is let the fun begin.
John Birmingham's new book, Without Warning, will be out in the US n January, though in Australia next month. The premise is rather chilling:
2003: In Paris, an assassin wakes from a coma. In Kuwait, American forces are assembled for their invasion of Iraq. In the pristine forest of the Cascades, a lone hiker watches a plane fly into the side of a mountain. And just north of the Equator, a modern-day pirate, a rogue Tasmanian, is witness to the unspeakable. A wave of inexplicable energy has slammed into America. And destroyed it. In one instant, all around the world, from Cairo to Canberra, things will never be the same.

Now, allied soldiers are fighting a war without command; a correspondent files a story for a newspaper that no longer exists. The line of Presidential succession is in tatters; the functioning remnants of government are in Pearl Harbor, Guantanamo Bay, and one desperate, isolated corner of the Pacific Northwest.

For the jihadists, Allah has performed a miracle. For Sadaam, it is a chance for revenge. Iran declares war, but on an America that doesn't exist, except in the hearts and souls of the men and women who want it to. For US allies, Armageddon has arrived. Israel acts. Australasia, far from the noxious waste darkening Europe's skies, beckons as a possible oasis.

Without Warning tells a fast, furious story of survival, violence, and a new, soul-shattering reality. Here is a world without its sheriff, its Great Satan, or its saviour...

An unknowable future struggles to be born.
Chet Edwards as Vice President? Right now he's President Bush's Congressman. But that's not why the idea is not quite as crazy as it sounds.

On the other hand Hillary Clinton Not to Be Obama's VP She wasn't even considered or vetted.
Is Heidi Dalibor a Stupid Crook or Just Absent Minded?
This week's Carnival of Space is now up.
The third Stargate series, Stargate: Universe ha sbeen greenlit. Apparently an Earth crew is trapped on board a ship of teh Ancients that is flying on a preprogrammed course through the universe.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Plight of George Obama

"Whatever You Do for the Least of My Brothers, You Do for Me"
Does John McCain Favor a Draft? More silliness from the Obama Camp.
Bummer, man. No more Stargate: Atlantis after the current season is over. On the other hand, like Stargate: SG1, it looks like it will live on as made for DVD movies.
Caroline Kennedy as President Obama's Ambassador to the Court of St. James. An interesting idea, except one hopes she would do a better job that granddad Joe who, in the same post, was a Nazi appeaser.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Having just failed to put a satellite into orbit, Iran now proposes to send a man in ten years.
Micheal Totten reports from Tiblisi in the free part of Georgia.
Seven geniuses who were also insane.
Joe Lieberman to Speak at the Republican National Convention
Caroline Kennedy as Vice President? Yep, a crazy idea and from Michael Moore to boot. But I find it interesting. Indeed, the way things are going, why not put her on the top of the ticket and forget both Barack and Hillary? The Democrats might have a better chance.

The first trailer for An American Carol.

Also, the official website of the organization featured in the film,
Zogby has McCain up by five.

Addendum: More analysis.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Barack Obama and John McCain are having a brawl over who is the better space cadet. The Obama Campaign, in the form of the Florida Democrat Party, hits McCain. McCain hits back.
Apparently support for the missile defense system in Poland has soared in the wake of the rape of Georgia.
John McCain now supports adding two billion to NASA's budget. Some might call it a flip flop like Obama's, but McCain can argue that the new Cold War caused by the rape of Georgia makes closing the space flight gap imperative.
Joe Biden as Vice President?
Pervez Musarraf Resigns as President of Pakistan
Jeff Foust discusses the space policy debate between the Obama and McCain campaigns.

Lori Garver, by the way, responded recently to the flip flop charge in typical fashion:
Garver countered that McCain had changed positions on a number of issues himself during the course of the campaign and his time in the Senate, “including in 1991 when he put a bill forward to cancel the space station,” she said. She added that just in the last year, when the Senate was considering adding an extra billion dollars to NASA’s budget, McCain was opposed to the effort. “‘I continue to support NASA and space research, but at what cost to our nation’s children, who will inherit the largest national debt this country has seen,’” Garver, quoting McCain from the record, said.

Considering the number of flip flops Obama has executed this year, the response was rather weak, IMHO. And wasn't Garver once space policy advisor to John Kerry, who tried to get the space station cancelled not once but eight times, most recently in 1996?

McCain's opposition to adding two billion to NASA's budget likely has nore to do with his reputation as a deficit hawk than opposition to NASA. One suspects that if the two billion were actually paid for, say by cancelling some earmarks as Obama now seems to favor, McCain might go for it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Barack Obama has pretty much endorsed George Bush's space program, with some minor detail changes and a stupid ban weapons in space, bad timing considering Russia's new aggressiveness.

Now, considering what Obama's original space policy was, this seems to be either greatest conversion since St. Paul was on the road to Damascus or the most cynical flip flop in all political history. Considering the candidate's recent history, I would tend toward the latter view.

Addendum: Rand Simberg is not impressed either.
What does that tell us about the quality and cynicism of policy making in the Obama camp? They opposed it before they were for it because it was George Bush's idea? And does that mean that space policy was just about votes in Florida before this new policy? I know that there are a lot of BDS sufferers who oppose VSE for this reason, and this reason alone, but it's a little disturbing that such (non)thinking was actually driving policy in a major presidential campaign.

Which leaves me to wonder how long this policy would survive in an actual Obama Administration,
Russia Threatens to Nuke Poland

Friday, August 15, 2008

Star Wars: The Clone Wars
An American Carol Coming Soon
Jeff Foust has some thought about the Mars Society space debate between Lori Garver, now working for the Obama Campaign, and Walt Cunningham, former Apollo astronaut representing (at least in part) the McCain Campaign.

The impression seems to be that Garver was better prepared. Cunningham was not officially affiliated with the McCain campaign. McCain might do well to find a space spokesperson/policy expert and hire him/her on full time.

Lori Garver did have a little bit of spin about Obama's flip flop on space policy.
One of the better insights from the debate was when Garver was asked why Obama had changed his stance on funding Constellation. Obama and his staff early own, she explained, “did feel that Constellation was a Bush program and didn’t make a lot of sense.” That was reinforced by feedback from the scientific community, she added, that didn’t think human spaceflight was as valuable as robotic scientific work. However, after hearing from people in both the space and education communities, “they really thought it through, they recognized the importance of space.” Now, she said, “he recognizes that Constellation really is exploring with humans and robots beyond low Earth orbit” and that he truly supports it, rather than supporting it only as a tool to win votes in Florida.

One can be forgiven for not quite believing that. Politicians like Obama generally do not have that kind of road to Damascus type experience in the middle of a campaign trail unless the consideration is about votes. Obama has also flip flopped on too many other issues from oil drilling to the war in Iraq to give much credence to Lori Garver's charming story.

This next set a cold chill up the spine:
Constellation is generally defined in the near term to be primarily the Ares 1 launch vehicle and Orion spacecraft, but she dropped a hint that a President Obama might be willing to reconsider that architecture. “Senator Obama has talked about Constellation and has not specified a specific architecture,” she said. “I think one of the reasons for that is that until you have the office, until you’re there and know what’s going on with these programs, you’re not going to make a commitment to it.” (The answer came in response to a question about the use of EELVs in the exploration program, not about alternatives like DIRECT.)

One of the reasons the space station overran its cost and schedule is the tendency of Congresses and administrations to change its design willy nilly based on political whim. If Obama is proposing to, in effect, throw open the architecture to the political process, then the Vision for Space Exploration will be in for some turmoil under an Obama Administration.

Note that Rand Simberg, in the comments section, notices another Obama flip flop on prizes.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Time to supply the Georgians with weapons.
The Russians have a new excuse for raping Georgia. It's all a plot by Dick Cheney to keep Obama from being elected. The question is, why didn't Russia stop this evil plan by not invading?
This week's Carnival of Space is now up.
Julia Child: Author, Chef, TV Star, Spy. This was known for quite some time, but the CIA confirmed it today.
The Barack Obama Campaign is pretty sure that the space flight gap is all John McCain's fault. Meanwhile McCain is headed for the Florida space coast to address space policy and doing a little tweaking of Barack Obama's flip flops on the same.
The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest Results are in for 2008

A celebration of bad writing.
More on Helium 3 fusion. Helium 3 is rare on Earth, but a little more abundent on the Moon.

Monday, August 11, 2008

George Will asks what is it about August?
The Elitism of Barack Obama
John McCain has a more detailed space policy. Much more on this anon.

Addendum: John McCain's Space Policy (version 2.0)
An "Invisibility Cloak' Tested by Berkley Scientists. Pretty cool.
Jeff Foust examines Barack Obama's recent space flip flop and finds less than meets the eye. Meanwhile Ferris Valyn discusses Obama's proposal for a National Air and Space Council. A good idea if it is a mechanism for formulating sound policy. Considering Obama's contradictory statements on space policy (and I disagree with Jeff Foust that these have been reconciled; Obama's space flip flop had more to do with Florida's electoral votes and pleasing Senator Bill Nelson than a change of heart concerning space exploration) and not just another layer of bureaucracy.
Stephen Metschan weighs in supporting the Direct proposal. The piece makes some interesting claims that we're sure will be debated, as usual, with great vigor.
It looks like the Democratic Platform Committee thinks that a "strong and inspirational vision for space exploration" is a good thing. Or at least they want us to think they think so.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Apparently the Ukraine has weighed in on Russia's military adventure in Georgia and may bar Russian naval vessels from using Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea. If Putin thought his aggression was going to intimidate former Soviet satellites, he might have been right, but he may have intimidated them right into the arms of the West.
Stargate: Continuum A review.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Will the maps that will be created by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter include images of Apollo 11's American flag. Look like it just might, much to the chagrin of "man never landed on the Moon" conspiracy nuts.
Ralph Peters analyzes the Russian invasion of Georgia.

Laughing Wolf has more.
The same sort of people, like Barack Obama, who have gotten exercised over US bombing of targets in Afghanistan and Iraq and Israeli bombing in Lebanon, are strangely silent about a Russian terror bombing in Georgia.
Alan Boyle discusses XCOR's Lynx and the rocket racing league.
Bob Zubrin credits T. Boone Picken with identifying the problem, but doesn't think much of his solution. Of course Zubrin has a simple way to fix that.
Beijing's Drum Tower Scene of Fatal Attack on American Tourists

Friday, August 08, 2008

John Edwards confesses that he is a cad.
More rumors about the demise of the Ares 1 or the Stick.
In the face of the latest reports of trouble, sources say that NASA leaders are looking at a possible replacement design, including one that would use the shuttle’s two four-segment solid rocket boosters, and a liquid engine with four RS-68 engines and no upper stage. While it sounds similar to a rocket called the Jupiter 120 or the Direct 2.0 concept which is being proposed by moonlighting NASA engineers, the sources insist it is not the same.

Much more here.

If this is a serious proposal and not just another Internet rumor, one supposes that it would be a compromise between Ares and Direct since the Ares V would still get built.
Russia Invades South Ossetia
The Carnival of Space is up.
Beijing Olympic Games Begin

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The latest Mythbusters episode had, besides the tenderizing steak by blowing it up myth, an examination of the idea that people waste gas when they drive angry. The myth was confirmed.

I think I have found Barack Obama's next energy policy, now that the inflating tires idea has been laughed away. I predict that Obama will soon make a speech in which he will say, "Look, if everyone will just mellow out when they drive, we'll save enough gasoline so that we won't have to drill the way John McCain and his oil company masters want to." Just you wait and see.
Hanny Van Arkel's Astronomical Discovery Thanks to a web site called Galaxy Zoo
Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Sent to Jail
The Jewel of Medina Censored Apparently the Islamo Fascists and their apologsts are going after romance novels.
Buzz Aldrin speaks
The ten best science fiction TV shows that died before their time.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Elon Musk and his people at SpaceX seem to have gotten an understanding of the cause of the latest Falcon 1 launch failure.
According to Elon Musk: "We have a definitive understanding of what went wrong on Flight 3. The problem was due to a design error not a production or quality assurance issue. The thrust transient was longer than it was for the prior flight."

The previous flight had an ablatively cooled engine. Flight 3 had a regeneratively cooled engine.

The gap between engine cut off and staging was 1.5 seconds - which was fine for the ablatively cooled engine on Flight 2. But on Flight 3, with the regeneratively cooled engine, there was some residual thrust after engine shut down and this caused the first stage to be pushed back toward the second stage after separation and there was a recontact between the stages.
The Saudis are mad as hell at a Nissan car commercial running in Israel.
An agreement is drawing night to test the VASIMR engine at ISS.
Jose Ernesto Medellin Executed in Texas
Paris Hilton: John McCain 'White Haired Dude'

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
The McCain Campaign responds to Obama's flip flop on NASA spending. I think they may be a little skeptical.
The third attempt to launch the Falcon 1 has failed due to a stage seperation problem. Elon Musk, though, remains confident in eventual success:
'The most important message I?d like to send right now is that SpaceX will not skip a beat in execution going forward. We have flight four of Falcon 1 almost ready for flight and flight five right behind that.

'I have also given the go ahead to begin fabrication of flight six. Falcon 9 development will also continue unabated, taking into account the lessons learned with Falcon 1. We have made great progress this past week with the successful nine engine firing.

'As a precautionary measure to guard against the possibility of flight 3 not reaching orbit, SpaceX recently accepted a significant investment.

'Combined with our existing cash reserves, that ensures we will have more than sufficient funding on hand to continue launching Falcon 1 and develop Falcon 9 and Dragon.

'There should be absolutely zero question that SpaceX will prevail in reaching orbit and demonstrating reliable space transport. For my part, I will never give up and I mean never.

'Thanks for your hard work and now on to flight four.'

Addendum: More on SpaceX Falcon 1 Fails on Third Launch Attempt

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Chair Force Engineer acknowledges Chinese advances in the art of space travel, while denying the idea of a space race to the Moon. In so doing, he ties himself up in contradictions and misstatements.
In its heaviest variant, Long March 5 will offer similar performance to Delta IV Heavy. That is probably enough to fly a Shenzhou around the moon, similar to the Soviet Zond program. But it's a far cry from putting a human on the lunar surface and returning to earth safely. It serves the Chinese goal of national prestige, but does nothing for the goals of lunar settlement, science and exploitation.

Assuming that a Chinese lunar landing utilizes a heavy-lift rocket (which, NASA assures us, is necessary for going to the moon,) it will take several years to develop. Heavy-lift rockets are very difficult to cloak from foreign intelligence, because the facilities to build and launch these rockets are behemoth. This fact helped the CIA to produce remarkably-close estimates of the Soviet lunar program during the 60's. If China is to attempt a lunar landing by 2017 with a rocket in the mold of Saturn V, they'd better start development soon. But it's unlikely they'd launch such an outlandish program when they're still five years away from flying the relatively-puny Long March 5.

One takes from this passage that Mr. X does not believe in the idea of using a Delta IV heavy to assemble a Moon ship in LEO before sending it to the Moon, as many critics of NASA's approach suggest. He does not believe that the Chinese will attempt a similar scheme with the Long March V and that now a heavy lifter, say on the order of an Ares V is necessary.
Any claim that China can beat America to the moon should be treated with a large amount of skepticism. The only way that will be reversed is if America insists on a fiscally-unsustainable and politically-unpopular approach to lunar exploration, which kills the American lunar effort and allows China to walk to the finish line.

This statement contains an absolutely false couple of premises. First, the approach to lunar exploration is not politically unpopular. As late as this Spring, the Gallup Organization has polled wide spread popularity for the Vision for Space Exploration that goes across ideological lines. Even Barack Obama has been forced to acknowledge this fact, as witness his space flip flop. As for it being fiscally-unsustainable, I think many in the Congress would disagree. They are working to pour even more money into the effort.
Apparently Barack Obama has flip flopped on space exploration. He's now in favor of it. One supposes that Obama really, really wants those electoral votes in Florida. But the question is, do we believe him? Much more anon.

And, of course, this comes on the heels of another flip flip on oil drilling.

Addenum: I comment further on Barack Obama's Flip Flop on NASA Funding
Sitemeter Internet Explorer Bug Causes Internet-Wide Problems
SpaceX has sucessfully tested all nine engines at once of its Falcon 9 first stage. Congratulations.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The McCain Campaign tweeks the one true Messiah, Barack Obama. With a guest cameo from Charlton Heston.

"Behold his mighty hand!"
A curious confrontation between House Republicans and Nancy Pelosi is developing on the House floor over energy policy. I'm begining to think that Madam Speaker is starting to lose it. She's turned of the microphones, the lights, and the TV cameras, but the House Republicans are still talking as if it were the 19th Century. It's like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Following the procedings courtesy of twitter and Rep. John Culberson.

More from the Politico. And more from Congressional Quarterly.
The Messiah gets heckled.
The Carnival of Space is now up.
Happy 20th Anniversary, Rush.
Obama Nation by Jerome Corsi Stirs Political Pot

Looks like the Swift Boat folks propose to "kill again."
Water on Mars Confirmed by Mars Phoenix
The success of 300 seems to have started some projects based on Ancient Greek history. Next up is Anabasis, the memoirs of a Greek mercenary named Xenophon who led ten thousand Greek troops home from the middle of the Persian Empire after being on the losing side of a battle and having their Generals slain through treachery,
American Carol takes the premise of A Christmas Carol and applies it to the 4th of July. Kevin Farley plays an anti American film maker named Michael Malone (get it?) who wants to abolish the holiday until visited by three spirits. It could be fun and certainly a balm from all of those anti American films Hollywood likes to churn out.