Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Old Town Ale House Features Sarah Palin Nude Painting
Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska and candidate for Vice President, continues to inspire among creative types. The latest artistic inspiration is a nude painting of Sarah Palin executed by Bruce Elliot, whose wife owns the Old Town Ale House in Chicago.
Giada De Laurentiis Defends Her Honor
Giada De Laurentiis, the Food Network super star, was profiled recently in the New York Post. One would think that there could be nothing controversial about an attractive woman who cooks Italian food on television. But the New York Post managed to find something.
Mars Phoenix Detects Snow on Mars
Mars Phoenix, the NASA probe now resting in the Martian Arctic, has detected snow falling from clouds two and a half miles overhead, according to NASA. Mars Phoenix has also found more chemical evidence of the past presence of water in Martian soil samples.
P.J. O'Rourke looks at death and laughs. Get well soon, P.J.
Chuck Norris discusses the politics that dare not speak its name (at least in Hollywood.)
Newt Gingrich explains how the mark to market rule has exacerbated the liquidity crisis and why it should be abolished.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Did Nancy Pelosi's Speech Blow Up the Bailout Bill?
Did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blow up the financial bailout bill by making a hyper partisan speech on the House floor in the middle of the debate? There are enough Republicans lining up in front of the microphones who are willing to say so.
House Defeats $700 Billion Bailout Bill

Chaos Ensues
The US House of Representatives have defeated the $700 billion dollar financial services bailout by a 226 to 207 margin. Democrats supported the measure 141 to 91 and Republicans opposed it 66 to 132. Chaos and acrimony has ensued.
SpaceX's Falcon 1 Soars to Low Earth Orbit
Proving that the 4th time really is a charm, a private company called SpaceX launched its new rocket, the Falcon 1, into low Earth orbit. Falcon 1 is the first privately built and operated liquid fueled launch vehicle to achieve orbit around the Earth.
Kenneth Branagh to direct a film based on the Marvel super hero comic, The Mighty Thor? Interesting.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

It looks like that the 4th time can really be a charm. Congratulations to Elon Musk and the entire SpaxeX team for a successful launch of the Falcon 1. An epic day in the history of space flight.
Video of the Flight of the Falcon and a dream made reality:
The Shenzhou VII returned safely to Earth, ending another successful space mission for the Chinese.
USS Howard Confronts Modern Pirates
A gang of pirates have taken over a cargo ship on the high seas and is demanding a twenty million dollar ransom. A US Navy ship, the USS Howard, is in sight of the captured pirate ship, ready to act if needed.

An incident from the time of the Barbary Pirates and the Presidency of Thomas Jefferson? Actually the standoff involving the USS Howard is taking place now, in this century, off the Horn of Africa.
The Community Reinvestment Act and the Credit Crunch
Politicians and pundits have differing opinions about the cause of the credit crisis now afflicting the American economy. Everything from deregulation to "Wall Street greed" has been pointed to for blame. But the Community Reinvestment Act of 1995 may be the real culprit.
SNL Trashes Sarah Palin
Saturday Night Live seems to have it in for Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska and John McCain's pick for Vice President of the United States. In a number of skits over the past few weeks, SNL depicted Sarah Palin with an uncommon viciousness.
More on Paul Newman
Paul Newman, the great actor and philanthropist, died at the age of 83 after a battle with cancer. Anyone who loves films has to regard Paul Newman's passing with more than a twinge of sadness. He was truly one of those greats whom we shall never see the like of again.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Russell Crowe wull apparently play both the Sherrif and Robin Hood in Ridley Scott's legend revisionist film Nottingham. Now does this mean that this is a dual role or is it being suggested that the Sherrif and Robin are one in the same?
The latest on The Jewel of Medina, the bodice ripper about the Prophet Mohammad. It seems that someone set a fire at the book's British publisher.
Power to our house has been partially restored after over two weeks. The reason it is partial does not really matter to you the gentle reader ( I am assured that we will be up to full power in due course) since the practical effect is that I am back on the net full time to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
RIP Paul Newman
China has now accomplished it's first space walk.

Glenn Reynolds comments.
Congratulations to the Chinese. And for those Americans who point out that the Chinese are just now doing what we did over 40 years ago, I'll offer this counterpoint: The Chinese are moving forward, while we are -- at most charitable -- basically standing still.


Addendum video:

Friday, September 26, 2008

A man has flown across the English Channel wearing a winged jet pack. Very cool.
Harry Reid, a man who thinks himself far more clever than he really is, has been caught attempting to sneak in a revival on the ban on oil shale. Since exploitation of this resource is rather crucial for American energy independence and since two thirds of the public favors it, one wonders what Mr. Reid is thinking of.
Your Humble Servant was interviewed by Newstalk, a radio network in Ireland, on the Chinese Shenzhou VII mission. The story ran on the Friday broadcast of The Breakfast Show. If a podcast or something like it becomes available, I'll post a link.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It looks like the Dems will allow to ban on offshore drilling to expire. This is not the end of the fight, of course. The enviornmentalist crowd is already gearing up for law suits that will delay the exploitation of oil reserves off shore by years. And the Dems can always hope that a President Obama will reverse things.
There seems to be somewhat less to recent polls that show a surge for Obama than meets the eye.
China is planning to launch its third manned space mission as early as Friday. The Shenzhou VII will have a crew of three and its mission will attempt the first Chinese space walk.

Meanwhile, the fourth attempt to launch the Falcon 1 draws nigh.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sarah Palin, the new Maggie Thatcher?
The mantra from the Obama camp is that she lacks the experience to be VP. In truth, she has more executive experience than either Obama or his Neil Kinnock-impersonator sidekick mate Joe Biden, neither of whom has ever run anything.

But, wail the sceptics, what about foreign affairs? Admittedly, Palin has never slagged off her country at a mass rally in Berlin. But Alaska's next door to Russia. She's got more experience of dealing with Russians than anyone outside of corporate hospitality at Stamford Bridge.

Who is Putin more likely to be wary of - Barack 'we must negotiate with dictators' Obama, or Looby Loo packing heat?

To paraphrase the Duke of Wellington, I don't know what she does to the enemy, but she scares the life out of me.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Newt Gingrich has a dim view of the bailout and, of course, has some better ideas.
Will the first space elevator be built by Japan?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The bad news, as far as space goes, is that the proposed McCain budget freeze is still on. The good news is that money could be moved around within the frozen domestic discretionary budget from other accounts to buttress NASA programs, including the space exploration effort.
Fred Barnes suggests that the Republican brand, once thought toxic, is now back.
Russia, the Space Station, and the New Cold War
Russia's invasion of the small, democratic country of Georgia may well usher in the start of a second Cold War. The United States and her allies must surely be contemplating a number of economic and diplomatic sanctions to punish Russia for her unprovoked aggression. In a climate that will likely involve a Russian drive to reestablish imperial control over the smaller states around her border and Western efforts to restrain that drive, attention should be directed to the Russian partnership with the West on the International Space Station.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Just a brief note to inform one and all that we made it through Hurricane Ike pretty much intact. We don't have power or Internet up yet, but I'm informed that should happen by Monday. Thanks to all who sent good wishes and prayers.

Friday, September 12, 2008

You may have seen the Obama commercial laughing hysterically that John McCain is such an old fuddy duddy that he doesn't even email or use a computer. However there is a reason for that that has nothing to do with McCain's age but should require an abject apology from the Obama Campaign.
John McCain on 'The View'

'Do I Have to Be Worried About Becoming a Slave Again?'

John McCain appeared on The View recently, which for a conservative is sort of like diving into a water tank full of piranhas. At least Rosie O'Donnell was not there this time. But Whoopi Goldberg made up for Rosie's absence.
Could the Republicans retake the House? What seemed unimaginable a month ago now seems within the realm of possibility. Thanks to Sarah Palin.
Tom Jones, who used to be a shuttle astronaut and is now a space commentator, has some straight talk about the ills afflicting the current space effort.
ABC's Charles Gibson Interviews Sarah Palin About Foreign Policy
The first segment of ABC's Charles Gibson's interview with Sarah Palin has aired. The subject of the interview was foreign policy, and it seems that Sarah Palin has passed the test of someone who has a grasp of the subject, despite a couple of attempted gotcha questions.
Blogging may be spotty for the next few days as Hurricane Ike is coming to call where we live. We are in an area where it is recommended one shelter in place and that is what we'll be doing. There will be more reports, along with a narrative of events of the storm as power and Internet connectivity permits,

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Barack Obama on Letterman
Barack Obama was on David Letterman recently to yuck it up a bit, and a couple of times actually engage in serious discourse. During the appearance, Barack Obama addressed the lipstick controversy.
The Carnival of Space is now up.
Mediterranean Diet: Medicinal Properties
Woman Puts Virginity up for Sale

A 22-year-old woman, who is going by the pseudonym, "Natalie Dylan", is reported by The Insider to be planning to put up her virginity for auction. The sale of Ms. Dylan's virginity will take place at Nevada's famous brothel, the Bunny Ranch.
9/11: Images of 2001

Not an Odysseym but an Illiad.

A long time ago, back when the world was young, when one thought about the year 2001, one imagined cities on the Moon, great space craft plying the interplanetary gulfs, and self aware computers. A famous movie told us this would be so.

The reality turned out to be different. 9/11/2001, a day that cuts across history like a sword, revealed how much different it would be.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It looks like the Ares 1 has passed its preliminary design review. This is a puzzlement. Isn't the entire Constellation project dead? The Internet Rocketeer Club has assured us that this is the case, so there seems to be a contradiction here.
My picks for 10 Best Political Blogs
Al Franken Gets Nod for Senate Run

Al Franken, former comedian and actor, has officially won the nomination of the Minnesota Farm Labor Democratic Party to run for the Senate seat now held by Norm Coleman. On close examination, Al Franken would seem to be an odd choice.
Fringe is not Your Father's X Files
Fringe, a show that premiered on the Fox Network Tuesday night, September 9th, is about an FBI agent who investigates shall we say unusual phenomenon. The concept of Fringe seems to resemble that of the X Files, but it is decidedly not like it.
Did Barack Obama Call Sarah Palin a Pig?
Did Barack Obama actually called Vice Presidential candidate and Governor of Alaska, a "pig." The exact quote, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig." This seems to be a reference to Sarah Palin's line about the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull.
The first test of the Large Hadron Collider seems to have gone well and, since you are reading this, you can rest assure that it did not destroy the world. Meanwhile, a lament that but for some fools on the Hill, all this could have been happening in Texas and not Europe.

Addendum: Large Hadron Collider Passes First Test
The Large Hadron Collider in Geneva has completed its first test. There is a bitter sweet aspect to the test. But for some bad political decisions and some mismanagement, physics history could have been made in Texas, rather than Europe.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Sarah Palin to Be Interviewed by ABC's Charles Gibson
Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, John McCain's running mate, will have her first major media interview as a Vice Presidential candidate with ABC's Charles Gibson on Thursday, which is oddly enough the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Of course any journalist, any citizen, has their own questions they might like to pose to the candidate. Here follow mine and what my best educated guest is what her answers might be.
Far-Left Positions, Inexperience -- and Attacks on Palin -- Doom Obama
Political analyst Kristien Powers, in a piece in the New York Post, attempts to explain "How Obama Blew It." Powers concentrates on the hysterical, botched attacks on Sarah Palin. But the matter goes beyond that.
Is North Korea's Kim Jong Ill Dying?
According to the AP, Western diplomatic officials believe that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il may be gravely ill, perhaps having suffered a stroke. If so, the development has grave implications for efforts to get North Korea to disarm its nuclear weapons.
Henry Spenser has some ghelpful suggestions on how to extend the shuttle's operational life.
The Sarah Palin Action Figure
If Sarah Palin's political career falters, and so far it shows no sign of doing so, she might have a future as an action hero. A company called Hero Builders is offering a Sarah Palin action hero doll for sale.
Buildin Ones Immune System with Arginine
Review: Terminator the Sarah Conner Chronicles, Season 2

Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles Season 2 started, as Season 1 ended, with a bang as Cameron, the cute but deadly terminator, was blown up inside a jeep. The experience would have dismembered a human. The effect on Cameron was more serious.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Barack Obama: 'My Muslim Faith' Gaffe
A verbal gaffe by Barack Obama on the ABC Sunday news show This Week have fueled scurrilous Internet rumors that the candidate is a secret Muslim. Barack Obama made the gaffe while discussing the rumors with host George Stephanopoulos.
USA Today Gallup Poll Show John McCain Bounce
The USA Today Gallup Poll results over the weekend suggest that John McCain has not so much enjoyed a convention bounce but has had the equivalent of a Moon shot in popularity. And he owes it almost entirely to his new running mate, Sarah Palin.
MSNBC: Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews Out as Political Anchors
MSNBC has removed its two on air personalities Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews, from covering live political events on the troubled TV news network after months of complaints of open, liberal bias, on air bickering, and low ratings.
True Blood, with Anna Paquin, Debuts on HBO<
Right away one finds out that True Blood is taking place in our world, but not quite. It is quickly established that vampires are "out of the coffin" as it were, thanks to a new Japanese synthetic blood soft drink. Humans are a little uneasy about this.
Randall Wallace (Braveheart,We Were Soldiers, The Man in the Iron Mask), is pretty busy these days. First he's doing Killing Rommel, now an ancient Egyptian epic with Will Smith as a Pharoah.
Despite three launch failure in a row, SpaceX looks to the future. Meanwhile, Anthony Young, whose book The Saturn V F-1 Engine: Powering Apollo into History is coming out, looks back at Apollo 11.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

USA Today says that McCain is up ten points among likely voters. That is not so much a bounce as it is McCain--and his stalwart wingman Sarah Palin--pointing the nose of a fighter jet skyward and going ballistic.
Mike Griffin talks to space.com about the space flight gap, Constellation, and other space subjects. While the revelation of the email memo (see below) has had an effect on the blogosphere as a boot to an ant hill, with the usual cries that the architecture is dysfunctional, too expensive, and so on, Griffin actually remains serene on that subject.
Since I took the job I have relied on the strength of our technical arguments to reinforce the path we've chosen.

So far what you've referred to as freelancing has amounted to nothing more than noise because no one has produced an alternative which is safer, cheaper or available in a more timely way than the architecture we've recommended. And for that reason our oversight committees in Congress and our oversight branch in the White House have not chosen to redirect us. In brief we have the most sensible path given the available money. And I am always confident that more dialogue really doesn't serve to do anything except validate that conclusion. My responsibility is to keep our programs moving forward as they've been outlined. I'm sure that the proponents of alternative paths are acting in what they believe to be good faith. I am absolutely certain of that. I never suspect evil intent. I do, however, realize that not all of those people are as informed as they ought to be. So far the conclusions that have been brought to us just have not held up to engineering scrutiny.

Of course Griffin is kinder to his critics than his critics, who have called him corrupt and/or incompetent, have been to him.

Jeff Foust, in the meantime, has a post about the email flap, the attempt to "clarify" the email flap, and the usual myriad of entertaining comments, including one from Rand Simberg:
Of course, it could also be argued that in a rational world, there would have been no Ares 1. The focus and resources would have been on a capsule that could be quickly put on an existing vehicle, as originally envisioned, in which the gap would only be a year or so (first flight was supposed to be in 2011). I don’t think that either the WH staffers coming up with the VSE or the Aldridge Commission imagined that NASA was going to divert so many scarce resources to an unneeded completely new vehicle.

Of course, as Griffin points out, no one, not in the White House, or in the Congress has told him to stop diverting, "so many scarce resources to an unneeded vehicle."

Draw your own conclusions.
Sports drama and winning the big game as a metaphor for the rise of Sarah Palin.
Sarah Palin's previous positions on technology issues may provide a clue of what course she might take as Vice President. For instance:
An action that defines Gov. Palin's stand on long-distance distribution of services, was her effort to rework the natural gas pipeline deal forged by her predecessor, Gov. Frank Murkowski. The former governor had struck a deal with major oil companies, prior to commencing the actual pipeline construction project.

She didn't like that much, and just about everyone in Alaska knew it. So she scrapped the deal, replacing it with one that involves a bidding process. Already, TransCanada has secured a deal with Alaska to build this pipeline which could dramatically improve the state's economy.

This might suggest an even more free market approach to space policy than has hitherto been contemplated, at least by actual policy makers, provided that a Vice President Palin has input into space policy. That likely won't involve an immediate change in the Constellation program; McCain regards space more as a national security rather than an economic empowerment issue. But it does suggest that approaches to future challenges will, to a certain extent, resemble COTS rather than Apollo or Constellation. Just idle, uninformed speculation, of course, but interesting to think about.

Palin's approach to technology to help solve Alaska's problems, by the way, indicates a far more knowledgeable and imaginative mindset than the stereotype that her enemies on the Left would like us to believe.
NASA Administrator Mike Griffin vents in a private email about the quandary NASA and the country finds itself in concerning the space flight gap.
“In a rational world, we would have been allowed to pick a shuttle retirement date to be consistent with Ares/Orion availability, we would have been asked to deploy Ares/Orion as early as possible (rather than ‘not later than 2014’) and we would have been provided the necessary budget to make it so,” he wrote.
“The rational approach didn’t happen, primarily because for OSTP and OMB, retiring the shuttle is a jihad rather than an engineering and program management decision.”

Which shows the folly of trying to do these things on the cheap. The Bush Administration will get high marks for having the vision to turn NASA back to its exploration roots and get a very harsh judgment for trying to implement it without adequate funding.

Leaking this memo--I don't believe for a moment that Griffin didn't do it with full knowledge--is a cry for help, not to the current administration, but to the next. Plus, of course, it is a CYA move to lay the blame for the space flight gap elsewhere. McCain is pledged to close the space flight gap without delaying Constellation. Obviously that will mean far more money. Unless...

COTS and the SpaceX Dragon remain the wild card. This sad state of affairs puts more pressure on Elon Musk and his team to get something operational sooner rather than later. Will a private entrepreneur save the politicians and bureaucrats from the train wreck they have made for themselves? Stay tuned.

Absent that kind of rabbit out of the hat, the choices are rather stark. One can throw a lot more money into extending the shuttle and bringing forward Constellation and hope like hell one doesn't get another Challenger or Columbia. One can go the preferred route of the Internet Rocketeer Club by downsizing Orion to fit on an EELV, and hope like hell one can actually manrate an EELV cheaper and faster. This would have the effect of deferring indefinitely the Moon/Mars effort, of course, but one suspects that this will be considered a feature and not a bug for many in the IRC. Or one can punt a hundred billion dollar investment in ISS. Any course is going to result in finger pointing, butt covering, and blame shifting--in short the usual unseemly bureaucratic and political game playing.

I wonder if John McCain is ready for all this. (I don't, by the way, place much hope in Barack Obama making anything resembling the right decision. He will inevitably go down the path of the least political resistance.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Just when I thought Bill Maher could not sink any lower, he proves me wrong.
This story about the trashed flags in Denver would seem to prove that not only are Republicans better patriots than Democrats, but better environmentalosts. Whatever happened to the "green" Demorcratic National Convention?

Friday, September 05, 2008

A rave review of An American Carol.
The Carnival of Space is up.
Three Barbeque Chicken Dinners
Is Oprah Winfrey Afraid of Sarah Palin?

Is Oprah Winfrey afraid of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin? According to a story on the Drudge Report and on Hot Air, it seems that the popular television personality will not have the Vice Presidential candidate on her afternoon show.
John McCain: The Man in the Arena
Senator John McCain is not a man of words, but of action, which makes his political success all the more remarkable. McCain accepted the Republican Party's nomination for President with grace, passion, good humor, and just a dash of ginger for his opponent.
Bill O'Reilly, Barack Obama Discuss Foreign Policy, National Security
Long promised, but finally accomplished, the entry of Senator Barack Obama into Bill O'Reilly's "no spin zone" occurred during the week of the Republican National Convention. The first segment was aired Thursday, September 4th, 2008.
Ghostbusters 3 in Development

Variety is reporting that a third installment in the Ghostbusters franchise is "under development" with a script being written by The Office" co-exec producers Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Lawrence Henry writes about the town that made Sarah Palin.
Mike Griffin discusses the space flight gap and the train wreck that is about to occur because of Congressional nonaction on the Iran-North Korea-Syria Non-Proliferation Act waiver.
It looks like a British publisher will bring out The Jewel of Medina, the romance novel about Mohammed that was spiked by Random House. Here is what I had to say about the controversy anout a month ago.
Ten movies that destroyed New York.
Looks like Sarah Palin will help down ballot Republicans, persumably cutting down expected losses in Congress.
A camera for the blind. Not a joke. Sent by the lovely, gracious, and talented Mrs. Curmudgeon.
'Raisin' McCain A Rousing Campaign Anthem

Country and Western singer John Rich has composed the anthem for the John McCain campaign Raisin' McCain. By so doing, John Rich is following a tradition that is as old as American politics. The practice has been in existence since at least 1840.
Rudi Giuliani takes Barack Obama to School

Rudi Giuliani, the former Mayor of New York, the "Rock of 9/11", gave the Keynote Address at the Republican National Convention. In it he made the case for John McCain and, especially, the case against Barack Obama.
Sarah Palin Unleashed at the RNC

The great question on the third day of the Republican National Convention was how Sarah Palin would perform after five days of the most vicious media attack in American political history. Very shortly after she walked onto the podium, the answer was clear.

A tigress was loose in the convention hall. Barack Obama and his supporters had better beware.
Apparently it is company policy of a hotel in Woking, in Britain called the Metro Hotel to turn away servicemen. The soldier's mom was particularly irate:
In America, they treat soldiers as heroes,” said Mrs Stringer, whose son joined the Army when he was 16 and has done multiple tours of duty in Iraq, Northern Ireland and Afghanistan.

“We went to Disney World with Tomos and the whole family was moved to the front of the lines. Everybody was standing up and clapping and cheering.

“Here, soldiers can’t even get a bed for the night.”

Indeed, any business in America that would do what the Metro Hotel did to that soldier would likely not be in business for very long, at least under its current management.

Addendum: More on American Amusements: Soldiers Not Welcome

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Feminists Attack Sarah Palin

One of the more fascinating lines of attack on Sarah Palin goes something like this, "What is Sarah Palin thinking trying to become Vice President of the United States when she has five children, one being a special needs down syndrome baby?"
Sons of Anarchy Come Riding into

The success of the Sopranos, the long running mob series on HBO, is inevitably leading to more series about criminal organizations. The latest in this genre is Sons of Anarchy, a series on FX about a California motorcycle gang that adds in elements of Hamlet.
Joe Lieberman Speaks to Republicans

The journey of Senator Joe Lieberman from being the Democratic nominee for Vice President to address the Republican National Convention in support of John McCain was a strange one. It does little credit to the Democrats or their candidate that the journey was made at all.
Fred Thompson Makes the Case for John McCain

Fred Thompson, actor, lawyer, former Senator, had the task of giving the John McCain biography speech. Listening to his address to the Republican National Convention, one wonders where this Fred Thompson had been hiding during the primary campaign.
The film rights to Killing Rommel have been acquired. I reviewed the World War II thriller a few months ago.
How to Build Homes from Lunar Dirt

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Shield Season 7 Begins tonight.
The Shield Season 7, the raw drama about corrupt cops in the fictional Farmington District of Los Angeles, starts on the FX channel this week. Season 7 will be the last season of The Shield, which is a sadness. The Shield is one of the best cop shows ever.
Sarah Palin and the Alaskan Independence Party

One of the weirdest rumors that the Left is spreading about Sarah Palin is that she was once a member (they don't say "card carrying," but the breathless tone is there) of something called the Alaskan Independence Party. It is, of course, untrue. Sarah Palin is a lifelong Republican.
Looks like Shenzhou VII will launch in about two weeks. It will carry a crew of three and will feature the first Chinese space walk.
Bristol Palin's Pregnancy

Coming on the heels of the sleazy rumor that Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol is the real mother of Sarah Palin's downs syndrome child Trig comes the news that Bristol Palin is actually pregnant and will shortly marry the father of her child.

Because of who her mother is and because of the state of politics in America, Bristol Palin's private family matter will become the subject of political discourse whether anyone likes it or not. Any appeals to decency have certainly fallen on deaf ears in the far left blogosphere.
Hurricane Gustav vs Katrina
Hurricane Gustav, having now slammed its way into the Louisiana Gulf Coast, has not proven to be the catastrophe that many feared it would be. Gustav was nowhere near Katrina, in terms of physical damage wrought, lives taken, and especially political embarrassment caused.
I have about finished reading an advanced copy of a new spy thriller called Stealing Trinity. It's a World War Two suspense yarn in the Jack Higgins/Ken Folliet tradition and concerns a Nazi attempt to steal the secret of the atomic bomb. All in all, a pretty good read.
Andrew Weston calls for Britain to become a space faring power.
Nadar Elhefnawy takes a dim view of the idea that private business will by itself lead us to space.
Taylor Dinerman looks at alternatives for closing the space flight gap.

Monday, September 01, 2008

(Bumped to the top due to some ravings over at Transterrestrial.)

Jon Goff, over at Selenian Boondocks, has found what he thinks is a "smoking gun" in the Constellation Program.
Basically, unless this source is bogus, or I'm completely misreading things, it's saying that even NASA admits that their odds of losing a crew or a mission using the Constellation architecture are far worse then they had originally claimed. In fact, at least for ISS missions, we're talking almost an order of magnitude worse. For ISS, they're claiming a LOC (probability of losing the crew on any given flight) of 1 in 231, with a LOM (loss of mission) of 1 in 19! If I'm reading this right, that means they expect right now that about 5% of missions to the space station will end up not making it to the station. For lunar missions, the LOC number is 1 in 170, and the LOM number is 1 in 9! That means of every multi-billion dollar mission, they've got an almost 11% chance of it being a failure. While some of these numbers have been improving, others have been getting worse.

Rand Simberg, not surprisingly, echoes the implication uncritically since it matches his personal biases.

Now, I'm not adroit at deciphering the somewhat arcane language of NASA documents, though I've read my share of them. But the numbers that Jon quotes is under a column called "Current Analysis" which is to the right of a column called "TPM REQT." That suggests, just drawing on an ability to read the English language, that the numbers quoted are a snapshot in time and do not reflect where the folks working on Constellation expect to be when the Orion and Ares start flying. Therefore not quite as alarming as Rand, Jon, or the mysterious person who calls himself "Anonymous Space" would like to imply.

Putting it another way, it is so of like suggesting that the LOM probability for SpaceX's Falcon 1 will be %100 just because the first three test flights have all failed to achieve orbit.

Now much depends on the ability of the Constellation folks to find fixes to bring the numbers back into alignment with the requirements. In any event, taking numbers like these out of context and posting alarming conclusions based on those numbers is, at best, a sure sign of willful bias. But there has always been more heat than light over the whole debate over Ares, IMHO.

Addendum: Rand Simberg descends into the ad hominem, as is he always does, while at the same time conceding my main point:
Of course it's a "current analysis." That's the only kind of analysis that one can do in the present. When it's redone in the future, that analysis will be the current analysis.

In other words, I'm an ignorant fool but I also happen to be right. The numbers are just a snapshot in time and don't reflect what they will be when Orion/Ares is actually flying. Rand (and Jon, who likes to roll his eyes) really do their credibility a disservice when they post things like that. But then the Internet Rocketeer Club has always been kind of a High School clique, with a High School mentality, especially toward people who question them.

Rand's retort about the difference between the Ares and the Falcon 1 is a difference that makes no difference. Different methods, as he points out, but arriving at the same conclusion. Falcon 1 has a 100 percent failure rate (though Elon Musk does point out that each flight has yeilded valuable data.) The other difference is that SpaceX gets a pass, because commercial space is considered cool. But even a paper analysis of risks for the Constellation system is proof of the absolute and utter incompetence and/or corruption of the engineers working on it and of the utter folly of continuing in the effort. If the gentle reader thinks there is a double standard here, he would be right.

The correct way of looking at these things, based on the history of space craft development, is to wish both efforts well and suspect that the people working them know a little bit more than some blogger pitching bombs from the outside.

Addendum 2: For a far more rational discusses of the LOC/LOM numbers, go here. Oddly enough, it was started by Jon Goff. The consensus seems to be summed up thus:
"What gives" is that no one has done a proper analysis of the new hardware, since it hasn't been designed yet.

The LOC/LOM numbers are at the same state that the TLI burn force numbers were at a year ago - i.e., completely out of bounds - due to incomplete analysis.

We haven't even begun to calculate the numbers for LIDS, and we're arguably a year ahead of the rest of the program.

So, move along - nothing to see here.

Another post was also illuminating:
It's not a suggestion - it's a fact. This presentation is from July. In August ARES subsystems reliability folks delivered their first swag at reliability numbers. We (engineering) had our first discussion of failure modes with the reliability folks last week - after their initial submission. These numbers are at least two degrees of separation from any reality. And, we (the engineering community) haven't even begun to address failure mitigation.

There are plenty of legitimate things to dislike about ARES, chicken little-ing over power point place holders is just not one of them.

And, yeah - my experience with ARES is that the story does get better all the time.

My point precisely, though I suspect Rand Simberg would call them ignorant of technology as well.

Finally there is this:
The things that are of concern to me - the things I have to design to - tend to improve as the design matures. Sure, the schedule slips and the cost increases, but those are program management issues.

My concerns are things like the TLI forces, which were originally projected to be so high that the docking system would be ripped in half. As the design matured, the forces came down to something reasonable.

Next came the thrust oscillation scare. Originally the vibration was estimated at 100Gs. As the design matured, and mitigation was applied, the forces came down to a manageable < 10Gs. And so on.

We have lots of other headaches with ARES. They'll get hammered out, one by one, until what we have in the end looks more or less like a rocket.

I agree it's not a pretty thing to watch - rather like making sausage.

A promo for the new BBC family drama, Merlin. It'll be on NBC midseason next year.
Is Joe Biden an Appeaser?
The selection of Joe Biden as Barack Obama's Vice Presidential running mate is said to be the result of Senator Biden's foreign policy experience. But recent stories in Ha'aretz and the Jerusalem Post suggest that Joe Biden's experience is that of an appeaser.
Ed Morrissey reports on efforts to use the Republican National Convention to raise funds for Gustav relief. There's a list of charities at the bottom of the piece.
One of the sadest what-ifs of the space age concerns a single stage rocket called DC-X. The first test article proved that a single stage rocket could lift off, manuever, and then land vertically. Had the project gone to a larger prototype (called sometimes DC-Y) and then to the full scale model Delta Clipper, we might have a reasonably priced way to get into low Earth orbit now, with all that implies.

Unfortunately the Clinton Administration choose to fund X-36 instead of a follow on to DC-X, with a lot of unproven technology and a lot of promises that went unfilled. After a number of cost overruns and embaressing technical problems, the X-36 project was cancelled.

Fortunately what was learned by the DC-X flights is being used by a lot of the private efforts now ongoing, especially Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin.
Apparently Joe Biden has already told the Israelis that accept a nuclear armed Iran if Obama becomes President.
More Reaction to Sarah Palin: The Predictable, the Bizarre, and the Despicable.

The left's reaction to John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential running mate has ranged from the predictable to the bizarre to the utterly despicable. The left has not even spared Sarah Palin's down syndrome baby in their zeal to crush her.