Curmudgeons Corner

Random thoughts on politics, current events, popular culture, and whatever else interests me.

Mark R. Whittington is a writer residing in Houston, Texas. He is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including the novel of suspense Nocturne which he coauthored with his wife, Chantal, The Children of Apollo trilogy, The Last Moonwalker and Other Stories, Gabriella’s War, The Man from Mars: The Asteroid Mining Caper, and Why is it So Hard to Go Back to the Moon?

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Monday, March 31, 2008
 
Rand Simberg has an interesting comment about the "New Space Race" by the entry of the XCOR Lynx in the sub orbital barnstorming sweepstakes. Mind, as someone in the comments section suggests, Lynx will only take one passenger up to sixty miles, whereas SpaceShipTwo will take about six over one hundred miles.

I could not let the following pass without comment:
Jeff Foust has a story today on the current real space race (as opposed to the fantasy one between the US and China)--the new race for customers in the suborbital market.

Of course there is one difference between the commercial space race and the "silent Sputnik" international one. The participants in the latter have actually launched crewed space craft into orbit (and one beyond, once upon a time.) Some fantasy.


 
Is the McCain foreign policy doctrine a departure from the Bush one? Not really.


 

The trailer for Outside the Wire, a documentary trilogy about Iraq that I suspect will not be playing at Sundance any time.

Copies available here.


 
I remember The Death of Martin Luther King. It was forty years ago this April 4th.


 
Is space radiation too severe to allow for a human Mars mission? I suspect that this is just one more problem that needs solving, perhaps medically.


 
Looks like there will be a media briefing about the Ares 1 vibration problem. The reaction to the report should be interesting.


 
The little girl who greeted Hillary Clinton on the tarmac in Tuzla, now a med students, is more than a little surprised at Hillary's tale of dodging sniper fire.


 
The little girl who greeted Hillary Clinton on the tarmac in Tuzla, now a med students, is more than a little surprised at Hillary's tale of dodging sniper fire.


 
The Return of the King: Season Two of The Tudors Starts


 
Can NASA do a Mars Sample Return and an Outer Planets mission at the same time? Not likely on the projected budget, says Taylor Dinerman.


 
The sub orbital barnstorming race is now joined by Xcor's Lynx, among others.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

 
An Origami space craft. Courtesy Stacy Bartley.


 
The good news is that Robert Mugabe and his cohorts may well have been trounced in Presidential and Parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe. The bad news is that Mugabe may not accept the results and will try to hang on by force.


Saturday, March 29, 2008
 
Jim Muncy gave a talk at the Space Access Conference. As reported by Rand Simberg. Some reactions.

The usual ritualistic running down of the Vision for Space Exploration. There isn't anything more to comment, though apparently Muncy didn't boast that private astronauts are going to beat NASA to the Moon.

Muncy has a total misreading of the stances of the Presidential candidates regarding things space. Hillary is somewhat ambiguous at best and has suggested in the past that she will delay (kill) VSE. Obama would certainly not provide opportunities for anything except disappointment. Obama's idea of helping business, for example, is to raise the capital gains tax. I doubt that he would be very keen on supporting what he would see as taking rich people on sub orbital jaunts. McCain has been the most unambiguously supportive of the VSE. Nothing for him about commercial space, however.

To be fair, Muncy seems to be coming to realize that, whatever he thinks of NASA's approach to going back to the Noon, that it has become very commercial friendly indeed. One of the bones I have to pick with certain space activists have been an inability to take yes for an answer.

And, finally, a little bit of humility:
Mike Griffin might be arrogant (and he has enough degrees to justify that) and he may be building the wrong rockets, but he has also been putting money into commercial activities while he builds das rocketz. We haven't proven ourselves. Elon still hasn't launched a payload to orbit. John Carmack still hasn't won his two million dollars. Only Burt has an accomplishment to date. We can't just be intellectually correct. We have to show the world that we can do it.

Amen. Amen.

The Nelson bill, by the way, sounds interesting. Will have to know more to comment further, though.


 
Charles Miller is predicting the death of the Vision for Space Exploration in the next administration, regardless who is President. The reason being the growth in entitlements upon the retirement of the baby boomers.

The problem is that should entitlements not undergo reform, VSE would eventually be the least of the various discretionary spending programs that would be at risk. The projected growth of the cost of entitlements, sans reform, is not sustainable. Therefore, at some point, even our largely brain dead political class will have to sit down and fix entitlements or else witness the collapse of the federal government.

Therefore, VSE is not doomed in the manner Miller describes.


 
The latest on space elevators.


 
It looks like Stop Loss is the latest anti Iraq War film to tank. And Hollywood just doesn't get why:
"It's not looking good," a studio source told me before the weekend. "No one wants to see Iraq war movies. No matter what we put out there in terms of great cast or trailers, people were completely turned off. It's a function of the marketplace not being ready to address this conflict in a dramatic way because the war itself is something that's unresolved yet. It's a shame because it's a good movie that's just ahead of its time."

Once again, producers and development executives ought to read the piece by Jay Reding:
The reason why most of the Iraq War movies have failed is that they constantly try to be “message” movies. War is bad. Halliburton is bad. Bush is bad. Cheney is really, really bad. If the American people wanted to hear stories about how incompetent our government is, we’d watch the news. Hollywood keeps coming back to the same old clichés—the sadistic soldier, the heartless military bureaucracy, the “rogue agent.” All of those clichés have been used up more than Britney Spears, and don’t look any better.

And the solution?:
If anyone wants to make a truly great war movie, here’s what they need to do. Don’t try to give us a “message.” Don’t try to push an agenda. Just tell a story. You know, the thing that Hollywood is supposed to do well? You don’t have to create some scathing indictment of war—if you just show war it indicts itself. Saving Private Ryan is one of the greatest war movies ever made because it never flinches from showing the horrors of war. It’s not a “pro-war” movie, nor is it an “anti-war” movie. It’s just a movie about war. You don’t need to create the character of Col. Evil McHitler who secretly sells the organs of Iraqi children to Halliburton to be used to grease oil drills to expose the horrors of war. War is itself horrible, and by creating all these silly little contrivances Hollywood doesn’t add to their message, they detract from it.

But it looks like Hollywood's additude is that the stupid audience is just "not ready" for wonderful, edgy, hard hitting films about Iraq.

Addendum: Glenn Reynolds has a lot more. I especially like the X Prize for an Iraq War movie that doesn't suck.


Friday, March 28, 2008
 
Jay Reding gives Hollywood the back of his hand for crappy, anti war movies.


 
The following story, entitled Recovering Apollo 8, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch is a Hugo Award nominee for this year. As someone who has some experience in dreaming of space ages that never were, I recommend this tale with great enthusiasm.


 
Hot Air has a copy of Fitna, a film that neither the Islamofascist nor their apologists want you to see. Warning. Disturbing images.

The Livelink version has been taken down due to death threats. Another copy can be found here; click on the bottom image.


 
200 billion barrels of oil in the Dakotas and Montana. If that pans out, it would have profound implications for the US economy. Now let us hope the environmentalists don't find a cute animal in the region that requires protection.


 
Antonio Banderas is producing a Spanish language film about a group of people spending the last three days of their lives before the Earth gets smacked by a giant asteroid.


 
Hu Hao, director of the moon exploration center under the Commission of Science Technology and Industry of National Defense, had this to say about China's lunar plans:
"Scientific research can't be rushed," Hu said, citing proposals urging scientists to accelerate the pace of lunar exploration projects.


"Lunar travel is an undertaking that is difficult, risky and requires huge investment. You can't take a wish-list approach to it."


Hu also dismissed the rumor that China is planning a manned moon landing in 2020.


"You can't declare yourself the boss of a chicken farm when you've only got one egg now, can you?" he said.

The usual suspects are taking Hu at his word. It is possible that Hu is telling the truth and it only seems that the Chinese spacxe effort is structured toward a lunar effort. But I remain skeptical.


 
I muse about the Al Gore Option


 
The Japanese are concerned about the threat posed by China's space program.
The review, released on Thursday, also said China is likely to continue its space development programme "as a vital means of achieving military competitiveness against the United States."

"The organisations engaged in China's space development have strong ties to the People's Liberation Army and a considerable number of its satellites are presumably intended for military purposes," the National Institute for Defence Studies said in an annual strategic review of East Asia.


 
Children of Men: The Series? The movie was depressing enough.


Thursday, March 27, 2008
 
Give the nomination to Al Gore? A good way, I think, to cause both Clinton and Obama supporters to stay home or vote for McCain.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008
 
Is Chelsea Clinton Fair Game?

Yes she is.

Addendum: Sure enough, as I suggest in the piece, Chelsea Clinton is questioned about sniper fire in Bosnia.


 
What will life be like in the year 2008, from the point of view of 1968. The 250 MPH car sounds pretty cool, as do the undersea and outer space vacations.


 
The End of Jericho


 
Jeremiah Wright seems to hate Italians. That and more ravings from the Pastor of Disaster.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008
 

Freedom Never Cries


 
Apparently the Mars Rovers will not be turned off due to budget cuts.



 
Anti Iraq War films are still bombing at the box office. And yet Hollywood persists in making them anyway.


Monday, March 24, 2008
 
Pete Wordan (whose name this article misspells) is predicting private trips to the Moon by the end of the 2020s. Certainly not outside the realm of possibility.


 
American Dead In Iraq Reaches 4000.

Was it Worth It?


 
This April 6th will be the fortieth anniversary of the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey


 
Will Rush Limbaugh actually be charged with the crime of urging Republicans to vote in a Democrat primary in Cuyahoga County, Ohio?


 
So we've returned to the Moon and landed on Mars. What then? asks Jeff Brooks.


Sunday, March 23, 2008
 
Douglas MacKinnon, a former White House and Pentagon official and a thriller novelist, gives Barack Obama the back of his hand for his plan to use NASA as a cash cow for an education scheme.

Addendum: Apparently there isn't a single syllable of MacKinnon's piece that doesn't make Rand Simberg spitting mad. Mind, MacKinnon's piece has it's faults, particularly its ignoring of policies related to enabling commercial space. But including a critique on Obama's likely approach on that subject would have made the piece too large and unweildy for an op-ed page.

The problem with Rand's analysis is that he seems to think that a large, robust public space program and a vibrant commercial space sector are contradictions. They are, in fact, complimentary, if one does them right. While the current Bush policy certainly has room for improvement, it is on the right track in that manner. But to recognize that, I'm afraid, would require one to set aside idealogical binders and that seems to be too much to ask of certain people.


Saturday, March 22, 2008
 
Apparently Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's feiry, hate monger pastor, will deliver some guest sermons at a Baptist church in Houston on March 30th.


 
Part 4 of Building a Base on the Moon


 
Sir Arthur C. Clarke has been laid to rest. Upon his tombstone:
"Here lies Arthur C Clarke. He never grew up and did not stop growing."

Not a bad epitaph for anyone.


 
Glenn Reynolds has some linkage about why Jericho got cancelled. The far left turn was indeed irritating, considering the promise the series had.



 
Yet another scientist dares to suggest that global warming isn't happening, just because the known facts suggest that is the case. Does he not know that the debate is over?


 
Which science fiction ass kicker would you want as your body guard?


Friday, March 21, 2008
 
Tom Borelli is so certain that Disney is suppressing the release of The Path to 9/11 for political reasons, that he is willing to buy the DVD rights to the film with his own money just to make the point.


 
The Bank Job


Thursday, March 20, 2008
 
The idea that Mikhail Gorbachev was a secret Christian while leader of the Soviet Union has fascinating implications. One has to wonder if, after all, he was a more willing participant in the destruction of the Soviet Empire than has been hitherto let on.


 
My review of Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg.


 
John Dingall seems to think that the price of gasoline is not expensive enough.


 
Apparently it is alright for cheese steak shops in Philadelphia to request that customers order in English.


 
While Clinton and Obama squabble, McCain surges.


 
Hurtgen Moon: A Story of War and Horror


Wednesday, March 19, 2008
 
Some more thought about the passing of Arthur C.Clarke, poet laureate of the space age.


 
A roundup of recent news about Barack Obama's space policy positions.


 
More evidence that the Jeremiah Wright controversy is hurting Barack Obama.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008
 
Powerline is calling the Obama speech the Throw Grandma under the Bus Speech.


 
China's mistreatment of the people of Tibet is already causing talk of a boycott of the opening ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics. Folks seemed to be surprised that the Olympics is being held in the venue of a human rights abuser country.

Let that be a lesson to all of those advocating--say--joint space missions with the Chinese. Just imagine the embarrassment people would feel if, near the date the joint mission to Mars departs, China chooses to take a slap at--say--Taiwan?


 
Arthur C. Clarke, known to many as the Poet Laureate of the Space Age and the last of the greats of teh golden age of science fiction, has died. Much more on this anon.

Addendum: Captain Ed has more.


 
David and Michelle Patterson Admit to Affairs The sex scandals in the Governor of New York's office goes on.



 
John Adams: A Miniseries from HBO


 
Is Nancy Pelosi a racist whose proposed policies would result in a Rwanda-like massacre in Iraq? Micheal Rubin seems to think so.


Monday, March 17, 2008
 
Apparently there is a significant anti human space flight constituency in Britain.


 
Is the golden age of robotic Mars exploration drawing to a close? Jeff Foust examines the question.


 
The Houston Chronicle warns of an "irreversible slide into U.S. space mediocrity." Oddly enough, the Chronicle editorial mentions private space as part of the soultion:
The growing private spaceflight industry might provide shortcuts to re-establishing an American manned launch capability. NASA is exploring that avenue with the SpaceX corporation and others.

And, of course:
Congress should heed U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and other lawmakers who are pressing for an additional $2 billion to speed up the construction of the Orion vehicle.


 
Apparently Barack Obama was not being truthful when he claimed that he had not actually be in Church to hear Reverend Wright's ravings.

Addendum: Obama responds. Then so does Newsmax.


Sunday, March 16, 2008
 
The Dr. Seuss Parody Page, courtesy Stacy Bartley. Take special note of Babylon 5 by Dr. Seuss and Star Trek: TNG by Dr. Seuss.


 
Apparently Tibet is now in open rebellion against Chinese rule.


 
Bobby Jindal has started his governorship in triumph. I see the Presidency in that young man's future.



 
The Houston Chronicle has a piece on the state of the Vision for Space Exploration as the Second Bush Administration draws to a close. It suggests that it could use more money and a more specific commitment from the Presidential candidates.

Meanwhile, Mike Griffin weighs in.
Q: Would it be such a bad thing for NASA if China or India got back to the moon first?

A: I will raise my hand and say I do not want another space race. What happens when you do that is, you tend to get a short period of intense funding, and then the attention goes away, funding dissipates, and it's like an army dealing with a retreat. The hardest thing to do in military circles is to manage an effective retreat. What I want for NASA is stable and predictable funding and a stable set of goals. Finish the (international space) station, retire the shuttle, return to the moon, go to Mars. Those are great goals for the next 50 years. I certainly wouldn't mind a higher level of funding, but the stability of funding is more important than the absolute level.

What the Apollo engineers did was one of the miracles of human accomplishment. But I could make a pretty good case for you that, for the long-term mastery of spaceflight by our nation as a strategic capability, Apollo did more damage than good. We built up an industrial base, we built up a set of expectations, we accomplished one of the most marvelous things that's ever been done, and then we dismantled it all. It brings to mind the fable of the tortoise and the hare.

Of course, Griffin may not want a space race, but I suspect that is what we're getting. And, despite the fears of a boom and bust situation as with Apollo, it is not necessarily a bad thing, if approached right. I regard the possibility of a space race with China as a kind of marathon, with the prize being not the first person back to the Moon or to land on Mars, but rather the prize being which society gets to spread its values and form of government across the Solar System and--ultimately--the stars. That is a far more interesting race that the 1960s version and with much higher stakes. The winner will own the future.


Saturday, March 15, 2008
 
Looks like Barack Obama's polling numbers are in free fall.


 
10,000 BC or Please Someone Stop Roland Emmerich Before He Directs Again


 
18 scifi movies in which the laws of physics are treated as suggestions.


Friday, March 14, 2008
 
A cartoon in memory of Gary Gygax, Master of the Dungeons.


 
Bacteria that can survive in lunar soil
The bacteria's survival instinct in such extreme temperatures has led scientists to determine that future colonists on the Moon might be able to use the cyanobacteria to extract resources from the soil that could be used to make rocket fuel and fertiliser for crops.



 
An "Old Space Cadet" poses the question: why are space cadets such dorks? A somewhat controversial idea, but still one worth pondering.


 
A blogger calling himself "Rocketman" proclaims the end of the Ares 1. I think that this is the fifth or so time someone has done that. Rand Simberg exalts.
I haven't worked on the program for a year and a half, but I can imagine that a lot of people are eying their options to bail.

While acknowledging that anything is possible, the fact of all of the previous (and as it turned out premature) predictions of the demise of the Ares 1 by anonymous people has made Your Humble Servant a little bit cynical. Publishing this sort of "information" from anonymous sources and then extrapolating "facts" from gut level surmises constitutes, in my humble opinion, journalistic malpractice. No editor in the world, outside--perhaps--a tabloid scandal rag--would accept a story on that basis. Bloggers tend to be their own editors, though, which sometimes leads to this kind of thing.

In other words, let's see some verifiable facts before posting.


 
Rachel Weisz is slated to star as the philosopher and neo Platonist teacher Hypatia who was lynched in the late 4th Century on orders from a Christian bishop for various reasons, including trying to preserve ancient wisdom. More here.


Thursday, March 13, 2008


 
More wisdom from the Messiah's spiritual advisor.


 
Rob Coppinger, somewhat counter intuitively, suggests that the Chinese are moving too quickly in their manned space effort.


 
One way to foster international cooperation on the Moon is to invite other countries to place landers and rovers on various parts of the lunar surface. Also, this just in:
BTW: An increasing buzz here at the meeting is to look for a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS)-like concept for NASA to buy private-sector lunar services.

But of course.

Meanwhile, maps of the lunar south pole thanks to the European probe Smart 1 and lunar based telescopes.

Addendum: Movies from lunar orbit thanks to the Japanese Kaguya probe.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

 
The Heritage Foundation has a chart of the tax increase and other economic damage that the House Democrats have in store for all of us, totaled by Congressional district.



 
Is the answer to our energy woes just across the border in Canada? Not if the Democrats have their way.


 
David Mamet, a famous screenwriter, playwright, and director declares his Independence from liberalism.


 
New findings that suggest the presence of rocky planets circling nearby stars, such as Alpha Centauri, has renewed interest in interstellar travel.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008
 
A suggestion of how African American voters can become relevant. The current situation, in which blacks are taken for granted by Democrats and written off by Republicans, is certainly not a good one.



 
Space Shuttle Endeavour is aloft, which brings to mind memories of a space launch Your Humble Servant once witnessed.


 
Ferris Valyn makes a valiant, but ultimately doomed attempt to convince Barack Obama of the utility of space commercialization. The problem is that first Barack Obama needs to understand the utility of capitalism and free markets, which he manifestly does not.


Monday, March 10, 2008
 
Speaking of participation, states seem to be moving toward sponsering X Prizes. The Florida one seems a little vaguely worded, though.


 
One way to get the Gen Y folks engaged in space exploration--get a Second Life.

Addendum: More.


 
The Democrat Governor of New York seems to have been involved in a prostitution ring. Of course, it's just about sex...

Addendum: More from Allahpundit.


 
Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton. A dream ticket--or a nightmare?


 
It's 3 AM in the near future and Hillary Clinton gets a phone call from President Obama. Oh, the horror, the horror.


 
Taylor Dinerman finds that a treaty banning space weapons is a far more complicated idea than its proponents would like to imagine. Meanwhile Dwayne Day reports that the arms control advocates are repeating the same pattern that has failed since arms control treaties were first tried before the 2nd World War. States are not going to give up a military advantage because of the entreaties of arms control advocates. Even if such a treaty were to be signed, it would be violated by China and/or Russia the moment either country decided it would be in its interest to do so. War in Space will ultimately not be prevented by scraps of paper, but by overwhelming military power. That's how President Reagan brought the Soviets to the table.


Sunday, March 09, 2008
 
Both Rand Simberg and Jon Goff get snarky about the whole return to the Moon thing. Here is Jon:
There's been talk from NASA and some of their less discerning fanboys of a "Lunar COTS". Basically the idea is to waste $100-120B on using Constellation to setup a small ISS on the Moon, and then once its there start paying commercial entities to service said base. This creates an interesting situation. Since NASA won't have done anything for over a decade to help make it easier for commercial entities to actually service the moon, they'll either have to keep sustaining the base themselves while they spend the money to belatedly help develop that commercial capability. Or, if the commercial market has independently created that capability anyhow, that NASA base will likely be only a small niche market in the cislunar space. The smart thing to do would be to start finding ways to develop or promote those commercial capabilities from the start. Things like funding research or sponsoring prizes for fielding the technologies needed for propellant depots. Acting as a customer for commercial services especially on-orbit propellants. Acting as a better customer for commercially attained lunar environmental data. Finding ways to promote translunar tourism and eventually lunar orbital (or Lagrange point) stations. Finding ways consistent with federal laws to act as an anchor tenant, to champion these new technologies, to fund demonstrator missions, and even to put money aside in escrow for being a leading customer for these new capabilities.

The question that Jon doesn't answer and likely doesn't know the answer to, what is the market that wull entice commercial operators to start building their own lunar transports? Helium 3? The answer would likely be, "Call me when there are actually fusion power plants." Tourism? Maybe, but so far the hundred million dollar trip around the Moon that's being offered by the Russians has no takers.

An actual existing lunar base, something that is designed to grow with commercial and other private users, is the best way to jump start a trans lunar commercial infrastructure. Markets that exist too far into the future or are too expensive to service just are not going to work.

Rand, of course, chimes in and, unlike Jon, actually has the courage to be snarky toward You Humble Servant by name.

Yes, there's a huge logical disconnect here. Either NASA will have developed technology that makes it easy for the commercial folks to access the moon (which they currently are not) or they are counting on the commercial folks to have done that on their own, in which case, that means that there's already a thriving lunar market, of which NASA will be a trivial part, because otherwise, it won't have happened commercially. NASA's current high-cost, low-activity plans really do have the effect of ensuring the worst of all worlds for them, and us.

Rand doesn't get it either. Developing useful technologies would be a useful thing and in fact there are some small scale projects, not directly related to VSE, that are doing that. But creating a core market, like the air mail in the 1920s and 30s, like ISS is being used for COTS, is also useful. No private entity is going to go to the Moon until there is a real, tangiable reason for doing so that can be serviced immediately and for a reasonable cost. In my judgement, NASA's planned lunar base can fit that need.


 
All hail, Barack Muad'dib!


Saturday, March 08, 2008
 
More on Barack Obama's apparent desire to slash funding for space. And one could wish he would stop sugar coating the whole thing by pretending to be a Trekkie. It's rather transparent.


 
Looks like the folks from Mythbusters will answer the ultimate question. Did Man really walk on the Moon? Confirmed, plausible, or busted?


Friday, March 07, 2008
 
Looks like Barack Obama is promising to cut NASA's budget "until the mission is clearer." Sort of like the floggings will continue until morale improves.


 
Now it seems that we have judges preventing young men from joining the Marines, not because of the law, but because the judge in question is just anti war and anti military. Marilyn Mackel needs to be removed from the bench immediately.



 

John McCain compares himself to both Churchill and Teddy Roosevelt.


 
There are some interesting discussions taking place over at Space Politics over a couple of remarks made by the White House Science Advisor, John Marburger. One, concerning Marburger's desire for space cooperation with the Chinese seem foolish to the point of advocating appeasement. Do we really want to extend a helping hand to a regime that not only violates the humans rights of its own people on a regular basis, but also threatens world peace?

It's not that space cooperation is a bad thing. But it should only be undertaken (at least to a great extent) with countries with whom we share certain basic values. Freedom above all.

Marburger is on more solid ground when he discusses the true purpose of space exploration, which is to “to serve national and international interests." Marburger is rightly critical of the science uber alles approach of some people. Read the whole speech here.

The comments has the usual combination of snark, wisdom, and off topic meanderings. Read them any way, including the one posting by Your Humble Servant, and then think.


Thursday, March 06, 2008
 
I was reading John McCain's book, Hard Call, when I came upon a passage at the end of the chapter on Neil Armstrong. It might provide some illumination on Senator McCain's views on things space.
I was in prison the day Americans walked on the Moon. The Vietnamese were always careful to provide us only information from the outside world that would discourage us. They kept us aprised on the anti war protests, international opposition to America's continued involvement in the war, and military setbacks in the hope that would would believe the repeated assertions that America was losing the war and that our government had abandoned us. It seldomed worked, and we managed to get a more accurate picture and events back home from newly arrived POWs. But I didn't learn about Apollo 11's momentous success until I caught reference to it in a radio broadcast of a speech by a prominate American opponent of the war. If memory serves, he said something to the effect that "if America could put a man on the Moon, then we ought to be able to withdraw from a losing and unpopular war." Not long after, I recieved one of the infrequent and short notes from my family that out captors permitted us. About the size of a small postcard, it bore on its back a small stamp with a picture of an astronaut standing near an American flag on the moon. That was a good day in Hanoi.

I suspect there were not too many of those in the five and a half years McCain spent there.


 
Apparently a cyber rebellion is growing in Cuba.


 
Tom Hanks was up on Capitol Hill recently for the premier on the John Adams miniseries, no doubt in a vain attempt to show Pelosi, et al how a real statesman behaves. Curiously he pronounced himself "bored" with the election. While I respect Hanks as an artist, I'll have to disagree on this one. To illustrate, the Clinton campaign has just compared Barack Obama to Ken Starr, which to the Clintonistas is an ultimate insult. Who could not find such goings on exciting?


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

 
The Catholic Church will erect a statue of Galileo inside the Vatican.


 
Dexter: The Video Game. The mind boggles.


 
I thought the whole treatment of the soulful, lonely immortal in New Amsterdam was a bit lame and had been done better on other shows.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008
 
Gary Gygax, the cocreator of that little known game known as Dungeons and Dragons, has died.


 
I observe that Gloria Steinem Hates Men, especially men in uniform.


 
A short story contest to be set on the Moon 50 to 150 years hence.


 
Mike Griffin (or perhaps his speech writer) really knows how to turn a phrase. silent Sputnik indeed.
And when it comes to being a recognized leader in the world, is it any wonder why China has emerged in recent years as one of the three spacefaring nations? They understand the value of space activities as a driver for innovation and a source of national pride in being a member of the world's most exclusive club. China today not only flies its own taikonauts, but also has plans to launch about 100 satellites over the next five to eight years. It should be no surprise, especially to those who have read Tom Friedman's book "The World is Flat" or John Kao's "Innovation Nation", that this environment in China is breeding thousands of high-tech start-ups. As John Kao couches the issue, America is currently facing a "Silent Sputnik" where "many countries are racing for a new innovation high ground while our own advantages are showing signs of serious wear."


Monday, March 03, 2008
 
It seems that Barack Obama wanted to ban gun shops from any area five miles from a school or park. However he was against any restrictions on porn shops.

Obama is clearly going to be the gift that keeps on giving.


 
Looks like Penn and Teller's Bull S*** is going to do a hit job on NASA. For what it's worth, Keith was smart not to go on the show. Guests who take the opposite view of whatever the conclusion an episode takes are made to look pretty ridiculous.


 
Gloria Steinen makes light of the five and a half years John McCain spent being tortured as a guest of the North Vietnamese. She also had this to say about Hillary:
“I am so grateful that she [Clinton] hasn’t been trained to kill anybody. And she probably didn’t even play war games as a kid. It’s a great relief from Bush in his jump suit and from Kerry saluting.”

To the Observer, Steinem insisted that “from George Washington to Jack Kennedy and PT-109 we have behaved as if killing people is a qualification for ruling people.”

Actually, rulers very often have to have people killed if they are enemies of the ruled. Even Bill Clinton did that.


 
Barack Obama has a unique perspective on the Sermon on the Mount. Who knew that Jesus Christ was advocating same sex marriage?


 
Alex Kirk has some advice for space activists in how to deal with the Congress.


 
Jeff Foust has a piece in The Space Review about "miscomunication" between the US and China concerning each country's intentions in space. My main critique of the article is that it seems to depend primarily on a an official of an organization called the Union of Concerned Scientists, a left wing group that opposes any weapons in space as well as missile defense under any circumstances, without a counter balancing opinion.


 
The Houston Chronicle has a piece on the candidates' various positions on space policy. Obama reiterates his flip flop on closing the space flight gap, which he previously wanted to increase, though he still wants to "delay" the Vision for Space Exploration. At the other end of the spectrum, McCain seems far more supportive, but with a caveat:
McCain has championed Bush's plan for NASA and has been endorsed by former NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe.

"Manned spaceflight is something that is elemental and a vital part of our space program. I think we've got to catch up," McCain told the Chronicle.

He said he wants to close the gap in manned spaceflight, but "I think we've got to sort out our priorities better. In other words, we can't do everything. From my observing NASA, I think that sometimes we have tried to spray money in a whole bunch of different programs without the priority that I think they deserve."

No word on anything concerning commercial space from any of the candidates.


Sunday, March 02, 2008
 
Some months ago, I speculated that Hugo Chavez might make a go at the Dutch as a means of distracting attention from the various failures of his regime. Looks like he may go after Columbia instead. However he'll do so at his peril.


 
Clark Lindsey reports that India has taken a rather big step toward becoming the fourth country to launch people into space.


 
Barack Hussein Obama

Musings on He Who Must Not Be Middle Named


Saturday, March 01, 2008
 
NPR has a pretty fair and accurate story on the positions of the various candidates on space policy. There is also a little bit of news. Hillary Clinton may want to travel into space "after her term as President."


 
It looks like Rand Simberg needs (once again) some clarification on my views on commercial space flight. He offers a rant based on Chair Force Engineer's theories of the "real space race" (see my response to that below:
Mark Whittington continues to live in a fantasyland on this subject

A cute sentence, but one that has as much meaning as Barack Obama's speeches.
COTS is helpful, but in no way essential for commercial human spaceflight.

SpaceX was developing the Falcon 1 and 9 before COTS, and it would continue to do so in the absence of COTS. OSC might not move forward without COTS, but Dragon development will continue, Falcon 9 development will continue, and Atlas V upgrades will continue. The real market is not COTS, which is a sideshow from a payload standpoint, but Bigelow's private space facilities, which were also moving forward before COTS, and would continue to do so in its absence.

The problem is that Rand is writing as if Bigelow's private space station already exists. It doesn't, yet. Predictions of Bigelow's facility and what it will accomplish are what are called in the investment business "forward looking statements"; i.e. something that may come true or may not. I personally think that it will come true, but for the time being the sole existing market for human space flight to LEO (besides the possibility of tourist joy rides) is transportation to and from ISS. Rand makes the serious mistake that many space advocates, especially supporters of commercial space, of assuming that each and every planned commercial venture will come to fruition. History tells us that this isn't necessarily so.

As for COTS, Elon Musk himself has said that the development of the Dragon would be no where near on the fast track it is on without COTS funding. SpaceX's near term goal, before COTS, was a cheaper way to launch satellites.
simply don't understand Mark's blindness to these realities that intrude so rudely on his theories, and his continuing obtuse insistence that commercial space is doomed without COTS, other than some sort of faith-based belief that it is not possible to put people into space without government funding.

The problem with that last statement is that I never said that and it is not my position. Indeed, since Burt Rutan has already put people into space without government funding, that idea that I would make such a statement is silly and false on its face. My position is that the pace of development of commercial space without government funding and government markets will be a lot slower than it would be otherwise. It is also my position that government can do a lot to inhibit the development of commercial space, through taxes and regulation.
And the notion that China is going to land a man on the moon any time within the next twenty years, at their current pace of development (far slower than Apollo was) remains laughable. So is the notion that they would suddenly do so out of the blue and that it would be a "rude awakening."

This isn't the Sputnik era, in which one can slip a satellite on a missile, in a world in which there was no space-based surveillance. There will be no surprise. If the development pace of the Chinese program picks up, it will be quite obvious, given the need for either a very large Saturn-class vehicle or (if they're smart) orbital infrastructure, long before it actually happens. We will have plenty of time to respond, from a policy perspective, should we decide to.

The problem with Rand's somewhat ostrich-like position on the Chinese space program is that the Chinese are busily doing everything they need to do in preperation for a lunar landing mission, from learning how to fly in space with each Shenzhou flight, to the series of lunar robotic probes it has planned or in operation. But Rand, because it suits his idealogical position to do so, dismisses this.
CFE has it right--the race is between NASA and the private sector, not between slow-paced, expensive and moribund government space programs.

Sorry, but no. If COTS manages to bring into being commercial space craft capable of reaching orbit, then commercial space will grow into low Earth orbit. Orion will then become primarily a lunar and beyond vehicle. No race involved there.


 
The Other Boleyn Girl


 
Captain Ed, at his new home at Hot Air, reports that Pelosi is about to cave on FISA, with a face saving formula. The nutroots will not be happy.


 
Chair Force Engineer presents a scenario (presumably if Obama is elected) in which the Vision for Space Exploration is cancelled and there is a "true space race" between NASA's Orion and SpaceX's Dragon space craft for the right to take astronauts to the ISS.

He is likely correct (provided that it flies as advertised) that on the merits, Dragon should win under his scenario. Unfortunately if NASA is not flying astronaut explorers to the Moon, Mars, and beyond, it will have to do something concerning astronauts. Neither NASA nor its political backers will permit publicly funded space flight to simply fade away like MacArthur's old soldier to make way for commercial space flight. This is especially true under a liberal Presidency that is hostile to the private sector as Obama's certainly will be.

My sense is that under the scenario, COTS will be cancelled and the manned space program will consist of astronauts going in circles around the Earth forever and ever.

At least until the Chinese land men on the Moon. Then there will be a rather rude awakening.

Like it or not, the only hope for near term commercial space flight in LEO is that NASA continues to explore beyond LEO.