Monday, August 31, 2009

Obama has been a tad tardy keeping promises concerning space policy.
Safe Hollywood Villains
Can the Deep Space exploration option be made relevant?
Teddy Kennedy did something that was likely worse than Chappaquiddick. It involved conspiracy with a Soviet dictator in 1983 to oppose the President of his country, Ronald Reagan.
But selling out to the Soviets in such a fashion comes dangerously close to treason. The Soviets weren’t just some other nation a hemisphere away. In the 1980s, they were our mortal enemies, and almost ready to collapse. Kennedy didn’t just offer to allow our enemy to manipulate our elections, but offered to take positive action for them to succeed in that effort.

That’s more than just personal cowardice and betraying the trust of a young woman, resulting in her death. Morally if not legally, the Andropov gambit was a betrayal of American independence and security by a high-ranking politician. It should stand as a singular denunciation of Kennedy as a power-hungry, contemptible politician. Like in Chappaquiddick, the only reason it hasn’t is because of his family name.

Addendum: James Oberg adds this:
It really was worse than this claims. In 1983 Andropov became
convinced that the US was preparing a sneak attack, and
put the USSR on a pre-emptive 'defensive strike' posture. He alerted
Soviet intelligence services to collect data on possible precursor
moves -- for example, larger blood drives than normal, for casualties.
Kennedy, of course, didn't know this -- but clearly his approach to him,
and the portrait of Reagan as a warmonger, would have been seen
by Andropov as further confirmation of his paranoid fantasies. If
the world came very, very close to nuclear war in 1983, as now seems
likely, Kennedy's posturing contributed to it.

Well, Teddy would not have been the first Kennedy whose actions almost resulted in the end of the world.
'Mad Men' Season 3, Episode 3: 'My Old Kentucky Home'
Mad Men Season 3 Episode 3 My Old Kentucky Home was an episode about three parties. One party was a regular party. One party was a party that was work disguised as a party. The third party was a party disguised as work.
True Blood' Season 2, Episode: '11 Frenzy'
True Blood Season 2 Episode 11 Frenzy continues the story about the capture of the quaint little town of Bon Temps by the evil Maryann. Will Bon Temps be saved? Maybe not if it has to depend on salvation from this motley crew.
Democrats stoned out of their minds? It would explain a lot.
G. Ryan Faith suggests Give NASA a Clear Mission, which would be to explore space. Meanwhile, Taylor Dinerman muses on Protecting the space workforce. There are a lot of nasty people on the Internet who would just love to see mass layoffs at NASA and the contractors, but Dinerman points out the waste in knowledge and experience that entails.
Chandrayaan-I mission ends as contact is lost
Just because Augustine 2.0. has plans for space exploration does not mean that others can't play. An interesting example with justifications.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

My apologies for being unable to post for the past two or three days. We were switching virus protecting systems and some complications ensued. But we are now back in business.

Friday, August 28, 2009

While we're all mourning the Liberal Lion of the Senate, let's have a word aout Teddy Kennedy's sense of humor, specifically about Chappaquiddick

I guess you had to have been there...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

NASA's budget and the cost of space exploration
Van Jones: Obama's 'Communist' Green Jobs Czar
Who is Van Jones and why is Glenn Beck so cross with him? Van Jones is the co-founder of something called Color of Change. Van Jones is also President Barack Obama's Green Jobs Czar. And, according to Glenn Beck, Van Jones is a communist.
Who Replaces Ted Kennedy in the Senate?
Who will replace Ted Kennedy in the Senate? The short answer is no one really. One cannot actually replace a larger than life politician who has been in public life, loved and hated by many, for almost as long as the President Obama has been alive.
Moon baseball.
Twenty five years after it was first proposed, the space station will at long last start doing science.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Some right wing nut said the following in defense of trucking deregulation:
The problems of our economy have occurred not as an outgrowth of laissez-faire, unbridled competition. They have occurred under the guidance of federal agencies, and under the umbrella of federal regulations.

The nut's name was Teddy Kennedy.
Ted Kennedy and the Politics of Health Care
Teddy Kennedy's body has hardly turned cold and the Left is using his death to try to pass health care reform. "Let's pass it for Teddy!" goes the rallying cry. It's a rather cynical ploy to try to infuse the dead corpse of health care reform with Ted Kennedy's spirit.
The Promise of Commercial Space
My foster nephew, Aaron, does some skateboard exploits:
Rand Simberg erupts at my critique of "Look But Don't Touch", a series of options now under consideration by the Obama administration that would send astronaut explorers to--say--the vicinity of an asteroid to admire it for a while before returning to Earth. Rand offers one of the more tiresome cliches that has really wrecked the credibility of a portion of space activism.
People want to go to the moon. People want to go to Mars. Elon Musk wants to go to Mars. That’s why he started his company. Bob Bigelow wants to go to the moon. Once access to orbit becomes affordable, he will. Once they, and Jeff Bezos, and others, are halfway to anywhere, they’re not going to wait for NASA to send someone before they do. To think that they would is to completely misunderstand their motivations and plans.

I'm second to none in being an admirer of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and anyone else who is seriously making a private go at creating a space launch company. But we need to have a reality check. SpaceX is bending every effort to create a space transportation company with the help of hundreds of millions of dollars in NASA subsidies. There is nothing wrong with this. It would help NASA to have commercial alternatives to LEO to free it up for true space exploration.

But if we are "unwilling to wait for NASA" to take us to the Moon and Mars, we certainly should be unwilling to wait for SpaceX. In order for a private company to want to, not to mention have the ability to, send people to the Moon and Mars there has to be a commercial incentive to do so commiserate to the costs of doing so. Right now there just isn't that incentive.

In the meantime there is a huge national security imperative to get people on the Moon, at least, but eventually to Mars. Not only is the Moon, as George Friedman points out, the ultimate military high ground but it is a potential source of economic development, once the costs of going there come down.

We can wait for NASA or wait for SpaceX. But there are other countries (China comes to mind) that may not be willing to wait. I do not want to see a time when Americans have to present their visas to Chinese government officials before setting foot on the Moon. That's why we need to get back there first, by whatever means, and establish a presence that can then expand to one of the first communities off the Earth.

Come to think of it we have been waiting (to use Rand's word) for private business to put a person in low Earth orbit for decades. If it happens any time soon it will be under NASA contract. How many decades would we wait for private business to put a person on the Moon or Marsz?
Burying Teddy Kennedy
Senator Teddy Kennedy is dead. It seems incredible to write that first sentence as there seems to have never been an era without Teddy Kennedy in the Senate, larger than life, worshiped by some, hated by others. But now he is gone.
Bernard Goldberg: George W. Bush Volunteered for Vietnam
Bernard Goldberg, formally of CBS News, currently of Fox News, has uncovered a hitherto obscure fact surrounding the 2004 scandal known as Rathergate. The scandal involves George W. Bush's real feelings about serving in Vietnam.
'The Next Hundred Years' by George Friedman postulates war in space

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

R. Lee Emrey takes a dim view of the Birthers, even if they are wearing the uniform.
Augustine Committee Deep Space Option Equals 'Look but Don't Touch'
It appears that Mary Mapes, the CBS producer involved in the Rathergate scandal, knew in advance of the bogus document story about George W. Bush, that Bush had in fact volunteered for Vietnam.
National Debt Predicted to Almost Double in 10 Years
The Obama administration has revised its estimate of how much debt the United States will pile on in the next 10 years. Hitherto the White House had estimated that the debt would increase by just over $7 trillion over 10 years. Now the figure is $9 trillion.
Discovery to take COLBERT to ISS
If torturing the evil to get information is s wrong, why do so many good guys do it on TV and film?
Institute for Human Continuity (IHC) is Latest Viral Marketing Campaign
The upcoming Roland Emmerich film, 2012, depicts events taking place in December, 2012, when the movie suggests that the Mayan Calendar predicts the end of the world. The Institute for Human Continuity site is part of the film's marketing campaign.
Augustine Committee presents Obama with space exploration options

Monday, August 24, 2009

At least some of the gentle native Americans lived in cities and practiced human sacrifice before thw white man showed up.
While some folks are rather excited over the idea of the current exploration program being junked in favor of something else, they seem to have forgotten that Congress has the final say;
But it is also unclear whether Congress would go along with wholesale changes. Ms. Giffords said she still supported NASA’s current program and was reluctant to throw away its work. A test firing of the first stage of an Ares I engine will take place this week in Utah, and a flight test of a prototype is scheduled later in the year.

“It will cost more money,” she said. “It will take more time if we decide to shift gears and use another vehicle.”

One suspects that Obama is aware of this and will take it under consideration when making a decision.
Both an Inglourious Basterds sequel and prequel are now being contemplated. Of course they are.
Marine Veteran David Hedrick Chews Out Congressman
David Hedrick, veteran of the United States Marine Corps, attended a town hall meeting Sunday held by Congressman Brian Baird (D) Washington State. Congressman Baird had compared town hall anti health care reform protesters to "brown shirts."
Glenn Beck, Obama's Czars and the Advertising Boycott
Glenn Beck, who has somehow succeeded in being more hated by the left that Rush Limbaugh and George W. Bush combined, has returned to both his radio show and his Fox News TV show after a week's hiatus. President Obama should be very afraid.
Jeff Foust talks about space elevators.
John Hickam describes the various ways people have dealt with what appears to have been the closing of the space frontier in the forty years since Apollo. A very important and informative article, which should be read especially by the people engaging in the practices described.
Some push back against the idea of junking the current exploration program.
True Blood Season 2 Episode 10: New World in My View
True Blood Season 2 Episode 10 New World in My View starts with Sookie having another one of those delightful but embarrassing sex dreams about Eric. Was it a memory of what really happened after Godric became a candle in the wind or a fantasy?
Mad Men Season 3 Episode 2: Love Among the Ruins
Mad Men Season 3 Episode 2 Love Among The Ruins contains several threads of story, one taking place at the office, several taking place outside of the office. There are continuing hints of real world events as spring 1963 grinds on.
Rand links to an interesting idea of building a space elevator from the Moon, thus eliminating the need for a lander to handle normal transportation operations. Of course, we have to go back to the Moon in the first place to make that happen.
Looks like the Ares 1-X is going to fly after all.

Addendum: There has been a lot of jumping up and down over reports that Charles Bolden had come out against the test of the Ares 1-X. Keith Cowing, who is enough of a real journalist to know how to pick up a phone and check before posting rumors as facts, begs to differ.
Rocket fuel that can be made on the Moon and Mars. Of course that would mean actually going to the Moon and Mars.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Did the Israeli Mossad hire some pirates to hijack a Russian arms shipment to Iran on the high seas? Of course. then they would be called privateers.
In Defense of Sarah Palin: Political Ninja
Is Ares 1 Dead? Rumor has it that yest it is. But that is subject to change, I think.
Shelby Spires writes about a major problem with our national space program--the apparent inability to finish what gets started.
A few examples: NASA spent $4 billion on an advanced solid rocket motor, but killed the program in 1994. The X-33 space plane concept cost $2 billion and disappeared from the drawing board in 2001. The Aerospike engine cost $1 billion but was also spiked in 2001. The RS-84 engine development project sputtered out in 2004 after $100 million was spent. Plans for the Orbital Space Plane, a shuttle replacement, were permanently docked in 2004 after spending $2 billion.

IMHO the problem is as much political as it is technological and management caused.
A Boycott of Scotland?
The release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi has sparked calls for a boycott of Scotland by Americans angry that a mass murderer and terrorist was allowed to go home to Libya to a hero's welcome.
The further adventures of Robert Langdon coming soon.
The prospect of the Obama administration throwing the exploration program under the bus has people in South Florida feeling considerable angst. Even under optimistic scenarios, the end of the shuttle program is going to cause job losses, only partially mitigated by the growth of a commercial launch sector. After all, the whole idea of going commercial is that it can do things cheaper, i.e. with less people. That, coupled with putting the exploration program on long term life support, if not cancelling it outright, is going to be devastating.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

'Inglourious Basterds' Splashes Gore and Dark Humor Across the Big Screen
Despite what one sees in the trailers, Quentin Tarantino's latest revenge epic, Inglourious Basterds is about seventy percent clever exposition, laced with menace, and thirty percent quintessential Tarantino over-the-top gore-letting.
William Calley Apologizes for My Lai
William Calley, who commanded the American soldiers responsible for the My Lai Massacre, publicly apologized for one of the most horrific atrocities committed by American soldiers in history over forty years ago.
On the occasion of the eye popping images of the Apollo 14 landing site taken by LRO, Paul Spudis celebrates Alan Shepherd first American in space and the oldest man to walk on the Moon.
If these series of reports are true, the Obama administration seems to be headed for the encouragement of commercial space flight to LEO in the near term (good) while pushing back any meaningful exploration beyond LEO to the far future. We would, in effect, do "Look But Don't Touch" sometime in the 2020s while abandoning the idea of actually landing on a celestial body.

While there is much to like about commercializing LEO operations, even getting a private company to run ISS, the proposed exploration program is little more than an anemically funded joke. One cannot escape from the impression that this may have been the intention of the Obama administration all along.

NBC is reporting that the Obama administration plans, among other things, will cut the NASA/contractor work force in half. I wonder how certain members of Congress will feel about that.

Addendum: A reader writes to remind me about how just about a year ago, then Senator Obama stood up in front of a crowd at Titusville and pretty much endorsed the exploration plan that reports now say he intends to cancel. Mind, it wouldn't be so bad if what replaced it were better. But an asteroid sometime in the 2020s or 2030s? Wake me up when that happens. If it happens.

Addendum 2: Then again it just occured to me how this lemon could be made into lemonaide. Instead of just going to an asteroid to look but don't touch, the purpose of the expedition should be to divert the asteroid to either a safe orbit around the Earth or one of the L points. Then the mining rights could be auctioned off, with the proceeds used to finance further exploration.

Addendum 3: Rand Simberg's reaction is a little more benign, as suspect, than most. There is this interesting bit:
There’s no mention of robotics, but it would be nice to see some ISRU demos on the lunar surface. If successful, they would provide a lot of leverage for lunar landings. This might be a good prize program — land something on the surface that can generate TBD lbs/hour of LOX (and possibly LH2 as well).

A very good idea, especially as a prize or a promise to purchase. However, if we are not going back to the Moon as the report suggests, why bother?

Friday, August 21, 2009

An intersection between space and health care reform? Jeff Foust is being a little tongue in cheek.
People in Washington 'Wee-Weed Up,' Says Barack Obama
The various woes of President Barack Obama have certainly added some zest to his rhetoric. President Obama has invented a new term that will surely go down as one of the most original in the political lexicon.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

More horror stories from the land of socialized medicine. In Britain, alzheimer's is not actually a health problem.
'The Wolf Man' Trailer Debuts on the Internet
The trailer for a new version of The Wolf Man, staring Benicio Del Toro, has debuted on the Internet. It looks like that the iconic monster is haunting the woods and moors around late Victorian Blackpool, England.
Charlie Cook, usually not give to apocalyptic language, suggests that the situation for the Dems has slipped completely out of control.
Farewell to cash for clunkers, an interesting idea on paper, but a total lemon in execution.
James Cameron's 'Avatar' Trailer Now Up
The trailer for James Cameron's long anticipated feature film, Avatar, is now online. To say that the scenes show in the Avatar trailer are eye popping would be to make an understatement. Avatar is the first film by Cameron since Titanic, thirteen years ago.
Texting While Driving Commercial Controversial
A public service announcement, now airing on TV in Great Britain, demonstrating the dangers of texting while driving, is creating some controversy because of its graphic nature. YouTube has flagged the video as unsuitable for people under 18.
Lockerbie Bomber Released on 'Humanitarian' Grounds
Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, convicted of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 which went down in Lockerbie, Scotland, has been released from a Scottish prison on grounds of "compassion." Abdel Baset al-Megrahi is dying from pancreatic cancer.
Rand Simberg has an an interesting retort to an anonymous poster over at NASA Watch who defends the Ares 1. In so making the retort, Rand builds a few strawmen to beat up on.
In the coming decades, we can expect to hear this kind of thing forever: Mike Griffin’s NASA had a great idea for how to become space faring and get back to the moon, and the rocket was almost ready to fly, but unvisionary pinch pennies in the White House and Congress decided to end the next glorious chapter in spaceflight just when it was on the verge of happening.

That will only be true if whatever plan replaces the current one (if there is one) is not an improvement. I expect to see such happening if all of the sudden the return to the Moon is put off another ten or fifteen years or (in the case of some of the idiotic "look but don't touch" scenarios) handed off to the Chinese.

Contrary to what Rand and some of the anonymous folks whom he trusts have been saying, the Augustine Committee found nothing technically wrong with the current plan. Norm Augustine echoed what I've been saying that every development program has its share of technical problems. It was also the sentiment of the Augustine Committee that the current plan is indeed doable, given the amount of money promised but never delivered.

Rand goes on to bloviate:
It will be very similar to the economically and politically ignorant refrain from people who bewail the short-sighted end of the Saturn program, or the wonderful SST that would have made us competitive with the Europeans, or Orion, which would have opened up the solar system with colonies on Ganymede by now if only the politicians hadn’t been such luddites and shut it down.

Leaving aside Rand's irritating tendency to, like Barney Frank, label people with whom he disagrees "ignorant", one wonders about whom he is talking about. True, throwing away the Saturn was a big mistake, especially since it was in favor of the space shuttle system. Keeping a lunar program and Skylab going based on Apollo/Saturn technology, while doing an X rocket program to gradually get to reusable systems would have been far more viable than the path we took.

Orion would have been wonderful, if the EMP and fallout effects of exploding hundreds of nuclear bombs in the atmosphere could have been solved. Absent that, I'm not sure that there is anyone who bemoans the death of Orion. The greatest space ship in the world is pretty useless if launching it fries modern electronics.

Rand's bringing up the SST is laughable on its face, I'd like Rand to name one person who in 2009 thinks the SST was a good idea.

Rand finishes up his tirade by calling engineers who work on the Ares program "deluded" if they actually think the project they are working on is a good idea. Then he cites an anonymous blogger whom he once accused of racism as a more enlightened cynic.

Is it any wonder why many people look on space activists as a bunch of squabbling, immature middle schoolers?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Senator Jay Rockefeller thinks that Obama's science advisor John Holdren walks on water.
Don Hewitt, Creator of '60 Minutes', Dead at 86
Don Hewitt, the long time CBS News producer and executive, credited for creating the magazine news format with 60 Minutes, has died at the age of 86 from pancreatic cancer. Don Hewitt passed away just a month after Walter Cronkite.
Barney Frank and His Town Hall Ruckus
Barney Frank, the uber liberal Congressman from Massachusetts, was the latest Democrat to face angry voters on issues ranging from health care to bank bailouts at a Congressional town hall. Barney Frank, often prickly when challenged, gave as good as he got.
Mike Griffin persists in speaking out. Something about returning to the Moon.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Looks like Oliver Stone is going to try his hand at alternate history.
American Seniors Association Begins Health Care Membership Drive
The American Seniors Association bills itself as a conservative alternative to the AARP. The American Seniors Association, while dwarfed by its larger, more liberal rival, now seems to be benefiting from the health care debate at the expense of the AARP.
RIP, Robert Novak, 'The Prince of Darkness'
Robert Novak, the famous political pundit, newspaper columnist, and television personality has died. With Robert Novak, a career in journalism that spanned fifty years has ended far too soon. The age of Obama needs Robert Novak more than ever.
PETA 'Save the Whales' Campaign Shocks and Offends
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), with its unerring instinct for publicity and controversy, has set up a billboard in Jacksonville Florida. The billboard devises another dimension to the shopworn slogan "Save the Whales."
Firas Alkhateeb, Obama as Joker Artist, Outed
The artist who created the now famous image of President Barack Obama as the Joker poster has been revealed to be Firas Alkhateeb, a history major at the University of Illinois. The person who has been displaying the poster is still unknown.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Will Carly Fiorina Take Barbara Boxer's Senate Seat?
Will Senator Barbara Boxer win a fourth term in the United States Senate during the 2010 elections. If Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewett Packard, has anything to say about it, Senator Boxer will soon be in the private sector.
It is a truism (that I happen to agree with) that the public will support only spending one percent of the federal budget on NASA. That being true, this chart suggests that NASA has a lot of room for growth. The shocking fact, indicated on the chart, is that we're spending less on space as a percentage of the federal budget than during the days of Jimmy Carter.
John Walker is shocked, shocked that NASA is a jobs program as well as a space program. (I know, he says "rather than", but he's wrong about that. If NASA were just a jobs program it would have its people doing something less expensive than flying in space.)

It is a feature of government funded programs to employ more people than is really necessary to do the task the program is supposed to accomplish. This feature is a way of buying the support of politicians for whom the public good is insufficient reason to support something (and that includes most of them.)

How one can change that sad state of affairs and still have a government funded space program is a question that has never been answered. Likely it can't be answered, so one suspects that employing people is just a cost of doing business on the government dime.
Jim Oberg asks Why is human Mars exploration so surprisingly hard?

Josh Hopkins has doubts about space basede fuel depots and think they may be more expensive than heavy lift. That wull make certain people unhappy.

Kert Woerlert examins the now famous Air Force report on abort scenarios of the Orion and Ares 1 and finds less than meets the idea. This will also make certain people unhappy.

Talor Dinerman looks at lessons from SEI. Note Paul Spudis's comments.
'True Blood': Season 2, Episode 9, 'I Will Rise Up'
True Blood Season 2 Episode 9 I Will Rise Up began as the previous episode ended, with a bang as the Fellowship of the Sun suicide bomber detonated himself and some silver in the midst of a vampire conclave in Dallas.
'Mad Men': Season 3, Episode 1, 'Out of Town'
Mad Men Season 3 Episode 1 Out of Town finds Don Draper, the ultimate self made man, up in the middle of the night making some hot milk for his pregnant wife Beatty. Nice to see Don being a dutiful husband for once.
Health Care Reform, Public Option, and the Left
Indications that the Obama administration may be backing away from the public option in health care reform has got the Left riled. It is understandable since government run health care has been the Holy Grail of the Left for decades.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

While Barack Obama is still trying to find ways to make the American health care system socialist, Canada is trying to find ways to make its health care system less socialist.
This guy does things with bag pipes that were never intended to be done.
60 Plus Association and the Fight Against Health Care Reform
One of the players in the health care debate in an organization calling itself the 60 Plus Association has been running an ad against health care reform the invokes everything from the landings on Normandy to the Great Depression.
Is Mad Men conservative? Apparently it is on taxes, at least. It's depiction of folks being able to live without fear of political correctness is also appealing.
First the "death panels" and now the public option is dead.
Rand Simberg make a makes an unconvincing case for the look but don't touch or deep space option. The main argument seems to be that Rand has gotten a sudden interest in going to Phobos, which Augustine 2.0 suggests could happen in most of the look but don't touch scenarios in about twenty to twenty five years. Then there is this:
First of all, once you’re at Phobos, if you send the right equipment, you might in fact be able manufacture the propellant needed to descend to the surface, manufacture propellant there, and come back up. The additional mass needed to do this would be trivial, compared to the IMLEO (initial mass in low earth orbit) required to do a Mars landing staged from earth. All it would take is a refuelable lander, and the equipment necessary to process the asteroid (which is what Phobos or Deimos are, other than their location).

That depends, of course, on the asteroid. I would do an asteroid encounter mission far sooner than I would go to Phobos, which seems like a silly thing to do and not go the rest of the way to Mars. In any case, how making fuel on an asteroid helps LEO and lunar operations is not clear to me.

The rest of the argument seems to be (and Rand, being Rand, will likely deny what his words suggest) that Phobos is just as exciting as going to some silly little world like the Moon or Mars, so there!
There is no reason that you should have to descend into a deep gravity well to make deep space exploration exciting, and I tire of the notion that there is.

Of course the fact that one is not descending into a "deep gravity well" pretty much is a buzz kill, not only from the gee wizz wow standpoint, but from all the other things one can't do, like learn what is necessary to learn to build settlements.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

More progress in helping the blind to see.
Norm Augustine speaks about the space exploration conundrum.
Lynndie England of Abu Ghraib Speaks
A lecture by Lynndie England, the Army Reservist who became the face of the Abu Ghraib scandal, scheduled to occur at the Library of Congress had to be canceled due to threats. The subject was to be her newly published biography.
'District 9' - a South African 'Alien Nation'
District 9 owes a lot of its influence to a twenty plus year old film which became a TV series and then a series of TV movies called Alien Nation. As with Alien Nation, the premise of District 9 is that a huge space ship full of alien refugees arrives at Earth.
One of the things forgotten in discussions about the findings of Augustine 2.0 is how Congress will react. What will Senator Bill Nelson do? Meanwhile, Barack Obama's conundrum. Give NASA more money or emasculate exploration for another generation?

Orlando Sentinel reports that the final menu being presented to the White House is this:
1.) Constellation constrained to FY2010 budget projections (ISS closed in 2015).
2.)ISS +Lunar constrained to the FY2010 budget which uses a commercial rocket and capsule instead of Ares I to take crew to the station.
3.)ISS +Lunar less constrained to the FY2010 budget, which also uses a commercial rocket instead of Ares I to take crew to the station.
4.) Extend the space shuttle under a less constrained budget to 2015 to close the gap in U.S. human spaceflight and give NASA time to build a rocket from shuttle parts for lunar orbits and scouting missions on the moon.
5.) Three "Flexible" deep space exploration options all under less constrained budgets:
A) Uses a smaller version of the Ares V called Ares V lite and no orbiting fuel depots;
B) Uses an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle and fuel depots;
C) Uses a rocket made from space shuttle parts and fuel depots.

Reiterating that the White House is under no obligation to select any of these as written, one suspects that Ares 1 may be, as many have predicted, still born. This may be fine for LEO operations if the commercial option proves viable, but begs the question as to how to proceed further.

I'm not very enamored by any of the Deep Space options, an opinion shared oddly enough by John Logsdon.

And there is the problem, as we have mentioned, of pushing out the milestones of any program out by another decade at least. I simply do not see how one sells something that doesn't do anything for fifteen or twenty years. Is the solution more money? International partners and more money? Commercial partners and more money? Suck it up and blame Bush?

Interesting times, as the Chinese proverb says, lay ahead.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Woodstock 40th Anniversary
Woodstock celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2009 with a variety of events. Woodstock was an outdoor concert that took place at a diary farm in the town of Bethel, New York about 43 miles from Woodstock, New York over four days in August, 1969.
There is a great deal of angst surrounding the latest news about what Augustine 2.0 is prepared to propose. Most if not all of the options being presented push off a return to the Moon to 2030 or beyond.

While there are some good things in what is bubbling up from Augustine 2.0, including a new emphasis in commercial launch to LEO and establishing a new budget line item for technology development, one cannot help but come to the conclusion that Augustine 2.0 is about to hand President Obama a steaming pile of offal.

Partly this is the fault of both the Bush and Obama administration. Bush charged NASA with a great new exploration program and then reneged of promises to fund it. Obama, so far, seems to be following that pattern. Now there is an assumption that the current funding level represents a ceiling and not, as it should be looked at, a floor.

Augustine 2.0 is quite correct in concluding that no exploration program is affordable under the current budget projections. Augustine 2.0 seems to have fallen down, though, in presenting a series of anemic options that don't really do anything exploration wise for the next fifteen to twenty years.

If one of these options is chosen without modification, the next Americans to land on the Moon may be greeted by some Chinese who will then demand a look at their visas. That is, if the program survives twenty or so years of the shifting ebbs and flows of political fashion without achieving a significant milestone.

Just imagine that you are, say, Senator Bill Nelson and are looking at how many of your constituants will be out of a job starting about 2011 and lasting until exploration starts up around 2025 (for some of the Deep Space scenarios) ro 2030 and beyond for just about everything else. You are not likely to be happy.

My advice to President Obama, for what it is worth, is to thank the Augustine Commission for its work, accept the report, then forward the report to your people at NASA with the budget guidence that assumes three to five billion more a year, taken out of the unspent stimlus. Tell NASA to make something of what Augustine 2.0 has suggested, but to use its best judgment. Suggest strongly that a return to the Moon or a visit to a NEO asteroid should happen sooner rather than later.
Newt Gingrich has some advice for Sarah Palin.
Rush Limbaugh and Karl Rove appearing as themselves on Family Guy? The mind boggles.
Keith Hennessey Outs Dr. Douglas Elmendorf as Enemy of Health Care Reform
CBO Director Reported to 'Flag@Whitehouse.Gov' For 'Fishy' Information

Keith Hennessey, former assistant to President George W. Bush on Economic Policy and Director of the US National Economic Council, found some fishy things being said about health care reform on the Internet. He duly reported it.
Will Lisa Nowak get the kidnapping charges dropped?
A cable TV version of Robert Silverberg's The World Inside is being developed for HBO. One thing not mentioned is that in the future society, people marry at the age of puberty, have as many babies as possible, and practice this curious custom in which the males can enter anyone's apartment and have sex with the female living there at will.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Caves underneath the Great Pyramids of Giza?
...the caves -- which are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years old -- may have both inspired the development of the pyramid field and the ancient Egyptian's belief in an underworld.
Rob Coppinger has a somewhat contrarian view of Augustine 2.0 and what is likely to happen. It is therefore worth reading.

I do disagree with two points. I think Rob discounts too soon the ability of the commercial sector to step up. Companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic have had their own share of problems, but that is in the nature of the rocket business. Everything costs more and everything takes longer.

The second area is what Obama is likely to do. Unless he is terminally dumb (and considering his handling of health care, that may be a possibility one admits) he cannot let space exploration die. Obama will be deciding the course of the space exploration program around the time health care reform is dying its final death and the pundits will be busy writing off his Presidency. He might be tempted to do a JFK and try to take back the initiative with a reinvigorated exploration program. It has everything. Economic stimulus. Jobs. The Future. Science. Technology. Even making nice with foreign countries, since one suspects that any exploration program will have international partners.
Twenty Shows Prematurely Cancelled by the Fox Network
Lyndon LaRouche Jumps into the Health Care Fray
Just when one would think that the health care follies were not strange enough, it seems that Lyndon LaRouche has decided to join in the fun. Apparently Lyndon LarRouche's acolytes are distributing an Obama as Hitler poster.
A Guide to Gonzo Engineering by the Mythbusters.
Jeff Foust has his take on yesterday's meeting of Augustine 2.0. I disagree with the notion that the current program is "not affordable." Fifty billion extra is a small fraction of the stimulus money that has yet to be spent.

Of course, as with most things, the Obama administration is likely to have another opinion.
Debbie Stabenow Feels Global Warming
Senator Debbie Stabenow is pretty sure that global warming exists, despite record cold temperatures in her home state of Michigan. According to the Detroit News, Debbie Stabenow has come to a unique way of understanding this.
Legion Trailer Debuts on Internet
The trailer of a film called Legion is now up on the Internet. Legion is a horror/action movie based upon the premise that God has decided that he has had enough of humanity and sends an army of angels to wipe us out. Mayhem and death ensue.
Arlen Specter, Barack Obama in political free fall.
Will Orion do an Apollo 8 Redux? And will that ever be followed by an actual landing?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

This is a good account of what happened at today's public meeting of Augustine 2.0. The main takeaway is that there is no exploration mission that is viable at the current budget. Obama is going to have to step up, in the middle of all the other problems he has brought upon himself, and either cough up more money (and sell it to the Congress and the American people) or be the President who--again--defered American space exploration for perhaps another generation.
Mary Robinson Medal of Freedom is Controversial
President Barack Obama has handed out his first Medals of Freedom, the highest civilian award given by the United States. Among the recipients, ranging from the late Jack Kemp to Sidney Poitier, one, Mary Robinson, has proven controversial.
One of the arguments about plans for space exploration has been how much if any should be done commercially. One of the problems is that there are no commercial lunar or interplanetary space craft just laying around to be rented by NASA. Hence, NASA's insistance on doing return to the Moon (or wherever it is decided we will go) in the old fashioned way that worked with Apollo.

Could the return to the Moon be done commercially? Hitherto I have argued that it can't, at least in the near term. But in the spirit of always testing ones assumptions, I've written the following as a kind of thought experiment. By all means use the comments section at the bottom of the article to pick it apart and argue over it.

A Commercial Solution to NASA's Exploration Program?
Germany proposes an unmanned lunar landing by 2015.
Norm Auguatine speaks about the work of his committee on the possible future of the US space program. This interesting tid bit jumps out:
Augustine also said he has not seen any showstoppers that would prevent NASA from fielding Ares and Orion.

"All aggressive technical programs have problems. I've never worked on one that didn't," he said. "For example, Ares I has some problems. Some of those problems have not yet been solved. Most are of an engineering nature, as opposed to requiring new science."

He said while some of these issues could prove difficult to resolve, they are not unlike challenges NASA faced in developing the Apollo lunar program that in 1969 sent humans to the surface of the Moon for the first time.

"I look back at the problem Apollo faced at this point in time, and the problems that Apollo faced in my mind were much more serious than what one sees with the existing program," he said. "But the fact is that this is a new era, with a new risk-taking mentality, so I'm not sure that's relevant. But it's interesting."

Which is exactly what I have been saying, much to the jeering from certain quarters.

Mind, there are interesting alternatives coming out of the committee's deliberations. One appears to be, if I am not mistaken, a lunar vehicle delivered to a LEO fuel depot by a heavy lifter and then a crew delivered to the lunar vehicle via a commercial launch (i.e. say a Dragon.) A little more complex than the current system, but it does have certain advantages.
Camille Paglia Inveighs Against Obama
Camille Paglia, writing in Salon, is not quite ready to have buyer's remorse for President Barack Obama. On the other hand, Camille Paglia believes that President Obama has been a disaster in his domestic policy, especially health care reform.
Pro Obama protesters and the town hall audience bussed in to the New Hampshire town hall.
The Heritage Foundation fact checks Barack Obama's pronouncements at the New Hampshire town hall and finds little if any actual facts.
Big Labor, in the form of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE, has their own recommendations to Augustine 2.0. Essentially its Moon then Mars, with a healthy increase in budget, ISS extension, and a few other things.
The Aerospace Corp study on the impact of replacing Ares 1 with a modified Delta IV has been released.

The good news is that it would save NASA three to six billion in launcher development costs.

The bad news is that Ares V would cost about $1.1 billion to $3.5 billion more.

The really bad news is that Orion (presumably to make it fit on the Delta IV) would cost $14.1 billion to $16.6 billion more, according to NASA.

The relative safety of a modified Delta IV vs. Ares 1, mandated to NASA by the Columbia Commission, was not addressed in the study.

I suspect that this study is the final nail in the coffin of the EELV option and that seems to be indicated in the direction Augustine 2.0 seems to be going.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What role would Ariane 5 play in exploration? Plus, once the fuel is drained from the space based fuel depots, how about turning them into space stations? There were some studies of using the space shuttle external tank for that purpose.

Addendum: Having people living and working near space based fuel depots could turn them into real life gas stations for space ships. An oil change and a windshield wash would be right out, but maybe a chance to buy supplies before that long trip to Mars or wherever.
Paul Spudis takes the opportunity of the latest Augustine Committee public meeting to inveigh against the current plan to send astronaut explorers beyond low Earth orbit. He has an interesting notion about how VSE "went wrong", which I have to disagree with. It seems that in Paul's view, the goal of Mars to take place after the Moon diverted the return to the Moon away from a plan to utilize the Moon's resources and instead as just a dress rehearsal for Mars.

I'm not sure that the two are necessarily at odds, though there is a case for not even mentioning Mars (at least for the time being) until something permanent is built up on the Moon.

I also have to disagree with the opposition to heavy lift. I understand the promise of space based fuel depots, but regard them as an enhancer rather that an enabler. In order to get more than just a handful of people to the Moon and back (hence, a true space settlement) heavy lift and space based fuel depots are vital. (Unless one proposes to build a space elevator, which would be a big game changer if it could be accomplished.)

Finally, dealing with the budgeting for a multi year, even multi decade program can be mind numbing, considering the ebb and flow of political whim. I do not think one can design a program that would work just as well in lean years as it would in not so lean years. Politically that would be an incentive to just put the whole program on maintenance and claim one is making progress.

In other words, things cost what they cost and we cannot pretend that they don't. This has not only been a tendency of various White Houses and Congresses, but of NASA, who all too often has been faced with unexpected budget cuts, saluted, and pretended that they can carry out the program anyway on the reduced budget. That's how one gets the space shuttle and the space station and it has to stop.

In other words, to paraphrase Napoleon, if one proposes to return to the Moon, then for God's sake return to the Moon. If it takes more money that you thought, then spend it. There are hundreds of billions of dollars of stimulus funds, as yet unspent, just begging to be reprogrammed for something a little more interesting than subsidizing gay porn or building roads to nowhere.

Addendum: Paul, Frank Sietzen, and others are having a spirited discussion about who did what and when and where in the early days of what became VSE. It's like Harry Turtledove said, if you want alternate history, read accounts of different people who participated in the same event.
Arlen Specter's Latest Town Hall Fracas
Tort Reform and Health Care
One of the reforms that people actually interested in health care reform, but is so far not in any health care reform proposal being contemplated seriously by the Congress, is tort reform. The idea is that law suits are a factor in increasing the cost of health care.
Will the Chevy Volt Save GM?
General Motors is staking a lot of its hopes for a revival from its current dismal economic circumstances on the Chevy Volt, an electric car that will use a small, gas engine for recharging on long trips, due to be in show rooms by 2010.
Health Care Reform: A Texas View
It should come as no surprise that Texas, one of the reddest of the red states, has many members of the United States Congress are very skeptical of health care reform. Health care reform costs too much and allows the government to be too intrusive.
Hillary Clinton Snaps at Question About Bill Clinton
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton became very testy recently when asked a question at a meeting with young people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was a great illustration of the problems that the spouse of a more famous person faces.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Nancy Pelosi Attacks 'Un-American' Health Care Opponents
Are You or Have You Ever Been an Opponent of Health Care Reform?

According to an oped in USA Today under the bylines of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Americans who are storming Congressional town halls to protest health care reform are "un-American."
Best Science Fiction TV Series of All Time
My list of the greatest science fiction television of all time is, as is the nature of such things, rather subjective. Others will argue for different selections. Here are the arguments for mine.
Dwayne Day uncovers another example of middle school behavior on the part of space activists.
Battlestars for real.
Dwayne Day drops the hammer on Defying Gravity or, as he calls it, Lust in Space.
Taylor Dinerman asks what has ISS taught us?
The Shuttle HHLV alternative progresses.
Aliens and Science Fiction Television
One nice thing that science fiction can do is to delve into the human condition by depicting non-humans. Here are three classic TV series that did that well.
Characters of V: Diana and Anna
In both the 1980s version of "V" and the upcoming 21st Century version, the evil aliens are led by a female. However, the different approaches each version has to the alien invaders has dictated that the leaders be of slightly different characteristics.
'True Blood': Season 2, Episode 8: 'Time Bomb'
True Blood Season 2 Episode 8 Time Bomb started where the previous episode left off, with Godric, the super vampire Sheriff of Texas, in all of his somewhat small statured glory, rescuing Sookie from the clutches of the Fellowship of the Sun.
Science Fiction TV Shows to Bring Back
It is a truism that there are no original ideas left in Hollywood, which seems happy to do remakes of old movies and revivals of old TV series. Still, there are a few old science fiction series that might prove worthy of bringing back.
Sci-Fi Shows of the 1980s
The 1980s featured a number of science fiction series on TV, some worthy, some that might have been worthy.
Best Science Fiction Remakes
Hollywood, notorious as a place that eschews the new and the original for the safe (so called) and familiar is in love with remaking old material. This is no more prevalent than in science fiction.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra Review

GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a film that tries very hard but does not quite exceed what it really is, a live action version of a cartoon series. The plot, the situation, and most of the characters are unbelievable to say the least.
Barack Obama 'Shut Up!
It used to be that the Left believed that dissent was the highest form of patriotism. However, at a campaign fund raiser in Virginia on Thursday, President Barack Obama revealed just what he thought of dissent when it is directed at him.

Friday, August 07, 2009

The National Research Council proposes that NASA revive NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC). A good idea, but it would need to be funded adequately.
Charles Krauthammer has his own health care reform proposal.
Mel Martinez to Resign from the Senate
Senator Mel Martinez of Florida and the only Hispanic Republican in the Senate has decided to resign his seat early, which will allow Florida Governor Charlie Crist to appoint a replacement in advance of the 2010 elections.
John Hughes, RIP
John Hughes, the director of such classic 1980s films as The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 59. The films of John Hughes captured perfectly the teenage experience of his era.
'Burn Notice': Season 3, Episode 9: 'Long Way Back'
Burn Notice Season 3 Episode 9 Long Way Back was about life changes and how they often go awry. In other words, Michael, Fi, and even Sam, if you want to give God a good laugh, tell him about your plans for the future.
Angry Mob of Racist Extremists Beats Black Man at Town Hall Meeting
The black man in question was a conservative protesting health care reform. The racist mob was comprised of union thugs.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

NASA is at lot closer to developing trash can sized nuclear reactors to power lunar bases. That is should lunar bases survive the Augusti 2.0. review...
Adam Keiper, the esteemed editor of The New Atlantis, has a smll piece called Conservatives in Space. He compares and contrasts Rand Simberg's (IMHO flawed) essay in that magazine with the Mars centered dreams of Bob Zubrin. Besides the Simberg essay, there is one thing I would quibble with.
There are at least four basic impulses that divide the Right on the question of the federal space agency. To oversimplify: Some strict small-government types want to reduce or even eliminate government spending on human spaceflight. Some conservatives are predisposed to think of space as inhumanly detached from everyday concerns or foolishly distracting from the national interest. Some who are concerned with American glory, strength, and vitality want NASA to take on bold new challenges. And some who are concerned with enterprise want NASA to help the private sector develop space and then to get out of the way.

Actually there is no inherent contradiction between the last two views. Both NASA and the private sector bring to the task of opening the high frontier of space particular strengths and weaknesses.

NASA is able to marshal enormous resources toward the problems of exploration, science, and technology development that the private sector is not able to amass. The private sector has the nimbleness and flexibility to go after particular markets in space and to, eventually, bring down the costs of traveling to, from, and through space and operating there.

NASA alone wastes money and is buffeted by political shifts as its budget is cut or shifted around according to whim. The private sector is simply not capable of mounting expeditions to the Moon or beyond or constructing settlements in the foreseeable future. Together, though, NASA and what people are taking to calling "new space" can do anything.

How to mesh the two so that the strengths are brought to bear is a fundamental problem of our time. I don't think Rand, for all he praise he has gotten for his New Atlantis article, has answered that question. Part of the reason is a flawed understanding of the history of the space age; Rand has a simplistic notion of why things happened and why they did not. Rand also demonstrates a bias against government and an excessive impatience toward its fundamental inefficiencies that seems to foreclose any notion that NASA has any role but servicing the commercial sector. A government space effort, while it should be commercial friendly, is much more than just a conduit toward space faring corporate welfare.

Addendum: Rand, most unhappily, comments with his usual snark. Rand does not even consider that his inability to comprehend opposing views may be his fault. Rand's post is an example of what is very wrong with space activism. There are too many people in it with enormous egos who have a chip on their shoulders, and an attitude of "my way or no way", and a tendency to bloviate when they should listen instead. This in turn is very unattractive to people on the outside and a disservice to the cause of enlightening them about the benefits of opening up the high frontier of space.

Rand also needs to police his comments section more thoroughly. The post by 'Joe Blow' (a coward afraid to post under his own name) is border line libelous. 'Joe Blow' might want to read the following (scroll down a little.) Also here and here.
'Flag@Whitehouse.Gov' A Snitch Line
The Obama administration seems to have committed another political misstep when it set up an email address, '', in order to allow supporters to report on "misinformation" on health care reform.
Bill calls Hillary
Rand Paul to Run for US Senate
Rand Paul, the son of former Libertarian presidential candidate and current Republican Congressman Ron Paul, has entered the race to replace Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky, who is declining to run for another term in 2010.
Was the Bombing of Hiroshima Necessary?
On August 6th, 1945, a single B 29 bomber flew over the Japanese city of Hiroshima and dropped a single bomb. Seconds later, a nuclear explosion snuffed out the lives of eighty thousand Japanese in an instant. The nuclear age had begun.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Augustine 2.0 has narrowed the options. They are:
Committee member Edward Crawley, an MIT professor, said only three of the potential scenarios under review by the committee stay within NASA's projected exploration budget, now pegged at about $80 billion total through 2020. That's about $28 billion less than what the agency expected when it chose the Orion and Ares rocket plan.

Those three options include:

NASA Baseline Plan: Stretch out the schedule for NASA's current Constellation program goals to build and fly Orion and the Ares rockets within the budget available, retire the shuttle fleet in 2011, and end U.S. involvement in the 16-country international space station in 2015. Rely on international partners for crew and cargo transport until Orion and U.S. commercial flights are available.

Space Station Focused: Retire the shuttle fleet in 2011, but extend space station operation through 2020. Rely on international partners for crew and cargo transport until Orion and Ares I rockets, or commercial flight, are available. "This would be robust utilization of the space station, but allows exploration to move off into the later distance future," said Crawley, who leads the committee's subgroup studying destinations for human space exploration. "It's a limiting case."

Dash Out of Low Earth Orbit: This option retains the shuttle fleet's 2011 retirement and the 2015 deadline for U.S. involvement in the space station, but eliminates the Ares I rocket entirely in order to focus on the heavy-lift Ares V rocket, which could then be used to launch Orion flights to lunar orbit, near-Earth asteroids or even planetary flybys. International partners would provide crew and cargo transport until the larger Ares V comes online. The "dash" option is aimed at launching manned missions beyond low-Earth orbit as fast as possible, "therefore it makes no sense for us to do anything other than rely on international partners and commercial [companies] for crew access," Crawley said.

More expensive scenarios

The remaining scenarios under the committee's review would likely exceed or equal the current budget planned for NASA's exploration goals, Crawley said. They range from a more direct repurposing of space shuttle technology to sending humans straight to Mars, though all could set the stage for potential in-orbit refueling capabilities.

Those options include:

More Directly-Shuttle Derived System: This scenario calls for flying the space shuttle through 2015 and eventually replacing it with a system that draws more heavily on the shuttle hardware, such as its external tank and twin solid rocket boosters. A potential Side-Mount Shuttle, which would use the tank and boosters to launch a cargo pod or crew capsule instead of a reusable orbiter, is one such plan. The shuttle would fly beyond 2011 at a rate of up to two flights a year, and the space station would fly until 2020. Eventually, commercial crew launch services are envisioned.

Deep Space: This option would retire the shuttle fleet in 2011 and extend space station operations through 2020. It suggests developing U.S. crew launch capability as a backup to services provided by international partners and commercial interests. The focus would be building a heavy-lift vehicle capability of launching astronauts on lunar orbital missions, near-Earth asteroid missions and planetary flybys.

Lunar Global: The shuttle replacement plans for this scenario are similar to those for the Deep Space option, but the fleet would still retire in 2011 with the space station continuing through 2020. Instead of setting up a short-duration outpost on the moon, however, the aim would be for extended stays for more exploration. "This would prepare us to take the next step to Mars, having spent some time on the moon," Crawley said.

Mars Direct: The final option under the committee's eye largely skips the moon and focuses on the sending astronauts directly to Mars. Like others, it includes retiring the shuttle fleet by 2011 and extending the space station through 2020. International partners and commercial companies would provide crew launch services while NASA develops a fleet of Ares V rockets to launch crew and cargo to Mars. The plan would only send humans to the moon or near-Earth asteroids in order to test hardware for the Mars mission.

NASA Baseline Plan envisions stretching out the first Moon landing to 2028, which is a silly thing to do because one is too stingy with money. It would cost more anyway in the long run.

Space Station Focused is right out too, much as I would like to see ISS stretched out to 2020, not at the expense of getting beyond LEO sometime in our lifetimes.

Dash Out of Low Earth Orbit sounds like Look but Don't Touch Light, unless there is something about landing on the Moon that is missing.

More Directly-Shuttle Derived System doesn't sound ether commercial friendly or exploration friendly, but perhaps there are some details missing.

Deep Space is the new name for Flexible Path or, more properly termed, Look But Don't Touch. Since we don't land on the Moon or Mars, it is actually half an exploration program. It could be tweeked to include landings, but as of right now we focus attention on asteroids (good) and flyby and orbital missions (bad).

Lunar Global is the best of the lot, as it focuses on the Moon, whil retaining the possibility of expanding to a lunar base and/or deeper space missions.

Mars Direct, much as I like Bob Zubrin, is a trap and a planet too far for right now. It is the least likely option to get picked, IMHO.
Ten Astronaut Songs
'Conservatives for Patients Rights' Blamed for Health Care Protests
Robert Gibbs, the official White House Spokesman, claimed that much of the angry protests that have been occurring at Congressional town halls have been "manufactured." Gibbs specifically named Conservatives for Patients Rights as an instigator.
More of the wild, weird world of John Holdren, Barack Obama's own Dr. Strangelove.
A top White House adviser to President Barack Obama argued that mankind eventually must face up to the need for a “world of zero net physical growth” and “population limitation” in an essay he co-authored that was included in a 1995 book on environmentally “sustainable” economic activity published by the World Bank.
A Monolith on Mars? It would be lovely were it so, but I think I have to agree with those who suggest that it is a natural phenomenon.
Psycho Donuts -- Politically Incorrect, Insensitive, or a Public Service?
Jordan Zweigoron, the owner of a little café in a strip center in Campbell, California, called Psycho Donuts, has found a way to attract both customers and unwanted media attention. It seems that his mental illness themed business is politically incorrect.
'The Lovely Bones' by Peter Jackson Trailer Debuts
A trailer for The Lovely Bones, a film by Peter Jackson based on the novel by Alice Sebold has hit the Internet. The Lovely Bones is a film on a slightly smaller scale that Jackson' previous King Kong and Lord of the Rings, but is no less fantastic.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Is the Obama Joker Picture Racist?
The appearance of the Obama Joker Picture in the LA area and, it is now reported, in Atlanta is creating a predictable backlash among the Left. The Obama Joke Picture, with the caption of "Socialism" is eliciting charges of racism.
Sherlock Holmes is gay in the upcoming film???
The Water Jet Pck Soars
Back in the olden days, when the Moon landing and the Internet were all still in the future, people were pretty sure that by the 21st Century we would all be tooling around with jet packs. Now Raymond Li has made it happen with a water jet pack.
Bill Clinton's Mission to North Korea
Former President of the United States Bill Clinton has gone to North Korea to seek the release of two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, from a prison camp where they are serving a twelve year sentence for "illegal activity."
More on Ryan O'Neal Hits on Daughter Tatum
While attending the funeral of his long time significant other, Farrah Fawcett, Ryan O'Neal pulled the ultimate indiscretion. Indeed the incident brings to mind a turgid pseudo Hitchcock film directed by Brain De Palma in the mid 1970s.
Obama is not Spock. He is too illogical to be any sort of a Vulcan.

But Sarah Palin is Kirk. Why?

Because she has passed the Kobayashi Maru test.
Rand Simberg, with his unerring sense of wanting to choose the most unworkable and most politically unviable exploration option (next only to Mars or Bust), chooses, Look but Don't Touch.
We need to focus on developing the infrastructure needed to affordably go beyond earth orbit, regardless of ultimate destination. Of the options being considered by the Augustine panel, “Flexible path” offers the most promise in that regard.

Actually Look but Don't Touch will not do that, unless it is ones intent to exclude the most interesting parts of what lays beyond earth orbit, starting with the Moon and Mars, from ones infrastructure.

I can also see Look but Don't Touch dying a quick political death. "Why are we spending all those billions of dollars to send people to barren rocks or--worse--empty space?"

No, the current plan, however Augustine 2.0 chooses to modify it, is the best alternative. We'll not only develop the infrastructure to get around the Solar System, but will also start learning how to live there.

Addendum: Rand leaps the length of his chain again and in so doing posts something that is at best more hope than truth:
It is a plan to allow us to go affordably and sustainably wherever we (and our inheritors) wish in the (or at least the inner) solar system, including planetary surfaces, if we can raise the money and motivation for the additional hardware necessary to do so.

The document released by the Augustine Committee specifically excludes human landings on bodies with "large gravity wells." It is possible that should Look but Don't Touch is chosen, a future administration might fund landers to allow astronauts to go the last hundred or so kilometers to actually visit the Moon and Mars. But as of right now, Look but Don't Touch does not contemplate such landings for the foreseeable future.
Why so spurious?

Monday, August 03, 2009

I have read the Why We Explore, Where We Should Explore, and How? that was presented recently by the Beyond Low Earth Orbit Sub Committee of Augustine 2.0. It is a fascinating, detailed, and visionary document clearly written by adults. It does indeed recommendthe use of space based fueling depots, either as an enabling technology or as a enhancing technology, depending on the size of the booster chosen.

A hint on where Augustine 2.0 may be going can be found toward the end, with the recommendations.
1)That we maintain the current program of record as an option

2) That we consider the variant proposed by the program to maintain content and stretch schedule

3) That we consider the variant proposed by the program to focus on the Ares 5 (dual launch) and resulting capabilities

4) LUNAR GLOBAL: An approach to exploration of the Moon, by visiting many sites first in sorties, and then in longer stays, in an approach which more directly focused on Mars preparation

5) IN SPACE: An in space path with visits to lunar orbit, Lagrange points, NEOs and Mars orbit, with the option to sortie to the lunar surface or visits to the moons of Mars

6) MARS “FIRST”: A Mars exploration program with test flights to the Moon of the Mars systems

Note that Moon to Mars seems to have dropped off. Also duo Ares V is mentioned as a possible varient for the current program option (lunar base.)

One can hardly wait for the final report and for the reaction to it.
Ed Morrissey reminds us of how the universal health care system in Oregon denied life savings drugs to a cancer patient, but instead suggested the assisted suicide option. Eventually the evil drug company provided the drug pro bono.
Paul Spudis inveighs against the Mars First option, suggesting that it is a planet too far at the current time.
Hollywood's excuse for toning down pro American themes in movies and even making anti American movies is the supposed need to cater to an international market. John Nolte has some numbers that suggests that is not necessarily so.
Ryan O'Neal did a bad, bad thing at Farah Fawcett's funeral.
The studio is trying to sell the live action GI Joe movie in the Heartland as patriotic action picture. That is not how it is being sold in the Middle East and Old Europe. Then there is this:
When it comes to selling "G.I. Joe" outside the U.S., the message is "this is not a George Bush movie -- it's an Obama world," director Stephen Sommers said. "Right from the writing stage we said to ourselves, this can't be about beefy guys on steroids who all met each other in the Vietnam War, but an elite organization that's made up of the best of the best from around the world."

Leaving aside the notion that most guys who met in Vietnam are collecting Social Security, this sort of implies that the Joes are negotiating with COBRA.
Taylo Dinerman takes a dim view of a book that claims that international law wll forever foreclose property rights in space.
The truth is that international law has been losing its legitimacy for decades. By trying to do everything and to extend its reach everywhere, its advocates have taken what might have been a useful, limited tool of statecraft and turned it into an institutional power grab that is slowly collapsing of its own weight. The refusal of so many nations—not just the US—to agree to the Moon Treaty is a sign of just how strong the resistance really is. In another context India’s rejection of US climate control proposals is another sign that global governance is not something that has much of a future.
Jeff Foust returns to the question is there a space race between China and the United States?
“The dominant metaphor during the Cold War for space was a race,” he said. “A race is something where you have a winner, and if you have a winner you have a loser. That’s not the metaphor that the Chinese use, at least internally to themselves to describe what they’re doing.”

Instead, the Chinese approach has been more akin to joining a club—a seat at the table. “A corollary of that is that the Chinese take their technical cues from the countries that are already members of the club,” Lewis said. “So I think over and over again what we see is not so much the Chinese racing as we see them copying.”

Since that approach doesn't imply a zero-sum competition, it does leave open the door for cooperation between the US and China, cooperation that largely is absent today. “I find it so interesting that China is a major spacefaring state and we have essentially no relationship with that program whatsoever at a civil space level,” he said.

The problem with this view is that it seems to assume that China is a benign country, like England or India, whose status as a space power would not matter much. Unfortunately China is ruled by a totalitarian regime with a very aggressive foreign and national security strategy designed to supplant the United States as the world's sole superpower.

I would not take too much comfort with the "place for our mat" analogy for a seat at the table. It sounds to me like the German Kaiser demanding a "place in the sun" for the German Empire. That led to World War I.
Peter Garretson has his own plan for a space policy. He lost me here:
Every phrase should be guided by the advice of Parag Khanna: “First, channel your inner JFK. You are president, not emperor. You are commander in chief and also diplomat in chief. Your grand strategy is a global strategy, yet you must never use the phrase ‘American national interest.’ (It is assumed.) Instead talk about ‘global interests’ and how closely aligned American policies are with those interests. No more ‘us’ versus ‘them,’ only ‘we.’ That means no more talk of advancing ‘American values’ either. What is worth having is universal first and American second.”

One wonders if ths hoary one worldism includes countries like Iran or China whose values do not and cannot align with our own.
Lloyd Doggett Faces Angry Voters Over Health Care Reform
Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D) of the 25th District of Texas was one of the first members of Congress to face the ire of his constituents during a recent town hall meeting at a Randall's store in Austin over health care reform.
Rob Coppinger believes he knows about some of the options that will be in the Augustine Report.
A Space Shuttle extension with more flights beyond any "stretching out" of the current manifest
The Heavy Lift Vehicle that is a variant of the famous "Shuttle-C" design
Ares I crew launch vehicle and Orion crew exploration vehicle block one

There will be no EELV variant, according to this report. If so, prepare for wailing and gnashing of teeth from certain quarters.

Meanwhile, John Kelly at Florida Today has some guesses of his own.

Among them:
Interestingly, Augustine sought and received the White House's blessing to list options that are over-budget. Watch for the report to argue that a space program worthy of a great country costs more. Expect at least one option funding both the current program and a bold exploration course. That would force the president to commit several billion dollars more a year to NASA.

Ordinarily one would suspect that would be a nonstarter. However, with the impending collapse of health care reform, Obama may want to do a JFK to salvage his Presidency. It would actually be as easy as reprogramming some of the stimulus money.
Obama Joker Poster Pops Up in LA
A strange poster of Barack Obama, made up to look like Heath Ledger's Joker from Batman: The Dark Knight is showing up at odd places, such as support pillars for highway overpasses, in the Los Angeles area.
Obama Kenyan Birth Certificate Unearthed?
A group of people called Birthers, who do not believe that President Barack Obama is an actual natural born citizen of the United States, are becoming excited over the appearance of an alleged birth certificate suggesting that the President was born in Kenya.
'True Blood': Season 2, Episode 7: 'Release Me'
True Blood Season 2 Episode 7 Release Me started pretty much as the previous episode ended, with Sam about to be the main sacrificial event at one of Maryann's nocturnal orgies with much of the town of Bon Temps cavorting like ancient Romans in the woods.
'Defying Gravity' Defies Logic and Wonder
Defying Gravity, of which the pilot and the second episode aired on Sunday, August 2nd, had an intriguing premise. Later this century, eight stalwart astronauts go on a voyage of discovery throughout the Solar Systems on a six year mission.
V - the Once and Future Alien Invasion Series
The original "V the Miniseries" was an alien invasion epic from the 1980s that was occasionally thoughtful, occasionally hokey, but always enjoyable. "V: The Final Battle" was action packed and fun. The less said about "V the TV Series" the better.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

It looks like Britain's National Health Service has done Dr. Barack Obama one better. Obama, as you might recall, suggested that under health care reform, people would be denied certain lif savings procedures and would be given pain meds instead. In formeraly Great Britain, you won't even get the pain meds.
Scott Speicher is Coming Home from Iraq at Last
The remains of Captain Scott Speicher, a Navy aviator shot down on the first night of the Gulf War, have been found in Anbar Province in Iraq. Captain Speicher's remains were positively identified by pathologists at Dover Air Force Base.