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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Friday, July 31, 2009
 
Clark Lindsey wonders if we're seeing the return of what he calls the NASA Brother in Law Effect which e describes thus:
A potential investor would exhibit great enthusiasm after a presentation but a few days later would back away from any check writing. When asked why, the investor would say that he or she had asked a brother-in-law who worked for NASA for advice and the brother-in-law had trashed the whole idea. The effect occurred despite the fact that the brother-in-law usually had little or no knowledge about the firm's technology or plans.

This was, in fact, a real problem during the Clinton years and I would not be surprised if it returned under Obama, the most anti capitalist President since FDR. But between Clinton and Obama NASA was unusually commercial friendly. I remember a piece in Space News by someone at Bigelow talking about how the difference was like night and day when a group of Bigelow folks went down to JSC to study the transhab concept of inflatable modules for their project. And COTS, unimaginable earlier, came to being during the Bush years.

That said, the unnamed NASA official was pretty much on the mark with what he said. Getting a new space craft off the ground is hard, as the folks at SpaceX and other companies hae discovered. There are still those, however, who equate "commercial" with "magic." The commercial development of space is vital, but it is not as easy as some people think.


 
It's not every Irish bride who gets to have three hundred heroes at her wedding. And I'll bet that the soldiers appreciated the hospitality too.


 
What Happened at the Beer Summit?
The great White House Beer Summit of 2009 was a weird affair. President Obama, Henry Louis Gates, Sergeant James Crowley, and Vice President Joe Biden had their beers at a picnic table in the Rose Garden in full view of the media and the world.


 
Cash for Clunkers 'Suspended'
The popular government program Cash for Clunkers has either been suspended or is "being reviewed" depending on who is telling the story. The one indisputable fact is that Cash for Clunkers has run out of money after just one week.


 
'World War Robot' Acquired by Jerry Bruckheimer
Jerry Bruckheimer, the prolific producer of such films as Armageddon, the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and National Treasure, and TV shows like CSI, has acquired the rights to a graphic novel entitled World War Robot.


 
'Burn Notice': Season 3, Episode 8: 'Friends like These'
Burn Notice Season 3 Episode 8 Friends Like These could also have been called "The Temptation of Michael Westen." How far will Michael go to get his burn notice lifted? And with whom will he be willing to deal to do it?


 
While the blogosphere has been jumping up and down about Augustine 2.0 endorsing space based fuel depots, the mainstream media took from the Florida meeting support for the flexible option or what I call "Look, but Don't Touch."


 
Spartacus the TV series will "bend history', sort of like every other drama on TV or in the movies.


Thursday, July 30, 2009
 
Captain Blood--in sp-a-a-ce!


 
I was not able to monitor the Florida meeting of Augustine 2, but my sources tell me that the Exploration Subcommittee has endorsed space based fuel depots as part of any option. This has been the cause of much rejoicing here and here and here.
I'm pretty sure that it is not the most amazing twenty five minutes in even recent NASA history. There are three reasons why.
(1) The Augustine 2.0 Report has not been written.
(2) President Obama has not approved any option that Augustine 2.0 has not yet offered.
And most important:
(3) Congress has not funded any option that Augustine 2.0 has yet to offer.
Also, my spies tell me that General Lyles has offered a reality check on space based depots, calling the technology "immature." And it seems that the panel is still leaning toward a launch vehicle that can toss more than 25 metric tons to the Moon, hence if not Ares V. perhaps Ares V Light (i.e. Ares IV.)

One can imagine fuel depots being in each of the options (including stay with the current and pump more money in) but not in the critical path. If one imagines a lunar settlement, one is going to have to also imagine the ability to move a lot more people and cargo between Earth and the Moon than is now being thought of. an HLV plus fuel depots would be a step in that direction.


 
Free Market Warrior Booted from Concord Mills Mall
A company called Free Market Warrior is the subject of a free speech controversy in Concord, North Carolina. A kiosk owned by Free Market Warrior is being kicked out of the Concord Mills Mall solely due to the political content of its products.


 
Obama to Host the Great Beer Summit
Thursday, July 30th, is the occasion of the Great White House Beer Summit, hosted by President Barack Obama. Attending will be the two parties of the latest racial controversy, Sergeant James Crowley and Professor Henry Louis Gates.


 
A five segmented SRB prototype for the Ares 1 seems ready for the horizontal test stand. This makes me curious about the report (see below) that the flight ready Ares won't be ready until 2017 or even 2019.


 
Laser propulsion may be a step closer to reality.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009
 
Due to ongoing technical problems and inadequate funding, the Augustine Commission has been told that the return to the Moon cannot occur before 2028. If true that suggests either more money (a lot more) or a new architecture (and likely more money.)


 
Mike Griffin persists in speaking out, this time to the Augustine Commission. And he makes sense.


 
More on Niall of the Nine Hostages is Ancestor of Gates and Crowley
It seems that police Sergeant James Crowley and Professor Henry Louis Gates, the center of a boiling racial controversy stemming from the arrest of the latter by the former, are actually cousins through Niall of the Nine Hostages.


 
Happy National Lasagna Day
Today, July 29th, is National Lasagna Day. The origins of the holiday are obscure. Nor is it known who first came up with the idea. But whoever did should be given his or her weight in what has to be the perfect dish.


 
Glenn Beck: Barack Obama a 'Racist'
A well-known TV personality recently accused the President of the United States of being a racist. These being the times we live in, that TV personality is Glenn Beck and not Keith Olbermann. The President is Barack Obama and not George W. Bush.


 
Colin Powell on the Henry Louis Gates Arrest
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, on Larry King Live, admonished Henry Louis Gates for being belligerent with the police, resulting in his arrest. General Powell went on to say some things about Sgt. James Crowley which were not helpful.



Tuesday, July 28, 2009
 
Will Obamacare kill Michael J. Fox?


 
Willi Augustine 2.0 recommend a two year shuttle extension to narrow the space flight gap?


 
Aabar Investments of Abu Dhabi wants to invest $280 million in Virgin Galactic. "In exchange, the state-controlled fund will acquire 'exclusive regional rights' to eventually launch Virgin Galactic tourism and scientific research spaceflights from the United Arab Emirates capital."


 
Sarah Palin radio commentator? Reagan did that too, of course.


 
Sonia Sotomayor Confirmed by Senate Judiciary Committee
The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted largely on partisan lines to approve the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to be the first Hispanic woman Supreme Court Justice. Senator Lindsey Graham was the only Republican to vote in favor of Sotomayor.


 
John Holdren, Obama's science advisor, apparently once had an ancient Greek approach to whether children were human or not. The Greek form of abortion tended to consist of leaving a new born infant out on a hillside to be devoured by wolves.


 
Transparent alumninum has been developed, apparently without the help of Scotty.


 
Michelle Malkin's 'Culture of Corruption' Published
Michelle Malkin, blogger, columnist, and TV news personality, has published the first analysis in book form of the Obama administration. The analysis is entitled Culture of Corruption and the conclusions Michelle Malkin makes are not pretty.



 
Sarah Palin's 'Farewell' Speech
Sarah Palin's farewell speech from her office of Governor of Alaska on Sunday seems to have, if nothing else, convinced most of the punditry which had written her off that she will not go quietly or in any other way into that good night.


Monday, July 27, 2009
 
John Kelly suggests that the virtue of "flexible path" is that we won't hae to land anywhere. On could also say that we would exchange a space effort in which we go in circles around the Earth for one where we'll find new places to go in circles around.


 
Cambridge Police Releases Gates Arrest 911 Tapes
The Cambridge Police Department has released the 911 tape of a woman reporting a possible break in at the residence of Henry Louis Gates, the African American Harvard Professor whose subsequent arrest has caused a national controversy.


 
NASA gets dumped on a lot by the Internet Rocketeer crowd. But that view doesn't appear to be widely shared.


 
John Conyers suggests that there's no point in reading the health care bill as it's too long and one would need two lawyers to understand it.

Indeed, which is another reason to vote against it, should there be a vote.


 
'True Blood': Season 2, Episode 6: 'Hard Hearted Hannah'
True Blood Season 2 Episode 6 Hard Hearted Hannah several of our intrepid characters, dead and undead, in a spot of trouble. Some of that trouble involves sex. Some of that trouble involves violence. Some of it drugs. Some a combination.


 
LRO, Science, and Exploration. The lunar surface manipulator system which is apparently NASA for lunar crane. A bounty for space debris.


Sunday, July 26, 2009
 
Sweden is a great country, filled with cordial people when I visited about twenty odd years ago. Now it is poised to become greater yet as it breaks the shackles of the welfare state.


 
Rand Simberg has a complaint against Keith Cowing that really serves as an example of the off putting middle school nature of what passes for space activism today.

For the record, I sympathize with Rand to a point. His article has flaws, but deserves nevertheless to be linked to and discussed (and not in the mode of, "You little sh-- how dare you not worship every word Rand wrote! Clearly you are in the pay of NASA, if not the Illuminate...")


 
Mark Steyn discussesthe Henry Louis Gates affair as only he can.


 
Sacha Baron Cohen may have picked the wrong people to mess with when filming Bruno. Still, getting oneself whacked by Islamofascist terrorists would be the ultimate example of performance art.


 
Deep space exploration, if things go a planned, will consist of weeks or months of tedium interspersed with moments of sheer wonder. That doesn't make good drama, on the small or big screen. So to make a space movie exciting, one either has something bad happen, as in Apollo 13or 2001, or, in the case of ABC's upcoming Defying Gravity, potential disaster, a secret government conspiracy, and lots of sex.


 
Michael Laprarie has a essay somewhat related to Rand Simberg's New Atlantis piece. Like Rand's article, Laprarie suffers from faulty analysis and errors of historical fact. For example:
Unlike today, few high-ranking members of the government (with the notable exception of Senator Walter Mondale, who led the government's investigation into the 1967 Apollo 1 fire) had the temerity to question the space program at a time when the public feared that the Soviet Union could conquer space and hold America hostage with a arsenal of satellite-based weapons.

Actually Walter Mondale has always claimed that he was not really an opponent of the Moon landing program, but was really just questioning the mistakes that led up to the Apollo fire. Some historians have suggested that Mondale was not so much investigating as grand standing for political reasons. This interpretation was dramatized in the Apollo Fire episode in From Earth to the Moon. Mondale was a virulent opponent of any manned space effort post Apollo, however.

The real opponent in the Senate of the Apollo Program was William Proxmire, Senator from Wisconsin, a Great Society liberal who made a name for himself posing as an opponent of "government waste." It's my opinion that Proxmire cared about government waste in the same way and with the same methods as Joe McCarthy did with communists.

In any case, Proxmire managed to pass an amendment in the Senate shortly before the Kennedy assassination cutting the budget for Apollo. The funding was restored, naturally, after Dallas.

Here's another error:
The Space Shuttle program, and related plans to build a permanent orbiting space station, were officially approved in 1972 by President Nixon because of joint development plans by NASA and the US military and their perceived usefulness in relation to national security issues. But the Space Shuttle served only as an analgesic and not a cure.

In fact the space station, meant to be a follow on to Skylab, was dead by 1972 and would not be revived until the 1980s. The shuttle was sold as a means to lower the cost of human space travel, thus making space stations and lunar bases and such more affordable. The project kept NASA and manned space flight alive, but at a greatly reduced level from Apollo.

Obviously, the former, the shuttle did not work as advertised.

Naturally I also disagree with the author's assessment of Rand's essay, as celebrated as it may be in certain quarters. Writing the words "commercial" and "space faring civilization" enough times to get the reader excited does not constitute analysis nor does slamming NASA out of context constitute offering a solution.


 
Iron Man 2 Footage Shown at Comic Con
Footage from Iron Man 2, the sequel to the 2008 film with Robert Downey Jr. starring as the military weapons tycoon turned Marvel Comics super hero Tony Stark. The good news is that a number of other Marvel Comics icons will show up in film two.


Saturday, July 25, 2009
 
Carol Rosenberg, Miami Herald Reporter, Accused of Sexual Harassment by Navy Commander
In a letter to the editor of the Miami Herald, Navy Commander Jeffrey Gordon accused Miami Herald reporter Carol Rosenberg of "multiple incidents of abusive and degrading comments of an explicitly sexual nature," according to the Washington Post.


 
A blogger at the Houston Chronicle recount an incidentsimilar to that involving Henry Louis Gates in which she feels that she and her daughter were harassed by the police because of her skin color.

I can actually attest from person experience that white folks get asked for ID when moving boxes of stuff from a residence. Back when I was a swinging, single profession my siblings and I were moving my stuff out of an old apartment of mine as I was moving to another, more conveniently located one. We were all white, young, clean cut sort of people; one of m brothers, in fact, was a police officer himself. A passing police officer asked for my ID, which instead of giving him lip, I instantly provided. The officer smiled and wished us a good day.

Nevertheless, despite the racial postering on the part of the blogger, she does havce some good advice that applies to all races when dealing with law enforcement.


1. Stop what you are doing. Don’t make any sudden moves.

2. If you are stopped in your car, do not get out. Sit very still with both hands on the top of the steering wheel.

3. Retrieve your ID only after it is requested… and do it very slowly. You may even want to say, “I am going into my purse for my wallet.” Or “I am going into the glove compartment for my registration” or “I am going into my house for my mother.”

4. Remain quiet and answer questions only. No commentary. No accusations. If you have a question, do not interrupt the officer. Wait until he or she is finished and then say, “Sir, may I ask a question?”

5. Respond with “Yes, Sir” and “No, Sir” or “Yes, Ma’am.” Or “No, Ma’am.”, even if the officer treats you disrespectfully.

6. If you are arrested, do not resist. Follow directions. Remain quiet.


 
Paul Spudis asks can you legally own a piece of the Moon?


 
Obama continues to sink.


 
Tron Legacy Coming Soon in 2010
Some test footage from Tron Legacy, the sequel to the 1982 cult classic Tron, was shown at Comic Con 2009. The Tron Legacy footage depicted a battle between a blue and yellow "light cycle", familiar to those who recall the first film.


 
Is James Cameron's Avatar anti American?


 
What if Obama had governed as a moderate? Victor Davis Hanson indulges in little counter factual speculation.

Here's my addition:

Space. While President Obama still appoints Augustine 2.0 to have a second look at the exploration program, he makes a strong commitment to returning to the Moon and so on, echoing the Rice University speech by JFK. Obama also appoints Pete Worden as NASA Administrator in February, who is confirmed by April.


Friday, July 24, 2009
 
NASA Watch is reporing a rumor that a NASA team is taking another look at Ares IV. Ares IV, according to this account would launch an Orion and then a Altair directly into lunar orbit where they would dock.


 
Henry Louis Gates Arrest Controversy Continues
The controversy involving the Cambridge Police Department, a Harvard professor named Henry Louis Gates, and President Barack Obama is continuing to boil over. Calls for apologies and a threatened law suit from Sgt James Crowley abound.


 
It seems that North Korea is using the Nazi play book and is tesing biological and chemical weapons on handicapped kids.


 
Now Governor Rick Perry of the great state of Texas has raised a states rights objection to Obamacare.


 
Burn Notice Shot in the Dark
Michael Westen knew that trouble was coming when he found a basket of body lotion attached to a luscious female willing to apply it on his doorstep. This was rather brisk and bold of the young lady, seeing as Fi was with Michael.


 
'Royal Pains': Crazy Love
Royal Pains' Crazy Love was about relationships. There was Hank and Jill, of course, but also Jill's friend and Boris, the European nobleman, a sultry South American named Sophia and her arms collecting husband, and Divya and her intended.


 
Mark this day. Obama is now below fifty percent approval.


 
VASIMR has undergone a full power test.


 
Seargnt Crowley is considering a defamation suit against Henry Louis Gates. I say do it and, as part of he settlement, demand that Gates get sensitivity training.


 
The Apollo Guidence System was less powerful than a digital watch. But now one can run it on a modern computer system. And there is this:
That spirit hasn’t died, though. In fact, one of the more radical ideas has been proposed by an ex-NASA engineer named Jim McLane. Basically, many of the problems of going to Mars are made immensely much simpler by making one small different assumption about the trip to Mars.

No return ticket.

When the first people go to Mars, it wouldn’t be as astronauts making a visit and coming home. They’re going to Mars, and they’re going to stay, and hopefully to become the old-timers who will lord it over the new arrivals years in the future.

Okay, it sounds a little crazy, but is it crazier than going to the moon in an aluminum beer can with a slide rule and a computer we wouldn’t even put in a child’s toy? And if it works, what do we gain? We gain a world. A World. And maybe our souls.

The Chinese are making a space program as we speak, and seriously planning on being on the Moon in 2020. Somehow, I don’t think they’ll let the risks to the pilots and astronauts stop them.

Shame on us if we are not already there to greet them.


Thursday, July 23, 2009
 
Looks like Johnny Depp is going to be very busy. Not only is he due to play Barnabas Collins but there's to be a fourth Pirates movie.


 
What could top the first moon landing?


 
The big government NASA return to the Moon program is not the only space project that is plagued with funding shortfalls and schedule slippages. Space tourism projects like Virgin Galactic are costing more and taking longer.


 
Schwarzenegger, the Knife, and Cutting Deficits
Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger raised some eyebrows in a video he posted to his twitter account thanking the people of California for ideas on how to cut that state's deficit. It was nothing he said, but rather the prop he used.


 
Neil Armstrong disses Nancy Pelosi. You gotta love it.


 
Obama Attacks Cambridge Police Department
During his press conference, President Obama weighed in on an incident involving the Cambridge, Massachusetts police department and an African American Harvard Professor named Henry Louis Gates.


Addendum: The negative reaction to Obama's slam on the police is growing, including from a man who is a far more popular African American than Obama will ever be--Bill Cosby.


 
Rand Simberg's much announced New Atlantis article is now up and it is very long and exhaustive indeed. It contains a lot of Rand's dubious opinions (Apollo was a dead end. We can go back to the Moon with rockets now commercially available, Mike Griffin was pernicious in his term as NASA administrator.) The article also has a lot of vague, unsupported, and often silly statements, such as my favorite toward the end:
Let us finally abandon our race with the Soviet Union, the race we won four decades ago against an adversary two decades vanquished and vanished. We don’t need to remake Apollo; we need to open up the new space frontier the way the old American frontier was opened.

Aside from the fact that we abandoned the race with the Soviets by curtailing Apollo from almost the moment Apollo 11 returned, Rand seems to forget that the opening of the American frontier, from Columbus on, was informed by national rivalries. Rand should learn a little history before he undertakes to cite it.

The fundamental flaw in Rand's article is his idea that NASA needs to "build infrastructure" to facilitate the entry of commercial players in space. NASA tried that with the space shuttle, and we know how that turned out. The lesson learned, contrary to what Rand suggests, is not that re usability is impossible (though the shuttle was never so much reusable as it was salvageable), but rather that the government doesn't need to be in the space line business.

Rand seems to get this in another part of the article when he calls for an expansion of COTS to not just ISS servicing to exploration in general. A nice sounding idea, until one considers the difficulty raising money to build--say--a Moon rocket for a expedition not scheduled for about a decade for a program that might, at any moment, be changed or curtailed by the politicians. COTS will not work in the real world unless there is a concrete commitment from the government that investors can believe in. For the current COTS it is ISS. For a lunar COTS (something I suggested five years ago) it would be a lunar base already established.

A better idea might be something that has been often proposed and that might be a NASA DARPA, which would do nothing but developer technology. This organization would also sponsor prize competitions and would help commercial entities in their own technology endeavors.

Rand's next fallacy is his charge that the Constellation program was "not sustainable" in a budget sense. Here he demonstrates a lack of understanding of how government budgeting works and how it has not worked for Constellation. NASA was given a budget for Constellation that seemed reasonable, but was then cut in the out years. There's about a five to six billion dollar shortfall between what NASA was promised and what it got.

One of the issues that the Augustine Commission is wrestling with is the idea that the government needs to pay for what it proposes to get. One can plan out the most "sustainable" program one can imagine, but can suddenly become less sustainable if politicians cut its funding at an unforeseen whim.

Rand finally harps on some of the technical problems that the Ares 1 is undergoing. The problem is that every new development program, especially rockets, undergoes technical challenges. That is true of a big government funded Ares or the entrepreneurial Falcon series. It leads to the one maxim that people ought to learn and accept, "It always costs more. It always takes longer."

Learn it. Live it. Love it.

Addendum: John Kavanagh in a comment on Rand's blog posting reminds me of another phony historical reference Rand uses to attack heavy lift rockets.
Consider a thought experiment from an earlier frontier. Imagine that, on the settlers’ hard trek to the western United States, there had been no vegetation along the way for the wagon-pulling horses or oxen to eat. To get across the country, each Conestoga would have to carry enough hay to feed the animals (not to mention supplies for the pioneers for months). The wagon would have been so large that the animals wouldn’t have been able to pull it. The longest distance that could be traveled would be dictated by the largest size of wagon that they could pull when it was full, and the initial speed would be very slow, picking up as the wagon grew lighter. Once the final destination was attained, the wagon and the animals would be useless without more fuel, so presumably the wagon parts would be used to build a cabin or saloon. In reality, of course, such a system would never have been affordable; had the settlers not been able to avail themselves of food and water along the way, the West would never have been settled.

Leaving aside that most people who settled the American West took the train, the analogy that more closely relates to space ships are sailing ships. The development of ships tended toward larger sizes, especially those that crossed the Atlantic. From Viking long ships, to Caravel, to the Galleon, the trend was to build bigger, the better to transport people and material to the New World.

Using Rand's logic, we would have stuck with long ships and tried to get to the New World by fishing along the way. It should be noted that the Viking settlement of the New World failed, whereas the later Europeans, with larger and more capable ships, succeeded.

Mind, fuel depots are a great idea, but as a capability multiplier and not as a substitute for large rockets.

Of course my fantasy is that someone solves the problem of nuclear explosions causing fallout and EMP bursts and we are thus able to build proper Orion space craft, the ones that would have been lofted by nuclear bombs and could carry crews in the hundreds.


 
Saad Bin Laden, Son of Osama, Thought Killed by Predator Launched Hellfire
Saad bin Laden, the third son of Al Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, is believed to have been killed by a Hellfire missile launched from an American Predator drone earlier this year. Saad bin Laden was hiding out in the Afghan-Pakistan border region.


 
Obama's Health Care Reform Press Conference
President Obama spent his health care press conference by doing three things to try to salvage his faltering health care reform measure. To use the Waterloo analogy, Obama has sent in the Imperial Guard as a last throw and it didn't work.


 
Back in 1969, Greg Force played a small but crucical role in the success of Apollo 11. At the time, he was just ten years old.
The Guam tracking station was to play a critical role in the return of Apollo 11 to Earth. A powerful antenna there connected NASA communications with Apollo 11, and the antenna was the only way for NASA to make its last communications with the astronauts before splashdown. But at the last minute on that night, a bearing in the antenna failed, rendering it nearly useless.


To properly replace the bearing would have required dismantling the entire antenna, and there was simply no time. So Charles Force thought of a creative solution: If he could get more grease around the failed bearing, it would probably be fine. The only problem was, nobody at the station had an arm small enough to actually reach in through the two-and-a-half inch opening and pack grease around the bearing.

And that's when Greg was called in to save the day. Charles Force sent someone out to his home to pick up Greg. Once at the tracking station, Greg reached into the tiny hole and packed grease around the failed bearing. It worked, and the station was able to successfully complete its communications role in the mission. Apollo 11 splashed down safely the next day.

At the time, Greg didn't think what he was doing was a big deal, and 40 years later, he's still modest about his role in the mission.


Via Stacy Bartley


Wednesday, July 22, 2009
 
Lord Martin Rees offers another ill informed rant against manned space exploration, but he does within it offer something useful.
Any of these motives could drive the first travellers to Mars, or the first long-term denizens of a lunar base. Manned spaceflight could be a lot cheaper if it were not state-funded or a multinational programme, but bankrolled privately. There have long been maverick dreamers with schemes for space exploits. Such enthusiasts now include wealthy people with genuine commercial and technical savvy. Companies funded by Jeff Bezos, of Amazon, and Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal, are developing new rockets. The recent “Google prize” to launch a robotic lunar lander is engaging many ingenious inventors, and leveraging far more money than the prize itself. Potential sponsors with an eye on posterity might note that Queen Isabella is now remembered primarily for her support of Columbus.

If humans venture back to the Moon and beyond, they may carry commercial insignia rather than national flags. Perhaps future space probes will be plastered in logos, as Formula One racers are now.

Perhaps “robo-wars” in space will be a lucrative spectator sport. Perhaps pioneer settlers in space communities will live (and even die) in front of a worldwide audience — the ultimate in “reality TV”.

The first voyage back to the Moon and certainly the first expedition to Mars will all but certainly be the operation of some goverment (or coalition of governments.) But that is no reason why private industry can't be partners in the effort also. Besides logos, for instance, perhaps some product placement could be offered. It works for movies, why not real life space adventures? "Snapple ice tea, the official beverage of the return to the Moon."

Don't laugh. Tang saw its sales triple once ads started running pointing out its affiliation with the Apollo program.

I would even go so far as to suggest that a private astronaut be included in the first crew, at a price, in exchange for--say--mineral rights within a hundred square kilometers of the landing site.


 
Thune Amendment Defeated Narrowly in the Senate
The Thune Amendment, which would have allowed people with concealed carry permits to carry weapons across state lines, even to places with strict gun control laws, was narrowly defeated in the Senate. But the effects of the vote may be long lasting.


 
"You're Going to Destroy My Presidency!" -- Barack Obama
President Barack Obama is quoted as exclaiming to an unnamed Democratic Congressman, "You're going to destroy my Presidency!" when the Congressman tried to explain to the President the trouble health care reform is in.


 
Rasmussen has some sobering data for space enthusiasts, especially people who want to go to Mars.

Addendum: then again...


 
'World of Warcraft' Movie Greenlit
Sam Rami, director of the Spiderman trilogy, the Evil Dead trilogy, and the popular Xena: Warrior Princess TV show has been signed on to direct a film based on the World of Warcraft universe, which centers around an online role playing game.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009
 
Charles Bolden wants to go to Mars. So do I, after the Moon and NEO asteroids.

The questions arise include, will this mean a sudden lurch away from the Moon to what is likly to be a flag and footsteps effort for Mars? And where will the money come from? The current effort is underfunded enough.

Also, Lori Garver says that feelings are back at NASA. Oh boy.


 
What if man walked on the Moon in 2009 for the first time?


 
Atlas Shrugged as a miniseries with Charlize Theron as Dagney Taggart?


 
There seems to be a disagreement between the Air Force and NASA whether the crew of an Orion would survive an early abort during launch. Keith Cowing has a unique perspective on the situation (i.e. he sees nefarious things going on.) However I am reminded of a story I heard in the mid 1980s of a NASA engineer who wrote a memo "proving" that the space shuttle orbiter could not possibly loft the Hubble telescope into its planned orbit. This was pre Internet and so it didn't get distributed around for people to yell about and concoct conspiracy theories.

My suspicion is that the Air Force and NASA are making different assumptions to come up with their positions and both are doing so honestly. If the engineers are allowed to work the problem, one suspects that it will get solved.

Of course that all depends on what Augustine 2.0 decides. In the meantime, read the comments section which is, as usual, entertaining.


 
Against Obama's Health Care Reform Plan
President Obama's health care reform plan has been rightly criticized for its cost, its bureaucracy, and its unfairness. But the primary reason for rejecting health care reform is that it will cause unnecessary suffering and death.


 
Jupiter Deep Impact
According to Universe Today something—it is currently uncertain what it is—impacted Jupiter on July 19th, as the world was celebrating the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11. The Jupiter impact was first detected by an amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley.


 
A very temporary fix has been made to California's budget, without tax increases or capitulating to the blandishments of he pot heads. However there is this:
The most interesting part of the agreement was the reopening of Santa Barbara’s coastline to off-shore drilling. That will raise $100 million a year, which the Drill Here - Drill Now contingent has insisted would help the state balance its budget while lowering the cost of energy and providing jobs. The state has finally agreed, albeit very reluctantly. Ironically, it was a 1969 oil spill off of Santa Barbara that put the effort to ban off-shore drilling in the US into high gear. If California sees a big revenue spike from the new leases, perhaps they will open the entire coast and revive the oil-production industry in the state, and keep that cycle of jobs and energy going.


 
Seve Hayward mentions one of my pet peeves concerning Apollo and why it ended when it and why we haven't been back yet.
The reaction to the moon landing in 1969 is a good example of national exhaustion and liberal guilt at work. The moon landing had been set out as a lofty goal by the liberals’ hero, John F. Kennedy, and the moon landing was an occasion of national pride and celebration for most Americans. Here, amidst the rubble and gloom of the 1960s, was something that had gone splendidly right. Many leading liberals, however, could only sniff that while the moon landing was undeniably impressive, the money for the moon landing would have been better spent on social problems on Earth.

Much of that has been beaten back, though not enough IMHO.


Monday, July 20, 2009
 
Apollo 11 Crew Urge Obama to Send America to Mars
Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, the crew of the Apollo 11 first voyage to the Moon, visited President Barack Obama at the White House as part of the 40th anniversary of the Moon landing.


 
Moon Landing Conspiracy Theories and Whoopi Goldberg
The conspiracy theory that the Apollo moon landings were a hoax, fake in a studio somewhere, has its first Hollywood celebrity proponent. According to Debbie Schlussel, Whoopi Goldberg announced her doubts on July 20th airing of The View.


 
Boris Johnson suggests that w're too cowardly to go to Mars. Apparently this has something to do with a program to keep perverts from British school kids.


 
Augustine 2.0 is closing in on some scenarios for exploration beyond Leo. They are:
Lunar Base, is a close derivative of the current
program, with some simplifications. Lunar Global is a scenario in which a base or
outpost is not assembled on the Moon, but instead the Moon is explored by a
coordinated series of extended duration human sorties and robotic exploration. In both
these cases, implications for subsequent Mars exploration will be considered. Moon to
Mars
, or more completely Moon on the way to Mars, is a scenario in which the primary
objective is Mars exploration, and all systems are designed for Mars. Only when it is
beneficial to use the Moon as a true test bed for these Mars exploration systems will
flights to the Moon be conducted. Mars First is a plan to exclusively pursue human
exploration of the Mars as fast as possible, without using the Moon as a first destination.
Finally, Flexible Path is a scenario that allows humans to visit a wide number of inner
solar system bodies, objects and locations, but not go to the surface of those with deep
gravity wells. Destinations besides Moon and Mars would include the Earth-Moon and
Earth-Sun Lagrange points, near-Earth objects (NEOs) and the moons of Mars. There is
nothing implied in this scenario that surface exploration might not follow, simply that
exploration would first exploit all that could be done without landing on a planetary
surface.

My own preference would be lunar base, with maybe some elements of flexible path to enable trips to asteroids.


 
Alan Stern suggests that the greatest achievement of Apollo was inspiration. Micheal Potter thinks Apollo was a hoax, but not in theway it is usually suggested. An interview with Charles Murray and Catherine Bly Cox who wrote Race to the Moon twenty years ago. Jeff Foust relates how people are remembering Apollo.



 
It's Moon Landing Day at Tranquility Base
In the midst of the celebrations of the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing, commentator after commentator have lamented the fact that we stopped going to the Moon. But what if we hadn't? How would we celebrate Moon Landing Day?


 
Apollo Moon Landing Plus 40
Forty years after the event, one marvels at how it could have come to be. Just over eight years after a young President issued the challenge, a man, born on the planet Earth, put his foot prints upon the soil on another world. He did so in full view of about a billion people watching on television a quarter of a million miles away. History was witnessed and reported on and analyzed in real time.


 
'True Blood': Season Two, Episode Five, 'Never Let Me Go '
True Blood Season Two Episode Five Never Let Me Go ups the ante quite a bit for the good people (living and undead) on Bon Temps. It's very clear that it will not be long before a few, if not everyone, will be under threat of permanent death.


 
The Moon Landings as Told in Pictures
Missions to the Moon by Rod Pyle and Moon 3-D: The Lunar Surface Comes to Life by Jim Bell
With the 40th anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing, a number of books are being published about what remains the greatest voyage of exploration in history. Two books illustrate how images tell the story of Apollo better than words.


An Interview with authors Rod Pyle and Jim Bell.


 
The Next Moonwalkers
If the Vision for Space Exploration survives the coming change of administrations, if the myriad technical challenges of returning to the Moon are met and overcome, and if the project is adequately funded, the next Moon landing will occur in ten to twelve years. It is possible that the fiftieth anniversary of Apollo 11 will be celebrated on the lunar surface.


 
Mike and Denise Okuda (who did a lot of design work for various Star Trek TV shows and films) visit the mock up of Orion.


Sunday, July 19, 2009
 
The Ancient Romans also had the custom of rapig virgins before executing them. And Obama thinks wecn talk to such people.


 
Rand Simberg offers a a critique of the late Uncle Walter that is, for the most part, dead on. But noting Cronkite's identification with the early space program and Rand's disdain for the same (and this represents a kind of double think coming from the guy who also came up with the "space seder" which celebrates the first Moon landing in a quasi religious way.)
He was purely of the Apollo era, and a part of it impossible to separate. His last day on the air, in early March, 1981, was a little over a month before the first Shuttle flight on April 12th, so there was no overlap with the more modern human spaceflight program that followed the first push. And in some ways, in relating and relaying his own enthusiasm for the program to America, he helped create the enduring myth of Apollo as the beginning of a grand age of space exploration, when it in fact was a dead end that few realized at the time. It’s a false perception that continues to haunt our space policy to this day.

Rand gets it wrong again. Apollo was not so much a "dead end" as it was a lost opportunity. If we had built on the success of Apollo, while at the same time started to encourage commercial space development as we had already done Comsats, we would be a lot more further along than we are now. The real dead end was the shuttle, the attempt to build a government space line.

One can speculate how things could have transpired has better choices been made. Indeed someone should write a book about it


 
Kim Stanley Robinson suggests save the Earth by going to the stars.


 
The much maligned Mike Griffin asks Do we want to have a real space program, or do we just want to talk about what we used to be able to do? Of course for some people, we have to delete "to talk about" and insert "to bitch about."


 
Tom Wolfe, who knows much about both space and the English language, contemplates what when wrong after Apollo and has a solution.
What NASA needs now is the power of the Word. On Darwin’s tongue, the Word created a revolutionary and now well-nigh universal conception of the nature of human beings, or, rather, human beasts. On Freud’s tongue, the Word means that at this very moment there are probably several million orgasms occurring that would not have occurred had Freud never lived. Even the fact that he is proved to be a quack has not diminished the power of his Word.

July 20, 1969, was the moment NASA needed, more than anything else in this world, the Word. But that was something NASA’s engineers had no specifications for. At this moment, that remains the only solution to recovering NASA’s true destiny, which is, of course, to build that bridge to the stars.


Saturday, July 18, 2009
 
That Was Walter Cronkite
Walter Cronkite represented both the best and the worse of television broadcast journalism during his era as anchorman of the CBS Evening News. The former was obvious to many at the time. The latter was only apparent years after his last sign off.


 
A sequel to Master and Commander? Please, let it be so.


 
Robert Walker discusses the role of commercial industry in the exploration of space.


Friday, July 17, 2009
 
Alan Boyle has an excellent piece on the current state of the space program. Meanwhile, Gallup has a poll that suggests that public support for the space program is high and increasing.


 
Neil Armstrong begs to disagree with his old shipmate, Buzz Aldrin, about going to Mars now.


 
A former officer in the Soviet military tells John Derbyshire that yes indeed Apollo did help win the Cold War.


 
Walter Cronkite: RIP


 
In the end, I will not be surprised if the Internet Rocketeer Club reacts to the Augustine 2.0 Commission with rage and bitterness. First, Augustine 2.0 has the termerity to suggest that NASA has gotten too little money:
Years of chronic budget cutbacks have left the U.S. government's manned space program in "a terrible position" that may require major technical and funding changes to existing programs intended to get astronauts back to the moon, according to the head of a White House-created study panel.

Norman Augustine, the head of the outside panel looking at alternative NASA programs, told reporters Friday that Congress and various administrations over the years "haven't been able to fund adequately" the agency's manned space goals.

Whatever options the latest study panel ultimately recommends, the former chairman of Lockheed Martin Corp. said, they will be underpinned by adequate budget recommendations for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. "Anything other than that is a disservice."

He means to say things like going back to the Moon cost what they cost, not what some people wish they would cost.

There is more.
The chairman of the presidential review panel evaluating the nation's space flight program dismissed reports that the Ares rocket program is off the table.

"As far as our committee is concerned, it would be completely wrong to say that Ares is dead in the water," said Norman Augustine during a conference call with reporters today.

"We've looked at various versions of Ares, derivatives to Ares, alternatives to Ares, and I think it would be totally incorrect characterization to describe it in any way as dead in the water, or modified, or alive at this point. We're looking at a whole bunch of possibilities."

Ares not dead? Ares not dying? Ares might survive? Amazing what happens when actual adults are assigned to look at the problem.


 
Apollo Moon Landing Hoax Theory Persists
One of the most aggravating conspiracy theories floating around is the idea that the Apollo moon landings were a hoax. That is to say, the moon landings that a billion or so people saw on TV were staged somewhere on a movie set.


Addendum: Sure enough, here are the images of the Apollo landing sites from LRO. The conspiracy nuts are now invited to apologize and then shut up.


 
'Royal Pains': Episode Six, 'If I Were a Sick Man '
Royal Pains Episode Six If I were a Sick Man is the epidemic show for the series. Every doctor show has to have an epidemic episode in which the doctor character tries to find what is killing people before they are all killed.


 
'Burn Notice': Season Three, Episode Six, 'The Hunter'
Burn Notice Season Three Episode Six The Hunter featured the first of what may be many of Michael Weston's "old friends" for his days as an international man of mystery who are anxious to reminisce about the old days while extracting Michael's innards.


 
Michio Kaku offers his own analysis of the space age and comes to an obvious conclusion, which many people have been expounding on for decades. Space travel costs too much. I'm in a little disagreement about his solution. If one expects NASA to directly lower the cost of space exploration, one will wait for along time. The space shuttle was suppose to do that, and we all know what happened there. Subsequent efforts ended even worse.

What NASA can do, starting with low Earth orbit operations, is to become a customer rather than a provider of services. Mind it has to be done intelligently. Those who suggest that NASA can just buy transportation services to the Moon right now are indulging in fantasy. Once a lunar base is established, that becomes a real option, however.


 
Paul Spudis has a thoughful piece in time for the 40th annivesary. To answer the question suggested by the title, both, of course. The private sector and NASA have their own unique strengths (and weaknesses) to bring to bear to the task of opening up the high frontier of space.


 
Charles Krauthammer says if we propose to return to the Moon, then for God's sake, return to the Moon!
But look up from your BlackBerry one night. That is the moon. On it are exactly 12 sets of human footprints -- untouched, unchanged, abandoned. For the first time in history, the moon is not just a mystery and a muse, but a nightly rebuke. A vigorous young president once summoned us to this new frontier, calling the voyage "the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked." And so we did it. We came. We saw. Then we retreated.

How could we?

Amen.


 
Does the flag still fly over Tranquility Base?


Thursday, July 16, 2009
 
Is this like destroying the village in order to save it? If so, I guess we're in the middle of Obama's Vietnam...


 
Is this like destroying the village in order to save it? If so, I guess we're in the middle of Obama's Vietnam...


 
John Derbyshire takes the opportunity of the 40th anniversary to piddle on Apollo 11.


 
'Mad Men' Gets 16 Emmy Nominations
Mad Men, the AMC series about advertising men in the 1960s, has been nominated for 16 Emmy Awards, including Best Drama. Season Three of Mad Men will premier on August 16th, an event to look forward to with keen anticipation.


 
$1.5 billion market in commercial Lunar services by 2020? Thanks to Oddyssey Moon, some evidence this may b true.


 
Andrew Chaikin asks The Moon Still Beckons, But Does Anyone Care?

I think, yes. But do enough and the right people care?


 
Welcome to Lunarville.


 
More on We Choose the Moon; Reenacting Apollo 11 Virtually
History has been reenacted by enthusiasts for every period from the Middle Ages to the Civil War. Now the greatest voyage of exploration in history is being reenacted in a manner befitting the Internet age at the site We Choose the Moon.


 
Since Apollo 11, Changing Public Attitudes Toward Space Exploration
On July 16th, 1969, the mightiest rocket ever built ignited its first stage engines and launched the mission of Apollo 11 to the Moon with much fanfare and public rejoicing. But as a story on the ABC website suggests, the public was rather tepid about the mission.


 
More on Charles Bolden Confirmed as NASA Administrator
Charles Bolden, a retired Marine General and former NASA astronaut, has been confirmed as NASA administrator by unanimous consent of the US Senate. He is scheduled to be sworn in on July 20th, the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.


 
We tongue set fully in cheek, Ed Morrissey proposes a single payer system for legal services.


 
Alan Boyle on Apollo 11.


 
Buzz Aldrin says that it is time to boldly go to Mars. There is much wrong with his assumptions and his proposals, but I do admire the spirit.

Addendum: Glenn Reynolds says "We could have a colony on Mars for what the “stimulus” package cost. And it would have provided more stimulus, too . . ." Yeah, verily, yeah.


 
Guy Fieri finds some Diners, Driveins, and Dives in Houston. Niko Nikos is especially a great place.


 
William Dafoe will play Tars Tarkas, the Green Martian warlord in John Carter of Mars. Now, hoiw to make him eight feet tall and with four arms?


Wednesday, July 15, 2009
 
A NASA manager predicts that Obama budget cuts may push back the return to the Moon eight years, making it likely, one supposes, that the first man to return to the Moon will speak Mandarin.


 
Congratulations to Charles Bolden on his confirmation as NASA Administrator. Now God help him (g).


 
Coburn and Sotomayor Spar on Gun Control
During Wednesday's Sotomayor confirmation hearings, Senator Tom Coburn sparred with Judge Sotomayor on the subject of gun control. Aware no doubt of the NRA's threat to oppose her nomination, Judge Sotomayor's answers were cagey to say the least.


 
Space Shuttle Emdeavour is aloft--finally.


 
Jerrol LeBaron a pushing a movement called Honor in Office which, among other thing, would require members of Congress to actually read the bills they vote on.


 
Health Care Bill Passes Senate Committee
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted out a version of the Health Care Bill on partisan lines for a vote of 13 to 10. The Health Care Bill has been roundly criticized for its cost and its effect of advancing socialized medicine.


 
Does Obama Throw like a Girl?
Some pundits are using President Barack Obama's throwing out the first pitch at the 2009 All Stars Baseball game to find a new way to criticize him. Apparently, though it was not readily apparent to TV audience, Obama throws like a girl.


 
Rand Simberg celebrates the second launch of a Falcon 1, as is proper. But he just can't resist taking some shots.
The event may have been a significant nail in the coffin of what many view as NASA’s current flawed plans for a return to the moon in the coming decade.

How that is true is not very clear. The development of a commercial Earth to LEO industry is part of NASA's over all strategy for going back to the Moon. If NASA is freed from having to run a space line to ISS, it can better concentrate on destinations beyond.

Rand continues:
It (the Constellation program) is currently under fire as a result of serious technical issues for the planned new launchers, with exploding cost estimates and schedule slips.

Of course it should also be pointed out that the Falcon project has also had its share of technical issues, exploding costs,and schedule slips. The first three Falcon 1s failed to achieve orbit. But there seems to be a double standard when judging private endeavors and government projects. The cardinal rule is "It always costs more and takes longer."

Rand finishes with a very nice horse whipping of Senator Richard Shelby, who has been engaging in a little bit of predatory budget tactics by trying to siphon off funding for commercial space to prop up Constellation. But it is not a question of either commercial or the Moon, as Rand implies. Both are important and both need adequate funding.


 
Ayn Rand and 'Atlas Shrugged' More Popular Than Ever
One of the most popular authors of 2009 is a woman, born in Russia, famous for her philosophical novels with just the hint of melodrama as well as her somewhat quirky personality. She has been dead nearly thirty years and her name is Ayn Rand.



 
Let's once again dare to dream. Of course there are dreams aplenty. I would settle for a little more doing to make the dreams reality.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009
 
Obama is Harry Potter? No, at best Obama is Cornelius Fudge.


 
Patrick at Hot Air has some theories about the grand political strategy of Sarah Palin.


 
Senator Orrin Hatch Grills Sotomayor on Gun Rights, Abortion
Senator Orrin Hatch questioned Judge Sotomayor, for the most part, on her views concerning the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution that ensures the right to keep and bear arms. But first there was a question about abortion and judicial precedence.


 
Israel's small but potent fleet is closing in on Iran.


 
Mat Patterson compares people like Barack Obama and Michael Jackson with a real hero whose feat is to be celebrate in less than a week.


 
A battlefield robot that refuels by eating dead bodies? The mind boggles.

Addendum: Ed Morrissey has some thoughts.
On the plus side, Bin Laden being composted by a piece of steel would be sweet poetic justice. On the minus side, when Skynet finally becomes self-aware, things are going to get dodgy in a hurry.


 
Senator Sessions Grills Sotomayor
Judge Sonia Sotomayor appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions concerning her nomination to the Supreme Court. Ranking member Senator Jeff Sessions went right to Sotomayor's "wise Latina" remark.


 
More on SpaceX Launches 2nd Successful Falcon 1
The entrepreneurial rocket company, SpaceX, achieved a milestone toward its goal of becoming a private space launch enterprise by successfully launching its Falcon 1 rocket a second time, nine months after its successful first Falcon 1 launch.


 
Obama Teleprompter Takes a Tumble
Barack Obama's teleprompter, also known throughout the Internet as TOTUS (Teleprompter of the United States) met an untimely end as it came loose and went crashing down to the floor in the middle of a speech by Barack Obama.


 
A new idea has come out of deliberations of the Augustine 2.0 Committee. Call it duo Ares V, except that the Orion Ares V would be smaller. The big question is funding.

Addendum: I've noticed a lot of chatter on the net about what this story means. Ares is dead. VSE is dead. And so on.

I would like to caution one and all that while the first is possible (and the second not likely because of certain political considerations) people seem to be misreading what Augustine 2.0 is doing.

Augustine 2.0 will not actually issue recommendations. It will not state, "Let;s trash Ares and do X" nor will it say, "Let's keep Ares." Augustine 2.0 will instead provide some options, with pros and cons for each, one of which will likely be "Keep Ares" and the others certain best alternatives. That's one reason Augustine 2.0 is being thorough in seeking out all possible alternatives, including duo Ares 5, which I find fascinating.

The problem with this approach is that the final decision will be done by politicians (likely the one named Barack Obama) for political reasons and then argued about by other politicians (in the Congress.) It is likely to as messy as sausage making and just as unappetizing to look at.


 
A review of Moon.


 
Sarah Palin denounces cap and trade.


Monday, July 13, 2009
 
Congratulations to the folks at SpaceX for the second successful launch of a Falcon 1. Doing it the first time made history. Doing it again suggests that at last a truly private launch industry is being born.

Addendum: Clark Lindsey discusses.


 
It seems that the work of appeasement and socialism is hard and exhausting.


 
Is John Holdren Obama's Dr. Strangelove?
John Holdren is President Barack Obama's White House Science Advisor. John Holdren is also the co-author of a 1977 book called Eco Science in which he offered a series of recommendations that seem right out of dystopian science fiction.


 
Part Two of Taylor Dinerman's Apollo and the Cold War.


 
What Augustine 2.0 can learn from all of the previous commissions (including Augustine 1.0.)


 
Sonia Sotomayor Hearings Promise Fireworks
The Sonia Sotomayer hearings started on Monday with each of the Senators on the Judiciary Committee beginning with their opening statements. Depending on the party affiliation of the Senator, they might have been talking about two different people.


 
Apollo 11 flies again--virtually that is.


 
Announcing the publication of The Last Moonwalker and Other Stories by Mark R. Whittngtonm exclusively for the Amazon Kindle:

The Last Moonwalker – In the near future, as human explorers prepare to take the first voyage to the Moon in decades, Charles Gerald, the last Apollo Moonwalker, lends his advice to the crew of the expedition as he wrestles with his own legacy.

The First Woman on the Moon – Set in the same universe as Children of Apollo, Wendy Pendleton, who will fly on the mission of Apollo 23, remembers the cost of becoming the first woman on the Moon.

Two Old Men – Two retired politicians, in the same universe as Children of Apollo, face a deadly disease a treatment for which was developed in space.

Dark Sanction – As World War II rages, Gabriella, Venetian aristocrat, spy for British Intelligence, vampire is menaced by a Nazi vampire hunter with occult powers.

Hurtgen Moon – An American rifle squad battles a werewolf during one of World War II’s bloodiest battles.

Witnessing Apollo – The flight of Apollo 11 helps an alien visitor decide the fate of the Earth,.


 
And Now, the Jackson Three?
The custody battle over the children of Michael Jackson took on a strange twist, according to a story in the London newspaper The Sun, as reported by Fox News. It seems that Michael Jackson's father may be planning a new music group, the Jackson Three.


 
'True Blood' Season 2, Episode 4: Shake and Fingerpop
True Blood Season 2 Episode 4 Shake and Fingerpop advanced the story on the southern vampires and their human friends a little further. And the viewer got to visit Dallas, the "most vampire friendly city in the state of Texas."


 
Kim Jong-Il Dying of Pancreatic Cancer, Reports Say
The Guardian newspaper is reporting that South Korean media has announced that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is a particularly fatal disease with a five year survival rate at just over five percent.


Sunday, July 12, 2009
 
Mike Griffin may be hated in certain corners of the Internet, but it seems that love him in Huntsville whee he now resides.
Griffin sees other worrisome trends, including "the trend of believing we can cut budgets on a yearly basis and make it up later. Stretch the project out. Money is always so tight that we continually fall victim, as the space station is a great example, of cutting the annual appropriation and saying, 'We'll just take longer.' "

It doesn't work that way, Griffin says.

"When you cut the amount you're willing to spend compared to what you told managers they could spend originally, they end up making different decisions ... and they always end up being less efficient."

The national near-obsession with avoiding risk also bothers Griffin.

"We are less willing to take risks of any kind, whether it be financial risk, technical risk or human risk, or the risk of just plain breaking hardware," he said. "Being adverse to risk is not what made this country what it is. I'll just say that. The willingness to take measured risks is what made this country what it is."

All very true, which will not mollify the Internet Rocketeer Club in the slightest.

Addendum: Jon Goff sends the following response:
Mark,
I actually agree with Griffin's comments full-heartedly:
"We are less willing to take risks of any kind, whether it be
financial risk, technical risk or human risk, or the risk of just
plain breaking hardware," he said. "Being adverse to risk is not what
made this country what it is. I'll just say that. The willingness to
take measured risks is what made this country what it is."

So why did he aid and abet this by going after a rocket that
theoretically would be only a little safer than existing rockets, but
take $20B and almost a decade to develop? Even by NASA's own
admission, most of the EELV options beat their minimum required safety
level (1/1000 LOC probability). So why the extremely expensive effort
to only marginally increase the reliability of only one small part of
the mission? Even risk aversion doesn't justify it, because you have
to look at the whole system risk. If losing a crew one out of 1000
launches is enough to make congress balk, how are they going to be
happy with the 1/60 best-case numbers for a lunar mission, or the 1/20
numbers I've heard sometimes referred to in some NASA documents?

I agree with Mike, I just wish he would've actually acted that way
when in a position of power and responsibility.

~Jon


The key part of Jon's note, upon which his conclusions are based, is "So why did he aid and abet this by going after a rocket that theoretically would be only a little safer than existing rockets, but take $20B and almost a decade to develop?"

The cost and schedule for the development of Ares is rather irrelevant to the point Dr. Griffin is making. These are affected by a variety of factors, including what development money is appropriated vs. what was promised, unpredictable technical challenges, and so on. These factors have been observed to affect not only big, expensive projects being undertaken by governments, but more entrepreneurial projects (SpaceX's Falcon comes to mind.) This is not to slam anyone of them. It is just an illustration of one of the first rules of technology development. "It costs more and it takes longer."

On the matter of safety, Jon must be much more than an engineer; he must be a prophet. Otherwise he would not deign to suggest what the safety margins of not just one but two rockets (i.e. the Ares 1 and an EELV derived launch vehicle, the nature of which is still undefined) would be. It is true that on occasion estimates are made for such things, but as other people have pointed out to Jon, these are just snapshots in time during the development cycle of a vehicle that won't actually achieve its final form and start flying for over five years by current estimates. Such estimates change over time.

Making bald statements like Jon's is not the same as making a persuasive argument.


 
Keith Hennessey gives Barack Obama the fisk treatment.

So does Stephen Spruiell.


 
Jerry Pournell ruminates about Apollo. Here is the key takeaway paragraph:
Apollo didn't have to be a folly. There were plenty of ways to follow on with real development to become a space faring nation. Lyndon Johnson, not my favorite President, understood how decisive space supremacy could be. Reagan understood the value of space. Bush I wasn't interested, and we got DC/X only because Dan Quayle was chairman of the National Space Council and Bush let Quayle have his way, sort of, only there weren't funds for the full SSX.

The problem was, of course, Clinton became President and he was definately not interested. Bus 43 was far better in that regard, as we got both commercial space development and an exploration mission appropriate for a government agency like NASA. Obama? I have my fears, but hope to be proven wrong.


 
Glenn Reynolds on the hidden cost of national health care


 
We Miss You Tony Snow
July 12th is the one year anniversary of the passing of Tony Snow, who was, in his time, a Fox News personality, a radio talk show host, a newspaper columnist, and one of the best White House Press Secretaries in history.


 
Top Ten Myths about the Mythbusters.


Saturday, July 11, 2009
 
Some promo material for the upcoming ABC space opera, Defying Gravity:


 
John Holdren, Obama's science advisor, is really quite scary.
Forced abortions. Mass sterilization. A “Planetary Regime” with the power of life and death over American citizens.
The tyrannical fantasies of a madman? Or merely the opinions of the person now in control of science policy in the United States? Or both?
These ideas (among many other equally horrifying recommendations) were put forth by John Holdren, whom Barack Obama has recently appointed Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology — informally known as the United States’ Science Czar. In a book Holdren co-authored in 1977, the man now firmly in control of science policy in this country wrote that:
• Women could be forced to abort their pregnancies, whether they wanted to or not;
• The population at large could be sterilized by infertility drugs intentionally put into the nation’s drinking water or in food;
• Single mothers and teen mothers should have their babies seized from them against their will and given away to other couples to raise;
• People who “contribute to social deterioration” (i.e. undesirables) “can be required by law to exercise reproductive responsibility” — in other words, be compelled to have abortions or be sterilized.
• A transnational “Planetary Regime” should assume control of the global economy and also dictate the most intimate details of Americans’ lives — using an armed international police force.


 
In which Senator Shelby gets slapped for eschewing support of the private sector in favor of pork barrel politics.


 
Frank Ricci latest enemy of the people of the Obama era.


 
Michael Jackson Death a Homicide?
The idea that Michael Jackson's death might have been the result of a homicide would have seemed to have been a nutty conspiracy theory, were it not for the fact that LA Police Chief Bill Bratton has refused to rule the possibility out.


 
The preferred alternative to Ares (at least among NASA and some industry people) appears to be Shuttle HLV. It is said that the advantage is development costs. This disadvantage is that it won't send as much to the Moon as Ares. That means that the idea of refueling depots takes on greater importance.

And, of course, since no one can pretend that it is "commercial" it will make the Internet Rocketeer Club angry.


 
Neil Armstrong remembers. Video.


Friday, July 10, 2009
 
'Burn Notice': Signals and Codes
In the latest Burn Notice episode, Signals and Codes, Michael Weston meets two new friends. One is a spy still in the good graces of the Agency who is flying missions to Latin America. The other is a mathematician who is more insane than John Nash.


 
Obama Checking Out Girl, Photo from G8 Shows
One of the most famous pictures going around the Internet, thanks to Matt Drudge, is a scene from the G8 Summit in L'Aquila, Italy, which depicts President Obama appreciating the endowments of a young lady as she passes by.


 
Rand Simberg poses the silliest idea I have ever heard of concerning space policy, which is quite a feat all things considered.
If I were Norm Augustine, I would suggest that NASA be encouraged to innovate by being forbidden to develop a vehicle with more capability than the biggest existing Atlas V. This would finally force them to stop wasting money on the heavy-lift fetish, and get on with the business of developing a cost-effective (and scalable) in-space transportation infrastructure.

For one thing, Rand once again gets his history wrong. The Mings forbade the building and sailing of any ship capable of deep water travel, punishable by death.

Second, this is the equivlent of a 16th Century monarch forbidding the construction of any ship larger than a caravel, which would have precluded the development of the galleon.

It is hardly sound space policy to tell ones premier space agency what it can't do in the form of innovation and technology development. I would instead task NASA with developing ways to make heavy lifters more cost effective.


 
'Royal Pains': No Man is an Island
Royal Pains' No Man is an Island episode begins with Dr. Hank and Jill, the beauteous hospital administrator, finally about to do the dirty deed, with clothes flying and limbs beginning to intertwine. Naturally brother Evan interrupts and spoils the mood.


Thursday, July 09, 2009
 
The imminent death of the Ares 1 and 5 has been predicted so many times, that this might be taken with a grain of salt, except for one fact. Augustine 2.0 is not going to so much make recommendations as supply "options." So the final decision of how we go back to he Moon is likely to be a political one from the Obama administration. It may well not please anyone.


 
It looks like the next novel by Newt Gingrich and Bill Forstchen will be set in the Revolutionary War:


 
The New Scientist, which disdained the Apollo program 40 years ago, is now of the opinion that there may be something to this idea of human space exploration after all.


 
Mount Rushmore Defaced by Greenpeace Activists
Greenpeace environmental activists managed to add a fifth face, that of Barack Obama, to Mouth Rushmore next to that of President Lincoln, albeit temporarily. The face of Obama was in the form of a banner demanding an end to global warming.


 
Obama appeases Iran.


 
Apparently Senator Shelby's attempt to rob commercial space support to augment Constellation is running into trouble in Texas.


 
Dark Sanction


 
Brent Bozell slaps Oliver Stone around.


 
Ford, which did not get a bailout, is beating government owned GM in June sales. There is an obvious lesson here.


 
New Trailer fo District 9.


 
California RIP


Wednesday, July 08, 2009
 
VASIMR achieved a major milestone.


 
Henry Waxman fascist


 
How the porkulus bill crashed and burned or Dude, where's my recovery?


 
Paul Spudis tackles the question of whether or not to provide NASA with more funding and, I think, comes to the wrong conclusion.

Part of the problem with the NASA return to the Moon program is that NASA has never been given sufficient funding to do what it has been charged to do to start with. This is not the fault of the chosen architecture, by the way. It would have been true whatever launch system that NASA chose.

Paul, in his complaints about cost overruns, seems to forget one of the underlining principles of new space technology development. There are two, in fact. It always costs more than you think. It always takes longer than you think. This has been true of most private sector projects (those that have actually succeeded) as well as most government projects. Again this is not a principle of which architecture is chosen, but rather the fact that there are too many unknowns when one is estimating the cost of a program.

There are three solutions to a problem of this nature. Appropriate more up front development money. Stretch the project out (which winds up costing more money.) Or start ditching capability (i.e. things like Paul is complaining about like surface exploration.) Traditionally the US government choses the latter two options and has always regretted it. For one thing, being too stingy on development very often increases operations costs. The space shuttle is a classic example of how this happens.

Paul does make a point with which I am in hearty agreement, with a caveat. "The fact that we’ve had the same space budget for thirty years (in constant dollars, between 0.5 and 1.0% of federal spending, more or less) suggests that this level of funding is politically sustainable."

Of course there is a vast difference between .5 percent of federal spending and 1 percent. Now the Senate mark for the 2010 NASA budget comes out to about .54 percent of the President's 2010 budget request, about 3.5 trillion dollars, which is on the low end of the range that Paul says in sustainable. If NASA's budget were to be 1 percent of the 2010 budget request, it would be an incredible amount of just over 35 billion dollars, a figure no one, sane or not, has ever dreamed of.

Most people like Mike Griffin suggest that the return to the Moon program could be gotten back on track by the addition of another two, possibly three billion dollars a year. That would create a NASA budget, rounded up, of no greater than 22 billion dollars. That is a NASA budget for 2010 of just over .6 percent of projected federal spending, well within Paul's range of what is sustainable.

So, really, I'm not sure what the complaint is about.