Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Jim Pinkerton muses about the social subtext of the X Men and a future in which there really will be "mutants" (i.e., people who choose to use science and technology to enhance themselves.)
We know the finalist companies in the Commercial Orbital Transport Systems (COTS) competition. But what sort of hardware proposals are they bringing to the table?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Thank You for Smoking, a delightful little film from the book by Chris Buckley, recently came out. I'm told that it was successful enough for another Chris Buckley Book, Little Green Men, to be greenlit. In Little Green Men it is revealed that alien abductions are being faked by the government in order to ramp up support for the space program.

Of course the Chris Buckley Book I want to see made is No Way to Treat a First Lady, in which Hillary is accused of doing away with Bill (names changed to protect the guilty, as well as the author from legal action, of course.)

Looks like Chang-Diaz is making some progress taking his plasma rocket private.
About 90 percent of the rocket production process would be done in Houston, but about ten percent would be performed at a laboratory Chang-Diaz has on Costa Rica's Pacific coast.

Oddly enough, Rand Simberg thinks that doing ten percent of the work in Central Anerica is somehow a good example of outsourcing.
Franklin Chang-Diaz wants to build magneto-plasma rockets. In Central America.

Doing the jobs Americans won't do, I guess.

Or maybe Rand is suggesting that illegal aliens will be doing the work in Houston. Lots of aerospace engineers taking that midnight wade across the Rio Grande, I suppose.

The VASIMR plasma rocket is described here.
That space is the new high ground has been a cliche since the space age began. Christopher Stone argues for deploying weapons there.
Michael Huang proposes a truly nightmarish scenario. The reason that aliens have not visited us is that, like Robert Park, they don't believe in space flight with sapient beings.

I find it hard to believe that any intelligent species would hold to such an idea.
Eric Hedman asks the question, is NASA afraid to take risks. The answer seems to be yes and no.

Monday, May 29, 2006

From those small farmers who threw down their farm tools and picked up their muskets between Lexington and Concord, to those who yet hunt the enemies of civilization in the cities of Iraq and the hills of Afghanistan, and to all those who gave the last full measure in between, we thank you. God rest.

Addendum: Ben Stein offers comfort for those left behind and gives foul scorn to all who would sully the memory of those who gave everything for the right to do so.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Bob Novak presents the Democrats worse nightmare, in the form of Michael Steele, candidate for Senate in Maryland and an African American who won't toe the line.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

In which Your Humble Servant discusses a snarky, delightfull little gem of a film, Art School Confidential.
If you listen to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, both guys I like to listen to most times, you would think that conservatives were in open revolt over immigration reform. Captain Ed suggests, maybe not, which goes a long way to explaining the Senate vote on Friday.

That doesn't mean that the Senate bill does not have serious problems. But it can be hoped that those can be fixed in conference.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Catherine Seipp gives a well deserved bitch slapping to the traitor Mother Sheehan.
The New Atlantis considers NASA's current budget bind and suggests a solution that Your Humble Servant agrees with.
Back in 1898, in order to pay for the Spanish American War, the government slapped a three percent excise tax on long distance phone calls to help pay for the war. This was a tax on the rich, since back then only the rich had phones.

Of course, 108 years since we beat the Spaniards, the tax was still in effect and had become a tax on everybody as everybody had phones. It was also obsolete as a lot of phone companies charged flat rates for long distance calling plans.

So, in a move so rare that it should be caused for universal celebration, the phone tax has been abolished and we will be getting refunds for past three years of taxes.
Increase NASA funding by declaring the increase emergency funding? It's a common dodge conducted by the government when it wants to spend money and not officially have it count against the deficit. Of course the excuse, that the shuttle situation constitutes an emergency, does have a certain logic to it. To my mind, though, any increase of NASA ought to be taken out of some other part of the budget.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

So scientists think that an invisibility cloak (sort of) is possible. Pretty cool. But what about a broom one can fly on?
Forty five years ago on this date, a young President stood up before a joint session of Congress and said this:
I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations--explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon--if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.

Eight years later, two Americans stood triumphantly on the lunar surface after a project that rivaled the waging of a war, accomplished the midst of actual war, civil strife, and social change.

Sadly, the first era of lunar exploration lasted just over three years. That human beings have not been on the Moon in a third of a century is a blot upon our civilization.

In about a dozen years (if the political alignment holds, if all of the technical problems are overcome and if, dear God, bureaucratic bungling is kept to a minimum), that blot will be wiped out. The return of human beings to the Moon will signal the beginning of the true space age, with all of its limitless possibilities.
Dr. Roy Spencer has some hard questions for Algore about global warming.
Apparently a Canadian production company has optioned the Dragon Riders of Pern series and proposes to make them into a series of films.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A Challenger film from the point of view of Richard Feyman. Fascinating.
Looks like Algore's blockbuster, An Inconvenient Truth, is based on a tissue of lies.
The scientists under the auspicies of NASA have created the ultimate in high impact exercise called the Space Cycle.
There have been a number of technologies proposed to launch things into space without the use of rockets. One of the strangest ones I've come across is the Slingatron.
Some researchers from the University of Illinois have found a way of producing oil from pig manure on an industrial scale.
Tom Olson, over at Space Cynic, explains how to spot an company one should never invest in or take seriously.
Ken, over at Selenian Boondocks, points out a couple of pieces on lunar resource extraction. here and here.
Hillary is looking back to the 70s by proposing a windfall profits tax on oil in order to fund "alternative energy" programs.
Jeffrey Bell is certainly on a roll. He actually accuses space advocates of being both Nazis and Communists, even the libertarian ones.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison gets a rap from a lot of people of supporting space solely for jobs in the state, meaning--since she's from Texas--the space shuttle and ISS. But it would appear that the Senator has indeed figured out that space commercialization is a good thing.

On the other hand, dark energy?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Rep Mike Pence is floating an interesting idea that might bridge the chasm between immigration hardliners and open border advocates.
NASA's switch from SSME engines to the newer and cheaper RS-68s for the heavy lifter seem to be getting cudos all around. Even Rand Simberg seems to approve--sort of.

Addendum: So does Chair Force Engineer.
In which I lament how the Mission Impossible films eschew the clever scenarios and spying that so graced the TV series in favor of explosions and car chases.
There was a time when musicians just performed music at a concert. That is obviously not good enough for Madonna at age 47.
The world's most famous 47-year-old took to the stage, a mere 50 minutes late, determined to prove to all those willing to listen - and pay up to £200 a ticket - that she still had the ability to grab headlines.

She insulted George Bush, simulated sex and suspended herself from a giant mirrored crucifix, head adorned with a designer crown of thorns (provided by Cotter Church Supplies, LA) in an all-out attempt to get someone, anyone out there, riled.

And the effect on the audience?
The show ended - rather abruptly - with no encore and with the lights immediately going on, leaving us all looking at one another in a slightly embarrassed fashion, as though we'd just been caught doing something we shouldn't have been.

No, you shouldn't have.

Monday, May 22, 2006

A British perspective on the film United 93.
Importantly, too, for American self-image, the heroes of United 93 were obliged to act for themselves, working on shards of information picked up via mobile phone calls to their loved ones. They were on their own; no one was going to help them, there was no assistance from government or state agency. They demonstrated the spirit of the frontiersman, alone in an alien, hostile place. It is the spirit of America.

Jeffrey Bell takes the opportunity to pat himself on the back over the evolving design of NASA's return to the Moon hardware. He also takes the opportunity to be snarky:
Why did NASA waste over two years fiddling with a design concept that almost everybody else recognized as fundamentally wrong? What political advantage was gained by this?

Could it really be true that the big booster switch is not an example of Mike Griffin's political acumen, but just more of the technical incompetence we have seen from NASA over the past 30 years? Could the emperor really be naked?

Well, no. I suspect the process consisted of engineers weighing the tradeoffs inherent in certain hardware choices and, through long, plodding work, making what we hope is the best selection. I doubt that Opus Dei (oops, sorry, wrong conspiracy theory) was involved.
Serenity: the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version.
Jeff Foust muses on the arcane topic of Presidential space policies. Ironically, the current President, while not officially issuing one, has likely changed the course of the space age more than any President in history. Not only has the focus of the publicly funded space program changed to exploration (imagine that), but for the first time the US government is actively encouraging commercial space.

However, there is a warning that ought to be heeded:
What may cause people to lose sleep down the road, though, is what happens when the next administration takes office in 2009. DalBello recalled that when the Clinton administration took office in 1993 it faced a budget crisis that put two big science programs on the chopping block: Space Station Freedom (which survived by morphing into the International Space Station), and the Superconducting Supercollider (which did not). "For all the NASA folks, be ready for the next administration," he warned, "?because the same thing is going to play itself out. The days of Â?weÂ?re not worried about budget deficitsÂ? are going to go backwards, and weÂ?re going to start getting disciplined again. And when that discipline happens, boom! These programs get hurt."? And if that happens, it may not matter what the national space policy is.

Of course Dick DalBello's grasp of history is a little fuzzy. While the Clinton administration gave a lot of lip service to dealing with the deficit, it did very little to address it. The tax increase it passed was largely wasted on new social spending and the only programs that really did get cut were defense, science, and space. Remember all of those deficits "as far as the eye can see" that was one of Bob Dole's few good lines in the 1996 campaign. And Clinton babbling that it could be cut in "five years" or "eight years" or "seven years" ect, ect.

It was only after the Gingrich Revolution that the deficit really began to decline and actually, for an all too brief period, became a sIronicallyIronicly that occured during a time in which NASA's budget had stablized and had started to increase again (as did some science and defense spending.)

That's not to say that a President Hillary Clinton won't try to slash space spending using the deficit as an excuse. But that's why space advocates should ask the 2008 candidates hard and probing questions about what they intend. To my mind, pinning them down on supporting the Vision for Space Exploration and supporting commercial space is a top priority.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Well, Nagin won reelection as Mayor of New Orleans, which proves the old maxim that in Louisiana, the only office holders who get voted out are the ones caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy. But the really precious part of the story was how Howard Dean, Chairman of the DNC, plotted against Nagin--and failed.

Now, I knew that Dean was a blowhard and a paltroon, but how does one fail to take out the worse Mayor in modern times?

Addendum: Tom James writes with a possible answer.
They hired Markos Moulitsas Zuniga to run Landrieu's campaign? Hey, he's got a perfect record...

Presumably of defeat.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Here's a pretty good article on the Lunar Surface Access Module (LSAM) that is planned to land astronauts on the Moon in a little more than ten years. There's also a take on the controversy surrounding NASA's rejection of a methane burner enginer that you've not heard from the critics.
The single engine on the ascent stage also will use liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, even though the combination wasn't NASA's first choice. The Architecture team originally wanted to use liquid methane fuel, in one of the lunar program's few nods to an even more distant future. Someday, when astronauts land on Mars, they'll need to live off the land as much as possible. Methane could theoretically be extracted from the atmosphere and turned into rocket fuel. So if the LSAM used methane engines, NASA could get early practice with a technology applicable to Mars.

The trouble is, no one has flown a methane rocket in space. A French-Russian demonstration project called Volga concluded last year that the technology looked promising, and a couple of companies have tested small-scale engines. But that's about it. Methane engines would have been one of the bigger leaps in the Architecture, and in the end NASA decided it was too big of one. The ascent engine absolutely, 100 percent, no kidding, has to work perfectly on the moon. Otherwise the astronauts are stranded.

Before trusting methane engines on the moon landers, NASA would have wanted years of experience flying them on the CEV. But with the CEV's debut planned for as early as 2010, there isn't time to develop such an important technology. So, reluctantly, NASA gave up on methane.

The decision to go with hydrogen fuel-and lots of it, since the LSAM will need to shift the plane of its orbit as much as 90 degrees to reach polar landing sites-influences other aspects of the design. The most striking example is the size of the fuel tanks. Hydrogen takes up more volume than denser fuels, so the descent stage tanks alone will be taller than the entire Apollo descent stage.

It's just as I've said before. All decisions concerning space hardware has trade offs and it's best to research the matter very carefully before deciding that some decision or another was a blunder.

Friday, May 19, 2006

So, let me see if I understand this correctly. ABC News has hired a former employee for Handgun Control to cover the NRA and gun issues? Well, next thing you know, they'll be hiring a former Clinton staffer as the star of their once great Sunday morning talk show. Wait a minute. They did that too.
If you're mad at the antics of the Senate over immigration, Hugh Hewitt has a suggestion for positive action that certainly does not involve the risk of bringing the Party of Appeasement to power.
Richard III starring Ian McKellen: Life in Fascist England.
Iran is proposing to make Jews and Christians wear special colored badges to identify them. Surely ghettos and concentration camps are next if they are not stopped.
The US Senate creates confusion by adopting two conflicting amendments to the immigration bill on the subject of the English language.

Meanwhile, Harry Reid thinks the whole thing is racist.
Ray Nagin. the bungler Mayor of New Orleans, plays the race card.
Both China and the United States are preparing their lunar probes.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Plenty of black gold off the west and east coasts. Accessing it could lower the price of things like gasoline. Naturally the House voted to ban drilling in those places. Sometimes one wants to beat these people upside the head with a rolled up newspaper.
It seems that certain apes have demonstrated the ability to plan ahead. That makes them more advanced than some humans I know, particularly politicians.
Rocket Man by Nancy Conrad and Howard A. Klausner. A biography of Pete Conrad, Apollo astronaut and commercial space pioneer.
I'm certain that most people who do not have some deep seated mental problem has hugged a close relative or even a friend of either gender without it meaning anything sexual. But at Gettysburg College, located a stones throw from the site of one of the greatest battles for freedom, one who does so could be considered the moral equivalent of a rapist. It's the sort of thing one might expect to find in an Islamic Republic and not on a modern American college campus.
Algore. Will he or won't he?. I for one hope he will. Otherwise Manbearpig will kill us all.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A lot of people, Your Humble Servant among them, are a bit ticked at the fecklessness shown by a lot of Republican office holders. Unfortunately this has led to a lot of loose talk of conservatives staying home during the next election. To my mind, this is not only a self defeating tactic, but dangerous. The last time this happened, we bought eight years of Bill Clinton. If it happens again, we may just put in power a group of Liberal Democrats whose main strategy for the War on Terror is the impeach the Commander in Chief. The risk of people actually dying due to terrorism will increase if the Dems get back into power.

Fortunately, Captain Ed sees the good people of Pennsylvania following a better way. It's longer and harder, but it gets the point made without risking putting the Party of Appeasement in charge.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Sir Richard Branson, best known as the force behind Virgin Galactic, is also interested in the possibilities of bio fuels.
In some of my more whimsical moments, I try to figure out ways to get Liberal Democrats to support things like returning to the Moon. One thing I hit on was the point out that only white men ever got to walk on the Moon and the Universe would be unfair until more women and minorities get to do so.

Now, another reason has cropped up, thanks to Jonah Goldberg. There seems to be an unconstiutional endorsement of religion on the Sea of Tranquility. Clearly some angry atheist should sue to have the offending letters removed.
Day of Decision: The Battle of Quebec 1759.
Leif Erikson: The Real European Discoverer of America.
Now that they've been picked, what is next for the COTS finalists?
Returning to the Moon and doing good science. I've often pushed returning to the Moon as a means to enhance commerce, but there are certainly other, legitiment reasons.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Is a new era of space diplomacy dawning? Jeff Foust has a different take.
However, it's not clear that NASA would be "desperate" in talking with the Chinese regardless of deals with India and other nations. While cooperation with China might be useful, from either a strategic and/or technical standpoint, it's hardly essential in either case. A possibility that is more interesting—and not explored in the AP article—is whether these overtures to India and even China, as well as existing cooperation with Japan, might be the beginning of a larger, geopolitical shift that sees more cooperation with these nations at the expense of Europe and Russia.

On the other hand, playing one country off against the other for roles in the VSE might prove to be useful.
The fight to get more funding for NASA in FY2007 is bound to get a little ugly. Also, if the Democrats take the House, the potential for fights over VSE funding will increase.
Robin Snelson looks at the Lunar Lander Challenge, who is playing, and how they're doing.
Elon Musk of SpaceX, who proposes to be the Prince Henry the Navigator of space, looks to the future.
I first became aware of Newt Gingrich in 1983, when I heard him give a speech about solar power satellites. I remember thinking how remarkable it was for a member of Congress to be interested in such things. Too bad, I concluded, the world would likely never hear of him again...

Little did I know.

Gingrich speaks about the current state of space exploration. I'm pretty certain that it's unrealistic to do everything with prizes and what not (though prizes and tax incentives should be increased), but still the former Speaker's thoughts bear listening to.
Designing a house on the Moon.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The West Wing, a TV show about a fictional, liberal Democratic President, airs its last episode this Sunday. Here is why it won't be missed.
When a politician like Larry Darby becomes known, all that is necessary is stunned silence. Oddly enough, he's a Democrat, which means that his odd views will not be given as much weight as they would were he a Republican.
Tiffany Jenkins declares in the pages of the Herald that it's time to return to the Moon.
Victor Davis Hanson imagines the current media reporting on World War II.
Were the Celts the real civilization and the Romans the real barbarians? I suppose it depends on which end of the gladius one is on.
Light that moves backward faster than light. Sort of.
A computer program that, in effect, selects the best solutions to engineering problems.
Of course for serious people, there is no real debate between private investment and public funding of space projects. Each has its place in the great scheme of things.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

George Will suggests that John McCain cannot become President. Because if McCain were to take the oath of office, it would be perjury as he does not intend to protect and defend the Constitution.
More detailed thoughts on United 93, so far the best film of this decade.
Democratic members of the House Science Committee are calling for a funding increase for NASA to restore science and aeronautic programs. True, it's the members of the House Science Committee and and it's for smaller projects, but the idea of Democrats pushing for more money for NASA represents a sea change in politics.
The Econmist heralds the advent of the era of personal space flight.
Just when the state of politics gets one low, one can always count on Howard Dean to lift ones spirits.
The Tudors: The Miniseries. Though, I must say Sam Neil seems a little skinny to be playing Cardinal Wolsey.
Mars: The Miniseries.
As expected, Race to Mars is set in a near-future—2030 to be exact—where China has surged ahead of the United States and other nations in Mars exploration. China’s space ambitions apparently lead to a red planet race that prompts Canada, the U.S., Russia, France and Japan to mount the first manned Mars mission.

I see already see interesting possibilities.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Jennifer Ouellette examines The Physics of the Buffyverse.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Looks like six companies made the first cut for the Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems program. Dan Schrimpsher has a list of five. They are:
Rocketplane Kistler
Andrews Space

Entrepeneurial space companies all.

Rumor has it that SpaceDev is the sixth company.
While debate rages over space cooperation with China, NASA Administrator Mike Griffin is in India, formalizing space cooperation with that country. I support that, as unlike China, India shares out values, is a firm ally in the War on Terror, and is not out to give us trouble.

Addendum: Of course even this has its opponents.
The Falcon and the Future of Space Travel.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Mind, a comedy about the media in Iraq could work, if done right. But I have my doubts that HBO would do it right.
A lot of people have noticed that gas prices in the United States have gotten a little high. This has, naturally, led to calls to develop more renewable energy. Solar, wind, and so on. One development that may throw a monkey wrench in that is the prospect of cheap development of oil shale deposits in the Rocky Mountain states. There may be more recoverable oil and natural gas there than in all the rest of the world combined.
Jeff Foust muses on recent comments made by Burt Rutan, Curmudgeon and the most successful space entrepeneur in history.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

At long last, the dream of missile defense is becoming reality. In whatever afterlife there is, one imagines that Ronald Reagan mst be very pleased.
Andrew Klaven take up the push to get Hollywood to make movies celebrating Americans fighting the War on Terror.
If I were a Democrat and I wanted to make Nancy Pelosi Speaker (which is to say, if I were a stark raving lunatic), the last thing I would suggest is that the Dems sole strategy for the War on Terror will be to go after the Commander in Chief.
Looks like Peter Diamandis is seriously going to sttempt to finance an expedition to Mars via private subscription. While the plan seems to me to have a lot of ifs inherent in it, I'm going to watch as it should be interesting as it unfolds.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

George Will gives an appreciation for United 93, the best film of the decade so far.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Only people of a certain age remember when the clouds of Venus might conceal lush jungles and swamps filled with interesting, alien creatures. Alas, the first space probes in the early 60s found a super heated, super pressurized hell hole.

S. M. Stirling imagines what might have happened if those probes had instead found the jungles, the swamps, and the interesting, alien creatures.
Looks like the Lunar Lander Challenge is on. Not only that, it may lead to bigger things like more reusable rockets and landing payloads on the Moon privately.
The National Research Council has discovered that NASA's work force is getting old and if we're to get back to the Moon and go to Mars, it needs to hire a lot of younger people. This does not come as a suprise to Your Humble Servant, who was writing on this subject a couple of years ago.
Criticism of Burt Rutan is coming in from some unexpected quarters. Here, for example. What is it about successful space entrepeneurs that torque off certain people? First Elon Musk, now Burt Rutan. Mind, his statements do not rise to the level of accusing ones opponents of being conspiracy nuts or worse, so perhaps the real issue is that Rutan is spending too much time building rockets and not enough time ranting.

Mind, I still maintain that it's not NASA's job to build the hardware that opens up the space frontier. We don't want government agencies attempting that because they always do it badly. Remember the shuttle, NASP, etc. It's crazy people with unusual grooming habits like Rutan's job to do it.

I was also puzzled by that crack: "He won the X-Prize because he got funded, not because he's the only person who could do it, or even had the best way to do it." Heavens, I thought that attracting funding was a mark of a good businessman. Silly me.
Megan Basham agrees that the film Hoot promotes environmental terrorism and teenage deliquency. Fortunately, the message of the movie seems to be unpersuasive, even to the young actors playing the adolescent hooligans.
Questioned whether she feels as compelled as her character to take a stand for undeveloped land, 16-year-old Brie Larson (Beatrice) reveals a level of sense many adults in her industry lack: “Depends on the area—on whether its just a flat piece of earth or if its something that really seems important to society…I mean, I wouldn’t go somewhere and go, ‘yeah, take a stand’ if I didn’t know anything about it.”

And while 16-year-old Cody Lindley describes his character, Mullet Fingers, as an outlaw willing to overlook the rules for a greater good, when asked what might motivate him to such activist lawbreaking, Lindley replies, “Well, I wouldn’t feel that way for owls, but if someone were trying to hurt my family, I don’t think I would follow all the laws.”

Lindley expresses similarly down-to-earth feelings about his native country in general: “I know everyone talks about how bad it is here, but overall, I’m kind of optimistic. I’m so glad to live here [in America] because compared to the rest of the word it’s really great, and I don’t think there’s a lot that’s immoral and bad about America compared to the rest of the world.”

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Alan Boyle tours SpaceX's facility in California and is duely impressed.
The Senate has just handed the President a golden opportunity to shine as a spending hawk. Let's hope he follows through on his threat and vetoes that Emergency Spending Bill.
When Burt Rutan speaks about space craft design, it is best that he be listened to.
The designer of SpaceShipOne said NASA's proposed crew exploration vehicle to replace the aging space shuttle fleet doesn't push the technical envelope needed to accomplish more complex future missions that might include manned flights to other planets and moons.

"I don't know what they're doing," said Rutan, referring to NASA. "It doesn't make any sense."

Rutan said there needs to be a technological breakthrough in spacecraft design that would make it affordable and safe to send humans anywhere in the solar system. But he said he doesn't know what that breakthrough will be.

"Usually the wacky people have the breakthrough. The smart people don't," Rutan told an audience at the International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles.

And of course he's right. Unfortunately it is not NASA's role to do that sort of thing. It is the role of "wacky people" like Burt to do those technological breakthroughs. That's why I favor a lunar version of COTS.
What is it about the Kennedy family and and cars?
Clark Lindsey has an excellent page covering events at the International Space Development Conference.
Blogging has been light today as I have been attending Mrs. Curmudgeon for her second proceedure to blast her kidney stones to dust. The proceedure seems to have gone well and she is now home.
Larry Elder exposes Teddy Kennedy as the colossal ignoramus that he is.
"If we got out," asked Tim Russert on NBC's "Meet the Press" recently, "and there was a civil war, chaos, and you saw al Qaeda moving in -- in record numbers -- would you go back in?"

Russert's guest, Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., replied, "Well, first of all, I heard the same kinds of suggestions at the time of the end of the Vietnam War. The 'Great Bloodbath,' we're going to have over 100,000 people that were going to be murdered and killed at that time. And for those of us who were strongly opposed to the war, [we] heard those same kinds of arguments."

The normally persistent Russert never challenged Kennedy's incredible assertion. Yet the bloodbath some predicted would occur -- if we withdrew from Vietnam -- did happen.

Kennedy seems to be either an ignorant fool or, more ominously, engaging in a modern version of Holocaust denial. And Russert really needs to be slapped with a rolled up newspaper for not calling him on it.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Is it just me, or do other people have the impression that the Congress has gone stark, raving mad over high gas prices? The House has passed a bill that will sock it to Big Oil if they are ever caught "gouging", whatever that means. But they can't manage to pass a bill streamlining the approval process for refineries.

Mind, Big Oil does not set oil prices. You can blame the market and supply and demand for that. Not that it will stop politicians from postering.

This is a silver lining. The refinery bill may be brought back very quickly and this time, because of a rule change, passed in short order.
I'm afraid that I cannot understand the logic, if such could be called, in giving Moussaoui life. If there was any criminal for whom the death penalty is suited for, it is Moussaoui. My only guess is that enough people on the jury were just against the death penalty under any circumstances.

Oh well. I suppose the Devil will have to wait a little longer for that son of a pig.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

I've always been fascinated with the story of Vikings in the New World, exploring and even trying to settle about five centuries before Columbus. Hollywood has not be very successfull bringing that story to the screen. There was the campy and kind of fun The Norsemen, with Lee Majors leading a ship full of horned helmeted adventurers to do battle with the Indians. But nothing about the fascinating story of Leif "the Lucky" Erikson and his voyages to Vinland.

Looks like Hollwood's latest attempt, Pathfinder, is very, very bad.
Shubber Ali tosses a much needed stink bomb at the Internet Rocketeer Club in an amusing post of what makes a "White Hat" space company as opposed to a "Black Hat" space company.

Incidently, my own definition is that a "White Hat" company is one that is either (a) successful or (b) has a fair prospect of being successful. A "Black Hat" tends to spend less time growing a business and more posting on the internet boasts about how they're going to beat NASA to the Moon.
Seems that Hillary Clinton did not grow up wanting to be Goddess Empress of the Universe. She wanted to be an Olympic athlete. Only one thing stopped her and oddly enough it wasn't sexism.
"I wanted desperately to be an Olympic athlete," Clinton said Monday at a Purchase College symposium on Title IX, the 1972 law outlawing sex discrimination in educational programs that receive federal funding. "I tried everything. I ran every race, and if I was really lucky I finished second to last...I couldn't jump, I couldn't run, I couldn't swim."

Undaunted, she set her sights on a new career, only to have her hopes dashed.
After determining she'd never be an athlete, she set her sights on becoming an astronaut.

"So I wrote to NASA and said, 'How do I sign up to be an astronaut?"' she said. "And they wrote back very politely and said, 'We don't take girls."

It is a charming thought that at one time Hillary would take no for an asnwer that easily. That NASA PAO has a lot to answer for. What if he had responded, "While we don't take females now, in the future we'll likely have lots of room for women scientists, doctors, and maybe one day pilots. So study your math and science." ? Perhaps, them, Sally Ride would not have been the first feminazi in space.

Then Hillary thought about being a doctor. Or maybe a scientist or mathematician.
Next went the dream of a career in medicine.

"I volunteered at the hospital but kept getting lightheaded and woozy when I saw anyone in any kind of distress," she said.

She also abandoned hopes of becoming a scientist or mathematician because she didn't have the best grades in those subjects.

So all that was left was law school. There's a lesson in there somewhere.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The son of the last Shah of Iran speaks about the current crisis in his country and the prospect for regime change.
Clark Lindsey expresses some puzzlement concerning NASA Administrator Mike Griffin. On the one hand, Griffin is in favor of that evil, expensive, big government plan to go back to the Moon. On the other hand, is in also in favor of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems (COTS) program, which is innovative, commercial, good, and cheap.

The answer, of course, is to consider that Griffin is not a man driven by idealogy, but rather by what he thinks might work. The problem of cheap access to space can be best addressed, not by a NASA program (of which there have been many, starting with the shuttle, which have failed), but by the private sector. NASA can best help things along by providing a core market, i.e. the resupply and crew transfer of the ISS, for embryonic space companies to compete for. This is much the way delivery of the air mail served to foster aviation in the 1920s and 1930s.

The problem of getting people back to the Moon, in Griffin's view, can be served in the old way with a NASA program. It worked with Apollo. However, even here there is the twist that private industry is going to be a full partner, providing goods and services to astronauts on the Moon. And if COTS works, then look for a lunar version in fifteen or twenty years, if not sooner.
Does the film Hoot promote eco terrorism and in fact ecnourage young people to engage in it? It would seem so to me, having seen the trailer.
Dwayne Day uncovers the story of the Fisher space pen. It's more interesting than anyone thought.
Eric Hedman, like so many people, has his own ideas about how to get back to the Moon. A lot of his proposal, alas, seems to be based on some questionable assumptions, starting with this:
The recently leaked internal NASA LRA-0 study report on the problems with the Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS), posted on and later retracted, is disturbing.

It would be disturbing if it were in fact conclusive and unbiased and--well--true, which it was not. That's why it was retracted.

Meanwhile, John Strickland has his own ideas with their own set of flaws, but with a couple of good points.
More fundamentally, this whole fiasco indicates a massive and unnecessary communications gap between NASA, its natural supporters (the advocate community) and the public. Many in the space community, who would be utterly fascinated if they could follow developments, have been very disappointed that all of these engineering and trade-off studies are being conducted as if on a "closed set" by a paranoid Hollywood producer, fearful that someone might steal his idea and beat him to the punch with a rip-off production. Since there is little rationale for anyone to steal general mission concepts from NASA, it is then reasonable to wonder WHY the secrecy. NASA is contributing to this confusion by its own misguided policy.

That's certainly a valid point. Mind, better communication will not silence the Internet Rocketeer Club entirely.
John also makes a valid point as to one of the things that empower carping and criticism:
In response to these criticisms, various sources have issued reassuring comments, indicating that all of the desired improvements will eventually come in time. We are told that all of what has been put forward in definition of the lunar program is merely provisional and subject to improvement. For some of us who have watched events towards every new program progress, stall, and implode over the last several decades, we now find it very hard to accept the perpetual cry of "trust me" from NASA, even with the very respected Dr. Griffin at the helm.

That is certainly also valid. NASA has got a lot to live down. However, I wonder if we're not seeing a sort of space version of the Vietnam Syndrome that simply because of the shuttle and space station fiascos there is a sense that NASA could never manage a large project ever again.

And, as for John's harping of reusable space craft. I wonder if that is the sort of thing NASA should be heavily involved with. Certainly the COTS program is expected to encourage the development of such space craft that can reach Low Earth Orbit. Could it be that once people are living on the Moon, a lunar version of COTS could be started to encourage the private sector to build reusable space craft capable of going to the Moon?
Taylor Dinerman profiles Pete Worden, the new director of NASA Ames.
Looks like those folks in Congress trying to get control over out of control earmarks (i.e. pork) are winning some victories.

Addendum: Speaking of earmarks, here's a New York Times editorial I can actually agree with about pork and NASA.