Thursday, August 31, 2006

Apparently India's Chandrayaan lunar probe, due to launch next year, will map out deposits of Helium 3, an isotope that many scientists believe could power future fusion reactors.
Reuters is reporting that Lockheed Martin has won the contract to build the Orion Moon ship. Stay tuned for the actual announcement.

Addendum: Just confirmed by NASA and some of my own sources. Congratulations to the Lockmart team. Now, on to the Moon.
Back during Vietnam, the far left contented itself with spitting on soldiers. Now, folks on the left are so full of hate and rage that they've taken to giving soldiers in uniform savage beatings. Via Stacy Bartley
Looks like we're about to be treated to episodes of Classic Star Trek with reworked, modern special effects. Take note of the picture of the "new" Enterprise (not A, B, C, or D.)
Dean Barnett catches Paul Hackett, who aspires to be John kerry's "mini-me", violating Godwin's Law.
Hollywood has yet to produce a film about the war on Islamo-Fascism. We've not seen anything on the big screen depicting American soldiers and Marines killing terrorists. However some filmmaker has actually produced a film in which President Bush is assassinated. A wish fullfillment fantasy for people with Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) if I ever heard of one.

Addendum: Apparently the same British TV network that is putting this sick trash on is also airing something called The Trial of Tony Blair.

Nothing planned, by any studio or network, about the death or trial of Osama bin Laden, of course.

Addendum 2: A reader suggests, what about a movie depicting the trial of--say--Howard Dean, John Murtha, or John Kerry for treason? No, no, we must never do that. That we be questioning their patriotism after all.
Having turned on Jewish Democrats like Joe Lieberman who are deemed insufficiently liberal, the nutters who now run the Democratic Party are now purging the party of Black Democrats who are not ideologically pure. It is fascinating when, in one instance, a former Black Panther is considered a "conservative sympathizer.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

What if Julius Caesar Had Lived?
Keith Cowing reports that Anousheh Ansari has got the US State Department nervous about what she might say during her trip to ISS. This seems to have the folks at Foggy Bottom biting their finger nails:
Anousheh has long dreamt of traveling to space, and while she is extremely excited for herself, she is also focused on being able to share her experience with others. Her main objective of her mission is to be a space ambassador, and help to bring the space travel experience to others:

* To create public awareness and stimulate grassroots enthusiasm for private spaceflight;
* To inspire students of all ages to learn more about the virtues of space exploration; and
* To promote peace and understanding as a representative for millions of Iranians that, given the right opportunities, can achieve their dreams.

I'll bet that, considering that it is the dream of millions of Iranians to be free of the Mullahs, that it's the last that have the striped pants folks shaking in their boots. Stay tuned indeed.

Addendum: The above has been altered to read thus:
Anousheh has long dreamt of traveling to space, and while she is extremely excited for herself, she is also focused on being able to share her experience with others. Her main objective of her mission is to be a space ambassador, and help to bring the space travel experience to others:

* To become a messenger as a Space Ambassador to create public awareness and stimulate grassroots enthusiasm about the virtues of space exploration;
* To be an inspiration for youth around the world to pursue their dreams, specially to inspire girls everywhere
* As the first space Ambassador, promote peace and understanding amongst nations
Is the tide turning in favor of the Republicans? The Gallup Organization seems to think so.
Louis Friedman of the Planetary Society inveighs against changing priorities at NASA, and then falls into error.
If the Administration can't supply the funds for the Vision for Space Exploration goals, wouldn't just delaying them make more sense than cannibalizing the part of NASA that is working and has provided such valuable and exciting results to the world, and which was supposed to guide humans into the solar system?

The reason that is not a good idea is that delaying VSE is a sure prescription for increasing its cost, not to mention giving its enemies more of an opportunity to try to cancel the program. Not to mention that the idea that, thirty four years after the last man walked on the Moon, delaying the day that the next person walks on the Moon is just a little bit tiresome and annoying.
I think I am beginning to understand why. In a little publicized speech last March, the President's science advisor, Dr. John Marburger, declared, "…we want to incorporate the Solar System in our [the U.S.] economic sphere…" and then went on say "The fundamental goal of this vision is to advance U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests through a robust space exploration program.…It subordinates space exploration to the primary goals of scientific, security and economic interests." Whoa -- what happened to exploration? What are the American economic and security interests in human exploration of the Moon and Mars? What happened to "we came in peace for all mankind?"

I assume that these are rhetorical questions, Or perhaps Dr. Friedman thinks that national security and economic development somehow "sully" space exploration when used as justifications. Of course a more thoughtful analyst would suggest that serving the needs of national security and economic development, in addition to science, makes it more likely that space exploration will get funded.

Friedman goes on to ridicule the idea of in situ production of oxygen on the Moon.
This is ludicrous -- we could probably not devise a more expensive way to make rocket fuel than by producing it on the Moon -- especially with oxygen which we do not know how to extract, or at what cost.

As opposed to the cost of transporting it to the Moon? Besides, there have been several technologies developed for extracting lunar oxygen, which only await field testing.
I am beginning to think that the new interpretation of the Vision, and the new direction of NASA, is more ideological than visionary, more about extending our economic interests than anything to do with the public good and public interest in space exploration. This is why I feel we are fighting for the heart and soul of NASA (and space exploration around the world).

"Extending our economic interests" is not a public good and public interest? I'd like Dr. Friedman to explain that one.

Dr. Friedman finally admits to budget realities:
Maybe I am an alarmist; Griffin maintains that only the budget constraints have forced science cuts, and that he has to make them in order to get the new rockets built that will replace the shuttle (a goal we support). But then why all the anti-science rhetoric? Why these new policy pronouncements? And why, as asked above, cannibalize the science research and exploration missions that brought NASA such past glory?

Because there isn't the money to do everything the scientists would like to do. I'd personally would like it to be otherwise. It would be more likely to be otherwise if folks like Dr. Friedman would stop whining about how the Vision for Space Exploration is somehow hurting them, creating a risk for preditory budget warfare in which the enemies of space exploration try to cut VSE's budget in order to "fund science", and work to find ways to increase NASA's overall funding. Supporting efforts to decrease the cost of space travel, thus making everything, including Europa Orbiters, more affordable would also be useful.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Christopher Hitchens pours scorn on those who made Plame-Gate such a manufactured political melodrama. Plame-Gate was indeed a scandal. Just not the one we were led to believe.
Next summer, J.K. Rowling will publish the seventh and (she thinks) last Harry Potter novel. I wonder What's Next for Harry Potter?
Moveon.Org is pretty sure that the country is run by a cabal of Jews and Christian Zionists. Where have we heard that one before?

Monday, August 28, 2006

One of the interesting effects of a shooting war is an increase in funding of a lot of technologies that will likely benefit the civilian sector as well as the military. One such is the Battlefield Extraction and Retrieval Robot or BEAR, which is basically a military rescue robot. If it comes to fruition, the BEAR will be a boon to nurses who tend to throw their backs out assisting infirm and well fed patients.

It oddly enough would have also been a boon to my mother's father, Fredrick, who was a medic during the Great War and caught a wiff of gas while rescuing wounded soldiers in No Man's Land. He did not see his forty fifth birthday, leaving my grandmother to raise my mom and an aunt in the midst oif the Great Depression.
Eric Hedman looks at the Space Frontier Foundation "white paper" and the GAO report that casts doubt on NASA's return to the Moon program and then proceeds to worry without actually coming to much of a conclusion. Two points need to be looked at:
Michael Griffin recently said two things that significantly bother me about the Ares architecture. He said that the Ares 5 is being designed with the requirements of a Mars mission in mind. He also said that he didn’t foresee sending humans to Mars for at least twenty years. By deductive reasoning, the first journey to Mars would take place using twenty-year-old (if not older) technology. Isn’t old technology one of the reasons there are problems maintaining the shuttle fleet? If a Mars base is going to require a nuclear reactor and the Ares 5 architecture isn’t deemed safe enough to launch it, are we just adding a cost for capabilities that may never be needed? Are we committing NASA to using circa 2006 concepts and technology for two to four decades from now? Are we so arrogant that we think we know now what will be the preferred technology for possibly the next half century?

The problem is that space vehicles tend to evolve, incorporating new technology as they become available. The space shuttle that will launch soon is not the space shuttle that first launched in April, 1981. I suspect that the Ares 5 that helps launch the first people to Mars in--say--2028 will not be the same Ares 5 that helps launch the next people to go to the Moon in 2018.

Hedman does actually have a good suggestion at the end:
I don’t know if the VSE really is in a mess. However, I’m not alone in having concerns about it. I really think now is the time for a review. I don’t want it to stop during this review. I think NASA needs to make the case why the path they’re selecting is the right path. Those who have serious questions should be allowed to make their case as to why the path should be changed. If this program plan is to succeed we will be living with it for the next several decades, so we should be as sure as possible that it is the best possible path based upon what is known now without locking out future technology.

NASA needs to improve public relations and how they disseminate information to the media. If they have good answers for the criticisms that are being leveled against them they are either not able to get them out or don’t feel it’s important to get it out to all of us who are paying the bills. They are supposed to be working for us. NASA also needs to make it clear to the public what they expect to accomplish with the COTS program so that both potential contractors and the public have a clear idea of what it is. If a clear message like this isn’t made public, why would any experienced venture capital funding source with management in their right minds back these companies?

I agree with all that, if only for the fact that accusations left unanswered have a tendency to take on a life of their own. Of course, NASA may feel it doesn't have to care what the Internet Rocketeer Club thinks. It's not as if it has had a real effect on public policy, after all.
Some Democrats are cutting and running from cut and run.
Will off shore oil wells become the source of the next generation of drugs?
Space News examines the two winners of the COTS competition.

Addendum: Dennis Wingo weighs in on what it all means. One interesting point about the political difficulties of getting tax incentives for space development:
There is another thing that space advocate organizations can do, support the development of new markets. What is needed is a fair climate for new space companies to flourish. In the late 1990’s California congressman Dana Rohrabacher introduced the “Zero G, Zero Tax” bill, which would exempt from taxes profits made by companies that do business in space beyond the current communications and remote sensing companies.

Work on this bill fizzled when the Congressional Budget Office scored the bill at $10 billion in lost revenue over its twenty year life. It was never followed up on but an immediate comment is that in order to “lose” $10 billion in revenue, almost $30 billion in profits have to be made! This is pretty good for an industry that today generates exactly zero dollars in profits or revenue. The Internet flourished because of a tax holiday and such incentives are the push that is needed to help create the new orbital markets to reward the huge risk that SpaceX, Rockeplane Kistler, Bigelow, and others are making or are ready to make should conditions become favorable.

I'm not sure what lays in the CBO's assumptions. Is the assumption that space commerce would grow to generate ten billion in tax revenues absent a tax incentive program like the one proposed by Rohrabacher? If so, the analysis shows the folly of static scoring. It's clear to anyone with an iota of economics knowledge that the less something is taxed, the more of that something is produced.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Jimmy Carter, more than any person I know, needs to be hit upside the head with a rolled up newspaper. If I had been the most disastrous President of the 20th Century, I might be tempted to retire to a monastery and beg God for forgiveness for the rest of my days. Alas, the Baptists don't have penitent orders. So we are to be subjected to Carter actually wagging his finger at the British Prime Minister for being too pro American. Not a problem for Carter when he was in the White House or now.
There are sometimes when I seriously do not get Islamofascists. Do they really think that a conversion to Islam at gunpoint has any meaning? Point a gun at my head tell me it's either convert or die, and I'd profess Islam. Or Satanism. Or even liberalism. Then I would recant at the next available moment. All this kind of thing does is convience a lot of people that Muslims are little more than raving fanatics--which most aren't. It can't be good for the cause and it does nothing else than blacken the name of Islam. And the Koran talks about what happens to people who do that.
Firefly fans may remember the episode when our valient crew found themselves in the quaint little town where Jayne Cobb had somehow become a folk hero. There was even a song about Jayne's exploits, somewhat altered from what really happened:
JAAAYNE! The man they call JAAAYNE!
He robbed from the rich,
and gave to the poor,
stood up to The Man,
and gave him what for
our love for him
now, ain't hard to explain,

Wash, Serenity's easy going pilot, comments, "We gotta go to the crappy town where
I'm a hero..."
Well, now we can. Washtown now exists in the virtual world of Second Life. I'm told that there is even a Firefly replica parked near the Wash statue.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Joe Lieberman apparently will not endorse three Democrats who are running for the House in Connecticut. And good for him, too. Turn about seems to be fair play, after all.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Jon Goff revises and extends his previous remarks on "technologies we would need to master before we could become a truly spacefaring society." An interesting exercise, I suppose. But I suspect that becoming a truly spacefaring society is not going to be a process that is derived from central planning or the drawing up of predetermined lists. People are going to come up with solutions that haven't been thought of yet.
So, instead of adding three planets, five percent of the world's astronomers have taken away one. Somehow I think that this decision is not going to stick.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Jim Oberg calls for caution and realism in pursuing space cooperation with the Chinese.
Tin Minear weighs in on the political subtext issue of Firefly/Serenity.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I've always wondered how Firefly and Serenity could have such a big conservative/libertarian subtext when Joss Whedon is a liberal. Jonah Goldberg seems to have discovered why.
World Trade Center: A Film About the Second Day of Infamy.
So it seems that the tribes in this year's Survivor will be segregated by race Interesting. I guess next year the show ill take place in Southern Lebenon, will feature tribes segregated by religion, and will be called Survivor: Holy War.
Jon Goff lists a number of technologies that he believes will be useful for the opening up of the high frontier of space. All of them, to my mind, are very neat and some are even likely useful. I might include a space elevator and a nuclear thermal rocket as being neat and potentially useful too. Then Jon falls into error when he states:
These are the kinds of technologies that I think NASA would be better off developing than merely pursuing an old-school Apollo rehash. Unlike today's NASA, NASA in the age of Apollo had the balls to actually try new things and develop technologies where it made sense and where it made the goal easier. At the start of the Apollo program, we had zero experience with things like orbital rendezvous and docking, but instead of pansying out, NASA went and developed the expertise. Today's NASA seems to be trying to go back to the moon without actually developing any of the near-term feasible technologies that would actually allow it to do something substantially more useful and relevant than what we did thirty-some-odd years ago. Instead of spending billions of dollars trying to "fill a much needed gap in US space transportation capabilities", NASA would accomplish a whole lot more if it spent at least some of that money on developing one or two of the above technologies first. Instead of spending $5B on yet-another-medium-lift-expendable, they could borrow a page from the DoD, tell ATK that it's going to have to put some skin in the game, and use some of the freed up money to demonstrate on-orbit refueling. Maybe use $1B to fund two "big boys" to do it the "business as usual" route, and use another $.5B doing a more commercial approach.

The problem is that there seems to be a little bit of confusion as to what the proper role of government vs the role of private business is. Jon and others thinks that NASA ought not to actually explore the Moon, but develop a lot of gee wizz technology that might or might not be useful for doing the same.

The goal, gentle readers, is to send people back to the Moon. The goal is not to work on technology. The problem with Jon's idea is that (a) his list would lock NASA in to an infrastructure that may or may not be optimal to sustaining people on the Moon, but will be chosen by bureaucrats for their own reasons and (b) will be very expensive as it would a technology development program undertaken by government, which does many things well, but few things cheaply.

A better notion, and one I think that NASA is headed for, is to proceed with the ESAS program that will put a small group of people on the Moon on a more or less permenent basis. Then the idea is to contract out to private industry for services that will sustain them. A lunar base will need, among other things, air, water, food, energy, and protection from the elements. Instead of using Jon's idea to have government build all the technology to do these and other things, put out these services to bid to private business. Let's see what solutions they have to offer.

There is a criticism that the Ares series of launchers will be more expensive to operate than hypothetical private vehicles. Very well. Once people are living and working on the Moon, lets have another COTS competition--this time to provide resupply and crew transfer services to the Moon. Let's not have a big government program to build an RLV (remember X 33?) or space tugs (already being built by private companies) and so on. Let private business come up with the solution.

I continue to be astonished at how folks who talk a good game about capitalism and markets revert to making arguments about how NASA ought to spend money on this big government project rather than that big government project. How about a little outside the box thinking instead? Use NASA programs like return to the Moon to enable private business. We'll make far more progress that way than a big government, technology development program, I suspect.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Looks like there is a serious downside for liberals supporting (and practicing) abortion.
New York Magazine indulges in a little alternate history and has asked a number of writers to imagine a world in which 9/11 never happened. Unfortunately, for the most part, the essays range from the merely vapid to out and out wish fullfillment fantasies. Andrew Sullivan imagines a worse terrorist attack taking place in 2006. Well and good. But then he imagine a decisive President Al Gore waging total war on the terrorists and an isolationist Speaker Tom Delay opposing him. He thus falls into the trap that many people who try to write alternate history fall into, by writing about what he wishes would happen rather than what might actually have happened.

In this case, Sullivan draws a couple of alternate charecters, Al Gore and Tom Delay, and makes them behave unlike the real people would. In reality, President Al Gore would have facilated, perhaps launching a few cruise missiles, and those evil Neocons would have denounced him as weak on terror. A Speaker Delay would certainly have led the charge against the certain inadequet response a President Gore would have made. Gore would have emulated Bill Clinton, who handled all of the terrorist attacks that took place during his administration, from the first World Trade Center to the USS Cole, with indolence and weakness.

Doris Kearns Goodwin leaves off from her usual, embaressing school girl infatuation with LBJ (for whom she worked) to imagine a President Al Gore pursuing a "sane energy policy." Which, in this case, as a Manhattan Project style, big government program to develop "alternate energy."

The problem with imagining a world without a 9/11 is that something like is was very likely inevitable and it would almost certainly have taken place during the first four years of the Bush Administration. That is because the process that set it up, the dithering and appeasement of terrorists by the Clinton Administration, and the resulting growing confidence of Al Qaeda, took place over a number of years before George W. Bush took office.

A Point of Departure, that avoids 9/11 or something like it has to take place some time in the 1990s and has to be, in my humble opinion, pretty big. It would have to be on the order of Bush 41 winning a second term, thus giving the United States an administration that viewed terrorism with more seriousness.
John Goff has decided to vent over the whole NASA vs controversy (a false one in my opinion.)
I've heard a lot of people recently referring to a Griffin talk at the Mars Society, where he called the COTS program a "bet" or a "gamble". The obvious implication being that the Stick and NASA "business-as-usual" is a sure thing, and those risky, unserious, companies can't possibly really be able to deliver stuff cheaper than the status quo.

Of course, Griffin, who has actually worked in a couple of companies in his career, might realize that so far no company has delivered so much as a flea into low Earth orbit. We hope and expect that will change and soon, though. Griffin certainly cannot actually believe that, "...those risky, unserious, companies can't possibly really be able to deliver stuff cheaper than the status quo." If he did, he is deliberately wasting a half billion of the tax payers' money and ought to resign.
Space is hard dangit! The reason why NASA is so expensive has nothing to do with the fact that they're a make-work nerd-welfare program. It has nothing to do with the fact that the decision making process for funding most of its programs is little better than porkbarrel politics. It is only because physics is just so onforgiving. I mean, just because every other form of transportation which wasn't mostly controlled by the government has become drastically cheaper over time doesn't mean that that could possibly still apply for space transport. The laws of economics have no jurisdiction above 100km after all!

I'm not sure what point Jon is trying to make here. While I wouldn't go so far as to say the space program is a "make-work nerd-welfare program", most of these facts are acknowledged by everyone, not the least of which is NASA. Jon is trying to pick a fight where one no longer exists.
Ok, enough sarcastic strawman bashing. I guess my main point after hearing the "oh-so intelligent skeptics" out there is that I wonder what Lloyd's would say. The X-Prize was funded using an insurance policy. Basically, the X-Prize foundation paid the ~$2M or so that it had raised to-date to buy a policy that would be worth $20M if someone won the prize before the deadline, but worth $0 if they didn't. I wonder what Lloyd's of London would say about the relative odds of a crewed CEV flying on Ares I before a COTS provider flies people to orbit. If you were to propose two policies, one betting that the CEV would win, and one betting that COTS would be first, I wonder which would have the better premium?

What would Lloyd's say? Likely the same as NASA, that they expect a COTS vehicle to fly about 2010. The CEV is scheduled to fly, at the earliest, in 2012. Again Jon is trying to pick a fight where none exists.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Looks like there will not be a Season 11 of Stargate: SG1. And that is a pity.

Addendum: SG1 Executive Producer Robert C. Cooper says don't count out SG1 yet. If SG1 were to find a new outlet, there actually would be a precedence. SG1 spent the first five years of its life on Showtime, before migrating to the SciFi Channel. Stay tuned. Via Stacy Bartley
The more folks examine the nature of the universe, the stranger it gets.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Having interviewed the new Hitler in Iran and swooned for him like a besotted school girl, Mike Wallace goes back in time and does the same to the original one in the Third Reich.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Michael Brown, the CalTech astronomer who discovered object 2003 UB313, better known as "Xena", is unhappy with the new planets proposal.
Brown said the proposal - that a planet is basically anything round orbiting the sun - is too broad and amounts to "No Ice Ball Left Behind," cheapening the solar system.

He worries that by the time his daughter, Lilah, now 13 months, is old enough to memorize the planets, there could be hundreds.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Death and the Rebirth of the Electric Car.
David Limbaugh gives Jimmy Carter the back of his hand.
The recent death of James Van Allen caused some musings about Robots Vs Astronauts: The Continuing Controversy on How to Explore Space.
Not everyone is happy with Oliver Stone's masterpiece film World Trade Center. Ruth Rosen, for instance, is as outraged as--well--many other people were at Platoon and JFK.
And the winners are SpaceX and Rocketplane/Kistler. Congrats to both for winning COTS. Much more anon.

Addendum: The split is 278 million to SpaceX and 207 million to RpK. Both companies are supplementing this with private funding. The money will be paid out in installments, based on performence. This is a new way for NASA to do business, as it is used to doing things on a cost plus basis.

Addendum 2: Of course one reporter at the news conference choose to be snarky. Didn't SpaceX just blow a rocket up and hasn't RpK (at least the Kistler part) just come out of bankruptcy? Well, yes, replied the NASA guy, but both seem to have learned for their experiences.

Addendum 3: Michael Mealing has much more.
Are dolphins actually intelligent? Perhaps not.

Addendum: Fred Kiesche asks me the question. Which species shows more intelligence? Homo Sapians or dolphins. I guess that since dolphins may no longer be intelligent, Sharon Tendler is guilty of common beastiality?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

This cannot be good news for all the nuts and haters in the Lamont camp.
Jason Verheyden reports that drinking bottled water may soon be a sin, according to the United Church of Canada.
The sad part is that it is considered big news when a group of Hollywood stars and moguls gather together to say that terrorists are--well--bad people. Not misunderstood. Not folks who have a point. But bad, as in evil.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Stephen Schwartz defines Islamo Fascism.
Michael Medved asks does American bigotry cause Muslim madness? The answer is, no.
The core problem involves the Koran’s teaching that Mohammed represents the last prophet, that his revelations amount to the ultimate “seal of knowledge,” and that a just, well-ordered world will place his faithful followers in positions of greater power, prosperity and peacefulness than their infidel neighbors. For anyone who takes Islamic teaching seriously, the current state of the world offers a glaring, painful example of cognitive dissonance: the backwardness, poverty, and endemic misery of Muslim societies—particularly compared to the privilege and prosperity of the West—either undermines the validity of the Holy Koran, or proves that evil infidel conspirators have upset the natural, proper, and Godly order of things. In the 1930’s, the passion behind Nazism arose from a burning sense that the German people had been gypped, that the infamous “stab in the back” of the Versailles Treaty had deprived the nation of its rightful position of world leadership. Islamo-Nazis feel an even more galling sense of injustice, oppression and unfairness, since hostile forces have, in the view of the devout, denied them the chance to live out their divine endowment of world dominance.

I think there is something to that. Medved (who is Jewish) has an interesting albeit controversial solution:
The best way to respond to aggressive, triumphalist religiosity from the Muslim community isn’t to insist on more tolerance, or even acceptance, of Islamic demands; nor can we hope to counteract the allure of Jihadist ideology with ringing affirmations of easy-going secularism. Given the deep-seated human hunger for connection with a Supreme Being, the nearly universal yearning to draw closer to eternal truth, it’s not possible to beat something (radical Islam) with nothing (secular agnosticism). In this sense, the United States, with our robust movement of Christian revival, counts as far better equipped for the struggle ahead than our European allies where traditional faith of all kinds (except for Islam) has largely collapsed. Even skeptics and non-believers ought to welcome the vigor of Christian evangelism as the most effective counterweight to fundamentalist Islam. If those three British bomb plot suspects who converted to Islam had instead found their way to Pentecostal Christianity, or traditional Catholicism, or the Church of Jesus Christ, Latter Day Saints, would they ever have considered killing themselves to blow planes out of the sky?

I remember when Ann Coulter got into trouble for suggesting that the best way to fight Islamo fascists is to make Christians out of them. I suggested at the time that really the solution is to make good Muslims out of them. Islam, while certainly not a "religion of peace", is a religion of rules. Among those rules is that suicide, the murder of noncombatants, and even the wanton destruction of infrastructure, even in the contex of a jihad, is forbidden.

Mind, being in favor of freedom of religion, I'm certainly not against folks trying to convert Muslims to whatever religion they like. But I do hope that, as a response to the realities of the 21st Century, some kind of Reform Islam could arise, which would encourage, among other things, giving money to young folks who want to go to college and not to those who want to blow themselves and others up.
Dan Schrimpsher has an interview with Dr. William Schneider, Developer of the TransHab Architecture. Dr. Schneider now consults for Bigelow Aerospace and is helping to build the Bigelow Space Hotel.
The upcoming Star Trek film is rumored to be a "reimagining" of classic Trek with brand new actors playing the iconic crew of the first Enterprise. Naturally rumors have flown about who might be cast. Matt Damon as Kirk, for example.

A group of fans have done their own casting, with photoshopped pictures of their selections in uniform. These include Sean Patrick Flannery (Young Indiana Jones) as Kirk, James Marstens (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as Spock, and Gary Sinese (CSI: New York) as McCoy.

The most cool, though, is Sir Micheal Gabon (Harry Potter) as Sarek.
Astronomers had been debating whether Pluto ought to be a planet at all. Instead of losing a planet, however, the Solar System might just gain at least three. These are Ceres, hitherto known as an asteroid, Charon, hitherto considered a moon of Pluto, and "Xena", which will likely get another name in the fullness of time.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The hunt for the missing NASA Moon landing tapes continues. That these were lost contains a lesson somewhere.
Remember when it was considered inevitable that Hillary was going to be the sure nominee in 2008 to be Goddess Empress of America? I never believed it. Now a lot of people are not believing it. Instead, with the Democrats engaging in Stalin-like purges of anyone who might even seem to be pro War on Terror, it looks like it may be Russ Feingold.
Max Borders relates an incredible story about bureacracy and barbeque sauce.
COTS may lead to on orbit refueling. Does that mean we've abandoned nuclear rockets for the Mars effort?
Alan Boyle handicaps the race for the Commercial Orbital Transport Systems (COTS) money, the winners of which will be announced Friday.
The latest rumor about the upcoming season of 24 has Jack Bauer, fresh from his torture in a Chinese dungeon, screwing up and thus allowing a major terrorist attack to happen. I have anothe idea about what should happen to the long suffering Jack Bauer.
The Bigelow Space Hotel.
The Pacesetters Project proposes to tap the energy generated by walking feet on pavement.
I knew the movie bombed, but still thought My Super Ex-Girl Friend was kind of funny.
The Lost Apollos: Missions to the Moon that Never Flew.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Jeffrey Bell says scrap the Stick. There are a lot of people who agree with him.
Mike Griffin needs to admit he was wrong about The Stick and pull the plug on it before any more time and money is wasted. He should replace Ares I with either the Delta-4 or Atlas-5. Better yet, he could scrap the 1.5-launch lunar mission plan and go back to Von Braun's original EOR concept with two Saturn-IV class HLVs.

My prediction is that if the Stick were to be scrapped, it would not be replaced with any of these ideas. More--perhaps--anon.
Engineers who will design the Ares family of launch vehicles will have tools that were unimaginable during Apollo. But that might not help matters.
More on the Dragon, Elon Musk's planned orbital space craft.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

United 93, the film about the epic and doomed fight to take back flight United 93 from the hijackers, is coming out on DVD September 5th.

Here is what I had to say about the film at the time of its first run.
Word of mouth seems to be helping Oliver Stone's masterpiece World Trade Center. More of the film anon, but for now I highly recommend it.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

It looks like that true bionic arms are at hand, thanks to research spurred by the number of soldiers having lost limbs in the War Against Islamo Fascism.
The far left often laughs at President Bush for being some kind of intellectual rube. One would not know it, though, for his choice of light reading.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Captain Ed doesn't think that the UN ceasefire resolution is all that bad. In my opinion the agreement is bound to break down, the sooner the better. It will likely also be the end of the Olmert government in Israel.

Also the sooner the better, IMHO.
Alvaro Vargos Llosa has a fascinating proposal.
Guantanamo could erode Cuba's communism in the way West Berlin eroded East Berlin's communism if the U.S. authorities gave Cubans an opportunity to turn the controversial naval base into a new economic Hong Kong.

In effect, a free market, economic development zone on the body of one of the last communist tyrannies.
CAIR is having a hissy fit about the President's use of the term "Islamic fascist."

Welll, gracious. Here's a bit of free advice to my Muslim friends. Drop the victim/diversity act right now. The quickiest way to promote a backlash against Muslims in general is to continue playing the victim and whining about labels. People who are having to ditch their shampoo and fine wine at the air port because a bunch of Islamic Fascist tried to blow up air planes don't want to hear it.

Here's what you should say instead.

"We absolutely condemn these criminals who not only plot mass murder but blaspheme the name of Islam by using our faith to justify it."


"We pledge our absolute support to help the authorities to eradicate these criminals and blasphemers from our midst."

Repeat often.
Looks like that while Democrats are divided and are fighting among themselves, Republican voters are united and motivated.
...despite reports of some dissatisfaction with the economy, the war, and President Bush, 81 percent of Republican voters are "almost certain" to vote and an additional 14 percent say they are "very likely." It goes without saying that they'll vote Republican: By a margin of 84 percent to 6 percent, they will pull the GOP toggle switch in the voting booth. And here is something you don't hear very often: 88 percent of Republicans approve of how the prez is handling his job. What's it all mean? Analysts say that GOP voters are ready to dig in and play defense against the charges Democrats are tossing at Republican candidates.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Mike Puckett wanted me to call this little gem Sympathy for the Devil. But I think Mike Wallace's School Girl Crush fits a little better.

I heard Wallace on Hannity this afternoon. Wallace objected to the Ahmadinejad as Hitler comparison because Ahmadinejad has yet to kill six million Jews, although he has stated the desire to more than once. Alright. A Hitler wannabe then, if it makes Wallace happy.

Addendum: I am reminded that Mike Wallace was just as fawning when he interviewed Khomeini, almost thirty years ago. He kept calling him "Iman" and framing his questions in a most obsequious manner. This compares ill with the time Oriana Fallaci was forced to interveiw Khomeini wearing a chador when, in the middle of it, she decided to Hell with this and ripped off the veil. Acting as if he was a vampire confronted with a cross, instead of a mad mullah confronted with a formidable Itallian woman, Khomeini fled the room.
Al Gore is very free with advice to other people on how they must cut back and live a green lifestyle or we're all going to die. But when it comes to his own lifestyle, it is a differnt story.
Then there is the troubling matter of his energy use. In the Washington, D.C., area, utility companies offer wind energy as an alternative to traditional energy. In Nashville, similar programs exist. Utility customers must simply pay a few extra pennies per kilowatt hour, and they can continue living their carbon-neutral lifestyles knowing that they are supporting wind energy. Plenty of businesses and institutions have signed up. Even the Bush administration is using green energy for some federal office buildings, as are thousands of area residents.

But according to public records, there is no evidence that Gore has signed up to use green energy in either of his large residences. When contacted Wednesday, Gore's office confirmed as much but said the Gores were looking into making the switch at both homes. Talk about inconvenient truths.

Isn't it funny that the crony of the big oil companies is more green than the left wing environmental hysteric?

Addendum: Cecil Trotter reminds me of the lifestyle of another famous politician:
The passive-solar house is positioned to absorb winter sunlight, warming
the interior walkways and walls of the residence. Geothermal heat pumps
circulate water through pipes buried 300 feet deep in the ground. A 40,000
US gallon underground cistern collects rainwater gathered from roof urns;
wastewater from sinks, toilets, and showers cascades into underground
purifying tanks and is also funneled into the cistern. The water from the
cistern is then used to irrigate the landscaping around the four-bedroom

This ranch home in Crawford, Texas belongs to that crony of big oil, that environmental rapist, that enemy of the Earth, George W. Bush.
Does anyone think that had the primary taken place tomorrow that Lieberman would not have won handily?
Harry Reid is pretty sure that the terrorist plot in England, which was thwarted by Scotland Yard, means that we have to "change course" (i.e. bug out) in Iraq.
The Nutroots are pretty sure that the terrorist plot foiled in England was really masterminded by Karl Rove.
Congratulations to Scotland Yard, for apparently thwarting a major Al Qaeda attack on airlines in flight.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

James Van Allen died yesterday. He is famous as having the radiation belts that surround the Earth named after him. He was involved in robotic space missions since the first Explorer probe in the late 1950s.

Unfortunately he was also a virulent foe of human space exploration and often spoke out against it. That's a stain against an otherwise steller career.
Looks like the Space Elevator Games are on:
Space Elevator Games to take place at the 2006 X PRIZE Cup in New Mexico

August 08, 2006 (Los Angeles, CA) The X PRIZE Foundation and the Spaceward Foundation have signed an agreement that will bring the Space Elevator Games, a NASA Centennial Challenge, to the 2006 X PRIZE Cup in Las Cruces, New Mexico. More than 20 teams are expected to compete for $400,000 at the Las Cruces International Airport on October 20-21, 2006.

“We are very excited to welcome the Elevator Games to the X PRIZE Cup.” Said X PRIZE Founder and Chairman Dr. Peter H. Diamandis. “Each year, we will bring together the most exciting spectator events and competitions in the space industry and this agreement with the Spaceward Foundation is a great step towards accomplishing our goal.”

The Space Elevator is a revolutionary space transportation system based on a ribbon that extends from a ship-borne anchor to a counterweight well beyond geo-synchronous orbit. The ribbon is kept taut due to the rotation of the earth (and that of the counterweight around the earth). Electric vehicles, called climbers, ascend the ribbon using electricity generated by solar panels lit by a ground-based high-power beam of light.

The objective of a space elevator is to make access to space easy, safe, and affordable. At under $100 per pound, the estimated cost of transporting materials and people to space is 100 times less expensive than today's method utilizing rockets. Low cost access to space, and the substantial carrying capacity of one or more space elevators will allow mankind to reach into space on an unprecedented scale.

This is the second year for the Space Elevator Games, last year’s competition matched 12 competitors against each other. This year the competition has heated up to include more than 20 competitors from all over the globe.

The Space Elevator was first proposed in the 1960's by Yuri Artsutanov, a Russian engineer, as a far-reaching engineering concept. The scientific principles underlying it are well understood and all the fundamental materials and technologies required for construction of an elevator exist today in some form. The present Space Elevator design was conceived by Dr. Brad Edwards working in conjunction with NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC).

"We are thrilled to be working with the X PRIZE foundation for the second annual Space Elevator Games" said Ben Shelef, Founder of the Spaceward Foundation. "With an expected attendance of 20,000 people, the X PRIZE CUP venue is a perfect event to showcase and validate the worlds leading space elevator technologies." This year's challenge will feature teams from around the world competing for $400,000 of prize money, and it promises to be a spectacular competition."

This is the second of the NASA Centennial Challenges to take place at the X PRIZE Cup. The first, announced in May of 2006, was the $2m Lunar Lander Challenge. The Lunar Lander Challenge will take place at the X PRIZE Cup in Las Cruces, New Mexico on October 20-21, 2006. As the world’s first space show, the X PRIZE Cup is the only annual event where the entire family can visit to see the next generation of spaceships up close and in the sky.

The Spaceward Foundation is a public-funds non-profit organization dedicated to furthering space science and technology in education and in the public mindshare. Spaceward Foundation intends to bring together leaders from the academic, commercial and educational worlds and create a series of challenges, exhibits, and educational activities that will re-invigorate the nation's interest in space.

NASA's Centennial Challenges promotes technical innovation through a novel program of prize competitions. It is designed to tap the nation's ingenuity to make revolutionary advances to support the Vision for Space Exploration and NASA goals. NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate manages the program.

In 2004, the Ansari X PRIZE proved that offering a prize is an effective, efficient and economical model for accelerating breakthroughs in science and technology. Based on that success, the X PRIZE Foundation is now expanding their efforts to offer more prizes in the space industry, as well as, in the areas of health, energy, transportation, and education.
A symposium on the Lieberman loss and its implications. I think the consenus is correct and it may well have ensured the GOP retaining Congress. The far left may well have bought itself a phyrric victory.

Lieberman reminds me of no one less than Ulysses S. Grant. Grant, in his first outing as commander of the Army of the Potomic, got a bloody nose from Robert E. Lee at the Wilderness. There is a story of how his soldiers waited for the inevitable order to withdraw north, as had happened every other time the Union Army had gotten beat in Virginia. Instead, General Grant ordered that the advance south continue, as if he had not been beaten. His troops, even though it meant that they were in for months more of hard campaigning, cheered lustily. When Lee heard of it, he realized that he was up against a different kind of Union General.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Well, they did it. The Democrats ran Joe Lieberman, liberal, former Vice Presidential candidate, Senator right out of the party. But now it looks like that Joe Lieberman, statesman, is free to run as his own man. I disagree with Lieberman on a lot, though his views on the most important issue of our time--that of the long, twilight war against Islamofascism--are pretty much the right ones. I wish him well.
Apparently Tom Delay will not run for his old House seat but will support a write in candidate to be determined.
Hal Colebatch is cross at Mel Gibson. This is not unusual these days, but Colebatch's brief against Mel is not that he's given to anti-semitic rants while drunk, but that he has appeared in a number of historical epics in which the term "historical" is something of a lie. He mentions Gallipoli, the famous film by Australian director Peter Weir, Braveheart, which Gibson directed, and The Patriot, which was brought to us by the same folks that brought us Star Gate and Independence Day.

It is true that all three of these films played liberties with history. But very few films don't do this. And I'm not sure that it was Mel Gibson's doing in these cases. He didn't write any of these films, even Braveheart which was written by a fellow named Randall Wallace. It's true that the Brits come off worse than they should in each of these films, and that Mel appeared in each of them, but I'm not sure that this is proof positive that Mel Gibson hates the Brits.

Colebatch did not see The Passion of the Christ. He did not mention the other historical epic Mel Gibson was in, We Were Soldiers, about the first major battle found by the American Army in Vietnam. We Were Soldiers was written and directed by Braveheart's Randall Wallace. Nevertheless I don't recall anyone suggesting that it was filled with historical inaccuracies.
Lanny Davis first came the public notice as a public defender for the Clintons back in the 1990s. He could be relied upon the smear any opponent of Bill and Hillary, no matter what the facts were.

Now, Lanny is shocked to his core that evil is not the exclusive province of the right wing. Lanny seemed to have taken with his mothers milk the notion that liberals are incapable of hate or bigotry. Now, those of us who have had to deal with liberals, including Lanny, find that notion a little odd. Some of the greatest haters and bigots come from the left.

As Lanny seems to now have discovered.
One Sunday morning on C-Span I debated Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel on the Lieberman versus Lamont race. Afterwards I received a series of emails--many of them in ALL CAPS (which often suggests the hyper-frenetic state of these extremist haters)--that were of the same stripe as the blog posts, and filled with the same level of personal hate.

But the issue is not just emotional outbursts by these usually anonymous bloggers. A friend of mine just returned from Connecticut, where he had spoken on several occasions on behalf of Joe Lieberman. He happens to be a liberal antiwar Democrat, just as I am. He is also a lawyer. He told me that within a day of a Lamont event--where he asked the candidate some critical questions--some of his clients were blitzed with emails attacking him and threatening boycotts of their products if they did not drop him as their attorney. He has actually decided not to return to Connecticut for the primary today; he is fearful for his physical safety.

Of course Lanny compares these people of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. The problem is, whatever one thinks of those two estimable folks, I don't think either of them have ever threatened anyones physical safety. Still, he should be congratulated for coming to the realization--albeit late in life--that the left can be evil.
Happy five year anniversary Instapundit.
Bob Zubrin, the mad genius behind Mars Direct of whom much good can be said, says some very alarming things. Tales of the Heliosphere wags his finger at him.

For the record, I think space and/or lunar based solar power and Mars settlements.
Dan Schrimpsher weighs in on the whole CEV vrs COTS controversy, which I think is a phoney one, and causes some questions of my own to occur.
1. Can NASA/Congress chose to buy private rides to the ISS if the CEV is available?

Yes, it is possible. If the political landscape changes such that Congress is thrifty, they will chose the cheaper option. NASA, for all it's past behavior, will do what NASA forces them to do. Will this happen? I don't know. It doesn't happen a lot. Congress-people tend to like to spend money for their state. If the CEV is available, their needs to be something else for it to do that will allow Congress to fund their constituents.

I'm not certain what this answer actually is. NASA doing what NASA forces it to do? Dan probibly means the Congress. Something else for the CEV to do? Well, I think versions of it are planned to take people back to the Moon and on to Mars and other places. Something that allows Congress to fund their constituents? Both a commercial launch industry and a publicly funded program to explore beyond LEO would seem to fit that need.
2. Should the CEV be built if private rides are going to be available?

I am not sure. It seems on the face, no. To change my mind, I would need to see what the plan for the CEV is. If it's sole purpose in life is to get people to orbit, then I have to stick my initial reaction. If someone can show me another use for it that private launchers can't fill, then yes.

Going to the Moon and on to Mars? Even the orbital version would be used to test out systems in LEO, as I think I've mentioned before.
3. Can the CEV and COTS share ISS needs?

No. There just isn't the economics to support this. In order for private companies to make money off this, they need all the launches they can get. Splitting up the launches between, say SpaceX and CEV, will make it very difficult for SpaceX to succeed.

Well, to be sure, though if a commercial company thinks that it's going to make money solely by servicing ISS, it had better think again. It needs to look into space tourism and other private markets.
Paul Giamatti in a film as Philip K. Dick. Interesting, though I'd rather see a film version of The Man in the High Castle.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Virtual Firefly: New Episodes of a Cancelled Series.
Lady in the Water: A Bedtime Story by M. Night Shyamalan.
Are we approaching the day in which the Republican Party is the only viable political party in America? With the possible purging of Joe Lieberman from the Democratic Party, it could be.
More proof that Hillary Clinton's accession to Goddess Empress of America is not preordained. Apparently focus groups in New Hampshire have this to say about the good Senator:
“Lying b**** . . . shrew . . . Machiavellian . . . evil, power-mad witch . . . the ultimate self-serving politician.”


“Criminal . . . megalomaniac . . . fraud . . . dangerous . . . devil incarnate . . . satanic . . . power freak.”


And: “Political wh***.”

And that's just Democrats.
If the Dems take over the House, the country is really in for a lot of fun and fussing with the top of the agenda being the Impeachment of the President of the United States.
What will Canada's role be in the Vision for Space Exploration? What indeed?
Grant Bonin takes the two recent reports, one by the Space Frontier Foundation, then other by the GAO, far too seriously, IMHO. The SFF "White Paper" is filled with questionable and bombastic statements, not supported by the references cited, and is poorly written. The GAO report's conclusion, that NASA should delay the development of the CEV, is also a nonstarter.

Bonin's recommendation, that NASA should--in effect--subsidize the development of (or as some people are now trying to call it "New Space") alternatives is also a nonstarter. NASA subsidies would come with NASA rules, paper work, and lots of head aches for these young, upstart companies. The development of commercial space craft must find private sources of capital if they are to succeed. Otherwise, at best, a program to build space craft using alt or "new" space will morph into a typical NASA procurement project.
Dwayne Day discusses a new documentary, The Mars Underground.
We have not heard the phrase "culture of corruption" from the Dems recently. Well, there is a reason for that.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Martin Peretz, editor of The New Republic, says that Lamont is Karl Rove's dream come true.
If he, and others of his stripe, carry the day, the Democratic party will lose the future, and deservedly.

The jihad being waged against Joe Lieberman by the looney left is fascinating to me on a number of levels. How is it that a man, who votes with the mainstream of his party 90 percent of the time, who would have been comfortable next to Harry Truman or JFK, who just six years ago was the Vice Presidential nominee of his party, is suddenly unacceptable as a Senator to Democrats? Bill Kristol suggests that the reason is that Lieberman is too pro Israel and too inclined to fight the jihadis. I would take it one step further.

The looney left hates Joe Lieberman because he is too Jewish. That is not to say that they are anti semitic in the usual sense. If Lieberman were a secular, non practicing Jew, then he would be more acceptable. But Lieberman makes no secret of the depths of his faith in his religion. The looney left can no more tolerate that than--say--a politician who is a devout Christian. The fact that Lieberman admonished Bill Clinton on the floor of the Senate for his lack of understanding of decent behavior, though Lieberman did not vote to convict the former President, does not sit will either.

What will be the effect of all this. Kristol suggests that it won't be good for the Dems:
There is a political opportunity for the Bush administration if the Democrats reject Lieberman. If he's then unable to win as an independent in November, he would make a fine secretary of defense for the remainder of the Bush years. If his independent candidacy succeeds, it will be a message to Bush that he should forge ahead toward victory in Iraq and elsewhere. Either way, the possibility exists for creating a broader and deeper governing party, with Lieberman Democrats welcomed into the Republican fold, just as Scoop Jackson Democrats became Reaganites in the 1980s. Is it too fanciful to speculate about a 2008 GOP ticket of McCain-Lieberman, or Giuliani-Lieberman, or Romney-Lieberman, or Allen-Lieberman, or Gingrich-Lieberman? Perhaps. But a reinvigorated governing and war-fighting Republican party is surely an achievable goal. And a necessary one.

I disagree with Lieberman on a lot. But--hell--bring it on!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Benedict Arnold, a play by--Robert Zubrin?
A Dark Shadow lays over the Old House, as Barnabas Collins meets a mysterious lady who is the image of one whom he has loved and hated for centuries...

Sounds like fun.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Some hitherto undiscovered writings of Archimedes have been restored using X ray beams.
The 174-page manuscript, known as the Archimedes Palimpsest, contains the only copies of treatises on flotation, gravity and mathematics. Scholars believe a scribe copied them onto the goatskin parchment from the original Greek scrolls.

Three centuries later, a monk scrubbed off the Archimedes text and used the parchment to write prayers at a time when the Greek mathematician's work was less appreciated
Ned Lamont is the instrument of the far left's plan to punish Joe Lieberman for being a Harry Truman/Jack Kennedy liberal (i.e. one who does not shrink from opposing enemies of the United States.) Another whipping boy that Lamont has applied the lash to is Walmart. Liberals hate Walmart for providing jobs and inexpensive goods to low income people. Capitalists are not suppose to to that. Only government can do that.

The problem is that Lamont owns Walmart stock. He's a real piece of work.
Watching the breathless commentary on the weather report in the last few days, one would think that the Earth was falling into the sun, just like in that classic Twilight Zone episode that featured the lithe, sweat soaked artist chick in her lingerie. However, recent temperatures, implicitly blamed on global warming, are not the highest on record Not by a long shot.
Clark Lindsey follows up on John Kavanaugh's piece and adds some questions of his own.
Griffin presumably won't still be administrator after 2008, so maybe he is leaving the decision up to the next NASA leader. If he did stay on, my guess is that he would keep the NASA system going because he seems in general to want the agency to have its own hardware capabilities and the in-house expertise that comes from them. As John points out, though, sharing the limited number of annual ISS missions would be terrifically uneconomical for everyone involved.

Not using CEV Block 1 for ISS flights does not mean that the vehicle is not going to be useful. As I point out below, it will be used for test flights in LEO to test out systems to be later used in lunar missions.
Congress will probably get involved at some point. As budgets get tighter and tighter in the coming years, they are likely to jump on duplicate efforts like this and try to eliminate one of the two projects. I can only guess as to whether COTS would be chopped because it has less political clout or Block 1 because it is so much more expensive. The current administration will protect COTS but a future one may not.

Of course the answer is that the two are not duplicate efforts. But then Clark Lindsey makes a good point that predicting what a future administration would do can be tricky. That only means the elections matter and it behooves one and all not to elect an administration that hates space exploration and hates commercial space.
I could, for example, see a Democratic administration not only drop COTS but also eliminate all Moon and Mars manned exploration projects as a dramatic refutation of Bush's Vision for Space Exploration. However, they might keep the Ares 1/CEV Block 1 projects as part of a return to a limited, ISS-centric manned program. This would satisfy international partners and keep happy the powerful constituencies that benefit from these programs in key states.

Entirely possible. But then we have a historical example of a new Democratic administration that wanted to cancel a space project that a previous Republican administration supported, but found it politically inexpedient to do so. That Democratic Administration was Bill Clinton's and the project was the space station. And there were a lot more reasons to cancel the space station, in the form of budget overruns and schedule slippages, then there likely will be for Moon/Mars or COTS by 2009.

Then again, the problem can be avoided by not electing a Democrat.
John Kavanaugh asks some questions about COTS that bear answering. Or at least listening to.
Why should institutional investors fund a COTS venture when NASA is building a competing Block 1 CEV that can perform the same duties as a COTS service?

My understanding is that the Block 1 CEV is envisioned as a backup vehicle in case the COTS competition winners do not finish their proposed vehicles in a timely fashion. Cost overruns and schedule slippages are phenomenoms not unique to the public sector, especially when it comes to developing new space craft. I would also ask a counter question: Would a commercial space vehicle capable of resupplying ISS only be used for that purpose. It seems to me that servicing commercial space platforms (i.e. Bigelow) and space tourism are also legitiment markets. Such vehicles might also be used to service lunar and Mars expeditions (i.e. in orbit refueling, etc.)
Down the road, why should NASA purchase the affordable crew/cargo services of a COTS venture when NASA is already spending many billions on infrastructure to support Block 1 CEV flights?

One of the other functions of a Block 1 CEV, it would seem to me, would be to test CEV systems in low Earth orbit before attempting a lunar flight.
Whether NASA flies crew/cargo with COTS, it will still have to support CEV crew/cargo capabilities as sepcified in ESAS, correct?

See previous answer.
How can NASA realize appreciable cost savings when purchasing a COTS service if it has to fund an ISS crew/cargo CEV - a system that will draw funds even if it never has to fly crew/cargo to ISS?

See previous answer. It's an accounting game. Does the cost of developing Block 1 CEV go toward the ISS budget or the ESAS budget?
Is NASA's internal cost accounting - and the promise of COTS savings - irrelevant to it supporting COTS?

I doubt it. It seems to me that long term cost savings is the main reason for supporting COTS. What other reason could there be?
Is NASA's primary COTS motivator just the development of space technology in American industry?

In order to reduce the costs of space flight.
Will the Ares 1 launch manifest pressure end up being the main reason NASA purchases COTS services - i.e., NASA wouldn't want the distraction of supplying ISS when it has CEV test flights and lunar expeditions?

The implications of this question would seem to contradict the implications of the previous questions. Of course a successful COTS program would free NASA from the distraction of servicing ISS. A strong motivator for supporting COTS.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Looks like Tom Delay has to stay on the ballot after all, pending of course a last minute appeal. I predict that if this stands, the Dems have bought themselves the Return of the Hammer. And he will have much to do.
Mike Griffin adresses the Mars Society and then answers questions.

Addendum: More from Jeff Foust.
Well, this is different A computer animated 3D film called Fly Me to the Moon, about three flies who stowaway on the mission of Apollo 11, is in the works. Buzz Aldrin appears as himself.

The movie will be a--ahem!--fly on the wall view of the famous voyage of discovery.
Looks like reality has caught up with South Park, only weirder and sicker.
A suburban Cleveland man accused of sexually assaulting nine disabled boys told a judge Wednesday that his apartment was a religious sanctuary where smoking marijuana and having sex with children are sacred rituals protected by civil rights laws.

Dude, you have sex with children
He told the judge, "I'm a pedophile. I've been a pedophile for 20 years. The only reason I'm charged with rape is that no one believes a child can consent to sex. The role of my ministry is to get these cases out of the courtrooms."

Dude, you have sex with children!
Distasio, a self-professed pagan friar, is representing himself on 74 charges. He said he's the leader of a church called Arcadian Fields Ministries, and that some of his congregants are among the victims in his case.

Another good review of World Trade Center by Oliver Stone. However, if one wants entertainment--or a sad commentary on the human condition, depending one ones point of view--read the conspiracy nuts on the talkback.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Well, here is something to look forward to if the Republicans hold on to the House.
"Hell, if we don't take back the House, then the Democrats would go down in history, saying that there's no group in the world that can grab defeat from the jaws of victory," Rangel said in an interview Wednesday. "It just seems like America is so frustrated and fed up like I am and if she's not, then I may have to say maybe it's me."

The Washington Post reported in Wednesday's editions that Rangel would leave Congress if the GOP retained control of the House.

Don't let the door hit you on the way out, Charlie.
Day of Decision: The Battle of the Nile.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

John Irving and Stephen King both beg J.K. Rowling to not kill Harry Potter.
"I don't want him to go over the Reichenbach Falls," King said in a reference to Arthur Conan Doyle's effort to kill off fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. Pressure from fans eventually led Conan Doyle to resurrect Holmes, who was found in a later story to have survived.

Well, if Harry does snuff it, I can see already Book 8, with Rowling thinks she is not going to write.
Ron had not been in his study five minutes when the house elf entered to say that a person desired to see him. To his astonishment it was none other than that strange old book-collector, his sharp, wizened face peering out from a frame of white hair, and his precious volumes, a dozen of them at least, wedged under his right arm.

"You're surprised to see me, sir," said he, in a strange, croaking voice.

Ron acknowledged that he was.

"Well, I've a conscience, sir, and when I chanced to see you go into this house, as I came hobbling after you, I thought to myself, I'll just step in and see that kind gentleman, and tell him that if I was a bit gruff in my manner there was not any harm meant, and that I am much obliged to him for picking up my books."

"You make too much of a trifle," said Ron. "May I ask how you knew who I was?"

"Well, sir, if it isn't too great a liberty, I am a neighbour of yours, for you'll find my little bookshop at the corner of Diagon Alley, and very happy to see you, I am sure. Maybe you collect yourself, sir; here's `Magic Beasts,' and `The Life of Dumbledore,' and `Quiddich through the Ages' -- a bargain every one of them. With five volumes you could just fill that gap on that second shelf. It looks untidy, does it not, sir?"

Ron moved his head to look at the cabinet behind him. When he turned again Harry Potter was standing smiling at him across his study table. He rose to his feet, stared at him for some seconds in utter amazement, and then fainted dead away. Certainly a grey mist swirled before Ron's eyes, and when it cleared he found his collar-ends undone and the tingling after-taste of butter beer upon his lips. Harry was bending over his chair, his flask in his hand.

"Ron," said the well-remembered voice, "I owe you a thousand apologies. I had no idea that you would be so affected."

Ron gripped him by the arm.

"Harry!" Ron cried. "Is it really you? Can it indeed be that you are alive? Is it possible that you succeeded in climbing out of that awful abyss?"
So a Green Party guy is on the ballot for Senate in Pennsylvania, with his petition drive apparently financed by GOP doners. Sneaky.
John Bolton recently gave John Kerry the bitch slapping that the Senator deserved.
Megan McArdle, who is guest blogging on Instapundit, is skeptical about claims that Qana was staged.
Computer modeling indicates that 55 Cancri, a G type dwarf about 41 light years away, may have a habitable planet.
Glenn Reynolds discusses space law, space policy, and other related subjects.