Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year.
Dr. Walter Williams, Black by Popular Demand
Rush Limbaugh usually takes some time off during the Holidays, to be replaced with a slate of guest hosts. One of the more interesting and entertaining of these guest hosts is Dr. Walter Williams, who held forth New Years Eve 2008.
Pray, what do the Islamo-Fascists jhave against juice?
I believe this is an old clip, but well worth watching again, of Chris Hitchens giving the odious Bill Maher and his audience the bitch slapping they deserve.
The Keep Mike Petition story has crept into the mainstream media.
Vicki Iseman Sues the New York Times
Lobbyist Vicki Iseman is suing the New York Times for 27 million dollars for a story it ran in February suggested that she had an "inappropriately close" relationship with Senator John McCain, then candidate for President of the United States.
Prospects for commercial space in 2009.
Apparently the most desirable celeb to have as a neighbor is Sarah Palin. Worse neighbor: Britney Spears.
The Hate Mike campaign has taken some strange turns, but apparently this post was too much, even for Keith Cowing, who rightly gives him a good admonishment. Rocketsandsuch is occasionally quoted by more reputable blogs as insider gospel about nefarious things going on inside NASA. But, perhaps, not any more.
An American Carol is out on DVD. It didn't do too well in the theaters but I found it hilarious nevertheless.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

SpaceX is campaigning for NASA to buy launch services for it to transport astronauts to and from ISS and thus end reliance on the Russians. If SpaceX can deliver, it would seem to be a no brainer.
Roland Burris Appointed by Rod Blagojevich to US Senate
Disgraced Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who is facing not only federal prosecution, but also impeachment, has named former Illinois State Comptroller and Attorney General Roland Burris to Barack Obama's vacated US Senate seat.
Caroline Kennedy Flubs, You Know, Interviews, You Know
Caroline Kennedy's quest for a seat in the United States Senate suffered a serious setback during a series of interviews over the weekend that was less than impressive. She demonstrated an annoying speech pattern revealing inexperience and lack of preparation.
Cynthia McKinney's Voyage to Gaza Interrupted
Cynthia McKinney, the former Georgia member of Congress and former Green Party Presidential candidate, has sailed from Cyprus with a boat load of medical supplies headed for war torn Gaza. The voyage is sponsored by the Free Gaza Group.
The Israeli Defense Forces launch a YouTube channel to help disseminate information on the Gaza campaign.

Addendum: YouTube seems to be censoring the IDF videos.
The Orlando Sentinel makes an interesting claim about using EELVs to launch Orion.
Documents presented to the transition team three weeks ago say that upgraded EELV rockets could be built and ready for astronauts to ride by 2013 -- two years earlier than Ares I -- and for as much as $3.4 billion less than the NASA design, which is projected to cost more than $10 billion by the time of its earliest launch in 2015.

One wonders what those documents are and who leaked them. The rest of the article echoes some of the more pungent accusations that have shown up on the Internet about fixed studies and nefarious politics surrounding the selection of the Ares 1. In any case, expect the debate about EELVs as an alternative to the Ares 1 to heat up. Also expect a push back from NASA disputing the claims being made by the Sentinel.

Addendum: Jeff Foust has some more thoughts, with a somewhat differnt perspective on one aspect of the Sentinel article.
I was at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) in October, where Jeff Patton of ULA appeared on a panel about commercial human orbital spaceflight along with representatives of Arianespace, Orbital Sciences, and SpaceX. Reviewing my notes of the presentation, it’s hard to see what about that presentation would have raised a red flag with Walker. Patton talked briefly about the work ULA has been doing with companies like Bigelow Aerospace and SpaceDev to study how the Atlas 5 in particular could be used to launch crewed spacecraft, and some of the history of that work (which predates the Vision for Space Exploration back to the Orbital Space Plane concept of the early 2000s). The presentation, though, was entirely focused on commercial access to LEO: there was no mention of Ares 1 or Orion in the talk, which focused as much on what generic attributes a commercial crew transfer spacecraft needed as it did on ULA’s work on using EELVs for human missions.

It’s possible, I suppose, that one could read between the lines and conclude that ULA was using its commercial work as a means of keeping active any ambitions to replace the Ares 1 with an EELV-derived alternative. If true, though, that’s something that’s been clear for months: there were no new revelations or other statements in ULA’s ISPCS presentation that would have alarmed anyone who has been following the topic.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Apparaently the Europeans are not happy with the American push for space commercialization.
Marco Caporicci, an official with the European Space Agency’s human spaceflight group, called the SpaceX pledge to put people in orbit so soon “not realistic.” He said that he could not imagine putting astronauts on “an unproven system” and that the company would have to go a long way to prove that its craft were safe and reliable. “You know what it means to lose a shuttle crew,” he said. “No agency, no government, wants to go through that experience again.”

Such talk infuriates those who have confidence in the private rockets under development. Charles Lurio, who publishes an online newsletter that chronicles the progress in the fledgling industry, said, “It’s absolutely loony to say there’s some inherent law of the universe, or of performing the engineering of spaceflight, that says you have to have a government entity to be able to do it successfully.”
The New York Times examines the situation at NASA and the Constellation program. Some parts will be upsetting for certain people:
Edward F. Crawley, a senior professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that the Ares I was not perfect, but that when seen in the context of its use of components from the shuttle program, military systems and the coming Ares V, it was the product of sensible choices. “I don’t have any reason to believe there are major technical issues to block its success,” he said.

And there is this:
Dr. Crawley of M.I.T. said he would like to see a panel of “unbiased and wise people” under the new administration weigh NASA’s plans against the alternatives while keeping in mind the broad range of budgetary, workforce and technical issues. “I don’t frankly know what the answer is,” he said, “but I know it’s a lot closer and a lot more complicated answer than the one playing out in the media and the blogs.”

And then, Dr. Crawley said, get on with it. The space program’s $17 billion annual budget is small in comparison with other elements of the nation’s spending. But its payoff, he noted, can be big. If the new president seeks to stimulate the economy with “domestic high-technology jobs that provide stable and rewarding employment,” he said, “space would be a well-placed investment.”

Ken Blackwell as RNC Chairman
Ken Blackwell, the former Secretary of State for Ohio and former candidate for Governor of Ohio, may be a beneficiary of the furor over the Barack the Magic Negro CD distributed by Chris Saltsman, a candidate for RNC Chairman.
I was wondering when and how Rand Simberg was going to get around to informing us how he knows better than Neil Armstrong about going to the Moon (properly understood, done the right way, of course.) He does not disappoint.

First, the ritualistic granting of respect which must always preceed an assault on the great.
I admire Neil Armstrong greatly. He’s a great man, and a great engineer. I was privileged to see him a few years ago at a rare public appearance — a commencement address, which was appropriately humble, and focused on not himself but on the graduates, as a good commencement address should be.

And then comes the knife.
That said, I don’t necessarily take anything he says about modern space policy seriously.

Now I haven't taken much that Rand Simberg has said about modern space policy seriously for years, but I digress.
This is because a) he and I don’t necessarily share the same goals for our policy

Rand doesn't tell us how he knows this. It it possible that they share the same goals, but just disagree on the methods. But one doesn't have to get into messy details when one just makes assumptions.
b) it’s not at all obvious that he’s been closely following what’s going on with the agency. After his flight, almost four decades ago, he became almost a recluse, returning to Ohio to teach

Of course it's not obvious that he hasn't.
In any event, he decided (unwisely, in my opinion) to weigh in on the current NASA transition controversy:

Why unwisely? I think it was very wise if Armstrong has an opinion and wants to express it.

Rand goes on to quibble and parse words about Armstrong's letter to make it seem that he (Armstrong) doesn't know what he is talking about. Then this:
This is a nice, ivory-tower view of engineering and engineers, and I have no doubt that this is exactly what Professor Armstrong would do were he asked.

Rand seems to be suggesting that Neil Armstrong has been living in an ivory tower and really doesn't know what's going on.

There follows the usual rant about neferious goings on at NASA, including its circulation of the Armstrong letter to all concerned. According to Rand, it is apparently inmoral for NASA even to make its case in the face of criticism, even by suggesting that the first man to walk on the Moon agrees with the current program and supports the current management. Shutting up people who disagree is rather convenient if ones argument is weak. One suspects by suggesting that this should happen, Rand is admitting to that.

Addendum: To be fair, Rand is the picture of politeness compared to what is being spewed in the comments section here by a person calling himself or herself "Anonymous Space." If one trashes another on the Internet, one ought to have the courage to do it under ones own name. By the way, I agree with Jim Hillhouse on all points.

Addendum 2: It looks like Keith Cowing is reporting that his sources (whom he does not name) are saying that Armstrong's letter was ghostwritten. Rand suspects it is true, but on what basis he doesn't say.

Personally I think that reacting to Armstrong's letter by trashing the man personally is not only morally wrong, but politically unwise.
Angel at the Fence Pulled from Publication
In Angel at the Fence, Herman Rosenblat had a touching story of how he met his wife while in a Nazi concentration camp in World War II. The memoir, scheduled to come out in February, had even been endorsed by Oprah Winfrey. There was one problem.
Alexander Nevsky Voted Greatest Russian in History
In a television poll in which fifty million Russians participated, the Medieval Prince of Novgorod Alexander Nevsky was voted the greatest Russian in history. More disturbingly, the murderous dictator Joseph Stalin came in third.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Valkyrie Starring Tom Cruise Film Review
Two problems plague Valkyrie, an otherwise taunt, World War II thriller starring Tom Cruise. Neither problem is very much the fault of the people, writer, director, or star, who made the film. It is, as they say, in the nature of the material.
I'm frankly astonished at how completely Caroline Kennedy has bungled the political opportunity handed her. Maybe if she had lived in Chicago...
In the middle of the shock and outrage over the Barack the Magic Negro scandal, Chris Saltman has at least one defender who happens to be both black and the front runner for RNC Chairman.
Taking health tips from celebs can be, well, bad for your health.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, has apparently condemned Israel for taking the action against Hamas that he asked for .
2008 was the year man-made global warming was disproved. Someone should tell Barack Obama.
In something akin to God coming down from the mountain, Neil Armstrong, who ordinarily does not speak in public, has weighed in on the transition controversy at NASA.
Your article indicated that President-elect Barack Obama's transition team "faces a tough early choice between extending the life of the aging space shuttle and accelerating its replacement."

I certainly hope that isn't accurate, in that the transition team should play no part in such decisions. While these men and women are experienced and enthusiastic space program veterans, they are neither aerospace engineers nor former program managers and cannot be sufficiently knowledgeable to make choices in the technical arena.

A bit nicer than telling Lori Garver that she's not qualified, but still Mike Griffin must be satisfied with the support for his sentiment.
A great deal of thought and analysis has gone into NASA's program to return to space exploration as the principal focus of the agency. The breadth of NASA's creative thinking was limited by the funding constraints, and compromises had to be made. Even so, the agency has fashioned a challenging but credible program to return to the moon and go on toward Mars.

NASA's management is very strong and its engineering and scientific talent extraordinary. I believe they can be counted on to deliver new knowledge, excitement and inspiration as they continue their expansion of the human boundary.

Barack the Magic Negro Causes Controversy
Tennessee Republican Chip Saltsman, who was campaign manager for Mike Huckabee and now candidate for Chairman of the Republican National Committee, has gifted members of the RNC a Paul Shanklin CD that includes Barack the Magic Negro.
The Gaza Strip Heats Up
The Gaza Strip, controlled by the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, is heating up as Israel retaliated for rocket and motor bombardment of its southern communities with a massive air raid. Israeli official warn that the raids are only the beginning.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The 12 Days of Global Warming...
The two losers in the recent COTS contract were Boeing and Lockmart, which tried to sneak in as "partners" woth a company called Planet Space. NASA was not fooled.
The 2009 Sarah Palin Calendar
The 2009 Sarah Palin Calendar is Amazon's best selling item in the Office Supplies Products and Supplies category. Possibly part of the reason is that Sarah Palin has been voted the second most admired woman in America, just behind Hillary Clinton.

Eartha Kitt: RIP
Eartha Kitt has died at the age of 81 of colon cancer. Eartha Kitt was best known for two things. The first was playing Cat Woman on the 1960s Batman series. The second was denouncing the Vietnam War in Lyndon Johnson's White House.

Addendum: Mark Steyn reports, via an emailer, on the astonishing political journey of Eartha Kitt.
I saw/met Miss Kitt at a public appearance/album signing at the Borders Book Store in Downtown Boston about a decade ago. Someone asked the former lefty/commie (the FBI had an extensive file on her in the 1960s) about current political events and she let go with a denunciation of Washington worthy of the most right-wing Republican! Honestly, she sounded like she was reading from a Newt Gingrich speech! She denounced the federal income tax and capital gains taxes. I loved it!
Joel Stein, like most lefties, misses the point about love of America. America is beloved by conservatives and is rightly considered the greatest country in the world because, unlike most other countries, it was not created as an accident of history, language, and culture. America was created by men steeped in the ideals of the Enlightenment, of freedom, capitalism, tolerance of religion and people, and a belief in progress.

It is not to say that we do not recognize the country's flaws. For one thing, America has far too many people like Joel Stein living in it. But we conservatives recognize that follies commited by government or by purveyors of popular culture are not the fault of the country, just of the people doing it and those who do nothing to stop them.

As proof, Joel Stein should take note of how many people are trying to get into America, legally and otherwise, as opposed to Sweden, a country Stein seems to think is a place where it is easier for him to get laid. Far sighted statesmen in other countries, like Thatcher of England and Sarkozy of France, know that their own countries could do with being more like America. Stein should consider that before sneering.
Roger Simon remembers Harold Pinter.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

One of the greatest canards in political history, right up there with Reagan is an amiable dunce, is that President George W. Bush is illiterate. But, as Karl Rove demonstrates, President Bush is a voracious reader.
His reading this year included a heavy dose of history -- including David Halberstam's "The Coldest Winter," Rick Atkinson's "Day of Battle," Hugh Thomas's "Spanish Civil War," Stephen W. Sears's "Gettysburg" and David King's "Vienna 1814." There's also plenty of biography -- including U.S. Grant's "Personal Memoirs"; Jon Meacham's "American Lion"; James M. McPherson's "Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief" and Jacobo Timerman's "Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number."
Scott Horowitz has created an online petition urging that Mike Griffin be kept on an NASA Administrator. I signed it, though I know of a number of people who would suit the job just as well (Pete Worden is my top pick), mainly because I think he's done a good job under trying circumstances and am heartily sick of the Hate Griffin campaign that seems to be peculating on the Internet.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A visit from St. Hillary
In the beginning...
Paul Spudis discusses water on the Moon.
2009 New Years Resolutions for Barack Obama
Is Santa Real?
Artificial bone marrow, suitable for therapeutic treatment. As Glenn Reynolds would say, faster please.
Barack Obama a geek? I think not, but I can see why he would want an important, yet unappreciated voting bloc to think so.
Obama, Disney, Ahmadinejad Make Santa's Naughty List; Bush, Palin on Nice
One of the great perks of being Santa Claus is having the sanction to determine who has been naughty and who has been nice. Herein is my own partial list for those who have been naughty and nice for 2008.
Carol of the Firefly
Trailer for Film 9 Now Up
The trailer for 9, a feature animated film produced by Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov and directed by Shane Acker is now up. 9, which is scheduled to premiere next September, is based on an Academy Award nominated short by the same name.
Elizabeth Alexander, Barack Obama's inauguration poet, is certainly no Robert Frost.
John Tierney has some further thoughts on John Holdren, Barack Obama's science advisor.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Al Gore's war on science.
Both Orbital and SpaceX have been awarded contracts to ship cargo to ISS. Another giant leap for commercial space.
Barack Obama is Shirtless on the Beach
A member of the paparazzi has gotten his pay day for the year by snapping a picture of a shirtless Barack Obama, striding along the beach, rippling pectorals and abs for all the world to see and admire. Naturally the Obama worshipers are going nuts.
The Washington Post has slimed Mike Griffin with the "Act Clueless Award."
The incumbent administrator of NASA judged Lori Garver, head of president-elect Obama's NASA transition team, as "not qualified" to evaluate the merits of the return-to the moon Constellation rocket program. Griffin then sought an audience with the president-elect. Speculation is that Griffin is afraid that the Obama administration will gut his pet project and so he has asked NASA contractors to withhold information on Constellation.

The problem is, the last sentence does not appear to be true, as this account suggests:
Sources say the transition team has asked about EELVs as a Constellation alternative and expressed concern about Griffin allegedly telling NASA civil servants and contractors not to freely discuss Constellation issues and alternatives with the Obama team.

Reliable NASA sources said no such directions were ever issued and checks with NASA's major contractors found no evidence to the contrary; company representatives adamantly denied any such guidance from Griffin or any of his representatives.

"That's ludicrous," one company official told CBS News.

This will not stop the Internet Rocketeer Club from celebrating, of course.
Festivus: A Holiday About Nothing
First there was Kwanzaa, a holiday manufactured by a black separatist named Ron Karenga for the benefit of African Americans who disdained celebrating the White Man's holiday. Now there is Festivus, a holiday manufactured by a TV show as a joke.
Antikythera Mechanism Mystery Unraveled
One of the great science stories of 2008 was the unraveling of the mystery of the Antikythera Mechanism, first discovered by sponge divers in 1901 off the Greek island of Antikythera in the wreck of a first century BC Roman sailing vessel.
Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?
It used to be that wishing someone Merry Christmas did not place one in danger of committing a social faux pas. Some people, in this age of victimization chic, will actually get offended by that if they happen not to be Christians or are just Scrooges.
Remarkably, Mike Thomas of the Orlando Sentinel says that "Manned spaceflight does not promote science. It is a tumor draining the life out of science." The mind boggles at such a colossal pile of ignorance.
Fasta Pasta Microwave Cooker Product Review

Monday, December 22, 2008

Alan Boyle looks back on the year in space 2008.
It looks like some folks think that the Obama Inauguration is going to be a total disaster.
Huang Arrested for Internet Porn Video
The Chinese government's problem of controlling the Internet and thus the information that it allows its citizens to have access to goes beyond just political content. Authorities in Shanghai have arrested a woman named Huang for uploading a sex video.
Return to the Moon, cooperation or competition. Elements of both, I think. And then there is this:
Many believe that by the time humans return to the moon, private agencies be part of the cooperative effort. "I think that commercial enterprises...are extremely well-positioned to be not a competitor to government missions but sort of an add-on," says William Pomerantz, senior director of space projects for the X PRIZE Foundation. The foundation offers monetary prizes to privately funded teams that can reach certain targets—including a $20-million purse for the first robot that lands on the moon, traverses 500 meters (1,640 feet) on the surface and sends data back to Earth.

Pomerantz envisions a future in which governments stretch their budgets by contracting out certain preparatory or support activities to more streamlined private operators. "If you think about a future wherein a commercial capacity to go to the moon for tens of millions of dollars rather than billions of dollars exists," he says, "I think that space agencies are going to find it in their best interest to engage those commercial companies." Private support, Pomerantz says, "will allow the government space agencies to do what they do a little bit better, a little bit faster and a little bit cheaper."

I always find that those folks who sneer at the Vision for Space Exploration and would see it junked are missing a great opportunity for commercial participation.
WhiteKnightTwo Soars Over Mojave
The age of space tourism took another step forward when the WhiteKnightTwo, the plane designed and built by Scaled Composites to carry the rocket ship SpaceShipTwo conducted its first flight test.
Jesus in India Debuts on the Sundance Channel
Where was Jesus between age 12, when the Bible describes the incident with the Rabbis in Jerusalem, and about age 30, when he began his ministry? Jesus in India, a documentary premiering Monday, December 22nd on the Sundance Channel, purports an answer.
The founder of Air America says, Rush is Right on the Fairness Doctrine
Christmas in Baghdad
Jeff Foust discusses Staying the course in a sea of change, about Ares 1. A sober minded analysis well worth reading. Then Jeff Foust travels to The Silicon Valley of NewSpace in the Mojave. Taylor Dinerman shows why Robert Zubrin loves NASA in a review of Zubrin's new book.

Addendum: Glenn Reynolds also has a review of Zubrin's book.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

White Knight Two has made its first successful test flight.
A few weeks ago, we posted about a proposed movie based on the HBO Rome miniseries. One of my ideas was that, instead of a sequel, why not a prequel? Say of Lucius and Titus in the Gallic Wars?

Naturally this might mean getting other actors. Then someone I know who will remain nameless had a cute suggestion. Adam Baldwin as Titus Pullo and Nathan Fillion as Lucius Vorenus.

Addendum: Stacy Bartley has gotten some dialogue:
"Pullo! You have two gladius, a pilum and a belt full of pugio you ain't
got but the two hands Jove gave you!"

"Aw Vorenus you know I like to get excitable about my choices."
This story about the Ares and the technical and political difficulties facing it is one of the best I've seen, balanced and without that whiff of hysteria one finds elsewhere in cyberspace. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to cut through the fog and get some idea about what is really going on.
Forbidden Planet the trilogy? Possible spoilers.
Forty years ago today, Apollo 8 launched the first human expedition beyond low Earth orbit. I wrote about The Flight of Apollo 8 about three years ago. Paul Spudis relates of how Forty years ago, three men left for the Moon. In a time of trouble 40 years ago, Apollo 8 lifted spirits notes the Chicago Tribune. 'God bless all of you . . . on the good Earth'

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Coming from the same folks that gave us a nude painting of Sarah Palin, a nude painting of Rod Blagojevich. It's to be part of a naked governors series.
More on John Holdren and Barack Obama's War in Science
Democrats have often offered the canard of a Republican "war on science". But Barack Obama's selection of John Holdren as White House science advisor proves that Democrats are no slouches when it comes to politicizing science.

Addendum: From Barack Obama's Radio Address
“The truth is that promoting science isn’t just about providing resources—it’s about protecting free and open inquiry,” President-elect Obama said. “It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient—especially when it’s inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us. That will be my goal as President of the United States—and I could not have a better team to guide me in this work.”

Which is why he choose John Holdren, who wants climate change skeptics to just shut up.
More on John Holdren and Barack Obama's War in Science
Democrats have often offered the canard of a Republican "war on science". But Barack Obama's selection of John Holdren as White House science advisor proves that Democrats are no slouches when it comes to politicizing science.
Jerry Brown's Same Sex Marriage Maneuver
Opponents of same sex marriage in California thought that by passing Proposition 8 that they had taken the question beyond the reach of judges. This may not be the case if California Attorney General Jerry Brown has his way.
Doris Kearns Goodwin Historian as Celebrity
Doris Kearns Goodwin is without a doubt a happy woman. Not only is a man whom she approves of, Barack Obama, about to become President, but Obama's literary tastes have made her more famous and richer.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Here is some more on Obama's pick to be science advisior, John P. Holdren. Apparently he has been wrong about a whole variety of issues, which has not stopped him from being very nasty to people who point this out. Holdren's job seems to be less to offer disinterested science advice to the new administration, but toi provide justification of draconian, environmental policy initiatives that are being planned.
The Orlando Sentinel has an editorial which, not surprising for anyone knowing that newspaper's slant, excoriates Mike Griffin and all of his works. The editorial contains within it a suggestion that, for better or ill, will likely be taken up.
If the transition team doesn't have the expertise, it could name an independent panel of experts to do the job. Mr. Griffin shouldn't have a problem with that. Such a review might vindicate his judgment.

The idea of an independent panel seems benign, on its face, but there are some potential problems.

First, who actually will make up the panel? The vast majority of people with engineering training and experience to evaluate the Constellation architecture either already work for the program or else might benefit in some way at some potential change. Maybe a few retired gray beards, with no intention of getting out of retirement, can be found, but I foresee difficulties.

Second, what exactly will be the mandate of the panel? Will it solely concern itself with the engineering aspects of fulfilling the Vision for Space Exploration mission, or will it also be charged with looking at budgets, priorities, and so on? If the latter, I can foresee all sort of potential for mischief.

Third, the editorial suggests that Griffin and, by extension, NASA should welcome such a panel as it might vindicate their judgment and therefore silence critics. Leaving aside the charming idea that Ares critics will be silenced just because of a finding by an investigative panel, one has a couple of questions. If the Obama people have already decided to stick the Orion on an EELV for budget/political reasons, the last thing they want is a panel of engineers and other experts telling them that it would be a bad idea. Also the conclusion that everything is hunky dory, no need for any changes is the least likely conclusion that such a panel will draw. Panels such as these have a tendency to want to justify their existence, therefore offering recommendations no matter if they are sensible or not. The question is, will the recommendations be sensible?
Mark Felt, Watergate's "Deep Throat", Dies
W. Mark Felt, former associate director of the FBI and one of the most famous figures in the Watergate scandal, has died at the age of 95. Oddly, though Mark Felt was a crucial figure in Watergate, few people knew his name until May, 2005.
Damn it, Obama, I'm a Doctor, not a bean counter!

Seriously, what could be more illogical than having bureaucrats and accountants designing space craft systems over the objections of engineers?
Caroline Kennedy as Princess Leia? Why not, since George Lucas has proclaimed Barack Obama a jedi.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Majel Barrett Roddenberry: RIP
Barack Obama's choice as Presidential Science Advisor is Dr. John P. Holdren, who is apparently a hard line proponent of man made global warming, or as they call it now, climate change. Dr. Holdren recently published an Op Ed in which he excoriated other scientists who are skeptics of climate change.
The few climate-change "skeptics" with any sort of scientific credentials continue to receive attention in the media out of all proportion to their numbers, their qualifications, or the merit of their arguments. And this muddying of the waters of public discourse is being magnified by the parroting of these arguments by a larger population of amateur skeptics with no scientific credentials at all.

Astonishing. Scientists who have not drunk the climate change kool-aid should shut up and stop confusing the hoi polloi.
The extent of unfounded skepticism about the disruption of global climate by human-produced greenhouse gases is not just regrettable, it is dangerous. It has delayed - and continues to delay - the development of the political consensus that will be needed if society is to embrace remedies commensurate with the challenge. The science of climate change is telling us that we need to get going. Those who still think this is all a mistake or a hoax need to think again.

Or else what? They'll be burned at the stake for heresy? Pity that all of this debate and doubt is standing in the way of plans to totally reorder our civilization at untold costs. Perhaps we should just toss dissent and scientific inquiry away and just accept the pronouncements of the climate change priesthood.

Addendum: On the other hand, this environmental site accuses Holdren of being a tool of the nuclear industry and attacks him for supporting fusion research. Should be interesting, since support of nuclear and fusion energy are points in his favor.

Addendum More. Holdren was a real Limits to Growth adherent during the 1970s and still proudly advertises his ignorance of economics.
It looks like there may be ice on the Moon after all.
Barack Obama Chooses Rick Warren for Inaugural Invocation
President Elect Barack Obama has selected Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest and author of the mega best seller The Purpose Driven Life, to deliver the invocation at his inaugural ceremony. Controversy has resulted.
In order to battle Somali pirates, the first Chinese naval vessels since Zeng He will be dispatched to the waters off the Horn of Africa.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Eddie Murphy as the Riddler in the next Batman? Interesting. Shia as Robin gives me heartburn, though. But Rachel Weisz as Catwoman gives me just a little thrill.
A "Velvet Revolution" in Iran?
The theocratic regime in Iran is starting to worry that Internet blogging is threatening to start a kind of "velvet revolution" of the sort that overthrew Eastern European communist regimes in 1989-1990.
Ken Salazar and Oil Drilling
President Elect Barack Obama has nominated US Senator Ken Salazar (D) Colorado to be his Interior Secretary. Those concerned with the exploitation of America's domestic oil reserves are looking at the nomination of Salazar with keen interest.
Barack Obama is Time Person of the Year
President Elect Barack Obama has been named Time Person of the Year for 2008, not surprisingly. Considering how Barack Obama has dominated the news this past year, his selection is so obvious that it was done without debate
Andrew Chaikin has some things to say about the future of space exploration.
Re. Anna Eshoo (D) California wants to not only bring back the so called Fairness Doctrine, but to apply it to cable and satellite TV. Fair well Fox News.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Actually, as usual, Rand Simberg is wide of the mark with his Griffin as Columbus scenario. If Mike Griffin were around in 1492, the Columbus voyage would either be a COTS type project, which really, when you think about it, it really was, or else a Centennial Prize with the winner of the "Westerly Route to Asia" Prize getting a hundred thousand gold ducats and whatever amount of nutmeg and Cinnamon he could bring back in his ship.

On the other hand, Griffin being involved with Prince Henry the Navigator, who ran the 15th Century version of NASA, would be interesting.

In other words, Rand should leave the historical analogies to people who know something of history.
Arne Duncan Chosen as Education Secretary
Barack Obama has picked Arne Duncan, currently the superintendent of schools in Chicago, to be his Secretary of Education. Arne Duncan is seen by many as a school reformer, albeit one with mixed results according to Catalyst Chicago.
Apparently Nancy Pelosi and the Obama people are having a discussion about who really runs the country.
Burger King's New Cologne for Sale
Just in time for the holidays, Burger King is branching out from fast food to fast cologne. Apparently for four bucks a bottle, you too can smell like one of those flame broiled whoppers, made fresh every day.
Heroes: Fugitives Coming in February
Heroes Season 3 ended with an explosion and at least two apparent deaths of major characters. Then an epilogue appeared that set up Heroes Season 4, to air next year as Heroes Volume 4: Fugitives.

Monday, December 15, 2008

MIT publishes The Future of Human Space Flight
The Coalition for Space Exploration has a couple of documents up at the Obama Transition site The first touts polling data indicating public support for space exploration. The second gives Obama his marching orders.
We must maintain a national trajectory in space that not only secures our place today in the world community of space-faring nations, but guarantees America’s future in space. Delaying or canceling valuable programs within America’s space agenda short-circuits technological advancement, scientific discovery, industrial spinoffs and national security benefits. It is imperative that President-elect Barack Obama ensure the following objectives:

Stimulus Support - It is important that the new administration follow through on its campaign promises, including the $2 billion in additional funding to tighten the space transportation gap and secure the future of America’s space program.

Adequate Funding - NASA must receive the resources needed to persevere on its current course to finish the space station, minimize a human spaceflight gap, and push forward on the Constellation Program, while preserving or amplifying Earth and space science programs. Currently, funding for NASA is approximately 0.6 of 1% of the annual federal budget. This budget should be increased incrementally to comprise 1% of the nation’s annual allocation.

Continuation of Exploration - The United States must secure its place today in the world community of space-faring nations and guarantee America’s future in space. If valuable programs within our space agenda are delayed or canceled, technological advancement, scientific discovery, industrial spinoffs and national security benefits will be short-circuited. It is vital that NASA have a clear and strong vision for space exploration with adequate funding that allows for a stable and capable workforce and strong industry participation.

Retention of International Leadership - The United States has enjoyed a commanding lead in space for decades and has achieved international cooperation and collaboration. At the same time, other nations – including China, Japan, India, Europe and Russia – have been steadfast in building their own, independent space capabilities. As a nation, we must not fall behind. Ensuring we place a priority on STEM disciplines to cultivate a viable, technically competent workforce is critical for maintaining this position,
Henry Spencer touts the advantages on in orbit assembly for space ships ment to take people to the Moon and beyond. Spencer suggests a number of advantages, but he forgets one thing that is necessary to make the thing practical. We not only have to master on orbit assembly, but also on orbit (and that means for a number of years) maintenance of space craft meant to go to other destinations in the Solar System. We have some experience in the former, but virtually none in the latter, aside from Mir and ISS which are not the same things as a trans lunar or interplanetary space craft.

Of course Spencer may be suggesting that we actuallly launch and assemble a space craft in little pieces on little rockets within the tight time frame of a launch window and then launch. For reasons previous suggested that would seem to be a prescription for failure, as one launch failure or even long delay would scrub the mission.

On the other hand if one is able to build a space ship in LEO that can remain operational for months or even years, preferably also reusable between missions with a minimun of turn around while in a LEO parking orbit, one has something. I suspect that once one starts talking about sending tens or hundreds of people to the Moon or Mars at a time, such a capability becomes necessary.

For for smaller expeditions now being contemplated. I think not.

Spencer's weakest argument is this:
If you're going to want to do orbital assembly anyway, you're better off starting it right away, so even early expeditions can benefit from it. The only reason to delay it is if you think there won't be any later expeditions - if you're planning a dead-end programme.

One can only imagine someone talking to Prince Henry the Navigator circi 1410 and trying to convince him that adapting steam power (then known since Heron of Alexandria) to ships would be desirable to why not start now and stop messing with those quaint, wind powered caravels. Or someone else trying to sell jet engines to Lindbergh before crossing the Atlantic. Forever delaying doing things until the technology is "just right" doesn't work very well.
Obama's Afghanistan Problem
One of the many problems Barack Obama will face upon assuming office is the war in Afghanistan. While allied and Afghan forces swept the Taliban and their Al Qaeda allies out of power in the wake of 9/11, a grinding guerrilla war persists.
SNL Ridicules David Patterson's Blindness
Governor David Patterson of New York was made fun of on Saturday Night Live, as politicians often are. But Governor Patterson is certainly not amused and his office is telling people so. Saturday Night Live made fun of Patterson's legal blindness.
Dante's Inferno Video Game Announced
Electronic Arts has announced that it is turning to an epic poem written in the 14th Century for the inspiration for its next video game. The poem is Dante's Inferno, written almost seven hundred years ago by the Italian poet Dante Alighieri.
Jeff Foust examines The Perils of Talking Space Craft.
That participation is designed involve both robotic and human missions, but if it becomes so effective with robots, will the public support still be there for humans?

Grow, actually. Human explorers will still be better that this sort of thing.

Meanwhile, in Klaatu barada stinko, Jim Oberg suggests that despite the publicity stunt of "beeming into space" the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, aliens will not be watching the movie any time soon. And, as an added note, considering how offensive the movie was, it is just as well.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I think that Doug Cooke has just made the Internet Rocketeer Club very angry.
During the Q&A session that followed, I asked Cooke why he felt Constellation, and in particular Ares 1, was getting so much negative attention on the Internet given his and his team’s confidence in the design. “I’m not an expert on the blogosphere,” he responded, “but there are other architectures people would like to fly and there are folks who also talk about different destinations.” These critics therefore seek out audiences, including online, for their alternatives, he said. “The blogosphere feeds on itself, so it’s unfortunate.”

Addendum: Sure enough, Rand Simberg reacted predictably. He has a very heated and lengthy post about how not angry he is about Cooke and, oddly enough, about me. Now I can understand Rand being not angry at Doug Cooke, He treated the Internet Rocketeer Club with supreme contempt. But me? I wonder what the obsession is?

The Washington Post has an excellent piece about the situation at NASA, including the uncertainty being caused by the Obama transition.
The Parowan Prophet and the End of the World
A man by the name of Leland Freeborn, also known as the "Parowan Prophet", has some good news and some bad news from the future. The good news is that Barack Obama will not, after all, be President of the United States.
President Bush Dodges Shoes in Baghdad
President George W. Bush visited Baghdad in Iraq in a surprise visit to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. A joint press conference was marred when an Iraqi journalist named Muntazer al-Zaidi jumped up and threw both of his shoes at the President.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Day the Earth Stood Still Remake: A Review of an Apology for Genocide and Imperialism
Remaking classic films, such as The Day the Earth Stood Still, is always a dubious proposition. Remakes smack of a lack of originality and tend to be less enjoyable to watch than the original film. The 2008 version of The Day the Earth Stood Still is no exception.
Nude Virgin Mary on the Cover of Playboy Mexico
The cover for the issue of Mexico's version of Playboy sported a nude picture of the Virgin Mary standing in front of a stained glass window with the caption, in Spanish, "We Love You Maria." Controversy has ensued.
Looks like a deal has been struck to test VASIMR on ISS.
Chris Bergen, the managing editor at NASA Spaceflight, has an excellent post about sound journalistic practices when it comes to reporting stories about space and NASA.
Ian O'Neill looks at the current crisis at NASA over what if anything Obama and his people have in store.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Popular Science has a story about the kerfuffle at NASA and the possibility of canceling or drastically changing the VSE. Not much new here, but it does show that the story has spread throughout the media.

There also seems to be a growing dispute with the Orlando Sentinel's account over the nature of the Griffin/Garver exchange. Over at NASA Space Flight, in a long thread on the subject, a person claiming to have been present suggests that there was no shouting match as described on the Sentinel.
One of the news items that had the Internet Rocketeer Club in a tizzy was a story that NASA was buying an environmentally oxidiser from the Swedes. The reasons that this story became the subject of outrage was a mystery. In any case, Robert Coppinger offers a clarification on the story that puts it into contex.
Paul Spudis has some interesting thoughts on the state of play for the Vision for Space Exploration and the Constellation program, between which he draws a distinction.
But this architecture is an implementation of the VSE; it is not the VSE itself. The Vision specified long-range goals and objectives, not the means to attain them. To briefly review, we are going to the Moon to learn the skills and develop the technologies needed to live and work productively on other worlds. And there are many ways to skin that cat.

This can be argued in a general sense, but perhaps not in a practical sense. Constellation has its technical problems, of which every rocket development is prey to. In my opinion, though, those problems have been exaggerated by a few people to further agendas. Also, nothing I've seen so far has convinced me that the two alternatives being advanced, EELVs and Direct, are actually very workable.

That is not to say that someone could not come up with an alternate architecture that would be better that the current one for the same or lesser amount of funding. I have not seen it, though.

In any case every approach to taking humans beyond LEO will have its tradeoffs and problems. It is important to have a clear view of them and not to allow Internet rumor mongering to create disasters that aren't there.

One further thought. One of the problems that really made the space station project, in all of its incarnations, a disaster was the tendency to impose design changes solely for political or fiscal reasons. This start stop start approach added years and cost to the project. We should think very carefully before going down that road again with the exploration vision.
Rand Simberg has little use for the Time Magazine piece that suggested that Obama may have the VSE in the crosshairs. Rand also seems to have found an Obamatron that he actually likes, that is to say Lori Garver.
There is an implication here that in addition to the fact that she’s not technical, she has no interest in manned space. Otherwise (since obviously the evil Obama wants to kill this program, despite the fact that his views evolved to support it during the campaign), why put her in place? But to anyone who knows her, like her or not, that is lunacy.

The problem is that in my opinion Lori Garver talks a good game about space exploration and such, but when it comes to a choice between her political ambitions and space, she always chooses the former every time. To illustrate, when the VSE was first proposed a few years ago, Garver waxed elloquently for it. However, once she became John Kerry's space advisor she publicly dialed back her enthusiasm considerably, complaining that the space exploration initiative had caused a "lack of balance" in the space program and suggesting that maybe funds should be shifted over to things like Earth observation, aeronautics, and science.

Now Lori, on the behalf od Barack Obama, is at NASA headquarters, criticising the exploration initiative and darkly hinting about "change" that is in the offing. I doubt that it's some kind of new architecture that will jump start things. Mike Griffin is right in pointing out the Garver and her team lack the expertise to even judge hardware adequetly. If there is some kind of architecture change, it is likely to be for political and fiscal rather than technincal reasons.
Senate Vote on Auto Bailout
The United States Senate has voted down the automobile company bailout bill, having failed to come up with the required 60 votes to close off debate. The sticking point appears to be UAW intransigence on realigning wages and benefits.
There seems to be a good reason why Rahm Emanuel has clammed up about the Blagojevich scandal. It seems that after all Emanuel had conversations about the Obama Senate seat with Blagojevich. It would not be unusual, but it does raise the question as to whether the Governor suggested a possible pay to play deal and, if so, if Emanuel reported that fact to the authorities.

Addendum: Looks like Jesse Jackson Jr. is in more hot water.
Time Magazine asks the question: Does Obama Want to Ground NASA's Next Moon Mission? This is sparked by the story of the Griffin-Garver dust up.
The mere fact that the story is making the rounds reflects the very real friction between NASA and the transition team — which has sparked a groundswell of support among space agency employees to keep the boss. Within NASA, there is a real concern that while the Obama campaign rode the call for change to a thumping victory in November, change is precisely what the space agency does not need.

A groundswell of support for Griffin. One would not tell that by the amount of hate for the man that's on the Internet. The Time article is also not very kind to Lori Garver.
The Obama team picked Garver to run the NASA transition, in part because of her deep pedigree and long history at the space agency, which saw her climb to the rank of associate administrator. But Garver started as a PAO — NASA-speak for a public affairs officer — and never got involved in the nuts and bolts of building rockets. She is best known by most people as the person who in 2002 competed with boy-band singer Lance Bass for the chance to fly to the International Space Station aboard a Russian rocket. Neither of them ever left the ground.

Garver's lack of engineering cred is especially surprising in light of the eggheads with whom Obama has been surrounding himself — most recently, Nobel prize winning physicist Steven Chu, who has reportedly been tapped to be Secretary of Energy. Garver is also not thought to be much of a fan of Griffin — who is an engineer — nor to be sold on the plans for the new moon program. What she and others are said to be considering is to scrap the plans for the Ares 1 — which is designed exclusively to carry humans — and replace it with Atlas V and Delta IV boosters, which are currently used to launch satellites but could be redesigned, or "requalified," for humans. Griffin hates that idea, and firmly believes the Atlas and Delta are unsafe for people. One well-placed NASA source who asked not to be named reports that as much as Griffin wants to keep his job, he'll walk away from it if he's made to put his astronauts on top of those rockets.

Nit to mention the time Garver wanted to launch Jerry Garcia's ashes into space. And is somewhat suspicous of Obama:
NASA is right to be uneasy about just what Obama has planned for the agency since his position on space travel shifted — a lot — during the campaign. A year before the election he touted an $18 billion education program and explicitly targeted the new moon program as one he'd cut to pay for it. In January of 2008, he lined up much closer to the Bush moon plan — perhaps because Republicans were already on board and earning swing-state support as a result. Three months before the election, Obama fully endorsed the 2020 target for putting people on the moon. But that was a candidate talking and now he's president-elect, and his choice of Garver as his transition adviser may say more than his past campaign rhetoric.

Addendum: More from Reuters.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It looks like Mike Griffin may have some good reasons to be irritated with Lori Garver. In the Orlando Sentinel follow up, the following is noted:
In a meeting Tuesday with the Coalition for Space Exploration, a space advocacy group, Garver said that her team was “unhappy” with NASA’s plan – pushed by Griffin -- to retire the space shuttle in 2010 “no matter what.” Griffin has said the shuttle must be grounded to free up money for Constellation if its Ares 1 rocket is to fly by 2015.

She also said that under NASA’s current plans the possibility for exploration beyond the Earth’s orbit seems unattainable at present, an industry executive who attended the meeting.

Garver didn’t say what options her group might recommend, such as more money to keep flying the shuttle or changing the rocket systems NASA is currently developing to go to the moon. However, she promised that “there is going to be change.”

This should send a chill up the spine. Here is what Barack Obama said earlier this year, during the campaign, in a speech in Titusville:
"More broadly, we need a real vision for space exploration. To help formulate this vision, I'll reestablish the National Aeronautics and Space Council so that we can develop a plan to explore the solar system - a plan that involves both human and robotic missions, and enlists both international partners and the private sector. And as America leads the world to long-term exploration of the moon, Mars, and beyond, let's also tap NASA's ingenuity to build the airplanes of tomorrow and to study our own planet so we can combat global climate change. Under my watch, NASA will inspire the world, make America stronger, and help grow the economy here in Florida."

If Garver is speaking for Obama and not just for herself, then it looks like once again the United States is going fumble an opportunity to explore beyond LEO.

Addendum: A reader suggests that maybe one could read into Garver's remarks the idea of changing rather that scrapping the plan to go beyond LEO. Perhaps, but that raises the question that Griffin raised. What are the qualifications that Garver and her people have to make such judgments?
George W. Bush: Bible Not Literally True
President George W. Bush has shocked some evangelical Christians by suggesting that the Bible is not "literally true." While most of the 85 percent of believing Christians in America would be comfortable with that sentiment, evangelicals will not be.
More thoughts on the Griffin-Garver kerfuffle, Does Obama Have a Problem at NASA?
Has NASA become a problem for the Obama transition? If one believes a recent story in the Orlando Sentinel, the transition team at NASA, led by former NASA Associate Administrator Lori Garver, is running into some bureaucratic obstruction.
The NASA Alumni League has a document about the space program posted at the Obama Transition site. The gist of their recommendation is to boost NASA funding from .6 of the federal budget to .8, or to about the 20-21 billion a year range. No major changes in programs.
Steven Chu Tapped for Energy Secretary
President Elect Barack Obama has nominated Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize winning physicist and director of the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory for Energy Secretary. The nomination of Steven Chu suggests a major shift in American energy policy is at hand.
Did you think that the election of Obama would make an end to Bush bashing? Then you would be wrong.
Apparently Obama is going to follow through on his promise to slash weapons development programs.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Apparently not all is sweetness and light between NASA administrator Mike Griffin and the Obama transition team. Not sure what to make of all this, though I have some ideas. Still, Griffin is right about one thing. There's not a single engineer among the transition team at NASA. It's all policy wonks.

Another thing is clear. The question the Obama Team put to NASA about saving money by cancelling the exploration initiative has supporters of the VSE, including Griffin, in full political hardball mode. I put this problem at the feet of Lori Garver, who should have known that even suggesting that VSE might be on the block was going to cause trouble. This blunder may take someone above her pay grade to sort out. If the Obama people are smart, this job would be the last one they should give her.

If Obama does actually cancel VSE, then Lori Garver has blundered by telegraphing the decision, giving supporters time to organize. Even if Mike Griffin were replaced tomorrow, he would be back for Congressional hearings. I suspect that Senator Bill Nelson, whom Obama promised to support VSE, would be very keen to hear what Griffin has to say.

If Obama does not cancel VSE, then Lori Garver has picked a fight for her boss that was unnecessary. Obama has enough headaches without adding a brawl over VSE that will include, among other groups, space state Congressmen and Senators.

Either way Lori Garver's performance does not inspire confidence.

Addendum: Rand Simberg compares Mike Griffin to Hitler, which seems just a little bit harsh and a violation of Godwin's Law. Perhaps there really is a Griffin Derangement Syndrome.

Addendum 2: Rand Simberg's rage knows no bounds.
In another dispatch from Bizarro World, in yet another display of his magnificent superhuman powers in miscomprehension of plain English, Mark Whittington writes that I (as opposed to the commenter at Bobby Block’s site, who I quoted in the post title) am comparing Mike Griffin to Hitler. He also demonstrates that he has no idea what Godwin’s Law is, if he thinks that I “violated” it.

Well, I guess it’s technically true if, by “comparing,” one means pointing out that he is not. I’ll “compare” Mark to Hitler similarly. Unfortunately, I’m less able to “compare” him in the same manner to Bozo the Clown.

I would submit that slapping the title of "Hitler’s Last Day’s In The Bunker” on a post about Mike Griffin would tend to be seen as comparing the two men. Godwin's Law states that the first person in an argument who brings up Hitler and/or Nazism to characterize an opponent or his arguments automatically loses the argument. Rand seems to have done just that as well. Then going on and suggesting that maybe it may be "a little over the top" is being John Kerry. "I deny that Griffin is Hitler after I said he is."

Also, I'm glad that Rand acknowledges I have a sense of humor, which Bozo certainly did, but the only time I ever resemble him is when I have a cold and the nose turns a little red (g).

Addendum 3: The story (about Griffin and Garver, not Simberg and Hitler) has made Drudge. Another headache the Obama people do not need right now.

Rush has mentioned it too.
One of the excuses for closing Gitmo is that the Europeans are upset about it and the "torture" that iw alleged to go on there. It seems that while there is no torture going on at Gitmo, there is something like it going on in Germany.
What Barack Obama Should Do about Rod Blagojevich
Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich is facing prosecution for, among other things, trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder. Obama has not been directly implicated in the scandal, but inevitably it will become a headache for him.
Report: Jesse Jackson Jr. Is Senate Candidate Number 5
Candidate Number 5, mentioned prominently in the 76-page complaint filed against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, has been identified by none other than Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. Jesse Jackson Jr. is the son of Jesse Jackson, the civil rights leader.
Orion on a Falcon 9 Heavy? I put the question to the folks on NASA Space Flight.
Joe Babiasz Says Boycott Alabama
Joe Babiasz, a retired General Motors worker, is so angry with Senator Richard Shelby that he wants everyone to boycott Shelby's state of Alabama. Joe Babiasz anger seems to step from Senator Shelby's opposition to the big three auto company bailout.
Who Owns the Moon?
I'm currently reading Cabal of The Westford Knight: Templars at the Newport Tower which is a sort of DaVinci Code style thriller involving the legend of Templer knights exploring New England in the 14th Century. It's got artifacts, buried treasure, a ruthless treasure hunter, a heroic male lead and a beautiful female lead. Pretty good read so far.
House M.D.: Eclampsia, Parthenogenesis, Tragedy and Farce
One of the joys of watching House M.D. is observing how House and his stalwart team of doctors struggle to diagnose what is wrong with the patient of the week. And in the last episode of 2008, Joy to the World, we learn two new medical terms.

Those medical terms are eclampsia and parthenogenesis. The diagnosis of eclampsia is the tragedy part of the episode. The diagnosis of parthenogenesis is the farce part of the episode.
Apparently not realizing that there is a "consensus" about global warming, 650 scientists have decided to dissent.
It looks like someone has built his own fembot.
He said he did not build Aiko as a sexual partner, but said she could be tweaked to become one.

Well, of course.
Clark Lindsey makes a common mistake made by people who complain about the high cost of Ares 1.
In the Ares/Orion universe, a new rocket require $30B to reach low earth orbit. In the other universe where COTS exists, a system with similar capabilities like Falcon 9/Dragon costs NASA about $300M to get cargo to the ISS and maybe that much again to provide crew transport. It would thus take a ~5000% overrun of the F9/Dragon (with crew) to match the cost of Ares/Orion. Lengthy design reviews by outside panels have found no fundamental flaws in the F9/Dragon and it is meeting its COTS milestones. So it may, in fact, achieve its COTS goals without any overruns at all. If it does have problems, it's hard to believe they would cost tens of billions of dollars to fix.

If the sole purpose of Ares/Orion was just to get people into low Earth orbit, Clark would certainly have a valid point. But the purpose of Ares/Orion is to get people into Low Earth Orbit in a vehicle (Orion) designed to go to the Moon. Dragon doesn't have to go to the Moon. (Of course, imagining a Dragon that could do that, with the extra radiation shielding, the extra consumables, and so on would be an interesting thought experiment. Could a Falcon 9 Heavy still loft such a vehicle?)

Addendum: One of my "intellectual betters", Rand Simberg, offers a lecture on why I'm all wet.
There is vastly insufficient difference between a vehicle that goes to the moon and one that goes to LEO to justify the cost difference between Orion and Dragon. A lunar mission requires a) additional radiation shielding, b) twice the thickness of the entry heat shield and c) extra consumables (two of which he points out). That doesn’t translate into orders of magnitude in cost difference by any sane cost model. As for “lofting” it, it doesn’t need to be lofted in a single flight. Once you break out of the notion that you have to do everything in a single launch, it becomes easy to build both a spacious crew capsule, and a service module with abundant consumables. But Elon’s BFR follow on would even be able to “loft” it in one go, and I’d be willing to bet that he could get there on a billion dollars or less, extrapolating costs from Falcon 1 and 9 development. Again, this could be done at much less cost (both development and operational) than is currently planned for the Orion/Ares combination. What part of already spent ten billion on Ares without its even having passed a legitimate PDR, while Elon has only spent a small fraction of a billion does Mark not understand?

I took a brief look at the entires for Dragon and Orion at Encylopedia Astronautica.

Dragon masses at about 8000 kilograms and is designed to take people or cargo (depending on which version) to and from an orbital destination such as ISS.

Orion Command module masses at 9742 kilograms.
Orion Service module masses at 9819 kilograms.

Let us suppose that we follow Rand's suggestion that we split up the Orion (say the CM and the SM) and launch it in two pieces for every mission. That means that for every lunar mission, three launches (more actually because Rand doesn't like Ares V or any kind of heavy lift) have to come off within a short time every time for the mission to succeed. One launch fails, the mission fails.

Now, as Rand will doubtless point out, I'm not an engineer, but I communicate to those who are. There is a certain violation of the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) that too many launches, not to mention dockings, for every flight to the Moon implies that gives most people heart burn just thinking about it. Most people I talk to privately are actually worried about two launches having to go off within a short time of each other. Expanding that to three, four, or maybe more seems to me to be a prescription for a big string of failures and a lot of money wasted.

Now Rand does have one point that in theory the Falcon 9 Heavy could loft the Orion in one piece. Perhaps there should be a further examination of how that might be possible and whether it would save money at this point. I'm suprised that the Obama transistion team is not having a look at the possibility.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Fran Descher for US Senate?
The latest person to be mentioned for Hillary Clinton's Senate seat is none other than actress Fran Drescher. The reason that Fran Descher is being mentioned is that Fran Descher is mentioning that possibility.
Ares I Thrust Oscillation meetings conclude with encouraging data, changes
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich Arrested by the FBI
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff have been arrested at the governor's home in Chicago by FBI agents on corruption charges stemming from the selection of a successor to occupy Barack Obama's Senate seat.

More from Allahpundir.
Jay Leno Goes to Prime Time with New Show
In an apparent move to cut costs, NBC is going to populate the 10 to 11 PM Eastern, Monday through Friday time slot with a new show hosted by Jay Leno. Jay Leno is leaving The Tonight Show, to be replaced by Conan O'Brien.
The infighting has already begun between Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice.
Keanu Reeves is to star in a fi;m based on the legend of the 47 Ronin. The problem is that Keanu Reeves is not Japanese.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Barack Obama and Smoking
One of the more obscure facts about Barack Obama is that he is a smoker, which is to say he indulges in cigarettes from time to time. Barack Obama's smoking habit came up during his Meet the Press interview with Tom Brokow.
Mike Griffin's commercial space legacy, India and Germany in Space, and Alan Stern and the nature of the space industry.

On the last article, by the way, everyone should pay attention to this:
Recognizing just how difficult it is to engineer stuff that not only defies gravity, but performs useful functions in doing so, is hard and seems to be getting harder. Neither Boeing nor Airbus has been able to build and deliver their new, more efficient and economical airliners on time or within budget. Neither firm suffered from political interference or lacked for capital, yet the A380 and the Boeing 787 were subject to the same problems that are hurting the MSL and other NASA programs.

The successful NASA science programs—and Stern’s New Horizons mission to Pluto should be at the top that list—are all small or medium-sized ones that include few, if any, major leaps in technology. Today’s Mars rovers are larger versions of the Sojourner one that landed on the Red Planet in 1997. Their success can be ascribed to the fact they their design was an incremental improvement over what was built in the 1990s. MSL’s technology goes well beyond what we now have on Mars and is thus susceptible to the problems that hit any time an attempt is made take a big step forward.

These repeated failures are so pervasive that they cannot easily be blamed on any one factor: not on government bureaucracy, not on a lack of funding, and not on political pressure. The fact that the SpaceX Falcon 1 took so long to achieve a successful first flight, and that the Virgin Galactic/Scaled Composites SpaceShipTwo has been repeatedly delayed, cannot be blamed on an old-fashioned “big aerospace” way of doing business or mentality. Perhaps the problem has to do with the nature of what the industry does.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Anh "Joseph" Cao Elected to Congress
Republican candidates have won two Congressional elections in Louisiana, postponed until Saturday by Hurricane Gustav. In the race for Louisiana's 2nd District, indicted Democratic Congressman William Jefferson lost to new comer Anh "Joseph" Cao.
Meditations on Pearl Harbor Day
Pearl Harbor Day, December 7th, 1941, started as idyllic Sunday in Hawaii where winter is far gentler than in most of the rest of America. It ended with wrecked ships, destroyed planes, and the dead and the dying in the thousands.
Keith Cowing had a very weird post on NASA and "relevance."
This is where the new Administration's immediate priorities are going to focus: fixing the economy and the underlying infrastructure that keeps it going. Where NASA fits in this refocused political environment is not clear. If NASA can be seen as a player in the overall renewal of infrastructure, education, and increased efficiency, etc. then maybe it has a shot at getting some of that money. But when it comes to continuing an expensive "return to the moon" plan initiated by an unpopular president - one whose benefit to a battered economy and society is hard to explain, the future does not seem very bright. NASA's tired old excuses as to why it is important or relevant will no longer work. People at NASA need to start paying attention to this new political reality and where NASA does or does not fit into it.

My mind reels at the idea that NASA should not actually explore space any longer, as that seems to be some kind of irrelevant Republican thing that we won't do now that the One has ascended to the throne. Instead, the suggestion seems to be, let's see how NASA fits into Barack Obama's New Old Deal filled with pork barrel projects and badly planned and thought out infrastructure "enhancements."

Addendum: Oddly enough Barack Obama seems to have a different view of things than Keith Cowing, at least according to Jeff Foust, quoting the One on Meet the Press:
Part of what we want to do is open up the White House and remind people that this is the people’s house… When it comes to science, elevating science once again, and having lectures in the White House, where people are talking about traveling to the stars or breaking down atoms: inspiring our youth to get a sense of what discovery is all about.

Traveling to the stars? Sounds good to me.
Saddam Hussein as Vito Corleone, but with a country and an army? Well, why not?
Even though William Jefferson, of money stuffed freezer infamy, had been indicted, he was expected to easily win reelected in his heavily Democratic, mostly African American district. However it appears that Jefferson has been beaten by new coming, Republican Ahn Cao.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Kenneth Clark's great series Civilisation (British spelling) that first aired nearly forty years ago, is now online.
Newt Gingrich is now supporting the Louie Gohmert two month tax holiday.
Wikipedia has been kind enough to prove a comprehensive list of House M.D. episodes, along with the final diaghnosis of the paricular patient(s) for each.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Forrest Ackerman RIP
Senator Caroline Kennedy?
It is entirely possible that another Kennedy may be headed for the US Senate, in this case Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the slain President John F. Kennedy. New York Governor David Patterson has reportedly made the offer.
Barack Obama's Birth Certificate, Part Two
One of the oddest controversies to arise from Election 2008 is the question of Barack Obama's birth certificate. There are apparently people who believe that Barack Obama is not really President Elect because he is not a natural born citizen.
Nicolas Cage as a medieval knight.
Clark Lindsey the awards ceremony for John Carmack and the Armadillo Aerospace team for winning level 1 of the Lunar Lander Prize. Congratulations once again to John and the folks at Armadillo and good luck next year on level 2.
The British are considering their own lunar mission, which consists of four surface penetraters and an orbiter.
The War against Christmas continues, this time at UNC Chapel Hill.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Peggy Noonan has another of her fascinating, but meandering Wall Street Journal columns and this time she actually has a keen insight.
When Republicans say, in coming years, "At least Bush kept us safe," Democrats will not want tacked onto the end of that sentence, "unlike Obama."

There in a nut shell is Obama's great dilemna. If he dials back one iota on the War on Terror and something bad happens, he will get the blame and may not serve out his term in office. Hence, a national security team comprised largely of Republicans.
Glenn Reynolds explains "Why I Hope There is no Life on Mars"
It looks like "Star Wars" is about to acquire its first light saber.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Hangs Up on Barack Obama
What would you do if the phone rang and a voice on the other end announced that he was Barack Obama? If you're Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen you assume that it is a crank call and hang up.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling Published
The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which is supposed to be an actual artifact from the Harry Potter universe created by J.K. Rowling, has just been published and is available now for the first time to Muggle readers of all ages.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Jeffrey Bell is back, discussing the X-20 in particular and winged space craft in general.
Proposition 8: The Musical
One supposes that putting on a show is a far more positive way to advance a political cause than—say—standing outside a Mormon temple and screaming invective or attacking cross carrying little old ladies carrying crosses in the street.