Sunday, February 29, 2004

'You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet'


The Sky & Telescope article correctly states in describing this image of Saturn from the Cassini spacecraft, which will arrive there in July.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Ash Wednesday and 'The Passion'
Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. Amy Welborn provided a link to a Lenten season resource site.

After work, I went to the 4:30 PM showing of The Passion of the Christ in Old Greenbelt. I don't have a whole lot of words to describe this powerful experience. It makes more real the familiar story of what He suffered for me and you and all of us. The cruel actions of His tormenters and executioners were not uniquely those of Jews or Romans, but of sinful human beings. Which comes right back to His act of saving love depicted in the movie.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

" serve generations hence. "
DC space policy consultant Jim Muncy looks at the most compelling justification for W's new space initiative in his Washington Times guest column today. He gets to the point when he says:

"What counts now is whether and how every participant in America's space enterprise, including not just scientists and engineers but politicians, entrepreneurs and taxpayers alike, will look into their hearts and commit themselves to serve generations hence. "

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Arnie demands San Fran obey the law
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has ordered the state AG to take legal action to terminate the city's 'gay marriage' factory.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Ten Myths about the Bush Space Plan
Per Jeff Foust at his Space Politics Blog: At a panel discussion in DC Tuesday evening, Jim Muncy of PoliSpace listed ten common myths surrounding W's space plans:

10) The Bush agenda is responsible for killing Hubble.
9) It leaves us dependent on the Russians.
8) It's a scheme to channel more money to Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
7) It kills ISS.
6) It's a political ploy to benefit the President in Florida.
5) The Moon is boring.
4) This will cost $1 trillion / Bush hasn't budgeted enough.
3) Robots can do this better and cheaper.
2) This is about science.
1) It's about NASA.
W defies the filibluster again.
President Bush installed Bill Pryor to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by recess-appointment today. The usual suspects are once again having conniptions. NARAL, in its press release, shrieked that:

President Bush today appointed one of the most virulently anti-choice and anti-privacy judicial activists to the Eleventh Circuit federal bench, Bill Pryor.

Way to go, W!!!
Considering another run... an independent presidential candidate is Ralph Nader. Obviously, this won't endear him to Democratic Party activists who've never gotten over the fact that Al Gore is not in the White House.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

21 things going for W...
...are listed by I'd add at least one more, the advantage he gains from upholding a prolife position.
Senate Subcommittee Field Hearing... Houston Wednesday on the President's new space vision. The panelists expressed a strong emphasis on innovative ways to engage the private sector in a big way. Committee links to remarks by the panel and elected officials are here.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

My Input to the Space Commission

The President's Space Commission is currently seeking public input. Go to the commission's web site and select the 'Contact Us' button to submit your input. Here is what I submitted to the commission today, including my personal view on 'why' explore and open the frontier and some recommendations on how to go about it:

I am an engineer who works in the space industry and I am active in several space advocacy organizations. However, the views presented here are my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or of the organizations I am affiliated with.

Why explore space? Reasons commonly given are science, spin-offs or inspiration. Certainly, basic science must be a part of our space activities, as pure research can contribute future practical benefits that cannot now be imagined while provoking the deepest questions about our place in the universe. Certainly, technologies developed from earlier space efforts have found their way into many aspects of our everyday lives. And those early space activities certainly did inspire many young people, including myself, to study challenging subjects and pursue careers that contribute significantly to our society’s economic and technological advancement.

However, that inspiration was based on the expectation that those early explorers were opening the path for many to follow in our lifetime. Does the fact that that hasn’t happened indicate that the importance of opening this frontier to society is not sufficiently recognized?

I would like to propose that the opening of this expansive frontier would make a crucial difference to the economic and social/cultural future of our society.

The potential of space activity to spur new and growing industries has direct relevance to some of the down-to-earth problems that concern people today. The need to create new jobs as familiar ones migrate overseas or are replaced by automated processes is becoming increasingly evident. So, too, is the need to generate new revenue to meet the needs of an increasingly older population as the traditional Social Security and Medicare programs and private retirement plans face an uncertain future.

Looking to the longer term, does the cultural worldview tend to welcome future generations or fear them as a danger to the Earth’s environment? Population trends in America are tending toward fewer young workers supporting an increasingly older population. Populations in Western Europe are in actual decline and some would impose this dismal prospect on the rest of the world through coercive population control programs.

But isn’t there a more hopeful prospect for the future that doesn’t pit people against the planet? Professor John Lewis of the University of Arizona, in his book Mining the Sky, describes the potential abundance of resources in the Solar System, particularly in the asteroids. Might not the most compelling justification for exploration be to provide future generations with the resources to sustain their lives and the ability to live in greater freedom?

For our space exploration plans to fulfill this great potential, it is important that they be carried out in a sustainable way that truly enables the merchants and the settlers to follow the explorers. This rules out ‘business as usual’ as practiced by NASA and the aerospace industry over the past few decades.

The proposed FY2005 NASA budget offers some hopeful hints of change. The ‘Cargo and Crew Services’ (a.k.a. ‘ISS Transport’) line item to seek alternative means of accessing the International Space Station and the ‘Centennial Challenges’ prizes for innovative technology development are good starts and should be ramped up and broadened in future years. Data purchase of, for example, high-resolution lunar mapping would be another way for NASA to take more of a customer role for entrepreneurial space ventures.

The traditional Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) should not be allowed to add to the cost of the exploration effort, and Congress should look at reforming or bypassing the usual procurement labyrinth.

While the exploration program sees the Moon as a venue to test systems and practice for Mars exploration, it should also serve as a catalyst where NASA acts as a customer for commercial services provided on or near the Moon. This could jump start economic activity on the Moon utilizing local resources. A sustained industrial presence on the Moon would also enable affordable science activity to continue after the exploration program has moved on to Mars.

Congress should pass pending legislation to enable new commercial space industries. The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 will codify the regulatory environment so that today’s fledgling suborbital spaceflight industry has a chance to grow into a robust orbital transportation industry that can contribute to the sustainability of the exploration effort. The Zero-G/Zero-Tax bill will provide incentives for new space industries that will follow the explorers into the Solar System.

In summary, to carry out the exploration program sustainably over decades requires challenging entrenched ways of doing business and engaging the participation of the private sector. And, once again, we need to communicate how the drive to explore connects with the fundamental social/cultural imperative to provide for the life and liberty of future generations.

Friday, February 13, 2004

A perspective on Mel Gibson's Passion...
...and the controversy surrounding it by Rabbi Daniel Lapin. One of many resources being provided to accompany the film is Catholic Passion Outreach. Here is the movie's official site, which includes a link to theatre listings
Sanity come to a Florida appeals court...
...with a decision in favor of Terri Schiavo, her family and Governor Jeb Bush.
Not sure who to attribute this to, but it's making its way around the 'net.

Monday, February 09, 2004

SETI Rising
The SETI team is back at the Arecibo radiotelescope in Puerto Rico for another Project Phoenix observing campaign. Follow their progress via the Arecibo Diaries and SETICam.
President Bush's Space Initiative
The Aldridge Commission which will further define W's vision has established its website. The first public hearing is set for Wednesday in DC. Go to the 'Contact Us' button on the website to post comments to be forwarded to the Commission.
Roe No More
"The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has announced that it will hear oral arguments in Norma McCorvey's attempt to overturn the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that overturned pro-life laws across the country banning abortion."

I'm not a legal expert, so I don't know the probability that this development will directly lead to the overturn of Roe v. Wade, but something big may be underway here.
Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!
Yeah, you probably know by now, but just to mark forty years (ouch!) since the Beatles first came to America.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Signs of Innovation in NASA Budget
The FY2005 NASA budget proposed by the White House earlier this week includes some items long sought by those in the space community who have been urging greater government enabling of the entrepreneurial private sector.

The Alternative Access program, now known as Crew & Cargo Services, is funded under Code M (Human Spaceflight) under the ISS line-item (pdf). The description states:

It is necessary for NASA to establish a transportation capability or crew and cargo for the space station program after the Shuttle is retired. NASA intends to meet this need through the
purchase of services for cargo and crew transport using existing and emerging capabilities, both domestic and foreign.

Also, in the Human and Robotic Technology line item (pdf), there is an initiative called 'Centennial Challenges' which is a fund ($20 million in FY2005) to award prizes for innovative solutions to spacefaring technological challenges.:

The Centennial Challenge Program is an experimental approach to stimulating innovation and competition in technical areas of interest to NASA. In commemoration of the Wright Brothers' seminal flight at Kitty Hawk, the Centennial Challenge program will establish purse awards for a portfolio of technical accomplishments that could advance the state of civil space exploration and aeronautics.

If these initiatives are followed through, it will indicate that NASA is starting to reform its way of doing business and looking beyond traditional bureaucratic practices to meet the challenge of human exploration of the Moon and beyond.
Spell-checking in the Age of Blog
The spell-checker on Blogger is quite useful in checking for typos when I'm ready to post on this blog. It doesn't have the most comprehensive or contemporary vocabulary, though. I was a little disappointed when I found it did not recognize words such as 'prolife' or 'spaceflight'. What I found most astonishing, however, was that it did not recognize the words 'blog', 'blogger' and 'blogging'.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Dems Nomination Race Narrowing the Field.
Senator Joe Lieberman drops out as John Kerry wins several primaries and John Edwards wins South Carolina.
Around the Beltway and the Solar System
President Bush has sent his $2.4 trillion FY2005 budget to Capitol Hill yesterday. NASA's portion of that is $16.2 billion (~0.67% of the total). Outline and detailed downloads can be found here.

The White House announced the membership of the commission that will start to define the specifics of President Bush's vision for exploration of the Moon and beyond.

Finally, both Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, are ready to roll. Check out the NASA/JPL project website for continuing updates.