Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Meeting the Lord of the Rings
The Cassini spacecraft is in the middle of it's Saturn Orbit Insertion Burn. Spaceflight Now is providing a continually updated mission status.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Still Trying to Party Like It's 1992
But the Democrats will have trouble keeping the party going since they have been lethally eliminating so many future partiers.
End Run Around the Forces of Darkness
The US and Iraq completed the power handover two days early.
Bush Blogroll Feature
I've just added a feature from the Blogs for Bush site, which links to the 25 most recently updated sites from the Bush Blogroll. Check it out immediately below my permanent blog list on the right.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Gone Home to the Lord
My Mom passed away early Monday morning after a period of declining health. My brother and sisters and I were with her at her hospital bed as late as Sunday afternoon. In this time of sadness we are comforted by the support of family and friends, many happy memories and the promise of life beyond death.

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away."
Rev 21:4
A New Space Age Begins

Scaled Composites, LLC

On Monday June 21, Mike Melvill became the first pilot to fly a privately developed craft into space. The craft, SpaceShipOne, was developed by Scaled Composites of Mojave, California.

Space.Com provides an archive of stories and photos about the effort. Comments on the meaning of this accomplishment are provided by the Space Frontier Foundation and the National Space Society.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Reliving that horrific Morning
The 9-11 Commission today reviewed the details of the hijackings and attacks of September 11, 2001, including replays of voice transmissions.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The Space Commission Report

The Commission appointed by President Bush to study implementation of the Vision for Space Exploration delivered its final report today. The full report can be downloaded (2.17 MB, Adobe PDF) from the Commission web site.

Spaceflight Now provides a comprehensive report. The article describes the Commission's numerous recommendations, some of which are:

The panel recommended establishment of a permanent Space Exploration Council, chaired by the vice president or some other high-ranking official, that would include representatives of all appropriate federal agencies. Reporting directly to the president, the council would be empowered "to develop policies and coordinate work by its agencies to share technologies, facilities and talent with NASA to support the national space exploration vision."

At the same time, NASA's Apollo-era management structure "must be decisively transformed," the commission said, recommending that:

NASA should turn over many functions to private industry with the ultimate goal being to allow "private industry to assume the primary role of providing services to NASA, and most immediately in accessing low-Earth orbit. In NASA decisions, the preferred choice for operational activities must be competitively awarded contracts with private and non-profit organizations." NASA's role, the panel concluded, should be limited to those areas "where there is irrefutable demonstration that only government can perform the proposed activity."

NASA should define clear lines of authority and accountability as part of a more focused and integrated agency.

NASA field centers should be restructured as Federally Funded Research and Development Centers in which a contractor operates the facility for the government. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., which is operated for NASA by the California Institute of Technology, is an example of a working FFRDC. Putting other NASA centers on a similar footing would "enable innovation" and "stimulate economic development," the panel said. Some functions, however, would remain under direct government control.

Three new NASA organizations be created: A technical advisory board that would provide an independent assessment of technical feasibility and risk mitigation; an independent panel to verify cost estimates; a research organization to sponsor development of high-risk technology.

NASA should adopt personnel and management reforms in line with accepted policies and practices in place across cutting edge government and industry organizations.
The panel recommended that NASA establish teams to identify critical enabling technologies and "aggressively use its contractual authority to reach broadly into the commercial and non-profit communities to bring the best ideas, technologies and management tools into the accomplishment of exploration goals."
Congress should provide financial incentives, the commission said, to attract entrepreneurs to the high frontier. And Congress should re-examine existing treaties to resolve open questions about property rights in space to encourage development of space infrastructure.

Later in the article, these recommendations are included:

The commission also recommended that NASA:

Seek input from the scientific community to "ensure that maximum use is made of existing assets and emerging capabilities."

Ask the National Academy of Sciences to consider "how machines and humans, used separately and in combination, can maximize scientific returns."

Use a "discovery-based criterion" for selecting destinations beyond the moon and Mars "that also considers affordability, technical maturity, scientific important and emerging capabilities including access to in situ space resources."

Monday, June 14, 2004

Peeking at Phoebe

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

NASA's Cassini probe is arriving at the Saturnian system and has imaged this outer moon as it passed by on Friday. I've added the NASA Cassini-Huygens page to my links list
Sometimes the Supreme Court gets it right... today, when it left 'under God' in the pledge.

Friday, June 11, 2004

By the setting California sun...
...and the sound of a lone bagpiper playing Amazing Grace, Ronald Reagan is laid to rest.

Link by Nellis AFB

God bless Ronald Reagan with eternal rest and comfort Nancy and the family.
Reagan's Legacy
Ronald Reagan was not only the 'Great Communicator', he communicated great ideas. One that hasn't gotten enough recognition is his 1983 essay Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation.

Abraham Lincoln recognized that we could not survive as a free land when some men could decide that others were not fit to be free and should therefore be slaves. Likewise, we cannot survive as a free nation when some men decide that others are not fit to live and should be abandoned to abortion or infanticide. My Administration is dedicated to the preservation of America as a free land, and there is no cause more important for preserving that freedom than affirming the transcendent right to life of all human beings, the right without which no other rights have any meaning.

A culture that values human life will strive to provide for future generations. Rand Simberg describes President Reagan's role in enabling the commercial space industry that is now awakening.

As history continues to play out off the planet, the late president will indeed be remembered as a visionary pioneer in space - but not for any decisions he made with respect to new NASA programs. Rather, it will be for his much-less-publicized but more far-ranging space-policy decisions - those that affected the neglected private sector.

Meanwhile, as I've been writing this, I've been watching the motorcade approach the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, as citizens on Highway 101 and on overpasses have paused to watch and say goodbye.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Witness to History
Living near Washington, DC allows for some convenient opportunities to witness historic events. This is certainly true this week so Wednesday afternoon I went downtown to witness the events surrounding the funeral of President Reagan.

First, I witnessed the procession along Constitution Avenue. The precision of the military units was impressive and the cadence of the drums was especially stirring. The flag draped coffin on the caisson was followed by the riderless horse which carried what I later learned were Mr. Reagan's own boots. After the procession passed my location and I started moving toward the Capitol, the formation flyover of 21 F15E fighter jets was awe-inspiring.

I made my way to the 'overflow' area, where the line was forming to pay respects in the Capitol Rotunda. Despite a four-and-a-half hour wait in line and a twenty five dollar cab fare back to Greenbelt to pick up my car (the Metro subway system having turned into a pumpkin at midnight), it was a powerful moment to pray and pay my respects as I passed through the Rotunda a few miutes before midnight. It was a rewarding and inspiring experience that I'm glad I did not miss. The mood among the people seemed to be one of deep respect yet celebration of Ronald Reagan's life.
Venus Transit
Clear (though hazy) skies Tuesday morning allowed me to observe the rare transit of Venus across the Sun. I set up my old 2.4 inch refractor with jury-rigged projection on to white cardboard at 60x magnification from ~6:30 'til transit end outside the building where I work in Greenbelt. Image of Venus' disc was a small but sharp dot. I enjoyed showing the transit to several people as they arrived for work.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

A Lasting Legacy

White House Portrait

The world lost one of the great leaders of recent history when Ronald Reagan passed away yesterday at the age of 93. Mr. Reagan's willingness to challenge politically-correct thought conformity was at the core of his role in winning the Cold War, stimulating economic growth and standing for cultural principles such as the dignity of every human life. A consistently optimistic attitude and demeanor enabled the 'Gipper' to advance his principles and policies.

Major speeches by the "Great Communicator" are linked in this CNN compilation. An excerpt from his first inaugural address is as timely today as it was then:

Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have. It is a weapon that we as Americans do have. Let that be understood by those who practice terrorism and prey upon their neighbors.

On this 60th anniversary of D-Day, it is timely to remember this address from twenty years ago on Omaha Beach:

Today, in their memory, and for all who fought here, we celebrate the triumph of democracy. We reaffirm the unity of democratic people who fought a war and then joined with the vanquished in a firm resolve to keep the peace.

And who can forget those words of comfort when the President addressed the nation on the loss of Space Shuttle Challenger and her crew:

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to touch the face of God.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

A Date With History

SpaceShipOne on previous test flight. Scaled Composites, LLC

Scaled Composites has announced that June 21 is set for the historic first attempt at private human spaceflight.

Based on the success of the June space flight attempt, SpaceShipOne will later compete for the Ansari X Prize, an international competition to create a reusable aircraft that can launch three passengers into sub-orbital space, return them safely home, then repeat the launch within two weeks with the same vehicle.
A Step Toward Robotic Rescue, Space Telescope Science Institute

NASA yesterday released a Request For Proposals to industry to provide systems to service and/or de-orbit the Hubble Space Telescope. This is a significant though interim step toward committing to a robotic servicing mission to extend and enhance the performance of the orbiting observatory.
Why This Election Matters
George W. Bush and John Kerry have differing reactions to a federal judge's ruling that partial birth abortion is a constitutionally protected activity.