Thursday, May 31, 2007

ISDC Wrap-Up

I got back Monday from the ISDC in Dallas. Reports are on all of the usual sites. Since I obviously don't have a lot of time to link to articles on particular subjects, I'll just link to the most comprehensive list of ISDC links at Out of the Cradle.

One of the more interesting presentations at the conference was that by prominent lunar scientist Paul Spudis, who offered a succinct and balanced critique of NASA's execution of the Vision for Space Exploration.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Americans Vote for Optimist Leaders

David Shribman writes on how the voting public has historically favored candidates who project optimism about what can be done, where-ever they may stand on ideology or specific policies.
The contrast between the use of optimism and pessimism in politics was on full display in the last century. The pessimists included Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter. The optimists included Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Reagan and Bill Clinton. The optimists won, hands down, even though TR once warned, in his 1907 annual message to Congress, that if optimism is "carried to an excess, it becomes foolishness."

As one who believes we have the means to protect and provide for every human life at every stage and condition, defend freedom and enable it to maximize the potential for every human being to grow and prosper, and provide for the future of humanity by adopting innovative technological breakthroughs and expanding the human sphere beyond our planet of origin, this makes sense to me. I hope the candidates who share my views are effective in projecting that optimism.
Mother's Day Items

A quote from JPII saluting mothers (via Kathryn Jean Lopez) and a celebration of children with Down syndrome and their mothers (via ProLife Blogs).
Update to Alternative Space Launch Proposal

A group of people in the space community have developed an alternative Shuttle-derived launch system for launching the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and other cargo to space. Their proposal, called DIRECT (v.2.0 just unveiled), uses existing Space Shuttle technology with more simplified modifications as compared with NASA's current baseline Ares I/V systems. Given tight NASA budgets and performance issues surrounding the Ares vehicles, this proposal might just save the Vision of returning humans to the Moon and going beyond when things come to a crunch.

It has also been argued, probably correctly, that the best approach for human space exploration would be for NASA to contract for launch services from commercial providers and utilize in-space infrastructure development such as propellant storage and refueling. This will certainly be the way to go to sustain an expanding presence on the frontier. However, given the constituency politics invested in the existing Shuttle system industrial base, an alternative along the lines of the DIRECT proposal may be the most likely near-term politically acceptable path to saving the human exploration program while preserving other important NASA programs.

(As always, comments on space policy and specific ways of implementation are my own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer or any other organization I am affiliated with.)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Viv' la France

There've been too many developments in politics and world affairs to keep up with recently. (So much to blog, so little time!) One of the more interesting and positive turns this week is the election of Nicolas Sarkozy as France's new leader. Former Senator (and possible future President) Fred Thompson savors the moment and reflects on its meaning.
From the beginning, Sarkozy pledged to help heal the ill feelings that have existed between our two countries — especially over Iraq. He outraged French Socialists and journalists by coming to America during his campaign to meet with our president. He has praised America’s dynamism, freedoms and prosperity, and he promises to work for reforms that will make France more like the U.S.

Sarkozy’s victory over anti-American political forces was not just decisive; it was far more of a mandate than our own current congress claims. In his first post-election speech, he went out of his way to say, “I want to call out to our American friends to tell them that they can count on our friendship.”

Who would have thought a few years ago that American conservatives would be raising a glass of French wine?
Family Life on the Frontier

A society is only as strong as its families are, and that will be so where ever humanity expands. Veronica Ann Zabala-Aliberto writes in her mission journal how her family participated in a stay at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, a facility operated by the Mars Society as an Earth-bound 'analog' to a human outpost on Mars.
Carnival of Space is Up

Kudos to Henry Cate, who has organized the Carnival of Space (a collection of recently submitted space-related blog posts). The Carnival's second edition is up. This week's collection includes a number of interesting posts, including this humble blog's recent post on Stephen Hawking's zero-g flight.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Wally Schirra RIP

Wally Schirra, one of the pioneering Mercury astronauts who also flew on Gemini and Apollo missions that paved the way for the first lunar landings, died today at 84.