Saturday, August 29, 2009

Discovery Enroute to ISS

Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray-Tom Farrar

Space Shuttle Discovery launched just before midnight Friday night on the STS-128 mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The ship will deliver scientific research equipment and a treadmill named COLBERT to the ISS. Three EVAs (spacewalks) will be performed to service the station.

Astronaut Jose Hernandez is making his first flight on this mission. His wife Adela runs a restaurant near the Johnson Space Center called Tierra Luna Grill, which is Spanish for Earth Moon Grill, that I ate at several times while visiting Houston preparing for the Hubble servicing mission that flew in May.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Edward Kennedy, RIP

The passing of Senator Ted Kennedy Tuesday evening at age 77 after a year long struggle with a brain tumor marks the passing of a life intertwined with decades of history. Mark Stricherz provides a balanced assessment of Ted Kennedy's political activities and personal life.

While he pushed for policies he felt advanced the cause of the poor and vulnerable, Ted Kennedy's attachment to pro-abortion policies that disregarded the lives of the unborn betrayed those ideals and cost him the moral credibility to be persuasive to many on those other issues.

May God have mercy on his soul and provide comfort to his family who have suffered so much tragedy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Commercial Space Adventure Taking Off

A commercial venture using old Soviet military space hardware (with systems upgrades) expects to be carrying researchers into orbit for up to a week within a few years. Excalibur Almaz Limited (EA) made its announcement today at the annual Moscow Air Show in Russia. The company has enlisted some well respected NASA and corporate veterans plus other space companies in its venture.

This is an exciting development as each serious commercial venture adds credibility to the growing commercial space industry as a whole.

Robert Novak, RIP

Famed writer and columnist Robert Novak, who was close to many of the historic political events of recent decades and a strong conservative voice, died today at age 78. He was known for, among other things, taking a strong prolife position.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Conservatives Organizing Online

The Right Online conference occurring in Pittsburgh this weekend, featuring prominent political and media leaders and grassroots bloggers has been covered on C-SPAN. The event is designed to encouraged conservative citizens to strengthen online efforts to promote conservative ideas in politics.

Woodstock Anniversary

This weekend, there much reminiscing and commentary on the fortieth anniversary of the Woodstock music festival in upstate New York in 1969. (Commemorative web sites here , here and here) The festival has become known as the iconic cultural event of an era, though it probably more reflected the (good and bad) trends of that time, some of which still affect society today.

One thing I find interesting is that an event that totally broke down logistically, leaving many thousands stuck in rain and mud for three days, was and is celebrated as an experience of peace and community. It's hard to imagine such an organizational calamity would occur today without flaring tempers, massive lawsuits, and numerous postmortems on TV and radio news and talk shows.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Final Public Meeting

The "Augustine Committee" reviewing US plans for human spaceflight held its final scheduled public meeting this afternoon in DC, which I attended. While past meetings featured guest speakers highlighting various concepts and proposals, the committee used today's meeting to focus on narrowing a complex set of options for the direction and architecture of the human spaceflight program that can be sustained in difficult budget circumstances. Dr. Edward Crawly presented the Integrated Options (PPT) under consideration. Former astronaut Dr. Sally Ride presented an eye-opening presentation (PPT) on how the current plans and some of the proposed options fit into a realistic budget profile (or not, which may drive significant changes to the space plans, as explained in these articles linked by NASA Watch). Dr. Wanda Austin then presented Evaluation Measures and Criteria (PPT) which were used by the committee in an extensive and informative deliberation on the options under consideration.

I left before the meeting concluded, after Committee Chairman Norm Augustine explained to the audience that this process was required by law to be carried out in public and not be agreed upon ahead of time behind closed doors. He said that the committee would stay 'til midnight if necessary to complete their deliberations, though the audience was not required to stay (though I think they were actually going to be able to wrap up long before midnight). I think there may have been more public transparency shown today by Mr. Augustine's committee than we've seen all year from the White House and Congress as they try to push a massive health plan, stimulus package, etc.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, RIP

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of President John F. Kennedy and Sens. Robert F. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy, passed away on Tuesday at age 88. Here is the extensive Washington Post obituary, which describes how Mrs. Shriver's faith and family experience inspired her role in founding the Special Olympics and her other initiatives on behalf of society's most vulnerable members.

Consistent with those efforts, Eunice Kennedy Shriver remained a stalwart defender of the dignity of every human life at every stage and condition.
Shriver, a lifelong pro-life Democrat, was the sister of President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy, and Senator Edward Kennedy.

But she was honored by Feminists for Life of America in 1998 as a "Remarkable Pro-Life Woman."

When she received the award, FFLA president Serrin Foster tells, "her husband phoned the office and asked us to send over a stack of copies for his family and friends. He was delighted that we recognized her in this meaningful way."

"Her legacy will live on in our work and especially in the work of Special Olympics," Foster says.

Shriver was a member of the advisory committee of the Susan B. Anthony List, a women's group dedicated to electing pro-life women to Congress

Unfortunately, Mrs. Shriver's concern for the dignity of every human life was not shared by the powerful leaders of the Democratic Party, including some in her own family. I see this is the underlying reason why they now find themselves lacking moral credibility as they try to sell a massive health plan to the American people.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Free Speech and Health Care (or 'Community Organizing' for the Rest of Us)

What happens when those who think they are so 'enlightened' that they think they should impose their utopian fantasies on the rest of us are challenged by a peaceful popular uprising in communities around the country? Well, citizens who oppose the thousand plus page 'health care' plan that threatens the lives of the unborn and the elderly and the quality of care for everyone in between have been labeled an "angry mob" by the powers that be. So far, it seems violence has only occurred when goon squads show up to counter the citizen protesters.

Peggy Noonan writes that suddenly President Obama and Democratic congressional leaders are looking "desperate".
We have entered uncharted territory in the fight over national health care. There’s a new tone in the debate, and it’s ugly. At the moment the Democrats are looking like something they haven’t looked like in years, and that is: desperate.


What the town-hall meetings represent is a feeling of rebellion, an uprising against change they do not believe in. And the Democratic response has been stunningly crude and aggressive. It has been to attack. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the United States House of Representatives, accused the people at the meetings of "carrying swastikas and symbols like that." (Apparently one protester held a hand-lettered sign with a "no" slash over a swastika.) But they are not Nazis, they’re Americans. Some of them looked like they’d actually spent some time fighting Nazis.


All of this is unnecessarily and unhelpfully divisive and provocative. They are mocking and menacing concerned citizens. This only makes a hot situation hotter. Is this what the president wants? It couldn’t be. But then in an odd way he sometimes seems not to have fully absorbed the awesome stature of his office. You really, if you’re president, can’t call an individual American stupid, if for no other reason than that you’re too big. You cannot allow your allies to call people protesting a health-care plan "extremists" and "right wing," or bought, or Nazi-like, either. They’re citizens. They’re concerned. They deserve respect.

Robert Hahn, writing at RedState, points out the disconnect between those in power and those they are trying to marginalize.
Many Democrats, including many editors and reporters, have come to believe that hundreds of middle-aged and older people - people with incomes and lives, and plenty else to do - have taken part-time jobs as rent-a-mobs to shill for insurance companies, or the RNC, or somebody. They think this because that is how Democrats create similar events: they pay college students or homeless people to show up at a certain place at a certain time to wave signs and put on a display for their fellow Democrats in the media, who dutifully report that the citizenry is outraged at whatever the Democrats paid them to be outraged about.

Causing the same sort of outcome among conservatives is more like herding cats. Few conservatives need your money, at least not the sort of pittance that would motivate a student or a street person. Most of them would be insulted if you offered. Having tried to organize many of these things myself, I can tell you that if conservatives care about a cause, they will show up in their own car with their own sign ready to give ‘em Hell. If they don’t care about the cause, nothing is going to get them away from their quite rewarding lives.

Let's pray that cooler heads prevail and that these confrontations don't result in a new wave of violence in our nation.

Speaking of health care, one good way to counter the dangerous fantasy that they're trying to impose on us is to present a sensible alternative like that proposed by Charles Krauthammer.
The plan is so simple it doesn't even have the requisite three parts. Just two: radical tort reform and radically severing the link between health insurance and employment.

Another way is through humor, like this ditty that borrows from a popular holiday favorite. (Hint: this time what grandma gets hit by is not a reindeer.) (Hat tip to Hugh Hewitt.)

Moon: the Movie

I went to see the movie Moon tonight in Bethesda, apparently one of only two theaters in the DC area where it is playing. Set at a future moon base mining Helium 3 for energy production, the film takes on a surreal plot.