Monday, June 28, 2010

Obama National Space Policy

The Obama Administration released its overall national space policy, covering civil (NASA and other agencies), military, commercial and international issues. I haven't had time to read it, but it reportedly includes a strong emphasis on international cooperation (in general, a good thing, but how that is implemented by this administration in terms of looking out for the national interest could be a cause for concern), increased role for the commercial space sector (definitely a good direction) and a restating of the administration's exploration and technology goals for NASA.

Rand Simberg looks at some of the pluses and minuses of the new policy. Expect much reaction to come from a variety of space community sources.

Robert Byrd, RIP

Senator Robert Byrd, the longest-serving senator in American history, died early this morning at age 92. His career included a long legislative history and a rhetorical skill that frequently referenced the Bible, classical literature and history. His public life had a dark side from his early involvement with the KKK to his generally pro-abortion voting record.

Senator Byrd was known for being the master at "bringing home the bacon" in terms of federal spending to his state of West Virginia, which has resulted in his name being attached to all kinds of public facilities, including a large radio telescope.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Inching Toward a Consensus on Space?

The debate over the change in direction for space policy has been fast and furious over the past few months. Alan Boyle covers the most recent flurry of activity. But as he notes, a couple of letters issued this week may indicate some convergence among the warring factions.

A letter from 56 leaders including former astronauts and NASA executives, industry executives, scientists, journalists and activists strongly supports the Administration's plans to engage the commercial sector in transporting humans to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) while urging an acceleration of the Administration's plans and funding of human exploration beyond Earth orbit.

Meanwhile, 62 members of Congress issued a letter urging the President to change his plan to include "the immediate development and production of a heavy-lift launch vehicle that, in conjunction with the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, may be used for either lunar or deep-space asteroid exploration to an asteroid and beyond, as you said in Florida." Unlike some previous criticisms on the Obama proposed policy, this letter omitted any attack on the commercial to LEO plan. That omission drew a positive response from entrepreneurial leader SpaceX, according to Boyle.
"It looks like Congress is on the right track, encouraging the administration to move forward as quickly as possible with heavy-lift," SpaceX Vice President Lawrence Williams told me in an e-mailed statement.

While it is too soon to be presumptuous, could these letters hint at a dance of convergence toward a sensible compromise that includes a strong push for commercial to LEO while retaining our existing Shuttle derived and/or commercial launcher assets to expeditiously develop a Heavy Lift Vehicle (HLV), perhaps itself to be operated under a commercial arrangement, and an acceleration of human deep space exploration and development?

Nanny Statists v. Best Friends

This Big Journalism piece on an NYT article shows how bizarre some of the self-presumed enlightened are getting in our culture.
A Best Friend? You Must Be Kidding

After all, from Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn to Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, the childhood "best friend" has long been romanticized in literature and pop culture - not to mention in the sentimental memories of countless adults.

But increasingly, some educators and other professionals who work with children are asking a question that might surprise their parents: Should a child really have a best friend?

The NYT article goes on with the blathering of "experts" about the "need" to intervene in how children go about choosing friends. I get the part about not allowing some children to be neglected or excluded, but trying to change one more practice that has been intrinsic to human nature for thousands of years is just another example of fantasy do-goodism run wild.

Even if the voters act to restore some sanity to government this fall, we'll still have along way to go to clean out the nuttiness that has taken root in many of our institutions.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Disaster That Won't Go Away


As President Obama addressed the nation tonight on the continuing oil spill that is wreaking havoc along the Gulf Coast, the oil continues to flow as BP continues efforts to try to stop it. The above image from NASA's Aqua remote sensing satellite shows the spread of the spill.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

No Time for a Truce!

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who has a solid prolife record and is considered a potential 2012 GOP presidential candidate, suggests in a recent interview that the next president "would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues" including abortion in order to deal with the "genuine national emergency" of the economy and debt. Needless to say, the negative reaction to this suggestion is strong from grass roots organizations and from other prolife political leaders such as Mike Huckabee.

Governor Daniels' suggestion is flawed on several fronts. Yes, we've dug ourselves into a serious hole with deficit spending and other irresponsible economic policies, but we'll be working at getting out of this mess for years to come and can't just put other issues on hold in the mean time.

Our nation has the ability to deal with multiple pressing issues simultaneously, along with sudden natural or man made disasters such as the Gulf oil spill that occur from time-to-time. In case anyone has forgotten, we have troops involved in two significant wars and the nation was subject to recent terrorist attack attempts. That threat certainly hasn't gone away (though whether we are sufficiently vigilant in countering it is another issue).

Most of all, the subject of abortion and other direct threats to human life such as euthanasia is such a monumental issue of injustice that dealing with it cannot be postponed in spite of our need to also deal with serious economic and national security concerns. The life issues of today are as significant as the issues of slavery and racial discrimination that have plagued this nation for much of it's history and for which resolution could not be delayed indefinitely. The loss of a million unborn lives a year constitutes as great a "national emergency" as any we've ever faced.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Year of the Conservative Woman

Last night's primary results reflected the continuing discontent of voters toward incumbent politicians and perhaps more toward failed incumbent policies. One highlight of yesterday's results is the advance of women who are to varying degrees, conservative and prolife.

California's result setting Republican Carly Fiorina against incumbent US Senator Barbara Boxer is particularly exciting. I do hope my friends in California will do the nation a big favor this year and dump Boxer.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Wallops Open House

I drove over to the eastern shore and down to the NASA Wallops Flight Facility open House today. The main facility next to the airfield (which is serving as a staging area for the Ocean City Air Show this weekend) was open. Along with the Range Control Center, balloon and sounding rocket preparation facilities and engineering labs, exhibits from various organizations including Orbital Sciences Corp. and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) were present.

The launch sites several miles to the south were not open as cement laying and other construction activities are underway at Orbital's Taurus II launch pad, in preparation for cargo deliveries to the International Space Station (ISS) scheduled to start next year. As we toast yesterday's historic launch advancing commercial space, it is exciting to realize that SpaceX and Florida can't have all the fun, as some of the action is coming closer to home.

Inside the Wallops Range Control Center

Orbital's Cygnus cargo delivery vehicle (full scale model) from both sides

Friday, June 04, 2010

First Falcon 9 Roars into History

After numerous delays through the late morning and early afternoon, SpaceX launched its first Falcon 9 rocket this afternoon from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Be sure to follow the various links to some spectacular pictures and videos of the launch.

This day marks a historic advance for commercial enterprise in space and, whatever the outcome of specific policy debates about the future direction of NASA, commercial ventures will undoubtedly play a leading role in space, including human spaceflight, in the near future. Commercial enterprise will really help lead to human expansion beyond Earth.

Congratulations to the SpaceX team on today's accomplishment.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

That Prelaunch Buzz

Tomorrow is the scheduled launch date for the first attempted launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle. The Falcon 9 rocket is the SpaceX company's vehicle for providing launch services to NASA and other customers (commercial, government and international).

Inevitably, the launch has gotten caught up in the debate over the Obama Administration's new space policy, which emphasizes commercial crew transport to the International Space Station (ISS). For a little perspective, a successful test will only be one step in demonstrating commercial readiness to carry humans to orbit. And a failure will by no means disprove the potential for commercial enterprise to carry humans into space. Space efforts, especially those involving a new vehicle, involve fits and starts and a lot of persistence on the way to providing safe and reliable new capabilities.

The Falcon 9 was raised on its pad at Cape Canaveral on Wednesday. Weather is forecast to be 60% favorable for launch, though prudently cautious management of this first test launch means that a a scrub to another day would not be surprising.
(SpaceFlightNow is providing mission status coverage here.)

Still, there is that feeling the night before a major launch attempt that we are about to witness history being made. Go SpaceX!

Using Humor to Frustrate Disinformation

A group of Israelis have put together a video parody of the so-called "peace and humanitarian activists" in the flotilla that was interdicted by Israeli forces on Monday. This is one more example of how new media allow cutting through the politically correct distortion of world events often projected by established media sources.