Saturday, July 31, 2010

Images of California

I've been seeing people and places in California this week since the end of the NewSpace conference (for which Clark Lindsey has assembled a resources page of postings and videos). Here are a few selected pics as my trip winds up. (Click on an individual image to enlarge it.)

Here's looking at you. Telephoto image of harbor seals laying on the beach near Half Moon Bay.

Overlooking Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe

Spectacular vista from deck of friends' house in Sierra foothills

That's me with the Golden Gate Bridge in background, taken by crewmember of boat on which I took a one-hour cruise on San Francisco Bay.

Friday, July 23, 2010

California, Here I Am

I'm in Sunnyvale CA where the Space Frontier Foundation's NewSpace 2010 conference is happening this weekend. In case you can't attend here in person, the conference is being webcast on

Journolist Bombshell

A new online journal created by Tucker Carlson, The Daily Caller, has revealed the contents of a now disbanded online discussion group called Journolist. The discussion group of numerous liberal journalists displays the extent of their shared world view and how it impacts delivery of the news. Mark Whittington provides a descriptive summary of this developing story.

These revelations may be remembered as being pivotal in the downfall of the already compromised credibility of the Old/conventional/"mainstream" Media.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lunar Blogiversary Tomorrow


Tomorrow is the 41st anniversary of the Apollo 11 pioneering expedition to the lunar surface, the day human beings first made landfall on another world. Check out Rand Simberg's ceremonial commemoration of that epic voyage.

UPDATE: 7/20 : Mark Whittington has a long list of relevant lunar links.

Tomorrow is also the seventh anniversary ('blogiversary') of the launch of this humble blog. Here is the inaugural post (Note that I was too inexperienced to think of giving it a title.) on Life at the Frontier.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Have the Rules Changed?

Jonah Goldberg looks at the current economic and political environment and asks if some of the fundamental political assumptions of the past century have changed here and abroad.
But what about when the rules change? For nearly a century now, the rules have said that tough economic times make big government more popular. For more than 40 years it has been a rule that environmental disasters -- and scares over alleged ones -- help environmentalists push tighter regulations. According to the rules, Americans never want to let go of an entitlement once they have it. According to the rules, populism is a force for getting the government to do more, not less. According to the rules, Americans don't care about the deficit during a recession.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back to Downtown Silver Spring

The giant shark (known as "Chompy" to locals) is once again piercing through the Discovery building in downtown Silver Spring MD, as seen in these pictures I took after breakfast this morning.

Of course it is no coincidence that "Shark Week" is returning soon to the Discovery Channel.

An Event That Changed History

As we celebrate the Apollo 11 moon landing 41st anniversary, another event occurred in 1969 that this article describes as the birth of a world-changing innovation that you are experiencing as you read this.

So Far, So Good

The Gulf oil well cap appears to be holding as BP and the government continue to monitor and contemplate further steps until the relief wells and permanent plugging are completed , hopefully within a few weeks.

Friday, July 16, 2010

As It Happened, the Apollo 11 Launch

Today is the 41st anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to land the first men on the Moon. Here is a (10 min) video of the final minutes of the countdown and the first few minutes of flight. Relive the moment, or experience it for the first time.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Todays Senate Compromise on Space

In what for Congress would be a rare public moment of bipartisan camaraderie, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation unanimously approved the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 on Thursday morning setting the latest "new direction" for NASA, apparently in coordination with the appropriations committees and reportedly with the tacit assent of the White House.

The highlights include one more Shuttle flight next year, immediate start to development of a Shuttle Derived Heavy Lift Vehicle (SDHLV), technology development and transition to commercial crew/cargo service to the International Space Station (ISS). There still may be some action on the Senate floor to fine tune the funding for technology development and commercial space. (Apparently, it takes a day or so to publish the bill's details, including funding levels, so there still seems to be some ambiguity as to how the funding plan for each topic has changed.)

One thing is clear. The process of developing a new direction has entered a new phase, beyond the pitfalls of the previous program, the uncertainty of the last year and a half, and the rancor that followed the release of the Obama Administration's original proposal in February. Let's see to it that it draws upon the best of NASA's heritage and the emerging commercial sector to open wide the frontier of space.

HobbySpace has numerous links here and here. also stay tuned to and NASA Watch for continuing coverage and links.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Princess Palin Takes On Darth Berwick

The bizarre policies coming from President Obama and the Congressional Democrats have been too numerous to keep up with, but Stuart Schwartz tells how Sarah Palin's warning of "death panels" in the health care bill last year foresaw the bizarre vision of Donald Berwick, the new Medicare czar Obama rammed through in a recess appointment, who is enthused about rationing and redistribution of health care.
As Investors Business Daily headlined, "The President's One-Man Death Panel" has arrived. Berwick has come to Washington to play Vader to Obama's Emperor Palpatine. The Harvard health specialist's job is to transform Medicare, to make the primary medical insurance system for seniors into an instrument of social policy, to take wealth and years from seniors and redistribute them to favored segments of the population. This is not about health care, and it is especially not about seniors; rather, it is all about the social engineering.

As with many of these issues, the article points out that the outcome may be different than in years past because of the more diverse media environment.
Sarah Palin was right, stubbornly hanging in when the mainstream media -- sensing "a great disturbance in the [leftist] force" -- trained its batteries on her. She was ridiculed on network newscasts, in the White House briefing room, by the media "stormtroopers [who] represented the most visible extension of Imperial [Obama] might." Darth Vader and Star Wars serve as metaphor, Palin as Princess Leia, while network anchors, commentator after commentator, all the president's men showered ridicule on her. "Downright evil," screamed Keith Olbermann; "stupid as s**t," proclaimed a popular Democratic blog.

But she persevered, and the truth emerged. The president and his congressional allies were forcing a crazy quilt of statist bureaucracies, socialist dysfunctions, and authoritarian controls. Each day brought more revelations as Tea Party activists, Republican staffers, ordinary citizens, and new media combed through Obamacare legislation. Sarah Palin was right. Popular radio host Mark Levin put it best: "Sarah Palin's not scary. You know who is? Barack Hussein Obama."

Conflicting Rumors from the Sausage Factory

Two Media reports provide differing accounts of the specifics in the NASA authorization bill being developed in the Senate Commerce Committee’s space subcommittee. One, from Florida Today, indicates that the subcommittee has settled on a compromise that accelerates a Shuttle Derived Heavy Lift Vehicle (SDHLV) and a "flexible path" human exploration program while leaving the Obama Administration's commercial space and technology development largely intact, albeit with some trimming of funds and schedule stretch out.

The other report, from the Orlando Sentinel, indicates the subcommittee bill would represent a more drastic repudiation of the White House policy, drastically cutting commercial to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and technology development funding.

I really hope that the first report is more accurate, as I support the expediting of heavy lift and human exploration but also the commercial engagement and technology development that are so vital to becoming a true spacefaring civilization.

I suspect that the sausage factory (another name for the legislative process, according to Otto von Bismark and others) is still grinding away, though we'll know the result no later than Thursday when the subcommittee is due to report its authorization bill.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Asteroid Lutetia Closeup


Europe's Rosetta spacecraft flew by the asteroid Lutetia on Saturday gathering spectacular images and data on the resources of this interesting object.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Moon, Mecca and Feelings

NASA Administrator Bolden stirred up a major controversy with his comments on Al Jazeera TV regarding NASA's role in helping Muslims "feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering." NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs has clarified the remarks to state that Bolden was speaking of his outreach priorities, not the total priorities of NASA. I can accept that explanation while I understand the backlash surrounding the original statement, given the Obama Administration's tendency to frame so much of its policies in a politically correct world view whether or not that really serves the national interest.

I wonder how many Muslims around the world interpret a statement that it is an objective of the US government to make them "feel good" about their accomplishments (perhaps a little condescending). If the Muslim world is concerned about its accomplishments and how it is perceived, that is a problem that Muslims are going to have to address among themselves.

All this talk about fe-e-e-e-lings just brings to mind an old seventies song.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Happy July Fourth!

As we join in the festivities of the Fourth, let's strive to keep to the values proclaimed in the Declaration that make it worth celebrating.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Kagan Divide

The nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court is drawing broad resistance from Republicans (here and here) and, according to a Rasmussen poll, a plurality of the public, though the Senate Democratic majority is still likely to confirm her.

The strong opposition is over a number of issues regarding Kagan's approach to constitutional interpretation and, in particular, her involvement in influencing medical opinion on partial birth abortion ban legislation.

Friday, July 02, 2010

More Space Convergence

The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee will propose a plan to the White House on July 15 that would accelerate development of a Heavy Lift Vehicle (HLV) and human exploration missions while promoting the transition to commercial service to the International Space Station (ISS), according to this MSNBC article. Of course, the devil is in the details, but hopefully this will lead to a sensible compromise that retains the innovative initiatives in the Obama space policy while strengthening the human exploration plan in an affordable and sustainable manor.