Category Archives: Technology and Society


No, not the theory, the software. Is there some good reason why it won’t synchronize with an IMAP server? I have this crazy idea that if email gets marked as junk locally, it should be removed from the inbox on the server, but it doesn’t happen. I don’t see it in the local inbox, but if I look at the server with roundcube, it’s all still there, and I have to manually remove it. The only thing I can find in a search to deal with it is to use offlineimap to synch, and point Evolution at the local files. But that seems like a PITA to set up. Why does this have to be so hard?

Mark Whittington

His latest nonsense:

The problem, from the perspective of commercial space supporters, is that Shank represents an institutional, NASA-centric viewpoint where it comes to space exploration. While at the space agency he supported the Bush-era Constellation program which was subsequently canceled by President Obama. In Congress, Shank helped support the Orion spacecraft and the heavy lift Space Launch System. Many commercial space advocates find these views abhorrent, believing that NASA should simply outsource its space exploration plans to the private sector, to companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin.

I don’t know any commercial space advocates who believe that. What we believe is that there is no need for NASA to be in the launch business.

Shank’s association with Mike Griffin has also raised some hackles. Griffin has been blamed, unfairly for the most part, for the troubles that beset Constellation before it was cancelled. In fact many of these problems, including the fact that the project was underfunded, occurred above his paygrade.

There is nothing unfair about blaming Mike Griffin for choosing a terrible rocket design that was certain to cost more than was allocated for it in the budget sandpile, in the belief that he could somehow talk Congress into increasing his budget.

Russia’s Rockets

What’s wrong with them?

“The Russian space sector is short of funding, and may be having difficulties maintaining its quality control standards,” said John Logsdon, a Planetary Society board member and professor emeritus of political science and international affairs at George Washington University.

Additionally, Russia’s workforce is shrinking. Since the 1990s, the country’s population has steadily declined, despite an influx of more than 9 million immigrants. Those migrants have filled some of the country’s job vacancies, but the overall effect, according to the Brookings Institute, is that Russia faces a sharp decline in labor quality.

Worse yet, due to larger economic pressures, the country isn’t able to make large-scale education investments, said David Belcher, an analysis manager at the Washington, D.C.-based Avascent consulting group.

“The effect of that is that they have a skills mismatch in certain industrial sectors, that appears to include the launch industry,” he told me. “The fact that we’ve seen several instances of Russian rockets not working as designed the past few years seems to support that thesis.”

And yet we’re relying on them to get our astronauts to the ISS, because “safety is the highest priority.”

Orbital ATK

This is interesting. The company is getting into the orbital assembly business:

Phase one of CIRAS began in September 2016 and will last a total of two years. During this period, Orbital ATK will lead the team in maturing technologies necessary for robotic assembly of large space structures, such as next-generation telescopes or solar-powered structures for transport or communications. These capabilities include methods to connect or disconnect joints on a structure and address precision measuring and alignment through a 15-meter robotic arm and a precision robot. The team will also develop the technology needed to conduct in-orbit modular assembly of structures, allowing parts to be brought to space as needed via multiple launches, which simplifies the design of spacecraft and reduces cost. [Emphasis mine]

They must realize that this increases the risk to SLS, and their SRB production. Have they decided that this new business focus is a better bet?