Category Archives: Space

Clearing The Road To Mars

I think that will be the theme of my proposed Kickstarter project.

Roadblock To Mars

BTW, if someone wants to volunteer to make a prettier version of this, I won’t complain.

[Update Saturday morning]

Per suggestions in comments, I’ve come up with a new version.

[Sunday-afternoon update]

Thanks to Ed Minchau, this probably conveys it better:

Roadblock to Mars


Another Russian Failure

There is clearly a serious QC problem in the Russian program. A Proton just suffered another Briz-M upper-stage failure, and delivered a Mexican comm sat into Sibero-stationary orbit, which isn’t particularly useful.

And yet, the House appropriators cut the commercial crew budget. Again.

[Update a while later]

The Russians have been averaging two-and-a-third launch failures per year for the past six years. Also worth noting that the trend is getting worse. That’s two launch failures in the past three weeks.

[Update a few minutes later]

Whoa! Two failures in one day. Apparently the reboost engines on the Progress currently at ISS failed to fire as well.

[Late-afternoon update]

Here’s a fairly comprehensive story on today’s launch failure from Stephen Clark at Spaceflightnow.


They still don’t know what happened on the Progress failure.

I noted at the time that this could result in a delay of the planned crew rotation on the 26th, and it has. I had a discussion with Jim Oberg on Facebook, and he didn’t think there was sufficient commonality, but he seems more concerned now:

Whatever the conclusions of that report may be, lessons can already be drawn from the accident, Oberg said.

“This and recent similar failures highlight the foolishness of judging mission success reliability based on historical statistics. It’s not just that each launch is a new roll of the dice — it’s a first roll of NEW dice,” he said. “The quality of fabrication and mission preparations reflect the CURRENT human and industrial context, and Russian space industry leaders have been so alarmed by those levels that they’ve repeatedly replaced the Russian Space Agency head with outsiders with nothing to show for it.”

This is a serious issue, and Congress’s response? To cut the funding for a Soyuz replacement.

“Leaving Orbit”

An interview with Margaret Lazarus Dean, whose new book seems to rest on false premises, almost an alternate fantasy history.

Part-memoir, part-historical document, part-manifesto, Margaret Lazarus Dean’s perceptive new book Leaving Orbit: Notes From the Last Days of American Spaceflight (which will be released May 19) asks the question, ”What does it mean that we have been going to space for 50 years and have decided to stop?”

Ummmm…we haven’t “decided to stop.” We’ve been going into space continually since the Shuttle was retired. Within two years, we’ll be doing it on American vehicles from American soil.

I do think there is a popular attitude right now, popular among young and old alike, that government always mucks everything up by its very nature, that private enterprise can always do everything better, and that attitude is particularly dangerous to funding big unprofitable projects like spaceflight. I meet a lot of people who are under the impression that SpaceX is going to take over, and improve upon, everything NASA did, but that’s a misunderstanding of the scope of SpaceX’s plans. A project like going to Mars, which is the next logical step, is so massively expensive it can only be paid for by a federal government. So if we want to go there, we are going to have to learn to trust.


The House Appropriations Bill

Once again, cuts Commercial Crew and space technology, and pours more money down the SLS/Orion rat hole. I hope this can get fixed in conference.

Note that, as usual, the comments by Gary Church are insane. But “Windbourne”‘s comment raises an interesting question. If you did a secret survey of NASA employees, how many of them would support SLS?

A Better Way To Open The Solar System

I see that Culberson just essentially wrote into law that SLS must be used for the Europa mission. Which means that he probably just doomed it.

Because of micromanagement by Congress, NASA’s plans for exploring (forget about developing) the solar system are FUBAR, at least in terms of human spaceflight. The NRC report last summer, and even the more recent JPL/Aerospace study are economically and programmatically insane, because they are compelled to use a vehicle that will probably never get built, and if it does, will be a drag of billions per year on the NASA budget.

I’ve got some free time right now, and a need for some income. I’m thinking about doing a new Kickstarter to show what could be done with that same budget over decades, if relieved of the shackles that Congress places on it. I think that the output would put any current plans to shame, in terms of what could be accomplished. It would be a handy document to have when the subject comes up for debate again, in the next administration.

Who would support it?