Category Archives: Space

America’s Shutdown Indifference

It is hard to work up sympathy for people who seem indifferent to the plights of the people in flyoverland who pay their salaries:

I mention these anecdotes not because I think the present record-setting shutdown is good or sane policy but because I am trying to illustrate why I and other Americans have a hard time caring much about it. In the popular imagination — and sometimes in dozens of little-read memos from the inspectors general of various departments — the average federal employee appears to be lazy, incompetent, performing meaningless tasks for too much pay, with an enviable array of benefits and other amenities (I still roll my eyes in disgust whenever I am reminded that there exist special credit unions for federal employees, whose pay and job security would be the envy of a hundred million other Americans). Government employees, at both the state and federal level, are among the only workers in the United States who continue to be represented by powerful unions, despite the fact that by definition they’re not bargaining against capital but against their fellow citizens.

This is to say nothing of the vast assortment of contractors, consultants, and hangers-on whose “work” has been temporarily interrupted by the shutdown. Their grotesque salaries have blighted the landscape with McMansions and driven housing prices in Maryland and northern Virginia to a level beyond what most families with children will ever be able to afford. So the people whose job it is to bid up the price of useless airplanes or dream up rival marketing schemes for some “cloud” project while our nation’s capital lacks a functional public transit system are going to have .05 percent fewer billable hours for the year? Boo hoo.

There is a lot of damage being done to space activities, though. Tethers Unlimited just had to do a 20% layoff due to contract delays. It’s only a partial shutdown, but NASA is part of it. There were a lot of papers not presented last week in San Diego because NASA employees weren’t allowed to attend the conference. Fortunately, people working Commercial Crew are “essential,” though they are working without pay. JPL may have to do layoffs if this continues into February.

[Via Glenn, who writes] “Coal miners lose their jobs for good and it’s ‘you’re obsolete, learn to code!’ Federal workers have a few paychecks delayed and the press is in heartstring-tugging mode.”

[Update a couple minutes later]

Roger Simon: The shutdown should go on forever:

That mysterious Trump official is also correct in saying that the shutdown should be about much more than the wall and border security. Serious as they may be, they are what the shrinks call the “presenting complaint.” The real issue is the function of government itself — what’s important and what’s not. A shutdown can serve as a living laboratory for examining the question of what is actually worthwhile that is missing because of that event. I daresay that most outside the Beltway would be hard pressed to find anything. (A fair number of these people can get around the National Parks by themselves, especially in the days of GPS.)

Both sides fear shutdowns not just because of that nauseatingly tedious inter-party blame game, but more importantly because it exposes this bloat and who caused it (i.e., who paid for what). This is the Deep State in action, in the off-chance anyone hasn’t noticed. What has been created by our government over decades is a self-preservation machine immune to the normal capitalist processes of creative destruction that have largely improved society over centuries, enriching almost everyone and extending life expectancy.

Yup.

[Update a few minutes later]

More good news: The IRS will issue refunds, but not do audits, during the shutdown.

Space Property Rights

Steve Wolfe just sent me a call for papers that’s right up my (and perhaps some of my readers’) alley:

I am chairing an interesting program at the ISDC this year titled the Space Settlement Policy Forum. It will be held June 5th in Washington, DC. Forum details and agenda are attached.

Though most consider discussion of space settlement related policies to be academic, for Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and other leaders the reality of space settlement is an imminent and highly desirable probability. In this forum we will take a sober look at the laws and policies that would or should be implemented in order to facilitate and encourage space settlement development. The Forum will address this broad challenge without presuming a single ‘silver bullet’ solution.

Topic Categories Include:

  • How Current Space Law Encourages and Inhibits Space Settlement Development
  • Potential Government Incentives for Private Funding of Space Settlements
  • Changes to International Law to Enable Space Settlement Development
  • Licensing Regime for Space Settlement Development and Construction—What would it look like?
  • Proper Role of Government in Space Settlement Development: Leading the Way or Being a Cheer Leader?
  • What Are the Space Settlement Enabling Technologies That Government Agencies Should Be Investing In Now?

Presentation Submission Guidelines:

  1. Prepare a 15-minute to present with slides
  2. Prepare a paper of not less than 3-pages that will be publish in the proceedings of the conference.
  3. The presentation must recommend, and argue for, a particular legal or regulatory change directly related to space settlement
  4. The paper must provide a summary that includes specific recommendations for policy change
  5. Interest must be expressed to Steve Wolfe immediately
  6. Abstract submission due by January 25, 2019

Kind of short notice, but I’ll probably be submitting multiple abstracts.

Iridium Last

SpaceX had a successful flight of a used booster this morning from Vandenberg, delivering the final birds of the new Iridium constellation. It was socked in in LA, so I couldn’t see it, but it looks like it was beautiful up on the central coast. Michael Baylor got a gorgeous shot, his first from a remote camera.

[Update a while later]

Here’s another one.