Send More Money

I find it hard to get behind efforts like this, because there is no discussion of what NASA should actually be doing with the money, and it’s assumed that there are no problems at NASA that money won’t fix. But absent major reforms and ways of doing business, sending more money to NASA is like sending more booze to a teenager behind the wheel.

[Update a couple minutes later]

From the “About” page:

We hope you’ll join us in showing your support for NASA and human spaceflight by sharing this website with your friends and family, and by contacting your elected representatives.

Note the implicit assumption that NASA is identically equal to “Human spaceflight.” How naive. And counterproductive. When I look at Constellation, I have to channel William Proxmire: “Not one penny for this nutty fantasy.”

[Update Sunday morning]

Jeff Foust has further thoughts on the petition:

The site…just rehashes many of the old arguments, the ones that have not proven compelling in the past. The site includes a letter you can sign to send to your representatives, but the call to action is weak: “I urge you to provide adequate investment in our nation’s space program.” What may be one person’s “adequate investment” may be another’s wholly inadequate—or simply unaffordable.

[Bumped]

[Late Sunday afternoon update]

More thoughts from Clark Lindsey:

I know these guys mean well…but I can’t support giving more money to an agency that would waste it on absurdly expensive projects like Ares I/Ares V. If the cost of access to space cannot be reduced substantially from currently levels, it is pointless to continue with human spaceflight. These projects neither lower space access costs nor lay a technology development path towards lower costs.

Yes. As I’ve noted often, even if these programs were successful by their own metrics, they would be an utter failure in terms of opening up space to humanity, as all of NASA’s human spaceflight programs have been to date.

Fifty-Two Percent

That’s the (devastating) unemployment rate for young people:

Al Angrisani, the former assistant Labor Department secretary under President Reagan, doesn’t see a turnaround in the jobs picture for entry-level workers and places the blame squarely on the Obama administration and the construction of its stimulus bill.

“There is no assistance provided for the development of job growth through small businesses, which create 70 percent of the jobs in the country,” Angrisani said in an interview last week. “All those [unemployed young people] should be getting hired by small businesses.”

There are six million small businesses in the country, those that employ less than 100 people, and a jobs stimulus bill should include tax credits to give incentives to those businesses to hire people, the former Labor official said.

“If each of the businesses hired just one person, we would go a long way in growing ourselves back to where we were before the recession,” Angrisani noted.

…Angrisani said he believes that Obama’s economic team, led by Larry Summers, has a blind spot for small business because no senior member of the team — dominated by academics and veterans of big business — has ever started and grown a business.

But they went to Ivy League schools, and are smarter than us, so things will work out. Perhaps they just haven’t raised the minimum wage high enough.

Scrubbing The Atmosphere

Why aren’t we spending more money on it?

David W. Keith, a physicist at the University of Calgary, reviews some of the technologies for air capture of carbon and notes that there is not a single government program devoted specifically to that purpose. Dr. Keith estimates that less than $3 million per year in public money is currently being spent on related research, even though it could potentially be a bargain. He writes:

[Early] estimates suggest that air capture will be competitive with technologies that are getting large R.&D. investments. For example, the cost of cutting CO2 emissions by displacing carbon-intensive electricity production with roof-mounted solar photovoltaic panels can easily exceed $500 per ton of CO2. Yet even skeptics suggest that a straightforward combination of existing process technologies could probably achieve air capture at lower cost. And the fact that several groups have raised private money for commercialization suggests that there are investors who believe that it is possible to develop technologies to capture CO2 from air at costs closer to $100 than $500 per ton of CO2.

When I wrote about Richard Branson’s $25 million prize for figuring out how to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, I wondered if governments and other entrepreneurs would follow his example (and if we would someday have nanobots gobbling up carbon dioxide). So far, I guess, the answer is no, but perhaps Dr. Keith’s article will stimulate some interest.

Don’t count on it. It doesn’t give them enough control over our lives, or force us to tighten our hair shirts sufficiently.

[Sunday evening update]

Things seem to have gotten a little off track in comments. Let me restate the question, to get more useful responses. Given that the people currently running the country think that atmospheric CO2 is a problem, and given that we are currently spending much money to address this (wind, solar, other non-nuclear “green” tech, etc.), why are we not spending a higher proportion on this? I contend that I have already described why. The collapse of the Soviet Union having (at least temporarily) given socialism a bad name, the socialists have taken over the environmental movement, and are using it as a Trojan Horse for their (non-environmental) collectivist agendas. I’m looking for alternate explanations from the usual defenders of the watermelons. I’m also looking for plausible ones, but I don’t expect to see them.

French President To American President

Get real, dude!” Also, from the UK: President Pantywaist.

[Sunday morning update]

The president from Bizarro World:

Our alien president, rather than being a superhero disguised as a mild-mannered something or other, out to promote truth, justice and the American Way, is instead the doppelgänger from Bizarro World. In the American version of Bizarro World, our friends (England, Israel, etc.) are our enemies. Our active enemies and those countries that are merely passively hostile to us (North Korea, Iran, Castro, Venezuela, etc.) are the ones to whom we pay homage. Our cooling planet is a warming planet. The UN, one of the most corrupt organizations in the world, is the world’s only hope for peace. The way to cure the nation’s vast deficit is to incur more debt. Disarmament protects us. The only democratic nation in the Middle East is a Nazi country. Putting women in hijabs frees them. These are the values Bizarro World Superman/Obama has brought to us.

In other words, the world according to this alien being is a Bizarro World in which all principles, values and common sense are reversed. And just so you know this is absolutely true, I have it on good authority that the President’s real name, his Bizarro World name, is Amabo Niessuh Kcarab.

I think that the truth is kryptonite to him, though.

Michigan-Indiana

What a shame that Michigan had to win on a bad call. It takes something away from the victory. That wasn’t an interception, and they could have held them off.

[Update late afternoon in CA]

Well, Cal sure was a poseur, eh? 42-3? More room for Michigan to move up.

I should add, with regard to the Michigan game, they did pretty well considering that they couldn’t snap the ball for taffy. Hope the regular center returns soon. Or else his replacement practices a lot this week.

Water, Water, Everywhere

I’ve been wondering what Paul Spudis would have to say about yesterday’s press conference. Well, we need wonder no more:

What’s surprising about this new data is not the presence of water, but its pervasiveness. The published image (above) shows this water to be present from the poles down to about 60° latitude. This area subtends over 10 million square kilometers, or about one-third the surface area of the entire Moon! Although the water appears to be present only in the upper few millimeters of the surface, its total mass could be enormous, greatly exceeding the several hundred million tones estimated to be present as ice in the dark areas of the poles.

As always with good science, the new results raise many more questions than they answer. In part, this is a “chicken or egg” issue – do the newly discovered deposits result from surface alteration by water derived from the polar ice, or do they serve as a source for such deposits? How does water form, move, get destroyed or get cold-trapped on the Moon? What are rates of water deposition and removal? What and where are the ice deposits and how pure might they be? Right now we can only dimly perceive the beginnings of a whole new sub-discipline of lunar studies: polar geoscience.

Lunar geoscience. I guess the battle is lost…

“Thrust Oscillation May Be Less Than Feared”

Then again, it may not be:

…there were early claims by engineers and Ares I supporters that the test proved that that the Ares I rocket won’t shake violently during its ascent to orbit — as had been predicted — and that the shaking problem, called thrust oscillation, is no longer an issue for NASA.

But as the data is studied further, engineers and managers for NASA and ATK say those early conclusions are overstated.

NASA’s associate administrator for space operations, Bill Gerstenmaier, told NASA officials and contractors not to repeat the claims, especially to members of Congress, because, “That is not what the test showed.”

Picky, picky, picky. That mean old Gerst is such a party pooper.

Guys, it’s not possible to know how a motor will perform dynamically in free flight from a horizontal hold-down test. At best, they got some valid data to plug into the dynamics models, the latter of which they may or may not have confidence in (though the Ares I-X test will help to validate — or invalidate — them).

[Update a few minutes later]

“Rocketman” has similar thoughts:

Drawing good news conclusions from one test, pinned to the ground, is folly. Proposing Ares 1 as a tech development program for Ares V is also folly. And taking a crap shoot like Ares 1X is desperate folly. But, these are the kind of fool’s games that will be played from here to cancellation.

It will continue until the administration comes up with a policy. But like Afghanistan, it seems determined to continue to kick the can down the road for now. I don’t envy Administrator Bolden right now.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!