It’s A Mystery

Frank Morring has a story over at Aviation Week on Chris Chyba’s testimony to Congress, in which he pointed out the same cost analysis that I did the other day:

Chyba repeated his 2009 warning that NASA has not been able to develop one vehicle and fly another at the same time, given historic budget constraints. But he said NASA may be able to learn from SpaceX as it develops the heavy-lift launch vehicle Congress has ordered it to build for missions beyond LEO.

“The other thing that I think one would want to understand in some detail would be why would it be between four and 10 times more expensive for NASA to do this, especially at a time when one of the issues facing NASA now is how to develop the heavy-lift launch vehicle within the budget profile that the committee has given it,” Chyba said.

I suspect the question was somewhat rhetorical — he probably knows the answer. As far as Congress is concerned, high costs are a feature, not a bug, as long as they don’t get so high that the program dies. Because high costs means lots of jobs for their constituents that they can point to at election time. A more efficient commercial industry would probably create even more jobs, but they would be a lot less visible. And note that whether or not anything is actually accomplished is secondary, if it’s a concern at all. Did anyone in Congress ever complain that Constellation was behind schedule? Maybe, but I don’t recall it. There were no complaints about the program from the rocket scientists on the Hill until it got canceled.

Praise Be To Jobs

I am completely unsurprised by this:

In a recently screened BBC documentary called ‘Secrets of the Superbrands’, UK neuroscientists found that the brains of Apple fans are stimulated by images of Apple products in the same areas as those triggered by religious imagery in a person of faith. According to the scientists, this suggests that the big tech brands have harnessed, or exploit, the brain areas that have evolved to process religion.

At least they’re not Scientologists. Well, OK, maybe some of them are.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!