Obama The Muslim

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I don’t think that Donald Trump thinks that Obama is a Muslim. What he said (which which I agree) is that there is something on his birth certificate that he doesn’t want us to see, and that it might be that it says he’s a Muslim (I think it might also, or instead be that Barack Hussein Obama isn’t listed as the father Who knows, unless we can see it?). That doesn’t make him one, though. As I’ve said before, in order to be a Muslim (or a Christian) you have to believe in something greater than yourself. I’ve never seen any evidence that Barack Obama does so.

How To Explore

Alan Wilhite, Doug Stanley, Dale Arney and Chris Jones have put together an extremely politically incorrect technical presentation, in that it explains how one does serious space exploration and even development without using the Senate Launch System. They baselined Falcon 9 and its heavy version for the launch systems. I haven’t looked at it in detail, but as Jon Goff and Clark Lindsey have noted, it is a much more affordable concept than the SLS route. They appear to be assuming that the Merlin 2 won’t be developed, but if it were, I would imagine a significant decrease in recurring costs, particularly for the heavy. I’m curious to know how much cooperation they got from SpaceX for this work.

I’ll be looking it over and figuring out how to repurpose it to wage some political battles, but for now I’d just note chart 6, and the dominance of the costs for heavy lift in the HEFT studies. There are a lot of things that we could buy for that $2.5B per year that would have a lot more value.

One other point (as Jon also mentioned) — I’ve known Alan Wilhite and Doug Stanley for decades, having done a lot of work with them at Langley in the early nineties, and they’re both good guys, but Doug was in charge of the controversial ESAS activity that gave us Constellation (he had left Langley and gone to work at OSC, where he was working fairly closely with Mike Griffin). Whatever one wants to think about that effort, I would say that this one redeems him considerably. It also (as Jon notes) makes a very powerful statement about the earlier results and the need for heavy lift. Also, Doug was on record of opposing a lunar return, wanting to get on to Mars. I’m thinking that the de-emphasis on the moon in the new “Flexible Path” approach has freed him up somewhat (not to mention that he no longer has to please his former boss).

[Update a few minutes later]

I would add that there some very clueless comments at the NASA Watch post. Those commenting either didn’t actually read, or didn’t understand the briefing, if they still believe that HLV is more cost effective.

[Update a while later]

OK, I’m glancing through the briefing, and they don’t seem to be considering the fact that dry launching the in-space hardware will reduce its structural weight somewhat. Doing so will make the concept even better.

Also, Chart 31 is interesting — note the note: “These NAFCOM costs are a factor of 3 to 6 higher than actual costs for ISS Cygnus and Dragon DDT&E.”

NAFCOM is the NASA Air-Force Cost Model. I’ve been wanting to write a piece for a while now with the title, “The Cost Models Are Broken.” We’ve sort of known it since DC-X and the X-Prize, but SpaceX has really completely shattered them. This is actually good news, since parametric costing has been locking us into high costs on cost-plus contracts for decades.

More later as I continue to peruse.

[Update a while later]

Here’s the summary of the issues and benefits:


  • Authorization Act language
  • Requires longer storage of cryo propellants than alternatives and addition of zero-g transfer technologies
  • Multiple launches statistically will result in more launch failures, but most launches are to the depot and not on critical mission path
  • NASA loses some control/oversight
  • Added complexity of depot


  • Tens of billions of dollars of cost savings and lower up-front costs to fit within budget profile (no HLLV-based options fit within budget)
  • Launch every 2 or 3 months rather than 1 every 18 months with HLLV
  • – Provides experienced and focused workforce to improve safety
  • – Operational learning for reduced costs and higher launch reliability.
  • Allows multiple competitors for propellant delivery
  • – Competition drives down costs
  • – Alternatives available if critical launch failure occurs
  • – Low-risk, hands-off way for international partners to contribute
  • Reduced critical path mission complexity (AR&Ds, events, number of unique elements)
  • Provides additional mission flexibility by altering propellant load
  • Commonality with commercial crew/COTS vehicles will allow sharing of fixed costs between programs and “right-sized” vehicle for ISS
  • Stimulate US commercial launch industry

They forgot the biggest issue — it doesn’t preserve the Shuttle Industrial Complex, particularly in Utah. Though they may be subtly alluding to that with their semi-cryptic “Authorization Language” bullet. As for the benefits, it’s almost like they read my essay.

The Senate Launch System

I’ve added a new page to the “Issues” section of the Competitive Space Task Force web site.

[Update a while later]

The Space Frontier Foundation has just issued a press release calling for people to hit the Hill:

Please remind your Representative & Senators they are not rocket scientists!
Let NASA compete all the best ideas for a Space Launch System…
Don’t mandate an unaffordable/unsustainable “Senate Launch System”!

Six months into Fiscal Year 2011 the U.S. Congress is still trying to write a budget for a year that’s half over. Down in the weeds of the final “continuing resolution” (CR) will be NASA’s budget for human space exploration. The House-passed CR provides flexibility for NASA to choose the most affordable and sustainable approach. The Senate’s draft CR, which didn’t even pass the Senate, told NASA to build a 130-ton heavy-lift launch vehicle right away… using current contractors and 1970s era technology.

Everyone reading this alert wants NASA to start exploring again. But there are a lot of options for exploration transportation that don’t require paying the huge fixed costs of the Shuttle or Constellation forever. Heavy-lift capabilities can be developed incrementally over time, as we can afford them and are ready to use them.

Our space program needs an open and fair competition among not just different contractors but different and even multiple approaches to see which are the most affordable, most flexible, and most sustainable to develop and operate.

Instead, some in Congress want to make NASA build their favorite rocket, without competition, even though NASA has already told them it can’t be done for the resources available on anything like the timetable Congress wants. It’s time to stop the Congress from mandating the Senate Launch System, and let NASA compete ideas for one (or more) Space Launch System(s).

We can’t afford to repeat the mistakes of Constellation, and just rubber-stamp a pre-selected design for a rocket.

No more sole-source, non-competitive procurements for cost-plus contracts!

Every pro-space American should call their Senators and Representative, and tell them that they must encourage NASA to compete the Space Launch System’s design and contracts! This means you!!!

What we‘re asking you to do: Call the congressional switchboard (202-224-3121) – when you talk to them, tell them who your Senators and Representative are (or where you live), and they’ll connect you to the appropriate office. Alternatively, look them up, then call or fax their Washington, D.C. office.

How to communicate: Be polite and respectful, but don’t lose your passion. It’s important to avoid swearing or insulting words, but at the same time it’s also important to let the staffer know that this issue is important to you.

What to say: Congress should stop telling NASA what kind of rocket to build, and instead advocate the tried and true American approach of competition. NASA should be encouraged to compete not just the contractors but the best, most affordable ideas for exploration transportation. Anything less will be unaffordable, unsustainable, and un-American.

Thanks for your help!
Bob Werb, Chairman of the Board, Space Frontier Foundation

Well, what are you waiting for…?

[Update a while later]

Here’s the release at the SFF site, if you want to comment there.

Wising Up

The president’s approval ratings are lower than they’ve ever been:

Quinnipiac’s Peter Brown notes that the post-election bump has entirely dissipated, and puts the blame on Obama’s handling of “the budget deficit, the economy, foreign policy, health care, and energy policy.” That leaves out the Lily Ledbetter Act, of course, as the White House will surely point out in a press release, but otherwise comprises just about every priority issue voters have. It shows in the crosstabs, where Obama only gets a 39/50 job approval among independents.

In other words, he pretty much sucks at everything. And as a commenter points out, if he were white, his ratings would be even lower. Of course, if he were white, he’d never have gotten either nominated or elected.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!

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