Back To The Drawing Board?

I’ve never been a big fan of nuking asteroids, but this test should cause some concern:

Don Korycansky of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Catherine Plesko of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico simulated blowing up asteroids 1 kilometre across. When the speed of dispersal was relatively low, it took only hours for the fragments to coalesce into a new rock.

“The high-speed stuff goes away but the low-speed stuff reassembles [in] 2 to 18 hours,” Korycansky says. The simulations were presented (pdf) last week at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Texas.

So you have to have a big enough bomb to really do the job. I think there are better, more controllable ways.

Woodrow Wilson’s Third Term

Thoughts from George Will on the parallels between Wilson and the current president.

How gripped was Wilson by what Beinart calls “the hubris of reason”? Beinart writes: “He even recommended to his wife that they draft a constitution for their marriage. Let’s write down the basic rules, he suggested; ‘then we can make bylaws at our leisure as they become necessary.’ It was an early warning sign, a hint that perhaps the earnest young rationalizer did not understand that there were spheres where abstract principles didn’t get you very far, where reason could never be king.”

Professor Obama, who will seek re-election on the 100th anniversary of Wilson’s 1912 election, understands, which makes him melancholy. Speaking to Katie Couric on Feb. 7, Obama said: “I would have loved nothing better than to simply come up with some very elegant, academically approved approach to health care, and didn’t have any kinds of legislative fingerprints on it, and just go ahead and have that passed. But that’s not how it works in our democracy. Unfortunately, what we end up having to do is to do a lot of negotiations with a lot of different people.”

Note his aesthetic criterion of elegance, by which he probably means sublime complexity. During the yearlong health care debate, Republicans such as Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee have consistently cautioned against the conceit that government is good at “comprehensive” solutions to the complex problems of a continental nation. Obama has consistently argued, in effect, that the health care system is like a Calder mobile — touch it here and things will jiggle here, there and everywhere. Because everything is connected to everything else, merely piecemeal change is impossible.

So note also Obama’s yearning for something “academically approved” rather than something resulting from “a lot of negotiations with a lot of different people,” aka politics. Here, too, Obama is in the spirit of the U.S. President who first was president of the American Political Science Association.

It’s worth noting that Wilson was the first fascist dictator we ever had as president, and a model for much of Mussolini’s program. We’ll never know what he might have done had he failed in his bid for a third term — the nation was saved by his stroke.


Why does the Air Force think that their launch costs will go up with the new policy? Look at the caption of the picture:

Less demand could drive up costs for rocket propulsion systems used to launch Air Force satellites.

This makes no sense. How is flying additional missions for NASA creating “less demand”?

There are two factors that will affect the price of EELVs with the new policy. The first is that adding failure on-set detection to the vehicles may increase their production cost, but I can’t imagine it will be by much. Most of the cost will be in development, which could legitimately be charged to NASA. The second is that increased demand will provide a higher flight rate (which the system is quite capable of, in both production and operations), which will allow the amortization of fixed costs over a larger number of flights, reducing the cost (and presumably price) per flight. From that standpoint, the Air Force should welcome this (and always should have, and in fact not approved NASA’s Ares plans). Moreover, a couple years ago the Air Force was considering forcing one of the lines to shut down, to save fixed costs, which goes against the doctrine of assured access to space, because if there was a problem with the remaining vehicle (whether Atlas or Delta), the Air Force would have no ability to launch its satellites. Increasing the demand like this allows both lines to continue affordably. I just don’t understand the concern.

Is there anyone who can explain this?

[Update a couple minutes later]

I see that Clark Lindsey is scratching his head, too. I just don’t know what Gary Payton is thinking.

[Update a few minutes later]

Commenters over at NASA Watch can’t figure it out, either. So it’s not just me.

[Update a few minutes later]

OK, I’m starting to infer that the problem is the production base for the solids. Apparently, ATK and others have been sharing fixed costs between NASA and the Air Force, and if NASA is no longer purchasing SRBs, as Shuttle ends and Ares doesn’t begin, the Air Force will have to bear the full burden.

Well, boo frickin’ hoo. So the taxpayer will no longer be subsidizing the Pentagon with NASA’s budget, and the actual cost of maintaining our missiles and boosters for defense will become more transparent. Why am I supposed to be concerned about this?

Five Lies

about the economy:

1. Bold government action staved off a Depression, saving or creating 1.5 million jobs.

“Just remember,” Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said on November 1, 2009, “a year ago today, last year, you had markets around the world come to a stop. Economic activity just stopped, came to a standstill, like flipping a switch.”

Geithner implies that the American business climate improved substantially in the first year of the Obama administration. In fact, nearly every indicator, from employment to freight transport to rents to retail sales to real estate, has headed steadily south. In some cases, such as unemployment, the numbers have been far worse than the Obama economic team’s worst-case projections. In others, such as real estate, the weakness of the market is masked by expensive government support, including but not limited to the unkillable First-Time Homebuyer Credit, an assault on loan underwriting standards (see Lie No. 2) by the Federal Housing Authority and the government-run mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the completely opaque $75 billion Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).

The $787 billion in stimulus spending authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is now best known for its inflated and unsupportable job creation numbers. At press time, Council of Economic Advisers Chairwoman Christina D. Romer (who, confusingly, made her academic reputation proving that fiscal stimulus did not help the U.S. economy during the Great Depression and World War II) was giving the stimulus credit for 1.5 million American jobs in 2009. All efforts at checking her claims, however, have turned up very different numbers.

There’s a lot more.

More Media Misconception

Joel Achenbach comments on the “botched rollout” of the new space plans:

The Administration failed to control the narrative. We are a species that communicates with, and makes sense of the world through, stories (as someone wrote a while back). My piece the other day in The Post quoted Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) saying that folks in Florida think Obama killed the manned space program. Of course, Obama actually boosted funding for NASA, and a lot of money is going into technology development. But he nixed the idea of going back to the moon in the near term. Where will we go instead? Unclear. Undecided. The moon is still a possibility, but maybe we’ll go to an asteroid or the moons of Mars.

Obama didn’t “nix the idea of going back to the moon in the near term.” Mike Griffin did that, de facto, when he chose his disastrous Apollo on Geritol architecture. All that Obama (or rather, the people who came up with the new policy) did was to formalize the notion. It is in fact likely that we’ll get back to the moon sooner with the new plans than we had any hope to in the old one. If the media had actually paid attention to, or better yet, read the Augustine report, they would understand this. I will give him credit, though, for not succumbing to the mindless hysteria about Obama having “killed the manned space program.”

End The Slaughter

Mark Levin is calling for her to be expelled from Congress. Good luck with that.

And Dan Riehl says that the president is on the verge of an impeachable offense. Good luck with that, too.

For what it’s worth, I thought that George Bush should have been impeached for signing McCain-Feingold. In doing so, he failed to keep his oath of office to defend the Constitution. It’s politically craven to sign a bill while saying that you think that it’s unconstitutional, and hope that the Supreme Court will fix it (they didn’t, at least not until recently). If a president believes that a bill is unconstitutional, it is his constitutional duty to veto it, and say why. It is the job of all three branches of government to obey and protect it, not just the judiciary. I’ve long given up any hope of Congress giving a damn about it, but I expected more of a Republican president. Silly me.

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