Space “Democratization”

Ferris Valyn has some thoughts on that WaPo editorial on commercializing LEO transportation.

It’s kind of amusing to see him arguing with some of the lefty anti-capitalist loons who populate Kos. This was a little less amusing:

Competitive markets (and I stress the word competitive) can be very good at lowering price points. Sometimes they can get too low, and we end up with things like Wal-mart, but this is an situation that desperately needs its price points lowered.

I doubt if the millions of lower-income people whose lives have been improved by Walmart think that their prices are “too low.”

The Constellation Empire

strikes back:

The video itself is perhaps a bit subtle: it’s arguing for staying the course in Constellation, but doesn’t hit the viewer over the head repeatedly with that message. The closing slide asks viewers to contact the White House and Congress and “tell them you DO NOT Want to ‘Take a Chance’ with the U.S. Human Space Flight Program.” (capitalization and punctuation in original.) The information on the YouTube page, though, is rather more blunt: “Although a thorough review was conducted four years ago—and a direction chosen, contracts awarded, tests conducted, and rockets built—the Augustine committee wants to stop work and do something new,” it claims. “This will widen the gap between the retirement of the shuttle and its replacement vehicle, waste billions of dollars and threaten Americas [sic] presence in space. You can STOP this.”

It’s going to be an interesting fall for space policy and politics.

Global Warming

…and the sun:

I applaud Meehl’s reluctance to go beyond where the science takes him. For all I know, he’s right. But such humility and skepticism seem to manifest themselves only when the data point to something other than the mainstream narrative about global warming. For instance, when we have terribly hot weather, or bad hurricanes, the media see portentous proof of climate change. When we don’t, it’s a moment to teach the masses how weather and climate are very different things.

No, I’m not denying that man-made pollution and other activity have played a role in planetary warming since the Industrial Revolution.

But we live in a moment when we are told, nay lectured and harangued, that if we use the wrong toilet paper or eat the wrong cereal, we are frying the planet. But the sun? Well, that’s a distraction. Don’t you dare forget your reusable shopping bags, but pay no attention to that burning ball of gas in the sky — it’s just the only thing that prevents the planet from being a lifeless ball of ice engulfed in darkness. Never mind that sunspot activity doubled during the 20th century, when the bulk of global warming has taken place.

What does it say that the modeling that guaranteed disastrous increases in global temperatures never predicted the halt in planetary warming since the late 1990s? (MIT’s Richard Lindzen says that “there has been no warming since 1997 and no statistically significant warming since 1995.”) What does it say that the modelers have only just now discovered how sunspots make the Earth warmer?

It says that there is some other agenda going on.

Is Our Children Learning?

If it was the Bush Education Department, I think that this would be a bigger deal. But what’s important, of course, is for the children to think about how they can help the Leader, not that old-school stuff like grammar.

[Update a few minutes later]

I think that they also need to teach them to go away from the light, not toward it.

[Late afternoon update]

Let’s keep our kids home that day.

The Head Of The Table

Is Sarah Palin the Republicans’ Ted Kennedy?

In the case of Lincoln, Kennedy, the two Roosevelts and Reagan they are, long dead, still motivating Americans in one direction or another. Teddy Kennedy’s entire career derived from the initial push he received as JFK’s little brother. The latter fact is particularly telling, since JFK died in 1963. Only Teddy himself could have carved out the rest of his career, the political careers of relatives of famous presidents frequently having a short shelf life. Theodore Roosevelt’s famous son Ted Jr. fizzled in politics, as did Franklin Roosevelt’s namesake son Franklin Jr. The name can get you in the door. After that it’s up to you.

This is what really drives Sarah Palin’s critics nuts. She sits up there in Alaska with Todd and the kids, taps out a few words on her Facebook page — and presto! ObamaCare has a torpedo amidships! Without doubt this causes Palin’s rivals, just as it once did with Churchill’s and Teddy Kennedy’s, to fret and fume if not foam.

Can you imagine how you must feel if you are an in-state rival like Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski? Who? Exactly. No one in Washington much less the rest of the country is huddled in a corner whispering — “what did Lisa say?” Nor does America take much notice of Palin’s potential 2012 rivals like Romney, Huckabee or Minnesota Governor Pawlenty. The New York Times isn’t wasting ink being catty about Ms. Murkowski because, with no disrespect intended to Senator Murkowski, like most of her Senate colleagues her “head of the table” factor is exactly zero. There are no thundering editorials of disapproval for Romney, no Maureen Dowd snipes at Huckabee, no Keith Olbermann tirades about Pawlenty. It’s Sarah Palin they can’t stand, and it’s visceral — an immediate tip off to her Kennedy-like “head of the table” status.

A long but interesting analysis.

More Road Apples From NASA

So, Orion supposedly passed its Preliminary Design Review (even though it never really made it through a System Requirements Review, and the requirements are still all over the map as a result of the Ares 1 problems and other issues). But I don’t buy this:

If Orion’s companion rocket — dubbed Ares 1 — is spiked in favor of another rocket, then any Orion mission would be delayed by up to two years so engineers could fit a new rocket to the capsule.

That possibility looms large. Ares 1 faces mounting technical and financial problems and an independent presidential panel said this summer that it would be impossible for Ares 1 to meet its goal of a first mission in 2015 without a funding increase of tens of billions of dollars.

Given these funding pressures, it’s uncertain when Orion could be ready for a new mission if a new rocket is chosen.

This is just more FUD by Hanley to try to save Ares 1. It is six years until 2015 (and they already had less than a 35% confidence of hitting that date even with Ares 1). Sure there will be some changes to the vehicle if they switch over to an affordable and safe launcher, but there is no reason in the world that those changes would have to add two years to an already long schedule. I’d be curious to see the project schedule and critical path.

[Afternoon update]

“Rocketman” has a plausible alternate theory:

Viceroy Hanley, standing on one leg with his fingers crossed behind his back, came as close as he’s going to admit the real status of Orion at it’s PDR. He’s at least two years behind schedule. How do we know that?

“It’ll take up to two years to fit a new rocket to the capsule,” he said. Design changes to accommodate weight and size differences are required he says.

But at least one EELV provides more mass margin than the corndog does.

As I note in comments, playing “schedule chicken” like this is a win-win for him — either he gets to keep Ares, or he gets an excuse for his schedule slip. But only if he keeps his job, and someone doesn’t call him on it. If I were Bolden I’d demand a briefing showing (as already noted) the assumptions behind his claim.

[Update a couple minutes later]

What is schedule chicken, you ask? It’s a game in which multiple teams on a project are behind, but they don’t want to report it, and they don’t in the hope that someone else will fess up first, making their own slip moot so they don’t have to. It can have just as disastrous program results as the road version, in terms of delays and cost increases.

Just To Clarify

I just posted this in comments over at NASA Watch, in response to a foolish comment there:

Space X boosters need to become reliable cargo transports before they can be trusted with manned space craft. And with only a 2 out of 5 success rate, they have a long way to go!

I guess this is the new mantra of the simple-minded commercial space bashers — the implication that Falcon 1 is only 40% reliable because of its “2 out of 5 success rate.”

Here is the real story. The vehicle had a flight test program as part of its development. The purpose of flight test programs is to wring out design issues, and it shouldn’t be surprising to have some failures in that process.

The first flight barely got off the pad. They figured out what was wrong, and did a second flight. That one had some slosh dynamics issues. They figured out how to fix that and had a third flight. It had a separation problem because they hadn’t accounted for the longer thrust tail-off of the upgraded engine. They fixed that with a minor software change, and the two flights since were perfect.

In other words, they had some teething problems, but have solved them, and now have a reasonably (certainly more than 90%, and probably high nineties) reliable vehicle.

Remember this as you see these morons continue to say “2 out of 5.”

[Afternoon update]

Clark Lindsey has further thoughts.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!