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.

Lynx Propulsion

XCOR is reporting significant progress on the engine for the Lynx:

“Like all of our rocket engines, this engine has demonstrated the ability to be stopped and re-started using our safe and reliable spark torch ignition system”, said XCOR CEO Jeff Greason. “The basic cooling design has also been completed and the engine is able to run continuously at thermal equilibrium. With those milestones reached, the 5K18 test program is now moving forward into a second phase of tuning and optimization, in which we will also greatly increase our cumulative run time.”

Here’s hoping for continued progress.

[Update a few minutes later]

Clark Lindsey has more, with videos.

The Lion of Leinenkugel

Iowahawk has the exclusive story.

Born on July 9, 1947 as the 7th child of legendary La Crosse welding supply impresario and kingmaker Elmer Snitker, Norman Snitker grew up amid the stately opulence afforded by his father’s reported $15,000 fortune, bass boat, and palatial storage shed. By all accounts a precocious drinker, he took early advantage of his birthright and fully stocked basement liquor cabinet, earning the first of his 138 lifetime DUIs at age 11.

Although he grew up in privilege, Snitker insiders say that even at a young age Norm showed a deep empathy for those who were less fortunate.

“Norm would look at the other kids at school, and say, ‘why don’t they have access to the same fake IDs as me? Why must they remain sober?'” said classmate Glenn Hunsaker. “It became a crusade for him, and he became an activist. Every Friday night you’d see him at the Piggly Wiggly parking lot, making sure that every kid in La Crosse got the Pabst and Old Style that they so desperately needed.”

Despite those early accomplishments, young Norm Snitker was often overshadowed by his glamorous and dashing older brothers, Stu, Larry and Wayne, whose tragic deaths transfixed southwest Wisconsin. He was only seven when eldest brother Stu was felled by a salmonella-infected bratwurst. By the time he was was an 18-year old GED student, eldest surviving brother Larry M. Snitker had already taken the helm of the family’s Tri-County Welding Supply dynasty. The brief golden age of Weldalot came to a tragic end at the 1967 ‘Ice Bowl’ game between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys, when a celebrating LMS was slain by a goalpost icicle. He was succeeded by Wayne, whose life abruptly ended in 1981 after his mullet became ensnared in the rollers of a QuikTrip weenie heater.

There’s more.

Not Quite Escaping?

I’m planning to leave for California from Boca around September 10th. I was hoping that I could avoid a hurricane, as we’re heading into the heart of the season, but Ericka has formed (sorry, not a permalink):

The cloud mass just east of the Windward Islands developed into Tropical Storm Erika late Tuesday afternoon. The storm was able to develop thanks to the overall flow plus warm sea surface temperatures between 83 and 86 degrees in that part of the Atlantic. Erika is moving slowly and will not threaten the Southeast coast of the United States before Labor Day. Before then, the storm will have some impact on the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic before moving east of the Bahamas.

Will it continue through the Bahamas to “west of the Bahamas” (i.e., the Florida Peninsula)? Or head north, as everything else has so far? The models are all over the map, with some of them taking it through the Greater Antilles. Extrapolating the five-day track (again, unfortunately not a permalink), it looks like south Florida would be on the southern edge of the cone.

Will he manage to get away without shuttering? Will he manage to get away at all?

Stay tuned.


Dana Blankenhorn misinterprets history:

The problem here for Republicans is their own past success. President Clinton failed to get a health bill through in 1993 and Democrats were hammered the next year, especially their more conservative members. It took them over a decade to win back the majorities they had then.

This may make threats to wreck the careers of those voting “aye” less potent, with conservative Democrats figuring that if they can’t win they might as well stand for something.

The bottom line. If Democrats can’t agree on a proposal given their substantial majorities in both Houses of Congress, they face a generation’s exile in the political wilderness, no matter how many crazy pills some Republicans take.

Emphasis mine. If the last graf is true, then they’re damned either way, because if they ram through a bill that all the polls show is very unpopular, they’ll be hammered like they were in 1994 by angry voters. The key that Dems (and I think that the Blue Dogs) understand it is in the false causation implied in the highlighted statement. Yes, the Dems failed to pass health care in 1993 and yes, they got hammered in 1994. But one didn’t cause the other. What happened in 1994 was due to several things — “don’t ask, don’t tell” as one of the first things out of the box, the mishandling of health care, with Hillary (the most brilliant woman in the world) sent off to draft a big-government bill behind closed doors, passing the “assault weapons” ban, a failure to pass the promised “middle-class tax cuts.” Failing to pass the health-care monstrosity wasn’t the cause of them losing the Congress — it was the very attempt to pass it. Actually passing this bill will be disastrous.

Oh, and the fact that “conservative Democrats” lost seats disproportionately simply means that they were in marginal, unsafe districts. It certainly wasn’t because they failed to vote for a big-government bill. The Dems don’t have any good choices at this point, but passing a Dem-only bill will be Armageddon at the polls for them next year.

Coming To His Senses

Neil Armstrong has finally wised up to the hoax:

One of the main arguments posited on Coleman’s website—that America could not, in 1969, have realistically possessed the technological capabilities needed to put a man on the moon—was reportedly one of the first things to cause the legendary astronaut a pang of doubt. Despite having spent thousands of hours training for the historic mission under the guidance of the world’s top scientists, technicians, and pilots, Armstrong said he knew the conspiracy theories were true after learning that website author Coleman was “quite the engineering buff.”

“Yes, at the time I thought those thousands of NASA employees were working round the clock for the same incredible goal, but if anyone would know what was really going on, it would be Ralph Coleman,” Armstrong said of the 31-year-old part-time librarian’s assistant. “He knows a lot more about faked moon landings than I ever could. He’s been researching the subject on the Internet for years.”

“Literally years,” he added.

The conspiracy should unravel quickly, now.


As noted in comments, will Buzz deck Neil when Neil tells him the awful truth? Or will he fake it, like he did the last time?

More Conflict Of Interest

Anybody else see what’s missing in this editorial in the Houston Chronicle by several “NASA astronauts,” asking for more money to “stay the course”?

That’s right. No mention of the fact that the vast majority are former astronauts, now working for ATK, Boeing, Lockmart, etc. This is just a special pleading for more taxpayer money for their employers, and their phony baloney jobs.

People with such conflicts of interest certainly have a right to plead their case, but I think that the paper has a duty to make us aware of their affiliations, and not just describe them as “astronauts.”

And that’s a separate issue, of course from whether or not it’s a good idea for people, and particularly people who want to see large-scale human spaceflight activities for all people, and not just a “program” to send a few government employees at a billion dollars a flight, to take advice from astronauts. There’s nothing in the resume of an astronaut that renders them more qualified than others to provide wise judgement on space policy. It makes no more sense than it does to ask a “scientist,” as reporters often do.

[Update a while later]

There’s something else missing from the piece — it’s real big on flight safety (never mind that it’s not at all obvious that Ares was going to be safer than Shuttle) but says nothing about cost, or the fact that every flight is going to cost over a billion dollars. Apparently they think their lives have infinite value.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!