The Dishwasher

This is tragic.

A letter from Courtney Stadd:

My sentencing is set for Nov. 6 at 9:30 am. It is located at the Prettyman Courthouse at 333 Constitution Avenue, NW, Courtroom II, Wash, DC 20001 (presided over by The Hon. Rosemary Collyer).

Meanwhile, my aerospace business and family finances are devastated. A friend, a Palestinian who runs a cafe in Sterling, VA, offered me a job in his kitchen – washing dishes and such related duties. (It shows that Jews and Palestinians can indeed work together !). I was brought up by Great Depression parents to believe that all honest work is noble and so I took it. The owner and his hard working family members, with whom I am honored to work, are great people and teach me everyday about grace and dignity.

I spent 30 years in the space world. It was my passion and I miss it terribly – especially being able to participate in the ongoing policy debates. But I realize that that chapter of my life is now closed. My mentor, the late Dr. Steve Cheston, Associate Dean at Georgetown where I was a student, and who had a decisive influence on my interest in space (he introduced me to the late Gerard K. O’Neill), warned me that there might be times in life when space advocacy will be a vocation or an avocation. I guess it will now be a permanent avocation. (I still catch a glimpse of NASAWatch from time to time. And I got up early to watch NASA’s LCROSS mission. Old habits die hard!)

I have tried my whole life to live an ethical and law abiding life. Money and the acquisition of material things have meant little to me. I had a great role model. My late Father spent twenty years paying off debts left over when a business partner of his suddenly vanished. For him, bankruptcy and walking away from those debts was unthinkable. A man’s word is sacred. And, ironically, I was traumatized as a young child watching an equally innocent family friend become entrapped in a legal battle that led him to ultimately end his life. That trauma taught me to be as transparent as possible in all my actions. And I have some close friends and colleagues in NASA, the contractor and entrepreneurial space world that I love dearly. To think that there are those who would seek to associate me with any actions that would reflect negatively on the agency, its people and my meager efforts to give voice to helping our nation’s space program is very painful.

I will gladly devote a lifetime to thanking the many friends and colleagues (in and out of government) who have invested time in sending letters to the Judge about my character. A number of letters are from young people and their parents who described how I impacted their lives in various ways. It is humbling while also awkward and even embarrassing that people are having to take time to share some private anecdotes that I believe that people should do for one another because, well, it is the right thing to do. A handful of people have proven to be fair weather friends but the vast majority have reaffirmed my faith in the basic goodness of people.

Clearly, I made some serous political enemies who have fueled this nearly five year ordeal. (At the same time, I have been exposed to some good souls in the justice system — e.g., guards, court bailiffs, pre-trial services officers — who try, in their own small way, to preserve some sense of dignity for those of us who find ourselves in the defendant’s seat.)

Feel free to print the picture or whatever else you wish. Not much can be done to help me at this point (it certainly won’t hurt) but perhaps my situation will help others.

I have no idea what the future will bring. Surviving on minimal wage can only take one so far. But I have been reintroduced to my roots – the blue collar working class who are the invisible men and women of our society. (My mother was a former waitress and I worked as a youth on an assembly line.) Their work ethic and ability to get up everyday and deal with daily survival issues is pretty inspiring – especially in the face of today’s tough economic challenges. When they sometimes ask what I did in my previous life I find that invariably their eyes light up at the mention of NASA and the world of exploration. Not a few say that they hope that their sacrifices will lead their kids to pursue careers as engineers and scientists and perhaps be part of what many clearly view as uniquely American – pushing beyond the frontier.

God bless you… my former entrepreneurial space colleagues who continue to defy the naysayers, occasionally fail but pick themselves up and continue on to pursue the magnificent dreams associated with space exploration. Please know that I will be applauding from whatever “peanut gallery” I end up residing.

Anyone who knows Courtney and wants to help should send letters to the judge. I hope that we can get him back soon, and fight the good fight for our future in space once again.

What If?

Thoughts from Lileks:

I love new galaxy stories. I love learning that someone pointed a telescope at an empty patch and found 1000 new spiral galaxies, each of which no doubt teems with life. Yes, I think that’s so, and no, I’ve no good explanation for why we haven’t been visited by Vulcans. I’m a fan of the multiverse theory, and I’d also be comfy with the notion that this is one of an infinite number of iteration of the universe, each with their own laws. It would be a pity if we ended up in the one whose laws were A) everything’s far apart, and B) you can’t get there, but them’s the breaks. Some galaxies, however, have it worse off. You get those peculiar ones with enormous rapacious black holes in the middle and just a smattering of stars, you think: bad neighborhood. Imagine being a sentient being in a system that evolves sufficiently to figure out it’s going to be eaten by a black hole in a few thousand years, and how this would affect society. If you knew it would be all over in 2000 years, who would build? Would anyone try to escape if there were no systems to which you could flee? Futility would be the handmaiden at every act of creation. Or it might make everything precious. Or, most likely, both, and neither. Some people would still live their lives, go to work, make what they could for their ration of time. A great many would use the expiration date as the validation of the standard-issue nihilism that affects those with attenuated adolescence, and clothe their selfishness in philosophy.

More where that came from. By the way, the few Mayans still around say that the calendar thing is hogwash. But what would they know?

New Space Site

New to me, anyway. Via “Major Tom” commenting over at Space Politics, I saw for the first time Space Policy Online, run by long-time space policy analyst Marcia Smith. I’ve added it to the blogroll.

And speaking of that site, there’s a story about a hearing yesterday to confirm a new IG for NASA, in which Senator Rockefeller expressed concern about “waste, fraud and abuse” at NASA. Say it ain’t so! But I found this quite the head scratcher:

In wrapping up the hearing, the Senator referred to “constituencies in the world of NASA” who are “very ambitious” and that he goes “blooey” hearing about plans to “pay $1 million and travel to the Moon” and doesn’t know how to react.

Well, apparently he reacts by going “blooey.” What in the hell is he talking about?

Don’t Try This At Home

A six-year-old boy has floated off in a balloon in Colorado. I’m guessing no flight plan was filed with the FAA. This sounds like one of those “Honey, I shrank the kid” things. I’ll bet Mom’s not happy. Here’s hoping for the best.

But the story seems to be updated sort of weirdly. It’s not clear that he was ever in the balloon. Maybe he ran away after accidentally releasing it, afraid that he’d be in trouble.

[Late afternoon update]

Fortunately, it looks like my guess was correct. He was hiding, safe and sound.

California’s Once…

…and future governor?

Note to Jesse Walker. The California comsat thing was one of the reasons for the “Governor Moonbeam” appellation, but a more significant one (as was mentioned) was the Stewart-Brand/Whole-Earth-Catalog connection. Stewart was one of those promoting the ideas of Gerry O’Neill and L-5, and Brown was reportedly quite fascinated by the concept, and space in general. The only time I saw him in person was in April, 1981, when we shared a flight to Orlando from LAX (though he was in first class) for the first launch of the Shuttle (I flew back to see it land as well — he may have as well, but if so, it was on a different flight). And in an “n degrees of Jerry Brown” thing, I sat next to Linda Ronstadt at a concert at McCabe’s in Santa Monica a few years later, but I think they had broken up by then.

One thing not mentioned was the ignominious end to his governorship, in which he took a lot of flak for the fruit-fly spraying, first dithering and delaying it, and then changing his mind and infuriating his supporters on the left. It probably wrecked his chances for Senate. But as the article notes, he’s a resilient guy.

Why We Aren’t A Spacefaring Civilization

Here’s one of the big reasons:

Someone in the AO-100 aviation section of the FAA, who was previously unaware of Armadillo, saw video of their NGLLC flights and decided that while Armadillo had proper permissions to fly above the airport, they did not have permission to fly from a federally subsidized airport. The AST section was surprised to learn about this issue. John says it will be worked out eventually but unfortunately in the meantime they cannot even do tethered tests because of the crazy ruling last year that labeled such tests as launches.

As a commenter notes, imagine if the government had required the Wright Brothers to get permission to fly from Kitty Hawk. It is a shame that the Armadillo team has to waste time and resources learning how to negotiate bureaucracies instead of how to develop safe and effective vehicles.

[Late afternoon update]

The problem seems to have been resolved.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!