The Burden Of Things

A post from Lileks with which I can strongly identify:

…what of the objects? You know, the things to which you apply Meaning simply by owning them for a while? That’s another issue. You have to realize that the meaning changes when you no long own them, which is a kind way of saying “it’s wiped clean when you die, mate.” There are some things whose previous meaning I can infer; my Grandma had a little metal container for pins, with 1893 Columbian Exposition engraved on the cover. It was regarded as junk, I guess, but my mom kept it, and then it passed to me. It’s possible my great-grandfather went. He got out of town from time to time. The fact that it sat on her dresser for seven decades was enough to infuse it with meaning, but that’ll be lost after me; daughter didn’t know her, never saw the farm, never saw the sleek 30s Sears bedroom-set dresser on which it sat. Daughter may see a corner of that dresser in an old photo, because I inherited it. But that’s the end of the chain – after that, it’s a series of facts, not a sequence of memories and emotions.

I’m a pack rat. I keep (and don’t organize) too much stuff. Every time we move, the books are a problem. We’ve been back in California over a year, and they’re still not quite unpacked and shelved. And movers charge by weight. I’m not sure what we would have done if the company hadn’t paid for the move. And I know that there’s not enough time in my allotment, sans dramatic life extension, for me to reread them. But I can’t bring myself (so far) to get rid of them. They contain too many remembrances. Accumulated stuff is the external memory of life, and I feel as though they’re a part of me and my sense of self. When I lose old email in a disk crash I feel partly lobotomized and amnesiac. At some point, though, I have to rationalize my possessions.

I had dinner with Leonard David Wednesday night, and we often talk about his collection of tchochkes and media bags that he has collected over the many dozens of space conferences he’s attended over the past few decades. They’re historically significant, and I doubt there are many people with as extensive a collection as his, but where to keep them all? I have the same problem, on a smaller scale. Someone needs to set up an archive to which such things can be contributed, assessed and put into context, but it takes money.

The End Of The Progressive Fairy Tale?

This election should put it to an end, anyway:

The DCCC is running ads about Kristi Noem’s speeding tickets, Keith Fimian’s home-inspection business, Jaime Herrera’s business-card expenses. Tennessee Democrat Lincoln Davis accuses his opponent of “a history of violent and threatening behavior.”

As we all know, Jack Conway is running an ad on the Aqua Buddha. The DSCC is running an ad saying that because Pat Toomey did work for a Chinese company, “maybe he ought to run for Senate . . . in China. (Gong noise.)” We all know how much of the DSCC attacks on Christine O’Donnell have been about her personal finances, and how much fun they had with Linda McMahon’s wacky on-camera performances as part of the WWF. And the White House, of course, is screaming from the rooftops that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce must prove their innocence over their unsupported charge of using foreign money.

Yet few if any endangered Democrats are running on health care and the stimulus, or to argue that the past two years represent serious improvement in the lives of Americans. They don’t want to talk about their ideas, or their record.

They should stop telling themselves the fairy tale that Americans, deep down, agree with the liberal agenda; Americans have had two years of the liberal agenda and are, by and large, vehemently rejecting it.

Unfortunately, I suspect that delusion will spring eternal.

The Racists At NPR

They’ve fired Juan Williams.

As a commenter notes at Riehl World, apparently there are some things that shouldn’t be considered.

[Update a while later]

This seems related — SF author Elizabeth Moon is shunned by PC SF fans. I think the best response to this is to purchase a book or threeof hers.

[Update a couple minutes later]

A lot more Juan Williams links and thoughts.

[Bumped]

Lori Garver

She’s the keynote speaker this morning at the ISPCS in Las Cruces. I’ll try liveblogging the speech.

The kind of energy at this conference makes it great to be out of the Beltway and among friends. Had to decide whether to accept, because she has developed a reputation for favoring commercial and personal spaceflight. Top ten reasons she decided to accept invitation (sorry missed some — she went too fast):

10. Since being sworn in, spoken at AIAA, AIA, other places and has always gone.

9. Alan (Stern?)would have been alternate and she didn’t want him to make another gaffe (inside joke?).

6. Bipartisan law now endorses commercial crew for ISS

5. Lot of heat, but this conference provides some light

4. Gets to greet Governor Richardson and Richard Branson tomorrow

3. Someone needs to keep an eye on where the tax dollars are going for this commercial stuff

1. Has been an uphill battle, and it’s your strength/commitment that gets her by

President proposed dramatic policy shift, and a significant amount of it has been signed into law. Not going to rehash, because we all know it. It is a bipartisan bill, and that deserves recognition in these times, leading up to tense political months leading up to one of the most important election in our lifetimes. NASA received increases proposed by administration in these fiscal times, and was supported by a broad coalition of big industry, startups, with major campaign by Space Frontier Foundation and Space Access Society. A commercial competition is going to be the primary means of transferring crew to the ISS. Think how far we’ve come. Remember the challenges of just allowing Dennist Tito to get into ISS when he arrived on a Russian vehicle. NASA had made calls to Russia to try to prevent that, and it was less than ten years ago. Ten years ago, when I was training to fly on Soyuz, no NASA astronaut had done so, and now it’s common. Gets us started developing technologies needed to open up space and contribute to growth of nation. Recognize that it was a compromise, and many see it as a dramatic shift. Debate in Congress demonstrates that the program inspires passion across party lines, and appreciates congressional support. Substantial increase in space science and earth science, and education to inspire future engineers and explorers. Will start a new transportation industry and start new heavy lift. COntinue COTS and CCDev, continue KSC upgrades to expand numbers and kinds of customers that we can serve.

1.3B over three-year period was a lot more than we have spent in the past. Requested more, but chairman has committed to six years instead of five. Asking how much we spent on Alt Access in 90s (answer from Brett Alexander — 10 billion). This is just the beginning. Critical milestones before work can even begin. Have to provide market assessment, set of best practices and processes for developing this, and human rating requirements. Starting a new show on NASA TV this fall. Lori Garver, Bureaucracy Buster in a silver suit. Just joking. Want to support the success of a viable industry to provide access for commercial crew and cargo. Have to assure ourselves that we can trust our precious astronauts to private industry. Going to be hard for us, but we’ve done it before (e.g., trusted commercial launchers for one-of-a-kind spacecraft to Pluto). We need to focus on what the government does best. Need to do a better job of what government will do, while seeding a new segment of the economy creating productive jobs for decades to come. Hope to procure LEO transportation as a service and not own the system. Part of a broader program for commerce, including expanding experiments on ISS and help create more markets, and non-governmental markets by demonstrating benefits at ISS at government expense, but not compete with other providers. Make NASA investment in buyers, starting a non-profit organization to stimulate use of ISS, not new idea, but going to implement it. Plan to extend ISS for at least another ten years. Will start competitive procurement phase. Transportation is critical, but so is ISS piece. Not often that industry has a chance to create a new global market. Going to buy data from companies going to the moon, and hope that we don’t need to develop and launch every mission for ourselves. Need to not keep fighting wars of the past, but prepare for wars of the future, and same with the space program. Need to keep enabling capabilities, including expanded partnerships with other government agencies, private sector and other countries. Look at X-Prize and kinds of things that Peter Diamandis has been doing for years. Tomorrow we’ll see a new spaceport dedicated. Was asked to be on board of advisors of X-Prize, but she learned a lot more from them than they did from her. She got Goldin to attend the kick-off in Saint Louis, and helped with credibility, while people were advising him not to. She helped get initial funding in a one-hour meeting and wishes all her hours were so productive.

Want to turn routine activities to private sector, but hard to see transporting people to space as routine. Every astronaut is brave and every payload precious. Has to be a true partnership, and NASA needs to recognize that just because you don’t wear a NASA badge, and your investors need a return, and your jobs are not secure, this is still important. Not ceding space program to anyone, but expanding it. Funding Google lunar prizes technologies, seeding suborbital industry. Being focused on grand challenges that NASA working with others can help us reach. Make space part of humanity’s natural environment, routine economical and safe. Manage space as a natural resource, manage it as we do on earth, though with higher bar. Portable and economic energy on demand in space. Third, blaze trail to universe, extend limits of humanity’s knowledge and capabilities as far as they’ll go. Will christen Spaceport America runway tomorrow, and it’s not a federal program. Lot of challenges ahead. Must come together as a community, stop talking about old versus new, and established versus emerging. Perhaps most important was the broad coalition that emerged from recent bill passage. Fight has been stressful. Goldin’s criticism of her was that she may like to be liked too much. Golding told her today that she may have overreached. Cannot turn weapons on each other. In our foxhole, we have a mutual enemy — the deficit. We came together, and need to do everything we can to keep it moving forward.

First met Peter, Todd and Bob while at NSI in 1985, met Gary Hudson in 1986 (with actual groupies sitting at his feet), traveled for the first launch of Deke’s first licensed vehicle, came to the DC-X launch in 1993 (brought her son who’s now in Colorado College), led studies at NASA on ways to incent the private sector, David Gump was one of her first paying sponsors when she was going to be Mom in space, still has shirt with Radio Shack logo. Learned marketing tip from Lance Bass. Thinks that her work over the years has been pretty balanced. First worked for John Glenn, then NSI, everyone thought in merger that she was industry stooge, remembers Tumlinson telling her that he was starting new organization because NSS was too wedded to status quo. Sierra Club versus Greenpeace (or Earth Firsters). How to merge the histories, the brain trust that is the space community? Will only succeed if we utilize all of our resources. Can’t imagine more exciting time to be in the space community, and looks forward to our thoughts and comments.

Questions. What is vision for accomplishment of commercial crew to keep program sold in Congress.

NASA has to meet initial milestones in the next ninety days. You need to work closely with us to develop successful acquisition strategies. Need all comers, competition that allows strength to come forward.

How does investing hundreds of millions of dollars in new space better than in established industry? Boeing et al can do commercial, too.

Issue is not who, but how. Can’t continue cost plus, must develop and set requirements up front. Hope and expect both large and small companies to be bidding. A little tough to take criticism of hundreds of millions of dollars when we’ve spent billions in traditional ways with continued failure.

How will NASA do this without overbearing amount of oversight.

Recognize that this is heart and soul of agency, and have a lot of experience, and are trying to bring it to bear while allowing innovation and efficiency of private sector without watchers watching watchers watching watchers. Space Act Agreements for COTS have worked incredibly well, and want to build on those lessons.

See a need to train the NASA work force for new directions?

You bet. All working COTS have consistently said that all sides were working as a team. More than halfway through the day before she realized on a SpaceX tour that several people were badged NASA. Have to call NASA on things like “what size will office be for commercial crew.” Have the law and intent to do it and do it well, and can’t succeed without you.

Why not execute COTS-D options to close gap?

Not sure. Everything is a compromise, hard to see why we didn’t just do that. We didn’t storm the Hill, burn down the House. Wanted to work with existing contractors to try to preserve assets from half a century. Even after Augustine Report (still don’t understand how that panel could be maligned for being in the tank for commercial) said that commercial crew was the best way to close gap, still amazing how hard it was to get it established in policy and law. Wanted a new competition for crew, and not just extend existing COTS contractors.

Where do we lead and not lead and share technologies? Haven’t figured out yet what to keep and what we can and will do ourselves in government and not immediately transfer to private sector, and how to work internationally.

Question about China. Objectives were purely to meet and get to know leaders and members of the Chinese space community. Just about relationships, and very beginnings. Satisfied with outcome.

What about Russian/Energiya taking over Sea Launch (which is in bankruptcy).

Getting a briefing next week. Sea Launch has never been a US entity. Doesn’t concern us as long as we’re there, too. Need to develop competitive commercial market that can win back business, rather than restricting others. We’ve learned it’s less about keeping others down than sprinting to stay ahead. Want to pass the baton on some things, as you sprint ahead, but all of us sprint out into the universe.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!