Not Waiting For A Heavy Lifter

Some common sense from the Europeans:

“We need the courage of starting a new era,” Europe’s director of human spaceflight, Simonetta Di Pippo, told BBC News.

“The idea is to ascend to the space station the various elements of the mission, and then try to assemble the spacecraft at the ISS, and go from the orbit of the space station to the Moon. We need the courage of starting a new era.”

“What we are thinking about right now – but again we need more technical work to address this – [is] it should be a small spacecraft that goes around the Moon.”

…Learning how to assemble exploration vehicles at the ISS would also be part of this new vision.

If humans ever do go to asteroids or Mars, the scale of the infrastructure needed to complete a safe round trip could not possibly be launched on a single rocket from Earth. It will have to be sent up on multiple flights and joined together in orbit.

Gee, what a concept.

Doing this assembly at the ISS means it can be overseen by astronauts with ready access to tools if needed.

And if the crew assigned to man the deep-space mission travels up separately to the station, it would also mean all the elements for their long-duration flight could be launched without the complications of ultra-safe abort systems that complicate manned rockets.

The crew could instead ride to orbit in a simple, tried and tested rocket, such as a Soyuz, and then transfer across to their deep-space vehicle already waiting for them at the ISS.

The only problem with this is that it doesn’t address the issue of how to get back to the ISS orbit from deep space. As I said at Space Access in April, I view this as one of the fundamental problems of decoupling earth-LEO from pure space transportation. The solution will lie in either aerobraking, or cheap propellant, or some combination of the two.

But it’s nice to see people starting to think about how to make progress without waiting for a heavy lifter that will never arrive. It’s not the lack of heavy lift that has trapped us in LEO for decades. It’s the false perception that we need it.

[Update a while later]

A question in comments:

Would shifting the ISS orbit higher (now that it doesn’t need to be shuttle-reachable) be of any use here?

Not much, unless it’s a lot higher. L-1 or L-2 are much better portals to the rest of the solar system. Here’s a question — how big a launcher would it take for a direct inject of a capsule (Dragon or CST class) to L-1? The idea here would be to have a propellant depot in LEO that could deliver the propellant to L-1 by a slow ship, with a crew system to get people to/from L-1 quickly. Eventually, perhaps, the propellant could come from the moon. An alternative would be to depart to L-1 from the ISS, but not return to it from there, instead going directly back to earth. That way, you’d have a good staging area that was also relatively easy to get back to, and allow multiple expeditions without having to enter the atmosphere.

A Declaration Of War

…by the Muslim Brotherhood:

…this is the group that many in the West, some in high positions, are urging to be engaged as a negotiating partner because it is supposedly moderate.

What does he say?

–Arab and Muslim regimes are betraying their people by failing to confront the Muslim’s real enemies, not only Israel but also the United States. Waging jihad against both of these infidels is a commandment of Allah that cannot be disregarded. Governments have no right to stop their people from fighting the United States. “They are disregarding Allah’s commandment to wage jihad for His sake with [their] money and [their] lives, so that Allah’s word will reign supreme” over all non-Muslims.

–All Muslims are required by their religion to fight: “They crucially need to understand that the improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as the enemies pursue life.” Notice that jihad here is not interpreted as so often happens by liars, apologists, and the merely ignorant in the West as spiritual striving. The clear meaning is one of armed struggle.

–The United States is immoral, doomed to collapse, and “experiencing the beginning of its end and is heading towards its demise.”

–Palestinians should back Hamas in overthrowing the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and unite in waging war on Israel.

To answer his question, no, few others will notice, including the media and the new national security advisor. Because (all together now) Islam is a religion of peace.

One of the stupider questions that the press often asks after a Jihadi attack is whether or not it was Al Qaeda, as though we’re supposed to be relieved to find out that it wasn’t.

[Via Michael Totten]

God, Gold And Glory

Some politically incorrect thoughts about Columbus Day. And an oldie from James Bennett on the origin of ant-Western thought among westerners that prevails in academia, in which he talks about the other Italian we should honor:

During the 19th century, Columbus was reinvented by Washington Irving and his successors as a sort of Yankee visionary entrepreneur before his time. His specific roots in time, space, and culture as a Genoese in the service of Spanish monarchs was downplayed; what was celebrated was his seeming prescience and capacity for self-reinvention.

In fact Columbus did have some such characteristics; entrepreneurism is often a leap into the unknown, and he was neither the first nor the last to set out to seek one thing and discover another, nor to venture on the basis of mistaken calculations and assumptions. There was, it is true, a certain Enron-like quality to his mileage calculations.

Subsequently, this useful narrative was seized upon and expanded by Catholic immigrant communities eager to demonstrate that Catholicism was not inconsistent with being American. Italian immigrant groups found Columbus a particularly appealing figure; here was an Italian Catholic already elevated to heroic status by the Americans they sought to join. Columbus Day became established as an American holiday, but for reasons and with symbolism quite different from those for which it is celebrated in Latin America..

Now, of course, Columbus Day is under attack as a holiday in the United States by the forces of political correctness. This is primarily an effect of the Calvinist Puritan roots of American progressivism. Just as Calvinists believed in the centrality of the depravity of man, with the exception of a miniscule contingent of the Elect of God, their secularized descendants believe in the depravity and cursedness of Western civilization, with their own enlightened selves in the role of the Elect.

I do not particularly sympathize with the demonization of Columbus Day by the politically correct, although I do not think the injustices suffered by our Siberian-American fellow immigrants should be glossed over. However, I think Columbus Day should be reconsidered as a U.S. holiday for a different reason. I am fundamentally in agreement with the Hispanosphere nationalists on one point: Columbus’s voyage was very specifically the initiation of the contact between Spain and Spanish America. Neither the settlement of Brazil nor of English-speaking North America were direct consequences of Columbus’s voyages, and would probably have happened had Columbus never returned with the news of his landing.

Siberian-Americans. There are no natives, or most of us born here are. Can’t have it both ways.

First Free Flight

Virgin Galactic has released video. Interesting that they’re using a skid on the nose instead of a wheel. Makes sense from a weight standpoint, and it’s easy to refurbish or replace between flights if necessary.

[Late morning update]

I suspect that Sir Richard is exaggerating. Given all the other hype, one would think that if they were having successful engine tests, they’d invite the press for one or two.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!