If Not Now, When?

A worker on the program says that now is no time to retire Shuttle.

It’s very appealing to imagine continuing the program, but it’s just not realistic. The decision was really made on February 1st, 2003, when the fleet size went (once again) from four to three, and this time there were no structural spares from which to build a replacement, as we did after the Challenger loss. As former Shuttle program manager Wayne Hale has explained, it is simply not practical to continue to fly. And since he wrote that, almost two years ago, it has gotten progressively more difficult to resurrect the program, with the ongoing shutdowns of second- and third-tier suppliers, who are no longer in business. The time to argue against this was six years ago, after the VSE was announced, because the decision was part and parcel of it, and while some politicians have made noise about trying to keep the program alive, nothing has ever happened to allow it. The Gap always existed, and a responsible NASA administrator would have done everything in his power to minimize it, and things could have been done to do so (for instance, allowing the original CEV flyoff scheduled for 2006 to go forward, and pick one to fly on an Atlas). Instead, Mike Griffin wasted billions on a flawed program that has expanded it, almost a year per year.

When you keep heading in a direction, eventually you get where you are going, and here we are. Space policy has, in general, been a slow-motion train wreck for decades, and now we’re watching the locomotive start to head over the cliff. It is the result of a lot of flawed policy decisions made over the years, almost all of whose consequences were perfectly predictable, and the piper has finally come to receive his wages for the clumsy dancing. Because space policy, at least human spaceflight policy, isn’t important, and hasn’t been since the early sixties. All that has ever mattered is the jobs, and now, even many of those will be gone. It’s time to grow up, and understand that you are never going to get good policy from a democracy on matters like this. Those who want to see us go into space are going to have to accept that the only route is one that provides a real return, that people are willing to pay for. Flawed and problematic as the new direction is, it at least offers some small amount of hope that we will be able to transition to such an environment. But the days of monolithic NASA monopoly programs for humans in space are over.

Site Update

You may not notice anything, but I just updated WordPress to the current version.

Unfortunately (and this is kind of a disaster), I can’t see to type new posts. The text in the text box is white on white. Anyone know what the problem might be?

[Mid-afternoon update]

OK, per a comment, I fixed the stylesheet for the administrator, and I can now see these words as I type. That’s a dumb bug. You’d think they’d have fixed it by now.

We Can’t Afford It, Bill

Bolden is finally speaking truth to foolishness:

“I can’t pay for an Ares I today. It’s too expensive,” said Bolden, speaking after a meeting of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee.

“That’s an easy decision for me because it wipes out everything. My friend Sen. Nelson, and he is my friend to be quite honest, we respectfully agree to disagree on this. It is incredibly costly for me to go off and try a series of Ares I tests to support a heavy-lift at the present cost of solid rocket motors. Now, there is an answer. Get the cost down. And ATK (prime contractor for the Ares I) says they can do that. But we’re not there right now.”

Right before that statement, Bolden elaborated: “Ares I is not important to the continued development of heavy-lift unless the nation decides that it needs to preserve the capability to develop large segmented solid rocket motors. And that decision still has to be made. Right now, we’re leaning toward liquids. And if you’re leaning toward liquids, why would you spend a lot of time using Ares I as a development vehicle if that’s not going to part of the mix?”

I would have gone farther and pointed out that the only reason to do this is pork for KSC, but then, that’s why I’m not a high government official. And they are friends.

The Meek May Inherit The Earth

…but he doesn’t have a prayer in Florida:

With reports that President Obama’s support among Jewish voters has dropped by half, one can’t help but think that poor Kendrick Meek is paying the price for the buyer’s remorse over Obama that some Democrats are experiencing these days. In a private discussion about condo Democrats supporting Crist, one highly placed and in-the-know Democratic strategist put it to me this way: “The disenchantment that community privately feels towards Obama makes it very unlikely they will support another black Democrat anytime soon.”

As evidenced in the latest Rasmussen poll, moderate Republicans are coming home, and Marco Rubio is again leading a three-way race between Rubio, Crist and Meek by a significant margin, leaving the Democrats alone to kill one another.

What kind of an idiot would vote for Charlie Crist at this point?

A Florida Democrat.

He Shoots, He Scores

Mickey Kaus, on Barbara Boxer’s pop gun:

“Fine,” he said today. “If I’m out of the mainstream, then Boxer has nothing to fear from debating. Let’s both present our views and see who is in what stream. Let the voters decide. That’s what democracy is supposed to be about.”

Kaus noted a debate would also give Boxer a valuable chance to respond to the L.A. Times editorial board’s observation that “she displays less intellectual firepower or leadership than she could.”

“If the Times is right, this is a chance for her to unleash the intellectual firepower she’s been holding in reserve,” Kaus said.

I may run out of popcorn.

I’m guessing there’s at least a forty-point difference in IQs. I’d pay quite a bit to see that debate.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!