What Is Obama’s Motive In Space?

Brian Micklethwait tries to figure it out. I think he’s overthinking it, myself. I agree with this commenter:

Obama doesn’t believe in space exploration and doesn’t care about it. He is uninterested. Therefore he doesn’t attempt to manage it or fix it the only way he knows – by state management. He is willing to leave it alone, to ignore it, to stay away from it. He cares about social policy (“spreading the wealth”) – space has nothing to do with this. It’s not his cup of tea.

It doesn’t really matter. The policy is what it is. Now we have to fight to get it implemented, and unfortunately, that means (ironically) a fight with people who should be supporting it if they were true to their own principles.

The Danger Of A Little Knowledge

Someone reading this Kiplinger newsletter article might think that the author knows what he’s talking about, but he gets a number of things wrong, including making the same mistake as many in ignoring the existence of the Atlas and Delta. Fortunately, he’s corrected on many counts in comments by Clark Lindsey, Robert Horning, “Red” and others.

[Update a while later]

Even the subhed is wrong. There is no such thing as the “Constellation rocket.”

Where Is The Outrage?

Suppose that, a week before the Congress voted on whether or not to authorize military force, a document had been generated that showed there were no WMD in Iraq. Suppose further that it was reported that the Pentagon had sat on it, and not released it until weeks after the vote. And when asked why, the explanation was “we didn’t want to influence the vote.” Then, a Pentagon official comes out and denies that it was deliberately withheld, though the record clearly shows that the information was known by the defense secretary prior to the vote.

Imagine the howls from the Democrats and the press, and calls for firings and impeachment, and demands for a new vote.

Substitute health care reform for Iraq, HHS for Pentagon, and “will cost much more than advertised” for “no WMD,” and that’s exactly what has happened.

[crickets chirping…]

Bye Bye, LAS

Funding for it is ending this week:

Orbital Sciences Corp. is warning subcontractors supporting development of a launch abort system for NASA’s Orion crew capsule that funding for the effort will cease April 30, according to industry sources and documents.

No more money down that rat hole. This is good, not just because it doesn’t waste any more money on it, but because it makes it harder for Orion to compete with Dragon or Orion Lite for crew delivery if Lockheed Martin tried to use their subsidized system to get into that market. Boeing couldn’t have been happy to have heard that Orion had been resurrected, when they were making a decision about whether not to put their own money into a crew capsule (with the help of their CCDev contract). I don’t know if this will be enough to assuage their fears, though.

Here We Go Again

Doug McKinnon is the latest “conservative” to bash American industry, complete with the now-standard out-of-context Rutan quote:

For the past five decades, the United States has held that title. With his decision to cancel NASA’s human spaceflight program and outsource it to private industry, Mr. Obama has now ensured that the People’s Republic of China with its military run program or Russia, will now wrest the title from us and hold it for decades or more.

I feel like I’m playing whack-a-mole.

Hint: NASA’s human spaceflight program has not been cancelled. All that was cancelled was their bloated, unnecessary new rocket. And the notion that China is ever going to be ahead of us in this area, let alone “for decades or more,” when there are superior rockets to theirs sitting on the pad in Florida right now, is ludicrous.

And then we have this bit of sophistry, from the smartest guy in the room.

Michael Griffin, the former administrator of NASA and himself a strong advocate of true “commercial” space, feels the president is misreading private sector capabilities as well as long-term viability. Griffin said to me, “Suborbital flight takes about 2 percent of the energy needed for orbital flight. Understanding that, the reality is that the commercial space industry is a number of years away from fielding economical, capable, reliable, and logistically dependable transportation just for cargo. With human spaceflight being harder yet.”

Nice diversion from the topic. No suborbital flight producer is contemplating going after this market any time soon. And yes, it is a “number of years away,” if that number is “one” or “two.” How economical, or logistically dependable was the Shuttle? How “economical, and logistically dependable” would Ares have been?

I used to think that he had convinced himself that what he was saying was true, but now I just think that he’s a deliberate liar, perfectly willing to gull the gullible.

[Update a couple minutes later]

You’ve gotta love the failed irony sensor here:

Neither space nor our future in it should be a partisan issue driven by politics of the moment.

I sure wish that these folks really believed that. If he’s really a “long-time consultant on space,” it’s kind of frightening, but it would explain why the policy is such a mess.

[Update a minute or two later]

And of course, the first commenter credits NASA with teflon. The myths that just won’t die.

[One more update]

OK, I see that this isn’t a new piece, just new to me. It was from the week of the Florida speech. I wonder if anyone has responded it to it over there yet?

I Have Seen The Future

Yesterday, I took a tour of the new (well, new to me — I hadn’t seen it because they moved while I was in Florida) SpaceX facilities in Hawthorne. They are quite impressive, as are all the rocket parts being manufactured there. No cameras were allowed, unfortunately. It’s even more impressive considering how little (relative to other similar projects) money has been spent. I would say that this is the current state of the art in expendable launch systems, with plenty of room for future cost reduction (including at least partial reusability). It makes me curious to visit Decatur now, to compare it to the Delta/Atlas production process.

Peak Everything?

Thoughts from Ron Bailey, on running out of stuff. I found this interesting:

The folks at the GPRI point out that the phosphorus in just one person’s urine would be close to the amount needed to fertilize the food supply for one person. So why not recycle urine? In fact, NoMix toilets have been invented which allow for the collection of urine separate from solid wastes, allowing phosphorus and nitrogen to be recovered and used as fertilizer. In addition, crop biotechnologists are exploring ways to produce plants that dramatically increase the efficiency with which they use phosphorus, which would reduce the amount fertilizer needed to grow a given amount of food.

Urine recycling would be not just handy, but perhaps crucial, for space settlements.

On the broader point, as long as we have affordable energy and knowledge there’s no reason to run out of anything. The biggest problem is the overabundance of stupidity on the part of those who would rule our lives.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!