Scrap Ares I

The editorial board at the Orlando Sentinel (Florida’s largest paper) weighs in:

If U.S. space-policy decisions were dictated based solely on spectacle, the Ares I would be a shoo-in as NASA’s next manned vehicle. Unfortunately for fans of the rocket, cost, design and timing also matter.

Problems with all three argue for scrapping Ares I and assigning commercial rockets the task of flying to the international space station in low-Earth orbit. That would allow the agency to concentrate on its pre-shuttle mission of cutting-edge exploration.

I think we’re reaching the point at which its supporters are trying to swim up Niagara Falls.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Mark Matthews over at the Sentinel has a story on the hearings discussing the future of the program.

This should shock no one:

“There are a few people in the administration who want to kill Ares I and put all the money in commercial and the [Augustine] report tends to endorse that type of scenario. I think that is absolutely wrong,” said Doc Horowitz, former astronaut and Constellation architect.

If I were him, I’d just shut up, and hope that the IG doesn’t decide to open a belated investigation into his revolving door between NASA and ATK.

And then there’s this little tidbit at the end:

…there are whispers that the administration is exploring plans outside options presented by the Augustine committee, although it is unclear as to what they could include.

I suppose they could include (e.g.) bringing in the Chinese. We could just put it on the tab with all the other things we borrow money from them to buy from them.

More Ares I-X Thoughts

…this time from Henry Spencer:

Such separation problems – even including collisions – have happened before. Large rocket motors often produce noticeable thrust for a surprisingly long time after they officially shut down, as remaining gases and fluids leak out, and this thrust can overwhelm the effect of small separation motors trying to separate the stages. (Just such a problem caused the failure of a Falcon I launch last year.) Or perhaps not all the Ares I-X separation motors actually fired.

Two such problems in one launch would be an odd coincidence, but there’s at least one way that both could have the same cause: suppose a wiring error sent the ignition signal for some of the separation motors to the tumble motors instead?

This may sound far-fetched, but there have been a number of cases of cross-wiring of multiple similar devices, especially in early tests of new systems. For example, on the second unmanned test of the Saturn V in 1968, a shutdown command directed at one second-stage engine shut down its neighbour as well, because they were partly cross-wired.

Well, even if true, it’s not reasonable to expect them to get the wiring perfect. They had to launch this thing on a pinch-penny budget of only half a billion dollars.

And the controversy of “did it or didn’t it recontact” continues in comments at NASA Watch.

Community Organizer For The World

Byron York, on the mysterious international philosophy of Barack Obama:

Obama the organizer spent most of his time teaching community members how to put pressure on the city government, or on various wealthy corporations, to give them money. Obama’s organizers could be confrontational, or they could be conciliatory — Obama favored the latter — but the whole idea was to make powerful people feel guilty, or embarrassed, or annoyed enough to give them things.

Obama, born in 1961, felt that he missed the great days of the civil rights movement. Becoming an organizer was the next-best thing he could find. But his successes were small; he wanted to redistribute wealth and resources on a large scale, and he could only accomplish so much by protesting outside the housing project management office. That was the reason he ultimately left organizing to go to law school and run for public office.

That’s not to say that Obama left no legacy as an organizer. The colleagues I talked with all remembered him fondly. Several said he inspired them to improve their lives. But these were all people who shared his goals. They wanted to believe in him and in their shared enterprise.

Does Mahmoud Ahmedinejad fit into that category? The Taliban? Kim Jong-il?

Now that Obama is the president of the United States, he is the power figure, not the supplicant or the protester. Certainly a president still needs to convince foreign leaders to give him what he wants, but when it comes to dealing with the rest of the world, Obama isn’t the underdog. His years on the South Side are little help.

Unfortunately, they’re all he has.


Alan Boyle has updated his coverage of last week’s and weekend’s rocket festivities up in the desert. Stupid comments like this are somewhat dismaying, as usual:

Definitely not a million dollar subject to write about Alan. These amateur rockets look like something cobbled together from legos by crazy kids. Write about these amateurs when they do something significant like getting one of their Frankenstein rockets into space, or to the moon.

The real news was the awesome success Ares 1-X had yesterday, why no Cosmic Log article Alan? NASA showed us they are still the professional adult at the rocket launching party. What a beautiful sight it was to watch the Ares 1-X launch live on NASA tv. We need to give more money to NASA to get the Ares and Constellation programs rocking and rolling to the moon and Mars.


Yes, go NASA, which has billions of taxpayer dollars to play with, with little accountability. But yeah, let’s give them even more money.

Whereas Armadillo and Masten are accountable to their shareholders, which is why they accomplish so much for so little money. So who are the “adults” at this party, again? Give either of these companies one one hundredth of what NASA spent on the Corndog flight, and see how far they get with it. I’d bet a lot higher than the Corndog flew. In fact, I suspect that Armadillo for one will be higher within a year, with their existing funds.

[Update a few minutes later]

Mike Massee has put up a nice photo gallery.

[Mid-morning update]

Speaking of Armadillo flying higher, they got to almost two thousand feet yesterday.

Well, That’s A Relief

The administration is making sure that Gitmo detainees get swine flu vaccine. And here I was worried that those heartless rat bastards in the White House would be too busy making excuses about why American families can’t get it (“It’s Bush’s fault!”) to make sure that the illegal combatants were protected.

Seriously, what is the probability that they’ll even be exposed?

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!