“Conservatives” In Space

Adam Keiper (who edited and published my recent piece in The New Atlantis, as well as previous ones) contrasts my approach with Bob Zubrin’s, though (as Glenn Reynolds points out) I’m not sure that “conservative” is a useful label for either. I’m basically a libertarian (though to be fair he does talk about “conservatives and libertarians”) who doesn’t think that the goal of space development has been, or ever will be, well served by a massive centralized government program. My policy advice is predicated on the assumption that it will continue to be funded, regardless, and as a space development (and ultimately space settlement) advocate, I’m just trying to funnel the funds in the most productive direction to those ends. I’m not sure how to characterize that position, politically, and I’m not sure that it really matters.

[Update late afternoon]

Sigh. Where to start with Mark Whittington’s latest uncomprehending blather?

NASA alone wastes money and is buffeted by political shifts as its budget is cut or shifted around according to whim. The private sector is simply not capable of mounting expeditions to the Moon or beyond or constructing settlements in the foreseeable future. Together, though, NASA and what people are taking to calling “new space” can do anything.

How to mesh the two so that the strengths are brought to bear is a fundamental problem of our time. I don’t think Rand, for all he praise he has gotten for his New Atlantis article, has answered that question.

Mark (as usual) confuses his inability to comprehend my answer to the question with a failure to answer it.

Part of the reason is a flawed understanding of the history of the space age; Rand has a simplistic notion of why things happened and why they did not.

Hilarious. Perhaps Mark can provide us with his oh-so-much-more sophisticated notion of “why things happened and why they did not,” and thus enlighten us (not to mention actually make a case for this kind of nonsense — something he never does). Perhaps he could even do it so well that he would be invited to write for a publication such as, well, perhaps Mad Magazine, if not The New Atlantis.

Rand also demonstrates a bias against government and an excessive impatience toward its fundamental inefficiencies that seems to foreclose any notion that NASA has any role but servicing the commercial sector.

A complete mischaracterization of my position, (again, as usual) providing zero evidence for it.

A government space effort, while it should be commercial friendly, is much more than just a conduit toward space faring corporate welfare.

So he ends with (what else?) an idiotic straw man.

[Friday morning update]

Per some thoughts in comments, I went to check Technorati, and Mark has a grand total of seven links in the last couple months. All but one are from either me or Jon Goff (the other blogger whose arguments he fantasizes about)l, and most from me, always in response to some outrageous misinterpretation of what we wrote. So maybe I should stop feeding the troll. His hittage might improve if he’s forced to write intelligent things to get hits, and we stop rewarding him for this behavior. Assuming, of course, that he’s capable of it.

The Heavy-Lift Empire Strikes Back?

Thoughts over at Space Transport news. It was a little dismaying to see Augustine’s comment.

I have no predictions as to the outcome, but I’m not particularly hopeful, given the nature of bureaucracy and entropy. But we are continuing to get useful ideas out there, for the private sector to pick up on even if we continue to waste billions on NASA’s HSF program.

[Update in the evening]

This article would indicate that the panel overall remains stuck in the conventional wisdom that heavy lifters are on the critical path to space exploration. One of the hopes for my piece in The New Atlantis was to break that consensus, but it doesn’t seem to have succeeded, so far.

[Late evening update]

Here’s an interesting chart (that appears to have been captured by a camera at the actual presentation) that summarizes the seven options currently being considered. I assume that “IP” is international participation (aka the Russians). I’m not sure what “SH” means, but perhaps one of my readers will be smarter at deciphering than me. I’m guessing something like “Super Heavy.”

Note that the panel (as a whole — there could be dissent among individuals) assumes that refueling is not an option within the current budget, as the chart is currently configured. Note also that it assumes that Ares V is required. I assume that these two assumptions are not coincidental. Take away the heavy lifter, and there’s abundant budget for depots, and other things.

The real question to me is: what is the driver for the perceived heavy-lift requirement? Is it a credibility factor with the flight rate necessary for smaller vehicles to deliver all the propellant for (say) a Mars mission? Or a “smallest biggest piece” (again for, say, a Mars mission) that begs credibility in terms of ability to assemble it on orbit? Or a “let’s keep the options open for some kind of need that we can’t anticipate”? Or all of the above? I expect that we will know the answers to these questions in a very few weeks. I don’t think that the panel will hide the ball the way that NASA did with ESAS.

But one hint might be in noting that the Mars mission (presumably to the surface) is the biggest driver — it assumes both “many” Ares V launches while also noting that refueling is “enabling” (i.e., cannot be done without it). This is a simple recognition of the reality that at some point, even the heavy-lift fetishists have to recognize that there is a limit to the degree to which they can afford to avoid orbital operations — there are some missions simply a bridge too far to do with a single launch.

Anyway, I’m slightly more encouraged by this chart, if for no other reason that it recognizes refueling as a viable option, and that minds are clearly starting to change. I may have more thoughts anon, though, and it’s a long way to August 31st, I suspect, with a lot of perturbations to come.

[Update a few minutes later]

One other point. The chart isn’t good news for Ares I.

[One more update before crashing to catch with with loss of last night’s sleep]

“Brad” has some more comments on the table:

1) The porklauncher, Ares I, looks dead. Only two of the seven options use Ares I, and one of those two options uses commercial crew services as well.

2) Commercial crew services is going to happen. Five out of the seven options exploit commercial crew services.

3) The Shuttle orbiter looks like it will still retire close to schedule. Only one of the seven options extends orbiter operations through 2015.

4) Ares V may not survive. Even though HLV is endorsed with every option, Ares V is only included in four out of the seven, and those four (IMHO) consist of the less probable choices.

5) Propellant depots are enabling to one option, and mentioned as enhancing three options, so depots are not ignored and have a fair chance for future development. Particularly when you take into account that commercial services are included in every option.

6) The ISS is not going to de-orbit in 2016. Five of the seven options extend ISS operations through 2020. The committee’s hope to expand international cooperation will only emphasize the importance of the ISS. Perhaps this might not be a drain on NASA, if international cooperation offsets the cost of flying ISS beyond 2016.

[Thursday morning update]

Todd Halvorson reports on the subject. Does anyone else see something missing in the reporting? You know, the thing that’s “enabling” for Mars First?

The Obama Joker Poster

Jim Garaghty has a critique, with which I agree:

I actually don’t like the Obama-Joker poster, for several reasons. For starters, this image is too “hot” — i.e., the Joker was a sadist and a psychopath, and Obama is neither. Obama’s the opposite of Heath Ledger’s portrayal; the Joker was a nihilist and Obama is a utopian idealist.

There’s something particularly wrongheaded about using a character who says his purpose is to “show the schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are” to symbolize a politician in love with centralized planning.

As we watch the President’s poll numbers drop, I feel like a lot of damaging memes are starting to stick to Obama — used car salesman, not stupid but doesn’t know issues in depth (tonsil profiteering!), bad first instincts, a wimp on foreign affairs, melting before our eyes without Bush or McCain to run against… The “Joker” image doesn’t fit any of those, and I think is too easily used as fodder for distractions.

I think that the metaphor of Bush as Dark Knight and Islamism as the nihilist joker is interesting, but this poster is probably counterproductive, because while it may make some feel good, it isn’t grounded in a valid analogy. On the other hand:

William Ayers seemed, at one point in his life, intrigued at the thought of “watching the world burn.”

But he was “just a guy in Obama’s neighborhood” (with whom he helped propagandize schoolchildren with the Annenberg funds), so that’s all right.

[Update on Thursday morning]

Frank J. has his own take:

First off, it’s worth looking at whether the poster is racist. Liberals seem pretty certain it is. An LA Weekly blogger commented that “the only thing missing is a noose.” Now, you might be scratching your head and saying that the only people who would call this racist are brain-dead liberals who shriek “racism!” at every criticism about Obama as an alternative to thinking and only cause more problems by confusing the issue of racism and should thus be chased out of society and forced to live in the sewers, only emerging at night to feed on garbage and bugs.

And while that’s quite fair and probably true, we should still give the possibility of racism a fair hearing. Don’t you remember the long, racist history of black people being compared to the Joker? Of course not, because I just made that up — but it could be true in some alternate universe. Also, the image involves white makeup on a black person. White on black — that has to be racist somehow. I’ll bet makeup places won’t even sell white pancake makeup to black people. They’d be like “No! Get out of here, black person! We won’t sell that to you! That’s racist!”

Beyond the racism in the image that’s quite obvious to crazy people, the other question is whether there are any real substantive comparisons between Obama and the Joker. On the surface, they don’t seem at all alike. The Joker is psychotic, and I’ve heard Obama called a lot of things — arrogant, incompetent, deceitful, a Communist — but not psychotic. Obama doesn’t seem like he’s out to kill anyone — not even terrorists — and only leaves the option of killing people on the table to help make ends meet in his health care plan.

Especially terrorists.

Though he doesn’t seem averse to persuading Granny that it’s time to go.

And then there’s comment number two:

The similarities also include the circumstances that brought each to power. As Alfred said “and in their desperation, they turned to a man they fully didn’t understand.”

And the election of Obama is a joke, a bad one on us.

It’s sure not seeming all that funny to me.

Back To California

I’m heading back to LA tonight, for the next week and a half. Not sure how much blogging will be happening.

[Evening update, about 9:40 CDT]

Well, I’m stuck at DFW, with my LA flight delayed until 11 PM local, which gets me into LA about midnight, and probably to my room over an hour later. Should have taken the non-stop from Miami.

[Bleary Wednesday morning update from the left coast]

OK, I was wrong. It wasn’t delayed until 11 pm — it didn’t rise the wheels until 12:30 AM (1:30 AM my body time on a day after I’d gotten up at 5 AM). We got into LAX about 2 AM Pacific (24 hours after I had first arisen). National had only two cars, both vans. The first one (a Kia Sedona) started beeping at me, and lighted an indicator saying that both front doors were ajar (no, it’s not a jar, it’s a door…) and the interior light came on and wouldn’t go off. This behavior continued, so I returned the car, to little rejoicing, and got the other one, a Dodge of some variety. I didn’t get to bed until after 3 AM. It’s now almost 10 AM, and I’m at work.

Hopefully, I’ll get caught up a little tonight.

Sorry, Mark

But no matter how you want to idiotically mischaracterize it, “Flexible Path” is not “Look But Don’t Touch.” It is a plan to allow us to go affordably and sustainably wherever we (and our inheritors) wish in the (or at least the inner) solar system, including planetary surfaces, if we can raise the money and motivation for the additional hardware necessary to do so. And we’ll certainly be able to touch Phobos, Deimos, and near-earth objects, whether to move or mine them.

[Wednesday morning update]

If you follow the above link, you’ll see that Mark continues to fantasize that I have a “chain,” and that I “leap the length” of it. He should really broaden the range of his clichés, not to mention finding some that have some basis in objective reality. It’s of a part with his imaginary friends in the “Internet Rocketeer Club.”

Sarah Palin

…as James Tiberious Kirk:

For all his talk of being different, representing “hope,” and bringing “change” Obama has turned out to be quite the bore. He is the consummate insider, a recycler of old ideas and failed policies. People wanted to beam up to the starship and explore strange new worlds. We wanted to boldly go where no man (or woman) has gone before. Obama is in the wrong franchise. He and crazy Doc Brown, I mean Joe Biden, gassed up the DeLorean and took us back in time. To 1976.

Palin passed the Kobayashi Maru. She is qualified to command the ship. She has all the qualities we want in a captain; valor, principals, vision and most of all, the ability to change the rules.

We’ll see if she’s changed them to her advantage.

The Great Moon Debate

It’s started over at The Economist. It seems pretty clear that neither debater had an opportunity to see their protagonist’s input. Gold’s criticism is not of opposition to going to the moon per se, but against NASA’s ability to do it effectively, particularly with its chosen architecture. Gregg’s position (and pretty much standard boilerplate from his old Space Studies Institute days) is that the moon is important as a destination, but he is basically silent on how to get there, or even whether or not NASA should do it, or someone else.

At least for this round, they are basically talking past each other. Tomorrow should be more interesting, since they will both be able to respond to what the other said today. As I predicted previously, I suspect that they will be more in agreement than the people who set up the “debate” expect.

Why Most Journalists Are Democrats

A view from the Soviet socialist trenches.

[Update a few minutes later]

This seems related: Obama’s quest into the magic world of anti-American mythology:

There is a reason why snobby elites on the Upper East Side of Manhattan generously donate to leftist causes and support leftist politicians. Snobs and radicals often act in accord because they are not opposites, as some believe, but rather spiritual cousins — equally despising “the bourgeois,” sharing a low view of humanity as herd animals, and sorting people not on their individual merits but by color, income, occupation, ethnicity, gender, and any other characteristic except the content of their minds. Such beliefs have often served as a veiled excuse for tyranny.

This thinking is the direct opposite of the ideal of individual liberty, on which the United States was founded and which defines this country’s exceptionalism. As such, elitist and leftist beliefs are downright un-American — a term that today has become a fighting word, used broadly by both right and left, sometimes with a completely opposite meaning. Not to be outdone, snobs and radicals have also evolved a natural loathing for American “bourgeois” principles.

But the view of America as the command center of the international capitalist conspiracy is definitely not a product of natural evolution, but rather a foreign implant going back to the days of the Cold War.

…Where’s the “imperialist propaganda” when you need it? The leftist propaganda encountered so little resistance in the land of the alleged “capitalist conspiracy” that an airbrushed version of history has almost universally replaced the truth in the media, education, and entertainment. The intended result is the widespread notion of America’s guilt. One doesn’t even need to be a leftist anymore to believe in this country’s image as a violent empire controlled by greedy capitalist oligarchies that dictate its policies.

Press, academia and the education establishment are mediocre when it comes to imparting reality and promoting critical thinking, but superlative when it comes to collectivist propagandizing.

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