Enceladus

I tweeted from the meeting in Seattle last Thursday that this was probably the biggest news from the event:

The Russian billionaire venture capitalist and amateur physicist is the man behind the Breakthrough Starshot mission to send a nano-spacecraft to the closest star, Proxima Centauri, and an initiative called Breakthrough Listen to use powerful radio telescopes to search for signals from intelligent extraterrestrial civilizations. Now Milner’s Breakthrough Initiatives has set its sights on Enceladus.

“We formed a sort of little workshop around this idea: Can we design a low-cost, privately funded mission to Enceladus which can be launched relatively soon?” Milner said at an inaugural international space summit called “A New Space Age” put on by the Economist magazine in Seattle, as reported by Space.com. If Milner is serious about launching a spacecraft to Enceladus, it would be a historic feat as the first privately funded mission to the outer solar system. (If it launched today, it would be the very first private interplanetary mission at all.)

I haven’t talked about it on the blog, but I may be at least partially responsible for this. About a year ago, in the context of developing my Ending Apolloism rant, I started working out the possibilities of a private Enceladus mission, partly just to show that we don’t need no stinkin’ SLS to do fast outer-planet missions. All of the Congressional focus had been on Europa, due to enthusiasm for the mission by Chairman Culberson.

When I went to the New Worlds conference in Austin last year (previous version of the one I attended last week), I talked to Pete Worden about it, as well as John Mankins and John Carrico (who was Google’s astrogator at the time, before they sold off Terra Bella). They all thought it was feasible. However, Pete said that he didn’t think that Yuri would be interested in a private mission to Enceladus, because he wouldn’t want to be distracted from his starship. (Imagine someone typing that sentence a decade ago.)

I talked to some planetary scientists, including Carolyn Porco (PI on Cassini, who is very enthusiastic about prospects for life there, and who was at the Seattle event as well, giving a whoop of joy from the back of the room when Milner made the announcement) and Morgan Cable at JPL. Mike Loucks provided me with some porkchop plots, and we saw some interesting opportunities for fast trips to Saturn in March of every year, starting in 2020, for affordable C3s. It wouldn’t orbit, but be a fast flyby when the moon was outside the limb of the planet, at about 10 km/s, which Morgan told me would be a reasonable velocity to gather dust to search for organics and particularly amino acids. I also talked to ULA, who worked out some numbers of what could be done with Vulcan/ACES and a Star-48.

The idea would be to have a mother ship with a flock or flocks of cubesats that could scatter themselves around the limb of the moon, maybe in several waves to get time variation as well, to taste the flumes of the geysers. It would charge the batteries on the birds, send them off, and store and relay the data back to earth (it would require cooperation from NASA to use the Deep Space Network). I also talked to Professors Jordi Puig-Suari (inventer of the cubesat standard at Cal Poly SLO) and Dave Barnhart at USC about the feasibility, and they thought it would be a good cubesat app. My idea was to put together a basic mission concept and cost estimate, and look for money and a PI. I would be the inital project manager, until we could raise the money and hire someone else who knew WTF they were doing.

Anyway, when I saw Pete in Pasadena at the Space Tech Expo in May, he told me that Yuri had in fact developed an interest in ocean moons. I don’t know whether it was because of my suggestion to Pete or not, and I don’t know whether the workshop came up with something similar to my concept, but based on what Yuri said at that meeting, it sounds like it. In any event, I’m very happy to see this happening.

Bill Clinton, Reconsidered

Well, this is refreshing. Caitlin Flanagan excoriates feminists for letting him off the hook for decades for his sexual abuse. I wonder if this also means that the truth will finally come out about all their other corruption and crimes, now that they seem to have been defenestrated?

[Update mid-morning]

Hell has frozen over. The NYT has defended Juanita Broaddrick.

[Update at noon]

The thing is, going after him now — when they don’t need him anymore, and when they’re trying to hustle Hillary off the political stage for 2020 — doesn’t make up for what they did then. Rather, it underscores it.”

[Wednesday-morning update]

The dam seems to be bursting. Now Democrats are saying that the years of defending Bill Clinton were morally indefensible. Gee, ya think? That’s why I swore never to support another Democrat two decades ago. Even Matt Yglesias now realizes he was wrong, and that Clinton should have resigned. But he still has this wrong:

In the midst of the very same public statement in which he confessed the error, Clinton also mounted the defense that would see him through to victory — portraying the issue as fundamentally a private family matter rather than a topic of urgent public concern.

“I intend to reclaim my family life for my family,” he said. “It’s nobody’s business but ours. Even presidents have private lives. It is time to stop the pursuit of personal destruction and the prying into private lives and get on with our national life.”

To this line of argument, Republicans offered what was fundamentally the wrong countercharge. They argued that in the effort to spare himself from the personal and marital embarrassment entailed by having the affair exposed, Clinton committed perjury when testifying about the matter in a deposition related to Paula Jones’s lawsuit against him.

What they should have argued was something simpler: A president who uses the power of the Oval Office to seduce a 20-something subordinate is morally bankrupt and contributing, in a meaningful way, to a serious social problem that disadvantages millions of women throughout their lives.

But by and large, they didn’t. So Clinton countered with the now-famous defense: “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” Ultimately, most Americans embraced the larger argument that perjury in a civil lawsuit unrelated to the president’s official duties did not constitute high crimes and misdemeanors.

It’s wrong on two levels. First, both things were terrible (and as Flanagan notes above, the behavior with Lewinsky destroyed the credibility of the feminist argument against relationships in the workplace of disparate power). Second, he (as do and did most Democrats) continues to minimize what Clinton did legally. No, he didn’t merely “commit perjury.” He suborned perjury from others, including Betty Currie, Monica Lewinsky, and Linda Tripp, via bribes, and physical threats to the family of the latter. This was a major obstruction of justice in order to prevent another woman upon whom he had predated with the power of the state, from getting a fair trial. And he did this after having taken an oath to see that the laws were faithfully executed. As George Will wrote at the time, Bill Clinton may not have been the worst president, but he was probably one of the worst men to ever be president.

I’m glad that the scales are finally falling from some eyes over this, but some of the blindness persists.

[Update a while later]

If Roy Moore wins, it will be because of Democrats.

[Update a few minutes later]

Michelle Goldberg struggles to figure out what to say.

That can be a problem when you’ve been a lying hypocrite for decades.

[Update late morning]

Flash from the past: Democrats standing and applauding Bill Clinton after his impeachment in 1998. They had no shame. Most of them still don’t.

And “liberals'” sudden condemnation of Bill Clinton is cynical and self serving. No kidding.

Steve Jurvetson

Wow, I hope the allegations aren’t true:

Steve Jurvetson, a partner at a major Silicon Valley venture capital firm that bears his name—Draper Fisher Jurvetson—has left the company amid accusations of sexual harassment. However, he is still listed as a “partner” on the DFJ website.

Jurvetson currently serves on the boards of Tesla and SpaceX, but he has taken a leave as a result of these allegations, according to CNBC.

Weird. I was just talking to him Thursday in Seattle.

Roy Moore

A lot of people are calling him a pedophile. He’s an awful human being, but he’s not that. I got into a stupid Twitter war this morning on that issue.

A pedophile is someone who has a desire for sex with actual children (and by children, I mean people who have not attained puberty, not teenagers). We have seen no evidence of that. But for simply pointing that out, I was accused of being one myself for “defending” him (I’m not, and I didn’t defend him, other than to point out that his attempted statutory rape is not pedophilia). And because I have a mustache.

Contra what so many confidently and ignorantly informed me, pedophilia has nothing to do with the age of the perp. It doesn’t matter how old Moore was when he attempted sex with these young women (and yes, a female who has started menstruating is a young woman, not a “child,” though she may be emotionally). All that matters is the age of the victim.

Moon Versus Mars

Alan Boyle reports on the “debate” in Seattle on Thursday at the space event sponsored by The Economist (which was overall very interesting and worthwhile, other than this). As I noted at the time, it was a false choice based on a false premise.

It started out annoying, and got worse with time. Talmadge said something like (I’m paraphasing) “Before we start this, let’s see if we’ll be able to change some minds. How many think we should go to the moon first.” Hands go up, not mine. “How many think we should go to Mars first?” Other hands go up. “How many think we shouldn’t do either, and should take care of the earth?” Very few, if any hands went up, given the audience. My hand obviously didn’t go up at any of them.

And then they launched into a debate on those three topics, with Naveen Jain making the case for the moon, Chris Lewicki doing the same for asteroids, and poor John Logsdon having to defend the premise that we shouldn’t be doing things in space (something that he doesn’t believe).

So that was the false choice (that is, he didn’t ask the fourth question: “How many people think “we” don’t have to make such a choice, and that some will do one, some will do the other, some will do some other things not mentioned, and some will stay home?”).

The false premise, of course, is that this debate has some relevance to policy, and that unless “we” have a societal “consensus” on what the next step will be, it won’t happen. This is Apolloism.

I think that Chris made the best case, which was basically, we should go anywhere we find useful. And of course, John’s argument isn’t that we shouldn’t settle space, but that we probably won’t. But his example of Antarctica as a harsh environment that hasn’t been really settled (ignoring his arbitrary rule that a settlement requires more than a couple thousand people) fails to persuade because, as Jeff Greason pointed out in audience discussion. On Antarctica, people cannot own the land, they cannot dig the land, they cannot sell the output of their labor, they cannot pass on anything they do there to their descendants.

What he didn’t point out, which I would have, is that the reason for this is the Antarctic Treaty. And if we don’t settle space, a large part of the reason is that the Outer Space Treaty was modeled on it, and it was enforced.

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