They still don’t know what happened on the Progress failure.

I noted at the time that this could result in a delay of the planned crew rotation on the 26th, and it has. I had a discussion with Jim Oberg on Facebook, and he didn’t think there was sufficient commonality, but he seems more concerned now:

Whatever the conclusions of that report may be, lessons can already be drawn from the accident, Oberg said.

“This and recent similar failures highlight the foolishness of judging mission success reliability based on historical statistics. It’s not just that each launch is a new roll of the dice — it’s a first roll of NEW dice,” he said. “The quality of fabrication and mission preparations reflect the CURRENT human and industrial context, and Russian space industry leaders have been so alarmed by those levels that they’ve repeatedly replaced the Russian Space Agency head with outsiders with nothing to show for it.”

This is a serious issue, and Congress’s response? To cut the funding for a Soyuz replacement.

“Leaving Orbit”

An interview with Margaret Lazarus Dean, whose new book seems to rest on false premises, almost an alternate fantasy history.

Part-memoir, part-historical document, part-manifesto, Margaret Lazarus Dean’s perceptive new book Leaving Orbit: Notes From the Last Days of American Spaceflight (which will be released May 19) asks the question, ”What does it mean that we have been going to space for 50 years and have decided to stop?”

Ummmm…we haven’t “decided to stop.” We’ve been going into space continually since the Shuttle was retired. Within two years, we’ll be doing it on American vehicles from American soil.

I do think there is a popular attitude right now, popular among young and old alike, that government always mucks everything up by its very nature, that private enterprise can always do everything better, and that attitude is particularly dangerous to funding big unprofitable projects like spaceflight. I meet a lot of people who are under the impression that SpaceX is going to take over, and improve upon, everything NASA did, but that’s a misunderstanding of the scope of SpaceX’s plans. A project like going to Mars, which is the next logical step, is so massively expensive it can only be paid for by a federal government. So if we want to go there, we are going to have to learn to trust.


The House Appropriations Bill

Once again, cuts Commercial Crew and space technology, and pours more money down the SLS/Orion rat hole. I hope this can get fixed in conference.

Note that, as usual, the comments by Gary Church are insane. But “Windbourne”‘s comment raises an interesting question. If you did a secret survey of NASA employees, how many of them would support SLS?

Gender Feminists

…are science deniers:

Ms. Benenson explains that there’s an “inherent conflict in unrelated females’ relations with one another.” They very much want one another’s support—as coalition partners and for help with childcare—but “they must invest first and foremost in their families.” In fact, because we are driven to pass on our own genes or at least those of people closely related to us, it really doesn’t make evolutionary sense for a woman to invest in an unrelated woman, except as a form of self-protection.

How this plays out among women leads to some “very confusing” (and often ugly) relationships, with women as covert competitors, using tools including gossip and social exclusion to push down other women, especially any who dare to stand out.

Men, on the other hand, are direct and domineering with one another from boyhood on in a way that women are not. Men come together in groups, while women form dyads—groups of two. Men love competition and contests to see who’s best, whereas women get insulted if one woman seems to be asserting herself as better than the others.

In fact, research finds that women bond through sharing their failures and vulnerabilities—an essential bit of information that helps explain what Sandberg merely laments: women’s not proclaiming their greatness in the workplace and not finding it natural to just march right up and “sit at the table.”

Although Ms. Sandberg, like other business advice writers, repeats the stereotype of women as “communal,” it is actually men who evolved to be cooperators in a way that women, ever-vigilant that another woman might get one over on them, did not. When men aren’t fighting each another, they are quick to band together against a common enemy. Or, after kicking each other’s asses, they’ll go and have a beer.

Sure, it’s 2015, and we’re marching through the workplace with iPhones instead of pawing in the underbrush for berries, but this evolved psychology is still driving us, and it’s to the detriment of the women who read Ms. Sandberg’s book that it is ignored instead of taken into account.

People should be treated as individuals, not members of groups, but it’s foolish to deny the intrinsic differences between men and women. In a sense, they’re almost different symbiotic species.

Planet Obama

Where self awareness goes to die:

Alas, among the Obamas, self-awareness is not a strong suit, and this particular deficit isn’t limited to the first lady. This week, at Georgetown University, the president bemoaned the scourge of private schools, driven by “an anti-government ideology that disinvests from those common goods and those things that draw us together.”

One wonders: Did he feel that way as a teenager while in the bosom of the exclusive Punahou prep school in Honolulu? The Obama children, of course, attend Sidwell Friends, a private institution that costs $37,750 a year. Before moving to Washington, D.C., Sasha and Malia studied at the University of Chicago’s elite Laboratory School, where middle school tuition runs at $29,328.

Intellectual consistency is for the little people.

[Update a few minutes later]

How can Obama object to private schools when his children attend one, he went to one?”

A Better Way To Open The Solar System

I see that Culberson just essentially wrote into law that SLS must be used for the Europa mission. Which means that he probably just doomed it.

Because of micromanagement by Congress, NASA’s plans for exploring (forget about developing) the solar system are FUBAR, at least in terms of human spaceflight. The NRC report last summer, and even the more recent JPL/Aerospace study are economically and programmatically insane, because they are compelled to use a vehicle that will probably never get built, and if it does, will be a drag of billions per year on the NASA budget.

I’ve got some free time right now, and a need for some income. I’m thinking about doing a new Kickstarter to show what could be done with that same budget over decades, if relieved of the shackles that Congress places on it. I think that the output would put any current plans to shame, in terms of what could be accomplished. It would be a handy document to have when the subject comes up for debate again, in the next administration.

Who would support it?

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!