I’ve always believed that there is no law of physics that makes it inevitable, that it’s a matter of learning how to continue doing the cellular-level repair that occurs when we’re young. But here is an article that says it is caused by thermal chaos.

Not sure I buy it (it still doesn’t take into account artificial techniques for doing error checking in transcription), but it’s an interesting read.

Dick Shelby

It is theoretically conceivable that there have been chairs of the Senate budget committee more damaging to the future of spaceflight than him, but I don’t want to do the necessary research to determine it, and the thought itself is pretty frightening.

Kudos to Eric Berger for continuing to cover this like almost no one else in the media.

[Late-evening update]

Bad link, fixed now. Sorry!

Trump’s Tax Returns

Yes, this is an amazing story in an already amazing election season:

A friend of Donald Trump’s recently approached him to suggest that he will eventually have to release his tax returns, as every presidential nominee has for decades. The friend told Trump that he should do it before the GOP convention to ensure everyone can process what’s in the returns and help make any revelations “old news” by November. If Trump didn’t do that, he was warned, the odds of politicized leaks from his returns were high, citing several examples from the Obama era, including the illegal leaking of some of Romney’s tax information by the IRS in 2012.

“What will you do if the returns come out as part of an October surprise?” Trump was asked. Trump pondered the question and replied, “I’ll say they aren’t mine.” That stunning answer is the essence of Donald Trump. “It’s exactly what I’d expect him to say,” Fox Business’s Charlie Gasparino, who has known Trump for decades, told me. But while Donald Trump has made a life out of bluffing his way past problems and cavalier comments, it’s harder to succeed doing that at the presidential level.

Trump may be inching up in polls now, but one sharp wrong turn could send him spinning off the road. A political party that nominates Trump without seeing his tax returns could be committing political suicide and endangering dozens of down-ballot GOP candidates. Even Superman met his match with kryptonite.

People keep saying that, but…

It’s Up To SpaceX Now

I’m as shocked as everyone else to see that Boeing’s first commercial crew flight to ISS has slipped to 2018.

OK, not really.

In sort of related news, this assessment of Falcon reusability is amusing:

It’s easy to see why there’s such excitement about Falcon 9 and reusable rockets then. Except, of course, Falcon 9 isn’t really a reusable rocket. It’s still a two-stage launcher designed to deliver SpaceX’s Dragon craft into space, and only one stage is designed to be recoverable (rather like the space shuttle, only commercial) – something that Sadlier says would reduce costs by around 30%, not 99%. ‘It’s an amazing innovation, but it’s kind of a baby step.’

It will reduce costs by much more than 30%. He apparently doesn’t understand the difference between cost and price. And then there’s this:

not everyone is convinced that any of the space players are going to revolutionise 21st century life. ‘Since I entered the space business in 1983, I’ve been hearing claims about big money to be made in space tourism, the space launch business, space mining, space manufacturing,’ says Billings, who served on the US National Commision [sic] on Space under Ronald Reagan. ‘The longer I’ve been listening the more sceptical I’ve become about the more extreme of these claims.’

Others remain optimistic, whether about the likes of Falcon 9 or indeed about Reaction Engine’s Skylon space plane, a revolutionary British technology that delights enthusiasts but never seems to have enough funding for a prototype. As with any other futuristic technology, we’re just going to have to wait and see.

Linda completely ignores SpaceX’s huge commercial backlog. And it’s amusing to see an actual flown recovered vehicle compared with a non-existent vehicle that is unlikely to ever exist.

The Latest Book Review

Roger Launius has reviewed it over at Quest, but for subscribers only (I think it will become available when the next issue comes out). It was interesting, in that it was more of a good summary, with no value judgments, though in an email he did say it was “thought provoking.” And he had no criticism of facts or history, so that’s a good thing. It may be the first “peer reviewed” review I’ve gotten. FWIW

On The Beach

We needed to go to (south) Florida to take care of things and get the house ready to sell, because we don’t seem to be able to rely on anyone long distance. In my experience, if unsupervised people here don’t do things half ass, they do them quarter ass. As the old saying goes, a sunny place for shady people. I had to fix two toilets today that had needed it for months, among other things. And how many south Florida people does it take to change a light bulb? Apparently an infinite number, if they don’t actually own and live in the house.

Anyway, Patricia also was badly in need of a vacation, so I’m writing this after a relaxing home-made dinner of sockey salmon with pineapple salsa and chardonnay procured at (amazing that they finally exist here!) Trader Joe’s, overlooking the Atlantic and listening to a nice wind riffle through the palms. One of the disadvantages of the east shore, of course, is no sunset over the ocean, but it was still pleasant to watch day turn do dusk from our balcony. For those curious, here is where we are staying. Old Florida style, but modernized enough to be quite comfortable so far. We plan to sleep with windows open to the sound of the ocean, though in a couple months, that will be less advisable.

Presidential Politics And Space

This piece seems sort of clueless about how space policy works:

While 65,000 people have signed a petition asking NASA to send the Republican front-runner into space and leave him there, it looks far more likely that Trump will be in the position to decide how much money the agency will receive.

No, as they note earlier, it is Congress who decides how much money the agency receives. All the president can do is make a request.

It rather looks like Trump plans to continue Obama’s alleged gutting of the agency, and if that happens, the Mars mission would be in serious jeopardy.

Pro tip: With regard to this, and their later comment about Sanders, there is no “Mars mission,” and NASA’s inability to get to Mars has little to nothing to do with how much money it receives.

And they act as though Hillary maintaining the status quo would be a good thing.


[Update a few minutes later]

Here‘s a smarter (not hard! But it is worth a read) from Stephen Smith on Elon’s Mars threats to maintaining SLS pork, with bonus commentary on the schizophrenia of planetary protection.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!