But there’s a lot of non-blogging stuff to catch up on. I’ll try to get a post and pics up of the conference in the next day or two, but no promises. Bottom line–there’re lots of exciting things happening, and the days that NASA dominates manned spaceflight are looking increasingly numbered.
Thanks to Michael Mealling, I’ve got connectivity enough to announce that the FAA presented XCOR with their launch license this morning, at the Space Access Conference. It was the 180th day after completion of their licence application submittal, so they brought it in under the wire.
[Update on Sunday evening]
If you haven’t seen it, Alan Boyle, who was in attendance with me (and who I greatly enjoyed meeting), has a more extensive story.
I’d think that a planetary protection officer would have a much larger portfolio than just worrying about extraterrestrial biological contamination. If he’s not responsible for detecting and fending off errant asteroids and comets, who is?
White papers are invited that address initial challenges facing Project Constellation and Project Prometheus in general, and the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) in particular. Enclosed are the key focus area, issues, and suggested white paper topics. White papers that examine one or more of the topics are invited. Papers that address other important aspects (in a manner consistent with the information requested below) are also welcome. Viable white papers should be consistent with the January 14, 2004, U.S. Space Exploration Vision, as well as with generally accepted laws of physics. Innovative approaches
I haven’t had time to read it, but the Cap’n of the Clueless has what looks like an interesting post on warfare in space.
I’ve always found it a little ironic that in Star Trek, and most other science fiction, the model of the interplanetary/interstellar military is the navy. That makes sense, because we generally, or at least popularly, think of spaceships rather than spaceplanes, and the relatively slow maneuvers and docking, and indeed the nature of outer space itself, make the ocean a much more apt analogy than the air.
Yet in this current time-space continuum, the Pentagon has assigned space to the Air Force, and they’ve made notably little progress with it. I suspect that once we solve the earth-to-orbit problem, and the atmosphere becomes a temporary hindrance on the way to the rest of the universe, that the naval model will in fact prevail.
Leonard David has a good roundup of X-Prize progress.
Last month, the X Prize rocketship race garnered the support and participation of the Champ Car World Series — an organization steeped in checker flag competitions of open-wheel speedsters around the globe. The seven-figure sponsorship includes having the Champ Car World Series logo placed on all X Prize vehicles. The series will also be the primary corporate sponsor of the X Prize flights…
…”I find it interesting that everyone says the X Prize expires at the end of the year when in actual fact the
Leonard David (who I hope I’ll see at next week’s Space Access Conference) has an interesting article today on the prospects for returning Shuttle to flight, and the potential consequences, political and otherwise, of delaying or failing to do so.
There’s a fear expressed in the article that a NASA that’s afraid to risk a Shuttle launch isn’t a NASA that can accept the risk of sending people back to the moon, let alone Mars.
I think that’s right. The first step toward a bold new space program is defeminizing our space policy. And while Dwayne says that his intent was to point out the feminine language of the rhetoric of our policy, I do think that this irrational risk aversion is in fact a feminization of the policy itself.
I’m with Jack Schmitt. My position is that we should quickly decide whether or not we’re going to continue the program. If we are, then start flying now, so people don’t forget how to fly it, and we don’t wear it out in the hangar. Stop wasting all these hundreds of millions of dollars and all this time developing improvements for something that we’re only going to fly another couple dozen times and are probably just political bandaids anyway, and just get on with it, while putting into place a plan to develop alternative capabilities as soon as possible. Tell the nation to recognize that the vehicle has risks, to expect to lose another one, and to suck it up and stop crying about dead astronauts who, now more than ever, accept the risk with eyes open, just as do our troops in Iraq. Fly them until we either finish station (and fix Hubble), or lose two, at which point the remaining one goes to Dulles.
If we can’t do that, then just shut the thing down now, so we can take the billions that it costs to keep the standing army sitting around and apply them to something useful. As it is now, we have the worst of all worlds, with wasted money and time, and continuing uncertainty as to whether or not we’ll get any value out of the wasted money and time. Let’s just do it or get off the pot.
Glenn has an article at TCS today about private spaceflight and prizes. There’s an error in it, however–he says that Burt flew his latest mission on the same day that he received his launch license. As this article by Leonard David correctly states, he got his launch license on April 1, and flew a week later, on April 8.
I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while, but haven’t had the time to get back up to speed on it, after all these years, but the Law of the Sea Treaty has reared its ugly head again, and once again, it’s looking like it’s stalling in the Senate, though the Bush administration seems to be supporting it, at least in theory. It went into force ten years ago, but the US has still not ratified it, and Doug Bandow explains why we shouldn’t. Here’s the part that concerns me the most as a space enthusiast:
The treaty’s mining scheme is flawed in its very conception. Although many people once thought untold wealth would leap from the seabed, land-based sources have remained cheaper than expected, and scooping up manganese nodules and other resources from the ocean floor is logistically daunting. There is no guarantee that seabed mining will ever be commercially viable.
Yet this has not dimmed the enthusiasm of the Authority. Like the U.N., it generates lots of reports and paper and obsesses over trivia. Protecting “the emblem, the official seal and the name” of the International Seabed Authority has been a matter of some concern. Among the crises the Authority has confronted: In April 2002 the Jamaican government turned off its air conditioning, necessitating “urgent consultations with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.” A year later Jamaica used the same tactic in an ongoing battle over Authority payments for its facility. Oh yes, half of the Authority members are behind on their dues.
Were seabed mining ever to thrive, a transparent system for recognizing mine sites and resolving disputes would be helpful. But the Authority’s purpose isn’t to be helpful. It is to redistribute resources to irresponsible Third World governments with a sorry history of squandering abundant foreign aid.
Those familiar with the history of the L-5 Society may recognize this. The Law of the Sea Treaty was the model for the 1979 Moon Treaty, which, like the sea bottom, declared everything off planet the “province of all mankind.” Here’s the key part:
The exploration and use of the moon shall be the province of all mankind and shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development.
In other words, if you or I were to go develop some extraterrestrial resource (and “moon” in this phrasing really means “moon and other celestial bodies”) we would have to share in the proceeds with all other countries, including those that in no way contributed, per the decision of an as-yet-undefined international authority under the auspices of the United “Oil for Palaces corruption” Nations. I can’t think of a better way to guarantee that space will not be developed, which is perhaps the intent of the authors.
While the L-5 Society was largely ineffectual in terms of achieving its goals, it did manage to almost singlehandedly prevent the US from ratifying this treaty (an issue that few others cared about at the time except a few bureaucrats at Foggy Bottom), and that in itself probably made the existence of the society worthwhile, even for as brief a time as it lasted. Just for historical interest, note some of the names in that L-5 history of people who were instrumental in defeating the treaty. In addition to Keith Henson and Carolyn Meinel, Eric Drexler and Chris Peterson, of more recent nanotechnology fame, were also lobbying hard for this outcome.
If the Law of the Sea Treaty is ratified by the US, it would set a precedent and make it harder to argue against similar ratification of the Moon Treaty (which while in force has not been ratified by a single spacefaring nation). I’d say, thanks, but no thanks to both.