SLS And Orion

The Senate Launch System is four years old (if you count from when NASA actually rolled out the design — it’s more like five years when it was first stipulated in the NASA authorization bill). Some thoughts at the time from Jerry Pournelle.

And Stephen Smith has a history of Orion (the capsule, not the nuclear-powered spacecraft, which just slipped another two years, and even NASA is no longer pretending will ever go to Mars):

SpaceX spent 100% of its own money to develop the Falcon 9 booster and the upcoming Falcon Heavy. The cargo Dragon capsule cost $850 million to develop; $400 million was NASA seed money, while $450 million was SpaceX money. It was only four years from SpaceX receiving its first commercial cargo contract in August 2006 to the first test flight in December 2010. The first Dragon delivery was in May 2012. Dragon was designed with the eventual goal of using it for people, so the crewed Dragon V2 would seem likely to avoid much of the design delays that might plague other commercial crew companies.

Orion and SLS have no urgency, because there’s no profit motive. The contractors get paid regardless of their pace or success; it’s required by law. Their lobbyists ensure through generous campaign contributions that Congress will prohibit any competition. Representatives of NASA space centers populate the space authorization and appropriations committees in the House and the Senate; their priority, sometimes stated explicitly, is to protect the taxpayer-funded government jobs in their districts and states.

Maybe, someday, we’ll actually see NASA crew climb into an Orion capsule atop a Space Launch System booster at Pad 39B. But it will be tens of billions of dollars after we see commercial crew companies do it for far cheaper.

Yup. I’d bet it never happens. It certainly shouldn’t.

Carly And The Media

She just monkey wrenched them on the Planned Parenthood video, and they aren’t taking it very well.

[Early-afternoon update]

The first post-debate poll has her tied with Trump. With Carson, that’s a total of 56% that doesn’t want a traditional politician. I’ve long said that someone is going to consolidate the non-Trump vote. She has vaulted to the lead in doing so.

[Update mid afternoon]

Aaaaaaaaaaand, she takes the lead in New Hampshire.

History may record this week as peak Trump.

Obama Gets It Right

It’s not often I can have a post title like that, but I agree with Glenn:

President Obama was perhaps inspired by a recent article in The Atlantic by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, “The Coddling of the American Mind.” Lukianoff and Haidt describe in some detail the way in which college sensitivities have undermined teaching, to the point that some criminal law professors — in law schools — are afraid to teach about rape, and where “trigger warnings” and concerns about “microaggressions” rule the day.

Rather than respond to such complaints with a suggestion that the complainers might be better off under professional psychological care than enrolled in institutions of higher learning, university administrations have tended to go along, even though the complainers represent a rather small fraction of the student body. The result has been a sort of arms-race of oversensitivity, in which each complaint is trumped by one still sillier, until we have reached the situation that Lukianoff, Haidt — and Obama — deplore, in which student mental health may actually suffer, and professors worry that they’ll be pilloried for saying that something “violates the law” because the word “violates” may trigger rape anxieties.

In Monty Python’s Holy Grail, the knights decide to skip a visit to Camelot because “it is a silly place.” With college costs (as President Obama has also noted) skyrocketing even as students seem to be learning less and finding greater difficulty obtaining suitable employment after graduation, higher education administrators should worry that more and more students will draw a similar conclusion. Perhaps President Obama’s warning will get their attention.

This might be the closest he’s ever come to a “Sister Souljah moment.”

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!