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As is often the case, Mark Whittington sees things that aren't there:
Rand Simberg has a post mortem on the lost of the Falcon 1, with some links to some more. Reading it, along with stuff in the coments section, I am detecting the first whispers of back biting and second guessing of Elon Musk and his team who, the day before yesterday, were going to instantly revolutionize space travel.
Among his other annoying rhetorical tricks, Mark likes to take individual things that some individuals may have said, and conflate them with the implication that the larger group of individuals (his so-called nefarious "internet rocketeers") believe all of these things. One never knows to whom he's referring with these vague emanations of "back biting and second guessing," so it's difficult to respond to them, but if he's talking about me, it's nonsense (again, as is often the case).
Note that he couldn't be bothered to actually quote anything to back up his assertion (though he at least had the decency to link to it).
Here's what I wrote, and it ended with this:
...good luck to SpaceX. There's no reason to think at this point that they can't be as successful, ultimately, as their predecessors that cost much, much more to develop, but still had early failures.
Some "backbiting," huh?
As for "second guessing," I'm on record as always being concerned about SpaceX's approach, from the time I first heard about them (though, as I noted at the time, that was a provisional concern, subject to change). I've never thought, or written, that they "were going to instantly revolutionize space travel." And I suspect that Mark, as usual, will continue to claim that I (or some unnamed person) did so, without actually providing a citation or quote.
What I've always thought (or at least since learning more about them and their approach), and continue to think, is that they will, if successful, play an important role in modestly (that is, by a large percentage, though nowhere near as much as necessary) reducing launch costs, and demonstrating alternate funding and management approaches to space-transportation system development, and that's a good thing. But I've also always thought, and said, that we need a plethora of approaches, and should never put all our hopes on any single player. I continue to wish SpaceX good fortune, as I suspect all of the other mythical "backbiters" do.
[Update in the late afternoon]
Mark, I never said I didn't criticize SpaceX. I in fact said that I was an early critic. I know you have trouble getting the point, but this post was never about whether people were criticizing SpaceX--it was about your spurious and unsupported fantasy that sycophants turned critics overnight. Please learn to read for comprehension.
[Late night update]
Mark hilariously updates his second post, indicating that he remains clueless as ever, and still unable to read English, at least with comprehension:
Addendum. Rand makes my point. First he says quotes himself with this:...good luck to SpaceX. There's no reason to think at this point that they can't be as successful, ultimately, as their predecessors that cost much, much more to develop, but still had early failures...
OK, I'll explain to Mark one more time, and I'll type it slowly in the hope that he might get it this time.
Mark's original post seemed to claim that I and unnamed others had started to "second guess" and "backbite" SpaceX because of Friday's failure. He provided zero evidence of this.
I noted that there was nothing new in any criticism I had of SpaceX--that I had done it when they first started out. I also noted that this was provisional, and could change as I got new information (I wonder what Mark does with his opinions when he receives new information?). So, yes, I was "against" SpaceX before I was for them, though my change of mind was in light of new information, and even though I still wish them well, I'm not convinced that their approach is the best one, and I continue to hope for many others, and let the best approaches win.
But as I noted in comments, Mark doesn't do nuance, or anything other than black and white, unchanging, well.Posted by Rand Simberg at March 27, 2006 06:08 AM
To be fair to Mark, I don't think it was you or even the people on this blog he was labeling as being the backbiters.Posted by Mike Puckett at March 27, 2006 06:16 AM
The problem is that he rarely actually identifies the people that he criticizes, just referring to "internet rocketeers."
My site is the only one he linked to in making his comments. He wrote "reading it [referring to my post] along with the comments section."Posted by Rand Simberg at March 27, 2006 06:22 AM
I usually allow the reader to understand to which passages I'm referring in any post I reference. Rand, as usual, likes to parse words to try to change their meaning.
Now Rand himself compared SpaceX's testing methodology to the one NASA used with the shuttle. Knowing what warm feelings Rand has for NASA in general and the shuttle in particular, I took that to be criticism. The comments section of the post I referenced had far more direct criticism. One accused SpaceX of "arrogance" and criticized its law suit against DOD. Rand himself had a "helpful suggestion" about testing with light propellant loads. Another accused SpaceX of wasting tax dollars. There was another "helpful suggestion" about using a sounding rocket. A couple of the posts that Rand referenced seemed to poo poo SpaceX's prefence for a better, cheaper version of a ballestic rocket in favor of a suborbital vehicle that could be tested incrementally. I've seen other examples crop up since then.Posted by Mark R. Whittington at March 27, 2006 08:42 AM
Now Rand himself compared SpaceX's testing methodology to the one NASA used with the shuttle. Knowing what warm feelings Rand has for NASA in general and the shuttle in particular, I took that to be criticism.
I've never claimed to be uncritical of SpaceX. In fact, I linked to my first mention of them, years ago, in which I didn't view highly the prospects for their success (a view I've amended since then, but still have never thought or claimed that they would "revolutionize space overnight"). But that's not "second guessing." It's first guessing.
The comments section of the post I referenced had far more direct criticism. One accused SpaceX of "arrogance" and criticized its law suit against DOD. Rand himself had a "helpful suggestion" about testing with light propellant loads. Another accused SpaceX of wasting tax dollars. There was another "helpful suggestion" about using a sounding rocket. A couple of the posts that Rand referenced seemed to poo poo SpaceX's prefence for a better, cheaper version of a ballestic rocket in favor of a suborbital vehicle that could be tested incrementally. I've seen other examples crop up since then.
You continue to miss the point. All of that is true, and none of it supports your contention that people who originally thought that SpaceX was "going to revolutionize space overnight" had suddenly turned their backs on them. Show me a single poster among your examples who had previously been a huge SpaceX fan boy. If you can't do that, there's no basis for your post, which claimed that there was some huge fan club that has suddenly turned on them because of a first launch failure. I see no evidence of it.Posted by Rand Simberg at March 27, 2006 08:54 AM
Rand, now you are parsing my words, which I have to take exception to. In no place in my post did I say that a specific person praised SpaceX before the accident and turned on it afterwards. My point was that all of the sudden this backbiting and second guessing seemed to start very suddenly (a "whisper" being the term I used.) It's now become something of a low grumble. My suggestion is to either back off or show SpaceX up by actually doing it better and not by taking shots on the internet. I give Musk and company a lot of credit since, unlike a lot of the Internet Rocketeer Club, they are actually doing significent stuff.Posted by Mark R. Whittington at March 27, 2006 09:06 AM
I'm not "parsing" your words, Mark, or if I am, I'm doing so accurately. You clearly imply that there is an unnamed group of people who on Thursday thought that SpaceX was the greatest thing since bottled beer, and on Friday, started "backbiting" and "second guessing." There is no evidence that any such people exist. I don't know any who were criticizing on Friday who weren't on Thursday as well, if they were aware of SpaceX at all on that date. There are no "whispers" or hints of people suddenly turning on SpaceX, except in your mind.Posted by Rand Simberg at March 27, 2006 09:27 AM
You mean you hold him to his words? Shameful.
> You clearly imply that there is an unnamed group of people who on Thursday
Being an uncritical cheerleader for the socialist side, Mark apparently imagines anyone who disagrees to be a mirror image of himself, hence an uncritical cheerleader for SpaceX. He seems unable to grok that anyone might take a more balanced, reasoned approach.Posted by Evil Internet Rocketeer at March 27, 2006 12:15 PM
Now, this is what I mean. I defend an entrepeneurial space company, and someone too cowardly to give his real name calls me a "socialist." How can I take such people seriously?Posted by Mark R. Whittington at March 27, 2006 01:19 PM
You refuse to name any of the people you're attacking but call others cowards for not naming names?
How can anyone take you seriously, Mark? :-)
Posted by Edward Wright at March 27, 2006 03:59 PM
There are two major schools of thought in new rocket companies that are trying to drastically reduce costs: those who believe in full reusability, incremental testing, and intact "saveability" at any point in the flight; and those who believe in "big dumb boosters" that are expendable but cheap because they are so simple and standardised and mass-produced.
Those who favour one school or the other of course have quite legitimate criticims of and concerns about the other approach. BDBs are probably going to have lots of failed flights and lost vehicles, especially during development. Reusable vehicles are going to take more time and capital to develop. Etc.
But that doesn't in any way mean that those in one school wish anything but the very best of luck to those in the other school, or that they won't be glued in front of the video feed with their fingers crossed during one of their flights.
Perhaps this is all too nuanced for some.
Yes, well Mark isn't known for doing nuance well. Or at all. ;-)Posted by Rand Simberg at March 27, 2006 04:29 PM
Whittington is obviously jealous of you for some silly reason, and can't admit he admires your writing and point of view. He is an idiot and a baby. Quit trying to reason with his sophmoric crying! I can't stand it! You'll NEVER get through!
Why do you think replacing "lots of failed vehicles" is going to take less time and capital?
Convair once did a comparison of Atlas A and X-15 development. The two vehicles had similar performance. The X-15 was more complex, but cost less, flew more, and had fewer failures during development. As a result, they concluded that a piloted, reusable vehicle saved about 40% in development costs.
When the X-15 or SpaceShip One had an in-flight anamoly, the pilot could usually fly the ship back to base so the engineers could rework it. When a big dumb booster has an anomaly, range safety blows it up, and the engineers have analyze telemetry and fragments from the crash site. After a full-scaled accident investigation, they get to build a completely new vehicle from scratch. Only then can the next test take place.
Which approach sounds cheaper to you?
Posted by Edward Wright at March 27, 2006 05:48 PM
I am myself firmly on the side of reusability, incremental testing, and intact savability.
If in my efforts to be even-handed and put both points of view I overstepped the mark and appeared to personally favour BDBs then I apologise for your resulting misconception.
All the same: Go SpaceX!!!
One can disagree with someone's technical approach to a problem and still hope their rockets don't blow up.Posted by Phil Fraering at March 27, 2006 08:35 PM
Nuance? That's a French word, is it not? (g)Posted by Mark R. Whittington at March 27, 2006 09:01 PM
Yes, Mark. It's a French word.
English has borrowed many useful words from the French. It goes all the way back to the Norman invasion, hundreds of years ago (a long, long time). You might want to look it up sometime--it's an interesting story.Posted by Rand Simberg at March 27, 2006 09:13 PM
Actually, Rand, the root of "nuance" goes back even further than that. It's from the Latin word "nubes" meaning "cloud." And we all know what it's like when others try to cloud the issue.Posted by Mark R. Whittington at March 28, 2006 06:19 AM
I didn't say that "nuance" went back to the Norman invasion--I said that the borrowing of French words in general did. And I clarified the issue, rather than "clouded" it, whereas you avoid it.Posted by Rand Simberg at March 28, 2006 06:28 AM
Au contraire. (Note to Mark -- that's French.)
Mark's opinions on space policy have changed dramatically in the past few years.
In 2002, Mark called for "A series of expeditions to the Moon, which could be started in a year or two... a five-year, two and a half billion-dollar effort using off the shelf or soon to be developed technology."
Sure doesn't sound much like the 13-year, $65-billion ESAS, does it?
At the same time, Mark said NASA "should commercialize the space shuttle fleet, lock, stock, and astronaut... throw open all regular launch services, including the resupply and crew rotation of the International Space Station, to private bid... [and] redirect that Space Launch Initiative away from building a replacement for the shuttle and toward technology development that will help create a private launch industry."
Wow. Privatizing the Shuttle and the astronaut corps? Opening *all* of NASA's launch requirements to private bid? Ending development of Shuttle replacements?
Sounds like -- how would Mark put it -- the "ravings of an Internet rocketeer"... an "evil libertarian"... maybe even a (gasp!) "fiscal conservative"?
Posted by Edward Wright at March 28, 2006 12:30 PM
Edward, consumed as he seems to me with a psychopathic hatred of myself, has missed the point. NASA seems to have adopted much of the agenda I advocated in the late 90s and the early part of this decade. They have thrown open resupply and crew transfers to ISS to private bid. It is enabling technology development, through prizes. It is sending astronauts back to the Moon. Now, it is true that NASA is not employing the *exact* methodology I suggested, but only a boob or a fanatic would fail to see that they are on the right path. The reason I don't take the Internet Rocketeer Club seriously is when I see the incoherent ravings of people like Edward Wright who, like all true believers, cannot take yes for an answer.Posted by Mark R Whittington at March 28, 2006 01:03 PM
Psychopathic hatred??? I assure you, Mark, your babblings inspire much more amusement than hatred.
> They have thrown open resupply and crew transfers to ISS to private bid.
Conveniently ignoring the fact that ISS will constitute a tiny percentage of NASA's future launch requirements. Do you think
> It is enabling technology development, through prizes.
In real world, NASA is gutting prizes to pay for the development of your heavy-lifters.
Centennial Challenges was slashed from $35 million to $10 million in Griffin's latest budget request.
And far from directing investment "toward technology development that will help create a private launch industry," Griffin is slashing the aeronautics budget, too.
But don't let facts stand in your way, Mark. :-)
> It is sending astronauts back to the Moon.
No, NASA is merely *planning* to send astronauts back to the Moon someday. You seem to have as much trouble with English tenses as you do with French words. :-)
Nor is NASA planning to do it by 2007, or for only $5 billion, or with off-the-shelf-rockets, as you once advocated. Today, you *oppose* any plan that would get astronauts to the Moon cheaper or sooner than ESAS.
"If you're just going to build capsules that are going to go on your expendable boosters then why don't you just start doing it on Thursday?" -- Burt Rutan
> only a boob or a fanatic would fail to see that they are on the right path.
The right path if you want to see aeronautics slashed, astronautics laid off, space science missions eliminated.
If anyone who thinks America can do more than relive the 1960's is a boob or a fanatic, I'm proud to be a boob and fanatic. :-)Posted by Edward Wright at March 28, 2006 02:05 PM
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