Category Archives: Space

Boeing’s Latest Starliner Woes

CNN is generally a terrible news source, at least on politics, but Jackie Wattles is an excellent space reporter.

[Update a few minutes later]

Not space related, but an example of how scurrilous (and hypocritical) CNN can be in general, despite their good reporters.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Is this vehicle cursed?

[Friday-morning update]

The latest, from Jim Meigs.


[Saturday-afternoon update]

The return is now delayed indefinitely.


We’ve Lost Another Great One

Bill Anders has died, apparently piloting his own plane.

He was the astronaut who took the iconic photo of the whole Earth from the Moon on his trip around it on Apollo 8, which was the actual moment when we won the space race. And it became the icon for the environmental movement, for good or ill.

I consider myself privileged to consider him a friend, and I’ll explain why anon, but for now, farewell, yet another hero of that era, who (unlike many of his Apollo cohorts) understood how important commercial space was.

[Saturday-afternoon update]

I was at AIAA SciTech Forum in San Diego in 2016. Bill was speaking, discussing the history of Apollo, while standing under a huge Lockheed Martin banner (they were the primary sponsor of the event). He was talking about risk aversion and how it was holding us back in space, and how today’s NASA could not do Apollo in terms of the accepted (at that time) risk. In other words, echoing themes from my book.

But he also started to bash SLS and Orion, wondering out loud why we were building them (this was after SpaceX had started landing boosters, which happened in 2015). After his talk, I walked down to meet him, and gave him a copy of my book and a business card, and talked to him for a few minutes. As we were talking, Ann Sulkosky (who had replaced Jeff Bingham as chief staffer on the Senate Space subcommittee, and then gone on to become a flack at Lockmart) came running down with her hair on fire, saying “Bill, Bill! What are you doing?” It was hilarious, because obviously Bill had no copulations to give.

Anyway, a couple weeks later, he called me, and said “I got around to reading your book, and I couldn’t put it down.” We talked for half an hour or so.

Later, Alex McDonald at NASA got some money to do a study on safety and risk acceptance, much of which was based on my book, and gave a contract to Resources for the Future, a think tank in DC where Molly MacCauley worked, and she was put in charge of the study. There was a workshop at their place in Dupont Circle to which I was invited, along with fairly high-level people, including the chairman of the ASAP, Scott Pace, Jim Bennett, and some historians. She also invited Bill, who attended by phone (it was hard to get him to leave his home in the San Juan islands). We had a bad connection, and ultimately decided to give it up, but before he hung up, he said “I think that everyone should read Rand’s book.”

Tragically, Molly was murdered near her home in Baltimore a few months later, stabbed in the neck. Her dogs stayed with her, but she’d exsanguinated before she was found. No motive or murderer was ever found. When her co-workers tried to finish the report, they couldn’t find her files, so it was never published (a very frustrating thing, not just for the shocking loss of Molly, but the failure to spread the word on the problem of risk aversion beyond my book).

General Anders was one of the most accomplished of the former Apollo astronauts, and remained sharp (as far as I know) right up until the plane crash. I was honored to know him.

[Monday-morning update]

Bob Zimmerman remembers the astronaut who like to go fast.


Virgin Galactic’s Future

The amount of money wasted on this flawed concept is tragic, when considering what better things could have been done with it to advance suborbital flight.

Are they still using hybrid propulsion? I haven’t seen much detail on what’s different about Delta, other than size.

If SpaceX is offering orbital rides for a few hundred thousand, I’m having trouble seeing how VG would compete with a suborbital system. They were way too late to market, and they’ve probably missed it. I would never have put a dime into this business, and I wouldn’t now.

Space History

Several firsts today. I think this is the first time we’ve seen an entry without a plasma blackout. It’s amazing that it managed to do a soft landing with all of that damage to the fin. I’ll be curious to know if all of the fins suffered like that, or just the one in the video, but it’s a testament to how robust the design is.

[Update a while later]

I suspect that this is going to upstage Starliner docking with ISS.

[Update a while later]

Commentary from David Strom.

[Friday-morning update]

Reflections from Glenn Reynolds.

Centuries from now, on other worlds, Joe Biden and Donald Trump will be minor footnotes in history, but everyone will know the name Elon Musk.

[Update a while later]

Ellie Sheriff interviews Elon: