Is it Finally Over?

•February 19, 2018 • Leave a Comment

If you follow this blog, then you know that I don’t like Donald Trump, and you know why.

If you follow my Facebook and Twitter feeds, then you know me to be a fiscal and religious Conservative who supports most of the traditional Republican platform and is often critical of “Progressives”. Many of my fellow science enthusiasts and publishing industry contacts who would disagree with me, loudly, on my overall political and religious viewpoints, have shared with me these past couple of years a common ground regarding the man who has now become our new President.

Yes, I said OUR new President. Now don’t scoff. I strongly dislike Bill Clinton too, for most of the same reasons, but I still called him MY President.

Republicans ignore what he is, because he can further their agenda. Democrats scream about what he is, not because of what he is but because screaming about it might further their agenda. They both miss the point and blind themselves to the real danger. Two many folks on both sides of the isle have been using Trump to slash away at the safety ropes that keep us all away from the cliff. The system was designed to protect the country from people like Donald Trump, but it can only do that if it’s citizens work together to put the system first and the politics second.

I live in the United States of America. It is a melting pot that condenses politically, very roughly, along urban vs rural lines. It is filled with opinionated people with animated temperaments like my own. This is normal. What I have witnessed in my torn and bleeding country since election day is not normal. We are the UNITED States of America…but we haven’t acted like it.

The special counsel investigation was heralded by Democrats as a way to reverse the results of the election (that they lost through their own arrogance and corruption)…poorly cloaked under “get the the bottom of the Russian investigation and protect our Democracy”. Not to be outdone in our blind-folded march into entropy, many Republicans, in their lock-step bootlicking of the Trump Administration, have ignored how important it is to understand what role Russia played in the 2016 Presidential election and worked to criticize and discredit one of their own (Mueller) just to protect the President-the-man…at the cost of the power and credibility of the President-the-office.

And the violent on both sides, in willing ignorance of what such methods do to other countries, sickened and embarrassed the rest of us with their willingness to just burn the whole system to the ground just to have things their way and their way only…as if the whole concept of shared power was the root of all evil.

Last Friday’s 13 grand jury indictments vindicated those of us who have been calling for sanity. All of the indictments that have come out of the special council have either had only a fleeting connection to the election, or now have pointed to mostly foreigners and no politicians yet. Also, virtually non, including these, address the core issue that formed the special Council in the first place. The investigation isn’t over of course and should be allowed to run itself out so that it can actually eventually indict SOMEONE connected to collusion of U.S. citizens with Russia as they hacked the DNC’s email to tell us that they cheated against Bernie Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton during the debates. Also, these 13 indictments involve things like identity theft that no one can defend, allege crimes by Russian citizens that will never set foot in a United States court room, and they point to a more overall objective that began many years before Trump’s candidacy.

Oh, and don’t whine about my remarks until you’ve actually read the 37 page indictments (just in case you missed the link to it above, click here… Also I suggest you then read and listen to the various pundetry in search of people lying to you about what the indictment document says or doesn’t say. There’s lots of that going on on both sides.

The General Council indictment document further alleges that the overall goal of the effort was to sow chaos within the system. That does not necessarily mean that Trump didn’t collude with Russia in some way (legal or otherwise, knowingly or otherwise) during his candidacy or after. What it does do is point out that they (the Russians) have been winning and that those in the U.S. that have been contributing to the havoc have been Russia’s unwitting tools. There is clearly the opportunity for Trump (and lots of other folks) to willingly collude with Russians or even knowingly pretend that they didn’t know they were colluding with Russians.

Anyway, I say, “Enough”.

Mueller was selected because he is a good man who is trusted by virtually everyone who has worked with him. He has been doing his job with this investigation through it all while both sides tried to sidetrack the true point of his probe on political grounds.

When he’s finished with the Russia interference investigation he should be directed by the Justice Department to look into the allegations in the Nunes memo…wherever it leads. Also, his team should be the only ones to see the documents behind that memo because evidence kept under a hat during questioning is the best way to squeeze out the weasels.

All of those elected officials, on both sides of the isle, who have damaged their credibility over this whole mess, deserve to have their butts whooped in their next election. I hope they do.

All of those U.S. citizens, on both sides of the isle, who have damaged their credibility over this whole mess, should hang their heads in shame. I hope they do.

I propose a new faction in U.S. politics…name the faction whatever. We don’t have to agree on guns, religion, gay rights, abortion, taxes, climate change, immigration or any of that. We will never agree on those things nor should we ever stop debating them and sticking up for what we think is right. But we, must agree at least to work to preserve the integrity of the process and the peaceful and orderly transfer of power, and to peacefully protect that system from all enemies, both foreign and domestic. Because if we stand together behind those principles, then no amount of anarchists, con-man Presidents, butt-kissing sycophants, or foreign meddlers can stop this imperfect United States of America from serving and protecting our descendents better than it has served and protected our ancestors.

Please feel free to comment below.

I promise my next blog entry will go back to talking about the new direction in space exploration. I have a couple of items I’ve been working on in that regard.

Also on a side note, I’d like to give a huge shout out to whoever’s turn it was to pick the next book in the reading group that my wife attends. The book chosen was “I Am Malala” and so I just now snagged a copy for our Kindle Paperwhite. You may recall that I wrote several angry blog entries here regarding Malala Yousafzai. All women everywhere should read her story from her own hand and not my ham-fisted, bile-soaked punditry about it.

(cover image credit


Launching A New Space Age

•February 7, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Did you see it?

If you already follow this blog then you were probably watching and cheering with me.

Yes, a billionaire really did just launch his car into space.


Well, it was the test launch of a first-of-its-kind vehicle loaded to the gills with highly explosive propellant…with a fairly high possibility of something going wrong, blowing its payload into a gazillion very small pieces and delivering it to the mid-atlantic as burning rain. That is why this kind of test flight carries “ballast”…water or concrete or something…to simulate the weight of somebody’s expensive spacecraft. Elon Musk, owner and founder of SpaceX, said he thought that would be boring and boring companies fail. So they didn’t just attach a dummy load to the rocket…they loaded a dummy!

The Falcon Heavy, as a heavy-lift rocket, can send things to other planets in our solar system. SpaceX wants that market and needed to demonstrate that ability as part of this launch.

SpaceX, later this year, will also begin launching NASA crew to the International Space station aboard their Dragon 2 spacecraft using the Falcon 9 rocket. As part of this, they’ve designed a special space suit for the crew to wear. The Dragon can not only be used to carry people to the ISS, but to any other space station that someone might build someday (soon). It is even scheduled to take the Falcon Heavy, with some paying human customers, on a joy-ride out to the Moon and back sometime in 2019 or 2020

SpaceX was founded on the goal of someday sending folks to Mars. In fact, the new launch industry that is being led by SpaceX, called New Space, is all about empowering the people to set the pace of space exploration because governments tend to spend too much money and drag their feet getting anywhere. NASA’s new heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), is the most current example if that. It has been under development since early in the Obama administration (much longer than that if you consider it an extension of NASA’s previous paper-rocket project “Constellation”). It has cost many billions of dollars so far, and will cost half a billion per launch once it flies. Falcon Heavy was privately funded at just just over a half billion dollars to develop and just 90 million per shot to fly. SpaceX’s low prices for the single core Falcon 9 has set the target price of space launches around the world and put SpaceX at the head of the pack in launch frequency because it empowers entrepreneurs to find profitable business ventures in space. They’ve also pioneered the landing, recovery, and reuse of orbital-class rockets. Still, this whole change has been a tempest in a tea kettle for several years now, with very few of the common folk even aware of it.

Lastly, Tesla, where Elon serves as CEO, has a new model of their roadster coming out that is now available for pre-order. The 2008 model is based on parts from Lotus that are no longer available for Tesla to purchase, so that line had to be discontinued before it could really become the thing that it deserved to be.


  1. Take Elon Musk’s 9 year old Tesla.
  2. Take a test dummy and stuff it into one of SpaceX’s new Commercial Crew space suits and name the dummy “Starman”.
  3. Buckle Starman into the driver’s seat with one hand resting on the car and the other on the steering wheel.
  4. Put a copy of “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” in the glove compartment.
    Set the CD player to play “Space Oddity” by David Bowie.
  5. Modify a Falcon Heavy payload adapter to mount the car at a cool angle and then put THAT inside the Falcon Heavy test rocket’s payload fairing instead of some boring block of concrete.
  6. Launch to low earth orbit with one second stage engine thrust, then restart the engine to place it into a transfer orbit to get ready to leave Earth for good…which also exposes it to the Van Allen Radiation belt for a while. Some classes of commercial satellite launches require the second stage to spend some time in the Van Allen Belt, which is extremely destructive on electronics.
  7. Then, after the second stage of the Falcon shows that it can survive the Belt, relight it one more time and run it dry sending it out to Mars’ orbit.

See what they did there? This was not just a test flight and it was not just a marketing stunt. It had been very skillfully designed, down to the detail, as a demonstrator of both the technology and the future promise of Commercial Space.

I and other space geeks already knew that if it succeeded it would do most of those things. The part that floored us was the media attention that the flight grabbed. As I write this, at 11:27 eastern time, the video from Starman’s earlier live YouTube feed had 5 million views. 5 Million! When I compare that to past space-related events, this number is staggering. There are lots of YouTube videos that get millions of views eventually, but very few get there in just a few hours and I’ve never seen live space events ever get more than 50,000 or so!

Multiple national news media outlets also covered the event from near the start of the launch window at around 2 pm Eastern, clear through the launch holds when they waited for upper-level wind shear to die down to a safe level, until the actual launch at 3:45. They filled that gap with space stuff that kids along the East Coast got to see as they arrived home from school.

Then this huge viewership got to watch the launch itself. Heavy lifters put on an amazing show anyway, and this one was doomed to be a bit of a nail-biter from being that rocket’s first flight and doing several things that SpaceX had never done before and a couple of things that no one has done before. The launch was accompanied by the epic SpaceX staff heralding every dangerous milestone with deafening cheers. The whole thing had the feel of a rock concert.

I myself incorrectly predicted at least one scrubbed launch day that didn’t happen. So many things that could go wrong didn’t. The only blemish was that they crashed the center core when they tried to land it, but the side cores returned together in a synchronized dance and landed back in Florida like they belonged there.

The cat has left the bag. The Falcon Heavy has now made New Space a thing today in the eyes of the masses. Children were seen staring at Starman, eating popcorn as they gazed at the screen. A whole new generation of space geeks were born with that launch, except that this next group will actually get to see all the things that my generation hoped for and never got. The tech now exists and the prices have been dragged down to where folks can get down to business. Many politicians and old school space companies have tried to keep these developments in a bottle, hidden, in order keep space expensive and rare and the initiative under the control of a very few. But that ended on a cold afternoon on February 5th, 2018.

Space isn’t just for NASA, or even scientists, anymore.

It’s a Bird! It’s A Plane! No, It’s a Rocket Propelled Flying Tesla!

•December 28, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Yes, I know you’ve probably already heard about this, but its been a busy Christmas. I actually tried to tell you all about it in an earlier attempt to discuss all the cool space things coming up in 2018, but the WordPress app accidentally deleted the article instead of posting it. I’ll still rewrite that, maybe, but not right now. 

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, thinks that the typical payload for a test rocket launch…water or concrete…is boring, and that companies that do boring things fail. So instead of launching inert ballast into space in the upcoming first launch of the new Falcon Heavy orbital launch vehicle…

…he’s sending his car.

That’s right. The super quick, first edition, cherry-red, 2008 Tesla Roadster all electric muscle car that he has been driving is about to become the fastest car in history, if the launch succeeds, or be blown to smithereens if the launch fails.

The design of the Falcon Heavy has been computer simmed and wind-tunnel tested as far as possible, but rockets are still such fickle things that one never really knows for sure if it will function as designed until actual flight. An important and expensive satellite cannot ride on such a chancy launch.

Elon recently unveiled the prototype of an upgrade to the roadster design coming out in 2019, so he already has a new car to drive. Apparently billionaire Elon Musk considers his old-model car, valued at a quarter million dollars new, is expendable as advertising for both companies.

The Falcon Heavy will be the heaviest lifter to fly since the Saturn V that carried the Apollo missions to the Moon…and can carry an object the size of a Tesla (and more) to Mars. That’s where the car is going. It’s a little early for the Mars launch window, so it’ll miss the planet by a few weeks, but if it succeeds then the flight will at least prove the rocket’s capability and drum up business for it as an interplanetary launch vehicle.

If the rocket fails, then data from the failure will be used to correct whatever caused it and they’ll have a more tested design to fly. Plus, we’ll all get to see what happens when enough kerosene to send a Tesla to Mars looks like when it explodes, and all he’ll have lost is a $90 million rocket and a $1/4 million car (and maybe a launch pad…again…but let’s hope not).

What’s in it for you? Well, which would you prefer to see in January to kick-off the 2018 space launch season…an epic launch that causes an electric hot rod to enter permanent Solar orbit playing “Space Odity” on the radio, or an epic explosion that causes that same electric hot rod to rain down on the Atlantic in small burning pieces?

Let us all know in the comments.

Oh, and by the way that weird thing you folks in California saw in the Western sky last Friday night wasn’t a UFO, it was a “Twilight Event” from another SpaceX launch that put ten more Iridium satellites into orbit.

Images From #Eclipse2017

•September 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I know. I should have posted this weeks ago. Been busy.








The Great American Eclipse of 2017

•April 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Here it comes.

Four months from now, on August 21st.

It’ll slash right across the heartland…from coast to coast…darkening every summer climate in the U.S.

The birds will hide their faces and Mother Nature will hold her breath as a ring of fire appears in a blackened sky.

Take the day off, skip school, bring your family.

How far will you travel? Pack luggage or lunch.

Don’t miss the show of the century.

Coming soon to a celestial theater near you.

My Country and President-Elect Donald Trump — Part II

•November 26, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I have to add something else.

I sort of went off half-cocked earlier this month…about folks leaving the country because of the results of this election. My very understanding, and far more open-minded, daughter reminded me very diplomatically in a Facebook response to that post that I may have overlooked something in the passion of the moment. She pointed out that some folks might want to leave the country because they feel unsafe.

I live in Evanston, Wyoming. There are folks who hurt each other here, but rarely. Most of the time when something like that happens it is somewhere or somewhen that my lifestyle keeps me far away from. Still, there is practically no violent crime here at all…and this in a state where people can legally conceal-carry handguns without a permit (something that actually makes me feel more safe, but just might horrify some of the rest of you). Folks walk any street here, any time of the day or night, with almost zero concern for their personal safety. This is not foolish. It is common knowledge that many small, Intermountain West towns really are that safe. Some folks here don’t even bother locking their homes, fences or vehicles. The folks in the out-lying areas around this town care even less about security.

Note:(If you are the type that thinks to come out here and take advantage of that trust, please don’t. Those same folks don’t want your blood on their carpet either.  😉

When I spoke out in my about people leaving the country because of the results of a Presidential election, I had in my mind Barbra Streisand moving to France during the Bush years. You know…THAT kind of leaving. Those are the folks I was talking to. I hadn’t even considered the possibility that some people might feel physically unsafe in a Trump-run country.

This has been a very weird and very emotional election year. Both candidates, and especially their fans, saw it as a high-stakes essential win for their side. Both sides used a lot of fear-mongering, trying to make it look like people’s personal safety for themselves and their families was at serious and immediate risk of the opposite side. I read reports of threats and violence in both directions. A lot of that was blown way out of proportion…and maybe some of it wasn’t.

Let me point out that in the same way that a white, intermountain, small-town male like myself might not take enough personal security precautions, because of the safe place that I live, that fear-mongering could cause other people who live in less secure places (or who belong to political, cultural, or ethnic groups that are more likely to be targets of hate in their areas) to feel more fearful than maybe is necessary.

Here are the facts…

  • All forms of violence are illegal everywhere in the United States. They are just as illegal today as they were on November 7th and as they will be after Trump takes office on January 20th. A very real risk of very serious, life-path altering consequences lurks for anyone who chooses to break those very-strict laws. If you lived in a dangerous place on November 7th…it still is. If you trusted the police before November 8th (or didn’t), then you still should (or shouldn’t). Likewise, if you felt safe from crime on November 7th, then I think you still probably still should.
  • Racial bigotry is hated by the overwhelming majority of the people in this country…even while they are practicing it. How weird is that?
  • If you are in the U.S. illegally, then you were in as much risk of being rounded up and deported on November 7th as you are today. After January 20th that risk will increase, a little at a time. If you’re an immigrant and have engaged in drug-dealing or violent crime then the Obama administration is already after you to send you home. The risk will go up a whole lot very quickly come Jan. 20th. I would expect the same treatment if I broke laws in your homeland. Also, green-card or not, if you haven’t done any of those things yet and want to stay here, then now would be a bad time to start.
  • Racism is not just a white man’s disease and neither is bigotry in general.
  • Trump got a lot of votes from a lot of people who dislike him, distrust him, think he’s a racist, a con-man, and a sleaze, and don’t believe most of what he says. Some of those people are even hat-wearing fans (I don’t pretend to understand that part).
  • Even though low-credibility ratings, secret email, racism, offensive behavior towards women, lack of concern for truth, Benghazi bungling and talk of general underhanded behavior dominated this election, most folks felt like they had to look past those things and vote along party lines for the sake of more tangible issues.

This is a very large country with both very safe and very dangerous places to live. If you are considering leaving for safety reasons, then please ignore the harsh and emotional remarks in my earlier post, they don’t apply to you. I would respectfully ask, however, that you consider a safer place here in-country to move to instead and then continue to work with the rest of us to keep it that way.

Predjudice means “Judging before the facts”. So if you see anyone walking past you wearing Trump hats (or turbans, or black skin, or brown skin, or disturbing tatoos, or a holstered firearm) and you think that because of just that they might hurt you, then please consider the possibility that such fears might stem from your own prejustices.

And please just everyone calm down. If you fear that Donald Trump might be a rising tin-horn dictator, then know that a lot of other folks…even his political allies…agree with you.

I agree with him on some things…other things not so much. But be assured that freedom of speech is alive and well and we will all keep an eye on him together and he will not be allowed to turn this country into a banana republic. If you see something happening on the streets that you don’t like, help if you can do so safely. You might also stream it live with your phone camera on Ustream (free), LiveStream (free), or Facebook Go Live (free), if you’re situated where you think you can do so without endangering yourself. Tweet it. Tell your story.

This people prize their freedom. We detest tyranny and injustice.

With your help, there will be no Hitler here.

Major Earthquake Strikes off Fukushima

•November 21, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Please, if you are near coastal waters that face this epicenter, GET AWAY FROM THE COAST. If you see that the tide has gone way, way out then please understand that a disastrous tidal wave is imminent…you may only have minutes. If you are in a tsunami, please understand that it is more than just one wave. If you survive the first, use that chance to escape the area and avoid the second…which will likely reach further and be worse. Several waves could hit. Get to high ground and wait until all the waves are gone, then follow the instructions of local authorities as to what they need you to do next.

Photographing the Supermoon

•November 12, 2016 • Leave a Comment

My Country and President-Elect Donald Trump

•November 11, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I stand appalled.

Other words that I might use would be abandoned, disenfranchised, ignored, destitute.

Most people felt shocked by the come-from-behind victory of Donald Trump in the election…I wasn’t. As November 8th drew closer and Hillary Clinton’s lead shrank, I warned some euphoric Clintonians that she needed a 5% lead. I predicted that there might be an unpolled 5% for Trump on election night because Obama, Clinton and Trump had all angered the far-right into voting this year. Clinton’s lead was only 3% in some very dangerous places going into election night and I expected a squeaker.

But I didn’t care who won. I didn’t want either of them. I am a Christian Conservative first and foremost. I find accusations from the Left that Republicans are racists to be deeply offensive and have for many years defended mainstream Republicanism as having grown out of such barbarity. The Democratic party sold it’s soul to its racists several decades ago, but apparently, sometime during the past several years, the Republicans did too. Between that and Trump’s other character flaws that I wrote about here last fall, the non-racist respecter of women behind this blog went into this year’s election day feeling severely depressed and under-represented.

Something else…I think I see some historical parallels between Trump and his rise to power and dictators in other times and countries. This will bear some watching. Many Conservatives thought we had elected a potential trouble-maker eight years ago, and accused Obama of heavy-handed methods throughout his Presidency. I think that this country has not yet seen as dangerous a President as Donald Trump.

That being said, we are citizens of the freest land on Earth, ruled by a system of checks and balances that were specifically designed, down to the finest detail, to prevent the rise of a king. Though the coming years might put that system to the test, we need to give that system a chance.

Yes, Trump now has, with Republican majorities in both houses, more than enough power to totally dismantle everything that Obama achieved. Ideologically I am not that far from mainstream Republicans on some of the reforms that they will want to push forward now that there will be a Republican in the White House. But Trump will be a very wild team member who came to power on some pretty whacked ideas. I have already openly criticized him and several of those ideas on social media (I always get a laugh when I talk about The Great Wall of Texas) and I and others will continue to do so. Also, our new President-elect will have to share his power with a Congress and country filled with a very great many frightened and appalled people like me, on both sides of the aisle…I think a veto-proof majority. They will watch him very, very carefully and if necessary will be more than willing to join hands across the aisle and pull him down out of that chair in the Oval Office of he tries to turn it into a throne.

“The United States of America never needed to be made great again. It was made great long ago and has remained great to its roots.”

The Republican Party is not all to blame for Trump either. The Democrat Party is supposed to be this Nation’s populist standard bearer…our equivalent of the U.K.’s Labor Party. The Democrat Party leaders and the News Media chose their candidate for this election almost a decade ago and used unfair tactics to kick their Populist standard-bearer, Bernie Saunders, to the curb. Then, instead of listening to what he had to say, they blindly ran their flawed establishment Golden Girl, on decade-old establishment issues, against a Populist candidate with a very large and angry following…during a Populist uprising! What?

Anyway, I know that many of you are upset. Legally protest if you feel you must, public outcry helps keep Governments from forgetting who they work for, but please keep it civilized. Don’t riot like the ignorant masses in other countries. Have faith in the system that made your country great. Our nation can always get better (though we rarely agree on what “better” means), but The United States of America never needed to be made great again. It was made great long ago and has remained great to its roots.
Lets set a good example for other countries and show the less-civilized parts of our planet how it’s done. Honor the sacrifices that our Veterans have made in protecting our freedom and putting down tyrants throughout the world by supporting, and helping to facilitate, a peaceful transfer of power.

Oh, and one more thing. If you flee like a cockroach to Canada or France or somewhere instead of staying here with the rest of us and participating in the public discourse, working to maintain the peace, freedom, and prosperity that so many legions of good folk have lived and died for for 240 years, then please just stay gone! Cowards like you don’t belong here! We don’t need you! This country was and is still built of better stuff than you!

I’ll be here, writing about what I see and fighting for my county with the full strength of my hurt, abandoned, frightened and angry pen.

Watch ExoMars SocialTV by European Space Agency on Livestream

•October 19, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Watch ESA’s Facebook Live programme here from 15:09 CEST on Wednesday, 19 October, when the #ExoMars Orbiter and Schiaparelli lander will arrive at Mars. Part 1 will go live at 15:09 thru to 15:41, and Part 2 runs 16:45-17:15 (all times CEST).

I don’t know what will happen here, but if successful the European Space Agency and Roscosmos get to become Mars surface explorers today. Click the link and watch it live, but the action will probably be slow, so don’t interrupt your breakfast.  😉

Candidate Bill

•September 12, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I’ve thrown my hat into the ring again…

The above article pretty much describes my reasons and focus. In general, I see an upcoming, science and space technology based, new economy. However, I also see certain education guidence trends coming out of Washington, D.C. that in my view seem to run across purposes with that future. It’s as if the powers that be have given up on getting kids interested in Science at an early age, just when the country needs that interest the most. NASA’s most optimistic timetable (perhaps a bit conservative, but some think is the equivalent of a wildman on a motorcycle for NASA) has today’s 2nd graders graduating with their PHds about the time humans first land on Mars. On SpaceX’s plan (far more aggressive and perhaps unlikely), it’s roughly today’s High School juniors. Whichever estimate you think is the correct one, there will be a lot of building and testing along the way. More profitable revenue sources will be discovered in space (besides just communications satellites) and then developed. This at a time when the U.S. has just invoked a Common Core education standard for K-12 schools that does not set any basic knowledge level requirements in Science.

Math, Reading and Statistics yes, Science no…and the Math one seems a bit wimpy.

Very bad timing I think.

They seem to have done this, in part, to clarify the measuring stick between Urban and Rural schools. However, rural schools in the U.S., like the one my youngest son attends, aren’t burdened with as many cultural challenges (multiple languages, broken families, homelessness, etc.) that urban schools in the U.S. are. They can never actually be equal. I think that to try and measure them as equal drives down the bar too far to build and maintain the infrastructure for a spacefaring economy and misses a chance for our children to be prepared for the careers of the future.

Common Core is set in stone. So let’s help the urban schools. Lets give them the resources they need to bridge the gap. However, those like me who live in rural communities will need to fight to keep our bar above the standard. That is why I ran for School Board in 2014 and it is one of the reasons why I’m running again this year.

If you agree with my thoughts concerning the future of our schools, then please share this blog entry, or the above Facebook link.


The Landing of The Falcon and the Launching of Humanity

•April 13, 2016 • Leave a Comment


Hey folks, I too did the happy-dance when the rocket landed on the drone ship. I cheered and shared the video and bored all around me to tears talking about it.

But cool as it was, it means little if human spaceflight demand continues to be the exclusive realm of government agencies. So the really cool part is that while the first stage booster retro-burned, the second stage continued on to put the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) into space as it rode in the trunk of the Dragon spacecraft. The very first, privately built space habitat module, to be directly tested for human habitation, has now been placed in orbit. Once NASA, ESA, Jaxa, and Roscosmos have all had their chance to play in it aboard the ISS, that technology will provide a proven platform for human spaceflight that can then be driven and funded entirely by private enterprise. The new industry that many think will rise from that could come on line just as the human-rated SpaceX Dragon v2 and the Boeing Starliner complete their second or third year of operation with NASA and the ISS.

Reusable boosters rock. But the dream of private human space flight writes the music!

Did you notice how the post-launch press conference ended up being all about SpaceX? Almost all of the questions were directed at Elon Musk. Kinda funny how those three other folks at the table all had a ton of useful information too, but nobody seemed to care. A rocket lands on a ship, bathed in the bright sun and media coverage, while Bigelow Aerospace makes history sitting in the dark, in the rumble seat of an orbiter.

English: NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver...

English: NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver is given a tour of the Bigelow Aerospace facilities by the company’s President Robert Bigelow on Friday, Feb. 4, 2011, in Las Vegas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are now three Bigelow space station modules in orbit. Government didn’t specifically ask for any of them. No Senator (that I know of) demanded that they be built. This third one, BEAM, will see people. The forth one is much larger and will launch in 2020 aboard an Atlas V. Bigelow Aerospace would like it to attach to the ISS, where it would increase the usable space inside the station by roughly a third, and double the Commercial Crew traffic to and from the station…but it doesn’t have to.

So, we all cheered both times the boosters landed. When it arrived at port, some cheered some more. We’ll all cheer big when it re-flies, maybe in June. But take another deep breath and get ready to cheer again all the louder when the ISS crew inflates BEAM and someone takes that first “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” into it.

Because on that day, the world will change forever.

The company logo for Bigelow Aerospace.

The company logo for Bigelow Aerospace. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Gravity of It All…#Mindblown

•February 14, 2016 • Leave a Comment


A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…

Two black holes collided, invisibly obliterating in an imperceivable instant the mass equivalent of three suns.

The energy released equaled the output of all the stars in the universe times fifty.

Last year, that energy arrived here, and for a split second everything you know stretched and then shrank by less than the width of an atom.

I know, I’m a Science Fiction author, but I promise I’m not making this stuff up. Researchers at two specially designed facilities have measured a gravity wave…a hiccup in space-time that emanated from that event and arrived here last year. Two more gravity wave observatories will be built later in other parts of the world to help add details to future events of this kind. The implications of our ability to study gravity in this way are difficult to comprehend. It gets into the very deepest fundamentals of the forces that hold everything together.

I don’t usually write about such things…but this just too cool.

They hope to be able to use gravity wave detectors to study the internal workings of much smaller events…like supernovas!

Again…mind blown.

Challenger Remembered

•January 28, 2016 • Leave a Comment
English: View of the Liftoff of the Shuttle Ch...

English: View of the Liftoff of the Shuttle Challenger for STS 51-L mission taken from the PAFB/IGOR camera site. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While going to college, I lived with my grandmother. There were others visiting that day, but I was downstairs in my room. People told me that the Shuttle launch was coming up, so I came upstairs to watch. That is how I remember it.

I’d dreampt of a Shuttle crash once…an event that never happened…where the shuttle left the pad, did a 180, and plowed into the ground behind the Vehicle Assembly Building. The dream was very realistic, complete with the huge explosion. I actually did something like that last year with the shuttle, accidentally, in the Orbiter 2010 simulator. But I digress.

The real thing, when Challenger exploded, felt for a moment like that, like it wasn’t real. Then a few seconds later the reality hit. It wasn’t at all survivable and seven people had just died.

It didn’t anger me much. It saddened me deeply, but after the results of the investigation were released I felt like launch cadence had gotten in the way of safety, and that wrong choices were made in the face of expert dissent. I felt like it was a natural growing-pains thing though. Rocket science is hard to do and very dangerous and everyone involved in it knows that, but there is also a learning curve. Heroes were made that day, as they are every day that humans do extraordinary things. Humanity needs its heroes, but martyrs were made that day too. That was how I viewed the victims of the Challenger accident.

It was the Columbia disaster that angered me. I felt like that accident could have been avoided, like those people shouldn’t have died. I remembered, in the very earliest days of the Shuttle Program, an expert saying on camera that if leading-edge tiles were ever damaged the orbiter would be destroyed on reentry. There were no unknowns, no hidden flaws, no accidental gotchas. I viewed, and still view, those deaths as a waste and for the first and only time in my life I was deeply disappointed in NASA.

Challenger humbled us as a nation. She reminded us of the frailty of flesh and that our processes, like those O-Ring design, can have deadly hidden cracks in them. It matured our space program in a way that only a catastrophe can. The Shuttles were good, and played a critical role in our growth as a species, but it increasingly became apparent to me that they were premadonnas and that spaceflight shouldn’t have to be quite that hard.

Challenger Accident documentary on The History Channel.—challenger#

I won’t harp further on the lessons learned. I will just honor the Challenger crew for what they were, brave pioneers, and end this post with a nice poem that is frequently used in reference to such events as this…

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr


The Privatizing of Human Spaceflight

•January 23, 2016 • Leave a Comment
From out of the fog

Falcon 9 rises out of the fog to launch the Jason 3 Satellite from Edwards Air Force Base in January of 2016. Its attempt to land the rocket on a barge in the Pacific failed due to a faulty landing leg.

I can’t find enough time to write lately. I think this post might set a record for this blog on how long it took to finish. Plus, events have updated the progress highlighted in these thoughts as I write them, causing me to keep updating words that I thought was done and dusted.

Anyway, NASA seems to want to walk a road that will totally end the use of the traditional military procurement paradigm that built the Apollo and the Space Shuttle programs. It makes me grin, and makes a lot of sense given how much Congressional strings have cost space exploration in delays over the years. If lawmakers let NASA get away with cutting down their cherry tree it might finally kick the momentum for exploitation of space back in gear.

Military-style contracting is like what they’re doing to build the Space Launch System and Orion. In a nutshell, here is how it works…

  • NASA owns the designs.
  • Congressional politics rule the upgrade schedule, the funding, and the calendar for each and every item built for the duration of the life of the product.
  • The contractor/s (defense industry providers with strong Congressional connections) build only as many as NASA orders, and at military procurement costs…so whatever you think the cost should be, just add another digit or two.
  • Congresspersons support it more for the sake of local jobs than for human technology advancement, and so long as certain Senators and Congresspersons continue to win elections, that particular NASA project gets to continue to fly.
  • The process keeps the costs high, support spotty and uncertain, and puts funding for important projects in competition with social programs, making NASA a slur for wasteful spending.
  • NASA is the only buyer, but the lessons learned from the program go into a database that is owned and operated by NASA and made available to other NASA partners in various ways.

Most regular launch services have already been semi-commercialized for many years, provided largely by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between two competing military contractors, Boeing and Lockheed-Martin. They made this cute little merger so that they could set the price and tell everyone to just accept it. This sweet, monopolistic arrangement displays a facade of cost savings because the government gets to pay “industry prices”…with industry prices being the same ridiculous, military procurement price tag that NASA and the Air Force pays because nobody knew any better.

Those days ended several years ago when SpaceX entered the market and started telling folks that the old price was stupid and that the key to getting our feet out of the mud and exploring deep-space is to do it for under $1K per pound…an enormous price drop. Now, because of pricing, SpaceX and Arianespace get the lion’s share of any competitively bid launch business…and the European Union has to heavily subsidize Ariane in order to keep their prices competitive in the new market. This has suddenly turned the space launch business into one of the only growth industries in this current, otherwise gloomy, global economy.

SpaceX’s current pricing is for expendable rockets, the tradition of the industry. Yes, everyone has, for more than 50 years, thought that the only thing to do with a hundred something million dollar rocket, after the payload is in orbit, is to just toss it into the ocean and let it sink. However, SpaceX’s goal has always been to vertically land, then refuel and re-fly, their hardware. I think part of the reason for this is because Mars has no oceans to splash down in, nor rocket industries to build throw-away boosters to fly back to Earth. Mars colonies are what SpaceX and its founder Elon Musk are really after.

They recently succeeded in bringing the first-stage booster for their Falcon 9 rocket back to Earth intact with a scifi-style, rocket powered descent and landing. They did this with no request or initiative from any government agency and nothing but spit-balls from most of the regular industry players. They then successfully test-fired that booster to begin gathering data on it. They intend to try and land all of their boosters as a routine so they can analyze them to determine how to improve new rockets for quick turn-around and re-launch. They intend to relaunch one of those reusable rockets later this year. Blue Origin recently relaunched their New Shepard space tourism rocket…setting a new level for the bar and leaving an unstated invitation for SpaceX to more quickly add an exclamation point to the new re-usability trend. If successful, rocket re-use will disrupt orbital industries forever. Even without that, SpaceX has already used pricing (and lawyers) to kick in the doors of the commercial, research, and U.S. military launch industries to force the players to compete on price.

Some claim that re-usability of rockets isn’t cost effective, and in a way they are correct. To them (and Congress) the main objective of spaceflight is to pay as many people as possible to build as many one hundred plus million dollar rockets as the market can bear, so no wonder so they treat them like paper plates! SpaceX’s goal is two-way flights to Mars. Do you see the difference? Spend as little as possible to go somewhere vs spend as much as possible to go nowhere. They and Blue Origin have already begun their own little cold-war of rocket re-usability innovation. Competition and free enterprise have been viewed by some as the key to cost reduction and innovation in spaceflight.

English: Stylized text "COTS", used ...

English: Stylized text “COTS”, used to represent the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program managed by the Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office at NASA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To leverage the energy of capitalism in their pursuit of space, NASA started quietly bringing multiple commercial partners into the mix about a decade ago. One of the old market players, Orbital ATK, recently flew their Cygnus cargo ship to the International Space Station. Cygnus was developed with a funded Space Act Agreement contract under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Service (aka. COTS)…which works a lot like a NASA spin-off program. It flew on ULA’s Atlas V rocket this year because Orbital’s own launcher, the Antares, blew up over the launch pad late in 2014. They fly one more time this year on the Atlas, and then go back to Antares with an all new engine design.

SpaceX Falcon 9 with Dragon COTS Demo 1 during...

SpaceX Falcon 9 with Dragon COTS Demo 1 during static fire test (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule was also developed under a Space Act Agreement contract with NASA and uses SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launcher.

Both Orbital and SpaceX own all the rights to their products that NASA helped them develop. They can sell their products and services to anyone, not just NASA, and nothing controls the price except competition. NASA has been the exclusive customer for these services up to now, but that’s only because the International Space Station is the only orbiting, functioning, occupied habitat that they can do business with…for now. Frequent, reliable, and cost effective resupply is essential to any long-duration human presence in space. Now that that service has been made available to anyone, anyone can build and fly a space station if they can get people up into orbit to inhabit it.

The new COTS contractors for 2019 forward were recently announced to continue to be SpaceX and Orbital. Also, NASA has added Sierra Nevada Corp’s new space plane, the Dream Chaser, this time around. Several rules have been adjusted based on the lessons learned in round one, including insurance and the need for providers to have greater flexibility in the services that they provide. Dragon always did provide both pressurized and un-pressurized up mass and pressurized down mass (bringing cargo intact back to the Earth’s surface). Orbital’s Cygnus provided garbage disposal (destructive reentry). Now they all need to do all of these things. NASA also wants an option for quick-return of any landed cargo to Earth-based labs. This is where Dream Chaser shines, because it can land on aircraft runways instead of having to be plucked out of the ocean like the Dragon. I’m thinking SpaceX will use Dragon V2 for quick cargo returns, which they intend to be able to vertically land. Cygnus was never designed with down-mass ability in mind, so it’ll be fun to see what they come up with. Maybe they’ll build a capsule or a spaceplane.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing Starliner currently under development and testing to carry astronauts to the ISS were both developed under Space Act Agreement contracts also. They intend to start launching people to space stations in 2017, starting with the ISS. Some in Congress have attempted, unsuccessfully, to limit that effort to a sole provider and rope those services into the status quo procurement system. Some attempts to tie in SLS/Orion as a backup ISS support provider were also made, drawing the public relations equivalent of polite laughter from NASA. Clearly, NASA’s stated goal, both expressed and implied, is to build-up Yankee free-enterprise to take over all Low Earth Orbit operations…both human and robotic…some day very soon and then leave them there while they go off and explore the solar system.

NASA astronaut Robert L. Curbeam, Jr. (left) a...

NASA astronaut Robert L. Curbeam, Jr. (left) and European Space Agency astronaut Christer Fuglesang, both STS-116 mission specialists, participate in the mission’s first of three planned sessions of extravehicular activity (EVA) as construction resumes on the International Space Station. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Currently, thankfully, Congress seems to have finally given up on Low Earth Orbit industries to feed their campaign coffers. Instead, they look forward to SLS/Orion and deep-space projects like Mars and asteroid research to draw NASA money into their respective states and keep their game of mutual back-scratching with NASA procurement officials and the bloated military industrial complex going.

Here’s the rub. The SpaceX Falcon 9 and other commercial launchers have been contracted to fly Google Lunar X Prize rovers to the Moon in 2017. This year SpaceX will test-fly the Falcon Heavy, a rocket that is way too big to have to stay in Earth orbit. It will have the world’s heaviest throw weight since the Saturn V Moon rocket. SpaceX will start making money with it and building a flight history on it long before NASA’s first test flight of the Space Launch System, since Falcon Heavy already has customers lined up waiting to fly on it.

If the Falcon 9 can already boost some things to the Moon, then what can the biggy sized Falcon Heavy fly to the Moon and elsewhere? Elon Musk claims that the Falcon Heavy can carry a heavily loaded Dragon Spacecraft to Mars or a lightly loaded Dragon to the moons of Jupiter. SLS will cost $500 Million per flight, IF it flies at least once a year, every year, for ten years, but Falcon Heavy will cost about $150 Million per flight right from the first launch. Once they start landing and reusing its boosters it may cost even less. The question that everyone keeps asking is whether SLS can even survive ten years, or even two, when Falcon Heavy can fly some SLS missions for less than half the SLS price tag. The other question is whether NASA’s relaxed time line can keep them at the pointy end of the stick once SpaceX can fly to SLS destinations at far lower cost.

Congress has dictated in the latest authorization bill, that has now become law, that NASA will fly a mission to the Jupiter moon Europa. The law also states that it will carry a lander to descend to and study the moon’s surface, and that it will fly on SLS. They have also required that NASA let them know by June or so how they will do their deep-space habitats and other technologies for long-duration space flight and which areas of the country will manufacture that equipment. They look like they still think that they get to pick who builds all the stuff to do the “explore the solar system” part of the future in the traditional, expensive, Congressionally controlled way.

English: NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) refe...

English: NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) reference vehicle design baseline. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, late last year (Nov. 2015) NASA announced the awarding of contracts to three companies for building prototypes of high-power electric spacecraft engines for swift flights to Mars and elsewhere. I read somewhere that these were Space Act Agreement contracts, but now I can’t seem to find those references anymore. Digging deeper, I found that these awards were made as part of a fairly new commercial partnership program called NextSTEP, which goes way beyond just 100 watt ion propulsion…

NASA Awards ORBITEC Contract for Advanced Propulsion Systems

Deep space propulsion, space habitats, even part of the SLS construction infrastructure, these are components of NextSTEP and look like they will be organized, funded and developed a lot more like COTS and Commercial crew and a lot less less like SLS and Orion. Their success will be driven more on how well they meet performance milestones than on who they know in Washington. Like other spin-off programs, these NASA commercial partners will own the products that NASA helps them develop so that they can later sell their products and services to anyone.

One provider listed under NextStep for space habitats is Bigelow Aerospace. Bigelow modules are built on the lessons learned from the ISS. They cost a lot less to build and fly, are way larger, and carry better shielding from radiation and micro-meteors. Once they gain a foothold in space, they will render the ISS (along with any other Mir and Skylab “tin can” technology) obsolete for longer-term crew accommodations. They’ve already orbited two unoccupied test stations and will launch another as a module to the ISS aboard Dragon in March of this year for hands-on testing.

Model of the Bigelow Aerospace Space Complex B...

Model of the Bigelow Aerospace Space Complex Bravo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Congress owns SLS/Orion and NASA will launch it to new destinations…Congress demands it. But NASA looks like it wants all of the other necessary tech that they develop for that effort to be owned by the folks that build it, thereby saving money and making that technology available to anyone to use. Other launchers (not just Falcon Heavy) will be available for anyone to fly that tech anywhere the launcher can reach. Out of the box, this year, Falcon Heavy will be able to lift some 53K lbs to low Earth orbit. The SLS that will not fly for the first time until 2018 will lift 70K at 4 or 5 times the cost. SpaceX, China, and Russia are all working on much bigger launchers than Falcon Heavy.

I predict that Congress will no longer have to like space flight projects for space flight projects to happen. They will only need to show a passing ambivalence toward an idea, and that only long enough for NASA to empower commercial partners to just do it. After that, if anyone else wants to do something new in space, they’ll fly it with or without long-term support from Congress or NASA…and for a fraction of the cost.

And that’s the stuff dreams are made of.

Space Club

•December 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Israel gets to go to the Moon…but Iran doesn’t?

Back in October, William Waldon reported that an Israeli company from Tel Aviv, SpaceIL, participating in the Google Lunar X Prize, won the first phase of the contest by securing a launch contract to send their bouncy-lander to the Moon aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Hardly seems fair does it? Even though the world has negotiated an arrangement with Israel’s rival, Iran, to end economic sanctions over their nuclear development, they still cannot do business with companies like SpaceX because they sponsor terrorism. Spaceflight technology crosses over into military technology, making it illegal for U.S. launch providers to do business with rogue states such as Iran.

SpaceIL secured their flight arrangements with a U.S company called Space Industries, which normally brokers small, secondary payloads, but which has purchased an entire $60M Falcon 9 launch to fly in late 2017. SpaceIL will fly as one of the two leading payloads on that rocket.

Moon Express, a U.S. company competing for the XPrize, has achieved a launch contract to fly their rover to the moon on a $5M Electron rocket built and operated by another U.S. company, Rocket Lab with an office in New Zealand.

Team Synergy Moon will partner with Interorbital to develop their own nanosat moon launcher that will test-fly in 2016. After that their payload will fly to the moon on their launcher, along with several other Lunar X Prize contenders, on an innovative new fuel-saving trajectory.

Why is interest in the moon growing? Some talk about Helium3, but industry does not yet know how to use that resource. However, platinum group minerals lay on the surface of the moon from asteroid impacts scattered throughout its history. The Earth’s surface has renewed itself regularly through plate tectonics and erosion, making these space-borne riches harder to find, but the moon’s surface has been geologically dead for about a billion years.

Whatever resources that exist on the moon, and are cost-effective to extract, are still uncertain, since the moon is still largely unexplored. The surface has been mapped and analyzed from orbit by robotic spacecraft in some detail, but only the United States and Russia have obtained actual samples…and those were collected, at great cost, from locations that were picked more for their safe landing feasibility than their mineral geology. Much more in the way of exploration and targeted sample gathering and analysis needs to take place by somebody.

Also, there has grown a renewed interest in solar system exploration with the moon as a fuel depot. Large quantities of water have been recently discovered there, locked in the polar regolith or buried under the surface. Water can be broken up into hydrogen and oxygen by solar-powered electrolysis and used for rocket fuel for long voyages, then fuel doesn’t have to be lifted at additional expense from Earth. However, all of that industry needs to be launched, setup, and maintained by someone, in a cost-effective way, ahead of anyone planning missions around it.

Because of the business potential on the moon, and in some cases military strategic interest, many of the world’s governments have begun to look at the moon more closely, but most lack the ability to reach it on their own. In the past, it has cost a lot of money to access space. Launch prices for the Space Shuttle were roughly $25,000 per pound to Low Earth Orbit, but more traditional launch costs run between $3,000 and $5,000 per pound. Anything bound for the moon would have to include its own rocket engines and fuel to fly out there and maybe back and the weight of all of that would be included in the launch price to Lunar Transfer Orbit.

However, recently there have been innovative new launch services companies willing and able to offer prices as low as $1,000 per pound to LEO. They continue to work to lower the cost even further. In the U.S., SpaceX has lead this effort and older  providers have had to move in that direction or face extinction.

Combine launch providers that turn billions of dollars of cost into millions, with a new trend toward tiny nanosats that can piggy-back with other launches, and you have the makings of a new space race among private organizations and small countries. It takes a lower-cost launcher like SpaceX’s Falcon to bring the moon within reach of a small, private company like SpaceIL and anyone else who can legally do business. NASA, and now the U.S. Congress, are not just encouraging, helping, and supporting the development of Independent Commercial activities in Low Earth Orbit, but are openly facilitating them. Government-tied, military-style procurement practices by NASA will soon be a thing of the past, and with it the high-cost of access to space that has kept most private industries and small countries on the sidelines.

If someone in Iran, or some other U.S. military rival, wanted to send a spacecraft to the moon, they could maybe fly on Ariane, Soyuz, or one of China’s Long-March rockets. They’d pay more money for the trip though, making the project more difficult to justify and fund. They could also decide to spend a lot more money and develop their own moon-launch technology, but they wouldn’t get any technical help from NASA like NASA’s SAA partners in the U.S. do.

Now, Israel will get in on the game through SpaceX and Space Industries. The U.S. Canada, ESA, Russia and Japan already play in space together. China may soon be called out to bring their toys and both them and Russia have announced their intentions to setup permanent facilities of one kind or another on the moon.

Partnering shares scientists, ideas, and costs. It facilitates technology sharing and builds new and varied business opportunities for everyone…both in orbit and dirt-side. Several thriving, international businesses have long provided, launched, and/or operated robotic communications, navigation, and Earth-observing satellites in Earth orbit profitably. Now, lower launch costs will soon begin to open up business opportunities further out in space for even lower startup costs.

CZ Chinese rockets

CZ Chinese rockets (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Currently, Russia and China are the world’s only providers of human space launch. Anyone else who wants to send researchers to space has to either buy a ride with them or develop their own capability. Come 2017, NASA will certify SpaceX and Boeing to launch people to the ISS, as well as a to new generation of mass-produced, inflatable space stations built by another U.S. company, Bigalow Aerospace. These players will enter this new, low cost, human commercial spaceflight industry at the ground floor and start refining their products and building consumer confidence. They will latch on to and lead that market early on world-wide…bringing anyone along for the ride that they can legally do business with them.

Some countries think that they have priorities that make it necessary for them to isolate their populations from these and upcoming technology industries that will build the new world economy. Countries that work and play well with the modern world will get to participate, those who don’t won’t.

I hope that an era of peace through common interests in space will result as increasingly more areas of the world start to see a rich future in the bounty of space.


My New Christmas YouTube Playlist

•December 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I do this every year. I realize that most of you don’t come here for this kind of stuff, but too bad.

I have always been an unabashed fan of Christmas and music. But having no musical talent of my own, and no time to develop a film production talent of my own, I make a playlist every year of Christmas themed videos.

This year, the theme is “Christmas Messages”.

It’s a brand new list, and when you see it you’ll notice some obvious flaws. I need some help growing it, so any suggestions would be helpful.

Now forewarning, I know that some of you don’t believe in God, but those who know me best know that I don’t believe in the conflict between Science and Religion. I think that that entire debate is the product of closed-mindedness on both sides. You are looking at a walking, talking, breathing, Tweeting example of a fan of both.

I’ve almost finished updating the lists from past years. I prune out the dead branches and add anything new that I find. The hardest is the Christmas Longruns play list, designed to play quietly in the background (espessially over Chromecast) during a Christmas party, while decorating the tree, or while opening presents on Christmas morning.

Check them all out and use them wherever they serve you best, and like “Christmas Messages” please feel free to offer polite suggestions for improvement, especially dead links, and most espessially those links that contain nothing but a lot of dead air.

Here is the complete list of lists…

Christmas Favorites:

Christmas Flash Mobs:

Christmas Music Long Runs:

Christmas Music Videos:

Christmas Music with slide show:

The Historic Landing of the Falcon Rocket

•December 22, 2015 • 1 Comment

“there and back again” — Elon Musk

On Monday evening, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket returned to flight by orbiting 11 Orbcomm satellites. These global messaging service satelites fly in Low Earth Orbit to allow low-power access by their customers. Plus, because they do not fly in fixed-point orbits like other communications satellites, they provide intermittent messaging access to areas that typical communications satellites can’t usually reach.

In addition, for the first time in history, the first stage of an orbital launch system returned home and landed under its own power…no sea water in the engines, no wave action damage, and no legacy spaceflight garbage at the bottom of the ocean. Since the dawn of orbital spaceflight, every orbital launch first-stage, except this one, has crashed or otherwise fallen back to Earth or sea and either been destroyed or required lengthy and expensive refurbishment. This has, in the eyes of many, kept spaceflight unnecessarily expensive, hobbling humanity to Low Earth Orbit.

The goals of SpaceX in pursuing this landmark achievement are two-fold…

  • To dramatically lower the cost of spaceflight through true, routine, quick-turnaround re-usability of orbital launch components.
  • To develop, test, and improve technologies that will some day allow round-trip access to Mars.

Today is the day that orbital spaceflight joins suborbital and atmospheric flight as fully turn-around reusable. Soon, the whims and corruption of politics and empires will no longer hamper the progress of space exploration, because the cost will no longer require the decisions and funding of governments.

Mark this will become a holiday. From here on out, the sky’s NOT the limit. If you have any inventions or business ideas that require $500-$800 per pound to launch to Low Earth Orbit in order to be viable, warm them up! Watch the above video and witness the first step of our planet’s next giant leap into space.

ULA? Arianespace? ROSCosmos? Your turn! No, I don’t want to hear anymore of your whining and sour grapes. Admit that SpaceX topped you today and then go out and land a booster. If upstart companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin can do it, then why can’t you? Why didn’t you do it decades ago? Is it because you like crashing your boosters, so that you can sell your customers brand-new rockets with each and every launch?

How Worms Turn Part 2: John McCain vs Alabama

•December 20, 2015 • Leave a Comment
Atlas rocket launches military payload

Atlas rocket launches military payload (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Senator John McCain and the United Launch Alliance (ULA) are not getting along.

He’s not very happy with some of his fellow lawmakers either.

After ULA refused to bid on the GPS III launch contract, siting the RD-180 engine restrictions and a budgetary requirement that funding for the launches can’t come from other projects, McCain called Horse Hockey on them and ordered an audit.

Now more recently, a lawmaker from Illinois (ie. Boeing, part owner of ULA with Lockheed Martin) and a lawmaker from Alabama (ie. ULA), both members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, secretly snuck a provision into the omnibus spending bill, just before it went to a vote, that effectively ends the RD-180 engine restrictions that originated with John McCain and the Senate Armed Services Committee. This after multiple failed debates and votes over the question of ending those restrictions.

President Obama signed that omnibus appropriations bill into law on Friday.

English: John McCain official photo portrait.

English: John McCain official photo portrait. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“This is outrageous.  And this is shameful.  And it is the height of hypocrisy, especially for my colleagues who claim to care about the plight of Ukraine and the need to punish Russia for its aggression.

…perhaps we need to look at a complete and indefinite restriction on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s rocket engines. … I simply cannot allow Senator Shelby, Senator Durbin, the Senate Appropriations Committee, or any other member of this body to craft a … bill that allows a monopolistic corporation to do business with Russian oligarchs to buy overpriced rocket engines that fund Russia’s belligerence in Crimea and Ukraine, its support for Assad in Syria, and its neo-imperial ambitions.” — Senator John McCain

It remains to be seen whether this new development will impact the GPS III launch contract. If ULA changes their mind on bids on it then we all get to see ULA and SpaceX compete on a contract after all. Unless ULA can afford to fly Atlas rockets at anything near $93 Million (it can’t), then the winner would be chosen based on the more nebulous “total value to the government”. That could potentially put the Air Force in a pickle between the Senate Proportions Committee, which would certainly become annoyed if they choose SpaceX, and SpaceX lawyers which would almost certainly sue the Air Force, again, if the much higher-priced ULA gets the contract. The evidence discovery process of Federal lawsuits is deep, probing, and multi-layered, and includes Supreme Court mandated felony charges for purgery. Is there something dark and unseemly embedded in the military procurement process that doesn’t want so much light shed on it? Almost certainly.

I’ll enjoy watching, and writing about, what unfolds. I’m already enjoying watching folks turn it into a McCain vs Alabama flap (see the link below).

How can I continue to criticize lawmakers for turning space exploration into an overly expensive, go nowhere, pork-barrel jobs program when folks in the media talk like that?

Folks, listen, again, launch mishaps (like what happened in June to SpaceX) don’t kill launch systems, mission shrink kills launch systems and almost all the new launch contracts signed in 2014 went to SpaceX or Ariane Space…because of price. Atlas is more reliable because it is older, it is loosing business because it is dramatically more expensive. When Vulcan comes out it will be younger, and less reliable, than Falcon and still be dramatically more expensive. Customers stop caring about reliability if a successful launch on any Atlas costs more than a failed launch on Falcon 9.

The Little Space Probe That Could

•December 12, 2015 • Leave a Comment
Album cover of Lost in Space Original Televisi...

Album cover of Lost in Space Original Television Soundtrack, Volume 1 CD, with music by John Williams (ASIN B000001P1R). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back in the spring of 2010, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched a weather satellite…to Venus. The Venus Climate orbiter, Akatsuki, was intended to enter orbit around its target in October of 2010 to study the Venusian atmosphere, but suffered a main engine mishap when it arrived and ended up zipping right on past.

Now, after 5 years of operation for which it was not designed, closer orbit of the sun for which it was not designed, and a 20 minute long Venus orbit insertion burn, using its attitude control thrusters, for which they were not designed, the probe has finally arrived close to where it should be. It orbits Venus high and elliptical, swinging out from about 400 km to 1000 times that at around 400,000 km, but after 5 years lost in space they’re just happy that Akatsuki is safely on station. After one more orbital adjustment in March it will start the scientific portion of its unexpectedly long mission.
This is the only probe that anyone has orbiting Venus, and will be JAXA’s first successful mission to another planet. Its five instruments (we all hope that none of them were cooked during Akatsuki’s close brush with the sun!) will gather data of immeasurable value, increasing our understanding of the climates of both Venus and Earth.

Kudos, JAXA!

They also refer to Akatsuki as Planet-C, since they regard it as their their third planetary explorer. JAXA’s first, SUISEI, or Planet-A, successfully studied the coma of Halley’s Comet back in 1986. It’s second, NOZOMI, or Planet-B, failed its insertion into Mars orbit and currently orbits the sun near Mars. It performed some science of the Earth, moon, and the interplanetary medium however. A deeper description of the adventures of NOZOMI can be found here ( Mars is the Skeleton Coast of exploration spacecraft, so JAXA is in good company on that score. Though this mission was ultimately a failure, it failed heroically.

Image of Earth and moon taken by JAXA's Mars probe NOZOMI.

Image of Earth and moon taken by JAXA’s Mars probe NOZOMI.

Akatsuki joins SUISEI, JAXA’s participation in the ISS project, the highly successful HAYABUSA asteroid probe, and their KAGUYA Lunar orbiter on the list of JAXA’s great achievements in space.

May there be many more.


English: Japan Aerospace eXploration Agency He...

English: Japan Aerospace eXploration Agency Head office from Chofu, Tokyo. 日本語: 東京都調布市にある「宇宙航空研究開発機構」(JAXA)の本社。 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


•November 28, 2015 • 1 Comment


Note: I thought I posted this on Thanksgiving, but just now found it in my drafts. Oh, well. Better late than never.


Where do I begin?

Lately, watching events in the world, I have felt more thankful than ever about the peace and security of the land where I get to raise my family. I realize that not everyone in the U.S. can say that, but the corner of it where I live just might be one of the safest places in the world.

Of course the political and economic stability of the U.S. becomes a part of that, because even in the worst of times power transfers peacefully and on schedule when needed and all parties participate in and rely on that same smooth process.

Those who know me personally know that I’m a man of faith, and the religious freedom enjoyed by my countrymen and I has always been one of the greatest blessings in my life. Recent years have seen some things which challenge those rights, and I’m privileged to live in a place where I can make my views known and lend my voice to the process of those issues. I don’t discuss religion, politics, or the culture war much here on my blog, but my Facebook and Twitter feeds have more of that along with the more personal things if you’re interested.

My family gives me an avenue for fulfillment, a focus for my energy, a sanctuary when the world crashes in on me and a rock of personal stability without which I would live my life adrift on the currents of whim, trouble, and circumstance. The depth of my gratitude for that goes beyond words even for me.

God blessed me with a particular mix of intellect and persuasiveness without which my addiction for problem solving would be a pointless and maddening torment. He did this, as He always does, with a combination of birth gifts and life experiences that I would have never thought to add up for myself if it had been left up to me.

For all of these things I thank God, my family, and all of those many nameless folk who I have met along the way. The

efforts of all of these have combined to help make Bill Housley into a very happy man today with so many things to be thankful for.


Blue Origin’s Suborbital Flight Test

•November 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

They accomplished a historic flight in many, many ways, just not in the way that they claimed. I don’t blame the engineers, they did great.

Let me tell you what suborbital means. It means that your payload goes up, then comes right back down and doesn’t reach orbit.

Orbit means that your payload doesn’t go vertical so much as it goes horizontal very, very fast until the curvature of the planet curves away from it at more or less the same rate of speed that your payload falls, such that it falls and falls and falls but never catches up with the ground.

Both are different paths of ballistic flight in that they both fall until or unless stopped by the ground or something.

English: Backdropped against a mostly blue Ear...

English: Backdropped against a mostly blue Earth scene, part of the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module, packed with supplies and spare parts for the International Space Station, the vertical stabilizer of space shuttle Atlantis and the orbital maneuvering system (OMS) pods are seen in this view photographed by one of the STS-135 crewmembers using windows on the spacecraft’s aft flight deck during the mission’s second day of activities in Earth orbit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Space Shuttle did orbital flights, it dropped off the expended solid rocket boosters before reaching orbit. It dropped off the empty external tank before reaching stable orbit, but we call the entire flight event an “orbital” launch and the system, solids, tank, and all, an orbital launch system.

SpaceX Falcon 9 with Dragon COTS Demo 1 during...

SpaceX Falcon 9 with Dragon COTS Demo 1 during static fire test (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The International Space Station orbits Earth, and the SpaceX Dragon capsule joins it there to deliver cargo. The Falcon 9 rocket sends it to orbit, and that makes the first stage and second stage of the Falcon 9 an orbital rocket. Even though the first stage booster never actually reaches orbit itself, it is the first step of an orbital package. SpaceX does this at a monopoly killing, new opportunity building, never before matched price that it wants to cut even further by landing and reusing the booster stage.

Blue Origin‘s Shepard test rocket flies very high, but it was designed and intended to fly suborbital. It flies very fast but cannot fly anywhere near orbital speeds. It’s payload, a test article of a planned human rated space tourism capsule, did not reach orbit, was not intended to reach orbit, and likely isn’t even designed to reenter the atmosphere at orbital speed without burning up. It goes up and comes right back down again and that makes its test flight a suborbital test flight and its rocket a suborbital rocket.

Let me be clear. That teenie-wheenie rocket couldn’t even boost your cat into orbit. I don’t pretend to know more than Blue Origin CEO Jeff Bezos or his engineers. They know all about what I just told you and great as it was, it was over-stated. For Jeff Bezos to compare it to the failed landings of Falcon 9 is unfair. If they’d been honest with you about where that flight fit in the scheme of things I’d have nothing but praise for their successful launch and landings.

What’s the difference you ask? A lot.

Are both boosters going the same speed when the engines shut off? No, but for the purposes of this discussion it wouldn’t matter if they did.

Moving an object to orbital speed takes a lot more fuel. That fuel load is divided between two rockets and all the fuel for the launch, plus both the rockets, plus the payload, all have to be put into flight from a dead stop by the first stage. So the first stage has to be huge! Huge things without wings fly like rocks and bigger rocks take a lot more time and energy to slow, steer, stop and stabilize and you have to do a whole lot of all of those things to bring a booster back to a dead stop at the correct time, place, and angle to keep it from crashing and turning itself and everything in its immediate vicinity into an epic explosion.

As for that capsule, did you see how hard it hit! The look on that cartoon character’s face wasn’t wonder or awe, it was sheer terror! Good thing the capsule wasn’t really occupied. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that it wasn’t even occupiable. It would need a launch abort system of some kind, redundant life support systems and some way of softening the impact with the ground besides just parachutes because we are delicate creatures and break easily. Blue Origin’s went a lot higher than a weather balloon though, but in every other meaningful way their capsule appears to have accomplished little more than the many “capsules” that have been built in folks’ garages recently. Like this one…

I wonder if Jeff Bezos had his iPhone onboard.

I know…that was an unfair comparison, but if billionaire Jeff Bezos can do it, so can I. 😉

It was all kinds of cool. When SpaceX lands an orbital booster next year sometime, this event combined with that one will put the question of recoverable boosters to bed forever. Then we all get to ask OldSpace, “How come you’ve made us buy you new rockets after every launch? Is crashing them into the ocean after every flight all you’ve learned how to do in the past 50 years?”

Until then Blue Origin can bask in the glory while SpaceX wishs they’d inspected their support struts better and flown the thirteen flights in twelve months they’d planned on flying going into 2015. If they had, then I’m quite sure we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

Blue Origin intends on expanding this success by building a true orbital vehicle. I look forward to writing nicer things about their many accomplishments. Go BLUE!

Centaur Cubed

•November 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment
Computer simulated image of AAU CubeSat in orb...

Computer simulated image of AAU CubeSat in orbit around Earth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

See, that’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout.
United Launch Alliance made a gloriously clever marketing move last week. They’ve announced that their launches will start carrying CubeSats aloft aboard the Centaur upper stage and releasing them through a spring-loaded deployment tube. They’ll carry twenty-four per launch as a secondary payload.
They also said that they’ll take up a certain number of cubes for free, focusing on STEM projects selected by ULA and industry leaders.
Currently, these 4^3″ satellites have long launch waiting lists and high (for schools anyway) launch costs. By becoming a frequent-flying provider of piggy-back CubeSat flights, ULA will add to peoples’ options, apply downward pressure on the price for CubeSat launches, and help new ideas get out there to change the world.

Centaur upper stage lifted up to put on the fi...

Centaur upper stage lifted up to put on the first stage of the Atlas V (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Atlas rockets have some extra energy at launch that goes unused, so filling a corner of the second stage with a CubeSat launch tube costs them very little upfront.
While their rival, SpaceX, struggles to get safely back to flight, works on sticking their landings, builds a heavy rocket, and dreams of Mars, ULA pulls this great, Microsoft-esc market grab to build their NewSpace exposure. The students that get to fly their cubes on Centaur will remember when it comes time to fly full-size birds for who knows what industry they work for when they leave school. It builds the industry in ULA’s direction, and that is where a company’s long-term growth and market tenacity is made.
ULA has started thinking like a new company again. In a fast-moving industry, it’s the only way to survive.

How Worms Turn

•November 20, 2015 • Leave a Comment

In April of last year, SpaceX sued the United States Air Force over an exclusive, uncompeted, bulk-buy for launch contracts that they’d quietly signed with United Launch Alliance the previous December.

At the time, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket had accumulated enough of a successful launch history to qualify to launch Air Force satellites, but still waited for its certification to be processed by the Air Force paper jungle. SpaceX wants the legitimacy and launch history that comes with U.S. Military launches as it drives toward its ultimate goal of human flights to Mars.

“It just seems odd that if your vehicle is good enough for NASA . . . there is no reasonable basis for it not being capable of launching something quite simple like a GPS satellite…This doesn’t seem right to us.” — SpaceX founder Elon Musk

The lawsuit then gained foreign policy relevance when Russia invaded Crimea and prompted Congress to pass a law banning the purchase of military cross-over technologies from Russia…like the engines used in ULA’s Atlas rockets. SpaceX quickly and loudly pointed out the Russian engine issue as another reason to question ULA’s exclusive access to U.S. National Security launches.

ULA leads the Old Space launch industry where government officials, lawmakers, and contractors have played together behind the scenes in a decades-long, taxpayer-funded, three-tiered game of mutual back-scratching that many believe has kept humanity chained to Earth orbit far longer than necessary by keeping the cost of spaceflight too high to expand.

“Essentially we’re asking them to award a contract to a company where they are probably not going to get a job, against a company where their friends are…So they’ve got to go against their friends, and their future retirement program. This is a difficult thing to expect.” — Elon Musk

I should note here that the evidence discovery process of federal lawsuits can be embarrassingly thorough, with perjury and evidence tampering charges often rising out of them as separate and independent felonies.

English: President Barack Obama tours SpaceX l...

English: President Barack Obama tours SpaceX launch pad with CEO Elon Musk, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the course of 2014 and 2015, the Air Force expedited the certification of the Falcon 9 and declared that it could compete in some contracts. Since the good-ol’-boys network let him into their tree-house, Elon put down his ax and settled the lawsuit. Congress waived rocket engines from their ban on Russian military tech, but tensions with Russia increased further and the Air Force decided they really couldn’t rely on tech from a growing military rival. SpaceX and Arianespace pretty much split almost all of the planet’s competitively bid launch contract awards in 2014, completely shutting out Russia’s Proton launcher. ULA won a contract to launch a Cygnus resupply ship to the ISS after the regular launcher blew up in an engine failure over the pad. The Delta, ULA’s other rocket, was slated for cancellation because it couldn’t compete on price with SpaceX and Arianespace. ULA started working on buying engines locally for the Atlas, but that will take quite a while to setup. ULA also started work on another rocket, the Vulcan, which will be built from the ground up to be more price competitive…but for now it’s still just a paper rocket.

Oh, and SpaceX blew up one of their launches to the ISS in June of 2015, but the Air Force had already certified them and said it was ok.

Now, only 17 months after the lawsuit that stripped ULA of their Air Force launch monopoly, they’ve announced that they cannot compete for an upcoming series of GPS III launches and will not bid, saying that Atlas won’t have the engines to fly them. They probably could have shuffled things around and made it work anyway, but there were other provisions in the Request For Proposal (RFP) from the Air Force that combined to give ULA heartburn…

“The RFP requires ULA to certify that funds from other government contracts will not benefit the GPS III launch mission. ULA does not have the accounting systems in place to make that certification, and therefore cannot submit a compliant proposal.”

“In addition, the RFP’s Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA) structure allows for no ability to differentiate between competitors on the basis of critical factors such as reliability, schedule certainty, technical capability and past performance.” — ULA

So SpaceX will win this GPS III contract uncontested, from a client that they had to sue last year just to get their foot in the door.

ULA enjoyed a great launch year in 2015, with Antares and Falcon both temporarily grounded after launch mishaps. However, it fights for its life and launches lag new contracts by two or three years. ULA still needs to sign new contracts to survive. They must have cash flow as they restructure their company, reorganize their product offerings, develop a new rocket, and adapt a new engine…all while getting their tails kicked all over the conference room by SpaceX and Arianespace.

“I don’t know how to build a $400 million rocket, I don’t understand how expensive they are.” — Gwen Shotwell, SpaceX President and COO to U.S. lawmakers when they asked her why the Falcon 9 only costs under $100 million.

I’ve found that old players in industry don’t always adapt well to a changing world, especially when they spend too much time and energy trying to resuscitate a dying status-quo. Often they add to the pile of bleached bones left behind by progress. However, if they survive then it’s the newcomers that find it hard to compete with them, what with their size, experience, and market capitalization. That’s why I think that even though it looks like the eventual end of Delta and Atlas, ULA itself may live on.

Here’s a broader question though…How can anyone still think that, at the high rate at which this industry is changing, it’ll still take us another twenty years to put people on Mars?

Who’ll ride that wave?

Image result for tomorrowland movie

Barbarians II

•November 15, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Dark IfelBoy, I sure missed that one.

Between being seriously behind on my sleep, and not having enough time to get things done, I tunnel-visioned right past that terrible tragedy in France and Lebanon. I saw news of it mere minutes after hitting the Publish button on my last post.

Since then the sadness and turmoil have taken me by degrees during my busy Saturday. I posted a couple of brief remarks on Twitter and Facebook, talked to my loved ones, and said a prayer or two, but I really need to write about if I can hope to sleep. So this post is more for me than it is for you, but I hope it helps you too. Don’t look for my best English spelling, grammar, and punctuation here though, nor a lot of pics or YouTube videos. It’s late and I’m already behind on my sleep, so I won’t be polishing this post over much.

A couple of key points…

Now is not the time to talk about Gun Control in the U.S. in the context of this disaster in France, so those of you who are please stop. I will note that I read something last week from someone in Germany who was worried about the impact of armed refugees in his gun-less land. That may be a valid concern there, but politicking in the U.S. on that issue in the face of what just happened in France so recently is cold and heartless.

Many want to cut off their countries to refugees. This issue has emboldened the words of those in my country who want to take draconian steps to seal our own Southern borders. Seriously, how many miles of wilderness to the North, and unpatrolled coastline to the East and West do we have here in the U.S.? Illegal Hispanic immigration is a very totally separate topic. However, the issue of Muslim refugees has been very real for months both here and in Europe and has now taken on a new twist. Think though…these ISIL Wahhabists regard all refugees as traitors and would harm them if they had the chance. Please understand that “harm” in this context means kill all the men, rape all the women, and steal all their stuff. “Wahhabist” is Arabic for “Land Pirate”…well, not really, but it should be. Run-of-the-mill Muslims really don’t like them. So don’t blame refugees, they disagree with and fear ISIL as much as you and I do. That’s why they ran instead of staying home and joining up. Of course it’s true that some ISIL hide among the refuges, but what part of that surprised anyone? In what war in the history of this planet has this sort of thing ever not happened? Try this on and see if it fits…if ISIL wanted to stop folks from escaping to places where they could not reach them, they might manipulate a tragedy like this one to get frightened people in peaceful places to close their borders to those escapees and make them easier for ISIL to catch. By forcing people to stay home and never become refugees, we grow ISIL’s numbers. So, please, let’s get all of the friendlies and innocents out of the way so that the worm has all the room that it needs to turn.

Some have asked why we are painting our Facebook profile pics with French flags, talking about the French, praying for the French, but not Lebanon today, or other places where violence is more common. I’ll speak for myself, and I think any folks here in the U.S. who are like me, by saying that we grieve for the slavery, death, and suffering of those other places constantly. I know those of you who are closer to other, more violent parts of the world (including some areas of the U.S.) may not understand that, and I completely sympathize. This sort of thing rarely happens to France, so like 9/11 did here it comes as a much greater shock for the French. We take our peace and security for grant it and it is not so much the violence that pains me, it does, but the violence in the world is a constant ache. I grieve specifically for France today because I know that for them this is a new pain, fear and insecurity that they are not accustomed to feeling. I felt it in 2001 and those wounds have not yet fully healed. I live in a place of peace and so do the people of France and together we all wish that all people on planet Earth could live in places as peaceful and safe as ours.

Lastly, there is this issue of religion. I really don’t like it when folks label me for things done by other Mormons, or U.S. Citizens, or Republicans, or Science Fiction authors, or tall, sarcastic, wordsmiths with black hair and hazel eyes. So understand how as a religionist and devout Christian I really don’t appreciate being lumped in with these barbaric Wahhabists just because their Abraham is my Abraham. Agency is God’s first gift to us and He doesn’t withdraw it just because some of us misuse it. How would just rewards and punishments work if He did that? How could a perfectly just God do that? Wahhabist barbarism shouldn’t be blamed on religion in general, or even Islam in particular, just because they’ve licked Muslim stickers and slapped them on their foreheads.

Oh and if I pray for the victims, either individually or in a group like Twitter, please don’t take my expression of faith personally or as some kind of an insult just because you don’t believe in God. I’m directing my prayers to God, not to you. So just ignore me like you would if you caught me talking on a cell phone or something. 😉

NASA, Trump, and Potholes

•November 12, 2015 • Leave a Comment
Pirs docking module taken by STS-108 (NASA) or...

Pirs docking module taken by STS-108 (NASA) original description: Backdropped by the blackness of space, the Pirs docking compartment on the International Space Station (ISS) was photographed by a crew member aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ya, I know. Here I go with another post criticizing Donald Trump.

I have a backlog of three different blog entries waiting to be polished and here I am talking about Trump…again.

This time, the thing he said that set me off was this…

“In the old days (NASA) was great. Right now we have bigger problems, you understand that, we’ve got to fix our potholes. You know we don’t have exactly a lot of money. I love NASA. I love what it represents.  I love what it stands for. And I hope that someday in the not too distant future we can get that going. Space is terrific. Space is terrific. … space has actually been taken over privately, which is great. …. Lot of private companies going up into space. And I like that even better. It’s very exciting.”


He obviously needs someone to educate him about the tech economy and the relationship between NASA and Commercial Space. Either that or he’s the first troll that ever ran for the White House.

So, here goes…

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Donald Trump,

You should have researched NASA a little bit, instead of just walking shots across it.

I realize that as a real estate entrepreneur you’ve made your billions in areas that don’t see much of space, but the people you pay to expand your view to Presidential proportions should have briefed you. Since the “Space Coast” is located in Florida, and no Republican in history has ever won the Presidency without winning Florida in the general election, you need to know what really goes on there.

So, I will teach you, free of charge, how to use NASA to help you fix potholes.

  1. Launch on your web browser.
  2. Type “NASA Spinoff database” in the search window.
  3. Click “NASA Spinoff Database” or just click here.
  4. In the Topic Search window, type “road” and click the “Search Now” button.
  5. Let the listed technologies prompt you for great road improvement ideas to support.

The spin-off database might also help you find a way to round up 14 million illegal aliens, or even build The Great Wall of Texas. You won’t know until you look.


The most recent Commercial Space achievements that you touted as good things still struggle and need small amounts (proportionally speaking) of NASA help and funding to keep building their infrastructures. Some of them are pioneering efforts to drive down the cost of space access for everyone, not just NASA. This in turn will help the country find more money to fix potholes.

What most folks don’t know is that Commercial Space in the U.S. feeds off NASA intellectual property…data that is built with NASA funding. Lessons learned from designing, building, and testing the upcoming Space Launch System and Orion Spacecraft, for example, are handed down by NASA to their Space Act Agreement partners to spearhead their own designs and operations and not reinvent wheels.

The NewSpace effort is poised to lead a new space-race, a multi-trillion dollar industry that will rise from the recent and historic drop in launch prices to around $1,000 per pound. For several decades, private U.S. companies have built robotic research and communications spacecraft and launchers, for companies and government space agencies all over the world. I’m sure you already know how much money those folks make, in spite of the traditionally high cost of the launchers.

Universities explore the solar system and cosmos with cutting-edge robotic telescopes and space probes designed and funded by NASA, who also partners with other countries on a variety of projects like the International Space Station. People have lived in orbit aboard the ISS continually for 15 years. Over three hundred folks have rotated there for short periods doing unprecedented research, with Earth-bound impact, that can be performed no other way.

In order to stop funding Russia’s military technology network by hiring them to lift our astronauts to the International Space Station, NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program has been facilitiating private human spaceflight capabilities among companies based here in the U.S.

In 2017, those companies will start flying their launchers and orbiters, all facilitated and certified by NASA. Private space stations, with test articles already in orbit, stand ready to start construction as soon as private human spaceflight becomes available. Countries, corporations, and affluent individuals will be able to buy their own space stations and buy and fly spacecraft to take people to them at costs that are within your reach. How would you like to own and operate your own orbiting property? U.S. companies can lead this next space race, and it could reverse the trade deficit inside the span of two Presidential terms. You’ve said that you find that exciting? A few of your fellow billionaires agree with you and have already thrown their fortunes into the effort. Soon, through economy of scale and the reusable spacecraft of various kinds that are currently in development, the price of access will drop again to create a whole another layer of entrepreneur opportunities for millionaires to pursue.

Don’t think that it stops at close Earth orbit either. SpaceX will test a rocket next year that they developed for launching payloads to the Moon and Mars. That means that the crewed capsule that NASA is currently helping them build for the ISS would also serve as a privately funded, crew-rated Lunar lander.

Spacex39aThis sudden surge of Commercial human spaceflight is not the NASA alternative, or competitor, or rival that your comments seem to imply. These companies, though in competition with each other, function as separate parts of a technology network with NASA at the center, serving them all directly as project facilitator, tech adviser, development funding source, test-bed, and first customer for their new products.


NASA does all this work, along with their various Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education outreach programs, for around $00.005 out of every dollar of the U.S. Federal Budget.

So, instead of using your experience as a shark to suggest ways to help NASA do more with their tiny budget, you use a two-word kill-shot on them! Fixing potholes? Really? Why don’t you say something useful, like offer to develop a block grant bill to fund NASA in order to make Congresspersons stop writing pork into NASA’s budget? Congress’ preferred space technology procurement process uses a small cadre of near-monopolies with bloated infrastructures, making NASA operations notoriously and unnecessarily expensive. Their cabal of mutual back-scratching currently works to kill projects that create competition in the space industry, by cutting funds to NASA programs that work to develop that competition. They care more about protecting their own empires than you do about solving our country’s problems, and that makes them one of those problems.

I’m sure a smart fellow like you can think of something constructive and innovative to do to help in the key role that NASA plays in our nation’s future economy.


Your humble space advocate.


Dream Chaser

Dream Chaser (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

15 Years In Space

•November 3, 2015 • Leave a Comment


Fifteen years ago yesterday, the first crew arrived at the International Space Station. Since then, humans have always lived in orbit.
That’s right, for every day of the life of every 15 year old person today people have lived and worked in space. Think of it. It’s not a colony of course, folks leave their families and regular jobs back on Earth, hundreds of folks, 81 expeditions in all. These researchers have built and maintained the station, loaded and unloaded cargo, and performed countless space-based experiments, including life sciences research on themselves and each other.
The contribution of the ISS research station grows each day. Not only does the ISS make science that can only be made “Up There”, but currently the IIS is at the core of a new wave of advancement in Commercial Space, with humans to launch to the station in privately built spacecraft in 2017. It sits up there and beckons to the world to utilize the resource rich environment of space. Before those aforementioned 15 year olds graduate from college, there will be many other places in space besides just the ISS for them to go, and many other organizations besides just government space agencies that can send them there.
Will your children see their home planet from space?
The view of Earth from the ISS.

Tell them to do their math homework and someday this can be them! They might even look out that window at Mars, or the Moon, or perhaps even more distant worlds! All spacecraft orbit something, so spaceflight is more about ballistics than rocket fuel. Also, science uses modeling before experimentation. That all means math!

America Competes (in space)

•October 23, 2015 • Leave a Comment

U.S. Senators working on the Senate version of the America COMPETES bill want input from the science community on Science, Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) and competition issues.

English: The International Space Station is fe...

English: The International Space Station is featured in this image photographed by an STS-134 crew member on the space shuttle Endeavour after the station and shuttle began their post-undocking relative separation. Undocking of the two spacecraft occurred at 11:55 p.m. (EDT) on May 29, 2011. Endeavour spent 11 days, 17 hours and 41 minutes attached to the orbiting laboratory. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(See the following article on SpaceRef)

I’d like to propose an idea for how the Senate can help America compete on technology, and it fits right in line with the kind of input that the Senators seek…stop trying to kill Commercial Crew!

Ever since 2006 NASA has worked to develop a stronger partnership with the private sector in helping to develop new export products that could place U.S. industry at the core of a fast-moving new tech industry. These efforts have consistently encountered obstacles in Congress and the Senate, some members of which work to protect Old Space launch companies from competition. The old way go doing business uses a small number of providers who subcontract directly with NASA to build vehicles that are designed and priced to serve only NASA. This status quo for spaceflight spends too much money on too small a group and keeps spaceflight innovation and pacing bound to the whims of legislative power and vision. The Commercial Crew program effectively turns NASA-held human spaceflight technology into a spin-off program that widens the tent far beyond the immediate transportation needs of NASA and the International Space Station in time frame, in world-wide impact, in economic growth, and in STEM momentum by developing human spaceflight into a product that can be purchased with private money.

Listen up…If you agree with me on this issue, please copy/paste the following letter that I just wrote and email it to with your name at the bottom, as well as to your own Senators. Remember that correspondence to your respective Senators needs your address attached to it, so that they know that you are one of their constituents and so that they know that it isn’t just some yahoo like me with a keyboard and an email copy fetish.

COTS combined demo 2 & 3 spacecraft

COTS combined demo 2 & 3 spacecraft (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




Copyright notice: Please edit the letter below however you like before sending, but the original will remain here as a baseline and I take no responsibility for other peoples’ wording. Copying this letter without reference is only permitted in letters and emails to lawmakers, after which those specific letters and emails become part of the public record and as such become public domain. Any other use of this text must link back to this site as its source.


Subject line: America COMPETES

Dear (Insert your Senator’s name here), the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation;

As you know, our great country has led the world in most aspects of space exploration for more than 50 years and currently collaborates with many countries on various projects in low Earth orbit (LEO) and beyond.

An industry that leverages the communications advantages of Geosynchronous Orbit (GSO), where robotic satellites seem to hover over specific points along the equator to provide television and other signals to fixed direction dishes, thrives internationally and regularly brings billions of dollars worth of spacecraft development and launch revenue into our country every year.

However, until recently, our launch industry has been dominated by a small group of very expensive (as measured in dollars per pound to orbit) launch providers. This has had the effect of stifling innovation and business opportunity. Much new growth among customers of this industry could have stirred if access to Space had been less costly. Further, these high costs have largely kept other uses of spaceflight a government sponsored industry, making any new investment subject to shifting government priorities and forcing space innovation dollars to compete with social programs. Spaceflight industry in other countries mimics this paradigm.

However, since the arrival of SpaceX and others into the market, this landscape has begun to change. Even China has said that they cannot compete with SpaceX prices, and Arian Space has had to receive subsidies from the European Union in order to share SpaceX’s current dominance in new launch contracts. Older providers in the industry have been forced to innovate and work to lower their own pricing or face crippling market shrinkage.

This new paradigm of low-cost robotic access to LEO and GSO has already started to turn hundreds of millions of dollars of cost per launch into tens of millions. As lower prices become the market expectation, new businesses everywhere will begin to emerge to profit from those lower launch prices. Revenue from foreign businesses and agencies will increasingly pour into U.S. companies which provide that access and the various goods and services associated with it…powering innovation, broad-based job creation, and domestic economic growth.

But what about human spaceflight? Robotic satellites do not generate the same public passion that human spaceflight does. Currently, Russia and China provide the only human orbital space launches available. Our country, the only nation on Earth to land humans on the moon, photograph Pluto close-up, and successfully land and operate robotic rovers on Mars, relies on Russia to carry our astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) in LEO. Since space launch technology crosses over to military purposes, Russia’s renewed military aggressiveness in the world makes our business with their Soyuz launcher somewhat awkward. NASA’s launch contracts with Russia help fund the military tech development and growth of a rising military rival!

Routine operation of the Space Launch System and Orion Spacecraft remains many years away, and those platforms are priced on more traditional scales. Also, they are designed and priced for less frequent use than the ISS needs. For this reason, NASA intends to use them only for deep-space projects. Our earliest and best option to once again launch our own astronauts to the ISS lies with NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program, which is rapidly moving forward to completion in 2017 at currently requested funding levels. However, some in the Senate seem to see Commercial Crew and commercial space competition for launch services for NASA as larger threats than Russia, continuing to cut its funding in the hopes of forcing a down-select to a single launch provider. Boeing, one of the contract winners in Commercial Crew, is already considering a newer launcher for their spacecraft to someday replace the over-priced Atlas used in their current plan. They’ve done this in response to direct pricing pressure applied by their competitor, SpaceX. This proves that the multiple provider plan works for lowering cost to the taxpayer.

Ponder then also, by extension, what the availability of two or more, low-cost, NASA-approved, human launch providers will do for world-wide human access to other LEO destinations besides the ISS. In truth, new space business opportunity, including even commercially owned and operated space stations, currently sit paused, metaphorically holding their breath, waiting for the Commercial Crew Development project to reach its goals. SpaceX, Boeing, and other U.S. companies, with offices or production facilities dispersed throughout the country, want to provide goods and services that other countries cannot provide for themselves at those prices. The moment that the first SpaceX Dragon V2 or Boeing Starliner successfully docks with the ISS, any research organization, private company, small country, or private individual, with hundreds of millions (or maybe even tens of millions) of dollars to invest, will be able to pay that money to U.S. taxpaying companies for enough human access to space to start their own space agencies and human spaceflight programs.

Don’t you see that by cutting funding to Commercial Crew below the amount requested by NASA and President Obama, you kick the can down the road to U.S. human launch independence from Russia to access the ISS? On the issue of the America COMPETES bill, budget cuts against Commercial Crew strangle a Golden Goose that could bring billions in foreign money home to the U.S., liquidating U.S. trade deficits and solidifying U.S. technology leadership in the world.

If you could only see into future decades and witness the results of each dollar invested into Commercial Crew, you would double its funding and maybe even up-select to a third provider. Instead, several Senators from states with Old Space industries have worked to kill the program’s well thought-out goals with irresponsible budget cuts.

Myself and others urge you to consult with your respective business advisers and ask them what being the preferred launch providing nation in a new International space race could do for the revenue of your respective states. We urge you to provide the contracted amount of funding to Commercial Crew, and then invest more into STEM education so that our children can compete in the new technology boom that will soon arise.

Please write wording into the America COMPETES bill that supports the goals and funding of Commercial Crew and our dominance in the upcoming commercial space race.


Bill Housley


English: NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver...

English: NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver speaks at Sierra Nevada Space Systems, on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011, in Louisville, Colo. Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spacecraft is under development with support from NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Program to provide crew transportation to and from low Earth orbit. NASA is helping private companies develop innovative technologies to ensure that the U.S. remains competitive in future space endeavors. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is Trump Slime?

•October 17, 2015 • Leave a Comment
English: Donald Trump at a press conference an...

English: Donald Trump at a press conference announcing David Blaine’s latest feat in New York City at the Trump Tower. The photographer dedicates this portrait of Donald Trump to Tony Santiago, Wikipedia editor Marine 69-71, perhaps the most officially recognized and accomplished content contributor to Wikipedia, for his outstanding contributions to improving articles related to his Puerto Rican heritage. He is also a close friend. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ok, time for a reality check. Donald Trump is a salesman. He became a multibillionaire by being a REALLY GOOD salesman. In fact he’s a master salesman, and all you on the far-right are buying into his elevator pitches hook, line and sinker.

Here’s a thought…what’s the difference between a master lawyer and a master salesman? Actually, I think there are two differences…one is the product and the other is the pay grade. Everything else is the same.

What are the jobs that we joke about being the most dishonest? Lawyers and used car salesmen? I know that not all people in those professions are dishonest. I know that Trump doesn’t sell cars. We generally regard both as untrustworthy unless they represent us…and then they are ok. In the end, they generally still work for themselves more than for us.

Both are able to sell things that they think are wrong, and do it convincingly…it’s part of that skill set and what we pay them to do.

Both make money on conflict.

Both can sell (or represent) either side of anything because the techniques that they use are transferable to any side of any product.

Just like the rest of us, there are tricks to their trade that people of other occupations don’t understand and often even get exactly backwards.

Most importantly, both know how to persuade folks by telling them what they want to hear.

20 or so percent of the electorate here in the U.S. live on the far-right, and many of those folks usually refuse to vote unless they see something to vote for that they think speaks to them directly. I have a theory that that’s why G.W. Bush “leaked”, during a fund raiser, his intention to do away with Social Security, and then later denied it. That’s right, I don’t think that Liberals leaked that to damage him, I think he did it to trick the news media into helping him call out to the portion of that 20% who say that they never vote except to get rid of Social Security.

Here’s the thing…lawyers and salesmen are negotiators, and those kooky-sounding, far-right comments that keep coming out of Donald Trump’s mouth, that make many folks think he’s off his rocker, are actually what the pros call “negotiation anchors”. That means that both sides set up their positions somewhere on the edges of the map and then take turns compromising until they agree on some kind of common ground at the center where everyone gets something that they want. What sings to the aforementioned 20% is that Trump’s anchor points are precisely what they actually want to happen and they think it makes Trump sound like he’s one of them. You don’t think he sees that angle? Of course he does.

The trouble is that the roughly 40% of the Republican Party that support Trump are not enough people to elect him President. He will need some moderates to vote for him too but too many of them still think he’s bats.

That’s all well and good, but I’ve found another problem with Trump that I think could put a Democrat in the White House. That horribly despicable thing that he said about Fox News correspondent, Megyn Kelly has angles to it that I haven’t seen anyone else explore yet. I’m referring to that deeply personal quip referencing female biology that I will not repeat here. No person who respects women would say a thing like that, especially in public. In fact, it may constitute sexual abuse. His followup comments to it don’t contain any apologies either, just doubling down…blaming and denigrating the victim, a common symptom of abuse. Maybe he’s just being vindictive, we all know he does that, but that is also a symptom of a habitual abuser. He has to know that there’s a problem here too because I’ve seen a lot of photo-ops with female supporters lately and Tweets from him complimenting other women for jobs well done. This all looks like damage control to me.

Abuse is a habit, and thus a repetitive behavior that goes beyond snide remarks about monthly biological cycles. Are there other, similar things in his history? I’m not making any allegations, that would be irresponsible. Nor am I offering a prediction (but that won’t keep me from saying, “You heard it here first” if I turn out to be right ;-). Just call it a warning hunch.

If he does have secret skeletons of this type in his closet, you can bet that they aren’t secrets to everyone. I’d bet that the Clintons have already found anything like that and that re-paid, best-selling novelists are ghost-writing those victims’ stories even as we speak. If Trump is nominated, those books would be released in a carefully timed sequence next summer. Religious Conservatives would stay home on election night and whoever the Democrats nominate would become the President along with landslide coat-tail takeovers of the House, Senate, and many state governments as well.

Of course, before he ran for President and started saying all these right-wing fringe things, very few people took him seriously.

Folks, the real estate mogul that you didn’t trust before has not changed, he’s just trying to buy another house. Please don’t willfully and knowingly nominate slime…if slime indeed he is.

It will only end in tears.

The Mars Omelette

•October 1, 2015 • Leave a Comment
Mars, 2001, with the southern polar ice cap vi...

Mars, 2001, with the southern polar ice cap visible on the bottom. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve waited a few days to comment on this, and I’m glad that I did. It allowed time for my natural cynicism to soften somewhat, and for me to better educate myself about the history of the Planetary Society’s “Orbit First” proposal so that I don’t make a fool of myself.

I thought about introducing this piece as a joke, with a sarcastic punchline, but The Planetary Society in general, and Bill Nye and Emily Lakdawalla in particular, deserve better.

  • Yes, we now know that Mars, whether it already has life or not, is probably capable of supporting some kinds of Earth microbes that we might bring there.
  • Yes, if that happened it would cloud the waters on the question of whether or not Mars has life of its own.
  • Yes, any creature from here that goes there will bring microbes with them.
  • Yes, if there is life on Mars, and if that life can be proven to have originated there, it would mean that the universe, and maybe even our solar system, teems with life…at least microbial life.
  • And…Yes, I fully appreciate the deep cultural and scientific significance of answering that question. I for one want an answer to that question.
  • And…No, I’m not going to argue with the scientists over the details and benefits of Orbit First. I had planned to, but multiple people far smarter than me put it together. In fact I actually agree with them…along that line of thinking.


Exploration isn’t just about science, folks. It’s also, and always has been, about people and economics. No one is going to fork over the money to send someone to Mars just to hang out in their spacecraft in orbit and not get their feet dirty. No government would do that, and don’t even ask commercial interests like Elon Musk to do it. Phobos maybe, but unlikely. A “flyby and return” would be prudent, but to go all the way there and aerobrake to enter orbit and then stay in orbit and NOT land? Ain’t happenin’. Too many folks want to start turning it Mars into a second Earth. On that note, the “Orbit First” philosophy does have at least one safety/cost advantage, the lack of a need to carry or synthesize fuel to reboost out of the Mars gravity well to get home.

They say that good science can be lost by having researchers live on the ground verses playing with germ-free robots from orbit. How much longer do we have to wait for the scientists to convince folks that Mars is important to Earth? How much more science would be lost by dashing the hopes of yet another generation of potential Mars explorers? On a 2040ish timeline, how many more folks would miss out on a planetary exploration career and go do something else instead? Now compare that to a 2030s timeline or a 2020s timeline where today’s middle-schoolers graduate from college into a world that sends geologists, chemists, climatologists…maybe even biologists, to the surface of Mars.

Ya…I said 2020s. Hear me out.

English: Artist's rendering of a Mars Explorat...

English: Artist’s rendering of a Mars Exploration Rover. Français : Vue d’artiste d’un Mars Exploration Rover (litt. « rover d’exploration martienne »). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not even all that sure that Orbit First actually solves the whole “Earth microbes mucking up Mars’ science” problem. If there is no life on Mars, then we still won’t know that there isn’t. You can’t always prove a negative. So, what then? Do we still just sit in orbit and keep looking…the slow robot way…spending money to send both humans and rovers? For how long? They will still need to use more expensive, mostly autonomous rovers like Curiosity, because you can’t repair them or pull them out of the sand from orbit. Assuming they do find a way to find life using just robotic explorers, and do find some single-cell critter down there, that still won’t conclusively rule out the highly unlikely possibility that it originated from Earth. Whether humans land on the planet first or not, the follow-up study concerning the origins of that critter will still need to be conducted before scientists can answer the core issue of “Can conditions on Mars MAKE life?”. Good science would still require it. We might even have to find life on Europa and/or Enceladus to fully satisfy the skeptics and put that issue to bed for good. How long will that take? I’ve already been told by professional scientists that it would take a decade or more.

Well I’m not a professional scientist, but I am a cultural science fiction writer. So I’ll let two fictional characters, 11 year old Bobby and his mom, explain the next problem in terms that both NASA and The Planetary Society can understand…

“Bobby, put away that computer game and go do your math.”

“But maaaaaahm! Math is boring!”

“Bobby, if you do your math you might someday help land more robots on Mars.”

“A…huh…and…umm…what’s Donald Trump do for a living? He has lots of money right? If he needs math, maybe you should lead with that, Mom. Oh, actually, I think I’ll just let someone pay me to test computer games. There’s no math in that.”

Do you see how that works? That delusional little bit about spending a lifetime being paid to sit around at home and play computer games isn’t fiction. It’s a near direct quote from several young people I’ve listened to. We’re raising a generation of intellectual cro-magnons, and it’s our own fault. We’ve forgotten how to be a resilient species. We’ve spent fifty plus years going in circles in low earth orbit. The current U.S. President, the one person with the most influence over NASA’s direction, calls the moon a “been there done that” sort of thing…like it was some kind of Disneyland, an epically lame excuse for institutional selfishness and mediocrity! We kick the can down the road to Mars, generation after generation after generation of elected officials taking the easy way out, paying Mars rocket prices for spaceships that fly around the world, and then patting themselves on the back for bringing tax money home to their states!

Mars Polar Lander

Mars Polar Lander (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The biggest issue though, and the one that we’ll have to end up breaking the eggs over, is that human scientists do faster work than robots and far more careful work than colonists. The clock for that is already ticking.

  • Last month, NASA said that they wanted to fly a sample-return mission to Mars. I know…they were talking about sending it on the Space Launch System, but SpaceX almost instantly tweeted that they already had their spacecraft for that, “Red Dragon”, all drawn up and ready to build. Tick.
  • Right after that, on the same day, Elon tweeted that the throwaway version of Falcon Heavy will have enough throw-weight to heft a fully loaded Dragon V2 to Mars, or a lightly loaded V2 to Europa. Ya, that’s right…he’s talkin’ about JUPITER! BIG tick.
  • A Bigalow 330 space habitat module will fly to the ISS this year for testing. Tick.
  • Next year, the Falcon Heavy flies for the first time. Elon built it to go to be Mars launcher, make no mistake about that. Tick.
  • Those SpaceX and Boeing Commercial Crew capsules fly with people in them in 2017. Tick.

According to Bill Nye, NASA’s plan to land on Mars can’t work until 2045. That makes sense to me but NASA and Congress will both be in denial about that right now. SLS as a program would never survive budget cuts that for long without going to Mars. For SLS and Orion, the 2030s are do or die. Bill says that the Orbit First plan will orbit Mars during the 2030s and land in 2039. I recall he and Emily Lakdawalla both said that some of it could be crowd funded, but that it would need the help of one or two wealthy donors too…but I say that the big private money is already pickin’ targets and it ain’t shootin’ for orbit and ain’t waitin’ for 2030.

Emily says that Orbit First serves good science better than sending our germ-oozing, “meat-bag” selves down…and she’s right…but I say that by 2030 there will already be plenty of germ-oozing meat-bags living on the surface of Mars (and maybe not just Mars), building structures, planting corn, andwiping their noses on their sleeves, and kicking over rocks looking for ununobtainium.

Drawing of the American (SpaceX) Falcon 9 carr...

Drawing of the American (SpaceX) Falcon 9 carrier rocket (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s the thing. The dot com billionairs (and Elon isn’t the only one interested in this) won’t wait. They won’t be denied, and neither will the upcoming generation. What happens when Mars starts to look close enough and useful enough that the old money starts to notice and throw coin at it too? What happens when it starts to look like a game that millionaires can play too? What happens when venture capitol firms get in the game. Bill says that the Orbit First plan gives NASA time for buy-in from Commercial Space…but who says that Commercial Space will even need buy-in from NASA?

You don’t believe me? That proof of concept flyby that I mentioned earlier…lets see just what that’ll take.

  • One or two Falcon Heavy launches. They cost some $150 M each I think, and will start flying in 2016.
  • One or two Bigalow inflatable modules. I don’t know what those cost, but they’re in the millions, not billions, and there are already two of them in orbit. Another one will go up this year and connect to the ISS for testing.
  • One Dragon V2 or whatever comes after…or a Boeing Starliner. Again, millions, not billions and they’ll be certified for human travel in 2017.
  • Eight healthy Mars enthusiasts for passengers, with enough money to split the cost between them, with some help from someone else with deep pockets. Remember that Elon Musk started this journey with the intent of spending his money to go to Mars.

I’m guessing…2020. After that who know what comes next?

The private money, the tech, the momentum…they’re all converging on powered descent to Mars dirt much closer than 2040. Anyone headed to the surface of Mars much after about 2028 will be there to deliver the mail. They’ll descend onto a very nice, VFR guided, 3D printed landing pad. The friendly, hard-working locals will come out and throw an arrival party complete with home-grown vegiburgers and Olympus Mons beer!

If current trends hold, by the time anyone funded by Congress makes it to Mars, they won’t need to bring any food. Theyll eat at fancy, shmancy equatorial restaurants serving Black Angus Beef!

So if the Planetary Society wants to put people in Mars orbit to study it for a while before all them germ-oozing, Mars-hugging, meat-bags land, they’d better launch soon.

Emily’s young, maybe she’ll sign-up for that fly-by. 😉

Media Myopia #PopeInNYC

•September 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment


Take off your blinders,
When a religious leader talks to you.
He represents a broad message.
You hardly noticed past Popes.
They didn’t say socialist things.
They didn’t say climate change things.
They didn’t say air pollution things.
But you still hardly notice this Pope,
Because he says other things.
Things which can advance civilization.
Things which can help people fulfill their potential.
He opposes hatred.
He opposes abortion.
He opposes same sex marriage.
He opposes violence and war.
He opposes divorce…and its various causes.
He supports religious freedom.
He supports faith in God.
He supports marriage, and family, and moral decency.
So why don’t you talk about those things?
While you fawn over this Pontif…

…try listening to him.

Space Industry News

•September 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment


I have been accepted as a writer for Space Industry News. What that will mean for this blog is that some space related content that I post here will also get cross-posted there.
For you, it means a new place to read space news because the other writers over there post on topics that I sometimes don’t cover.
Check it out!

Behold Yondeer Moon Thar Maties!

•September 19, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Moon with a patchArrr, Maties! Today (September 19th, 2015) be BOTH International Observe the Moon Night ( AND Talk Like a Pirate Day (

In this the calendar has made for us a grand opportunity for fun and science.

Whichever be yer preference! Sail wherever the winds take ye! The Moon has watched over many a pirate tale through the ages. How else can ye watch pirates partying by night except under moonlight? Well, this night the partiers will be gaukin’ back at ‘im!

The Moon be best observed by scope at a quarter phase, as the shadows highlight ‘is features and ‘is brightness doesn’t bedazzle ye. This year it looks like Luna will not quite be cruisin’ at a quarter-sail, but close enough!

Don’t miss this chance to make memries with the young folk who will take up the watch when the rest of us go to visit Davy Jones. Yer ten year olds might even be among the first to sail back to ‘im some day! Those’ll be glorious times indeed!


Pluto: Like You’ve Never Seen It Before

•September 18, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Click here to download your screen’s next wallpaper.



I first noticed this on, but I went to the raw gallery on JPL to pull down the pictures.

I wish I could say that I’m speechless, but then I wouldn’t have much to write.

I guess I don’t.

New Horizons Transparent.pngThe artists that they hire to give renderings of things up there, the things that are too far away to be photographed, draw some very stunning stuff.

I really am struggling to find words.

An artist didn’t paint this one though…it was the New Horizons probe (shown to the right here), that did a fly-by of Pluto and Charon on July 14th and took this photo…looking back after it passed.

Here are some zooms…

How would that look on a postcard? Kind of makes you want to go visit doesn’t it? Well you’d better pack your long-johns. That glacier down there formed out of frozen nitrogen…and likely a few other things that you might breath as invisible gases on a very, very cold day here on Earth.

As the probes get newer and faster, they carry better cameras further out there, so we’ll see more staggering imagery like this in the future. Actually, these are just the thumbnails, which will keep coming until about the end of 2015. Then the real fun starts as it takes most of next year to send us the high-resolution photos and science stored on board as it flies onward to go study something else out there in the dark.

I can’t wait.

Here is where you can go to get the first released look at new space probe shots of the cosmos…

U.S. Space Program Mothballed?

•September 15, 2015 • Leave a Comment
Pluto Closup

Photo: 6 days ago…the most recent closeup of Pluto ever released by a mothballed space program.

Peter Debruge, a movie reviewer in Toronto, released an article about the upcoming hard scifi thriller, The Martian. I’ll start off by saying that I very much enjoyed his treatment of the movie and look forward to seeing it for myself.

However, near the end of the article, in reference to the upbeat tone that the movie sets regarding the future of space exploration, he says…

“But instead of trying to scare people off space travel, Scott and company combine these elements in hopes of inspiring a generation for whom the moon landing and Shuttle missions are ancient history, practically nostalgia, while the American space program sits mothballed.”



Au contraire mon frere.



Yesterday’s (Tuesday) headline on the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory website reads…“Cassini Finds Global Ocean in Saturn’s Moon Enceladus” ( Cassini, one of many ongoing NASA missions, currently orbits Saturn, as it has for years. It takes cool pictures of things for us to see and performs cool, unrivaled science that most of us don’t see. Scientists have long suspected that Enceladus had an ocean, due to the amazing geysers spouting out of its southern pole. Now, they’ve decided that a global ocean is the only explanation for the wobble that Cassini’s gravity measurements have found in the moon as it orbits Saturn. Liquid water is one of the criteria that is used to determine if a world can support life. Cassini is only the most recent of three spacecraft that NASA has sent to Saturn. NASA remains the only space agency on earth to fly any probe there.

Click here for larger annotated version of PIA19818

Another headline on JPL reads…“Mars Panorama from Curiosity Shows Petrified Sand Dunes” ( We can call Mars the Skeleton Coast of exploration spacecraft, since it is littered with the bones of failed missions. Curiosity, nearly the size of an SUV, has been operating on the planet for two years now…gathering scientific data that can currently be obtained no other way. While the European Space Agency has successfully orbited a spacecraft at Mars, no other space agency has successfully placed functional equipment, gently, on the surface. NASA has done several times and currently operates two rovers there.

Click here for larger annotated version of PIA19837

Here is another… “Telescopes Find Galaxy Cluster with Vibrant Heart” ( This discovery regarding vigorous old galaxy growth and star formation at the center of galaxy cluster, involved NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes. Hubble has been declared by many to be the most successful spacecraft in history. It’s successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, will operate from a Lagrange Point for the best ever view of Intergalactic space.

And another…“Ceres’ Bright Spots Seen in Striking New Detail” (…is research brought about by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. Dawn uses a high-specific gravity ion engine, allowing it to carry enough fuel to fly to one body, orbit it, study it for a while, then leave orbit and go study something else. Ceres is the second dwarf planet Dawn has orbited, making it the first spacecraft ever to study two separate, distant planetary bodies from separate stable orbits. No one even knew that those highly unusual reflective craters were there until Dawn photographed them on approach…and no one else except NASA has sent a probe there either. NASA is the leader of space propulsion research and you can look forward to seeing them launch more ion thrusters into deep space in the future.

Even though these robotic spacecraft carry no humans aboard, they are definitely not “ancient history” and operate as part of “America’s space program”. I should also admit that these are, in many ways, International efforts, since other countries have contributed instruments to fly on these spacecraft.

Now I know that Mr. Debruge really meant to say that NASA’s human space flight program sits mothballed. Sorry, but the International Space Station flies in space with NASA astronauts on board. NASA’s human spaceflight program is very active. Granted, they launch to the ISS and back aboard Soyuz, but Peter didn’t say “space launch program” he said “space program”.

Oh, oops. Saying that America’s human “space launch program” sits mothballed would also would be somewhat off, since NASA is currently very actively developing, and testing components of, the Space Launch System and the Orion orbiter for deep space exploration of the solar system. They also assist and/or sponsor the development of several, rapidly growing, U.S. based, commercial space launch systems for the purpose of lowering the cost of human space flight to make space commonplace worldwide. One of whom, SpaceX, even has deep-space aspirations of their own. My 11 year old son will leave college and enter the workforce during a time when private corporations will orbit more folks than governments do today. At that same time NASA intends to plan and fly human missions to deep-space targets like Europa, Jupiter’s largest moon.

The Space Shuttle sits mothballed, a monument to human achievement. However those center four engines in the above video are Shuttle engines, and the infrastructure that built the shuttle now builds the first SLS Rocket and Orion. The people who do that work would take great exception to being called “mothballed”.

America’s space program sent people to the moon, a long time ago, and needs to do it some more, but America’s space program continues, even today, be the first at most things, the leader of many things, and with some things the one and only.


ComicControversy #SLCComicCon

•September 5, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Here it comes, yet another repetition of the phenomenon that we nerds call Salt Lake ComicCon.
My goodness, but there are a lot of us out there aren’t there? How did we get so out of control?
Here’s an even better question, how did ComicCon corporate miss such a huge group of fans?
The first ComicCon held in the Mormon stronghold of Utah had to change venues several times in its planning stages as the expected turnout exploded. The result of their efforts was a zoo of people and cosplay the likes of which the region had never seen before. At another local con, the organizers of that first Salt Lake ComicCon admitted that even though they knew there would be a large turnout, they didn’t expect those record-breaking numbers.
This particular area of the country is filled with science and fantasy fiction fans, and for most of those thousands of people, as with me, a family vacation to San Diego is out of the question. I know some who’ve made the pilgrimage in past years, and they probably still do, but most Utahans have never even been to California. We have a hidden fan base way out here in the desert. We read. We go to the movies. We watch TV. But like other communities in this country, most of is don’t have the resources to drag the whole family clear out to the West Coast once a year, just to spend the time there indoors.
When ComicCon came here, we didn’t have to.
Well, OK, it didn’t “come here”, it was home-brewed, but the distinction is totally lost on us. It seems to be lost on the entertainers who show up for these things too…and their publicists who’s job it is to put them in front of their devoted fans. Stan Lee himself showed up…and William Shatner. They didn’t seem to care it wasn’t an “official” ComicCon. So if they don’t seem to care about SDCC’s copyright claims, and the fans don’t care, and the vendors don’t care, and the event organizers certainly don’t care, then there you go. Right there SDCC themselves have built a formula for a revolution that frequently turns what may have once been a brand name into a part of the lexicon…like PC, Kleenex, and Xerox.
That’s what you get when you ignore a large potential customer base; someone else steps forward and snatches it up! I saw this happen many times when I worked in the computer industry, when IBM-PC compatible computers took the world by storm and they, and their their software, spent three decade stealing one and other’s customers and taking turns pushing one and other off of pedestals. We are seeing it starting up now too with the growing New Space industry.
Still, the old gate-keepers never see the barbarian hordes…until they’re storming the gates.

Here are the numbers…

Sept. 7th-9th, 2013….50,000-80,000…sold out.

April. 17th-19th, 2014….100,000

Sept. 4th-6th, 2014….120,000

No wonder the stars come out here, to tea-total Utah, to meet their fans!
Well, the official ComicCon organization is still all butt-hurt, still sharpening their lawyers, the last resort of the old, slow, and clueless. Of course, if they actually CARED about speculative fiction and its fans and entertainers as much as WE do, THEY’D celebrate the successes of OUR cons as much as WE celebrate the successes of THEIRS. Who are the real fans now, huh? 😉
My two oldest daughters and their families are coming down this year from their own homes on the West Coast to attend. My youngest daughter and her family already live nearby. I spent the last September ComicCon at the University of Utah Medical Center with my son, Dallin, so I skipped it, but this year we might just turn it into a big, expensive family reunion with my wife, my younger son, and Dallin all joining us in the fun. It’ll be the first con of any kind that they’ve attended with me. I won’t help run a booth or anything like that this time, I’ll have my hands full of children and grand-children as I help indoctrinate a new generation of Scifi geeks. I shaved off my beard recently, and won’t have time to grow it out to Abe Lincoln proportions this time, but maybe I’ll have enough for a passable Tony Stark impression.
It’ll be fun.
And not even once will any of us care that we aren’t in San Diego.

Dilbert’s App Stops Cyber Attack – Dilbert Comic Strip on 2015-06-25 | Dilbert by Scott Adams

•June 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment


The next epic Dilbert comic! I expect to see this one on T-Shirts at conventions soon.




Science likes the Pope for a Week

•June 21, 2015 • Leave a Comment

A “Blue Marble” image of the Earth taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA’s most recently launched Earth-observing satellite, Suomi NPP. This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth’s surface taken on Jan. 4, 2012. Credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring

Ok, granted, the “climate change is caused by us and we’re all gonna die” folks need credibility help, because they really are terrible missionaries for their cause. They look, talk, act, and breath like they’re hiding a grand conspiracy. I think that most of that is just institutional arrogance, but who can tell the difference? Of course ignoring planetary science, and climate change on other planets, just because they “muddy the message” is just stupid, but there is plenty of stupid on the issue to go around.

People have to stop treating scientists like they’re incorruptible. They like money and renown just as much as anyone else with house payments, and they speak a lot of lemming-speak back and forth betwixt themselves, especially when an issue becomes popular enough to make funding easy. Opportunism and a whole ‘nother flavor of the denialism surrounds them on a variety of issues.

On the other hand, will Conservatives who continue to deny that the climate changes ever get a clue? Maybe. At some point, someone may ask, “Why are they being so stupid?…” Of course the obvious answer is, “…because big oil pays them to be stupid”. Now there are so many good, honest and important issues that Conservatives stand for, and those issues are all in danger because of this idiotic, almost lunatic view that the climate does not change. Satellite to that is the unsubstantiated claim that if the climate does change temperature then humans have no influence on it. Ok, listen! You can’t say that your opponents cannot support their claims due to a lack of data to support their models…and then hold an equally reticent position based on even less data…especially when your PR is worse than your opponent’s.


Pope Francis was said to be preparing a statement called an “Encyclical Letter“, which is essentially an official position paper from the Catholic Church, making climate change reversal a moral prerogative. I think it’s a stretch to call it that, it was released on Thursday and I don’t think it said that. It says  “…a very solid scientific consensus indicates” that climate change is happening and has a variety of assigned causes, including human activity. I can’t argue with that. It also touts that environmental responsibility is important…I agree with that also.

My fellow Conservatives should not criticize the Pope for taking sides against them. It is not his job to agree with them. The document is carefully worded to not claim expertise on the issue. In fact, it seems to carefully avoid sourcing itself for its conclusions about climate change. Many non-experts…like myself, the news media, and politicians…take no care to do that. For a Conservative politician to say that the Pope is no expert on climate change, or for the news media to say that a Conservative Politician is no expert on climate change, or for me to say that any of the above is no expert on climate change…takes comedic irony to a whole new level.

Environmental and cultural responsibility do seem to be major themes of the Encyclical. However, out of the 246 numbered paragraphs in the document, only 8 or so specifically mention climate change. News sources everywhere seem to like quoting out of those sections only. Interesting. It’s as if the world’s most influential religious leader had nothing else important to say.

The document also speaks out against the usual topics of war and moral decline, but folks don’t seem to be interested in talking about that. I saw 3 or 4 paragraphs in the Encyclical Letter which spoke of the disintegration of the family unit. I Googled it…nope, no mention. My Google search did spider several links to articles saying that the Pope is going to theme the next meeting of the Synod on the topic of families, and supposedly talk about it on an upcoming U.S. tour. The family unit has been confirmed, by both science and religious leaders from the whole of Christiandom (that can’t seem to agree on much else), to be very important to our culture at several levels…and at least one science writer remembered to mention that today.

So maybe there is hope. 😉

Update: News critic Bill O’Reilly made a similar comment regarding myopic Liberal support for the Pope when he came to visit…,-The-President,-The-Press,-and-Politics?pid=46483


Loss of Proton

•May 16, 2015 • Leave a Comment
ArabSat 4B Launch campaign. The Proton-M, with...

ArabSat 4B Launch campaign. The Proton-M, with Breeze-M upper stage and the payload, arrive at Pad No. 39. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


This is not good.

Even though the crash of the Proton third stage with the Mexsat 1 satellite probably has no connection whatsoever to the loss of the Progress cargo delivery to the ISS, it still looks like two failed Russian launches in something like three weeks. They don’t need that.

In case you haven’t already heard, a Russian Proton launch vehicle had some kind of stage separation failure on Saturday (May 16th) and turned a Mexican communications satellite into a pretty light show over Siberia…instead of delivering it into orbit. Sorry, Mexico.

The fact is, this particular launch vehicle has had a lot of problems. Folks should not automatically lump it in with Progress or Soyuz. They will, but it is a different organization, different issues (presumably), different companies, and different quality control systems. Still, ROSCosmos has delayed the next Soyuz 2 months because of the Progress failure a couple of weeks ago as they investigate that incident. It’s a good thing that the Progress space craft currently docked at the the International Space Station was able to start its engines and raise the station’s orbit today (5/19/15). It couldn’t on Saturday.

But here’s the thing, unlike Progress and Soyuz, Proton competes in a very active industry against several other companies who are achieving far better launch success trends than Proton.

International Launch Services, the joint Russian-U.S. company who oversaw this launch, is already struggling against ULA, Arianspace, and others. Now the lower-priced SpaceX, who with its recent engine upgrades is now launching a larger class of telcom satellites, and in a few months will have the first flight of their new heavy launcher, is deep into that market too. Reliability (measured in terms of success history), and experience are the biggest things the old players have going for them today. Launch failures are bad for business, in a business that for ROSCosmos is already not nominal.

Russia is developing more modern heavy-lift rockets, but their current line of launchers has to keep flying until the new launchers are ready. They have to keep up their launch frequency in order to maintain the cost-effectiveness of their rocket building and launching infrastructure overall.

That snarky comment from a Russian politico about NASA astronauts needing a trampoline to get to the International Space station was probably bad for ILS’ business also. But might there come a day when a U.S. Congressperson gets to say that back to the Russians? We shall see.

Play Splashdown Bingo!

•May 6, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Progress, the Russian ISS cargo ship, is dead and spinning out of control. It will reenter the atmosphere and burn up in an unknown location some day very soon.

If you Tweet your guess to #SplashdownBingo you could win a 3-D printed Progress if you guess right.

Here are the rules…

Dragon’s Six Second Ride

•May 5, 2015 • Leave a Comment

dragon-hold-down-firingI hope they never have to do that for real, but if they do I hope it goes at least as well.

Either way, that was way cool! I need to write something like that into a story-line sometime and describe it through the eyes of the one on the ride.

Today, the Dragon Crew Capsule underwent its pad abort test. As of this writing it appeared successful, but I guess they’ll know that for sure after they study the data returned from it. The test is to confirm that the spacecraft can escape a launch accident at the pad from a dead stop. If this had been an actual launch accident, with people inside, it would have had to put a lot of distance between itself and a rocket exploding on the launch pad and outrun debris from the blast. To do that, it pretty much has to be shot out of cannon.

Do you think that was fast enough?

Other systems have been tested this way, but this flight was to test a new technology that will lower costs, improve flexibility and survive-ability and also prepare the way to start landing these capsules and re-flying them. That will lower the cost of spaceflight and bring it closer to you and I. Unlike past launch abort systems, which use a solid rocket booster tower attached to the nose of the capsule, this system uses eight liquid-fueled rockets attached to the capsule. The plan is, that on some future flight, they will use these rockets to land the capsule after successful flights. The launch abort tower system that other systems use just gets tossed aside after launch to burn up in the atmosphere and the capsule splashes down in the ocean.

This capsule will be recovered after the test and studied for issues that they will correct for the final design. Then this same capsule is intended to be relaunched on the in-flight abort test later this year.

English: Artist's concept of SpaceX's Falcon 9...

English: Artist’s concept of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Launch Vehicle and Dragon crew and cargo capsules. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Loss of Progress

•May 3, 2015 • Leave a Comment
English: The unmanned Progress M-52 (ISS-17P) ...

English: The unmanned Progress M-52 (ISS-17P) spacecraft photographed by the crew of Expedition 11 following its undocking from the International Space Station at 15:16 CDT on 15 June 2005. The spacecraft had previously delivered supplies to the space station before being filled with rubbish and disconnected from the orbital complex, in preparation for its destruction on reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Russian Progress cargo ship, one of the world’s most reliable spacecraft systems, failed about a week ago. Sometime between solar panel deployment and navigation antenna deployment, something went “snap” and left it tumbling in an unstable orbit where it had been delivered by its launcher. Progress was supposed to use its own thrusters to enter orbit with the International Space Station and dock with it to deliver supplies, new experiments, and other things. Unable to complete that final step, it was only a matter of time. Last night (May 7th, 2015 U.S. time) it reentered the atmosphere and disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean. On a personal note, I picked that it would die over Texas in @VaxHeadroom’s  #SplashdownBingo contest on Twitter. Oh well, maybe next time. 🙂

People don’t ride on Progress, and no person was ever at risk from this accident…except for the very remote possibility of a piece of it falling on someone’s head). The Space Station’s cargo delivery routine has enough variability and overkill built into it to allow for mishaps such as this…rocket science is hard and everyone knows that. This delivery by the Progress spacecraft was important, and station operations will be impacted by its loss, but not critically.

A U.S. commercial cargo delivery spacecraft, Cygnus, was destroyed late last year when the Antares rocked carrying it failed five or so seconds after launch and exploded. These two losses put a temporary halt in the operation of both of those systems while the problems are found and corrected. This has placing added reliance on other launch and delivery providers. Progress has some systems in common with the spacecraft that astronauts and cosmonauts ride on, so it could cause delays to that schedule as well.

All of this only further highlights the need to have multiple launch providers supporting the International Space Station. The U.S. Congress has wanted to down-select to a single commercial provider for sending NASA astronauts to the ISS. They hope that this will result in a reliance on the NASA-owned Orion spacecraft (currently having trouble filling it’s launch manifest) for ISS visits.

Orion Spacecraft approching ISS (May 2007)

Artist’s rendering of Orion Spacecraft approaching ISS (May 2007) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those who are doing this only seek to protect traditional launch industry providers and their components which are located in their home states which too overpriced and stagnant to compete in an open-market system. NASA has said repeatedly that they want multiple commercial providers to fill the ISS support transport role because they are getting out of the Space Station supply activities business, so that the very expensive Orion can focus on exploring the rest of the solar system. The fact that NASA currently pays Russia to launch our (and Japan’s and Canada’s) astronauts to the station on Soyuz, rivets home the fact that the traditional, big government ownership of single-provider routine spaceflight that we’ve used for fifty years cannot be relied upon for an expansive, routine space program.

Progress will fly again…probably late this year. Cygnus will fly again sooner, but on another provider’s rocket. The SpaceX Dragon will visit the station in June, maybe with a few Russian experiments on board. During all of this, the U.S. Government will fight over how these flights will go in the future from the U.S. end. U.S. citizen participation in this process will be critical in helping keep that Government from practicing stupid, self-serving politics regarding space policy and help assure a healthy, reliable system in the years to come.

NASA Climate Change

•May 2, 2015 • Leave a Comment
English: The NASA insignia. Español: Insignia ...

English: The NASA insignia. Español: Insignia de la NASA. Italiano: Logo della NASA. Русский: Логотип НАСА. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Folks in the U.S House of Representatives discussed the following important question last week…

Should NASA’s budget include money for climate change research come out of NASA’s?

BTW, they decided no…sort of. It isn’t entirely up to them anyway, and the President won’t stand for a $500,000 cut in climate research from anyone’s budget.

It ties in with this question…

Should a publicly perceived good thing be treated as the only thing?

…and this one…

Is Climate Change more of a science or more of a funding band wagon?

I’m all for Climate Change research. I think that study and discussion of Climate Change is critical to the survival of our culture, maybe even our ciivlization. I don’t fully agree with mainstream Conservatives or Liberals on the topic. The climate is warming and it has had and will have an impact on our environment and world cultures and economies…and we need to know how much of an impact it will have on us and how much of an impact we have on it.

English: NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building as s...

English: NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building as seen on July 6, 2005. Español: Edificio de ensamblado de vehículos de la NASA en el Centro Espacial Kennedy. 6 de julio de 2005. Polski: Potężny Vehicle Assembly Building w Centrum Lotów Kosmicznych imienia Johna F. Kennedy’ego. Widoczne zniszczenia spowodował Huragan Frances (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These questions involve numerous variables, only one of which is the footprint that we leave on the environment. However…folks are overly polarized concerning how much or how little we are driving Climate Change and refuse to listen to each other. Many of these same folks divide along the same lines on several political and cultural issues that they want to disenpower each other on. There is also a lot of personal investment in relevant industries on both sides of the question, by those on the further ends of both sides of the Climate Change debate.

So, should NASA do climate science? Let’s start by defining some acronyms and assigning roles…

  • NASA–National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
  • NOAA–National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
  • EPA–Environmental Protection Agency.

What do these all have in common? Well, they all have their own portion of Federal funding. They all employ scientists…of various disciplines and specialties. They can all own, design, fund, launch, and operate Earth-watching satellites by themselves…or rather can hire someone to do so on their behalf.

So the real questions I think should be….

Does NASA need to conduct Earth Climate Science? –>For their purposes, yes, because Earth is a planet and NASA studies planets. For Climate Science advancement purposes…no, because everything that research needs from NASA is already old-hat common and easily had (perhaps less expensively) from the growing space industry and scientific community at large. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Is NASA best suited to guide Earth Climate science? Umm…no. That’s NOAA’s job. They can hire NASA to help them, if they choose, with their funding, but I think they probably don’t need to and would save some money if they made use of the private sector instead of government employees.

However, if you see Climate Science as a just huge trough from which scientists feed, then you might ask, “Why can’t NASA join in the feast?” Well, first of all, no one directly involved with Climate Change research is going to publicly admit to that angle of the issue. Putting that aside though, Congress has not said that NASA should loose that half million dollars, but rather that they would spend it on the Space Launch System instead of Climate Change research. I’m glad that Congress has stopped taking money away from Commercial Crew and Planetary Science to feed SLS/Orion, but I would have preferred it if they’d shifted any cost savings from cuts to Climate Science to repair some of the recent years’ cuts to Planetary Science.

English: Illustration of a NASA ITOS series sa...

English: Illustration of a NASA ITOS series satellite in orbit around the Earth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Also, NASA and politicians need Public Relations help. Very few people understand the importance of most of the things that NASA does, because very few people understand most of the things that NASA does. Climate Science is a large issue that gives those who are not familiar with NASA something to sink their teeth into. It’s like when NASA provided topographic imagery to aid in rescue efforts after the earthquake in Nepal. It makes NASA look good in the eyes of folks who don’t understand anything else that NASA does, and NASA needs that. Those who support the larger scientific stand with respect to Eart’s climate trumpet Government taking the issue seriously enough to spend money on it. Those who oppose the broader scientific community see NASA’s involvement as an opportunity to set the record straight, both because NASA seems to be a standard-setting agency and because they don’t seem to mind stepping on a few toes. For NASA involvement in Climate Change is a PR win no matter what happens. The truth is that NASA contributes to both Climate Change and disaster assistance without ever having to spend their own money on them. NOAA works with NASA on the space-based components of Climate Science research without government having to make a show of throwing money at them for it. Sensors already mounted on the ISS aren’t going to just go away either.

Earth Climate Science needs Planetary Science and Planetary Science needs Climate Science, but all of that is part of the information that flows between researchers anyway. NOAA does not need NASA to build and launch satellites for them to use NASA knowledge. Anyone they would likely hire to build spacecraft would already be NASA partners and thus have access to the NASA knowledge base anyway.

The fact remains that the best PR money can buy for NASA, bar none, is expanding the envelope of human spaceflight. This is done by Planetary science, SLS/Orion, and Commercial Crew. Bolden and Obama have already said that they want NASA to study the rest of the solar system. So let’s let NASA stop goofing around in low Earth orbit, pointing cameras at the Earth, and let them zoom in on what’s out there that we don’t see yet. Yet NOAA buy, launch and operate their own satellites.

English: Artists concept of the X-30 aerospace...

English: Artists concept of the X-30 aerospace plane flying through Earth’s atmosphere on its way to low-Earth orbit. the experimental concept is part of the National Aero-Space Plane Program. The X-30 is planned to demonstrate the technology for airbreathing space launch and hypersonic cruise vehicles. Photograph and caption published in Winds of Change, 75th Anniversary NASA publication (page 117), by James Schultz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Age of Ultron

•April 30, 2015 • Leave a Comment
The New Avengers (comics)

The New Avengers (comics) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First, I need to gloat.

I saw it before you did! Aaaa nah nah-nah, nah-nah nah!

There, now that that’s over with, I think I’ll tell you about it.

Don’t worry, no spoilers here, and there are enough twists to make most anything I say a spoiler…oops, that was a spoiler. I little one.

My son Dallin and I went to see it tonight, and the powers that dictate showing schedules allowed the local theater here in Evanston to show it at 7:00 pm instead of waiting until midnight. So my boy and I were driving home while some of you were still waiting to get in.

As I write this, about half of you opening-night owls are seeing it or just sitting down, so you won’t see my comments, but the rest of you listen up.

All I need to tell you is that there is more personal violence, some cussin’ and a couple more direct sexual innuendos than the vague “one out of five” quip that Stark tosses at Loki in the first Avengers (I mean, even some ADULTS might not get that one!) So you might consider leaving your kids home until you’ve had a chance to judge it for yourself. Also, the robot Ultron has a god complex and likes to quote Bible scripture a little bit, for those of you who are bothered by that sort of thing…I’m not but I’ve heard that some of you are. I have a couple of other complaints, but if I share them it’ll draw your attention to them and you might not enjoy the movie as much, and it does deserve a chance to entertain you.

Still, lots of action, more than the last one in fact, and super hero vs super hero fights. Yes, Iron Man and the Hulk get to mix it up just like it shows in the trailer, I won’t tell you who wins. There is also a little bit of the best kind of romance…I’ll let you work on that one a little before you see it.

All in all we enjoyed it. I’ll let you decide how it compares with the first one.

Happy 25th Birthday, Hubble

•April 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment

A quarter century ago, the Space Shuttle Discovery launched with the Hubble Space Telescope aboard. Originally slated as a 400 million dollar project, its combination of contractor problems, schedule slippage, the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger, and the cost overruns that resulted from all of that inflated the price tag to 2.5 billion dollars. Many breathed a sigh of relief at that shuttle launch.

After that it was found that the contractor that built the 2.4 meter mirror had misshaped it, but did so so precisely that corrective optics were able to reverse the problem, first for the entire telescope and then later for each instrument. Hubble was planned from the start to be repaired in orbit, but that means that it flies in low orbit where the Space Shuttle could reach it. Then the Shuttle had to boost the orbit because Hubble flies low enough that the upper atmosphere puts drag on it. The amount of that drag has so many built-in variables that some types of long-term observations have had to be watched carefully to make sure that Hubble keeps its aim true. Low orbit also means that the Earth, Moon, and Sun often swing around into the viewer, requiring operators to interrupt a study and point away to protect delicate instruments from the glare.

In spite of it all, Hubble has been called the most successful scientific instrument of all time.

Most folks who visit go there to see the many pretty pictures, but those are just the icing on the cake. Like all of NASA’s and ESA’s other robotic spacecraft, most of what Hubble does involves science that most of us do not understand. Hubble has performed an unprecedented series of break-through science that only a general purpose orbiting telescope of its size can achieve. Also, five repair and upgrade missions have swapped in more advanced instruments and other tech to help today’s Hubble achieve astonishing images and science that the older technology of the corrected Hubble version 1 had not never been equipped to do.

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of Hubble, they’ve offered up a host of cool stuff for us to savor. It’s a mixed bag of goodies that would take me too long to go through and tell you about, so I’ll just pass on the links…

You might also be interested in ESAs production called HubbleCast


They expect Hubble to last another six years or more, to give the James Webb Space Telescope time to fly and work in tandem with it. The JWST is an infrared telescope that can acheive science that Hubble can’t do, because Hubble’s instruments are too warm to do infra-red observations very well. The JWST will not fly in low Earth orbit, but will orbit a gravitational pocket called a Lagrange Point on the far side of Earth from the Sun. There, it will be able to keep its sun-shield pointed at the Sun, and the Earth and Moon will not shadow it, so as to maintain JWST’s instruments at a constant, very low temperature. It will also be able to observe targets for much longer periods and view them in far greater resolution with its 6.5 meter wide system of mirrors.

The Space Shuttle that made Hubble possible has retired, but the telescope lives on and continues to teach us new things about our area of space, as well as distant times and galaxies. May we all remember the little telescope that could and the science that it provides. However, the Shuttle is not going back up to upgrade and boost the telescope again, it is on its final journey. The most recent upgrade included a package of equipment to safely de-orbit it. What will replace Hubble if the JWST dies of budget cuts before Arian can launch it?

This Site is Mobile Freindly!

•April 23, 2015 • 1 Comment

My Blog on MobileGoogle recently placed an emphasis on easing the use of mobile devices on their site. They’ve done this with a “Mobile-Friendly” tag and by emphasizing Mobile Friendly pages in their search algorithm.

WordPress has released a news article concerning these developments that contain other relevant links on the issue…

Actually, this blog has always has been Mobile-Freindly, since it’s author has used PDAs since the release of the Compaq IPAQ. 😉 Back then, I used Handango to preload mobile-friendly websites of interest whenever I docked my Windows-Mobile IPAQ, which didn’t have its own networking ability.

Still I checked today just to make sure that I hadn’t missed anything important. You should do this with your site too. Click Here and type in your site’s URL to let Google assess the Mobile Friendliness of your site.

English: mobile Web user--please replace if yo...

English: mobile Web user–please replace if you have a better image (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first chose the now retired WordPress ChaoticSoul theme for this blog many years ago, I chose it for the color scheme and how well that the theme fit a website focused on Space Exploration. However, I also checked to see how it looked on a mobile device and I liked the results. On a mobile, the sidebar content gets downstream after the content though, so I still need to find a better way to make sure that popular old hit generators like Shocking Truth Revealed and Another Breathtaking Image from Hubble still show up on search engines while not pushing the important stuff in my sidebar (the bread and butter of the site) impossibly far down the page for folks who just hit the main page URL from a mobile.

Palm TX

Palm TX (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the same time, I’d like to reduce load times for the entry screen. New viewers hitting the un-embellished URL shouldn’t have to load image and text clear back to the inception of the site just so that Google can fully spider all of the content to direct folks Googling for what to feed their newly-hatched mantids to my page showing them how the adult Preying Mantis eats a hummingbird. 😉

Any suggestions from other WordPress users?

Person with PDA handheld device.

Person with PDA handheld device. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Feed Store #Writing101

•April 15, 2015 • 1 Comment


Eight varieties of chicken pullet.
Four varieties of turkey.
Two varieties of gosling.
Standard duckling.
All tweeting.
Just like people.
Some types flee from me.
Some types ignore me.
Some types look at me as if to say, “Would he be my freind?”
Just like people.
“We have room in the back yard,” say my wife and son.
“We’d need to buy more than just the chicks,” I say. “They’d need food and shelter”.
I talked them out of it.
Then I came to the feed store,
I looked at the eight varieties of chicken pullet,
Like little fuzz balls.
Four varieties of turkey,
With their ragged wings.
Two varieties of gosling,
Already noisy.
Already noisy.
Standard duckling.
Then I think about eggs and drumsticks,
And start reading books about raising chickens.

Watch SpaceX CRS-6 Launch by SpaceX on Livestream

•April 14, 2015 • Leave a Comment

After six successful missions to the International Space Station, including five official resupply missions for NASA, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft are set to liftoff from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, for their sixth official Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission to the orbiting lab. Liftoff is targeted for Monday April 13, 2015, at 4:33pm EDT.

If all goes as planned, Dragon will arrive at the station approximately two days after liftoff. Dragon is expected to return to Earth approximately five weeks later for a parachute-assisted splashdown off the coast of southern California. Dragon is the only operational spacecraft capable of returning a significant amount of supplies back to Earth, including experiments.

The live launch webcast will begin here at approximately 4:15pm EDT.

Of Rockets and Barges #writing101

•April 13, 2015 • Leave a Comment

“Hey…what’s that?”
“What’s what?”
“That…out there.”
“It’s a barge.”
“I know it’s a barge, but it’s…you know…different.”
“I know it is.”
“Why what?”
“Why’s it different?”
“Would you get back to work please?”
“I will, I will, just tell me what it’s for.”
“They’re gonna land a rocket on it.”
“They’re gonna land a rocket on the middle of that barge.”
“What…on that ‘X’ there?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yep, they talked about it on the news.”
“Yep. Would you watch what you’re doin’ please? You almost broke that.”
“Oh…sorry. That’s not what they’re for.”
“That’s not what barges are for…nor rockets for that matter.”
“I know.”
“Why what?”
“Confound it! Why are they landing a rocket on a barge?”
“To save money.”
“To save money? How?”

English: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon s...

English: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lift off from Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 10:43 a.m. EST, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“(Sigh) OK, they launch something into space with the rocket, then they fly the rocket back down and land it on the barge. Then the barge brings the rocket back and it hops on over back to a landing pad, then they move it to a launch pad, then they refuel the rocket and launch something else into space with it.”
“Wow. How much does the rocket cost?”
“‘Bout sixty million.”
“What? Dollars?”
“No Pesos! Of course Dollars!”
“That’s a lot of money.”
“Not really, but the fuel is only ’bout two-hundred grand.”
“OK, so let me get this straight. They build a rocket for sixty million, launch it, and then bring it back and launch it again for just a couple hundred K?”
“Well, sort of. It’s quite a bit more complicated than that…but…ya. That’s the general idea. Eventually they’ll skip the barge and just land it on land. They need to practice out at sea first.”
“I see. Isn’t stuff like that supposed to cost, like, billions of dollars?”
“Not anymore.”
“Hmm, times they are a changin’.”
“Hey! Maybe, if it gets cheap enough, maybe you and I can go to space.”
“Not if we don’t get this work done. Hey, don’t sit on that!”
“Oh…sorry. You know lots of stuff, Elon.”

My Son Dallin #writing101

•April 12, 2015 • 1 Comment

2012-06-02_12-26-16_333 2 - CopyWe at the WordPress writing101 workshop have been assigned today to write about someone we’ve met this past year. The truth, I have to say, is that I haven’t had time to get out and meet people in that much detail lately. Between a new job at work and a turn in Dallin’s health, my life has been full for two or three years now.

Those of you who already know me may have wondered where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. My son’s care needs have increased to the point that it is difficult to keep up. Also, his health is too unstable for me to make commitments with the level of reliability that I expect of myself. That is why I stopped actively attending Science Fiction conventions in 2014, and won’t likely attend any in 2015 either.

Dallin is 21 years old and has Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy. (

I’ve not talked about him here because this blog’s purpose is to promote my published works, and telling the world that I have a son with special needs is not viewed by me as an appropriate way to sell books. You understand. However, the writing101 prompt wants a character vignette of a person who has had a major influence on my life. I spend much time with Dallin, much more even than I spend with my spouse, so I think he influences my life more than anyone right now. My job is to give him as full and normal a life as possible, while still keeping him alive as long as possible. Right now that means staying out a little late several times a week with him and his peers.

His grandmother first noticed his swollen calf muscles when he was very young and started to add it all up. Muscular Dystrophy runs in my wife’s family and so her mother has had experience with it and knew the signs. My wife noticed that he fell down more than he should as he learned to walk. He doesn’t walk anymore, but he gets around anyway.

But I’ve gotten ahead myself.

IMG_20131225_102043_524Before Dallin started attending Kindergarten my wife commented, “I feel almost selfish, having him all to myself”. Everywhere he goes, he makes friends of every age group. His contagious smile and dry, gently mischievous sense of humor draws people to him in droves. When I’d bring him with me when I went to vote, he’d end up in the middle of a cluster of people I’d never met. He often attended MDA (Muscular Dystrophy Association) summer camp in Salt Lake City as he grew up and my wife was a little bit surprised several years into it to find a mural of Dallin on the wall behind a camp organizer’s desk.

Like a lot of folks, he spends a lot of time in his own thoughts and doesn’t always seem to grasp the power of his magnetism. One day when he was in highschool I saw a young lady from our church congregation, sitting in her father’s pickup truck in the grocery store parking lot, straining her neck to get Dallin to meet eyes with her. I said, “Dallin, will you please wave to that poor girl before she has to go see a chiropractor?” He had honestly not even known that anyone else was around. He doesn’t seek attention, it just arrives and jumps in front of his wheelchair.

IMG_20141218_161554_377In spite of all this he really doesn’t date much. I think it is because of a lack of initiative. This is because his physical needs have required him to be under constant adult supervision his entire life. We’re working on that and I coach and encourage him.

He has always demonstrated much in the way of artistic skills. From tin foil origami to computer art. He has acquired a computer gaming habit along the way, which we have worked with him to correct. Now he spends his days reading, drawing, making things, and playing chess both against the computer and online. Every Thursday he serves as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doing Family History work.

A couple of years ago he started catching pneumonia from time to time.

Each time we’ve agreed to have his physicians add something to his care to cheat the Reaper. Each of these interventions add to his care needs. I and his mother are his primary care providers, but my wife has a bad back, and we have a younger son with Asperger’s Autism that also needs our attention. So we have hired helpers assist us with Dallin, and we have Government assisted funding to pay for them, so we can manage as long as he can. His other caregivers feel the same about him as the rest of us do.

10-25-2011 295By all rights he should be dead, but medical technology has found ways to extend the lives of people with his condition. It is called a childhood illness because its victims don’t usually get better and don’t live much into adulthood. The type of DMD that Dallin has only gets worse until diminished heart and lung function eventually causes the victim to lose a fight with pneumonia. I’ve always had a good immune system, not so much now that I’m growing older, but Dallin’s ability to heal injury and fight off disease is better than mine ever was. That has helped keep him in our lives I’m sure. We wish we could have him longer than he will be with us. Without the pneumonia and flu vaccinations he gets every year, we might have lost him already. Most recently we’ve started to feed him through a stomach tube so that he can get the nutrition he needs without the risk of aspirating food and drink into his lungs.

10-25-2011 461He is a joy to have around. When he does finally leave this world he will leave a very large gap in the hearts of all who know him. I know that I will not take it well, so I’ve decided I’ll need to write a book about his life with us to help me cope when the time comes. I guess this blog article is kind of a content study. What kinds of things would you like to know about our lives with Dallin? Leave comments.


Found a Letter #writing101 (five word flash fiction)

•April 9, 2015 • 1 Comment

Who’s letter? “Dear Santa,…”? Me!

Lost (Late) in the Mountains: Part 1 #Writing101

•April 8, 2015 • 2 Comments
Image courtesy of Google Maps.

Image courtesy of Google Maps.

The need for stress relief can make us do some weird and stupid things, and Microsoft Certification tests are SO HARD!

Almost twenty years ago, while working toward a MCT certification, I went and did a really dumb thing that could have gotten me killed. I tried to hike the trail between City Creek Canyon and Mill Creek Canyon down into Mueller Park…alone.

I arrived at the trail head dressed in fur trade period clothing, for the “dream” as reenacters call it. I had a map and compass and everything…I’m not that stupid. It was a very poor-quality map in a book, but I’d also looked at the route on a satellite photo on the computer and studied out the trail. Someone told me that it was a very difficult, all-day hike and I believed them. I’ve done similar things successfully before, so I wasn’t worried. I planned to get to the top of the ridge between the canyons by 2 pm and and then follow the trail back along the ridge line and then down into the park and meet up with my wife and family around sunset. I’d hiked from the park up to the ridge line several times before, but I hadn’t been up City Creek Canyon. The day was Saturday, July 22nd 1995.

Goggle seach: Mueller Park Utah

I parked my car and started my walk. I’d hiked quite high from Mueller Park before, and cross-country skied the lower areas of the park in winter. I knew about where I’d get down into familiar territory and where the trail that I knew of in the park eventually joined the ridge line. I knew about how long it would take to get back down from there. I carried so much confidence in the adventure that all I brought to eat was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch when I reached the foot of Grandview Peak.

Grandview Peak in Google Maps

The trail started out smooth and easy and I walked with a wide gate. On that high-country trail, with wildflowers up to my elbows, I felt rejuvenated. The tension melted off. It’s as if the mountain and the floura lent me their strength and urged me onward. I came across an older couple heading down and we chatted a bit. I told them what I planned to do, and they seemed to appreciate my courage, while doubtful glances between them seemed to say that they thought I might have bitten off more than I could chew.

Some time later, around 11:30, I came to what I knew would be the hard part of my journey, a wide and steep wash coming down from the ridge. The trail, as I remember it now, crept along the side of it, and then across it, and then up to the ridge line.

I thought I could even catch glimpses of the trial that I planned to link up with at the top that would eventually descend down into Mueller Park. I was a couple of hours behind schedule, but after skiing through the park at night many times, I knew I could find my way out of that part of the hike in the dark if I arrived a little late.

Like with so many of then other things we do in life, I made my plan on the assumption that nothing would go wrong.

By the way, I had no cell phone.

As I turned to head up the wash, my family was watching “Babe” at the Matinee.

During the several days that followed I’d wish many times that I’d gone with them.

To be continued…


These Songs Three #writing101

•April 7, 2015 • 4 Comments

So many songs have moved me, but these are the three which have done so most recently. In the case of the first two some passing thought or happening reminded me of the song and I pulled it up to hear it afresh and then even replayed it again several times, to re-memorize the words, so I could carry it around in my heart for a while after.

From the first time I heard it, I’ve always enjoyed this song. As a grandfather who misses his distant children to the point of physical pain, I only now can fully appreciate it. Here’s a photo…

…the adult girls and two boys in front are mine. There are also three additional grandchildren, in addition to the ones on each side, that had not yet arrived when this photo was taken. The dog isn’t mine, she’s just a friend to the whole neighborhood. If you are one of those folks who know where I live, go to Google Street View and then turn and look across the street and you’ll see that german shepard with her ball. She invites anyone to play soccer with her. She’s very good at it too. I hope the photo shows up for you, I’ve never tried to embed a Facebook photo into WordPress before. It may take a while to load, so you might want to just read on and scroll back to it later.  Also, the pic is a bit older than the date shown.

He is Risen! Do you believe? If you do then I wish you luck watching this video while trying to sing along. I can’t. If you don’t believe in this person folks call Jesus Christ, or believe Him to have been just a man, then at least ponder and believe in the things that he taught. Why? Because they are the rules of a stable and prosperous civilization. It’s taken humanity a good while to gain a little traction on putting those teachings to practice, and we still have a long way to go, but where would we be without the great Teacher who showed us the way? He doesn’t have to be your Shepard, but he wants to be. At least read his words and put them into columns of “Good” vs “Bad” and see if you don’t come away at least admiring Him.

I have never served in the military, but I have spent time away from home on business. This song might not have started out as a soldier’s tale, but the timing and marketing put it there and gave the song a stronger feeling and touched more hearts than a truck driver’s (or author or computer geek’s) tale ever could. War is Hell…even for the loved ones of the soldier. The people that we gather around us join a piece of themselves to us and us to them. Then threads of thought and prayer join us together even though our bodies travel great distances apart. My favorite renderings of this song by LoneStar include recordings of soldiers’ families, but I chose this one particular YouTube video for here because it’s closer to the source copyright-wise. Feel free to spider out through YouTube and find the other in there though if you wish.

And yes, this post ended up taking quite a bit longer than 15 minutes. Oh well. Blame my old, slow laptop. 😉

Retraction: I owe my oldest daughter, the one in the middle, and her daughter, a rather sheepish apology. She had to remind me via Facebook that she too had a daughter since this picture was taken. I’ve corrected the text of the blog entry to reflect the correct number of grandchildren. I’m sorry for my stupid oversight.

Going Back #writing101

•April 6, 2015 • 2 Comments

Dancing wind skitters over the cracked concrete.
Boney-fingered vines crush the walls.
Forsaken trees shake horned heads at their bleached roots.
Laughing ghosts of children, long old, sit the swings.

Which Way? #writing101

•April 6, 2015 • Leave a Comment
Movie poster for Civilization

Movie poster for Civilization (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My first installment into the WordPress Writing 101 workshop is supposted to be twenty minutes of random thoughts, so here it goes.

Which way does the world turn? Seriously. Now I don’t mean in the astronomical context. I mean what parts of what we do enhance, advance, improve and grow our civilization and which parts detract, delay, roll-back, and reduce it. The lump sum of civilization does not seem to go anywhere. The degree of civilized behavior at the high-end seems to advance…or does it. As we isolate and remove things that some folks think hold our culture back, we might be ditching some of the things that brought us this far. Yes, Secular Humanists, I’m talking to you.


There are folks who think that any new societies that we establish on Mars and other places should be free and open and devoid of religion.

How’s that?

First of all, you can’t put the words “free and open” and “devoid of religion” together in the same sentence. You contradict yourself.

I also don’t think it would be healthy to try, or even possible to accomplish, a religion-free culture. Religion in its purest form occurs in the heart and many say that it often guides us without us even knowing. No new culture can eliminate it without becoming the very usurpers of thought that have been the enemies of science since Plato.

Further, which patterns  of civilized behavior will these new cultures eliminate along with religion? I don’t see anything in science that teaches folks how to protect the family unit, or that inspires most folks to help the poor and disadvantaged. Yes, lots of folks think that is important, but lots of folks don’t, and religion is still the loudest, and practically the only, organized cheerleader of those concepts without which the apocalyptic science fiction that we enjoy today would be right at our heals.

Without religion to teach large groups of people toward civilized behavior, civilization would fall to dust and take the infrastructure that supports our scientific advancements with it and doom future generations to running around naked, stabbing rabbits with sharp sticks in order to eat. On a planet such as Mars, that technological infrastructure would keep everyone alive and then the bones of that colony would join all the other failed colonies through the history of our culture.

My twenty minutes are up, so I’m just going to hit “Publish” now and head off to work. Ok, first I’ll let Zemantha pop in a picture of Aristotle. No, I’ll delete that. I think this “Civilization” movie poster would work better.

What do you think? Offer comments. Some of the most interesting content on this blog has come from long message threads. I know you have something to say. Come on. Let’s hear it.

Will NASA Ever Fly People to Mars?

•March 7, 2015 • Leave a Comment

The journey of Columbus failed. He went looking for the West Indies and didn’t find them. Ol’ Chris made a very serious math error and didn’t know that there was another continent in the way, even after he’d landed on it!

The Voyage of Discovery made by Lewis and Clark failed also. As it turns out, The North West Passage over the North end of the continental United States did not, and had not ever, existed! Climate change might make one some day north of Canada, but that is not a good thing anyway, and pointless since we now have aircraft and stuff.

So those human exploration endeavors fell flat on their original objectives. The explorers found none of the things that their funding agencies paid them to find. They were mistakes and should never have been attempted. Someone should have just taken longer to plan them out. They should have waited to make sure the path was clear, that all of the risks were foreseen and managed, and that they knew everything they were going to find ahead of time so that all that was needed was for someone to simply walk over and pick it up.


If Columbus had done his math right, he would’ve seen that the West Indies were way too far away for him to get there in a single journey with his technology…and that he very likely would die trying it. Then he might have just stayed home and spent his life making maps for other travelers, growing old and fat while telling his children and grandchildren tales about that huge, dangerous, embarrassing mistake he almost made.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition sights the Grea...

The Lewis and Clark Expedition sights the Great Falls of the Missouri River and the Pacific Ocean. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lewis and Clark, after reaching the top of the Continental Divide in Montana, at the head of the Missouri River, saw that what lay beyond was not another river flowing down into a Western sea, but instead row after row of huge mountain ranges as far as the eye could see. They didn’t just shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, alrighty then. That looks pretty hard to cross. So let’s just go back and tell Jefferson to let Mexico have it.”

Has the spirit of discovery died? Have we as a culture grown so comfortable with the known quantities in our lives that we’ve forgotten that part of us that makes us most human? Does the bulk of humanity finally think that we found what we left Africa for so long ago? Have we lost what moves us to…well…move us?

Self portrait of in the Cupola module of the o...

Tracy Caldwell Dyson’s self portrait in the Cupola module. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think that NASA (and their government sponsors) may have become too risk averse to conduct traditional exploration. Robots do great science, but they have no soul and practically no one understands 99% of what they do. When we start to put visual light imagers on exploration spacecraft just as an after-thought then maybe it’s time for human eyes to run out and take a look. The Cupola on the International Space Station almost didn’t happen because Congress thought that a big, fancy, window-seat looking out over Earth was too frivolous for funding. However, such things feed the human spirit of discovery!

I’ll share with you an excerpt from my book, Into the Dark: Escape of the Nomad. In it a former NASA astronaut, grounded by a world filled with apathy and fear, takes matters into his own hands and builds a ship of his own with which he travels to Saturn…

“I’ve seen Earth from orbit and it is truly beautiful–and awe inspiring. It consumes the mind with its size, and with its geologic and atmospheric wonders. But Saturn is almost ten times larger than Earth; with thick, complex clouds completely obscuring the surface of the planet and moving barely fast enough for the human eye to perceive. The colors between the bands, pushed by powerful winds, swirl together in circular patterns that never occur again, and never seem to end, as the rapid spin of the planet mixes its atmosphere like a giant blender.

“And those rings! The many bands and colors in their plaited arrangements show a depth and iridescence that is impossible to see from a distance or in a photograph. They reflect the sunlight as a rainbow, that shifts and rolls before your eyes, changing at every angle, making you hesitate to blink lest you miss the next phenomenal episode in their never-ending light show. Their glistening particles, arranged and aligned as if by an artist’s hand, seem like they’re made specifically to entrance you with their sparkling gravitational dance.

“All this at the same time that the planet’s shear size reaches out and crushes you with a fearful realization of your own smallness. Nothing on Earth can prepare you for it, because the Earth cannot contain anything so in contrast to your size as is Saturn. It looms over you, growing ever larger, like some great doom in a childhood nightmare.

“The eyes, strained by its brightness, want to look away; yet they are ensnared in an all enveloping, wondrous trance; leaving the other senses envious of their torture.”

Will anyone ever describe Mars this way, through eyes of flesh? Yes…but the person who does it first won’t be sent by NASA.

We see a convergence of technology advancements that will very soon lead to a human exploration of Mars, but NASA will not arrive at the red planet on that day. I have watched this closely for years, taking the Jet Propulsion Laboratory training online, listening to their press releases, and I’ve come to the conclusion that NASA will support the development and application of the combination of tech that will empower other folks to send their folks to the surface of Mars. Then NASA will follow in vessels built and tested by others and will stay in Martian shelters built by the locals. They’ll do like National Geographic and that guy on River Monsters, hiring the natives to serve as guides when they visit to do their science. NASA, their sponsors, and their sponsor’s sponsors (the U.S. citizens) have grown too comfortable. Most of us have stuck our feet so deep into the warm, cozy mud of linear thinking and surrounded ourselves with so many music icons and sports heroes and acting idols that we content ourselves to see the unknown through our magical entertainment devices. We prefer to stay curled up, snuggling under a the false blanket of our own delusions of free this and free that.

Mars is hard. Mars is actually really, really hard. To send people to Mars will be the most difficult exploration project that humans have ever undertaken. So it will be done like most of the big exploration projects of old…on the fringes of human awareness…until the discoveries made by the obscure few grab the rest of us by the shoulders and shake us awake.

Here is what will need to happen, in sequence, before NASA ever sends their own boots to Mars…

  1. A National Security interest will need to be at stake…then,
  2. An act of Congress will fund the project, at at least a full digit more cost than any of us feel comfortable with…then,
  3. All necessary technologies will need to be available and fully tested…, then.
  4. The designs and design changes for all spacecraft will be locked-in for a four to eight year development cycle (and no, the current Orion and SLS Mark I and Mark 1A designs won’t cut it alone)…then.
  5. We will need to experience no significant change in political momentum for 80% of the length of the development cycle…then,
  6. They have to HIT the launch window! Slipped milestones that push the launch forward an additional 26 months until Mars swings past us again would almost certainly kill the project.

No wonder NASA doesn’t think they’ll go until after 2030.

What happens when you stand around too long at Wendy’s while deciding what to order? I’ll tell you…someone who already knows what they want slips in line in front of you.

English: The NASA insignia. Español: Insignia ...

English: The NASA insignia. Español: Insignia de la NASA. Italiano: Logo della NASA. Русский: Логотип НАСА. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ironically, only NASA knows how to shoot things off to Mars and land them, GENTLY, on its surface. If anyone unaffiliated with NASA tries to do it first, they run a very real risk of placing a small number of unfortunate people either in permanent solar orbit or at the bottom of a fresh crater on the Martian surface. However, SpaceX, the European Space Agency and even RosCosmos are all affiliated with NASA. Even the NASA contractors of old look like they may have finally started to figure out where all of this New Space stuff is headed and some of them just might survive the revelation long enough to start start competing head-to-head with the new guys. These people all share access to the NASA tech database. What NASA knows they know, or will know long before NASA can fly to Mars in 2030.

At least we know that an Apollo-style “Flags and Footprints” mission won’t work for a Mars. Travel to and from such a place is measured in months and years, not days or weeks. Explorers will spend most of their time on the opposite side of the Sun from us, and so colony-style living accommodations will have to be developed and used for the trip there and the trip back and for dirt-side. No one can live in a capsule for two years and anything that you build that you can live in for two years has another name that we can use for it…”infrastructure”!

But private explorers will build it…not NASA.

Will the Big Falcon Eat SLS?

•February 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment
English: Artist concept of SLS launching.

English: Artist concept of SLS launching. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few days ago, I commented here about the upcoming challenges to the future of the Space Launch System and Orion orbiter. In my remarks, I happened to mention that SpaceX‘s Falcon Heavy, that is scheduled to have its first-ever test launch in the summer of this very year, can carry 3/4s of SLS’s capacity but those numbers are fairly rough and seem to move around depending on where you read.

However, then I read this article…

SES signs up for launch with more powerful Falcon 9 engines

…where it says that SpaceX has a new thrust power for the Merlin 1D engine that they will use in the Falcon 9 to launch the SES 9 telecommunications satellite next month. Not much detail is provided, but it does say that they’ve bumped the rated energy output for those engines by 20%.

Let’s see…5,300 lbs, plus 20% is…well it’s more than 6,300. That seems to put the high-end Falcon Heavy within spitting distance of the low-end of the Mark I SLS…at a meager 85 million dollars per launch!

How much is an SLS launch? Half a billion? And it’s not even expected to fly for the first time (an unmanned spin around the moon) until late 2018? The next flight after that, and the first peopled flight, is planned for 2021 to an asteroid and is already under fire.

Oh, and this also expands the business envelope for the Falcon 9, putting even more market pressure on some traditionally expensive birds that used to be the only choices for throwing those big telcom satellites out to Geo-Transfer orbit. Of course, pushing the edges of the Falcon 9s lift capacity like that also pushes any possible reusability right out the window too, but no one else’s rockets are reusable right now either. SpaceX might still have that capability later this year for less challenging flights…most of those other providers won’t even try.

So, Congress uses billions of tax dollars to build the world’s next human-rated deep space rocket, while SpaceX uses a couple hundred million private dollars to beat that rocket to space with what will soon be human-rated components. SLS teams redesign the reusable Space Shuttle engine, to make any new ones they build more appropriate for a throw-away rocket, while SpaceX puts their reusable engines into what will soon be an optionally reusable rocket. NASA mission planners struggle to fill a half-billion-dollar-per-shot launch manifest for SLS, begging Congress for every penny, while SpaceX signs up a self-perpetuating line of willing customers to fly their payloads for $85 million on Falcon Heavy. Launch providers all over the world work to trim their business models to try and compete with the $1,000 per pound price point, while SpaceX works to chop that price point in half.

What will happen to the 70,000 lb to low Earth orbit, $.5B per launch SLS program the first time a nearly human-rated Falcon Heavy flies a 63,000 lb satellite to Geo-Transfer orbit for well under $100M? If that happens in 2016, will we ever even see an SLS test flight in 2018? Or if we do, will it be destined to be a one-off like Ares? What will happen to Orion when it looses its ride? What will happen to Dragon V2, and the CST-100, and Falcon, and Atlas, all built with a lot of technology gleaned from NASA’s tech database, when they find themselves with the most advanced, human-rated launch systems available because NASA’s new deep-space bird is dead on the ground…riddled with budget cuts?

Over roughly the past decade, NASA has used Congress to help commercial space carefully put the pieces in place that will soon strip Congress of most of its power over the United States’ human access to space…and not just to Earth orbit either, but to the entire solar system. It’s a very good thing that Congress is too clueless to see the knife that NASA and its partners are about to stab them in the back with. I hope that all those folks who build SLS and Orion are ready to jump ship when they see those projects start to sink.

SpaceX is not the only company working on reusable launch systems either, other rocket companies are doing it too, and there are space planes under development as well. What SpaceX does soon, others will do later and build an industry of inexpensive access to deep space for you and me and our ideas.

I hope that your children are learning their math, so they can participate in the new space race that is about to unfold as a $1,000 per pound drops to $800 and then to $500. The number of profitable uses for space that will spring from that, most of which no one has even envisioned yet, will touch each of our lives in ways we cannot yet even imagine.


The Future of Orion

•February 21, 2015 • Leave a Comment
English: Artist Concept of SLS on Launchpad Th...

English: Artist Concept of SLS on Launchpad The Space Launch System, or SLS, will be designed to carry the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, as well as important cargo, equipment and science experiments to Earth’s orbit and destinations beyond. Additionally, the SLS will serve as a back up for commercial and international partner transportation services to the International Space Station. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Where will Orion go? How long will it and the Space Launch System survive? They almost certainly have enough momentum not to suffer the same fate as Constellation. However, with a fickle, micro-managing Congress, budget constraints, changing Presidencies, and now with local commercial competition, the challenges to the long-term survival of the program will be multi-layered.

Currently, the only plans in the works (after test flights) are an asteroid sample return mission, followed by a flight to Mars in 2035…neither of which are funded to-date. The asteroid mission is already widely criticized and in trouble in Congress. Most experts agree that SLS needs a launch frequency of at least one shot per year to support the infrastructure that builds and flies it. A few interesting proposals have been put forward, but NASA can’t seem to afford to build any of them until SLS R&D is completed.

NASA won’t fly alone into deep space either. Russia plans to operate a heavy-lift launcher program also. SpaceX will test launch their Falcon Heavy this summer (and they have super-heavy, extra-wide vehicles on the drawing boards). Will there be enough destinations to keep an uber-expensive program like SLS flying? Remember that Orion is only a crew capsule and SLS is only a launcher. Each mission outside of Earth orbit will also need a specialized, and roomy, exploration spacecraft built to the specific needs of the destination and mission. In order to launch SLS and Orion somewhere once per year, an exploration spacecraft will need to be built once per year as well. NASA has never been good at building one manned spacecraft while operating another. Those vessels have yet to be funded, developed, or built and NASA funding rides on Congressional priorities.

It currently looks like Congress might like Moon missions, and that kind of effort would certainly support annual launches for just the SLS and Orion pair (along with the ESA-built, ATV derived service module that is already in the works), but not for very long. Everyone and their dog will soon be capable of reaching the moon with manned and unmanned vehicles, especially if the Moon becomes commercially relevant.

English: NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver...

English: NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver is given a tour of the Bigelow Aerospace facilities by the company’s President Robert Bigelow on Friday, Feb. 4, 2011, in Las Vegas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perhaps Orion’s add-ons will be built by Bigelow Aerospace.  They’ve had test articles of inflatable space station modules, decades  ahead of the International Space Station, in Earth orbit since 2006 and 2007 and will launch an add-on module to the ISS aboard the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft this fall. They’ve only had to wait for a better future of human access to space to move forward. The launch frequency to support them will be provided by commercial launch services like SpaceX and Boeing more than NASA, but maybe Bigelow’s involvement will drag the cost and build time of support spacecraft down far enough to keep SLS flying annually.

So what is Congress thinking? Well, They don’t really seem to care if their gold-plated bird actually flies anyplace, so long as the industries that build the bird (and the jobs attached to them) stay funded. They don’t seem to care much that we might end up launching it to the ISS every year just to keep the ball rolling. NASA engineers just give that parental smile and repeat that Orion is a deep-space vehicle and will never be used to support that particular space station. Eventually, public patience with the cost will dwindle if low launch frequency makes SLS a rocket to nowhere.

What purpose will it serve then? Maybe flights to Mars will become routine. Maybe someone will build a moon colony. Once there are people living on the moon or Mars to stay they will need supplies…lots of supplies. Mars is not like Earth, so self-sufficiency for Mars colonies could be a lot further out than some folks envision. Mars carries more in common with a moon, from a human survival perspective, than it does with Earth. Maybe human colonies/science will reach even further out into the solar system where only systems like SLS/Orion can reach them for badly needed and frequent resupply.

I think it more likely that this new launch program will just feed data into their partner database for companies like SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, Boeing, Sierra Nevada and others to carry forward at better prices…and freedom from bi-polar Government agencies. Currently, NASA’s commercial partners are developing several space technologies on their own that NASA did not instigate nor fund directly, on astonishingly short time frames and price tags. NASA is slowly evolving into more of a consumer of technology than a provider.

Here’s the thing…when SpaceX will test launch the Falcon Heavy, later this this year, people will start scratching their heads and wondering at the relevance of SLS. The Falcon Heavy will carry 3/4 the throw-weight of the first-generation SLS, for a much smaller fraction of the cost. When it flies it’ll be the mightiest launch system since the SaturnV moon rocket. It will likely fly paid missions into geo-synchronous orbit before the scheduled SLS test launch. If all goes well, it will definitely accumulate a deeper launch history than SLS, because the cost per launch will be orders of magnitude less and commercial orders are already lined up to fly on it while SLS is only intended to launch once per year. Almost each and every one of the proposed future SLS missions can be designed to fly on one or more other launchers at dramatically lower total cost. Perhaps it will even be SpaceX, or one of their commercial competitors, not SLS, that will carry the first humans to Mars.

So SpaceX will fly a human-rated upgrade of its Dragon spacecraft by 2017, a heavy launch system by the end of this year and Bigelow already builds orbital, long habitation spacecraft. For SLS/Orion to be useful for Mars flights, it probably needs to get there before less expensive systems. Will it really take some combination of commercial space interests longer than 2035, 20 full years, to get humans to Mars? If they get there first, what will we even need SLS and Orion for? Maybe to save their baby, Congress will have to look at, and aggressively fund, some things they haven’t shown much interest for in the past…such as Lagrange point space stations and Jovian moons.

From Space to Earth

•January 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment


“A lot of things are not easy to solve when you’re trying to break through a new technology right from the get-go,” says Harish Manohara, supervisor of the Nano and Micro Systems Group and principal member of the technical staff at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

That was a quote from the 2015 NASA Spin-off report on the Multi-Angle Rear-Viewing Endoscopic Tool (MARVEL), a 3D Endoscopic Brain Surgery Camera…made possible with help from NASA. Spin-offs are shared technology arrangements between NASA and the private sector where resources, expertise, and testing regimens are exchanged to advance technology that NASA is interested in. Much of NASA’s funding is spent in this way and, as the quote says, often shortcuts the normal path of discovery which can sometimes cause good ideas to languish.

If you have an idea that could someday help NASA, you might be able to enter into a Space Act Agreement with them where they can help you improve it and make it real. They might even help fund development of your product and even become your first customer or licensee. This could also make you a part of the upcoming space technology race as various NASA partners and commercial space interests look to you as the NASA approved leader of whatever that new device does.

Space exploration has to push the envelope of technology and do both old and new things in new ways. The unique challenges of space almost always have to take a different approach. Often, that different approach takes the Earth-bound version of that tech on a jog around the block as folks strain their brains to make something new happen with old tools. You’d be shocked at the number of things you use every day that were touched by NASA scientists.

Here is a very small sample of some of the 44 new NASA spin-offs highlighted in the 2015 Spinoff Report…

3D Endoscope to Boost Safety, Cut Costs of Surgery

Audio App Brings a Better Night’s Sleep

Algae-Derived Dietary Ingredients Nourish Animals

Space Grant Research Launches Rehabilitation Chair

Shock Absorbers Save Structures and Lives during Earthquakes

What goes around comes around. You’ve heard folks say things like, “If we can send humans into space, then why can’t we …”. Well now you can say, “I don’t know. Let’s go to NASA and find out!”

In fact…just click here and see if space hasn’t already affected the human-interest technology that impacts you.

I’ve often said that the value of all such things, combined and spread over a generation of people and numerous, networked generations of the technologies, carry more value than all of the money spent on NASA and everything else that they do. The scientific discovery of space, and the cool of it all, is just icing on the space cake. The expectation of more of the same should be justification enough for all of the space technology spending and investment that we can muster. Through it, every one of us are involved in either making, selling, or using space stuff.

Don’t let anyone tell you that money spent on NASA is wasted. Just over a half a penny per dollar of tax money is spent by NASA every year. With it they do all of these things and also lead the world in space exploration and innovation.

If they can do that with just a half-penny, just think what they could do with a whole penny!

English: The NASA insignia. Español: Insignia ...

English: The NASA insignia. Español: Insignia de la NASA. Italiano: Logo della NASA. Русский: Логотип НАСА. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Science of Christmas

•December 22, 2014 • Leave a Comment
English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...

English: Thomas Nast’s most famous drawing, “Merry Old Santa Claus”, from the January 1, 1881 edition of Harper’s Weekly. Thomas Nast immortalized Santa Claus’ current look with an initial illustration in an 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly, as part of a large illustration titled “A Christmas Furlough” in which Nast set aside his regular news and political coverage to do a Santa Claus drawing. The popularity of that image prompted him to create another illustration in 1881. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve decided to annoy scientists today…and hopefully a few of my fellow religionists with them…by shining a little bit of light on Christmas.

  • Winter Solstice is not a religious event at its core…pegan or Christian. Astronomy rules the movements of nature, and humans have historically patterned their lives, traditions, and religious observances after the march of the growing season on which their very survival hinged. The Winter Solstice event marks the point on the calendar where the shortening of days ends and the lengthening of days begins and does this year after year with or without us.
  • Santa Claus, most of the traditional backdrop of the Christmas, even the very word “Christmas”, grew from a blend of cultural observances which are mostly based on religious observances of one kind or another. They then combine with a winter festival atmosphere to become what we call The Holiday Season that everyone, atheists and religionists alike, celebrate together to their mutual benefit as human beings.
  • History is not clear on the actual day that Jesus Christ was born, but most historians seem to agree that it was not at or near winter solstice. I don’t have references to this right at the tip of my fingers at the moment, but I’ll leave it to you to research on your own…if you care. I don’t care and will celebrate his birthday on Dec. 25th regardless (author sticks out his tongue here).
  • The “New Star” was probably just a supernova (if the word “just” can be applied to a supernova at all), but one which may have been predicted by a few people quite a bit in advance. There might be a lesson in there somewhere for anyone willing to ponder it honestly for a while.

Controversy between Christians and atheists about which Christmas observances should or should not be celebrated reek of hypocrisy at their core because Christmas is a package deal awash with unavoidable, sometimes conflicting, religious symbols. When combined it all makes us pretend to be better people for a while…whether we believe in God or not. Remove all of those symbols in order to avoid religious references and Christmas, with all of it’s benefits to you, vanishes in a puff of indifference.

The things that Jesus Christ taught did (eventually) influence our culture toward civilization and away from barbarism. This is true whether or not you think he is a God. This makes him deserving of some kind of recognition…even by atheists. Historians pretty much agree that he was born in a stable too, and there is nothing there that should offend anybody who’s name isn’t Herod.

Santa Claus” is a linguistic corruption of “Saint Nicholas“, a real person who actually did, on a much smaller and more realistic scale, some of the things that we now attribute to the magical mythological figure. He was a very good man who went about boldly doing good things that we as a culture consider beneficial to our society if we do those things too. This makes him a person who’s life is worth celebrating and who’s actions are worth repeating.

Now can’t we all just get along enjoy the festivities please?

Thank you.

Oh…and please have a very Merry Christmas a happy and successful New Year.

iPhone Abuse

•December 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

iphone abuseAdvertise that you've built a tough phone, and what do people do?

Folks, please…

I don’t use an iPhone, I like Android, but still. I think it is a good phone and I’m quite sure…I don’t know…could Apple please release some non-functional mockups for these kids to play with?

Really? Really? A 4 lb sledge hammer? The phone be like, “If you smash me, will I not…bleed?”

And is it really necessary to do a test to see if stainless steel can scratch aluminum? I saw him pick up that knife and knew what would happen without him having to go all the way through and to mar the finish to prove it.

I was impressed with how well the phone endured the pain before it died though. We really get to know who the phone really is, right?

Is that really necessary? Children really shouldn’t play with guns. If your going to shoot a phone, do it to an obsolete one…oh, wait. 😉

Of course, it did take two shots to kill it. Call it the Grizzly phone maybe. “Bear Phone” just wouldn’t sound quite right to the ear. Wrong images.

Of course, fire, I should have seen that one coming. I admit that I did wonder though, right up until I realized the inevitable. You’d be replacing the phone after that anyway, even if it did still work, so what’s the point?

Aaaaand then liquid nitrogen…OK, I have to admit that one was pretty cool, but again with the hammer?

No. This is what happens when good phones meet bad people. Give them all pre-pay bricks to use until they learn how to take better care of their toys. 😉

I only wish I could put an Android Facebook app update on top of a fencepost and shoot it. :-p

Orion Flies

•December 6, 2014 • Leave a Comment
English: JSC2009-E-145324 (July 2009) --- The ...

English: JSC2009-E-145324 (July 2009) — The Orion crew exploration vehicle, in flight, is contrasted by the darkness of space in this artist’s rendering. Photo credit: NASA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Write it on your calendar.

Yesterday (Dec. 3rd, 2014) NASA made history. Orion (the human-rated interplanetary spacecraft that NASA has been working on) flew in space for the first time aboard a Delta Heavy rocket in a spectacular and beautiful early morning launch. The unmanned test flight lasted four and a half hours in which the capsule orbited the Earth twice and traveled several thousand miles away from the planet before it reentered Earth’s atmosphere at near Lunar-return velocity and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. The flight has been deemed a success, with the word “perfect” used many times. Once again, NASA has demonstrated that it leads the world in human space-flight, because for the second time it has designed and tested a human-rated spacecraft that exceeds low-earth orbit. Now we just need to go and do it again with people aboard. When we do, the heat shield and other components will have improved even more due to lessons learned from before, and derived from, this flight.

I noticed that the LiveStream broadcast of the event had a disappointing 6,500 viewers during the recovery of the capsule. It should have been 650,000, but most folks still just don’t get the significance of this historic flight. NASA was rated #6 on trends in Google News, with at least two or three entertainment industry related issues ranked above it. Those of us in charge of generating interest in human spaceflight and space exploration still have a lot of work to do apparently.

Project Constellation insignia

Project Constellation insignia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Orion has an undeservedly checkered past. It started out back during the Bush administration as part of a multi-layered “ISS to Moon to Mars” project called Constellation intended to revisit the moon and pursue a Mars exploration initiative, as well as replace the aging and very expensive Space Shuttle program which was scheduled for cancellation due to safety concerns. Over-scoped and badly under-funded, the heavily criticized Constellation program languished in missed milestones and cost-overruns until it was eventually cancelled by the Obama Administration. Any plan to go to the moon was nixed with it as a “been there, done that, got the T-Shirt” kind of thing and the Mars date was cancelled and replaced with a highly criticized and in-specific “someday” pseudo-goal. Space Act Agreement programs already underway to hand-off International Space Station resupply and crew transportation duties to private companies were announced and publicized as the eventual shuttle replacement for ISS support. In the interim, the U.S. would pay Russia to transport U.S., Japanese, and Canadian crew to and from the ISS, and ESA and Japan would operate their own unmanned resupply spacecraft to fill the gap left by the shuttle for cargo deliveries.

Citing illegalities in how the the Constellation program was cancelled without their input, and out of concern over lost jobs among the contractors that supported the Space Shuttle program, Congress bullied NASA employees for a year to keep working on existing Constellation contracts while Congress worked to revive its suddenly dwindling relevance in manned space exploration. This ended in the first and last Constellation test flight of an Ares I simulation vehicle with a mock-up of Orion on top of it. During this time of uncertainty and lack of focus, Congress revived the Orion program (under a highly unmemorable name which I can’t remember) and ordered NASA to start a new, shuttle-component based, Saturn V comparable, heavy-lift launcher program to go with it. This became the Space Launch System (aka SLS, but jokingly referred to by some space advocates as the “Senate Launch System“). Both were cleverly re-scoped by NASA for activities beyond Earth orbit only. Space advocates (with a nudge and a wink) still liked to use the word “Lunar” when talking about Orion, while Congress (also with a nudge and a wink) still liked to use the words “ISS docking” when talking about it. However, many think that NASA has no scientific need to send humans to the moon, and Orion, and especially SLS, are far and away too expensive to fit into the frequent launch routine necessary for ISS support tasks. Space advocates kept using the name “Orion” over and over again until it stuck and NASA re-scoped or cancelled numerous other planetary science programs to pay for it all. President Obama finally groaned and said “Fine!” to the critics of his lack of direction on Mars and offered up a ridiculously distant Mars date (I recall it was something like 2035?) to get us all to shut-up about it. We didn’t.

English: Artist rendering of SpaceX Dragon spa...

English: Artist rendering of SpaceX Dragon spacecraft delivering cargo to the International Space Station. Credit NASA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Orion is a great spacecraft but I hear it won’t fly again until 2018 or so, at which time they plan for SLS to take it on a test-drive spin around the moon and back again with a crew aboard. The next mission after that, as I understand it, will be an asteroid sample return flight around 2024. Will the currently ongoing programs in the new and growing commercial launch industry beat NASA’s current timeline for human interplanetary space flight? I know that their projected budgets are between 3X to 10X less than NASA’s for achieving similar destinations, which always makes things easier to do. So was all of the hoopla and expense over this Orion launch pointless?

Here’s the thing. NASA keeps all of their data on an elaborate database system. All of the organizations outside of NASA which NASA funds, has spin-off and other Space Act Agreements with, or which supply NASA with goods and services, have access to that database. This flight of Orion was not just a “NASA” test flight…it was a “NASA & Friends” test flight. The data which was logged and stored by flight control and on-board the Orion capsule will be seen by experts at SpaceX and others and used to tweek their own designs. This flight will feed data directly into the ongoing, deep, and complex commercial space development effort in ways over which Congress has no control. They can rob funding from commercial space initiatives to try and starve them out, but all of the funding that goes into NASA still feeds data into the development and acceleration of those same initiatives.

Project Orion logo

Project Orion logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think that Orion’s future as a frequently-used spacecraft is doomed. SLS is too expensive to launch often enough to fund its own supporting infrastructure or get much use out of Orion. Commercial space has implemented timelines on the calendar to eat into Orion’s already sparse mission profile. With NASA’s indirect (if not openly direct) help, SpaceX will fly vehicles to Mars this decade and Planetary Resources could have platinum samples gathered from a near-Earth asteroid in-hand at roughly the same time as NASA’s planned asteroid mission. We’ll see NASA’s lunar-loop test launch, and possibly the asteroid mission, but then folks will wonder why they need to spend money for NASA to do things the expensive way that will already have been done cost effectively by others. The only thing that will save SLS and Orion will be dramatically ambitious missions to the outer-planet moons and such. Those spacecraft will need to be huge but I guess Orion could still serve as an Earth reentry vehicle for them.

But Orion’s place in history is still assured. When the Lewis and Clark expedition, a government funded scientific discovery project spear-headed by then President Thomas Jefferson, journeyed back down the Missouri river on its return leg, it was met by the first of the commercial interests, the beginnings of the country’s pre-1830s Fur Trade industry, on their way out. One of the explorers with the Lewis and Clark company, the now famous John Colter, joined them and went on to discover Yellow Stone.

The same thing is happening now with space. NASA employees are “retiring” into commercial space employment and bringing their knowledge, experience, and contacts with them, while NASA continues replacing those people with new folks and training them in new projects.

Digital art by Les Bossinas (Cortez III Servic...

Digital art by Les Bossinas (Cortez III Service Corp.), 1998 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Freed from the burden of performing ongoing launch programs, and contracting their launches on far less expensive vehicles developed by private companies, NASA will continue to do what it does best…break new ground. New commercial space development will still be orchestrated, supported, facilitated, and in some cases funded by NASA, while NASA will reach further and further out into the cosmos where commercial efforts can’t afford the risks.

Government, however, thankfully, will no longer get to decide when we go to the moon or Mars or how much it has to cost. Near space will no longer feed pork-barrel politics aimed at dumping hundreds of billions of dollars into a small group of politically-connected companies, nor will it compete with other government programs for funding. Space flight spending will no longer be justified on the basis of space flight spending alone, but will need to actually fly, soon, in order to survive. The price will drop further as new technologies, industries, and companies involving all of us will be born, launch frequency increases, and the tech development curves become self-sustaining. The same folks who are now whining about the cost of space exploration will be clambering to climb aboard. Human spaceflight will touch our lives as often as satellite TV has. We will see people set foot on Mars, and perhaps even stay and live there, during the span of most of our lifetimes.

Someone close to you might even be one of them.

Correction: The next launch of Orion in 2018 will be on a Minute Man ICBM launcher wherein this same capsule that just flew will go up on a very short flight to test the launch abort system. My understanding is that they will take it to maximum aerodynamic pressure and then trigger the launch abort stack to pull the capsule away from the ascending rocket. It’ll be fun! I wonder if they’ll actually trigger the explosives on board the rocket during the test. I should think they would…so that means we get to see the rocket blow up on purpose! I guess the launch after that one will be the SLS swing around the moon.

Artist impression of a Mars settlement with cu...

Artist impression of a Mars settlement with cutaway view (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Orion Launch Coverage Live

•December 4, 2014 • Leave a Comment

NASA’s new manned spacecraft, Orion, test launches soon via a Delta IV Heavy. The countdown is holding at 4 minutes because of a fuel valve or something in the rocket. To watch it all live on Ustream, click on the link below.

For additional commentary, follow the #Orion or #OrionLaunch hash tags on Twitter.


Time To Vote

•November 4, 2014 • Leave a Comment

voteFor a very, very long time and in some parts of the world still, changes in government have been accompanied by rivers of blood.

Today, instead of that, we in the United States of America can vote.

Now I know that you sometimes may feel like your vote doesn’t count, but it does. Your little vote combines with my little vote and the votes of your neighbors and my neighbors to seat or unseat the powerful. If you decide that you don’t care, then the reasons why you don’t care also apply to groups of other people like you and those votes don’t go out and it can dramatically impact outcomes.

At the end of the day today in the United States, there will very likely be a dramatic shift in power from Democrat to Republican in the Federal legislature. They say that part of the reason for this change is because certain groups of folks, disillusioned by President Obama and the general state of things, will likely stay home and not vote. Ironically, these are the same culture classes of people who, in times past, were compelled to fight and kill and die to protect an unpopular sitting king from power change.

Voter turnout has always affected midterm elections more than Presidential ones. Folks tend to go to the polls to elect Presidents. However, in every election the ballot contains many things of far more direct and daily impact on us than a U.S. President. State legislators, mayors, judges, school board trustees…these people have far more immediate influence over your life than any U.S. President, and those contests frequently turn on just a handful of votes.

I am running for School Board Trustee in a small town. There are five seats up for grabs and eight candidates. Us challengers vary somewhat in our philosophies, the incumbents also. If I’m elected, the schools in this town will feel the impact of my perspective for the next four years. I have no doubt the same is true of the other candidates. Four years is a long time in the life of a child and their stories will be shaped by some folks’ decision to vote or not to vote today. The new Common Core Standards will trigger changes in the schools, and those changes will be put into play by school boards. They will hold in their hands the education of the next generation and future economy of this nation.

In light of that, who cares if there isn’t a U.S. President up for reelection? Who cares if many of the groups who voted for him two years ago feel buyer’s remorse today? What difference should that make when we still have to fill other seats with people who will make the rules and implement the policies that touch our lives most directly? None!

Go out and cast your vote today. I beg you.

I’m Running for School Board

•November 1, 2014 • Leave a Comment


stand_back_im_going_to_try_science_tshirtWe see Garry Piiparinen quite a lot at my house, especially on election years. He comes by to hear what my wife and I think on the issues and to back this or that candidate that he supports. He serves as a Wyoming State congressman. We’ve lived a lot of places, but we’ve never seen this much of our state government representatives. He’s also very responsive to inquires made on social media.

Three months or so ago, as we stood on my front porch having a chat, Garry asked me if I had any local issues that I felt strongly about. I told him that when my son was in high school he was in special education (he has Duchenne muscular dystrophy) and that because of the extra tutoring time in special ed he was only able to take the core “environmental” science classes every year. I said that I thought there should be more emphasis on deeper science topics in the curriculum core. He told me that I should run for school board.

My oldest son graduated out of the system a couple of years ago, but my youngest son is almost halfway through it. He has asperger’s autism and is likely headed for special ed like his brother. He has enthusiasm for science and especially Biology, but struggles with his math. However the math issue for him is more attitude than competence. All he really needs is an understanding of why. I think many people suffer from this with regards to math. I saw a T-Shirt online that says, “Well, another day has gone by and I still haven’t used Algebra”. I’ve seen another T-Shirt that says, “Stand back I’m going to try Science”.

In reading through information that my local school district makes available online, I found that Evanston test scores exceed the national average on math and reading, mostly math, but pretty much tie the average on science. I read about ideas in the works to try and raise the reading performance higher, but without loosing the math emphasis that brings about their success there. “Why not science?” I said aloud to myself. While studying science, one reads at a higher grade level and also discovers why advanced math is important. Science ties reading, math, and critical thinking all together. If the schools work to improve on their performance in science, that will push math and reading performance improvements along for the ride.

In preparing my campaign I learned about the new Common Care Standards that have been recently adopted by most of the United States and found that they contain no science.

That’s right. Lots of English literature but no science.

By the time this year’s kindergartners graduate from high school, there will likely be people studying Mars hands-on. Yes…scientists will walk around on Mars dirt, picking up rocks and looking at them. The projects to send people to do that are already in the works and do not depend (entirely) on governments that loose interest, cut funding, and care only about power. Planetary Science will be the big push with actual, direct, physical access to an alien world to compare to Earth. They’ll find all the differences between Mars and Earth, but the nature of those differences will help us better understand the world in which all of us live. However the current body of researchers will not be enough.

If they find any life, whether it came from Earth initially or evolved there independently, they’ll have an alien ecosystem to compare with our own.

They’ll get a closer look at what drives weather and long-term climate change on Mars. Both there and here scientists will suddenly have a plethora of results to quantify, analyze, name, discuss and integrate into humanity’s understanding of the way things work on both planets. Where will we find all of those geologists, chemists, biologists, meteorologists, etc.? How many people in the U.S. will be paid engineering salaries to do that work? How will those people prepare?

Who will develop the gazillion spin-off discoveries in healthcare, computer technology, rocketry, astronomy, energy, agriculture, and who knows what all else? Who will work in the new industries that those innovations will generate?

If we would prepare our children for the future that I’ve just described, we should insist that our schools teach them science. As parents we should find our childrens’ “science button” and push it. Our schools should provide curriculum and goals to develop those interests so that when children graduate they already have their feet on the path to the higher education they will need to pursue their dreams. That won’t happen enless schools everywhere hold themselves to a higher standard than just the Common Core. To force that YOU must elect science enthusiasts to your local school board.

Wherever in the world you live, vote if you are allowed to do so. Do not let anyone dissuade  you. When you vote, vote with the goal of government serving you, not the other way around. Vote with the understanding that things which strengthen all strengthen each.

If you live elsewhere in the U.S., then stand with me and fight for the science competency of the upcoming generation. The Climate Change issue, whichever side of that issue you stand on, would be a completely different discussion if more folks understood the science behind it. We toss around that and a host of other issues every day for which a greater general knowledge of science would reduce the “elitism” and help us all work as a team to guide the direction of our culture for the betterment of all.

English: Evanston from atop Burnt Hill, south ...

English: Evanston from atop Burnt Hill, south of town. This picture is looking north. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And if you live in Evanston, Wyoming, then I ask for your vote next week for School Board Trustee for Uinta School District #1.



•October 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment
A strange dog threatened me in my yard last week. I waved my arms and yelled at him and he went away.

I do this all the time. Dogs are shameless cowards because natural selection has bred them to prey on the weak. It is a biological reality. I am bigger than any dog, smarter, and almost as loud. If yelling doesn’t work to scare away a potential case of dog-bite, then I can convincingly howl like a wolf or roar like a grizzly. I can do this while chasing them and I know not to corner them. A dog can run faster than I can, but I can run far enough to keep the animal running away from me until they are well outside their “fine, you are too far away from me to matter” zone.

Is this mean of me? Any mean dog threatening me or my family runs when I play their game. They are better off if they do because I am also armed and know how to kill a dog even if I wasn’t. I wouldn’t harm a dog unless it physically attacked me, I like animals and especially dogs. Dogs usually like me. They are “Man’s Best Friend” and I’d much rather pet a dog than frighten it away or hurt it.

But why the attitude? When I was around seventeen years old I was tall enough, mean enough, sarcastic enough, and had enough Martial Arts training to get bullies to finally leave me alone. Before that I wasn’t. Now you can’t hate a dog for being a dog…but humans acting like dogs are a different story.

I’m not going to involve myself here with either side of #GamerGate, as far as I’m concerned it is an internal conflict brewed out of an industry’s growing pains. I have friends, relatives and fans on both sides of it, culturally speaking, and I agree with their concerns. I will only say that I oppose the stereotyping of women as sluts, which game designers are notorious for. I mention that in the context of #GamerGate because it is one of the sub-issues of that controversy and an issue that I feel strongly about. I would just like to urge all of the folks embedded in all that brewhaha to lighten up and at least pretend to be civilized.

I also won’t involve myself on the issue of gun control…at least not today. It dove-tails into #GamerGate because of a recent #GamerGate relevent event cancellation at Utah State University over Utah’s conceal-carry laws. I have always regarded gun control as a “Teddy Bear” solution (those who know me personally may have heard me voice that metaphor in the past on various things). For now I’ll just link to fellow conservative author Larry Correia, who is more in the trenches than I am on Gun Control. I agree with most of his remarks on the USU stuff HERE.

However, those of you who have issued threats of violence against others are acting like savage dogs. Oh, and by the way, the cop-out “I was only joking” is bull crap (I had to delete some profanity in my comments there) used to justify abusive behavior after the fact, and victimize the the victim further by making them out out as overly sensitive. Tell me please, how can a person receiving a death threat ever know if it is real or not if they don’t know the person who issued it? It is really easy for these tools to cower behind their pseudonyms (fake online names), to scare others, to bring an online conflict into their RL (real life) with death threats, rape threats, mass murder threats, and threats against the safety of their families. It’s really easy for this human scum to sit behind the cover of their own pseudonyms and reveal another person’s personal information (doxing) presumably, but not always with the honesty of explicit proclamations, to give other folks physical access to them for committing crimes. These cyber-barbarians behave like ISIL, but at lease THAT scum has the stones to risk some of their own personal safety for what they do.

My name is William Aaron Housley and I live in Evanston, Wyoming. My public email address is If you disagree with me on anything, I don’t care if you walk right up to me on the street and tell me to my face, and I will answer you to your face and try to treat you in a civilized manner, for such is my preferred way of doing things. If you disturb my workplace we will have the police escort you off of the premises. If you persist, we will have you cited for trespassing. If you commit assault against me personally, I will defend myself. If you survive that I’ll send the police to the ICU to arrest you and prosecute you and throw you in jail once you are physically able to go there. If you attempt to commit physical harm on my family I will defend them physically or legally, whichever is more appropriate to the circumstances. If I catch you in the attempt I will treat you as an invader and end you.

Having revealed all of those things about myself, please understand that for a few hundred dollars anyone can find out anything about just about anyone in the U.S., especially if they have some kind of legitimate legal ax to grind. No person on the Internet is anonymous. Even proxy sites are traceable with a court order from law enforcement agencies investigating crimes. However most of the idiots lobbing that kind of crap around aren’t even smart enough to know how to try to cover their tracks. They think their keyboards and computers shield them enough to protect them from the legal ramifications of illegal behavior…right up until the moment the suits and badges knock on the door. They can usually count on the rules that keep U.S. law enforcement comparatively civilized, but they can’t expect quite so much from the crowd that one joins after the hand-cuffs and fingerprinting. Just sayin’.


Many here online don’t want government to control the online world, but that doesn’t mean that anarchy can rule. Cyber-terrorism violates the rules that everyone signs onto when they access the cloud. If they violate the rules lots of us know how to very easily backtrack them to the server that stores their content and have them deleted with just a message or phone call. I’ve participated in this process at every level at one point or other of my computer tech career. It’s easy. All access to the Internet is, at some level, funded, offered and administered by legitimate business interests that have to obey the law. Any that does not will be shut down either directly through court-order or indirectly through the lawsuits of victims, and that costs them much more than any little slithering piece of human slime is worth.


The Soon to be Unbroken

•October 22, 2014 • Leave a Comment
The central nervous system (2) is a combinatio...

The central nervous system (2) is a combination of the brain (1) and the spinal cord (3). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I don’t have time to blog today, but something Earth-shaking has occurred. I would be very remiss if I continued to talk about space here and not make room for this equally far-reaching discovery…if it’s true.


Don’t get your hopes up, but researchers in Poland seem to have found a way to regrow central nervous system tissue.


Darek Fidyka, a Bulgarian fire fighter, was stabbed. The blade severed his spinal cord. He lost all sensation and motor function in his legs and some in his arms. The father of another paralysis victim, a chef, had started the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation which funded some important research that had been tested successfully in mice.


A physician in Poland transplanted Olfactory Ensheathing Cells (OECs), grown from nerve cells removed from Darek’s nose, to the site of the break in his spinal cord. Then he transplanted some nerve tissue from Darek’s ankle to serve as scaffolding for new nerve growth. In the nose, OECs help facilitate repair and re-connect nerve cells after injuries (seriously! Click the Wiki at the top of this paragraph!). In Derek’s spinal cord they did the same thing. In months, sensation started to return to one of his legs. I think I read that after a year muscle tone had started to return. At three years he can walk again with the help of parallel bars.


They’ll do more trials, and it might be a decade or more before this treatment is fully approved and widely available, but I’m sure you understand that the implications of this are staggering. All my life I’ve been told that major nerve tissue just does not reconnect and that victims of various tragic accidents which have damaged their brain or other major nerve cells will never return to a normal life.


Like I said…Earth-shaking. How many are there in the world who might benefit from this procedure? How many other things might this technology branch out into?


See the related articles below and the text links above for more details.






She Won!

•October 10, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Malala YousafzaiYears ago, Malala Yousefazai sat on a school bus with her friend in the Swat Valley of Pakistan when a man from the Taliban suddenly boarded the bus and shot her in the head. Malala had made a name for herself as a social media activist in support of girls’ education. Her blog chronicled the arrival of the Taliban in her town and the resulting violent imposition of strict Islamic law…which includes not permitting girls and women to obtain an education. I’ve written about this here before.

Malala miraculously survived, and the more her enemies tried to silence her the more people heard her voice. The left side of her mouth does not smile anymore, the way it does in this photo, but she talks louder now. She has been interviewed countless times by the news media and even gave a speech before the United Nations.

This week she received the Nobel Peace Prize alongside a prominent Indian children’s rights activist, Kailash Satyarthi. Many were upset that she didn’t receive it last year, but perhaps the current world focus on ISIL has pulled issues like hers more into the limelight. Kailash Satyarthi has fought against child exploitation and trafficking. He may not be as well known as Malala, but I haven’t seen anyone complain about the shared glory. He deserves it.

One of these days the tyrants of the world will take notice. The information age has come full-circle, changing cultures everywhere. Our planet has begun to grow out of their way of thinking! The child rapists, slavers, exploiters, murderers will find a day when there is no where left to hide. They can’t suppress the voices of freedom being heard and spreading civilization across the globe…not anymore. They can only is sit in their bunkers and watch the world change around them…without them.
The free air is spreading.
Breath it in!

Wings in Space–Part 2

•October 3, 2014 • Leave a Comment
English: The headquarters of the Government Ac...

English: The headquarters of the Government Accountability Office in Washington. It is adjacent to the National Building Museum (which is just beyond the right edge of this image). The colorful structure at lower left is apparently a children’s playground attached to an on-site day care center. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So…the plot thickens.

As part of the process of the GAO (Government Accountability Office) protest by Sierra Nevada Corporation of NASA’s contract award to Boeing and SpaceX (see last week’s post), NASA has directed both of those companies to suspend work under those CCtCap contracts. The GAO has until January 5th to release a finding in their investigation and this suspension may last until then. No public mention seems to have been made as to whether or not they can continue development under their own funding (and financial risk).

The question is…does it matter? Is this suspension because the NASA contracts and funding is currently up in the air? Or is it just to ensure the fairness of the process for Dream Chaser?

All three of these companies still chase milestones from their earlier CCiCap contracts. This suspension by NASA does not affect that progress or timeline in any way.

All of the funding for these CCtCap contracts still depends on future Congressional votes anyway. So the money was always uncertain.

The maiden launch of the SpaceX Dragon on the ...

The maiden launch of the SpaceX Dragon on the Falcon 9. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SpaceX is single-mindedly motivated by Mars and have already said that they are prepared and willing to go it alone if they have to. Commercial Crew is just a stepping stone. If they don’t win out in the investigation (unlikely), then it would slow them down but not stop them. Do you think that there are significant contract award specific activities that they can separate out of their larger plans so they can “suspend” them for three months?

English: Promotional image showing a rendering...

English: Promotional image showing a rendering of the Bigelow Commercial Space Station with the CST-100 crew module. Boeing image number MTF10-0006-01. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Boeing is a different story. It is clear from the wording of SNC’s protest that it is the Boeing award that they have targeted in their complaint, claiming that their bid was almost $1 billion dollars less. Boeing as a company (the opinions of individuals within the company may vary from this) is in it for the money. Now I know it sounds harsh and unfair for me to say that, because it is true that all three of these competitors are businesses that want the CCtCap funding. However, the term “strictly business” really does trim down the motivational goals for a project. For Boeing, this is just one of many projects that can either benefit the company financially or not. Boeing is not on any kind of crusade like SpaceX and Sierra Nevada to dramatically advance the technology, change the face of how launches are purchased by Federal agencies, or lower launch costs. They make more money, long-term, the old way. The new way just means competition, change, cost-cutting, and loss of dominance…all things that established companies like Boeing would prefer to steer markets away from. If the CST-100 program relies on CCtCap to be profitable, and those funds are cut off, then the project could die at the hands of Boeing bean-counters.

On the other hand, Boeing also pursues future plans with Bigelow Aerospace. Bigelow makes inflatable space habitats and have had their work suspended for a while now because of the current lack of frequent human launch capability. They sent up a demonstration space station a while ago that is still in orbit.

The direction from NASA to suspend work under CCtCap might mean that once Boeing has performed all of their work under CCiCap they might just moth-ball the CST-100 for a little while as they await a final decision from the GAO. That kind of action still generates losses however, so they might instead decide to just bite the bullet and take the risk of continuing work anyway. If they don’t stop developing, and lose the contract, the losses are higher than if they’d stopped. But if they keep working and the contract stays with them anyway, then they prevent the losses (and loss of momentum) that moth-balling the project would have caused.

English: Artist's conception of the Dream Chas...

English: Artist’s conception of the Dream Chaser commercial human space transportation vehicle docked to the International Space Station. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can only conclude that the only potential for harm from the suspension would come to Boeing, but only if they step off of the path.

There is probably a list of activities that NASA can’t (openly) participate in during a suspension, but were there very many of those scheduled for before January anyway? If there were, then how many of them are so linear that they affect timelines? SpaceX has multiple, integrated, projects going on that support, but do not directly and exclusively rely on, CCtCap. Actually, now that I think about it, so does Boeing.

What about Dream Chaser? If a lot of New Space folks perceive that this suspension delays the progress of Commercial Space, then it could hurt SN’s public relations…especially if the GAO takes too long, delaying the effort measurably in the process, and then finds against SN. Others might see the possibility of human rating an orbiting space plane by 2017 as worth the headaches and possible delays of a GAO investigation.

I think that the Government Accountability Office, an entity of Congress, is not going to bend over backwards to help the New Space effort. They will look for a path that damages Boeing a little bit, just enough to try and make them look the victim, while trying to damage and delay the New Space effort. I think that means a Jan 5th decision that changes nothing in the substance of the contract awards but still tries to sow further seeds of public doubt as to why NASA and the President are even trying this new competitive approach in the first place.

SpaceX is not harmed or delayed by this, and neither is the Commercial Crew program. The GAO investigation will shed a little light on the decision process for the CCtCap contract awards and that will be refreshing anyway.

Wings in Space

•September 27, 2014 • Leave a Comment
English: Artist's conception of the Dream Chas...

English: Artist’s conception of the Dream Chaser commercial human space transportation vehicle docked to the International Space Station. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the competition so close, the stakes so high, and the money amount so large, one can understand why they did it.

Sierra Nevada Corporation filed an official protest last week with the Government Accountability Office to trigger a closer look at NASA’s decision to award contracts to SpaceX and Boeing. In their press release announcing the action, they claim that the price of their bid was almost a billion dollars lower than Boeing’s, and comparable in the other selection criteria. The details of the selection data have not yet been released.

The Dream Chaser space plane is a lifting-body craft after roughly the same style as the Space Shuttle, but much smaller. It is built to be launched on an Atlas V rocket, the same as Boeing’s CST-100 capsule, but then land on a runway. It would ride to space on the front of it’s booster rocket, instead of strapped to the side of the assembly like the Space Shuttle.

The main advantages of a space plane over a capsule are flexibility of landing options and a gentler reentry and landing. Space planes are also designed from the ground up to be reusable, at least in theory, depending on how much re-work (turn-around) they require between flights. They’re also way cool of course. Some folks complain a lot about how capsules are a very old idea, and prefer the exploration of more advanced ideas that make better use of current and future technologies. But anything that excites public interest in space increases awareness, encourages our children to do their math, and gets enterprising people thinking and dreaming. Space planes excite folks more than capsules, and that has value of its own.

Dream Chaser

Dream Chaser (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The drawback is that current technology for the more energetic types of engines necessary to reach orbit requires large amounts of fuel, and everywhere that you go in space involves changing the velocity of whatever weight you brought along for the ride. Well…wings need to be strong. The wings and the structure of the craft itself need to be solid. This makes for a very heavy vehicle, when compared to a capsule, and thus it requires more weight in fuel to move it around. Critics of the space plane concept complain mostly about a spacecraft launching and carrying around all of that extra weight for the entire mission in order to have wings, just to use them for only 20 minutes or so to glide back to Earth at the end of the flight. Also, space planes are far more complicated to design than capsules, and so they are more expensive and time-consuming to develop, build, and operate. You can reuse a space plane, but re-usability has to run much deeper than just re-flying the air frame. As much as we all loved the Space Shuttles, the cost to turn them around was drastically high. You might as well replace the engine and paint-job on your car after every round-trip to work and back. They were also prohibitively, dangerously, complex…high-maintenance primadonnas. They forced NASA to expend vast amounts time, effort, reputation and resources just to keep them flying. In the end, the Shuttle program overshadowed everything else to the point to where it could not be sustained alongside the need to build new vehicles for deep-space. The other problem, which added to the expense, was that it was funded as a government sponsored program reliant on Congress, which cares more about spending money on expensive spacecraft than it does about exploring space. The Dream Chaser does not suffer from most of these problems, but still has to live some of them down.

English: This images is the Dream Chaser space...

English: This images is the Dream Chaser spacecraft primary structure undergoing testing at the University of Colorado, Boulder during CCDev1. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sierra Nevada seems to enjoy more popularity in the New Space community than Boeing, but less than SpaceX. SpaceX is the “Golden Child” of New Space while Boeing is the “Golden Child” of Congress. I don’t see Boeing undertaking this effort for the glory of spaceflight alone, so the CST-100 program would likely end if it became unprofitable. Dragon and Dream Chaser on the other hand might live on even if they had to be operated at a small loss, because their companies look to the future profitability that would result from expanded capabilities and the promise of lower priced access to space that those platforms represent. That is the spirit of New Space, not looking to rely (only) on the old space customers of the past, but creating a new market for both the old and new space customers of the future. The New Space cheerleaders that I’ve spoken with and seen comments from, many of whom seemed very upset that Boeing received a larger contract award than SpaceX, seem split on the topic of Dream Chaser being down-selected out of the running. That could change in a hurry if close investigation starts to show that Sierra Nevada is nearly as close to building a viable spacecraft as the other two contenders, and would cost taxpayers $.9 billion dollars less than one of them. I think the New Space community would prefer to polish a space plane for flight, than spend that same money and more on what is perceived (deservedly or not) as an Old Space throwback capsule made by an Old Space hold-out corporation.

It Takes a Thief–Part 2

•September 24, 2014 • Leave a Comment

A Bid For Love NEW 1000 ResThis woman goes through fake identities like I go through donuts.

I’m referring to Sam Taylor Mullins, the fake name of a plagiarist who stole the book A Bid for Love from a friend of mine, Rachel Anne Nunes, added erotica to it, and then attempted to publish it as her own. Then, when Rachel started looking into the matter, “Sam” started an aggressive mis-information campaign designed to duck responsibility for her actions. Her reviewers, online comments directed at Rachel through blog comments and emails attempting to shame Nunes and discredit her investigation, were all under fake names. She even used other fake names to outright cyberbully Nunes and try to destroy her career.

As it turns out, the true identity of this plagarist has been found. She is (was) an elementary school teacher and many of her fake names are the stolen identities of her 3rd grade students. She also, allegedly, commandeered the names of some of the students’ parents to complain to and threaten Nunes and another author, David Farland, who had screen shots of some of the fakery with the assumed names of the students in them posted on their websites.

Now that the faker’s real name, and (a partial?) list of fake names, has been found out, investigators continue to dredge up a host of additional issues. It seems she even advertises herself as a reviewer (under other fake names) to get authors to send her their stuff for her to review/steal…so authors beware!

If this situation bothers you enough to want to help Rachel Anne Nunes continue this fight, you can do any of the following…

  • Buy her book, A Bid for Love.
  • Download A Bid for Love for your Kindle or Kindle app. It was free last time I checked.
  • Donate to Rachel’s legal fund through GoFundMe.
  • Read and propagate links to this article or any others pertaining to this issue.


I wrote back in August that I wanted the true identity of this thief ferreted out. The actions of many of you helped make that possible. Thank you.

Congress…You’re Fired! (Maybe)

•September 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Finally the announcement has been made. Earlier this week NASA selected SpaceX and Boeing for funded contracts to human rate their launchers and orbiters to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The United States Congress wanted to limit this next phase of the Commercial Crew Development program (called CCtCAP) to only one provider, but NASA thumbed its nose at Congress and selected two anyway. We’ll see what happens next. The goal is 2017. I’d like to see it sooner. The total combined amount is $6.8 billion. This year’s approved budget for it is $696 million. The providers will be paid the money as they meet each item in the progressive list of objectives and then perform between 2 and 6 crewed launches.

Sierra Nevada and their space plane received no funding, but I think I heard somewhere that they will continue as an unfunded Space Act Agreement project and thus will still have access to NASA and their knowledge base. A slower process for them, sadly, but there had to be at least one partner relegated to this status. It’s not a big surprise really since Space planes are hard to develop and we are in a hurry. Space plane building will continue on multiple fronts and will bear fruit someday.

SpaceX has the momentum, the compelling price-point, and the higher vision of Mars as their goal. Boeing has deep experience and connections within Congress. The SpaceX Falcon 9 means that we won’t have to rely completely on Russia’s RD-180 engine that is used on the Atlas V launcher that will carry the Boeing orbiter. Our dependence on business with Russia for space launches has become…inconvenient. However, the launch history of ULA and the experience of both them and Boeing may be critical to the stability of the upcoming space product and service industry in the long-haul.

If NASA wants to squeeze enough funding out of Congress for two competitors, one of the contractors had to be Boeing. If NASA wants to maintain the initiative away from traditional contracting for launchers and spacecraft, then the other choice had to be SpaceX, who is aggressive enough to elbow tradition and the good-ol’-boy network aside…with brute marketing force if necessary.

English: ISS Destiny Lab module (NASA) Deutsch...

English: ISS Destiny Lab module (NASA) Deutsch: Destiny – Modul der Internationalen Raumstation ISS (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, NASA doesn’t hold the actual purse strings, and the money fight continues. While SpaceX markets to space advocates, Boeing markets to Congress. Congress will not fork over $6.8 billion easily. Congress does not like Commercial Crew Development (CCDev). Congress likes the pork of a single provider working under traditional contracts where NASA (and thus Government) owns every major project that flies in space, so Congress has been trying to funnel this effort down to one provider by cutting its funding because they think that can eventually go back to business as usual. With traditional contracting Congresspersons get pats on the back for spending gazillions of dollars on a small network of huge employers in specific voting districts. Access to space has been subject to political whim and unnecessarily high cost for far too long, but Congress wants to continue doing things that way and rebuild a monopoly in manned spaceflight, so they will continue their efforts to try to starve out this project. NASA knows this and it also knows that space projects involve long-term commitment that the divisiveness and shifting winds of our political process are incapable of sustaining. Commercial enterprises have taken over communications satellite launches with great success. That industry now generates enough money to more than sustain itself and elected officials have no say in its direction, rate of growth, or funding levels. It is a world-wide industry that governs itself based on innovation and consumer demand.

I don’t think that Congress has entirely given up its pipe-dream of some form of the upcoming Space Launch System (SLS)…or at least Orion (the new deep-space capsule that NASA is building through traditional contracting)…being part of transportation and resupply for the ISS either, especially since planners are having trouble finding support for enough deep-space missions to maintain a stable launch frequency for those systems. That’s right, Congress wants NASA to spend $18 billion through 2017 to build SLS and Orion, but there are not enough places for it to go to maintain the massive industrial infrastructure used to build and fly it. Congress doesn’t seem to care that at $500 million per launch the purpose for which it was designed…crewed deep space exploration…is the only thing its good for. That means that Congress has their own dog in the fight for a manned Low-Earth orbiter and that New Space (and with it CCDev) are competing directly with Congressional priorities in an orbit where expensive NASA-owned launchers and space capsules no longer make any sense at all.

Congress is in a bit of a pickle. They can’t really cut into these new CCtCAP contracts without delaying the end of our reliance on Russia to shuttle U.S., Japanese, and Canadian astronauts to the International Space Station. Recent events in Ukraine are pressuring our government and the Russian government to put some space between us. Also, I think that if Congress cuts CCtCAP funding it would likely hurt their buddy Boeing more than it would SpaceX, since Boeing’s CCDev orbiter is an end unto itself, while SpaceX has a larger plan. For SpaceX founder, Elon Musk, this is all just a necessary stepping stone to a higher goal that for him will not be denied.

English: NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) refe...

English: NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) reference vehicle design baseline. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, Congress must cut CCDev deep enough to slow it down and let Orion and SLS keep-up with SpaceX if they want to ever see SLS fly. SpaceX has deep-space eggs of its own on the fire which compete directly with SLS and threaten to marginalize it even before its first launch. Falcon Heavy will test fly early next year and will cost $85 million per flight.

I stand by what I’ve said before…there are few Space advocates or opponents in the U.S. Congress…there are mostly just space FUNDING advocates or opponents. For you and I, space is a destination for spacecraft. For Congress, reelection is a destination for spacecraft spending. Orion is a great orbiter, I’ve always liked it and look forward to its first space flight test late this year, but it is owned by NASA and totally dependent on Congress for its funding. It is also way more expensive than it has to be and way too expensive to launch astronauts to the ISS. More importantly, it is way, way too expensive to use for commercial interests like commercial space stations, space tourism, resource mining and a bunch of other things that are waiting for human-rated spacecraft at down-to-Earth prices.

Speaking of expense, SpaceX fans have criticized the fact that Boeing received more money than SpaceX in these contracts. NASA awarded each of them the amount of money that they bid for the list of objectives that NASA expects them to achieve. Boeing is a much larger company than SpaceX and is addicted to the seemingly endless supply of Government money that comes with traditional contracting. This stage of CCDev is where NASA purchases the launches and other activities that SpaceX and Boeing need to perform in order to certify. Boeing’s CST-100 orbiter and the United Launch Alliance Atlas V 402 rocket are more expensive than the SpaceX’s Dragon V2 orbiter and their Falcon 9 rocket. Some Boeing fans claim that SpaceX has to cut corners in order to do the same job for $1.6 billion less, but NASA will absolutely not them do that. Their safety requirements will be just as stiff as Boeing’s. Many of you out there reading this can probably beat me across the finish line at a marathon, but it wouldn’t be because you cut corners, it would be because I’m old and fat. Competition will force all players in a properly competitive human space-flight industry to trim the fat out of their business models and bring their prices down. That will open the door to a host of new commercial endeavors in space that would not be profitable otherwise.

English: The International Space Station is fe...

English: The International Space Station is featured in this image photographed by an STS-134 crew member on the space shuttle Endeavour after the station and shuttle began their post-undocking relative separation. Undocking of the two spacecraft occurred at 11:55 p.m. (EDT) on May 29, 2011. Endeavour spent 11 days, 17 hours and 41 minutes attached to the orbiting laboratory. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That is why we space advocates in the U.S. must push our respective legislators for full funding of these new CCtCAP contracts. Whatever our respective political preferences in other things, we must join forces and keep up the pressure on our elected officials from now until these certifications are BOTH complete and these spacecraft are BOTH fully tested and flying. We must make it clear that we will tolerate no sacrifices either to the timeline or to the priorities necessary for building a self-sustaining, commercial human spaceflight industry in low Earth orbit and beyond. We need NASA to succeed in their goal to enable multiple providers to begin gaining a launch history of human spaceflight in low-Earth orbit, and with it the notoriety and experience to attract commercial customers. We want something which will grow big and lucrative and drive up innovation and launch frequency, drive down prices, and make space commonplace for each and every one of us. We owe our children and grandchildren a fast-growing new industry to work in like the one we had with the computer tech boom in the 80s and 90s.

English: The NASA insignia. Español: Insignia ...

English: The NASA insignia. Español: Insignia de la NASA. Italiano: Logo della NASA. Русский: Логотип НАСА. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


•August 30, 2014 • Leave a Comment
That’s what some have called them.

“Too radical for Al’Quida” they’ve also been called…not a ringing endorsement for a world power wannabe to be sure.

And please don’t get on about religion. Religion gets blamed for a lot of things it didn’t do. ISIL’s philosophies look to be based on Wahhabism, and Wahhabism, while it is billed as a religious philosophy, made an early rep for itself using “jihad” as just another excuse to kill people, rape their women, and steal their stuff.

ISIL obviously understands how to form and maintain collisions with the tribes and warlords that make up the Middle East. They also know how to scare people into evacuating a city instead of standing and fighting them.

Now everyone is an individual, I get that, but each subculture of individuals trend at certain behaviors and reactions. Maybe ISIL understands their culture, and maybe some of the cultures in Europe, but do they understand the U.S.?

You know…a grizzly bear knows fear, but has a particularly dangerous technique for dealing with it. It knows when something that it fears can just be smashed into not being frightening anymore. It also doesn’t really follow the tit-for-tat rules of revenge either, preferring instead to give the frightening things that it can reach the same treatment that you or I might give an irksome insect with a painful sting.

Then there are the folks in the U.S. News Media. They (and the British) don’t quite behave the same way as their colleagues in other parts of the world. Of course all of the media in industrialized nations know the compassion of the people to whom they tell their stories, and that usually would serve as sort of a buffer between the irksome insects of the world and the grizzlies.

That’s why I think that beheading U.S. journalists, and promising to come over to the U.S. and “jihad” us up if we interfere with them, isn’t a very good plan. At least, it won’t have exactly the same reaction that it seems to have been styled to provoke. People in the U.S. were busy with other things during the founding and first violence of Wahhabism. They know nothing about it and have never quite been taught to handle fear nicely.

Now perhaps ISIL are really just signalling sleeper cells in our country to go to work, but if they think that we will shake in fear and hide under a rock then they obviously carry a lack an understanding of our culture that runs deeper than our ignorance of theirs.

English: President Barack Obama delivers a pol...

English: President Barack Obama delivers a policy address on events in the Middle East and North Africa at the State Department. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

President Obama has made campaign promises to get us out of war and keep us out. I think that he believes in that and is also the kind of man who prefers to keep his promises whenever he can, but he won’t be in charge for very much longer. Also, he seems to like to swing that banner of “Humanitarianism and Protecting American Citizens” of his in a very wide arc when it comes to ISIL…with an eye towards wonking a few heads with it. We’ve all started to notice a certain duality in his comments and policies, indicative of a leader torn in a conflict between promise and inclination. So yes, he appears to be a bit irked. That same duality is also starting to flavor the public discourse in the U.S., which could soon remove the source of Obama’s only remaining restraint to shifting from a policy of “containment support” to “direct eradication”.

ISIL has declared itself to be an independent country. That is a “long haul” sort of thing, so they probably shouldn’t adopt the metaphor of a hornet for their public face, irking the U.S. news media, and making the people of the U.S. afraid of them. This new Wahhabism seems to want to walk on the same road as the first one of old…and will likewise meet with the same sticky end.

Eventually, soon, someone will just decide to smash them until they aren’t frightening anymore.

It Takes a Thief

•August 12, 2014 • Leave a Comment
A Bid For Love NEW 1000 Res

Plagiarist attempts to steal best selling author Rachel Ann Nune’s book, “A Bid For Love”.

Ya, I know. It’s been a while since I blogged. My life is wild ride right now.

I’ve wanted to talk about the need for all of us to write our legislators and encourage them not to limit CCDev‘s funding so as to force a down-select to a single provider. I haven’t found the time.

I wanted to talk about the Apollo 11 anniversary stuff. Didn’t find the time.

I want to talk about the upcoming comet landing. I still haven’t found the time.

It took a thief to call me out. A writer I know by the name of Rachel Ann Nunes is the victim of an attempted theft of one of her books “A Bid for Love” (click hereas I write this it is a free read on Kindle). It is a clean romance novel that she published fifteen years ago.

Well, someone else, acting through an untraceable pseudonym (pen name), took the book, rewrote it a little, added erotica to it, and attempted to self-publish it as their own. The Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) for this other book (one of the steps to the publishing process) went out to reviewers and one of the them recognized the content and contacted Rachel. She tried to look into it and get a copy of the ARC to see if there really was a problem and was inundated by a cascade of lies intended to muddy the waters and to try to shame her into dropping the matter. Now he or she is trying to destroy Rachel’s writing career with an online defamation campaign, again while hiding in the shadows and never revealing himself.

  • It appears as if this person pretended, through an alias third-person, to quote Sheri Dew (a well-known and respected author and speaker among Mormon women) as denouncing Rachel’s pursuit of the truth on this matter.
  • It appears as if this person, as third-person alias, claimed to be one of the reviewers and said that the two novels were clearly nothing alike at all, in spite of the fact that text excerpts show that they clearly may be.
  • It appears as if this person, through a third-person alias, claims that the blame for the plagiarism lies with an unnamed man who conveniently died in a tragic car crash recently.
  • It appears as if this person, through a third-person alias, said that Rachel is her aunt and that Rachel gave her permission to rewrite the novel and also that she gave Rachel the idea for the novel in the first place. Rachel doesn’t even have any nieces that old.
  • It appears as if this person, through an alias, tried to convince Rachel that her inquiries ended a good person’s promising writing career.
  • It appears as if this person, through an alias, implied that Rachel’s clean novel was somehow inferior in quality to the plagerized one because it was devoid of sexual content.
  • It appears as if this person, through an alias, claimed that the plagiarist has a child with autism, in order to garner sympathy from Rachel and onlookers.
  • It appears as if this person, through various aliases, has now began trashing Rachel’s books in online reviews in retaliation for her inquiries into the ARC.
  • It appears as if this person, through an alias, has said that a lawyer says that the two novels are not worded closely enough to constitute a derivative work, when the title, plot, and some released text excerpts show that it very likely is.
  • The plagiarist further, and again through a third-person alias, appears to have claimed that the copied work has been cancelled and will never be published. Really? Considering that this claim seems to have flowed from the same keyboard as all of the above BS I am somehow not fully convinced of this.

Every layer she peels off of this onion just gets slimier and slimier.

Well, court orders are able to penetrate aliases, shed light on false claims, and dig up a copies of things like ARCs to determine if this situation really does meet the legal definition of a copyright infringement, but court orders require lawyers and lawyers require money. I want the world to learn who this plagiarist is so that other authors’ hard work and investments are protected. This whole issue has long since passed my threshold of gotta-fix. I want to know the name of this liar that is gaming the book review system and putting a good person through such misery. I want what has sat hidden in the dark to be dragged, kicking and screaming, out into the sunlight. I want justice done.

The measure of success for an author is a sliding scale. Most of them are not rich, not even bestselling authors like Rachel. They make most of their money the year the book is accepted for publishing, and putting out a book every year is very hard for most of us to do unless we’re making enough at it to make a living. If a person is self-published, every penny (and associated risk) for the cover-art, editing, formatting, printing and promotion comes out of the writer’s own pocket. The only time an author exceeds a middle income from their writing is if they become Rock-Star famous, which Rachel is not.  Owning rights to a book is owning quite a lot of investment as far as time and potential future income. It is not very liquid…it can’t be easily turned to cash…but it still valuable property that needs to be protected from the con-artists of the world. If an artist can’t protect their work, then they could loose even what they have.

Which brings me to you.

Rachel has started a fund raiser on GoFundMe (click here) to gather money for lawyers. Please don’t take my word for it, because my remarks on this are all, technically, hearsay. Instead, read her blog entry (here) on the matter to get all of the specifics before contributing. Also read David Farland’s summary of the situation (click here). He is far more knowledgeable and larger (better connected…not fat 😉 ) in the publishing industry than I am, which makes him a much more authoritative central resource on the particulars. I also see that Zamanta has found a couple of other blog entries on this issue for you to read in Related Articles below.

The cool thing about crown-funding is that a large number of folks can give just a small amount and combine into quite a lot.  The last time I checked, folks like you and I had thrown in a total of about $3.5K. Let’s see if we can double that today. I’m triggering this blog article at the time in the week of the highest traffic on social media (Saturday mid-morning) to get the most initial hits that my small marketing footprint is able to achieve. It is also about a week after David Farland posted his article, so his remarks are probably losing steam in social media about now. They didn’t go viral. If you have a blog, and are animated by this cause, please write about it to keep the momentum of this issue moving. Please include the link to Rachel’s the Kickstarter and maybe to David’s remarks (for the same reasons that I did). If you don’t have a blog, share the kickstarter with a brief explanation and/or Rachel’s blog entry.

Let’s catch a thief.  🙂

Orbiter 2010 Space Flight Simulator

•May 31, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I don’t need another computer game in my life.

I really don’t.

I was re-watching the announcement of the new Dragon spacecraft

…when on the list of similar videos, I came across an instructional video by Davis Courtney on a space flight simulator flying Dragon V1 out to the moon.


Apparently this really fun thing has been out for a few years now. I used to fly Microsoft Flight Simulator many years ago (landing is tough! I crashed a lot!) back when computer games were the thing I spent the most time on. I still have it in a pile of diskettes somewhere. These days I haven’t even had time to blog. It’s a challenge just finding a way to squeeze more than five hours of sleep out of each night. I’ve had to dial my writing and convention attendance way back to nearly nill (I did write a 600 word flash fiction on my phone last week during some throwaway time though).

I really, really don’t need another computer game in my life right now. I really don’t. Especially one that I have to sit down at my PC for. Starfleet Commander Extreme or Angry Birds Star Wars or Fruit Ninja are all games that I can play on my Droid 4 phone during throwaway time (no I haven’t tried Flappy Bird…no one has enough throwaway time in their life for that one!).

But this one is SO COOL!

You can fly NASA’s early first missions and spacecraft with Apollo, Gemini, and others.

You can pull the Space Shuttle out of moth-balls and launch it on a joy-ride out  to dock with the ISS.

You can fly futuristic space planes anywhere in the solar system.

You can build your own.

The sky’s the limit (pun intended).

It’s called Orbiter 2010. Google it. Be warned however, it is intended to be as realistic as the old Flight Simulator. You have to learn how to put the craft in orbit and calculate orbital sling-shots to planets and all that. There are great tools and documentation available for to help you, but you still have to spend time learning how to fly. It isn’t dumbed down enough to just plug in your joystick and go.

Plus, it has endless expansion modules and fan supported content.

Yep. A complicated, interactive, real-time, PC based game that appeals to my fantasies and has lots of stuff to learn, eats up lots of time, takes me anywhere, and never ends…

I played it for the first time after midnight last night. I failed several times, but I’m slowly getting better. As I write this I’m re-watching Davis Courtney‘s first “getting started” video with my scary-smart ten-year old son and fellow gaming addict on his first day of summer vacation from school.

Hey, it’s better than him playing Angry Birds all summer right? At the rate at which commercial space is growing, he might get to do it for real some day. Orbiter 2010 is just proactive educational software…right?

That’s my story anyway and I’m sticking to it.

Explore the New Cosmos

•March 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Dr. at the November 29, 2005 meeting of the NA...

Dr. at the November 29, 2005 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council, in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Astronomer Carl Sagan headed an effort to educate the masses about the world and universe in which we live. He did this through speeches, his hit TV series Cosmos, and through personal interaction with individuals such as a young Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Now the boy Tyson, who has grown to renoun himself, has joined with those who partnered with Sagan on Cosmos to produce a new Cosmos. More has been learned about the Earth and cosmos since the end of the old series than was known before it. This new TV series is literally built on the foundation of the old, with the same writers and style as the old, but with a new host, new science, new special effects and new cultural barriers to its message.

In the first episode, Tyson tells the story of the vision of Giordano Bruno, an Italian religious philosopher and controversial figure who aroused the ire of the Catholic Church of his day and was burned at the stake for it. I should note in all fairness that it was a much more self-centered and closed-minded Catholic Church in those days than the one of today. In fact, few know that the Catholic Church maintains its own scientific labs and research groups.

Some have criticized Tyson’s rendering of Bruno, and perhaps that needs to be looked at more closely (seriously, it’s easy enough for anyone to research), but the message in that segment of the program is important. Is there still a credible conflict between science and religion? I claim there is not, that it is a manufactured debate between the more closed-minded and arrogant atheists and theologians among us, sealed in a box arguing with each other.

Carl Sagan <3

Carl Sagan ❤ (Photo credit: miscellaneaarts)

What some have claimed loudly to be a minority view, that science and religion are compatible with one and other and that a skeptical scientist cannot also be a person of faith, turns out to be in the majority. We just need to shout our views more loudly. This first episode of the new Cosmos seems to have roused a discussion on this topic. This is healthy and necessary to get out of the way. Too many otherwise smart and influential people, who could accomplish so much more for the expansion of human knowledge, are wasting publicity on these hopelessly polarized and discredited positions. The scientists on one side of the debate could instead be teaching the people the importance of math and science for their futures. The theologians should spend their time teaching morality, which really is what the stories in scriptures are truly about. Those topics have become very badly needed by our culture today.

There were other messages, but I’m out of time. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed several parts of it a lot. I can’t wait for the next episode.

The legacy of Carl Sagan, and of Dr. Tyson for that matter, is to educate. So let’s join with them to educate the thinkers and the non-thinkers alike. Then we really need to persuade more of them to think.

Cover of "Cosmos"

Cover of Cosmos

Enhanced by Zemanta

Elevator Pitch

•March 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

In my short story, “Another Man’s Terrorist“, Jessica and Bobby arrive at a space station and then ride a space elevator to the planet’s surface.

In real life, a space elevator to geosynchronous Earth orbit won’t be seen for a awhile, waiting for better materials technology and a little safer orbital debris environment. However, a few days ago I read about a similar effort that can help develop the technology in the interim. The side of the Moon that we always see faces not only us, but also the Earth-Moon L1 Lagrange point, and a company called LiftPort wants to build a space elevator between the lunar surface and that Lagrange point.  In case you’re not familiar with Lagrange points, they are areas of gravitational equilibrium between two bodies (stars, planets, moons) in space…places where items follow different orbital rules. You can put something in a Lagrange point and it just kind of hangs there. Different Lagrange points can be used for different things depending on location and the need for stability (some Lagrange points are more stable than others).


Liftport wants to use a lunar space elevator to lift resources from the moon and gently land spacecraft down to it to aid the development of humanity’s space expansions, including the development of an Earth-based space elevator. The company recently launched a letter writing campaign to the U.S. Congress to try and get a NASA funded project going.

It would require a lot in the way of startup funding to move such a project forward of course. They would have to lift a whole heck of a lot of equipment to the lunar surface, something that is still very expensive right now. Will they build a spacecraft that can land on the moon and then build the system using robotics? Or will they send people? Such a project would almost have to have a high-value return (cash crop) already planned out and ready to deliver all the way back to the Earth’s surface in order to fund its operation immediately after it is built, so several Earth-return vehicles would need to also land on the moon. So this is really two separate, expensive, projects. There are such products there, Helium 3 is very expensive here on Earth and existing supply is almost depleted.  It might seem like low-hanging fruit since it is believed to be plentiful on the Moon, yet its rarity also limits demand at the moment. Someone needs to deliver more of it here to get that started. Is Liftport’s lunar elevator the best way to launch a lunar Helium3 mining industry? Maybe they can partner with someone else to do the actual mining.  Maybe they can get their startup funding through partnerships with a variety of lunar commercial startup interests. 

I wonder how useful that Lagrange point really is in comparison to the moon itself as a launch destination and point of origin.  It doesn’t really take much to launch from the lunar surface with rockets, and I’m guessing that a Lagrange point is a less convenient routine destination than the moon, since gravity won’t be able to decelerate arriving spacecraft. Is it easier to rover the dust and other things to the space elevator teather for lift, or just launch it from wherever it is straight to space and an Earth-return orbit all in one shot?

It’ll be fun to watch and see where this goes…more fun than talking about Justin Bieber‘s uninvited house guest. Yes, I included that because he’s trending again today and I am shamelessly entering this much more important space elevator topic into that discussion. Shame, shame shame… 😉

Full Moon view from earth In Belgium (Hamois)....

Full Moon view from earth In Belgium (Hamois). Français : Pleine Lune vue de la Terre en Belgique à Hamois. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Enhanced by Zemanta

You Are Here

•February 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Just in case you get lost…


Ok…I did edit it slightly.  Curiosity rover took this excellent picture of Earth as a point of light in the night skies of Mars.  When I first heard about this I hoped that it included the Mars skyline…and it looks great.  I wonder who will be the first to walk along that ridgeline.

Some day…some day very soon…humans will look in the sky and see this sight.  In fact, I think I’ll add that to a story I’ve been working on.  I’ve written about Mars One and some folks have since talked about it being just another way to die in space, but many have died in the exploration of this planet and we seem to think it was worth it.  They became heros.  Death and exploration are both part of the human experience.  Of course I still hope that no one dies (prematurely) on or on the way to Mars,  but how many lives will be saved or improved by the tech advances that will come out of a human exploration of Mars?  Which of those advances will help us better understand and explore our own planet?  We won’t know until we get it done.  Like the lettering on a balloon, everything just grows bigger when we expand our world.

The Mars One effort lands people on the planet to stay.  The Inspiration Mars effort wouldn’t land there, but would carry two people in a solar orbit that swings past Mars and then brings them back home.  They intend to lauch this mission in 2018.

An artist's impression of a Mars sample return...

An artist’s impression of a Mars sample return mission launching its payload back to Earth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Red Dragon, a mission design being put together by SpaceX and NASA’s Ames (Sally Ride?) Research Center, would be a sample return mission that is also intended to be flown as if it carried humans.  The mission would be proof of concept, to demonstrate that the Dragon spacecraft could deliver people to the Mars surface successfully and safely.  It would use no parachute, just the capsule’s retro thrusters.  How cool is that?

Mars One in 2024, Inspiration Mars in 2018 , Red Dragon in 2018 (if funded)…did I miss any?  These are all aggressive efforts.  The opportunity waits only for Mars to swing past Earth again.  The technology will arrive before then.  If these efforts wait for anything they wait only for support from you.

Would you like to look up and see Earth rising over an alien mountaintop?  Think of it.


These two beautiful people are available to help populate Mars. Actually they’re probably just models, but still.
Are you available to populate Mars? Click here for the T-Shirt from (No, I don’t get a kickback…I just think it’s cool)

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Drama of #Mars

•January 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Jelly Doughnut RockWe live in stunning, Earth-shaking times, when a single research organization makes breakthrough scientific discoveries that cannot be duplicated or corroborated because they have sole access to the object being tested.

We achieve the far-reaching efficiency of a whole team of scientists exploring a narrow footpath, 24 miles long, in only a decade.

Our minds reel to keep up with the fast-moving pace of kicking over a small rock and looking under it in just weeks.

Sorry, my cynicism isn’t directed at the Mars Explorer team.  They are doing the best they can, and a marvelous job, with the limited tools that we have given them.

I once listened in on a conversation between a circle of avid cat-lovers, talking about what they liked best about their favorite pet cat they’ve ever owned.  I almost broke out laughing when I noticed that every one of the activities and personality traits they highlighted were rare among cats but which existentially define dogs.  I almost jumped up and screamed, “For crying out loud people, just get a dog!”

The JPL scientists discuss the health of the Mars Exploration rovers using terms that a physician would use to discuss a human patient.  They crow about the long life of the ten-year old Opportunity Rover in terms that we use to compliment the vitality of an elderly person.  They think that it is great that the rover has achieved a lot in its life, traveling and taking pictures and discovering new things…and can look back on a decade of service to humanity.  Now they marvel that it has kicked over a rock and looked under it.  Sounds like the things that we like the most about the Opportunity rover are rare to robots, but are things that people, especially human scientists, do all the time.

For crying out loud people…just send some humans.

In the movie “Ever After”, Patrick Godfrey, playing Leonardo da Vinci, lets Cinderella (played by Drew Barrymore) out of a room that her step mother (Anjelica Huston) has locked her in.  He does this by pulling the hinge pins out of the door…something I thought was an awesomely DaVincish thing to do.  When the servants marvel at his brilliance, he grins that sly and wicked grin of his and quips, “Yes! I shall go down in history as the man who opened a door!”

I fear that Opportunity, in spite of all of its achievements, shall some day go down in history as the robot that turned a stone.  Hidden underneath the “Jelly Doughnut” rock lies more than just some great science, but also the very flaws inherent in the mindset of sending a robot to do a man’s job.  It has taken Opportunity a decade, on a world awash in rocks and new things, to find something new hidden under a rock.  What if a human boot had kicked over the Jelly Doughnut rock years ago?  Think of it.  I don’t know how many scientists work on the Opportunity rover team, but what if that same number of men and women actually had been on Mars, making trails in pairs and kicking over rocks, for the past ten Earth years?

Yes, I know that it is a lot cheaper to send robots to the Moon and Mars, and we do wonderful things with them, but where it takes a decade for a robot to look under a rock, it takes a human about, what, as long as it takes him or her to see a rock, pick it up, and look underneath?  We rack our brains on the question of how to get a rover in to look at what satellite imagery seems to have identified as something akin to actual running water on Mars, but a human could have just jumped in a vehicle and driven over to check it out.  We stress over the fate of the now deceased Spirit Rover when someone could have just gone over and given it a good push, some repairs, and a jump-start.  It’s ridiculous!

You get what you pay for I guess.  I just think we are loosing a lot of time, money, and opportunity pouring half-pennies into a vending machine that takes dollars, while some culture-advancing prize lies just out of our reach behind the glass.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Life, the Universe, & Everything 2014

•January 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment


I had a pleasant surprise this week.
I found out that I’m on five panels at LTUE this year.
Named after the book by Douglas Adams, LTUE is an annual academic symposium held in Provo Utah.  In it, writers help other writers learn the trade, build contacts, and work together to succeed.  This year the guest of honor is Orson Scott Card.  It will be held in the Provo Downtown Marriot on February 13th, 14th, and 15th.  Click here for the schedule (at this writing it is not yet ready for public release…stay tuned.
Any of you who aspire to write Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, or any other kind of fiction should join us there if you can.  Take time off work.  Get a babysitter.  Quit your job (not really).  You won’t be sorry.
My panels are listed below.  This is from version 2 of the unreleased schedule and thus is still subject to change.  I’ve included the names and websites of my fellow panelists as best as I can find out.

Orson Scott Card at Life, the Universe, & Ever...

Orson Scott Card at Life, the Universe, & Everything at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

February 13th, 10:00 am–“Write What You Don’t Know”–Bryce Room

C. Michelle Jefferies
Julia H. West
Nathan Shumate – Moderator
Adam Sidwell

I have no idea what this panel talks about.  I guess I’ll find out when I get there…which seems appropriate actually.  😉

February 13th, 3:00 pm–“Apocalypses Throughout History”–Arches Room

Eric Swedin
Aneeka Richins
David Ferro
Johnny Worthen – Moderator
Deren Hansen

300 year droughts, ice ages, super volcanoes, meteor strikes, poison gas rising out of the oceans at night (that generation of dinosaur was boring anyway)…nature has some truly frightening ways of killing off her children.  Speculative Fiction is about saying “What if…”, so, what if one of these happened today?

Closeup of Michael R. Collings at Life, the Un...

Closeup of Michael R. Collings at Life, the Universe, & Everything 2008 at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

February 14th, 9:00 am–“Signing a Contract”–Canyon Room

Brett T.M. Peterson
Jaclyn M. Hawkes – Moderator
Kevin H. Evans
S. M. Anderson

What’s more important, getting the money or controlling the destiny of your work?  You’ll need to draw your line and sign your name somewhere in the balance between those in order to get published.

February 14th, 4:00 pm–“Marketing Yourself as an Author”–Canyon Room

Annie Oswald
Chas Hathaway – Moderator
Shawna Fillmore
Teri Harman

Published authors are each one in a million…literally!  Never has that been more true than now.  So how do you stand out in the crowd?

February 15th, 12:00 pm–“ePublishing Short Stories”–Canyon Room

Me! – Moderator
EA Younker
Elana Johnson
Joe Vasicek
Paul Genesse
Scott William Taylor

ePublishing is the way of the future, that much is plain.  But how to do it?  Where do you submit your material?  I don’t know as much about how to do this as I would like, which is why I asked to moderate this panel.

Some of these people I know and some I don’t.  It’ll be fun.  Will I see you there as well?  I hope so.

Fellow panelists…I made an honest effort this morning to link to all of your websites, but perhaps I tried too hard.  If that’s not your website that I linked to…or if your weblink is here but you’re not who I think you are, please let me know in the comments and I’ll fix it.

Update 2/6/2014–Made some changes as the schedule added and removed some panelists.  I also add the rooms. 

In another addition, though I can’t be there, Tom Carr will present The Pinkertons at the film festival on the 14th at 4:00 pm.  My face will be in two rooms at the same time, once in the Amphitheater on the screen and in person in the Canyon Room at the “Marketing Yourself as an Author” panel.  Of course, you *could* download and print pictures of me off of my Facebook page and pass them around the symposium so that I could be many other places at once–but I never suggested it, no not at all.  😉

The first issue of Tomorrow Speculative Fictio...

The first issue of Tomorrow Speculative Fiction (January 1993) had a cover illustration by Alex Schomburg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Enhanced by Zemanta

#SpaceX Launches the Year Of Space

•January 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

On Monday, only about a month after their last launch of 2013, SpaceX used one of their Falcon 9 rockets to deliver a Thai communications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit from the same launch pad.  From there, the satellite will move itself into its assigned slot in Geostationary orbit (GSO), which is quite far out where the orbital period is exactly 24 hours and causes the satellite to appear to “hover” over a specific spot along the equator of the planet so that folks can aim stationary satellite dishes at it.  This was their first launch into that orbit and one step closer to Elon Musk’s goal of eventually launching a rocket to Mars.  Mars won’t be reached by this rocket though.  Every launch, each higher orbit, adds to their launch history and knowledge base to help them better refine their rockets and launch support.  Increased launch frequency also lowers overall cost per launch.


The Falcon Heavy will be their Mars rocket, as well as the launcher for even larger payloads into those higher Earth orbits like GSO.  Some time this year they plan their first two launches of the Falcon Heavy and they already have signed contracts for Falcon Heavy launches for the Air Force and for IntelSat.

What will this do?  Well, they still intend to maintain their $1000 per pound price tag to Low Earth Orbit.  In fact they plan to reduce the cost even further by developing a vertical power-landing ability for their first stage, and maybe even the second, and then reusing the rockets.   They say that this will be even easier with Falcon Heavy, because the two strapped on boosters leave the rocket sooner than with the Falcon 9.  They compete with long-standing market leaders in the heavy-launch industry who are now struggling to figure out how to match the SpaceX price point.

I want to talk about that today.  Their price also tops any launch vehicle that Governments, notoriously wasteful, can contract and build.  China has already told Elon that they can’t compete with him.  When the Falcon Heavy launches for the first time, SpaceX will be in direct competition with NASA’s upcoming Space Launch System (or as critics of the SLS have called it, “Senate Launch System“) and will fly in space while the SLS is still a paper rocket.  How that will play out politically will be fun to watch.  NASA (or maybe Congress) continues to refuse to fund the SpaceX’s proposed Red Dragon mission to Mars.  I think they’re snubbing SpaceX for Mars missions because they don’t want the Falcon (and the Dragon capsule) to get there before SLS and Orion.  Of course, the entire Falcon Heavy program costs less than even one SLS launch, so it in today’s tight budget environment it is only a matter of time before they see the light.  It’ll just take that one launch of of FH later this year to get the ball rolling.

The SLS will be the biggest rocket in history, but until it launches Falcon heavy will have the capacity to launch the most weight to orbit of any vehicle currently in operation, more than the Space Shuttle ever did and second only to the now-extinct Saturn V.  According to the SpaceX Wiki…

“While the official specifications of the new launcher limits LEO payloads to 53,000 kilograms (120,000 lb)[4] and GTO payloads to 12,000 kilograms (26,000 lb),[11] reports in 2011 had suggested higher payloads beyond low Earth orbit, including 19,000 kilograms (42,000 lb) to geostationary transfer orbit,[18] 16,000 kilograms (35,000 lb) to translunar trajectory, and 14,000 kilograms (31,000 lb) on a trans-Martian orbit to Mars.[13][19] As of January 2014 SpaceX’s website states that the payload to GTO will be 21,200 kilograms (47,000 lb)”

Trans-Martian is a solar orbit that jumps a spacecraft from Earth orbit out to Mars orbit, SpaceX will be an Interplanetary launch provider and will then drop the price of such launches astronomically (yes, pun intended ;).  They will place Moon and Mars launches well within the reach of countries, self-funded commercial enterprises, and variously funded research projects…for which Interplanetary travel would not be feasible at the ridiculous prices of the standing “old school” launch service providers who’s pricing structure depends on “GSA” type Government contracting for their bread and butter.  It also takes the progress of Interplanetary space flight out of the hands of the U.S. Congress forever, since Government is incapable of cutting waste and lowering cost and because Government-built rockets will no longer be necessary.  The SLS and the Congressionally mandated budget, suppliers, schedule, and politics that go with it, will become completely obsolete overnight and forever.  This will waste the many, many billions of dollars that have already been spent on it…dollars that are currently being strip-mined from Interplanetary and Interstellar research projects throughout NASA to feed the SLS dinosaur that we would never have been able to afford to fly.

It’ll also give the United States a monopoly in a global, multi-trillion dollar  export industry that relies on high-paying, high-tech engineering jobs here at home.


This is what will happen over the next few years.  The first Falcon Heavy launch to Mars will be pushed by the need to try to meet the next Mars launch window (when Earth and Mars align with each other in orbit).  Yes…I think that once the design is considered reliable and solid, Elon will try to launch a Falcon Heavy rocket into that window, even if he has to spent every penny of his own personal fortune to do it.

The Falcon Heavy will make 2014 a very big year in space.

The Moon and Mars

The Moon and Mars (Photo credit: Tolka Rover)

Enhanced by Zemanta

Look! See the Distant Planet, Orbiting a Distant Star?

•January 7, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Look here…


Gemini Planet Imager‘s first light image of Beta Pictoris b, a planet orbiting the star Beta Pictoris. The star, Beta Pictoris, is blocked in this image by a mask so its light doesn’t interfere with the light of the planet. Credit: Processing by Christian Marois, NRC Canada.
Read more:

That’s right.  What you see is a really big gas giant planet in orbit around someone else’s sun.  It is not a computer simulation or an artist’s rendering of what might be, but an actual world, Beta Pictoris b, bathed in light from its own honest to goodness star, Beta Pictoris.  Cool huh?  Thanks go to the Gemini Planet Finder.

Now go out on a clear night and look to the East a couple of hours after sunset (sometime soon after I write this).  See that bright light in the sky?  That is Jupiter, the largest of our own gas giants.

Beta Pictoris b

Beta Pictoris b (Photo credit: Dallas1200am)

Of course, you can imagine that the planet in the above image has rings too.  They’d look different from Jupiter’s or Saturn’s, like a fingerprint, unique to that world alone.

It must shepherd a number of moons too, tugging them along with it like a flock on its long journey around the star.  You can’t see them, but you can think of no reason to imagine that they’d be missing.  The planet would appear lonely without them.

It also has Lagrange points that it shares its orbit with.  It is fundamental to orbiting bodies and all of the planets that orbit Sol have them.  Picture, in your mind’s eye view, some rock stuck there in the planet’s sky just tagging along, suspended as if by an unseen hand.

Terra Mater LIVE: How to build a Planet

Terra Mater LIVE: How to build a Planet (Photo credit: Ars Electronica)

Somewhere, much nearer the star, shrouded in its brilliance, are the rocky little places that we rather euphemistically call “Earth-like”.  None of them look exactly like Earth of course, and Beta Pictoris is very young so you won’t find anything even remotely like Earth orbiting it.  But if but you close your eyes you can make one!  Form a blue globe, splotched with interconnected browns and greens for land masses.  Put small, irregular patches of pure white at opposite ends, and surround it with willow wisps of clouds twirling and dancing close over its surface.

Now zoom in close.  See those two little people down there, straining their necks to look up at the sky?

What are they doing there?  Why did they stop to gaze at the stars?

Tell the world their story.  😉

Enhanced by Zemanta

Who’s The Racist Here Really?

•December 31, 2013 • Leave a Comment


Ok.  I try not to talk politics much here in my blog, even when things annoy me.  I use my Facebook page for that.  But come on!  This has steam escaping my collar is puffs.

Black conservatives in the U.S. are villified and called “not really black” by the African American community and the Liberal Left, and for what, so that bigots like Melissa Harris-Perry, Pia Glenn, and Dean Obeidallah can make heartless cracks about Mitt Romney‘s adopted grandchild being the only black in an all white family, saying that the family looks like the Republican Party?

Excuse me?  So who does the child in this photo represent to these people?  Colin Powell?  Condolisa Rice?  Prior to Barack Obama, they were two of the highest ranking African Americans to hold an office in the Executive Branch, and were both appointed by Republican administrations.  To my knowledge (and please correct me if I’m wrong) Bill Clinton only hired blacks as speech writers when he was President.  I’ll admit that there are some in the Republican Party who still hold on to their age-old bigotry against African Americans, but the rest of us treat them as people…as equals, while the left treats them as a locked-in voter demographic, to be kept down in poverty and subsistence so that they can be controlled by Democrats.  The Republican party was founded on an anti-slavery platform while Democrats today still treat African Americans as slaves to keep themselves in power.  Equality for blacks is automatic in the eyes of most Republicans, while the Democrats seem to give them nothing but lip service.

Ben and Andelynne Romney did a good thing by adopting little Kieran.  These snide comments from the Liberal Media say more about them and the racist roots of the Democratic Party than they do about Mitt Romney, his family, or the Republican Party.

I’ll get off of my soap box now.


Update: Melissa Harris-Perry apologized, at least for attacking Mitt’s family on-air.  I’m good with it, but she didn’t admit to or apologize for her own racism.  There is the content of the attack that needs to be publicly…enlightened upon.  Liberals have isolated the African American demographic from Conservatism by belittling Black Conservatives and they have done it to maintain a cultural separation along racial lines and a reliable voting block for themselves.  The fact that these comments from within the media ever occurred at all still makes us all wonder who the racists in this discussion really are.  Melissa should have opened discussion on this by apologizing for her own racism.  Apparently, she and the left still aren’t yet ready to throw any light on that.  Frankly, I’m not surprised.


Enhanced by Zemanta

#LadyGaGa To Go to #Space?

•December 26, 2013 • 1 Comment
Lady GaGa

Lady GaGa (Photo credit: ama_lia)

I once whined that while science and commercial space make history over and over, Twitter and Facebook trends still followed Justin Beiber and Lady GaGa around like lonely puppies, heralding their every trivial move.  I even quipped that Planetary Resources might get more Twitter coverage if they named a spacecraft after Justin.

Well, someone must have been listening.  I learned today, somewhat belatedly, that Lady Gaga plans to perform in space.  Apparently, someone gave her a ticket to fly with Virgin Galactic in 2015.  While she’s up there she’s going to sing something.

My sarcasm aside, this is clearly a PR stunt and shows that routine access to space might be growing in importance to someone other than just us geeks.  I hope that Congress is listening.

And…just in case your wondering…the answer is yes.  I will be here when she launches, shamelessly trying and get attention by sticking #ladygaga on Tweet again.  😉

Justin?  Are you next?

#JustinBeiber on the #Moon <insert blog link here>

Christmas Music Playlists on YouTube

•December 15, 2013 • 2 Comments

It’s that time of year again.

Christmas in the post-War United States

Christmas in the post-War United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve updated the YouTube Christmas Music playlists that I built in previous years, removing deletions and adding a few to replace them.  The Kathy Mattea video, “Mary Did You Know”, that kicked off this 2 year long habit of mine (and cover track for my Christmas Favorites playlist), was deleted this year.  So I went searching and found another copy of it to add back in and then moved it up to the start where it goes.  The slide show playlist from last year lost a few titles too, but it looks like folks are making and posting those a lot faster than they disappear.  I’ll just need to keep looking and adding.  I want to double its size so that listening to it repeatedly doesn’t sound to…you know…repetitious. 😉

This year, I’ve added two new lists.

Christmas Music Videos

During this past year or so I’ve become a big fan of YouTube music videos performed by The Piano Guys and Lindsey Sterling.  The advantage of these to a playlist is that these people are native YouTubers and the videos are posted by them, on purpose, instead of by fans posting without permission.  Therefore, these videos will endure and won’t drop off of the list.  I found both of those two artists when I was mesmerized by “O Come, Emanuel” by the Piano Guys last Christmas.  Earlier, I had seen a brief clip of Lindsey Sterling in an advertisement for something else and wanted to see more, but didn’t know who she was or where to find any more of her work.  Then while going through Piano Guys postings, I found her in one of their videos–the fun-filled Misson Impossible Theme Song that they made together.  Anyway, their videos do not have the home-movie flavor so common to YouTube.  They shoot multiple takes from different angles and often with different backdrops and wardrobe and then mix them together in a cool way while the music rolls right through.  It stands right up alongside material produced by pros with a lot more money to throw around.  This is why I decided to put together a playlist of Christmas videos by them and others.  It’s kicked off by two Piano Guys videos and two Lindsey Sterling videos, but I’ve fleshed it out with other professionally produced (or professional-looking) music videos by other artists of various arrangement styles.  Eventually I will refine it more, but I need to find enough of that type of material to fill it with before I get too picky.  The cover is not “O Come, Emanuel” however, but an innovative arrangement of “Angels We Have Heard on High” that they released last month.  In it, several guys stand around the piano and play it like a stringed instrument.  Way cool.


This is a bit of a toughy.  The entire purpose of these playlists was to be able to just set up a computer and walk away and have it fill the area with the Christmas Spirit while I go off and do something else.  Well, some folks have put together whole videos with a collection of tracks played against slides and/or video snippets of Christmassy scenes.  Some of these are as long as four hours and each plays a bit like my slide show playlist.  I’ve managed to collect about a dozen in then list so far, however cuts like these seem to have a short lifespan.  They are bound to contain copyrighted material somewhere which someone notices eventually.  When that happens, the powers that be don’t delete the video, they replace the entire four hours with dead air, played over a black background with text that explains the infringement.  I guess what I’m saying is that I’ll need your help keeping up with this list because it’s going to be higher maintenance than my other ones.  If you see a dead-air video on it, just let me know somehow and I’ll remove it.  The playlist won’t miss it, since I probably have about a full day’s of material in the list so far.  Also, some of these tracks are a little off-the-track, but I haven’t finished vetting all of the songs in some of these videos (for obvious reasons).  So have patience while I find time to play them all the way through for myself.

BTW, when I first started doing this, some mobile YouTube apps didn’t like playlists and I even had trouble posting a link to a playlist in WordPress so that it played the whole list and not just the cover video.  Now, both mobile apps and WordPress are playlist smart!  We are going to have lots of fun with these in the future.


For an easy list of all of my playlists, go to my YouTube page by clicking here or just search YouTube for whousley.

O Come O Come Emmanuel Lyrics

•December 8, 2013 • Leave a Comment

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times did’st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

From India to Mars: The Voyage of #Mangalyaan

•November 9, 2013 • 3 Comments
English: Photograph of Martian Sunset taken fr...

Is this Mars sunset in India’s future? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many years ago, during my college days, I saw a magazine cover article on India’s space program.  This was back when that country first started providing Earth-orbiting launch services shortly after that industry first began.  It showed a man leading an ox-cart full of hay down a jungle road, back-dropped by a rocket launch.

Now Earth-orbiting satellites are a huge industry and India has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world.  Their policies concerning debt mean that they have weathered the last couple of recessions better than most, but their leaders admit that they still have two populations, and one of those remains very poor.  The conflict in Kashmir rages on as Islamic fundamentalists and Pakistan struggle to establish Shiria Law in the India’s Muslim-dominated North.  The country is also uncivilized in several other serious ways that I would like to see reformed.  Some look at India’s list of problems and say that they can’t afford a space program.

Dr. Vikram Sarabhai and Dr. Paine Sign a Satel...

Dr. Vikram Sarabhai and Dr. Paine Sign a Satellite Agreement – GPN-2002-000081 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Earlier this week, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launched a Mars probe which some call MOM (for Mars Orbital Mission) or Mangalyaan.  Earth’s oceans, Solar orbit and the Mars surface are littered with the bones of failed Mars spacecraft, so this probe still has a long way to go yet before anyone can call it an unqualified success.  Be that as it may, each milestone achieved makes history and forges a new future for India.  If it arrives in Mars orbit successfully, it will perform some new experiments that will add to the world’s knowledge-base regarding the atmosphere of Mars, though its primary mission is just developing and testing the capability to get there.

Here’s the thing.  This knowledge-base of which I speak is not just some numbers on a computer printout somewhere, it resides in the expert-base and technical infrastructure of the country.  The experience that they gain, the capabilities that they develop, and the reputation that they forge will be resources that other people the world over will need going forward.  Knowledge is power, and power is position and opportunity and in the new space race that positioning is more valuable than gold.  At a measly $69 Million U.S. for this mission, India is spending proverbial pennies on the dollar to possibly become the fourth Mars-capable country of the world.

Documentary INSAT 1B spacecraft STS-8 cargo, H...

Documentary INSAT 1B spacecraft, Space Shuttle STS-8 cargo, HGR. AO. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That is the reality and anyone who thinks otherwise has blinders on.  Even while Mars is still nothing more than a scientific interest, knowledge about how to get there already brings positive returns on investment.  However, at some future, as yet unknown, date someone will discover something about Mars that is unique, valuable, and unavailable here on Earth.  It is…well, I don’t know yet, but it will trigger a fervor that historians will later liken to the Gold Rush in the United States.  Everyone with Mars experience will then become part of a new industrial revolution that will produce unimaginable wealth for the few infrastructures around the world that possess Mars expertise, and provide high-paying, high-tech jobs for millions of people.  India wants to be one of those few, and rightly so.

I hope that their probe achieves Mars orbit.  Such efforts cost such a small amount in comparison to their benefit.  Kudos to India for investing in their future…spending money paying people who will build a hope for the country and its poor.

Moons of Mars

Moons of Mars (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dollars to Doughnuts

•October 30, 2013 • Leave a Comment

 In August of 2012. NASA landed a highly advanced rover the size of an automobile on Mars using an innovative, one of a kind, rocket-propelled sky-crane. Hitting Mars orbit with anything is not easy and

Mosaic image of Mars as seen by Viking 1, 22 F...

Mosaic image of Mars as seen by Viking 1, 22 February 1980 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NASA is the best in the world at doing it. This effort was historic, highly successful, employed (and continues to employ) large numbers of high-paid engineers and support staff, and raised the technology level for such landings significantly not only for Mars but for other targets all over the solar system. The science being performed by the rover is unprecedented both in quality and quantity and has redefined our view of Mars. The effort is so successful that they are planning to land another just like it and some talk about using the sky-crane for a different mission as well. As usual, there are also a bunch of benefits in direct and indirect spin-off technologies, as well as increased interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields among the rising generation as a result of Curiosity.

The total cost of that project, spread out over 8 years, has been around 2.5 Billion U.S. dollars ( About 20% of that was the cost of the launch. It works out to about a dollar per year per citizen.

By contrast, in 2012, the same year that the rover landed, the average DAILY interest payments on the U.S. national debt were just under 1 Billion U.S. dollars. (

Which pays more?

Mars Rover Curiosity, Right Side View

Mars Rover Curiosity, Right Side View (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Agents of Shield vs Family Friendly

•October 26, 2013 • 1 Comment
Marvel's Agents of Shield

Marvel’s Agents of Shield (Photo credit: evansonline)

It is now obvious to me that Hollywood agrees with my earlier post here (The Incredible Shrinking Genre) about the importance of Family Friendly entertainment.  I say this because they appear to be willing to tease folks with it…case in point, Marvel’s Agents of Shield.

Sorry about the mild spoilers ahead.

I need to go back and find the pre-release clip, where one of the folks involved in the project (producer or actor or somebody) calls this series “family friendly”, so that I know not to trust anything else that person says.  The first several episodes walked on the edge with some of the actions, clothing and dialog for the character Skye.  But in the latest episode they crossed that “here is what we are willing to do” line, showing way too much skin when she goes to bed with an old friend and hacker partner of hers, a character so shallow that I can’t even remember his name (he is a liar, even to her, as he risks outing her to S.H.I.E.L.D. in order to make a million dollars, then he uses their intimate relationship to distract her, then when they finally show her what he did he gives her the classic “it was all for us” B.S.).

Also, Agent Coulson uses a popular phallic euphemism to describe the personality of a certain flame-throwing and out of control superhero (another very poorly developed character) that is trying to kill them.  Then that super hero very vividly and explicitly torches the evil redhead from the first episode to a crisp.

I still like the show, in spite of my annoyance with their willingness to go so far over the top on sex, dialog, and violence after claiming to emphasize making the show “family friendly”.  The movie Avengers, from which the series is a spin-off, seemed to make an effort to stay within the lines and be a show that I could have in my home.  But Agents of Shield doesn’t seem to want to follow that winning pattern, but instead wants to go more the direction of the Iron Man movies…and maybe even a little bit beyond.

Now I know that Agents of Shield doesn’t want to be called a “Children’s Show”. I get that. Some people will say “Children’s Show” any time their preferred higher levels for sex and violence aren’t met. I get that too. But the producers of Agents of Shield are smart enough to know that children’s shows have child protagonists, solving children’s problems in child-like ways…and maybe talking animals ;-). The Agents of Shield story line is about adults solving adult problems in adult ways. This can be done in such that an adult can still watch show with a child in the room. Many very successful shows have done this.  Any adult who thinks that explicit sex and violence should be the only difference between children and adults never actually grew up themselves and “Adult Programming” as the world defines it suites them ill.
Agents of Shield; you released advertising material at the start of your series that used the words “Family Friendly”, but the episode entitled “Girl in the Flower Dress” was not.  No one should label what is easily PG-13 content “family friendly”.  You didn’t have to say, “Family Friendly” but you did.  Some viewers have started to question the quality of your writing and character development as well. If it isn’t family friendly, and the quality of the story is poor, then you will have no value.

Straighten up your act or I am through with you.

One Year Notice

•October 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment
The impact of a meteorite or comet is today wi...

The impact of a meteorite or comet is today widely accepted as the main reason for the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been wanting to talk about this for a while now.

I was once given two months to vacate a house that I was renting.  It was pretty scary because I rally didn’t have anywhere else to go. When I finally did find a place it was…like…right on the edge of the deadline and I didn’t want to get locked out.  Moving myself out quickly, I gave myself a back injury that persists to this day.

Around one year ago, scientists found a comet inbound.

Now, let me be clear first, because I don’t want to frighten anybody.  Comet ISON (C2012 S1) will NOT hit us.  It’ll miss by something like half the distance to the sun.  Back yard astronomers, as well as the pros, scan the skies with photography every night, looking for movement. Then, when it is found, they can track its motion and it really doesn’t take much to nail down where the object is headed.  I don’t know how to do it, but lots of folks do.  The methods and math aren’t simple, but they are widely known and very straight forward, so as to make it impossible for governments to lie to us about such things.  Sure, orbital mechanics carry some variables, but none of those are anywhere near large enough to matter much against the momentum of an object this large, moving this fast, over such a short period of time.

But ISON’s size and speed…and the short time since its discovery…are important for another reason.

What would our lives be like right now if they’d done their magic math and calculated that ISON would smack us dead-on?  What if we had lived out this past year with the reality of a major impact event coming late this year projected to wipe out civilization?

Somebody discovered this object on September 21st, 2012.  Prior to that we possessed no knowledge of its existence.  ISON is thought to be around three miles (almost 5 Kilometers) across.  That probably isn’t big enough to wipe out a species as versatile as ours, but it’s enough, more than likely, to bomb us back to the stone age.

Some folks on the Internet discussed the possible damage here.  There is even a cool BattleCalc style damage calculator that Purdue University put together here.

You see, infrastructure is a touchy thing.  Infrastructure means all of those layers of technology that we rely on to allow us to continue to go to work everyday to build or prop up more layers of technology to rely on.  The knowledge base that supports it all is really only one or two generations of hunter-gatherer away from being forgotten.  A major, planet altering event like a class 8 caldera eruption (long notice and unlikely) or a celestial impact (umm, potentially SHORT notice), that kills enough people could cause the network of skills that supports our current population to come unraveled like a moth-eaten sweater.  Ten years of that would kill off most of our species through starvation and strife, because the land really can’t support more than a certain density of hunter-gatherers.  Then, after one or two generations of eating rabbits, twigs and berries for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the memory of all we see around us today would fall to dust.

“Mommy, what’s that?”

“We call it the ‘food tower’.  See that cat walking in that fourth square opening on the third level?  Take careful aim…Good Girl!  Now climb up there and get it and I’ll teach you how to dress it out for breakfast.”

Three mile wide comet impacts do that sort of thing, and it could happen someday…just one year after astronomers look at their charts some morning, cuss, and spill their coffee.

Please understand, one year is not enough time to do anything about an incoming killer impact, so it’s a really good thing this comet won’t hit us.  It’ll pass us like so many others, just a cosmic shot across our bow.

Comet ISON seen by Hubble

Comet ISON seen by Hubble (Photo credit: UCL Mathematical and Physical Sciences)

So we still have some time.

I don’t know exactly what to do about it…but somebody needs to.

Modern #Slavery

•October 17, 2013 • 3 Comments
Slavery Still Exists - SSE

Slavery Still Exists – SSE (Photo credit: Wolfram Burner)

Index on Modern Slavery

I wanted to do more than just Facebook meme this one.

It is ironic that the way of life that so many of the people in various parts of the world are fighting to preserve, and sometimes to extend, include the barbaric practice called slavery.  It pains me to think that there are still areas on our planet that are still so backward and uncivilized that this industry persists.

Here in the U.S., we have just finished (postponed?) two political fights over our national budget.  Somehow, seeing the release of this report on slavery puts our disagreements in a better perspective for me.

A pox on anyone in the modern world who participates in and/or profits from or otherwise supports this horrendous activity elsewhere.  For the rest of us, save this link… then whenever you feel an urge to get angry at the opposing political party (whoever that opposite is for you) go and read, and reread, this report as a remember that there are still many, many important things that all of us in the civilized parts of the world agree on, regardless of our various disagreements.


You Will Never Silence Her: #Malala vs the #Taliban

•October 8, 2013 • Leave a Comment

IAmMalalaCoverAn armed man with a gun, hiding behind cloth and camera, brags and vows to shoot an unarmed child and calls her a coward, not realizing that he paints a picture of a coward himself.  It does not look like they have learned their lesson, what they have done by shooting her.  It was stupid to shoot her before, it is more stupid to talk about doing it now and it would be the highest of stupidity to succeed in killing her later.  That shot heard around the world is now etched in the record of history and heaps shame upon the names of the Taliban and all of its members.

She lives on and she speaks on.  She spoke before the United Nations in July.  She published a book today.  She might receive the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.  There are few people in the world right now who are as big as