My New (Short) Book!

•April 24, 2019 • Leave a Comment

OK enough goofing around, let’s get down to business.

In addition to my full-length novel, Into the Dark: Escape of the Nomad, and my novella, Another Man’s Terrorist, I also like to publish science fiction short stories as Kindle eBooks. I sell these quick reads for only $1 and for me writing is more than just a hobby. I have several of these available for purchase on my Amazon author page.

Today I offer you my latest short story, One Way.

To get a closer look at this new book before its release, click here.

Tom has earned himself a seat on humanity’s first trip to Mars, but he will not go simply to plant flags, leave footprints and go home. Like immigrants on Earth, he will need to stay and work with the rest of his new community to build a life for himself in a frontier settlement. How will his family and girlfriend take the news?

The cover art and design for the book were done by Kristi G. Stewart who I met at this year’s Life the Universe and Everything writing symposium in Provo Utah.

This book comes out next week but today is available for pre-order and automatic delivery to your Kindle device or app on the delivery date. Sorry I can’t offer you any kind of deal for pre-orders since I really shouldn’t charge more than a dollar for a short story and really can’t charge less than a dollar for an eBook on Amazon (they won’t let me).

Of course, if you just can’t wait to read some of my fiction, you can always click on one of my other books over on the sidebar to the right of this page here.——————->

Another Sixty from Starlink

•November 11, 2019 • Leave a Comment

SpaceX’s first operational lunch of their new satellite Internet service, Starlink, is scheduled for 9:56 am Eastern. I don’t have much time to write this morning, but there were several details that I found.

With this launch, SpaceX becomes the world’s second largest Earth orbit satellite operator…as to numbers of operational satellites…and pushes NASA from #5 to #6. Iridium will be #3. SpaceX’s hundred fifty or so were built and launched faster and cheaper than any satellite fleet in history, so it is not really a fair comparison, but still impressive. They did that with just three launches, two test sats several years ago, sixty five or so months ago, and now this one today. These are all roughly the same design and small. NASA and the Air Force build and operate different satellites for different purposes and so each is unique and for the most part are operated by different teams of people. In other words, the infrastructure for building and operating each of the Starlink sats is simple enough to make comparing them to NASA impossible.

Ominously (and frankly…controversially) is that they intend to double that by the end of next month. In fact, they gained second place by launching a hundred and sixty of these birds…and will try and do it again EVERY MONTH until they they operate 12,000. To put that in perspective, their experimental sixty sat launch earlier this year brought the total number of satellites operated by everybody up to a record 2,000. I did double check what I typed here…I did not misplace any decimal points. The Falcon 9 can only launch sixty of these per flight, but when SpaceX starts flying their new super-heavy launcher, Starship, it can lift four hundred of them per flight and can even send smaller numbers of them to other planets in our solar system such as Mars.

That string of beads across the sky caused a bit of a stir and happened because the first sixty were highly reflective. SpaceX launches these very low just in case some are born dead, so that Earth’s atmosphere will pull them in and eat them fairly quickly. These next sixty today, and all future Starlink satellites, are painted black on the bottom so they won’t be so visible from the ground. Thank you for doing that SpaceX. In the night sky one can see roughly 4,500 stars. The total celestial sphere contains about 10,000 stars visible to the naked eye. SpaceX might fly as many as 40,000 of these Starlink satellites some day. See the problem?

The satellites will break formation in groups of 20 to their operational orbits. It takes a lot of satellites in orbit to do Internet this way at these inteded bandwidths. SpaceX will try and make some of the Internet service from Starlink available by about the middle of 2020.

Now, for the firsts.

These satellites have been designed and built to be fully destroyed when the eventually reenter the atmosphere.

This will be the heaviest payload ever launched by the Falcon 9. The other sixty sats launched five months ago lacked some features and so they had less mass.

This Falcon 9 core will be the first ever flown four times. This Mark 5 core of the Falcon 9 is built to fly ten times, so you can expect to see more firsts in this area.

The payload fairing for this flight, worth approximately 6 million dollars, first flew on the Falcon Heavy Arabsat launch earlier this year. SpaceX has two ships (Ms Chief and Ms Tree) waiting to try and catch both of these out of the air before they hit the ocean to make recovery and reuse easier.

These are the first of these Starlink sats with all of the intended features, including laser links for talking to one and other and to receive Internet data directly from things like weather satellites.

Mercury’s Journey Across the Sun

•November 9, 2019 • Comments Off on Mercury’s Journey Across the Sun

I did this back in 2012 with Venus. Now, what will probably be the last chance in the United States in what’s left of my lifetime, another transit will occur this coming Monday (November 11, 2019) morning when the planet Mercury crosses between Earth and the Sun.

One would think that this sort of thing happens a lot. Since both Mercury and Venus orbit closer to the Sun than Earth, they pass between all the time, right? The problem is that planets don’t orbit in perfectly the same orbital plane (tilted circle). Mercury’s orbit is inclined from that of Earth’s by about 7% which is more than enough, across such vast distances, to cause it to appear either above or below the sun from our perspective much of the time. Plus, it has to pass between Earth and the Sun during the day in your local timezone for you to see it, and it moves across pretty doggon fast.

The next time it transits the Sun for U.S. observers will be in about 30 years.

This time, I’ll bring my telescope to work and set it up in a dark room to project the image more clearly. We have a place on the East side of the building where I can do that.

My 2012 Venus transit setup.

You could do something similar. note that such a setup will display the event upside down or backwards or something…I can’t remember which.

But please, and I can’t stress this enough, be safe. Looking directly at the Sun for any amount of time will damage your eyesite…even through sunglasses. The way I do it, as shown above, is I use a cheap $100 reflector telescope with the eyepiece removed and aim the peephole at a piece of posterboard. Those with more expensive telescopes might have special filters for solar viewing and photography.

A pinhole camera like what I wrote about here after the eclipse might also work. Solar glasses from the eclipse, if you still have them, would let you look at the Sun safely while setting up your equipment. However, I’m not sure that you’ll be able to see a Mercury transit that way, since I have never seen sunspots clearly through solar glasses and Mercury is so viny and distant that it will be smaller than a sunspot. If in doubt (or under cloudy skies) then go back indoors and just stream it live on YouTube. I would not be surprised if NASA TV covers it with satellite imagery…which would be a more spectacular view of the event than anything you or I could ever concoct with our own equipment.

Voyager Two: Earth’s Second Interstellar Spacecraft

•November 5, 2019 • Leave a Comment

There will be others of course, but they won’t live to see it…at least not the probes that are in flight right now.

The Voyager probes are almost as old as me, and my teeth are loosening. Just kidding, my teeth are fine, but Voyager 2 still has it’s plasma temperature sensor working, which is more than I can say for Voyager 1.

Scientists now know, now that Voyager 2 has exited the Sun’s heliospheric shell, that it is more symmetrical than they anticipated. Both Voyagers detected the transition at close to the same distance from the Sun, even though they exited by different paths. The Interstellar Medium (ISM) is rather like the solar wind, but originates from other sources around the nearby stellar neighborhood such as novas, super novas, and very large stars. Voyager 2 is able to tell us that the ISM is both denser and colder than the solar wind that forms the shell that surrounds the Sun and us. Also, even though both Voyagers have entered Interstellar Space, the Sun’s magnetic field still rules. In fact, it will be a very long time indeed before the two voyagers exit that shell and much, much longer before they leave its gravitational influence.

So yes, we can now study Interstellar Space, thanks to spacecraft that were launched four decades ago by people who cared about studying space. An older generation of scientists placed those probes on course knowing that they’d be retired or dead before today’s scientists could use them. There’s a lesson in there for anyone paying attention.

Did I peak your interest? The scientific papers that have been written about the things they have learned so far about the heliosphere and the ISM from the Voyagers has been published, but I don’t have time to read them today.

Here they are. Enjoy.

Source: Voyager 2 plasma observations of the heliopause and interstellar medium

Source: Cosmic ray measurements from Voyager 2 as it crossed into interstellar space

Source: Magnetic field and particle measurements made by Voyager 2 at and near the heliopause

Source: Energetic charged particle measurements from Voyager 2 at the heliopause and beyond

Source: Plasma densities near and beyond the heliopause from the Voyager 1 and 2 plasma wave instruments

Impeachment? Sort of? Maybe? Kind of?

•October 31, 2019 • Comments Off on Impeachment? Sort of? Maybe? Kind of?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve stopped keeping track. I’d like to say I’ll wait for the movie/documentary but that’ll take too long.

Or will it? I’m not a Moderate. Most of the political issues that I care about are the more polarizing ones and I’m tightly polarized within them. I gather all the data too, I’m a data junky, so it’s not like I need more time to look those issues over. I already don’t like Donald Trump, though he has kept many of the promises that he made to Republican voters back in 2015-2016. I wish he wasn’t President, but not nearly as bad as I’m glad he isn’t a Democrat…for a great many diverse and heart-felt reasons. I think many if not most Conservatives hold a similar view deep-down.

“Ya, but Bill, he’s a Fascist and Racist.” Is he? People called me a Fascist continually for decades just for my not being a Socialist, and Racist for my being racially colorblind, so you’ll forgive me if I don’t take such subjective whining seriously. Is he a threat to our Democracy? I think every politician has a fantasy about being a dictator, but I don’t see our system having any room for that. Trump’s very supporters would spill their own blood to stop him if it came to that. Tyranny yes, I can see that Trump is a tyrant…one of many…but I have been a personal victim of tyranny from the Left on several occasions myself, and I’ve seen much of what I would call tyranny being used against Trump repeatedly, so I don’t picture Democrats offering any improvements on that score. I hold no sympathy for tyrants complaining about tyranny either…it just makes them all look like a bunch of cry-babies.

In our changing world, there are several solid things that we can expect:

  • The Sun will rise in the East and set in the West…every day.
  • Ducks float on water.
  • Rocks sink in water.
  • The House of Representatives will eventually vote to Impeach Donald Trump.
  • The Senate will vote to aquit and Trump will remain in office.

It will take something dramatic and obvious, of a universally agreeably Earthshaking nature, for any of the above line-items to change…something big enough to unmistakably recapture my attention. So why do I even need to watch the Impeachment pre-game show? I promise, I will stream the main-event when that game actually gets played…it would be irresponsible not to…but the various teams haven’t even finished their first draft picks yet and I have other work to do.

If the Democrats really cared about removing this President from office for the reasons that they are listing, they wouldn’t be in such a hurry. They’d wait until after the election when Republicans in he Senate would have no chance of losing the Whitehouse over it. Many Republicans probably like Mike Pence more than they do Trump anyway (I know I do) and would be far more willing to be reasonable. They just want a Republican President, I don’t think most Republicans much care who it is and many things about Trump challenge Conservatives’ patience. He is an itch that we can’t quite reach, and might even want to remove, once the risk of a Democrat (or worse, Socialist) President is behind us.

Democrats impeaching Trump now, as part of Election 2020, not only looks too much like mud-slinging and smacks of desperation (it suspiciously eclipses several other issues that the Democrats aren’t polling so hot on right now like immigration, tax-cuts, and abortion), but it is doomed to failure right out of the box…and a failed impeachment now almost totally guarentees that they can’t try it again later, say in 2021 or so, when an Impeachment attempt actually stands a fighting chance of removing Trump from office.

House Democrats already know all of this. Nancy Pelosi’s real problem isn’t with Donald Trump, but with the divisions within her own Party. Populists on the Left are still suspicious of the DNC after the way Bernie Sanders was treated in 2016, They think they are owed some consideration by the party. So, even though all Democrats will probably (?) unite against Trump in the end, that isn’t enough by itself to win the Presidency and doesn’t solve all of their problems. Pelosi’s mainstream Democrat freinds in Congress, not to mention state and local elected offices, still need to win their Primaries against a new wave of angry, energetic young Populists before they get a chance to run against a new swarm of energized Republican Populists in the General Election. So if the Democrats currently in office don’t Impeach and remove the President, like their Populists are screaming for them to do, then they had better be able to blame Republicans for it. If Populists on the Left can rightly blame incumbant Democrats for Trump getting a fair shot in the election, then the Democrat Party will fragment even further and not only award Trump with a landslide victory that will make an egomaniac like him totally incorrigable for the next four years, but it will also elect more Populist problem children like the Squad to Congress.

However, they also have to not do too much (more) damage to their credibility amoung Moderates in the process of stroking their radicals with a hopeless Impeachment attempt, or the Democrat Party could fall totally out of power, everywhere, for a full election cycle or longer.

Tough position to be in.

So now they will hold a vote to launch the actually real official Impeachment inquiry to pressure the Whitehouse to take the issue seriously in exchange for commiting themselves to the process.

Call me if anything interesting happens.

The Calm before the Storm

•October 30, 2019 • Comments Off on The Calm before the Storm

I was going through some of my previous Reddit posts and found this old memory…

Ya, I got one right at least.

Aside from the latest Antares launch and impeachment news, there’s really not much to talk about today. However, a lot of exciting, envelope stretching Space Flight firsts will come up in the next two months. I hope to write about all of these as they happen, but I might miss a few what with the holidays coming up. Plus, I’m working on Into the Dark book 2 right now and I want to finish the first draft by year’s end.

Let’s summarize the upper end of what’s coming up in the remainder of 2019.

Boeing CCD Pad Abort Test

This test sits on a pad today (November 3rd, 2019), at White Sands Missile Test Range in New Mexico, ready to fly tomorrow. In this test flight they will trigger the Starliner’s launch escape thrusters on the launch pad to simulate a malfunction of the launcher. If an accident similar to the the SpaceX Falcon 9 static fire failure, or the Antares explosion that occurred at Wallops Island back in 2014, were to occur underneath a Starliner capsule with crew on-board, this system would hurl the astronauts out over the ocean to a safe parachute splash down. This test must go well before NASA will trust the capsule to carry their people to the International Space Station for the Commercial Crew Program starting next year.

This launch will be a historic must-see. In these tests the capsule gets flung at an incredible acceleration, high into the air with lots of fire and smoke. Don’t miss it. It’ll be broadcast live on YouTube on NASA TV (see below).

Update: It looks like they came up a chute short. The live commentary said that is still nominal, but it isn’t. A real crew would have survived because of redundancy, but this flight wasn’t to save a crew. They test in order to shake out problems and some problem appears to have caused the failure of a parachute. They will need to find the root cause and fix it and that could cause more delays to the program. Stay tuned.

Starlink

Sometime this month and next, SpaceX plans to launch its first three or four sets of sixty fully operational Starlink satellites. The ones it launched previously were shake-downs of the design and launch method. Still, those same test sats have been communicating with a U.S. Air Force plane for use in their operations. The United States military is very interested in the program and has apparently become Starlink’s first customer…well, that and Elon Musk himself, who sent out a test Tweet from his home through the Starlink system…

There are said to be hundreds of these satellites already sitting around built and ready to fly. SpaceX intends to try and send up about two of these flights per month on their reusable Falcon 9, increasing their launch cadence dramatically and pretty much exploding the number of operational artificial satellites in Earth orbit. Paying customers will come first of course.

Launcher One

Dropped from the belly of a 747, Virgin Galactic’s new orbital launch system may go on its first test flight sometime in November. The glory of air-launched satellite missions is that they can be launched from any runway that can host a large aircraft like the 747 and then set the satellite directly on its intended orbital plain, whatever that might be. This improves the efficiency of the launch and can also open up new launch window options.

Virgin’s suborbital space tourism flights (costing about the price of a house per person) will also start-up sometime very soon as well.

SpaceX Dragon

Another Dragon cargo launch to the ISS is planned for early December. We all remember when this program started right? Well these cargo trips to the International Space Station with SpaceX’s cargo Dragon put their foot in the door with NASA and got them started down the road to the Commercial Crew Program and other things that could come up in future years. These launches have helped fund their other endeavors and NASA has recently pointed out that they are very happy with SpaceX as a partner.

The Launch Abort Test for Crew Dragon is in the pipe to fly soon (late November or early December) as well. Don’t miss that. Not only will it make history, but watching those Superdraco engines toss that capsule at ridiculous speeds again will be quite a treat. One would think that they’d do this at the point in the launch where the vehicle is experiencing maximum stress, but apparently that detail is not exactly set in stone quite yet. The capsule that they’ll use had to be moved up the schedule and was originally planned to make Dragon’s first Commercial Crew test flight with NASA Astronauts to the ISS. However, the capsule that they used for the un-crewed test flight, that was supposed to fly this launch abort test, was blown to smithereens in a static fire test of the Super Dracos last spring. No museum retirement for that one. NASA says that the component that failed and caused that accident had been viewed by the entire industry as safe. The accident, which occurred on a test stand with no injuries, may have saved many lives.

The capsule that was intended for Dragon’s first operational flight of Commercial crew has been moved up the schedule to fly the first crewed test flight instead. They also have talked about extending the length of that mission to a month or more and treat it as a short operational mission to help NASA ride out these Commercial Crew schedule delays. The capsule that had been originally intended for that flight had not been designed to do that.

Boeing’s Test Flight

Speaking of Commercial Crew, Boeing plans to launch their un-crewed test flight of their ISS capsule around mid-December. This has been delayed because they also suffered some launch-abort system problems earlier in the development schedule.

It will launch on an Atlas 5 Rocket, rendezvous with the International Space Station, dock, and spend some days there while the crew of the ISS check it out like they did with the SpaceX un-crewed test flight. Then the capsule will un-dock and land safely to Earth as if it carried precious human lives. At least this is the plan. No one expects an old hand like Boeing to have any problems carrying out this mission successfully. They have not used much in the way of new tech to speak of and there shouldn’t be any problems. If there are, it will push the calendar for their first crewed launch way back, but that is why they test…to keep people safe.

Angara

Russia plans to test launch its heavy-lift rocket, the Angara-A5, again in December. Everyone is getting into the heavy-lift game since the largest market for launches has always been large communications and weather satellites going to Geosynchronus Orbit, which is quite high (a little over 22,000 miles). Heavy-lift rockets are best for these, as well as for launches to the Moon and other places elsewhere in our Solar System. A5, the largest configuration of Angara, lifts about a third as much as the SpaceX Falcon Heavy, but has a much wider payload capacity which is more appropriate for the larger satellites and lunar missions that folks have planned for the future.

A Woman’s Right to Choose

•October 27, 2019 • Comments Off on A Woman’s Right to Choose

On this blog I’ve addressed, and discredited, several scientific arguments from the Left on the issue of abortion. In response, several have responded, “Well, that’s not the real reason anyway and it’s not the reasoning that Roe vs Wade addresses.”

Agreed. It is not. Roe v Wade addresses the rights a woman has to do what she wants with her own body. Pro-lifers think that when a woman has sex with a man, she accepts the pregnancy risks that accompany that choice. Roe vs Wade says that a person is justified in deflecting those consequences onto another person…that someone should be poisoned, starved to death or quartered with forseps because of the choices made by someone else. Yes, we pro-lifers fear that argument, but not because it is strong…it isn’t. We fear it because those who lean on it to justify abortion have to devalue another human being all the way down to the dirt in order to do so. We fear people who think that they should be permitted to kill another person…or allow them to be killed…(a child for whom their parents should be responsible), because that person is seen by their mother as inconvienient. So yes, we think it’s reasonable to find the line of reasoning behind Roe vs Wade both morally repugnant and frightening.

The argument that the rights of the woman trumps the life of the fetus implies that a pre-born child, a fellow humanbeing comprised of the combined DNA of two other humans, does not have any right to turn to his or her parents for protection from harm. That a person, made through the choices of two other persons, deserves no other consideration by them than would a clipped fingernail…to end up in a cold dumpster somewhere or flushed down the toilet with their urine and feces.

By using these harsh references I do not mean to harm the sensibilities of tender folk, or to increase the pain of those who have suffered miscarriages. I only mean to describe abortion the way it is, to desanatize it, to look past the cold justifications that have supported the killing of roughly 60 million pre-born since the Roe vs Wade decision. 60 million represents roughly 20% of the current population of the United States, so for every five people who sit down to dinner tonight, another chair sits empty. That does not even include the woman deaths or chronic miscarriages caused by abortion complications.

We prolifers fear the Women’s Rights argument because the fact that prochoicers even use it to justify elective abortion means that there are men and women who pass us on the street who honestly think that a fetus is a faceless stranger, plaguing them without their consent…not a sentient being whom they made and for whom they have a duty of care, someone who is inside a woman’s body as a direct result of her actions, freely and knowingly chosen and for which she (and the father) are and should be responsible.

The thought that so many people with these barbaric views walk this planet horrifies pro-lifers. We wonder how long our culture can survive under the strain…or if it even deserves to.

Fairness

•October 9, 2019 • Leave a Comment

We use that word lot, usually when we whine about fairness for ourselves.

“It isn’t fair,” says the teenage girl. “My friends all get to stay out past ten o’clock!”

Let’s look at that example for a moment. She isn’t saying that all girls on the planet get to stay out past 2200 hours. She really doesn’t care what those other people get to do. It actually wouldn’t be more fair then, if her daddy just let her stay out so that just her and her friends could be together and have fun while all of her non-friends with other daddies had to stay home and do their math homework.

Would it be better then if she said, “Daddy, all people should be allowed to stay out past 10 o’clock”?

Well, aside from the wisdom of turning a teenager loose on a dark world full of terrors that she does not yet understand, her daddy has no authority to release all teenage girls from their household rules. That wouldn’t be fair to their parents.

So what I’m trying to say is that total
fairness is a goal which we should all seek to enforce within our own spheres of influence…if we are stupid enough to completely ignore all of the other data. We can seek after fairness as something for the world to give us…ignoring the fact that the world cannot give us what it doesn’t actually have.

We can have truth though. I’m not talking about my truth or your truth either. Truth just is, because pure truth doesn’t even try and be fair or convenient. We might seek, and someday maybe even atain a piece of pure and absolute truth. However, before we strap on our swords and journey forth in search of it we should ask ourselves, are we ready to learn the truth? What will we do with it once we capture it? We must prepare ourselves for the things that the truth will tell us. Then, we must make ourselves ready for the consequences of truth.

Here is a truth for you to chew on.

People have been indicted in Ukraine for colluding with people from the U.S. to interfere in the U.S. 2016 Presidential election.

Now maybe you think I’m lying to you. Why not? You don’t know me, maybe I am. But some of you do know me personally and I’m telling you that I am not lying.

Maybe I’m just misinformed. That is indeed possible, it happens alot. However, if you say to me that I don’t know what I’m talking about, then I can just respond back that you don’t. That back forth leads nowhere.

Maybe you think I’m writing fiction right now. Well, I would tell you if I was and I’m not.

Before you go rushing to your favorite information source to verify my claim, remember what I said before, that truth does not have a preference for individual persons and it does not care about anybody’s convenience. So, conveniently convenient truth should always be cross-examined.

I will ask you, have you made any of your own assumptions about who these Ukrainians facing legal action allegedly colluded with? I left that part out on purpose. Did you plug in your own convenient truth as to who it was? I ask because Ukraine is a big place, with big problems, big corruption, big U.S. influence, and many more players than just Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

By the way, did you take sides in my earlier fictional example about the teenage girl in search of fairness? I told you that she wants to stay out past 10:00 pm, but I didn’t tell you whether she is 13 or 19. I didn’t tell you where she lives or who (or how old) her friends are. I didn’t tell you whether or not she has school in the morning. I didn’t provide you with any of those inconvenient truths. I did that because I wanted you to make assumptions that supported my narrative.

Well, for the sake of truth, I’ll tell you now. I wanted you to assume that she is a semi-vulnerable age of 14 or 15 or so, that her friends are all girls and that they are all her age and that they live someplace where the culture is a little more permissive with their early-teen girls than the father in my example is comfortable with. The story reads totally different if she is 13 and her friends are college-age men. The story reads the other direction if she is a staunchly religious, 19 years old, and her friends are girls from her church congregation.

Before you pass judgement on the impeachment thing, inform yourself on the inconvenient details. Listen to both sides. Splice into your version of the story all of those details that some folks on T.V., radio, the printed page and the Internet might not want you to know.

And if you do, then don’t be too surprised if your own narrative changes a little.

NASA’s Space Launch System VS Science Fiction

•September 28, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Yes, I’ve been a bad boy, but the Administrator Bridenstine had it coming. NASA is under fire from the President, the GAO, and space enthusiasts everywhere because of the slow progress of their Space Launch System. In spite of the fact the Boeing has been milking them for a decade on a space flight program that is now way over budget and over delayed, NASA paid out the bonuses to Boeing anyway. What?

Rebecca is right, it is amusing. What other purpose would I have in calling the Space Launch System a dodo bird? 😉

So here we go. I think that the SLS is a great rocket. I WANT the Space Launch System to fly and it still hasn’t. I wanted it to demonstrate to the world how much more it could do than SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, but now FH will be surpassed and obsolete by the time SLS is a thing. I do not like how much it costs…I think that spending that much money on a spaceflight program is no longer necessary. I don’t like cost-plus contracting for the same reason. I don’t like the fact that by the time it flies Congress and NASA will have raided the Planetary Science budget and the budgets of more advanced space flight programs for half a decade in order to feed it…slowing down rather than enhancing the work of science and discovery. I don’t like that even though the technology underneath SLS / Orion is new and advanced, the concept is antique to the point of nostalgic. Where would NASA be now if Congress had ordered them to spent that same time and money developing something new, like a space plane? Isn’t that the reason why Constellation/SLS are doing it the old way in the first place? To get it done? If SLS were a space plane, it’s progress would probably still be right about where it is now I suppose, except NASA would have actually advanced something. That is what NASA should be doing…pushing the envelope.

So, while NASA has spent ten years trying to catch back up to the Saturn IV, the rest of the world has successfully entered the realm of Science Fiction. So, yes, Rebecca, being a sci-fi enthusiast apparently does make me an expert. Science Fiction has been charting the course for technology advancement for roughly 100 years. What? You don’t believe me? Watch this…

…and all of that and more happened while Constellation/SLS should have been flying and wasn’t.

The dodo is extinct in large part because it couldn’t fly to meet the challenges of a changing world. Come back here in 2025 or so and we’ll talk about how NASA’s Space Launch System fared. We can compare it’s success to this…

Update: SpaceX Super Heavy/Starship vs NASA Space Launch System/Orion

•September 24, 2019 • Leave a Comment

The race is on.

I don’t normally like comparing NASA to SpaceX as competitors…they are not. SpaceX rides on NASA’s shoulders. They glean from the NASA’s appropriations funding and knowledge base. Even if they don’t actually rely and NASA for much anymore, they are still partners with them as NASA loves on them, feeding and teaching them like a tender parent.

However, while NASA and SpaceX are partners, SpaceX and Congress are not. Neither are SpaceX and Boeing or Lockheed Martin who actually build NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and its crew-rated space capsule Orion. SLS has a very major flaw built into it…it depends on a fickle Congress for its existence. Such programs are fed money whether they fly or not…for a while…until enough powerful factions in Government see the waste and decide to rid themselves and the budget of its drain.

SpaceX development of the Super Heavy booster and their Interplanetary spacecraft, Starship, does not rely on NASA for funding, except for the profits derived from those few of their flights that they contract with NASA. SpaceX leads the space launch industry with a rich and growing commercial launch schedule with which it fund its development plans and is about to conquer the next generation of Internet technology. Soon, when Commercial Crew starts flying missions to the Internation Space Station, SpaceX can go forward with NASA’s stamp of approval for human spaceflight as well. With this certification and knowledge, SpaceX…like a fledgling bird…can completely unshackle thermselves from NASA and can move forward with their own inter-planetary human spaceflight program. Other folks like Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin are also standing in line to take their turn learning from NASA, and SpaceX also, to build a multi-faceted approach to space envelope expansion, funded and driven by initiatives all totally self-funded and beholding to Congress.

Orion, designed originally as a Moon capsule, was dishonestly repackaged as an Interplanetary spacecraft during the Obama Administration. Now it has been repackaged by the Trump Administration with Bush’s original role for lunar missions, but it is still hitched to a launcher that hasn’t ever flown. NASA just awarded Lockheed with several new purchases of Orion, but Orion still has no ride to space. It can fly to the Moon on other launchers, maybe, but the companies who fly those future rockets have plans for their own crewed spacecraft to fly on them. SLS/Orion will eventually launch, but not before those other choices start coming online. By then SLS/Orion will be rendered obsolete by multiple alternatives pushed by ambitious, competitive, AD-HD inflicted billionaires. Political momentum and a very narrow (and still shrinking) schedule advantage will propel SLS/Orion to an un-crewed Moon-loop mission, and then they will carry NASA astronauts to and from one Moon landing mission sometime on 2024/2025. Then they will die together.

Landers which can actually land on the Moon (which Orion cannot) are under development with NASA’s help. Commercial long-term space habitats capable of landing on the Moon, or simply orbiting something, are under development with NASA help. Multiple launch systems more powerful and far less expensive than SLS are under development, without NASA help. All of these have positioned themselves to overtake the sluggish SLS development calendar.

What we call SLS/Orion started with the Constellation Program, an “ISS to the Moon to Mars” effort initiated by President Bush Jr. in 2005. Obama cancelled them in 2009 when they weren’t going anywhere and Congress restarted them under the new name SLS/Orion. They have never been a flight program and still aren’t. Constellation’s single test flight of Ares I and Orion’s first test flight aboard a Delta Heavy have been the only missions that have flown in Constallation’s and SLS/Orion’s entire combined history. Those programs have languished on the ground, wallowing in the excesses of Congressional favor, for over fourteen years. Like a 30 year-old gamer living in his mother’s basement, NASA’s next mighty Manned Moon/Mars plan sat and pretended to live a real life as it watched the world pass it by. In the meantime NASA has gradually shifted its human spaceflight program from Constellation/SLS over into its Spin-off program and is about to hand it off forever to Commercial Space.

SLS and Orion will suffer their deaths at the hands of their own shrinking influence in a fast-moving ecosystem of faster-moving competition.

Such is the fate of flightless birds in a world of change.

The U.S. Space Force is not about Space Marines

•September 14, 2019 • Leave a Comment

That’s right. So, all you HALO Master Chief wannabes can just go back into to your Mama’s basements. Someday, a laser rifle toting, boots on the ground, armed storm trooper division will maybe be setup and manned by your children…if you ever have any. But that is not what the Trump administration, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced back in June of 2018 and established in February 2019.

Our military…OK, let’s go one step further and say all modern militaries, rely on various Earth-serving orbital assets (a fancy military word for “toys”) to fight (and/or prepare to fight) battles here on Earth. Between the Air Forces’s GPS system which can target your bathtub from anywhere in the world, to National Reconnaissance Office surveillance satellites, to countless communications satellites, the U.S. military…all branches of it…depend hugely on a large, expanding, and very expensive array of space located stuff. Through the years, as these tools became more capable, the military has integrated them into their ground, sea, and air based systems. Ground, Sea, and Air are called “combat theaters” in military parlance, and battles have been fought in all of them as each side in conflicts attempt to deny their enemy access to those platforms to hurt them.

Did you notice that I didn’t specifically name Space as a place where battles have been fought…and that I did mention that the U.S. Military is fully equipped and trained to use (and has used) space as a place where they put equipment “assets” that help them break things and hurt people? Good. Do you suppose that military planners in countries that regard the United States of America as a present or potential future adversary might have noticed that too? Do you suppose that those countries may have considered ways of turning space into a combat theater in order to deny the U.S. Military the use of those assets in the event of a conflict with the U.S.? Yes they have and now you’re caught up.

Space, with all of its growing numbers of civilian experts and lots of and exploding numbers of civilian uses, has not yet been officially organized into a combat theater where assets know how to defend themselves in complicated ways from assets working to defend their own ground, air or sea assets from them. Militaries the world over have known of, developed, and tested ways to destroy things in orbit, but one-offs like that don’t yet make it a combat theater. Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, which have been a threat to civilization for my entire life, cross through “space” on their way to their targets…and have been organized into detailed engagement plans (including defending themselves from attack) that entire time…yet that still does not elevate space to the level of being combat theater.

A war-fighting machine is not just a mob of people and stuff killing other people’s people and stuff. The movies depict it that way and any small window into any battle certainly makes it look like that. The truth is that a military force is an organization. It has a command structure made up of (hopefully) well trained, competent and experienced officers who earned their rank through being experts in their respective combat theaters. It has an organized supply system capable of operating (and defending itself against attack) anywhere forces might be deployed. It has what in military parlance are called “doctrines” which is, simply put, a playbook that folks are trained to, that is built from lessons learned, so that assets function with roughly equal levels of efficiency, aren’t making the same mistakes over and over, and can be concentrated and integrated in any combination as effectively as possible. We have all that set up for Ground, Air, and Sea. Battles have been fought in all of those places and there exists no shortage of history and grey-haired expertise that can build strategies and doctrines for fighting in those theaters.

The Space Force feels like a Trump thing, and that prompts all of us to make fun of it. Well, guess what, for all of his faults Donald Trump knows that he is not a military expert. He is not a military-focused President. He has been in office plenty long enough for all of us to see that pattern. Also, experienced executives like him know that they cannot be experts in everything, and so they rely on the experts working for them. In the case of the U.S. Military they are career experts who provide their expertise to whatever person sits in the Oval Office. Keeping the Armed Forces up to date with modern technology is not the job of Congress, which is designed to be inefficient and individually selfish. It is the job of the President of the United States…of whatever party. So upgrading the military is a President thing, not a Trump thing or even a Republican thing. Presidents who allow their military tech to become obsolete simply are not doing their jobs. These upgrades take time to develop and need to be started before they are needed.

Inter-Planetary space in general, and the Moon and Mars in particular, are not emerging combat theaters. No one has any plans to militarize those places or have any useful military uses in mind for them. Developing such would be a useless waste of resources that would be much better used to bolster military readiness in other places. Everybody understands that. If you think that’s what the U.S. Space Force is (currently) about then you think you’re smarter than all the commanders of all of Earth’s military forces. No one, not Trump, Russia or China, has any serious immediate plans to spend money defending empty regolith. If that is what the Space Force was about then of course it would be silly. Those places continue to be of interest mostly to science, and peaceful international cooperation is still seen by all as the best way to go to those places. However, close Earth orbit has never been seriously regarded that way by anyone. OK…the International Space Station is an important exception to that. Name another!

With exploding (pun intended) space technology capabilities, and U.S. adversaries beginning to view space as an emerging combat theater, it is time to begin organizing a U.S. Space Force…a seperate command and control war-fighting infrastructure, specifically designed for the needs of the Earth orbit theater. This was first proposed during Bill Clinton’s Presidency and has been in discussion ever since. Congress does not understand because they tend to focus on current, state-centric concerns rather than future National needs. The News Media and the public misunderstand because they hear the words “military” and “space” and immediately imagine the silly fiction of HALO and Star Wars. Scientists and science geeks like myself would rather see space as a land of peaceful coexistence, cooperation, and scientific discovery. Philosophers see humanity’s future as a world full of lovely (metaphorical) unicorns who poop (metaphorical) rainbows and lollipops (where did that come from?) and wish that advancement of humanity into space will herald in that future. A part of me does too. Yet, future winners and losers in the future real world will remember 2018-2019 as the time when an opportunity for foresight and preparation was seen and addressed…or neglected…by a man who’s job it is to deal with such things.



SpaceX Starhopper Flies!

•August 27, 2019 • Leave a Comment

It’ll never fly again, but it didn’t explode.

The SpaceX Starship test article did a pad hop to test/demonstrate the gimbal controls on the methane burning Raptor Engine late this afternoon. We had to wait for it a bit, due to extra precautions by the FAA and a gimpy new igniter, but the team came through. This successful test proves out the programming and controls to help ensure that one of the full suborbital prototypes, MK1 and MK2, doesn’t make a smoking hole in the ground.

This rocket will now become a Raptor engine test stand and the torch will pass to the real McCoy prototypes to ready the design, manufacturing process, and support systems for human flights to the Moon.

Update: I posted this a little quick yesterday, August 7th, 2019, and had to do a little bit of minor editing on it this morning. I also replaced the screen shot of the flight from Cloud Licker’s YouTube feed (shown below with credit) for the featured image of this article with one directly from SpaceX’s video of the event which has the cold gas thrusters adjusting Starhopper’s attitude (I guess it needed an attitude adjustment! Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Photo credit–CloudLicker (https://youtu.be/qAKiZNZIe9M)

I’ll also add this comment. They really need to make that new igniter more robust or back it up with the Merlin engine igniter. These Raptors HAVE to relight reliably or else these expensive spacecraft could be either lost in orbit or crash on landing attempts. I like the new igniter and their reasons for using it, but it seems to me like more testing and development is in order.

Most future blog entries will be short and simple like this for a while because I’m focusing my writing time on the second Into the Dark novel right now. Most full-length novels are between 70,000 and 90,000 words and that takes lots of time to write and polish. My goal is to finish it by the end of the year and release it in the spring. There is also a second installment to the Hellas Station series of short stories in the works, so stay tuned!

The Day The Moon Was Won

•July 20, 2019 • Leave a Comment

“Well, man’s dream and a nation’s pledge have now been fulfilled. The lunar age has begun. And with it, mankind’s march outward into that endless sky from this small planet circling an insignificant star in a minor solar system on the fringe of a seemingly infinite universe. The path ahead will be long; it’s going to be arduous; it’s going to be pretty doggone costly. We may hope, but we should not believe, in the excitement of today, that the next trip or the ones to follow are going to be particularly easy. But we have begun with ‘a small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind,’ in Armstrong’s unforgettable words.

“In these eight days of the Apollo 11 mission the world was witness to not only the triumph of technology, but to the strength of man’s resolve and the persistence of his imagination. Through all times the moon has endured out there, pale and distant, determining the tides and tugging at the heart, a symbol, a beacon, a goal. Now man has prevailed. He’s landed on the moon, he’s stabbed into its crust; he’s stolen some of its soil to bring back in a tiny treasure ship to perhaps unlock some of its secrets.

“The date’s now indelible. It’s going to be remembered as long as man survives — July 20, 1969 — the day a man reached and walked on the moon. The least of us is improved by the things done by the best of us. Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins are the best of us, and they’ve led us further and higher than we ever imagined we were likely to go.”

–Walter Cronkite–

(AP Photo)
Walter Cronkite speaks during the Apollo 11 mission, broadcast by CBS-TV, July 1969. Photo made from television screen. (AP Photo)

One Small Step for Man

•July 18, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Fifty years ago this week we paid it a visit.

Some scientists say that advanced life forms like ours, maybe even life itself, could not exist here without it. The tidal forces generated in our planet’s core by that planetoid, with that particular mass, in that particular orbit, maintains enough of a magnetic field around Earth to protect the creatures living on it from the dangerous cosmic radiation from far-off stars and supernovas that leaks in through our own Sun’s magnetic bubble. The Earth’s magnetic field for which our Moon is responsible also keeps the excessive radiation from our own Star’s hiccups from killing us or altering our DNA too radically. It even, allegedly, shunts away the intense stream of exhaust gas from the Sun that would otherwise blow our atmosphere into space.

For as long as us creatures on Earth have existed, the Moon has been our helper, serving as both protector and nightlight. Everything with eyes has used it to it forage for food and move about at night. Many creatures use it in their mating rituals, and its role in that regard has been romanticized in poem and song. Along with the Earth’s daily rotation and its annual journey around the Sun, the moon’s orbit provides a consistent cadence to which we have built our calendar, and the interwoven biology of life dances to its rhythm.

Photo by Alexandro David on Pexels.com

The Moon, our closest and second most important Celestial neighbor, has sat out there looking down at us with its faux face for far longer than we’ve been capable of looking back up at it. We speculate about rocks and trees, what they could tell us if they could talk, but the Moon has stood as over-watch, largely unchanged, witnessing the entire history of our ever-changing Earth.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In spaceflight it stood as our first outward-looking destination. It has beckoned to us with tales of treasure to find. It carries the history of the solar system preserved in its crust. Plate tectonics have melted down most of the rare substances that have been brought to Earth through meteor strikes, and made them part of it’s core…inaccessible. On the Moon, most of that stuff sits on the surface, clearly marked on a map of impact craters. The Earth’s magnetic field pushes away the smoke from the Sun’s nuclear fires, but that smoke contains a nuclear-charged isotope of Helium that could be developed as a clean energy source. The Moon has no magnetic field and no meaningful atmosphere, so it’s surface has been bombarded by and absorbing that solar wind, accumulating it in its regolith sands throughout its life.

Most importantly, the Moon sits only a weeks drive from here, and launching back from it is comparatively easy. This gives us a safely close-by place to shake out the wrinkles of the technologies that can take humans to Mars and elsewhere. Indeed, once humans can confidently visit the Moon for more than several years, we will have but few technical challenges left before the capability of safely orbiting other planets.

Yes, we’ve had the ability to send robots to all of those places, and yes we have done so, for decades. However, there comes a point where you’re sending a robot to do a human’s job. On Mars earlier this week, they programmed a rover’s robotic arm to move a piece of equipment out of the way so that they could access the tiny drill that has gotten stuck while jackhammering its way into the Martian surface. Now they will program the rover to push a scoop in next to the drill to offer it counter resistance and help it continue digging. That’s an over simplification, but it highlights the limitations of robotic exploration. A human explorer could solve that same problem by just walking up, moving the equipment out of the way, and giving the dirt next to the drill a firm but gentle kick. We’ve had a rover die after getting stuck in the sand and others have struggled to get enough energy to survive the winter through dust-covered solar panels.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Humans long ago waited for the Moon to rise before venturing out of their shelters to hunt. Fifty years ago this week we didn’t wait for the Moon to come to us, we went out to it to hunt..and we will return again very soon.

Back in 1969 we didn’t have the technology to live in space for extended periods of time, today we’ve continually inhabited an orbiting space station for over 18 years and counting. Back in the 1960’s and 70’s Moon visits were part of an International “my rocket is bigger than yours” contest, today only the most vain and self-centered politicians show any interest at all in “Flags and Footprints” missions like Apollo 11. Up until 10 or so years ago we had to rely solely on the vast resources of Government to take or neglect the initiative for all lunar exploration, today private interests have the drive, the funding, and will soon have the technology, to reach out on their own and take all that the Moon has to offer…and what they want there will require much more than just robots, or a series half-week visits, to achieve.

SpaceX test-fired Starhopper this week. It is a hop-test vehicle that is part of the development of a huge and hugely inexpensive reusable rocket capable of sending humans to the Moon and Mars.

NASA just awarded contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to several former Google Lunar X-Prize contestants to fly inexpensive robotic NASA missions to the Lunar surface. They hope that some day some of these groups will support human habitation on the Moon.

China is building an infrastructure to communicate with landers and rovers on the unseen far side of the Moon.

Russia is getting into the Moon game and India as well.

We’re going back to stay.

Don’t ask if…ask how soon.

It all started with one footprint fifty years ago.

The Meaning of Life

•June 23, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Cool title? The title should probably say “The Definition of Life”, but “The Meaning of Life” will get more Google hits. 😉

life

noun\ ˈlīf  \plural lives\ ˈlīvz  \

Definition of life

 (Entry 1 of 2)1a: the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body

Not very helpful, but Webster.com actually has 20 different definitions for the noun usage with a total variety of 11 sub-meanings. You choose.

I do know that in language used by medical professionals and scientists, living cells are distinguished from dead ones. Also, viruses are only marginally considered “life”, unlike bacteria and other single-celled organisms. I suppose in the broadest sense the human sperm and ovum are already life. So in the context of abortion, people can (and actually do) latch onto whichever definition of “life” is necessary to put abortion in whatever box is the most convenient fit for them personally. The deficiency of this practice of wagging dog by its tail is that it puts us back at the whimsical mercy of personal opinion.

What about separation? When does a baby become a separate life from its mother? Our cultural and legal structure, and frankly the religious structures from which those derive, mark the start of your life as a separate individual at the date of your birth…the time when everyone gets to see you for the first time. This tradition dates back hundreds of years, long before the advent of modern medical science and back to when they treated mental illness with noggin-drilling, syphilis with mercury injections, and fever with leeches.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So could it be that abortionists are relying on religion and archaic, prescience traditions to justify the immorality of killing babies before they are born? Parish the thought…but let’s look at what science does have to say about separation. I Googled a few things…

When does a fetus have a heartbeat?

“When can I hear my baby’s heartbeat?

You may be able to hear – and see – your baby’s heart beat for the first time when you’re about 8 weeks pregnant if you have an early ultrasound exam. Otherwise, you’ll probably first hear it with a fetal Doppler at a regular prenatal care visit.”

When can I hear my baby’s heartbeat? | BabyCenter

When does a fetus have brain function?

“The early signs of a brain have begun to form. Even though the fetus is now developing areas that will become specific sections of the brain, not until the end of week 5 and into week 6 (usually around forty to forty-three days) does the first electrical brain activity begin to occur.

Jun 19, 2005″

‘The Ethical Brain’ – The New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/19/books/chapters/the-ethical-brain.html

When can a fetus feel pain?

“Can a fetus feel pain at 8 weeks?

…Condic said unborn children have a capacity to feel pain much earlier. “The neural circuitry responsible for the most primitive response to pain, the spinal reflex, is in place by 8 weeks of development,” she explained. “This is the earliest point at which the fetus experiences pain in any capacity.”

May 24, 2013″

Expert Tells Congress Unborn Babies Can Feel Pain Starting at 8 …
https://oneofus.eu/…/expert-tells-congress-unborn-babies-can-feel-pain-starting-at-8-wee…

Ok, to be fair I actually found lots of answers to that last one — ranging from 8 to around 20 weeks. So smarter folks than us are still working on it.

Also, we’ve known for a very long time that the mother’s circulatory system (blood) is separate from that of the fetus. I don’t even need to include sources for that one since it’s a no-brainer.

What about when the baby can survive outside the womb? Is that a good measuring stick?

“According to studies between 2003 and 2005, 20 to 35 percent of babies born at 24 weeks of gestation survive, while 50 to 70 percent of babies born at 25 weeks, and more than 90 percent born at 26 to 27 weeks, survive. It is rare for a baby weighing less than 500 g (17.6 ounces) to survive.”

Fetal viability – Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fetal_viability

That was in 2005 by the way. Modern medical science has pushed that back a bit. I could repeat the most recent example of a very early birth that I sited in a past blog post, but I think it’s safe to say that science is not quite on the same side of the question of separation as mid to late term abortion proponents. Partial-birth abortion doesn’t even get to take a number. Also, since no human newborn in history has ever been able to survive ACTUALLY on their own, that sliding scale might slide right through the birth canal anyway.

So here’s a question…has scientific understanding rendered Roe Vs Wade obsolete? We’d have to read the science-based arguments used in the litigation of that decision…if there are any. The science in there would be 46 years old by now…not very “Progressive”.

There’s a thought. Maybe setting first-trimester abortions aside for now, how do we reconcile the apparent conundrum that people who call themselves Progressives, and who like to claim the scientific high-ground, want to fight for the right to treat what 2019 science seems to consider a human life roughly the same as they’re legally allowed to treat their dog? If they’re willing to do that with abortion…and perhaps some other things as well…then how can they complain when Conservatives do the same thing with stuff like Climate Change?

Also, what hope is there for folks who want to replace religion with science, if people think they can just ignore science whenever its conclusions become culturally or politically inconvenient? Actually, that seems par for the course with most of our treatment of religion too.

So if we’re just going to treat Science like belief anyway, then I guess that means we all get to start saying, “Ya, I know it’s science…but it’s not MY science.”

Ridiculous? Of course it is. But when folks whimsically put up euphemistic constructs…or worse, blinders…to protect themselves from the obvious, science and religion become useless as the ridiculous and the obvious become functionally indistinguishable.

Iranian Stupidity

•June 22, 2019 • Leave a Comment

First of all, I don’t believe for even a fleeting second that that RQ-4A drone or that P-8 Poseidon never crossed into Iran’s airspace. There are competing military tensions in the area and the most valuable commodity for both at this point is information. In these situations, forces test one and other’s capabilities by poking each other with sticks and listening to the tone of the squeak.

Yes, Iran taught the U.S. a lesson, but not the lesson that their hairy-chested rhetoric claims to have taught. Whatever those two Navy aircraft (and the ones that didn’t make the news) were doing there will not stop…they will just now be harder for the Iranians to detect and to hit.

Also, the news media keeps talking about the missile’s range and altitude being a surprise to the U.S. Navy. Ya, I doubt that very much. However, that missile has other technologies that can’t be seen in a satellite photo…target tracking frequencies and the like…that the U.S. might not have known the details of with certainty on Thursday June 20th but now can write volumes on…now that the Iranians used it against and in full view of highly-sensitive electronic warfare equipment. The supersize surprise for the U.S. Navy was probably more that smart people like the Iranians would be so stupid as to spend vast amounts of coin on an obviously very capable Surface to Air Missile system, only to render it obsolete by taking pot shots at a big, slow, harmless soft-target with no pilot to kidnap. In this, President Trump spoke correctly when he said that Iran had made a big mistake. Now, if war ever does break out, the intelligence gathered by that event will save the lives of U.S. pilots and cost countless Iranians their lives.

However, the U.S. Navy clearly didn’t go there to prepare for all out war. They went to prevent the Iranians from causing problems in the region. The Iranians also allegedly shot at an MQ-9 Reaper Drone (i.e. an actual warplane) earlier in the week as it was allegedly responding to a distress call from one of those tankers that were damaged. Those drones…armed with air to surface missiles…can now operate more boldly to protect shipping through the Strait because they can more effectively counter Iranian SAMs electronically. That makes attacks against oil tankers far more dangerous and forces Iran to reevaluate the risks in continuing the practice at all.

So the Navy lost a 176 million dollar surveillance drone and can still celebrate a victory…and maybe even a successful mission.

I have to talk about President Trump to. I criticize him a lot here, but he showed restraint and sanity that lots of folks in the U.S. didn’t think he had. He demonstrated a willingness to use force…but also an ability to make a value call and put the knife away when he sees that it won’t get him what he wants. Muslim haters who think that he should have killed a hundred and fifty people over the downing of an unarmed drone can go pound sand. Jihads and total war are for the uncivilized parts of the world…not the United States of America. No blood no foul. It also makes no sense to give the Iranians a chance to test their missiles against F-22s and F-35s in a limited engagement while China and Russia watch. That would have been just as stupid as what Iran did, for the same basket of reasons.

Also, Conservative talking heads who think that Trump should draw red lines in the sand like that stupid one that Obama drew with Syria and chemical weapons don’t understand how escalation works, nor how bad it is for a military force to telegraph its moves, nor the art of carrying a Big Stick into a negotiating room. Also, while a credible threat of dis-proportioned response is what deterrence is all about, 150 deaths would not have been deterrence, it would have been escalation. Ben Shapiro, I’m talking to you.

Cowardice

•June 19, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Last week, Illinois and Rhode Island passed pro-abortion bills more despicable than the one passed a month or so ago in New York. It’s as if the Blue States are in some kind of competition to see who can give women and the unborn the most uncivilized treatment possible.

In Illinois, abortion is now allowed all the way up to birth and the Illinois partial-birth abortion ban has been repealed! Medicaid and Health insurance companies in Illinois are now required to cover abortions…which in turn, requires everyone’s insurance premiums and taxes to pay for them! They’ve even proposed to amend the Illinois state Constitution to include abortion rights!

New York, Virginia, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, Illinois…these have all passed laws so far in 2019 that strip away all or most of their existing restrictions on abortion. They’re doing it because they know that this Supreme Court will likely hand this issue off to the states and they want to get in front of it.

So why haven’t all the Red States gotten the memo? There are so many Red States and so many levels of this issue that can be legislated. Why aren’t states like Wyoming leading the way in drawing a line…somewhere? I’m told that Wyoming tried a heartbeat bill and it failed. Fine. Draw the line at the first trimester, the second, 7 months, 8 months, funding, tighter screening, better advice, something!

The following states introduced, moved, or enacted abortion restrictions in their legislatures in spring of 2019– Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia. In other words, their were governments in those states with people in them with the courage to stand up and be counted on the side of the unborn.

The following states get a gold star. They were able to complete and sign into law the following abortion bans…

  • Full (Conditional on Roe vs Wade reversal) — Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky
  • Near total — Alabama
  • Heartbeat — Louisiana
  • Six weeks — Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, Mississippi
  • Eight Weeks — Missouri
  • Fifteen Weeks (Conditional on Roe vs Wade reversal) — North Dakota
  • Eighteen Weeks — Arkansas, Minnesota, Montana, Utah
  • Genetic anomaly abortion bans — Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin

There are many Republican state Legislatures and governors in the U.S., yet too many of these governments have been overly timid and not joined the fight. Red state governors have been burned in court numerous times on abortion restrictions, and these things are expensive to defend. I get that. Most state legislatures have adjourned for now, including most of the Red States, but between now and election 2020 we will have a chance to send the Federal government a message that the states can govern themselves on this issue, that they can set standards, draw lines, and represent the wishes of their voters. Elected officials need to understand that their caucus is watching and that most voters oppose abortion and that an overwhelming majority of voters oppose late-term and partial-birth abortion. So why back off? When your enemy is on the ropes you don’t back down…you punch, and you punch, and you punch and you keep punching until your enemy is down!

If national polling shows a pro-life swing to the majority, then polling in deep-red states like Wyoming should reflect overwhelming support for tightened abortion restrictions of some kind. Elected officials, in those states especially, would be doing the will of their voters.

Need a reason? I have 60 million of them. That’s how many abortions have been performed in this country since Roe vs Wade. 60…Million…which amounts to roughly 20% of the current population of the U.S. So, for every five people you see in a restaurant a sixth chair sits empty. For every five beautiful people that jog past you in the park, a sixth will never arrive. For every five people cheering for their children at a soccer game, a sixth will never live to have children.

A national tragedy has been killing unborn babies since 1973, one that claims literally millions of lives every year…more than all the car accidents, animal attacks, house fires, hurricanes and mass shootings combined. If the cause of so many deaths were anything else, legislatures and governors would act to stop it in every state of this country.

A revolution…maybe a revolt…is brewing this election cycle. People are tired of the lies that so-called healthcare providers tell women with regard to abortion. Abortion comes with the same emotional trauma as a miscarriage and carries more health risk than most if not all of the health-related excuses for it. Good people are standing in line, waiting to adopt unwanted children. First trimester fetuses are not freaking “tissue”! They have fingers and toes and heartbeats and cute little noses. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different and don’t you let them turn that ultrasound screen away from you during a pre-abortion exam!

The new makeup of the Supreme Court, and the between the line hints from some of its justices, show an opportunity to inject true progress into this nation. We’ve had to put up with a conman and a sleaze in the White House to give us that advantage…don’t waste it. Join the fight to end the archaic, obsolete, and barbaric practice of abortion now. The time to turn our country around has arrived. The practice of fetal torture killings must stop. The killing fields must close. The war against the innocent unborn must end.

I’m not just talking about Republicans here either. You saw then-Senator Barack Obama equivocate his answer to that debate question in the above video. As a good and honest man (which I honestly believe him to be) he clearly finds partial-birth abortion repugnant…but because of his caucus and the DNC platform he had to swallow back the bile and fall back on women’s rights to answer that question. I know that most Democrats are good people like him who are clearly disturbed by the video links that I’ve included in this post. Do you think that national polling that shows that 80% of the people in this country disapprove of partial-birth abortion has to include lots of Democrats? If this were anything else that bothered you this much, would you want laws to stop it? Remember the “kids in cages” thing last year? Does that help you see where we’re coming from? Do you think that holding on to this clearly losing issue is worth sacrificing the rest of the Democrat agenda? There are lots of layers to abortion and plenty of room for disgust for everyone, and party platforms are built from the grass-roots up. You really can get involved and help turn abortion into a bipartisan issue.

Edmond Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” So stand up and do something. Abortion isn’t just killing babies, it’s turning back the clock on the civilized treatment of women and on the progress of our culture. 60 million abortions in just 46 years define the character of this nation, starves its infrastructure, and gives deference to its men of lowest character.

We read and watch movies about mighty heroes who stand against long odds to protect women and children. The odds against abortion are easy and they are on our side. We can stop most of the abortions in this country in just one year…but we need everyone who cares to act. If we don’t, we’ll look back at the babies who died in 2020, 2021, 2022…and scream in frustration and tears that we could have done more. Let us not lament lost opportunity and have to confess to our grandchildren that we passed on a chance to be real heroes like the brave and beautiful woman Natalie in the Tweet below.

The Value of Life

•June 11, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Last week, the Trump administration announced that fetal tissue research that uses tissue samples derived from elective abortion would be defunded from Federal research grants. This is not only a shot across the bow for researchers to get them ready for a country where abortion will soon be illegal in most states, but it was also another shot under the waterline for abortion advocates, who have been bailing a slowly sinking ship.

Fetal tissue research does much good and is involved in badly needed medical research. Researchers claim that samples of fetal tissue derived specifically from abortions is the best and most convenient medical waste for a number of these research projects, there are also other options that could be further developed to serve as a more difficult alternative. Tissue from miscarriages allegedly has other problems, but without elective abortion tissue available who knows what systems can be innovated to make it work. They say it would still undoubtedly be difficult.

But it must be done.

Often, the buying and selling of certain game animal parts is prohibited by state laws simply because an industry arising from those parts can facilitate and fund poaching in a way that a state wildlife resources agency simply wouldn’t have the resources to combat. If this is true for deer antlers then it stands to reason that it would be at least as true for human fetal livers and brains. Yes, the existing fetal sample processing industry is fairly large and relies on a fairly large quantity of material, the bulk of which can only be possible if it includes aborted fetuses. Yes, the price of these samples will go up and the size of the industry will go down. Yes, certain medical research will be much more much difficult and more expensive for a while…perhaps for always.

Photo by Andreas Wohlfahrt on Pexels.com

But let me throw a number at you…60 million. Over 60 million abortions have been performed in the United States since Roe vs Wade in 1973. This categorically huge number eclipses all reasoning. It signals to our culture that this practice has gone totally off the rails and needs to be curtailed…if not discontinued entirely. 60 million is roughly 20% of the current population of the United States. So, that means that if you are sitting in a room with four other people, then you can include an empty chair for a person who was killed in the womb because of Roe vs Wade.

The number of U.S. citizens that have been killed in war in the entire history of the nation is only 1.3 million. That number includes everything all the way back to and including the Revolutionary War.

For every person who dies in an automobile accident in the U.S. every year (32,000 according to the CDC), twenty unborn people die in abortions…roughly 638,169 .

For every person who dies of HIV in the United States in a year (15,807), forty unborn fetuses are killed.

If anything else killed that many people that fast, folks would be prosecuted for crimes associated with it. Appointed officials would be forced to resign. Politicians would lose elections in shame. The issue would headline the news, trigger national attention, and instigate immediate bipartisan legislation. Increasing numbers of people have begun to realize this.

Medical science has made even emergency C-Sections three times safer than the safest abortions, so there are no more valid “health of the mother” or “life of the mother” arguments supporting this archaic practice…especially in the second and third trimester when the risks are the highest.

A BBC reporter describes her own experience of abortion – the physical, mental and emotional journey.

Many legal, cultural, and even religious constructs focus on the exact time and date of the actual birth as the point when most of a person’s rights begin…but what about the precious right to life? Science makes no claims that the birth canal somehow possesses properties that uplift “tissue” to “human life”. Some life already exists in the egg and the sperm, and some say that human life begins at conception, but somewhere between that and birth a new, clearly and separately definable human being is formed. Now, where you draw that line is up to you…but saying that human life doesn’t actually begin until birth defies all honest reasoning.†

A 12 week old fetus…or what the above video calls a “bean”.

You must decide where you draw that line…and once you decide that then you’ve joined our cause. You must decide, because where you draw that line defines you as a person. Abortion breaks people. It absolutely breaks the life of the baby inside, but it also breaks the woman outside.

Fully legalized abortion must stop. Some states will stop it at the first trimester, some will stop it at the second, some will stop it at the third, but it must stop somewhere.

Silent Voices

•June 4, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Thirty years ago today, pro-Democracy demonstrations in China were violently suppressed. Hundreds of thousands of protesters and bystanders were killed when the government used its military to retake Tienanmen square from unarmed protesters. After the massacre, many others were rounded up and made to disappear, or sent to slave labor camps where today they make products for their government to sell to you and me.

Now, my country and others have gone back to doing business with China as that same government grows that same military with an eye toward some day forming the world into a larger vision of itself. However, we live in a time when I can sit here in a place of peace, beside a placid city pond amid folks enjoying the sun without fear of violence, and shout these things and be heard around the world. Even after three decades, tragedies like Tienanmen Square continue to be possible in some hidden corners of the world, but they have become increasingly difficult for tyrants to pull off.

Groups of people wander around Tiananmen Square in the late afternoon.

China continues to censor talk of what happened in Beijing that day…but they can’t censor me and they can’t censor you. The many nameless people who died in that event won’t be forgotten as long until we don’t stop talking about them. The days when tyrants can suppress the voices of their people are numbered as the march of technology continues to make the world smaller. Someday all people will join hands of freedom across the great oceans and landmasses of our beautiful planet.

Until then, our voices will sound in the place of those whom tyranny has silenced.

A replica of Goddess of Democracy outside of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

President Trump Orders Secret Service to shoot duck for quacking “John McCain”

•May 30, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Last fall, while Donald Trump visited a park in Washington D.C., a duck sounded like it had quacked “John McCain”. The President pointed at it and said to a Secret Service agent standing nearby, “Kill that thing will ya.” The agent laughed, but declined to draw his service weapon.

Not really. This article is total click-bait nonsense, written by a sarcastic fiction author with an over-active imagination. I hope you saw right through it the moment you read the title and only clicked on it to verify that it was indeed a fat load of B.S.

Splash Down! Apollo 10 Returns Home.

•May 26, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Three experienced astronauts flew a dress reversal for humanity’s first landing on the Moon. Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of their return to Earth. They had a couple of problems, nothing insurmountable, that would be fixed by NASA for Apollo 11. Before they returned, the assembled Saturn V that would carry Apollo 11 had already been rolled out onto the launchpad to prepare for its historic July launch.

Yellowstone’s Gonna Explode! We’re All Gonna Die!

•May 24, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Ha! You totally fell for my click-bait.

The first-half of the title of this post is quite true, but the second-half exaggerates the results and implies an unlikely timeline.

Yellowstone, the most dangerous volcano in the world, could reduce the United States to a third-world country in a week and trigger a domino effect of global environmental and geopolitical consequences that would take humanity a hundred years to recover from.

I am not a volcanologist, so I fall back on the experts. Understand however that no one can know for certain the signs and events that lead-up to the major eruption of a volcano like Yellowstone. If a class 8 eruption were to occur anywhere in the world it would be a global cataclysm that would hit the reset button on civilization and the survivors who start studying volcanology again would be many generations downstream from those who actually witnessed the event. The best that anyone can really do is study smaller eruptions and try and extrapolate. Based on that, the experts do not think that an eruption of Yellowstone is imminent. The nature of these things is such that they are not very predictable in the long-term, but are very predicable in the short term. This means that if Yellowstone…the most closely watched volcano in the world…were due to explode in your lifetime, we would probably know. One study that I read speculates that in the lead-up to a caldera like Yellowstone erupting there would be mini-eruptions that would build several smaller volcanoes around the rim of the caldera over the course of several hundred years. Based on this, there are other supervolcanoes in the world that might be due to erupt before Yellowstone.

The worst eruption to impact the United States in recent history is thought to be Mount Saint Helens in 1980 (though there was another in California in 1915). It gave numerous clues ahead of its explosion, but the way it blew, though small by comparison to a supervulcano like Yellowstone, was similar in that it destroyed most of itself in the blast. Now when I say small, I mean that Mount Saint Helens is a composite or stratovulcano and the 1980 event is classified as a level 5. Geologic history has recorded Yellowstone eruptions as 7s and 8s. The Volcanic Explosive Index is based on how much material the eruption ejects and you move the decimal place to the right one spot for every increment of the number. That would make an 8 one thousand times larger than a 5.

https://www.livescience.com/30507-volcanoes-biggest-history.html

Of course, none of this matters a whit unless it happens to us, right? 2 inches per year is really slow and no one knows if it will maintain that pace or stop. Lets look at some other calderas around the world…

Lake Toba — Roughly 70,000 years ago this caldera in Indonesia was the site of the largest vulcanic eruption in homanid history. Some scientists claim that it nearly wiped out the human species.

Askja — Lots of volcanism in Iceland. This caldera isn’t as big as Yellowstone, but it had had recent minor eruptions in 1875 and 1961. In 2012 the lake in this caldera was open water when it should have been ice capped, leading same to speculate that the caldera had been heating it.

Mount Tambora — Included here because it is the worst eruption in recorded history. It resulted in what has been called the year without a summer, worldwide crop failures, starvation, poverty and religious revivals. It obliterated half the island, caused the loudest sound in, again, recorded history, and is still active. That eruption that occurred in 1815 was classified as a class 7 and dumped rocks on neighboring islands.

Phlegraean Fields — A collection of volcanically active features associated with a large caldera in Italy. The ancient eruption of Pompeii was part of this volcanic system. If there is a potentially destructive eruption brewing in your lifetime, it isn’t Yellowstone…it is the Phlegraean Fields. If a class 8 eruption were to occur here it would destroy most of Europe and have a similar world-wide impact as Yellowstone. A magnitude 4 earthquake occurred at the western end of this area in 2017.

Do You Want to Go to Mars?

•May 24, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Well part of you anyway.

Click here to send your name on a chip to Mars aboard NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover!

Also, check out my new short read about actually going to Mars.

World Bee Day

•May 22, 2019 • Leave a Comment

May 20th was World Bee Day, an opportunity to recognize the role that bees and other pollinators play in our ecosystem. Well…that and honey.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When I make cornbread, I include a couple of tablespoon fulls of honey. It helps prevent the final product from tasting dry. I also use honey as a key ingredient to homemade whole wheat bread. For both of these, I slather on honey as I eat.

Honey does top several of my favorite breakfast dishes, but the bees themselves are more valuable than the honey we rob from them. Roughly 35 percent of all food crops and 90 percent of wild plants depend in part in bees for pollination. This adds up to billions of dollars in food production every year. Some people fear bees, but most varieties are far less aggressive than wasps or hornets. Still respect their space when you can. When you encounter any bee, she’s producing both food and honey for someone…maybe you.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Bees are in trouble. Populations continue to fall due to habitat loss and the use of pesticides irresponsibly. Always read and follow the labels of pesticides…being particularly careful with pesticides that are “persistent” and when using them on or near flowering plants. Usually when a bee ingests pesticide it dies and never returns to the hive. However, if a bee lives long enough to bring the pesticide home to the queen and brood, the entire hive might die out.

If wild bees take up residence in an inconvenient place, please do not kill them. Pesticides will ruin any honey that they’ve made and the remains of the bees, honey, and hive will attract scavengers of various types that you might dislike more. Instead, find a bee enthusiast (like 628 Dirt Rooster above) who’s willing to remove the bee colony for you and put it to good use.

Remember, bees are your friends.

Photo by Hiếu Hoàng on Pexels.com

Diary of an Unborn Child

•May 18, 2019 • Leave a Comment

OCTOBER 5 Today my life began. My parents do not know it yet, I am as small as a seed of an apple, but it is I already. And I am to be a girl. I shall have blond hair and blue eyes. Just about everything is settled though, even the fact that I shall love flowers.

OCTOBER 19 Some say that I am not a real person yet, that only my mother exists. But I am a real person, just as a small crumb of bread is yet truly bread. My mother is. And I am.

OCTOBER 23 My mouth is just beginning to open now. Just think, in a year or so I shall be laughing and later talking. I know what my first word will be: MAMA.

OCTOBER 25 My heart began to beat today all by itself. From now on it shall gently beat for the rest of my life without ever stopping to rest! And after many years it will tire. It will stop, and then I shall die.

NOVEMBER 2 I am growing a bit every day. My arms and legs are beginning to take shape. But I have to wait a long time yet before those little legs will rise me to my mother’s arms, before these little arms will be able to gather flowers and embrace my father.

NOVEMBER 12 Tiny fingers are beginning to form on my hands. Funny how small they are! I’ll be able to stroke my mother’s hair with them.

NOVEMBER 20 It wasn’t until today that the doctor told mom that I am living here under her heart. Oh, how happy she must be! Are you happy, mom?

NOVEMBER 25 My mom and dad are probably thinking about a name for me. But they don’t even know that I am a little girl. I want to be called Kathy. I am getting so big already.

DECEMBER 10 My hair is growing. It is smooth and bright and shiny. I wonder what kind of hair mom has.

DECEMBER 13 I am just about able to see. It is dark around me. When mom brings me into the world it will be full of sunshine and flowers. But what I want more than anything is to see my mom. How do you look, mom?

DECEMBER 24 I wonder if mom hears the whispering of my heart? Some children come into the world a little sick. But my heart is strong and healthy. It beats so evenly tup-tup tup-tup. You’ll have a healthy little daughter, mom!

DECEMBER 28 Today my mother killed me.

Author unknown

Source http://www.pregnantpause.org/develop/diary.htm (I corrected two spelling errors)

Wikipedia article

Some known history

(downloaded from Pixabay)

Artemis — Goddess of the Moon

•May 17, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Someone said that the Apollo missions should have been named Artemis because Apollo is the God of the Sun and his sister, Artemis/Diana, is the Goddess of the Moon. That makes sense in today’s woke society, but I think it would have been laughable back in the 60’s. Since any new Moon missions will include both men and women, this more correct mission name becomes essential.

But will Artemis actually happen?

I like that it gets things done faster, and requires more participation by Commercial launchers to pull it off, but there is a cost. NASA says that it will need an additional $1.6B to make this accelerated, “boots-in-the-regolith-by 2024” mission happen and they tossed around a plan for altering their existing Lunar Orbiting Platform/Gateway plan to make it all possible. What bugs me is that the accelerated plan looks more like the Apollo “flags and footprint” missions and is similarly incompatible with a unsustainable Moon presence.

The House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee balked, of course, but truthfully, 1,600,000,000 U.S. dollars in this context is almost pocket change.

Things that cost a billion bucks…

  • Buckingham Palace
  • 2 AirBus A380 airliners
  • 1 very, very cheap NBA Basketball or Major League Baseball team (notice that no pro Football teams can be had for such a miniscule price).
  • Miley Cyrus…well, not the singer herself, but actually the Hanna Montana movie and TV franchise.

Donald Trump wants to dip money out of the Pell Grant budget to provide this funding. That idea doesn’t look quite so horrible and insensitive when one digs deeper and sees the amount of accumulating surplus in that particular part of the budget. However…

  • It steps well outside the intended purposes of that surplus…which might be no more than just politicians wanting to appear to be more sensitive than their opponents by throwing extra money at warm-fuzzy things even if those dollars serve no tangible additional advancement to anything.
  • Trump’s accelerated Moon program is seen by some (including myself) as a political visibility and personal vanity project with a negative impact to both useful space exploration plans and NASA’s recently stated goal of going to the Moon to stay.
  • As I stated here last month, this accelerated Moon landing plan seriously endangers Congress’ precious Space Launch System since the SLS cost and schedule simply can’t keep up. Artemis forces NASA to seek and find alternatives…and thus demonstrate just how much of a useless, self-licking ice cream cone SLS really is.
  • NASA generally, and Moon exploration specifically, are already seen by many as a waste of money, especially when compared to college funding for the next generation.
  • There is nothing anyone will be able to do to persuade anyone in the leadership of the current U.S. House of Representatives to move a finger to make this President look better for 2020 or 2024. He’ll need clear majorities in both legislative Houses for that, which pushes that extra money down the calendar to 2022…if ever…and too late to be helpful.
  • I have as much chance of jumping my 2014 Chevy Silverado to the Moon by 2024 as this (or next) year’s disfunctional U.S. Federal government has of passing a new budget anyway.

This whole issue has not yet quite reached the notice of the T.V. talking heads (except the part about President Trump wanting to raid the Pell Grant budget). Even when it does, the wealth of benefits of crewed Moon exploration will likely not be discussed, nor will the fact that NASA already has a progressing Lunar exploration program as a technology development and testing step for them and Commercial Space to sending astronauts and colonists to Mars. It takes visionaries like you to go and find places like this website to get the whole scoop. 😉

Anybody Notice My New Book Cover?

•May 17, 2019 • Leave a Comment

The first one was designed by myself and other authors and painted by an excellent artist.

The second one was designed by me and painted by the all mighty (with some help from NASA).

For this one I hired an actual book cover designer who specializes in Military SciFi.

What do you think?

Feel free to comment.

The Third Falcon Heavy Launch

•May 15, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Great things come in threes.

Three bones in the human ear.

Three piece suits.

The Three ships of the Columbus Expedition

The Three Wise men of Christmas traditions

The Three heads of Cerberus, the guard dog of the mythological Hades.

The three cores on the Falcon Heavy.

Well, the Falcon Heavy comes up on its third launch this summer. For it, three is a magic number. It establishes that the rocket is reliable enough for most business uses, certainly not for launching humans or costly deep-space probes with rare and difficult launch windows…yet, but just fine for most other things.

The first launch, though it re-opened the heavy-lift rocket envelope for expansion, could have been a one-off…a fluke…a rich man’s vanity project. Especially since the Tesla Roadster and Starman seemed a little bit silly to some folks. The point was to establish that the Falcon Heavy could make it to orbit without an epic explosion and that the Falcon second stage could survive Earth’s radiation belt (something that seems important to the U.S. Air Force for some reason). It also demonstrated that the rocket has the reach to be used for Interplanetary space exploration.

The second launch could maybe be called a “50-50 proposition”…a coin toss. It was also for ArabSat, an application roughly half-way around the world which might not hit home enough for U.S. citizens to relate. It did however demonstrate the use of the rocket for what has traditionally been the most financially lucrative part of Commercial Space…very large, geosynchronous communications satellites.

The upcoming third launch this summer will demonstrate stability. The Falcon Heavy will need to serve as SpaceX’s best access to the heavy launch market while they develop the Falcon Super Heavy and Starship. To do that, folks need to witness enough stability in the rocket and its support infrastructure to trust using it for their projects.

Also, by lofting such a wonderful mixed bag of Air Force and student research payloads, it gives a wider variety of folks a reason for an emotional stake in it.

The side boosters from the ArabSat mission will be used to demonstrate the launch system’s reusability, maybe prompting the Air Force to change the silly name of its Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program to something more…well…evolved.

Already, NASA and the Air Force have begun to write the Falcon Heavy’s capabilities into upcoming mission plans and NASA’s Jim Bridenstien has used it in public (without naming it explicitly) as a stick to prod the Space Launch System development team into action to try and get that system flying before 2021.

Three launches puts it in business, so we can expect to see this…

…with much greater frequency.

SpaceX Orbits 60 Starlink Satellites in One Launch

•May 15, 2019 • Leave a Comment

This is it.

They crammed sixty communications satellites into the nose of one rocket. That’s gotta be a record right? It’s not, but that’s ok.

At deployment of those spacecraft, SpaceX took the lead in the hot new industry of low Earth orbiting satellite Internet.

These satellites, each 500 pounds and about the size of a minibar, comprise the first launch of many to fill low-Earth orbit with flying Internet access points to serve customers all over the world. They plan to orbit 12,000 at a mix of 210 miles, 340 miles, and 710 miles up to become the fastest, cheapest, most widespread Internet Service Provider in history.

Though the release technique of those satellites that we all witnessed was over-hyped and anticlimactic, understand that SpaceX built those 60 experimental satellites in about a year without using mass production. They intend to mass produce and fly 60 of those every month. This launch boosted the total number of active satellites orbiting Earth to more than 2000, but at that rate they will soon own and operate the majority of functioning satellites in the world. I am quite sure that this spacecraft manufacture rate is also well beyond that of any other known producer…directly and severely disrupting yet another industry.

The 60 Starlink satellites on the payload adapter ready for launch.

Now I’ve frequently predicted here in the past that inexpensive launch services, instigated and lead by SpaceX, will transform that and many other markets as doing business in space becomes more common and affordable, reverse the United States trade deficit, and trigger a worldwide tech revolution that will touch everyone in one way or another by about 2022. However, if all this goes according to plan they will also have 2160 operational satellites orbiting the Earth, serving high-speed Internet to every corner of it, by around July of that same year. Elon was indicating that he can start providing this service to remote areas when that number reaches just a few hundred…like sometime next year.

These spacecraft can also detect and avoid space debris and will later have the ability to communicate amongst themselves using lasers and completely burn up on reentry. SpaceX intends to build satellites for other companies in the future based on this design and send a modification of them to Mars and other places.

The other competitors in that industry had better get moving.

The Starlink payload backdropped by Earth.

If you won’t listen to me, maybe you’ll listen to her.

•May 13, 2019 • Leave a Comment

“I was sitting in (the Operation Rescue) offices when I noticed a fetal development poster. The progression was so obvious, the eyes were so sweet. It hurt my heart, just looking at them. I ran outside and finally, it dawned on me. ‘Norma’, I said to myself, ‘They’re right’. I had worked with pregnant women for years. I had been through three pregnancies and deliveries myself. I should have known. Yet something in that poster made me lose my breath. I kept seeing the picture of that tiny, 10-week-old embryo, and I said to myself, that’s a baby! It’s as if blinders just fell off my eyes and I suddenly understood the truth—that’s a baby!

“I felt crushed under the truth of this realization. I had to face up to the awful reality. Abortion wasn’t about ‘products of conception’. It wasn’t about ‘missed periods’. It was about children being killed in their mother’s wombs. All those years I was wrong. Signing that affidavit, I was wrong. Working in an abortion clinic, I was wrong. No more of this first trimester, second trimester, third trimester stuff. Abortion—at any point—was wrong. It was so clear. Painfully clear.”

Norma Leah Nelson McCorvey (September 22, 1947 – February 18, 2017)

aka. Jane Roe of Roe vs Wade

Cis-Lunar Habitats Anyone?

•May 12, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Not sure I can blog fast enough to keep up. Shorter entries I guess.

Northrop Grumman, NASA test Cygnus-derived lunar gateway habitat

Northrup Grumman has successfully tested the internal layout of their Lunar Orbital Gateway contender for Habitat Module. NASA and Northrup Grumman partnered on the test, using four ISS astronauts and four astronaut candidates. The astronauts performed a series of space station activities laid out by NASA and Northrup Grumman and over the course of about a week simulated two days in the life of a Moon-Orbiting Space Station. The module design is based on and an advancement of their current Cygnus ISS cargo vessel which is currently serving in NASA’s Commercial Resupply Program.

Of course, other issues remain to be addressed, such as longevity and increased radiation exposure. The requirements for such will be different than Cygnus has ever had to match, but as you can see…

A- Things are moving along rapidly.

B- LOP-G contractor selection, development, and testing is based on NASA’s new procurement paradigm used in Commercial Resupply and Commercial Crew.

Bigelow, Boeing, Lockheed, Sierra Nevada, and NanoRacks no doubt are or will soon undergo similar trials with their designs.


Astronaut candidate Woody Hoburg, left, participates in an evaluation at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston of a Gateway concept habitation module developed by Northrop Grumman. NASA is conducting a series of tests inside several deep space habitation prototypes built by American companies to develop ideas about how astronauts will live and work on the Gateway. During the testing of each ground prototype, engineers are evaluating habitat system capabilities and performance, while human factors teams consider layout and ergonomics to optimize efficiency and performance. The ground prototypes are developed by Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Sierra Nevada Corporation. The agency is evaluating the prototypes across the country this spring and summer. 

Since these habitat modules are being developed under NextSTEP, none of these efforts will be wasted. Regardless of who actually builds the Habitat Module that flies, all of the contenders will still own all of their designs along with anything that they learn from NASA along the way.

Amazon Deliveries to the Moon?

•May 12, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Not really…I don’t know though, maybe?

I wrote here a week or so ago a little bit about NASA’s accelerated moon plans, but I was a little bit hasty in releasing it. Soon after that another Lunar lander design came forward that might get added to the SpaceX Starship and the two designs put forward by Lockheed-Martin.

Jeff Bezos revealed his launch company’s new Lunar Lander. It will be called Blue Moon after the company’s name, Blue Origin.

Now I realize that the most frequent critique that people have about Jeff Bezos and space is that he talks a lot and spends a lot of his money but doesn’t seem to come forward with any commercially available products. This lander isn’t due to launch until 2024 with private funding, but Bezos’ remarks imply that he might try to get a funded Space Act Agreement contract under Next Step for lander technology to include with NASA’s Lunar Orbiting Gateway-Platform (LOP-G) to speed things along. He may need to, because a 2024 readiness date might turn out to be a bit slow.

What I mean is that there are three categories of lander in the works, NASA LOP-G contenders, former Lunar X-Prize contenders, and China…all of whom seem heavily motivated right now. The metaphore of the Tortoise and the Hare has been brought up by some in reference to Bezos, but he might be the only tortoise in the race.

peregrine_3

NASA has the expertise and the money, but the X-Prize competitors have a head start and one of them, SpaceIL, has already reached the Moon with a robotic lander. At least one other, Astrobotic, might try to launch between now and 2024. They already have a development contract with NASA to work on a rover and a launch contract with United Launch Alliance to try and get their Peregrine lander off the ground sometime in 2020. MoonExpress, TeamIndus, Hakuto, PT Scientists, or Synergy Moon might surprise us and show us something before 2024 as well. If any of them reach the Moon (gently) fairly soon, they would probably end up on NASA’s list of possibilities. XPrize landers are tiny things compared to what NASA wants, but if one of them should end up with anything actually sitting on the Lunar surface and still functioning it would make them impossible to completely ignore.

yutu_rover_on_the_moon

China is landing things on the Moon right now, but they won’t be taken seriously by NASA until they get their act together on controlling tech piracy. That might happen if the Trump Administration can twist their arm hard enough to shoe-horn an agreement out of them to do so. I hope that happens. They would make a great Moon partner. Still, they might wedge themselves somewhere in the LOP-G project anyway, since it is an International project and Russia and Europe are already warm to working with them.

Blue Moon

The snails-pace development of New Shepard and New Glen will not work for Blue Moon if Bezos wants to work a Lunar lander for NASA, since the space agency has stepped up its game and Space Act agreements require results on a timeline. Their accelerated Moon plans that the Trump Administration wants don’t seem to be working out very well, but whether their crewed landing date is in 2024 or sometime later, some kind of actual physical results will likely be expected well before 2024 for anyone working with them on a lander.

Bezos doesn’t seem to care about getting a foot in a door early in an industry though, so we’ll see.

By the way. Elon, your recent mean Tweet about Blue Moon, not cool. Just say’n.

Global Satellite Internet Service

•May 12, 2019 • Leave a Comment

The first launch of a serious number of SpaceX’s Starlink satellite network is scheduled to go up in less than a week. Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX CEO, has said that they will test launch “dozens” of the spacecraft around May 15th.

Ponder the implications with me for a minute.

Many (as in more than three) thousand satellites, passing overhead constantly, serving cheap Internet access worldwide. Iridium, O3b, One Web, TelSat, and now SpaceX Starlink all plan to provide this type of Internet access.

The old way to do satellite relay communications has always been to place a spacecraft a little over 22 thousand miles up, where the time it takes the satellite to circle the Earth is exactly one day. The effect, if orbiting over the equator, is that it quite literally hovers in one spot. Then you point a hot tub size communications dish at that specific spot to receive the signal. That altitude means that one ginormous spacecraft can serve the needs of a very large geographical area, but the equatorial orbit means that Northern and Southern areas of the planet have a more difficult time getting a line of sight to the spacecraft to point a dish at, especially in mountainous areas.

I’m looking to buy a home in a (somewhat) remote area soon. My wife asked me, “What about Internet?” I said, “No problem.” I wasn’t thinking about that traditional Geostatic, equatorial, point your dish satellites when I said that though. I told her about Iridium and Starlink and how they work and even my non-computer geek wife thought it was cool. That says a lot.

This new way is to mob the sky, shotgun style, with gazillions of smaller satellites that zoom overhead day and night at much, much lower orbits…say 4 to 6 hundred miles. Coverage is achieved by the sheer number of spacecraft, in diverse orbits, so that there is always at least one visible to every place on Earth all the time. No dish is necessary because the spacecraft are so close and would be impractical anyway because these fast-moving targets could be anywhere in the visible sky any time.

No matter where someone resides in the world, they can connect to the Internet with small, cheap, highly portable antennae. They can learn stuff, stream audio and video, send Tweets about things happening in their part of the world, get on Amazon and buy stuff (like my books…nudge), all at faster online speeds and cheaper prices than ever before. We have left the Information Age and will now enter the Global Connectivity Age where geography becomes meaningless and anything anyone wants to buy or sell is available at and from every corner of the planet. Smart kids with an interest in anything can learn about it hot online and build their destinies whether they live in a palace or a box (ok, a box with a phone and electricity and $20 a month to spend…go with me here).

The staggering implications to government and culture from the mixing together of so many ideas, over yet undiscovered social media venues, that will arise from such an immense viewership explode the imagination.

Things are about to get very interesting.

Self-Impeachable? Not if you’ve been paying attention.

•May 11, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Take yourself back…back to 2015 and 2016 when a clown entered the Republican Presidential Primaries. People laughed, as they have always laughed through the years, at this swaggering, orange-haired demagog who would be king.

But graphic artist Scott Adams, author of the popular Dilbert comics, saw something else. He, as a trained hypnotist, recognized method in Trump’s madness. Throughout the primaries when Trump said and did things that everyone else thought should spell the end of his political hopes, Mr. Adams called each shot. Seeing the seeds of planning in Trump’s antics, he made the case that Trump had weaponized the art of persuasion and that each of these extreme remarks were part of the act of a master showman…a circus performance in the political theater. Scott, though claiming to not be a Trump fan, obviously admired Trump’s persuasion skills and risked his entertainment career by predicting a Trump victory early and blogging along with every step of the campaign, leaving the inaccurate impression that he was himself a MAGA.

He wasn’t, but he became one. I watched as even this thoughtful, political moderate and persuasion expert was himself persuaded. Like Saruman of Lord of the Rings, who thought about the One Ring so much that its lure reached out from the unknown depths to seize his soul, Scott Adams became a Trumpster.

Do you remember how Trump used his targeted persuasion tricks to isolate and destroy each of his opponents in the Primaries? That is the same Donald Trump that will run for reelection in 2020. No one who can admit that Trump is a conman can say that he will be self destructive. Nothing he does has the same impact on him as it does on other politicians because nothing he does shocks anyone. He set the expectations for low early on.

I have been a fiscal Conservative my entire adult life, but I’m a social moralist first and despised Bill Clinton more for his lazefare attitude toward truth and sexual morality than for his political views. So you can understand why I don’t like Donald Trump. I don’t like how he campaigns. I don’t like his egotistic attitude. I don’t like his casual relationship with the truth. I don’t like his childish temper or his base tendency to have to be managed by those around home to keep him from breaking the law. Also, unlike Scott Adams, I’m not a fan of his methods of pursuasion either. Just the same, I’m not willing to tear up my Conservative dance card and go boogie with the Progressives just because we have deeply flawed Republican President…and he has so far been a very effective Republican President.

So, it does look like I’ll be voting for Donald Trump, not because I like Trump the man, but because I’ve decided that I need to tolerate Trump the President…and also because the Democrat Party ain’t better than Trump when it comes to truth-telling and has shifted way to far Left to enjoy my tolerance.

I’m not alone. Some Conservatives might vote for Joe Biden if he wins the Democratic nomination, but they won’t vote to send Bernie Sanders or worse…Elizabeth Warren or Cory Booker…to the White House. Moderates aren’t going to vote for that pack either.

Also, back in 2016 the Progressives and the Liberal end of the news media had more credibility. Trump can now blow smoke at anything they say that he has done and the issue will lose energy while the still reasonable among us wait to see if the allegation is real or just another desperate lie from a Liberal advocacy group.

So if you’re reading this and your a Democrat, then you should nominate Joe Biden. He is your only hope against Trump. Ya, I know I said after Election 2016 that you should have nominated Bernie Sanders, but that ship has long since sailed. That was 2016 and this is 2020…it’s a whole new ball game now.

Don’t expect the Millennials to come to Bernie’s rescue either…they all have jobs now. They pay taxes, own homes, invest in the Stock Market, and many of them want to be rich like Bernie some day. There aren’t enough Progressives left among them to elect anyone President.

And watch out for statements like “Self-Impeaching” in reference to Donald Trump. Such things are only spoken by arrogant people with short memories.

Coffin Nails

•April 30, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I know, we don’t actually use nails to hold down coffin lids anymore, but the metaphor still works.

Note the strikeouts. In NASA’s desperate attempts to save the Space Launch System and Orion capsule, their plans are very fluid right now. The stike-outs in this article indicate late-breaking updates.

I’ve long said that Falcon Heavy won’t eat NASA’s Space Launch System…due to their different operational timelines, separate mission schedules, and some incompatibilities, or at least overly inconvenient differences, in technical specs. However, SLS flights have been pushed far enough down the calendar that SpaceX almost had the opportunity to torpedo it by simply refusing to send Falcon Heavy to Orion’s rescue.

I’m talking about the Moon. Several weeks ago a private company tried and failed to land a small probe on the lunar surface. Another such attempt by another company will be attempted soon. China wants to send human missions there. NASA and others intend to use Lunar orbit and its surface as test-beds for technology being developed for long-duration, deep space missions such as Mars.

It’s import has been felt. NASA has been directed by the Trump Administration to place humans on the Moon by 2024. They already planned to send Orion, launched by SLS, on a trip near lunar orbit in April 2020 as part of their Mars plans. They ain’t gonna make either of those dates, no way no how, but SpaceX’s far less expensive Falcon SuperHeavy/Starship just might. This poses a very serious existential threat to SLS/Orion.

Prompted by prodding from the Whitehouse, NASA Administrator Bridenstien tried and failed earlier this year to substitute unnamed (ahem…Falcon Heavy & Delta Heavy combo) commercial launchers for SLS on Orion’s 2020 EM-1 mission. This thought experiment prompted an attempt to speed up SLS development…which now seems to have also maybe failed, since the test that the SLS team would have to skip to meet their EM-1 date with Orion could may or may not in fact be skipped. Therefore, EM-1 looks like it cannot is unlikely to happen in 2020. Orion needed EM-1 to go off on time in order to meet testing and production needs for another Trump mandate…a crewed surface mission by 2024. That unlikely event would also require an uber-accelerated and trimmed-down version of the Lunar Orbital Gateway so that it more closely resembles an Apollo Command Module to support a quick and dirty, Apollo style, flags and footprints Lunar surface mission.

Oh, and Orion cannot land on the Moon, Lockheed-Martin plans to build an Apollo style, two-part lander/launcher spacecraft for that. Last year, before the Whitehouse-imposed acceleration, Lockheed had proposed a more useful, reusable lander with one stage that would bring all of its parts back to the Lunar Gatway with each use, instead of the “new” April 2019 plan of separating and leaving the descent hardware behind. So in order to compete with the timeline of a fully-reusable Starship or possibly Crew-Dragon, they’ve tossed their own reusable lander advancements out the window for a more Moon-focused, less sustainable program overall.

So, SpaceX’s Falcon Super Heavy and Starship have a chance to one-up NASA be achieving its #Dearmoon mission, a proof of concept loop around the Moon with humans on board, before crewed Orion missions. Starship can also double as a lander and appears to have met all of its production milestones so far. If they stick to this schedule they could conceivably land and return an empty Starship before any crew-rated NASA ship goes anywhere near the Moon.

The Falcon 9 looks like it will launch its 17th cargo mission to the International Space Station tomorrow Friday. That program took six years from development start in 2006 to first flight in 2012. Starship began last year, so following the same development timeline would put it’s first working launch for clients at more like 2024, the same year as Trump’s unreachable deadline. They will no doubt fly #Dearmoon as soon as safely possible after that. No one expects that mission to hit its pie-in-the-sky goal of 2023. However, at the same time I haven’t heard anyone say expect it will take longer than 2025 or so.

See what’s happening? The Trump administration first tried to save the program early on by pressuring NASA to crew-rate EM-1, so that Commercial Space wouldn’t be the ones to do a crewed Moon loop thing first. Perception is important and human spaceflight envelope growth is the only thing that captures the general interest of the public. If NASA keeps on top of that then SLS lives a little longer. However, no one found any surprise in the eventual conclusion that EM-1 could not be safely crew rated in 2020 or 2021. Now Trump has made a crew landing demand. I don’t pretend that Trump cares about the SLS program employees more than he does the bragging rights of a successful human Moon landing during his watch. Bush and Obama have more bragging rights over these possibilities than he does, but where NASA is concerned politics matters and whatever Trump’s base motives in these unsuccessful attempts to accelerate the SLS timeline, it is schedule slip that has been killing SLS.

I Will Not Be Silent

•April 28, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I write, both here and in my fiction, about how technology dovetails into our culture. I focus on space exploration because I want people to understand just where the future of our species is going…in time to prepare.

Today, I’m gonna walk off that path a bit.

During the last Presidential election, I was in a conversation on Facebook with several people over the electoral choice we had between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for President of the United States. All participants in the discussion were women except for me. All except me and one other were vehemently, one-sidedly opposed to Hillary Clinton due to mostly just one issue…her support of late-term abortion. While I sympathize with these womens’ position…I am also pro-life…I do not think people should cast their votes on one issue alone. I also didn’t totally trust Donald Trump to tell Republicans the truth on it andexplained to them the unfortunate reality that all Republicans have to appear to be pro-life and all Democrats have to appear to be pro-choice or no one will elect them to anything except dog-catcher.

Then the other one woman in the forum, a former Democrat, also explained something interesting. She has a medical background and said that late-term abortions were no longer an issue anyway because modern medical advancements in women’s care had rendered them obsolete and unnecessary for the purpose of protecting a woman’s life and health.

You can imagine my elation. Late-term abortions are an abominable, ghoulish practice wherein the physician ends the life of an almost fully developed fetus at a point when he/she is capable of surviving outside the womb.

Now imagine my surprise when the lawmakers of some Eastern, Democrat-leaning states, seeing Trump’s vulnerability in the polls, recently passed laws allowing late-term abortion. One elected official, a man, even publicly advocated the barbaric practice of allowing a child that has already survived an abortion, and been born anyway, to die of neglect.

I will not be quiet! I don’t like discussing politics here and when I do I still prefer not to take sides between Republicans and Democrats. Before today I’d never used this blog or my fiction stories to discuss abortion either, but those who have closer contact with me know well my views on it.

I have always categorically rejected the claim that men are somehow not allowed to share an opinion on abortion. I hear unwilling fathers from both major political parties in the U.S. share THEIR opinions in favor of abortion when it affects their own personal circumstances. In my family and social circles I am surrounded by women whose voices are not as loud as mine but who agree with me on my pro-life views. Not only that, nobody hears the screams of the female babies who have no choice over what to do with their bodies as they are horribly killed in abortions, often in countries that routinely use ultrasounds to pre-select girls to be aborted in order to emphasize boy children.

You should also know my religious affiliation if you don’t already. I’m a practicing and enthusiastic member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. That belief system’s views on abortion should not surprise any of you and are as follows…

“Church leaders have said that some exceptional circumstances may justify an abortion, such as when pregnancy is the result of incest or rape, when the life or health of the mother is judged by competent medical authority to be in serious jeopardy, or when the fetus is known by competent medical authority to have severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth. But even these circumstances do not automatically justify an abortion. Those who face such circumstances should consider abortion only after consulting with their local Church leaders and receiving a confirmation through earnest prayer.

“When a child is conceived out of wedlock, the best option is for the mother and father of the child to marry and work toward establishing an eternal family relationship. If a successful marriage is unlikely, they should place the child for adoption, preferably through LDS Family Services (see “Adoption,” pages 7–8).”


https://ChurchofJesusChrist.org/manual/true-to-the-faith/abortion?lang=eng

However, do not misconstrue the views I share here today on late-term abortion to be religiously based. I discuss science, politics, and culture here…not religion.

Don’t believe me? Let’s try this…

(Warning: the following video from http://AbortionProcedures.com shows a former abortion doctor describing, in graphic detail, how a late-term abortion is performed.)

Today, I issue a call to action. Watch these videos and share them. Abortions worldwide are being performed as a form of birth control and even euthanasia. In MOST CASES they are at some level being urged, advocated with bias, and even abusively pushed on women by men of low character. Abortion is NOT healthful, NOT helpful, NOT wise, and NOT right…and even more so with late-term abortion. If you or someone you care about is advocating late-term abortions, they really need to see the above videos so that they know what it is that they really stand for.

We will never stop abortions in general worldwide, but we have an opportunity in the U.S. in this election cycle to stomp out the practice of late-term abortion here for the good of our culture. A society that tolerates such a practice would stop at no other evil.

I know that some of you affiliate with the Democrat party and support a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion. I also know that in your hearts many of you do not think that abortion is right. I can see it in your eyes when I talk to some of you face to face. Now I fully realize that we live in a complex world. I will not ask you to consider switching parties over just this one issue of late-term abortion, nor would I suggest that anyone make late-term abortion your only voting issue. I just ask that all of you attend your party’s local caucus and local and state party conventions. This is where the power truly lies with the people and where both major party platforms and policies are actually made. Please get involved at that level and demand that late-term abortions be banned in your state as outdated, unhealthy, and unnecessary.

Together, maybe we can put a stop to them.

A Reputation is a Terrible Thing to Waste

•April 20, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I haven’t yet read the Mueller Report. It is too large and I’ve been busy. I will read it before election day 2020 though. I also doubt that a lot of folks with opinions about it have yet had time to read it either. Hence the topic of this post.


United States President Barack Obama holds a meeting in the White House Situation Room on 20 April 2013 on the continuing investigation into the Boston Marathon bombing. From left at the table, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Director of CIA John Brennan, and Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President of Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.
Pete Souza – White House (P042013PS-0352)

Does anyone remember the famous slide-show done by Colin Powell regarding evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Saddam Hussein had been engaging in an elaborate shell game with inspectors, attempting to demonstrate to the world that he had something to hide. Colin Powell, a man with a stellar reputation for integrity, showed the public a piece of that shell game with a slide show of satellite photos in an attempt to make a case for invasion.

He left public life shortly after that when his conclusions didn’t pan out.

Confirmation bias is a drag. It stifles the inquisitiveness of people and corrupts their reputations because of over reliance on questionable information sources. How many people denied reports that the staff of the Trump White House felt like babysitters when managing this President and trying to keep him out of trouble? How many people laughed at Trump when he Tweeted early in his Presidency that he had been “spied on” by the Obama administration during the campaign? How many people denied that elements of the FBI could allow bias for or against Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump to impact how they did their jobs?


President George W. Bush announces the White House conference on Missing, Exploited and Runaway children in the Rose Garden Aug. 6. Standing with him are, from left to right, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Education Secretary Rod Paige, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and Ernie Allen and Carolyn Atwell-Davis from The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. White House photo by Tina Hager https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/08/images/20020806-2_p20479-03-thjpeg-515h.html

How many people in the news media and Congress declared that they had seen “irrefutable evidence” that criminal collusion had occurred between the Trump Campaign and Russia?

OK. Everyone take a step back.

  • Donald Trump is a pathological liar that says and does stupid things when he is angry or in situations that his handlers can’t control (like on Twitter or in stump speeches). Conservatives need to stop denying this.
  • The FBI leaks and those leaks are selective, biased, and unreliable. Everyone needs to stop denying this.
  • The difference between “necessary law enforcement surveillance” and “Big Brother spying on American citizens” is constructed on intent and probable cause. Everyone needs to stop denying this.
  • The domino effect of Russia’s attempt to disrupt our electoral process has worked…on multiple levels…and it continues. Everyone needs to stop denying this and participating in it.
  • There are people and organizations on both sides of the isle who seem to either be far to deeply reliant on questionable information sources, or are themselves unscrupulous liars who care more about their own issue agenda than they do about the strength and stability of the U.S.A. Everyone needs to stop denying this, review and verify everything those people have said regarding Trump-Russia and the Mueller Investigation and its origins, and adjust their opinions accordingly.
  • Even now, some of the aforementioned unreliable people who don’t care about the truth are attempting to selectively read the Mueller Report to you and tell you what they think you need to think about it.
  • At some point the public information distribution mechanisms of this country went totally off the rails and left too many of its citizens with the evidently incorrect conclusion that the President of the U.S. was an agent for Russia. Liberals in Government and the News Media who have not yet come around to admitting this need to do so now.
  • The effects of lost reputation among various people in 2016-2019 will ripple through the 2020 election process and may have the inverse impact on policy winners vs losers than the liars originally intended.

Consider and learn from this fiasco. The reputation you save may be your own.

Israel Rising

•April 11, 2019 • Leave a Comment

See? That’s what I’ve been talkin’ about.

This photo was taken by a collection of firsts…

First Israeli probe to the Moon.

Soon to be first Israeli lander on the Moon.

First Commercial Space Spacecraft to the Moon.

First Falcon-launched payload to the Moon.

First Lunar XPrize contender to reach the Moon.

All in one probe.

While we wait for Falcon Heavy’s next Arabsat 6a launch window today (since upper-level winds prevented yesterday’s launch) SpaceIL, a small company based in Israel, will attempt to land a spacecraft in the Lunar dust of the Sea of Serenity.

This sort of thing just wasn’t possible at traditional launch costs a decade ago and you can expect to see more small countries getting into the game during the next decade. I’m not just talking about robotic missions like this Israeli probe Beresheet either, but later this year or the next Commercial Space will finally start arranging to fly passengers. Yes, companies and small countries will soon be able to send their people into Earth orbit.

The lander itself isn’t much, it isn’t meant to be. It was built to satisfy the requirements of the Lunar XPrize. The prize expired uncollected, but several contenders like SpaceIL kept going. Their lander can take and send images like the one at the top of this article. It also carries a magnetometer and a Retroreflector for bouncing research lasers from Earth.

It launched from Earth on February 22nd on a SpaceX Falcon 9. The whole project has a budget of just $95M.

BTW…if the U.S. State Department doesn’t like you, then they won’t allow your country to buy these cheap rides from SpaceX — a U.S. company. Bare that in mind when making your foreign policy decisions. Russia, Iran, North Korea, China…I’m talking to you. Time to jump on the train before the Conductor closes the doors. The opportunities of the space economy won’t wait.

Just sayin’. Play nice and maybe you too will have a new generation of engineers rising up and making money for your country.

Or would you rather countries like Israel have all the fun?

Watch “Arabsat-6A Mission” on YouTube

•April 10, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Here is where you go to watch this historic launch.

The next installment of the series we have been doing here on Falcon Heavy will be a merged, long-term timeline of various space-time related events as they currently stand. It does of course rely heavily on the success of this flight…so I’ll wait until after second stage relight before I send that out.

High Flight

•April 8, 2019 • Leave a Comment
The Saturn V breaks the sound barrier on Earth’s first Moon landing mission.


“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.
Hovering 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.

http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/highflig.htm

The First Commercial Launch of Falcon Heavy — Part 3: What Will It Do for Human Space Flight?

•April 7, 2019 • Leave a Comment

The second flight of the epic SpaceX Falcon Heavy is scheduled to fly on Tuesday, April 9th 2017. That date might still drift down the calendar a couple more days…after all rocketry is difficult, it is only the second flight and some pretty important things are riding on this. The Arbsat 6A is an expensive satellite, but there is more to it than just that.

The above photo shows the Falcon Heavy that will fly this week. Also in the photo is the charred Falcon 9 booster that flew the successful Commercial Crew test flight earlier this year and landed for refurbishment and reuse. Every booster you see in this photo are the Block 5 variant, built to be refueled and re-flown many times with a minimum of rework. While the Falcon Heavy itself is not crew rated, its side boosters are of the same design as, and are interchangeable with, the soon to be crew-rated Falcon 9 rocket. This ties their fates together. This week’s launch of the non-crew-rated Falcon Heavy will add needed data to the launch history of the Block 5 version of the Falcon 9 rocket and move SpaceX closer to qualifying Falcon 9 to fly crew to the International Space Station this summer and later other places in Earth orbit.

NASA has committed itself to the path of Commercial Crew, to the point of not paying Russia for the series of NASA crew rotations that need to take place for the ISS this year.

Boeing, NASA’s other Commercial Crew partner, is having it’s own problems with preparing their crew-rated capsule, and it will not launch crew this year.

Furthermore, SpaceX has prepared the same launch pad, 39A, for both crewed flights to the ISS and for flying Falcon Heavy. If this week’s rocket explodes on the pad it could set SpaceX back as they make repairs.

So ya, there are a lot of eggs in this basket.

In 2016, during fueling for a static fire test (pre-flight engine test), a Falcon 9 second stage ruptured a tank and exploded. This grounded that flight operations for that rocket design for several months and damaged the launch pad. The cause of the anomaly was identified and corrected, both in tank design and in fuel loading procedures. Also, when they performed the static fire last week, the Arabsat 6a payload was not on the rocket yet. That is why they pulled this rocket back indoors after the the successful test is complete. This Block 5 version of the booster, besides being more powerful than it’s predecessor, includes modifications that NASA wanted for additional precautions against the 2016 accident in preparation for it’s participation in the Commercial Crew program.

On the upside, the SpaceX design practice of using multiple engines on each rocket has made the Merlin one of the most heavily tested rockets in the world, and probably contributed to its efficiency improvements over the years. Since the rocket is landed and examined after every launch, and built for multiple re-flights, the company’s understanding of their equipment is improved. In fact some of SpaceX’s customers have even come to appreciate that a previously flown rocket has already been “flight proven”…a slap in the face to some early re-usability naysayers who claimed that re-flying rockets would be dangerous.

Even though this launch carries a fairly routine type of payload, the launch itself extends the envelope of human launch capabilities and moves the Commercial Space industry one step closer to full autonomy from Government whims. The Falcon Heavy launch for the U.S. Air Force, together with a successful certification of the Falcon 9 for carrying passengers to orbit, will finish establishing the Falcon Heavy, currently the most powerful rocket in the world, as fully ready for business.

Once the Falcon 9 and Dragon begin flying people to orbit, they don’t have to just do so for the International Space Station. Bigelow Aerospace has been building and testing their own inflatable space station modules for several years now and intend to launch that business as soon as non-government rides to space become a thing this year. between private space stations, the Commercial Crew program, and the advent of inexpensive heavy lifters like the Falcon Heavy for placing private space station modules into orbit, the price of human spaceflight will soon fall to epic lows. Any large company, or even small country, will be able to buy a ticket to ride.

It all starts now!

Don’t miss the launch!

Tomorrow…

After this launch, if it is successful, what comes next? A combination of currently planned events in the Commercial Space Industry.

Click here to search all articles in this blog that speak of Falcon Heavy.

The First Commercial Launch of Falcon Heavy — Part 4: What Next?

•April 7, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Now that this launch went off successfully, here are some of the tentative timelines merged together. I know that this is far from a complete list; tell me in the comments if you know of any other important events that you think should be included. Understand that Wikipedia (from which I compiled this list), still thinks that SLS will fly in 2020…which many folks still think is unlikely. I think that every minute later than that endangers the program.

Note below how the International Space Station needs to be replaced very soon by Commercial Space Stations or we have to wait many years, until the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway is complete, before continual human habitation in space can continue. Also note that with current timelines where they are and relations between the U.S. and Russia declining at the current rate, the only access to space by the U.S. and possibly the world might be on harward owned by SpaceX and the New Space version of Boeing for several years.

Lastly, I read yesterday about a late-breaking plan to build a smaller  LOP-G to speed the path to boots on the ground on the Moon, to meet the new 2024 deadline. I have not included that idea below.

Today — Falcon Heavy’s second flight, its first commercial flight, and its first flight with the new Block 5 booster design, successfully deployed the Arabsat-6A satellite.

Today — SpaceIL installed the new Beresheet Crater in the Sea of Serenity on the Moon. Better luck next time folks! They were the first commercial company to send a probe to lunar orbit and at $95M it was probably by far the least expensive lunar orbitor/impactor in history). Cheer up! Space exploration is hard and partial first achievements push back the envelope too. To put this in perspective, click here.

Later this year — Falcon Heavy’s third flight, second flight for the side boosters from this week’s flight, and first flight for the U.S. Air Force.

Later this year — First crewed flight of Falcon 9 and the Crewed Dragon capsule, first Commercial Crewed flight to the International Space Station and first orbital crewed flight on a commercial rocket, and first ever certification of a commercial carrier for transporting humans to and from Earth orbit. This is all relevant to those article because every launch made by SpaceX downstream from this one will be made by one of only four or five organizations in the world running a human space flight program.

Later this year — Extended hop tests of Starship.

April 2020 — Second un-crewed test flight of the Orion capsule and Orion’s first trip to the Moon and back…carried by the first test flight of SLS Block 1.

2020 — Boeing’s Commercial Crew capsule will launch it’s first crewed mission to the ISS aboard the Atlas IV…making them both crew-rated systems and ready to compete with SpaceX for crewed flights to orbit for NASA and others.

2020 — An Atlas IV rocket will launch Bigelow Aerospace’s Nautilus module, an independent crewed inflatable research station with 330 cubic meters of living space that can house a crew of six. This spacecraft will later be boosted to low Lunar orbit.

2020 – Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin starts flying its New Glenn orbital rocket. At this point Blue Origin stops being a billionaire vanity project and becoming competition. We all know what happens to a market when Bezos steps into it.

2020 – This may be the end of Russia’s involvement with the International Space Station. Understand, they will not just walk away, they will undock their modules and deorbit them or use them elsewhere, leaving the ISS unusable. This would abruptly end NASA’s Commercial Crew and Commercial resupply programs. The Russians might wait for as long as 2028 to leave, depending on how well the U.S. and Russia are getting along. NASA has plans to hand it all over to Commercial Space, but someone would have to come up with a suitable replacement for the Russian parts and folks are dubious as to whether or not it’d even be worth it to a company financially. Someone really needs to orbit something else very soon…something a bit bigger than just Nautilus.

2020-2022 — Test flights and then later operational flights of Falcon Super Heavy and Starship…marking the beginning of the end of the Falcon 9 program…which would include the Falcon Heavy.

2022 — Third operational flight of Orion, Orion’s first crewed flyby of the Moon, second flight of the SLS Block 1 design to put the Propulsion Module of the Lunar Orbital Platform/Gateway (aka LOP-G — essentially NASA’s International Interplanetary Spacecraft) into a Lunar L2 (far-side) orbit. If on time, these astronauts will be the first humans to fly to the Moon since the Apollo program..if not, then #dearMoon will be.

2023 — #dearMoon, the world’s first ever commercial Lunar mission, flies on SpaceX’s 100 seat Falcon Super Heavy and Starship with Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and 7 of the world’s leading artists aboard. BTW, Unlike Orion, Starship is an Interplanetary Spacecraft.

2023 — Europa clipper flies on…something…not SLS…Falcon Heavy maybe, or Falcon Super Heavy. Depending largely on politics, successful development, and whether or not Congress insists again that it MUST fly on SLS.

2024 — The Trump administration insists that we have boots on the ground on the Moon by this point…the end of Trump’s second term in office…”at all costs”. Most folks think that “we” means NASA…I think he doesn’t care so long as the mission is “Made in the U.S.A.”, which by 2024 will not necessarily have to be NASA. Maybe some kind of accelerated program deeply integrated with commercial partners.

2024 — Second module of LOP-G goes into Lunar L2 orbit aboard the first flight of the SLS Block 1B design. From here NASA plans to launch a module roughly every year on an SLS Block 1B, and later Block 2, until the LOP-G’s planned completion and flight to Mars in 2030 or so.

2025 — SpaceX’s plan to begin flying crewed missions to Mars starts about here.

2029 — First flight of SLS Block 2.

Click here to search all articles in this blog that talk about Falcon Heavy.

The First Commercial Launch of Falcon Heavy — Part 2: What Will It Do To NASA’s Space Launch System?

•April 7, 2019 • Leave a Comment

NASA, the Air Force, ArabSat…they all want a piece of Falcon Heavy…the rocket that SpaceX has already decided to replace with it’s new Falcon Super Heavy and Starship (formerly BFR) someday.

NASA’s Orion capsule currently languishes in its hanger waiting for its terribly late and overly expensive ride, the Space Launch System (SLS Block 1), to be completed. NASA and the Trump Administration very much want Orion’s EM-1 mission (uncrewed Lunar flyby) to go off on schedule around April-June 2020, but SLS is widely viewed as not able to meet that launch date and unnamed commercial launchers are being considered.

I said “Unnamed” commercial launchers, but Bridenstine and Pence can only be referring to the only two large currently operating rockets in the world…Falcon Heavy and ULA’s Delta IV Heavy. Now, experts widely view such a plan as untenable for a number of reasons. However, the danger to SLS is that just the brain exercise involved in trying to figure out how to split an Orion lunar launch between a Delta Heavy and Falcon Heavy endangers what is left of SLS’s already shaky mission profile and quite rightly gives SLS builders and the Congress folk whom they vote for the heebeejeebees. After all, if Orion can dock in orbit with a lunar stage launched on a separate rocket, then what do we even need the $1B per launch SLS for…especially when Falcon Super Heavy, New Armstrong, and probably several others will come along and render it obsolete sometime in the mid-2020s? Also, without the need for SLS, the new Lunar Space Station plan would need to go into redesign and might not wake up from that surgery, since it was partly envisioned to provide launch missions for SLS/Orion and might even be obsolete before it is complete.

It’s not surprising that NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine announced afterward that the engineers working on SLS had found some ways to speed development of SLS along.

Falcon Heavy should not be compared to the Space Launch System capability wise anyway, but timing keeps bringing their fates together. Setting aside the fact that Falcon Heavy is flying and SLS isn’t, I’ve said here before that as awesome as Falcon Heavy is, it cannot compete with even the Block 1 SLS in detail. Once in space the kerosene engines on the Falcon line are not as good as the liquid hydrogen Space Shuttle engines used by SLS. Please do not compare lift capacities and say, “But, Bill, they lift roughly the same.” They don’t. SLS is 9 meters wide…the Falcon Heavy second stage is the same as Falcon 9, which is only 3.7 meters wide. So payloads built for SLS CANNOT fly on Falcon without a special payload adapter which SpaceX has already said they are not interested in building because their next rocket DOES lift as much as SLS, IS 9 meters wide, burns much more efficient liquid methane, will be fully reusable and dang cheap to launch, and will need missions once it is in operation. It’ll come in to operation right in the middle of SLS’s working lifespan with comparable capabilities and a minuscule price.

I hate even comparing the FH and SLS…because they will never even be operational at the same time anyway. However, folks keep slapping them next to each other anyway…largely because SLS is still a paper rocket, is horridly expensive, and its schedule creep keeps dumping its missions off on Falcon Heavy. They’ve already moved Europa clipper and one of the LOP-G modules to a “commercial launcher”. NASA can’t actually SAY Falcon Heavy because it isn’t even officially certified to fly missions for them yet, and SpaceX doesn’t want to develop it any further. NASA’s money is as good as anyone’s but doing business with the government generally comes with lots of baggage and NASA didn’t help build that rocket. I guess it’ll depend on how much SpaceX needs the cash. At a certain point though, SpaceX will start preferring to market Starship and Falcon Super Heavy instead.

We’ll see.

Tomorrow…

What does this week’s Falcon Heavy launch do for Commercial Crew…NASA’s plan to totally hand off all low Earth Orbit operations to Commercial Space?

Click here to search all articles in this blog that speak of Falcon Heavy.

The First Commercial Launch of Falcon Heavy — Part 1: Do We Need it?

•April 6, 2019 • Leave a Comment

No Roadsters or mannequins this time.

If you witnessed the static fire yesterday it was spectacular. The upcoming launch of Arabsat will be epic.

The launch that is currently expected sometime next week will lift the 13,200 lb Arabsat 6A communications relay satellite that will serve television, Internet, telephone, and secure communications to the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.

I read folks who were skeptical whether Falcon Heavy would even have a market. However, it is not that much more expensive than Falcon 9, quite a bit less expensive than Atlas IV, and way less expensive than Delta IV Heavy. It can launch large payloads much closer to Geosynchronous Orbit, a very, very high orbit where a satellite can seem to hover over a fixed point over the Earth’s equator so that you can point your satellite dish at it. Lighter lifters like the Falcon 9 can only lift those spacecraft to what is called Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit, and then the satellite has to expend its own fuel to raise and flatten that orbit with its station-keeping engines, taking years off of its useful lifespan.

Cable and satellite TV, and some Internet and telephone, are currently relayed to the masses through huge, singular, high-flying geosynchronous spacecraft like Arabsat…but times they are a-changin’. These satellites can only be reached with a heavy dish and only in places on the planet where the Southern sky is unobstructed.

I have a device in my truck called a Garmin InReach. It uses the Iridium satellite network, a large group of very low-orbiting satellites that orbit the Earth from pole to pole. These can relay signals to cell-phone sized devices anywhere. My InReach device is for GPS navigation and emergency text messaging, but commercial aircraft use that same network to provide in-flight telephone and Internet access to their customers. Ships at sea use the Iridium network for the same thing. Several companies, including SpaceX, are planning to serve very high-speed Internet this way direct to your cell phone the very near future.

More and more people are using Internet streaming for their video these days instead of cable and satellite TV. However, enough of the world still uses traditional satellite TV to make that orbit the most lucrative target for launch companies like SpaceX. To provide a comparatively inexpensive lifter to put large communications spacecraft right into that orbit allows a satellite investment to serve longer and thus encourages companies to build and fly even larger, more sophisticated and expensive spacecraft down the road. While some folks think that satellites like Arabsat 6A might not be as badly needed in the future, those that are currently in planning will now have the cheap Falcon Heavy to orbit them right where they need to be…keeping that orbit more financially competitive for a few more years until the polar, low-orbiting networks like Skynet and similar technologies come online and push them out of the market.

Even better, this second launch, if successful, proves that the first launch wasn’t just a fluke. It puts this launcher one step closer to full certification with NASA and further solidifies its current certification with the U.S. Air Force and future U.S. Space Corps.

As the first launch of the Falcon Heavy using the crew-ready Block 5 version of the Falcon 9 core, it puts data on the board for crew rating both the Falcon Heavy and the Falcon 9 that will fly crew to the International Space Station later this year. It also has somewhere between 10% and 20% more thrust than the lifter that threw Starman to Mars’ Solar orbit last year.

And yes…NASA, the Trump Administration, and others have noticed.

Tomorrow…

What will this launch do to NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion Crew Capsule?

For more articles on the Falcon Heavy, Click here!

photo credit: jurvetson SpaceX Falcon Heavy Blastoff (6 of 7) via photopin (license)

Are We Building a Wall, or Building Trump?

•March 16, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Do you think that only racists oppose illegal immigration? Is it strictly a Left vs Right issue? Do all Democrats in the U.S. secretly support Open Borders? Au contraire mon frère!

Racists do oppose immigration because they fear culture change, they don’t want their tax money to support poor “Mexicans”, or they just plain don’t like looking at faces around them that ain’t white.

Racists also oppose…or support…immigration from South and Central America because they see poor, unemployed Hispanics as an enslaved Democrat voter block.


To the left lies San Diego, California and on the right is Tijuana, Baja California. The building in the foreground on the San Diego side is a sewage treatment plant built to clean the Tijuana River.

Rich Libertarians support Open Borders…yes they do…because they want an exploitable labor class. Did you know that as recently as 2018 The Koch Brothers were helping to fund Open Borders action groups?

Many Conservatives support The Wall because it has become an ensign to folks like me who think that laws should mean something and have become frustrated with pole-fence border barriers and “catch and release” border apprehension procedures.


Climbing the Mexico–United States barrier fence in Brownsville, Texas

Compassionate people want to help refugees get into the U.S. any way they can because Honduras and Nicaragua are horrible human catastrophes that good people need to escape from.

Compassionate people also want to end illegal immigration because of the unseen horrors of human trafficking and smuggling.

Democratic Socialists oppose Open Borders because they, and the Labor Unions, don’t want downward pressure on wages.

Democratic Socialists support Open Borders because lots and lots of poor people create a market for lots and lots of government assistance of various kinds…historically a slippery slope to Socialism.


Vehicle barrier in the New Mexico desert

Capitalists oppose Open Borders because lots and lots of poor people create a market for lots and lots of government assistance of various kinds…historically a slippery slope to Socialism.

Like it or not, right or wrong, good or bad, regardless of any of these other angles, Trump is actually fighting on the winning side of the immigration issue politically.


DOUGLAS, Ariz. (March 14, 2009) Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCB) 133 and NMCB-14 construct a 1,500 foot-long concrete-lined drainage ditch and a 10 foot-high wall to increase security along the U.S. and Mexico border in Douglas, Ariz. Builder 3rd Class Petty Officer Ian Burkhard in foreground. (U.S. Navy photo by Steelworker 1st Class Matthew Tyson/Released)

Before Donald Trump got involved in the issue, many Democrats wanted an improved border barrier of some kind. The photo above of U.S. Navy Seabees building a border wall was taken in 2009, during the Obama Administration. However, now that a President who they hate has made building The Wall an icon of his Presidency, they oppose it because they don’t want him to serve a second term. Huge numbers of single-issue Republican voters, who have always viewed immigration from the South as the apocalypse of our time, WILL SIT HOME AND SULK LIKE A BUNCH OF CRY BABIES ON ELECTION NIGHT AND NOT VOTE IF THEY DON’T GET THEIR WALL!

Currently serving elected officials know full well the impact of coattail votes in a Presidential election year and have been elbowing each other for a winning position on what they think is the up-side of the border security issue.

Some corrupt polititians and land owners may have been making money from the human trafficking.

Most people have, from time to time, taken views that they know are selfish, immoral, controversial, or flawed in some other way and packaged them in pretty boxes made up of sunshine and lollipops…and immigration leaves folks plenty of room on either side to do that.

Everyone suffers from issue culture blindness and a general lack of situational awareness to some extent.

All of this combined makes the core issue, the need to reform our outdated immigration laws, impossible to legislate properly. This has left immigration policy and its enforcement almost entirely at the mercy of media hype and Presidential whim.

Where are you on this issue? Comment below.

(Photos from Wikipedia)

One Land, One People

•October 28, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I’ve had complaints about the image that I chose for the first cover of the second edition of Into the Dark:Escape of the Nomad. Well, that cover isn’t selling books very well and I have another one in the works, but let me tell you why I chose it.

Voyager One launched in 1977, a deep space probe bound for the outer reaches of the Solar System and sent on a trajectory that would allow the gravity of the outer planets to fling it out into Interstellar Space, which it will soon enter. Thirteen years after launch it looked back toward home. Those light bands in the picture are lens flares caused by the need to point the camera so close to the Sun in order to zoom in on Earth’s orbit. If you look really close at the middle of one of those lens flares you’ll find a dim spot. That lonesome dot, surrounded by emptiness, is the planet Earth in a quarter-phase as seen from space.

It looks almost like an anomaly in the photo, an error of light or maybe a missing pixel caused by an errant beam of radiation hitting the imager. In that dot lies every person, every country, every people, every living creature that humans have ever discovered. All of the mysteries, stories, religions, philosophies, prejustices, opinions, governments, politics…they all mix together there. Inside that little tiny spot on a three decades old photo lies all that is humanity.

Last week in the U.S., a disturbed man mailed pipe bombs to over a dozen people. Thankfully, no one was hurt. This past weekend another disturbed man walked into a church and opened fire into a crowd, killing about a dozen people. These men invoked fringe politics and bigotry as excuses for these acts of terror and violence, but at their core they were based on hatred. These men do not fairly represent philosophy in the U.S. because they used violence to speak their mind. That is not our way.

As the U.S. midterm voting deadline approaches, please remember the Pale Blue Dot. Remember how many people have died to secure a system that protects all factions while it gives each a voice. Remember all that has been done by so many people over so many years to build that system where the blessing of peaceful transfer of power is possible. The U.S. should stand as an example of stability and strength, a beacon of light and hope to the world in such things.

Let us not further smudge that image, throwing back to this planet’s past history of bloodletting for power. The morning after November 6th, 2018 there will be both winners and losers. Some political careers will start while others end. Some will roll up their sleeves and get to work on the things they planned to get done, while others will look ahead to 2020 for a second chance. Government will shift its footing a little to achieve a new balance and life will go on. New paths will be forged as everyone looks to whatever our new future holds.

Therein lies the most important part. Life will go on…for both the winners and the losers. That is what the peaceful transfer of power means. Everyone lives.

EVERYONE lives to struggle on another day and look forward to the next election. Why, because like in that grainy, famous image of the Pale Blue Dot, the smallest part is the most important…you! Your life, hopes, dreams, beliefs, loves, victories, defeats…YOU are what makes up humanity and YOU MUST LIVE ON for humanity to survive. That precious heartbeat in your chest carries someone’s future with it. You are the one who can make a difference in so many things.

I implore you. Help me make a difference and carry the legacy of our ancestors forward in promoting a smooth and peaceful election. Please. That dignified and bloodless transfer of power protects us all and allows all sides of all issues to continue on to 2020 and a brighter tomorrow.

#Soyuz Booster Failure — Breaking News

•October 11, 2018 • Leave a Comment

The latest crew launch to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz rocket suffered a launch failure and the capsule returned Earth. At last news both the astronaut and the Cosmonaut are said to be fine.

Updates on NASA Live TV.

These things happen, and it is the reason why we have launch abort systems. Soyuz is a good ship. They’ll find the cause and Roscosmos will be a better organization as a result.

I’ll post an article on the outlook going forward once those in charge of such things have had time to mull it all over. However, Soyuz is currently the only ride to the ISS, and it will now be grounded for a while for an investigation.

Congress…why did you underfund Commercial Crew all those years? Now humanity has no crew launch capability.

UFO Spotted Over California Coast

•October 8, 2018 • Leave a Comment
Forgive the title please, but I want folks who Google “UFO Spotted Over California Coast” to find this article so that I can help them know what it really is. If this is what you saw…
Twilight phenomena over California from a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch out of Vandenberg AFB.
…then it came from Earth, specifically Vandenberg Air Force Base. It may have been military, but it was probably a satellite launch. Maybe that they launched was a ULA Atlas 5 or a SpaceX Falcon 9. The satellite flew out of Vandenberg because it needed to orbit the North and South poles and Vandenberg allows for such launches to fly over the ocean so that if the rocket explodes then the debris won’t hurt anyone. One example of a polar orbiting satellite is Iridium. Of you use a satellite phone or pager, or if you’ve ever used the Internet during an international flight, then you may have done so using an Iridium satellite. On the evening of October 7th a Falcon 9 launched an Argentinian Soil Moisture sensing satellite that flew down the coast and many folks thought they’d seen a UFO. When the launch occurs just after dark like that, the sun will still be able to reach it and illuminate the rocket exhaust. Contrasted against the dark night sky it is quite spectacular. Rockets launching things into orbit do not fly straight up, but rather they fly nearly horizontal to the Earth to accelerate to orbital speeds. Often, an object in orbit is really not very far away from Earth. In fact, if an Iridium satellite flies directly overhead, it is really no further than a couple hundred miles up. With less air up there it encounters very little resistance to slow it down, so it just stays up there. An object in orbit is still pulled by Earth’s gravity and is actually always falling, however it is moving so fast that the curvature of the Earth’s surface just falls away from it as fast as it falls. The Moon and even TV satellites orbit much further away, but the principle is the same.

NASA’s Space Launch System On The Ropes

•October 8, 2018 • Leave a Comment

The first test flight of the Space Launch System, called EM-1, has recently been delayed further down the calendar to June of 2020 and maybe even 2021.

I’ve already pointed out the looming danger that delays pose to that program. As it falls further down the calendar it will encounter competition from other launch systems that cost far less to fly. I’m thinking specifically of SpaceX’s upcoming Big Falcon Rocket, and to a lesser extent Falcon Heavy, but there might also be others that show up at some point along the way as well.

OK…so…I have a rhetorical question…

What good are the lessons learned from EM-1 if it launches only months before EM-2? Next question…How close does the EM-1 mission have to get to the EM-2 mission before EM-2 gets pushed down the schedule with it?

We used to think it was idiotic that EM-2 followed EM-1 by a whole whoppin’ five years! Boy has that stopped being an issue! It is now nearing just one. It seems to take more than a year to build an SLS rocket, so if they find a problem in the EM-1 test mission that they want to fix in future rockets like the one that will fly EM-2…well, you get the picture.

orion_visiting_deep_space_gateway

As things currently stand, the second component of NASA’s Lunar Orbiting Platform-Gateway (LOP-G) belongs to the European Space Agency. They call it the “European System Providing Refueling Infrastructure and Telecommunications” (ESPRIT) and it will fly in 2022, if it is ready on time, and will likely launch on a Falcon Heavy. That is the same year as EM-2…the SLS flight on which the “Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage” (ICPS) for LOP-G is currently scheduled to launch. Soon after that, in 2023, comes the Europa Clipper mission…an orbiter and lander for a Jupiter moon (if that mission survives budget cuts and doesn’t get moved to Falcon Heavy so it can launch sooner and cheaper). About once every year after that, starting in 2024, begins a series of LOP-G construction and mission launches ending in a two-year long Mars orbit mission sometime after 2030. They intend to fly more Interplanetary missions on this reusable spacecraft after that.

As you can see, there is no room for any more development delays. NASA, Russia, ESA, Japan, Canada, and perhaps even China will be committed to their own flight and assembly mission schedules related to LOP-G. BFR will be available somewhere in there to jump in, maybe at two full decimal places cheaper, and take over if any SLS flight becomes unable to step-up. Then folks will ask SLS, “What do we even need you for?”

Even if BFR has not yet begun regular flights by 2022 (I don’t think it will), Falcon Heavy will still be flying. In addition to ESA and the ESPRIT module, Japan’s space agency (JAXA) wants to fly their space station resupply ship, HTV-X, to LOP-G on Falcon Heavy. Of course, all of that relies on a reliable LOP-G development, flight, and operation schedule, which itself currently relies on a reliable SLS flight schedule.

Falcon Heavy will also be certified by both NASA and the U.S. military and might have even flown more missions than ULA’s Delta Heavy by then. It lifts twice as much payload than Delta Heavy for roughly half the price. However, neither it nor Delta Heavy are big enough around to fly NASA’s planned LOP-G construction modules, but BFR will be.

rocket-428731_1920

So, Falcon Heavy, if it flies well between now and then, will be considered an acceptable option for uncrewed NASA missions. It will likely fly the ESPRIT to lunar orbit for ESA. Falcon 9 will fly at least one Lunar XPrize package to the Moon’s surface. BFR will probably run one or more test flights to prepare to send a Japanese billionaire with 7 artists on a loop around the Moon. All this likely will fly in 2022, the same year that SLS flies EM-2, with Orion and four NASA astronauts…for more cost than all the rest of the above. If ANY further schedule slippage pushes EM-2 into 2023 with all these other options available someone might just say why even bother with SLS.

Indeed, SLS is indeed on the ropes.

rocket-launch-437218_1920

The Phenomenon Called @realDonaldTrump

•October 1, 2018 • Leave a Comment

There are places all over the world where billionaires go to retire from the sweaty masses…politics isn’t one of them. A great many people think the country is in jeopardy, simply because a billionaire became President…as if that’s all it takes to destroy a country!

Politics is a game for millionaires. Only millionaires can live in the public eye like that while blending into the halls of power. Donald Trump, IMO, is a sleazy con man, a pathological liar, and a philanderer. I have spoken out against these particular traits in people, particularly public officials, my whole life. These traits (along with hypocrisy) in each of us push our civilization toward entropy. When powerful people possess these traits, the damage is multiplied. In fact, these traits in elected officials do so much damage that I fail to see what difference it makes if that person’s net worth is a couple of digits wider. Information flows faster when greased with money, this is true, but it also reaches a saturation point that is within the budgets of millionaires to achieve.

That is what bugs me about the NFL player National Anthem kneeling thing. Those men are most definitely NOT poor, downtrodden, suppressed minorities. They are some of the most influential people on the planet simply by virtue of being millionaires and entertainers. They don’t need to bite the hand that feeds them to fight for the things they feel passionate about. Anyone with an ax to grind, a product to sell, or a political issue to promote should envy the reach these guys have just by being them.

Don’t believe me? In using social media to promote my books, I watch hit trends for Twitter and Google. I do that because Tweeting into those trends can instantly reach tens if not hundreds of thousands of people. Let me show you what those trends looked like when I typed this article yesterday…

The top screen shot is from trends.google.com. The bottom one is from Trends24. I took both of them about 1:13 pm Sunday Sept. 20, 2018.

Now my book ads for Into the Dark for Kindle have an interaction rate of between 1% and 4% (pretty good). That means that folks who see those ads tend to click on them. The book itself seems to have a sales conversion rate of almost 10% (needs a lot of improvement there). That means that 10% of the folks who see it featured on their screen after clicking end up buying it. So any hour that my book ad is seen 200k times should sell 20 books even with that sad conversion rate. 20 books an hour for an obscure author like me would be time to party! Given that formula I can spend $100 on paid ads and expect to sell between 1 and 4 books. A better cover for the book would probably improve that. BTW, 200k hits on any article on this blog on any single day would easily put it in the news.

Back to Donald Trump…he has so much money and property that if he approached me and said, “Bill, I read Into the Dark and I like it and want to help you sell it. What do you suggest?” I could have him work it into a State of the Union speech, but that would have negative consequences as well as positive ones and would only offer a temporary bump. Given that, I’d actually prefer free advertising on the lobby TVs in his hotels worldwide. It would make me rich quietly because those who didn’t like seeing those ads there would just ignore them and go on about their day. Having Trump use his bully pulpit for my published works, on the other hand, would have folks throwing rocks at my house and children.

Now back to billionaires in politics. Given what I said above, how would the average billionaire prefer to promote their preference on a particular political issue, in a way that pushes it steadily with minimum personal blowback? I think you’d agree that it would not be running for the U.S. Presidency.

Now I want to show you something else on Google Trends…beware, this may frighten you…

Digest that for a moment. It looks like that every day. It says that over the course of fourteen years of various U.S. Presidential controversies (of which Trump has only been part of for about four years) more people have Googled Donald Trump than any other President…and more than all of the 2nd through 5th trending names combined!

Ooo! I just thought of something else…

So, according to this, since about May of 2017, after Google searches on Donald Trump calmed down and leveled off, he accounts for somewhere between about 17 and 22 percent OF ALL DAILY GOOGLE TRAFFIC!

So which really is worse, having a man like Trump live in Dubai, quietly pulling the strings of power with most of the rest of the world’s billionaires, or becoming President, frightening and activating all the people who are scared of billionaires with power? Don’t tell me all those Google hits are because he’s the only sleazy conman, pathological liar, and/or philanderer in Washington…there are plenty of those! In fact he’s probably not even the only elected official with the same mix of those traits.

Trump’s money may have helped make him President (even though he spent far less on his campaign than most Presidents), but his money does not make him any more powerful now that he is President. I submit that he is powerful because he is more hated by the Left than any other Republican President in history…because of his money. That hate translates into media attention and screen time. Is it any coincidence that the MAGAs hate, and have always hated, the very same news media sources that tend to report most negatively about Trump? Hate breeds hate and screaming masses in MAGA hats are yelling as much against those media sources as they are yelling for Trump.

I dislike him too, as much or more than any other U.S. President in my lifetime, but he really hasn’t done much that any other equally visible Republican President wouldn’t do. I usually don’t like the way he does those things…I prefer a President with more dignity…but any Republican President would have signed that tax-cut bill, wanted out of the Paris Accords, cracked down on illegal immigration, cracked down in Iran, cracked down on Syria, and maybe even cracked down N. Korea given the times we are in. Also, most of those who hate him the most hate him no more now than they did the day after the election…before he’d had even had time to do any of that other stuff! It’s like that infamous protest sign railing against his pick for the Supreme Court…with the name of that pick still blank.

The hatred directed against Trump, by people who wouldn’t like him anyway, is epic. His support among many mainstream Republicans like me is considerably more reserved than with past Republican Presidents, but the fandom level of support that he enjoys among the formerly disenfranchised, apolitical Conservative occasional voter is as enthusiastic as the hatred against him on the other end. They are the voting block that pushed him through the primaries, put him in office, and now cheer his policies more than anyone.

This is not a normal Presidency…far from it. Heightened emotions drive voter turnout and voter turnout has always driven midterm election results…more than the issues themselves.

Democrats felt entitled to a Hillary Clinton Presidency and were disappointed. If they feel entitled to a normal midterm election where the party out of power sweeps seats out from under their rivals, then they may be disappointed again. There are more vulnerable Democrat seats than Republican ones, a strong proportion of MAGAs don’t participate in media polling, and this thing with Judge Kavanaugh will animate the MAGAs into a screaming mob bending Hell and creation to get to the polls in November.

So I think Donald Trump may be about to win another election…

…and if you think that he’s is incorrigible now, and has the Republicans in Congress licking his diamond-studded New York loafers…just wait until a strong Republican showing in the midterms gives him a mandate!

NASA is Sixty

•October 1, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Happy Birthday NASA

Some folks think that NASA has seen better days. Really?

While it is true that these robotic spacecraft get all the press coverage, let me remind any doubters out there that the International Space Station was put in space mostly by NASA’s Space Shuttle and has been continually inhabited by earthlings, NASA employees included, for 18 years as of this coming November 2nd…

What about human spaceflight? Doesn’t NASA need to do that to be “real”? Setting aside that fact that robotic spacecraft are, and always will be, by far the least expensive way to reach into space…human spaceflight inspires children to do their math and spins-off medical advances like nothing else. NASA should do human spaceflight, and since the retirement of the Space Shuttle NASA has been paying Russia to fly U.S., Canadian, and Japanese astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

But that is human space LAUNCH…a necessary but tiny part of human space FLIGHT, which NASA does constantly.

Don’t believe me? Does this look like human spaceflight to you?

Of course, NASA spends much more money than they should need to to do these things, but that’s because, as a government agency, they are joined at the hip to the U.S. Congress and Military industrial complex…both of whom prefer to do things in the most expensive way possible. For them, the measure of success isn’t how far we reach into space and how often, but rather how much Federal money ends up getting spent in specific areas of the country on particular stuff that Congress decides that it wants.

That will change soon as NASA “spins-off” human space launch…and certain key deep space exploration technologies…to private industry. This will accelerate expansion of humans into the solar system by driving down costs and eventually cutting dysfunctional government out of the human space flight decision chain completely.

The future of human discovery glows bright because of NASA. I won’t be around 60 years from now to celebrate their 120th birthday, but they’ll have one I assure you. I wonder what it’ll look like…

Brett Kavanaugh vs Dr. Christine Blasey Ford or Republicans vs Democrats? #DelayTheVote

•September 28, 2018 • Leave a Comment

 

Let me untangle this rat’s nest for you…

This isn’t about sexual exploitation of women…but it should be.

This isn’t about hypocrisy…but it should be.

This isn’t about the culture war…but it should be.

This isn’t about drinking to excess…but it should be.

This isn’t about irresponsible handling of allegations of impropriety…but it should be.

This isn’t about the Left-Right balance on the U.S. Supreme Court…but folks think it should be.

It isn’t even about rancor in politics…but it should be.

None if this is really about the need for an additional FBI investigation…but that angle on things plays a very important role in the desired result.

From Justice Kennedy’s decision this summer to retire, until now, this appointment was intended from the start to be about midterm election turnout.

Typically, on the first midterm election after a new President ends in a landslide against that President’s political party. Voters who’s party is in power tend to become apathetic and not show up to vote in midterm elections. In fact, too may Americans vote only in Presidential elections, which is totally backwards since the value of everyone’s ballot is the most diluted when voting on U.S. Presidents. Any real power that citizens carry starts at the caucus level.

Every midterm, folks of the President’s part try and find a way to prevent this seeming inevitable turn of Congress against the President because it limits the ability of a still-new President to push forward his agenda. This year, we call this the “Blue Wave”…an expected flip of majorities in the Senate, and maybe even the House of Representatives, from Republican to Democrat. The Democrats in Congress want the Trump base to stay home on election day, or vote for someone other than Republicans. The Republicans in Congress want the Trump base get fired up enough to come out and vote…and to vote for them instead of Libertarians or Independents or something. It has even been suggested by some that Donald Trump and Justice Kennedy actually arranged the timing of his retirement specifically to have maximum impact on the 2018 Midterm election to try and squash the Blue Wave.

Brett Kavanaugh is and always has been intended to serve as a sacrificial lamb, an offering to the base to be dangled out there only to be snatched away by Red State Democrats just before Congress recesses to go home and campaign for November. That the rabid wing of the Democrat party would show their colors and offend reasonable moderates is icing.

Whether it be a vote that Kavanaugh loses, or a delay that kicks this can down the road to 2019 (that can be painted as unreasonable and blamed on the Left), the result is the same…an angry mob of right-wing base that charges to the polls in November to vote against Democrats and crush their expected Blue Wave. Everyone in the halls of power know this…and all of the apparent craziness around this appointment makes perfect sense in that context. I’m not alleging that Dr. Ford personally has anything to do with this power struggle, but those who handled her allegations initially, and those who leaked those allegations to the press against Dr. Ford’s wishes, may have been. Therefore Republicans in Congress WANT to vote quickly on this nomination so that they have time for Trump to announce a hard-core, Right-Wing second choice just before the polls open. It is the reason why Democrats tried so hard yesterday to get Judge Kavanaugh to explicitly ask for an FBI investigation that WILL push his vote into next year and why the Republican leadership doesn’t want to be seen to willingly participate in such a delay. Kavanaugh, both aware and complicit in this conflict, worded his answers accordingly. Most if not all of those Judiciary Committee members are lawyers. Kavanaugh is a lawyer. They are all engaged here in the game of lawyers…the art of message packaging.

Voters care about issues…Politicians care about power. Power is the currency of Presidents and Congressfolk and everything they do is better understood in that context.

Now go back and rewatch yesterday’s Ford vs Kavanaugh hearing again with that in mind. Watch today’s deliberations of the Judiciary Committee with that in mind.

 

https://www.c-span.org/video/?452084-1/senate-judiciary-committee-vote-brett-kavanaugh-nomination-130-pm

 

The Waiting is Over

•September 27, 2018 • Leave a Comment

For all you folks who asked me eight years ago if my novel is available in eBook.

For all you folks who purchased and enjoyed the print book and would like to carry it with you on your various devices.

For anyone with an interest in space travel and Science Fiction.

I revisited this story for you.

As of midnight yesterday, the eight year anniversary of the release of Into the Dark in paperback…

I enjoy presenting my research to you here. However, if you follow this blog and enjoy it, or find it useful to you, then this full-length novel that you’ve seen dangling along the right sidebar for all these years was originally written with you in mind. I know this for a fact because I’ve spoken to folks with your interests all over this great country of ours and people like you have been the ones most interested in this novel. In fact, this book matches the interests of the readers of this blog more than any of the other stories I’ve written.

Now you don’t have to look at my hairy face, or shake hands with me at a convention, or wait for delivery by mail. With three clicks and three dollars you can have this riveting story on all of your devices in minutes.

Into the Dark: Escape of the Nomad tells of a man and his starship, fighting the odds against a world that has grown apathetic about space exploration. At a time when NASA has been defunded and closed its doors, and Commercial Space has been taxed and regulated into oblivion, an astronaut steals the plans for an FTL spacecraft and uses his inheritance to begin building it, but there are powerful forces at work…forces that stopped NASA in the first place…that find out about him and put forward plans to stop him also, permanently. Former astronaut Stan McPherson learns that Earth is a pawn in a cold war between two alien superpowers and that he and his half-completed ship are a barrier to the invasion of his planet and a fuse to interstellar war.

Click above and enjoy.

The 25th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America

•September 22, 2018 • Leave a Comment

There has been a lot of hot air foisted around lately by a lot of so-called experts as to the 25th Amendment in the context of getting rid of President Trump. I am not a legal expert, nor a Constitutional scholar, neither I think are you.

Here’s the thing, we just need to know how to read. All these pundits, (with so much inflated sense of their own importance) say so much, but they don’t tell you what you really need to know…what the amendment says. Well, also you probably need to know what the term, “Pro tempore” means, because it is used a lot in this amendment. I Googled it–

“Pro tempore, abbreviated pro tem or p.t., is a Latin phrase which best translates to “for the time being” in English. (Source:Wikipedia)”

So here it is, straight out of the horse’s mouth. I am not going to tell you what I think it says or means, I’ll just show you what it says and let you decide for yourself! Thanks to constituteproject.org, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 25th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.

————————————————————————————————-

SECTION 1

In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.

SECTION 2

Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

SECTION 3

Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.

SECTION 4

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

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Will the MUCH Bigger Falcon Eat the SLS?

•September 20, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Yes! Well…provided NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) is still a thing when Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) becomes a thing, which might be a while yet.

Also, I should clarify something from the start, the development timelines that Falcon Heavy and the Space Launch System demonstrated have had no respectable schedule reliability and there is no reason to believe that SLS or Big Falcon Rocket will improve on that record and every reason to assume that they won’t. However, I don’t want to keep saying, “projected” this and “projected” that throughout this blog entry. I’ll just say upfront that the numbers I will use here the projected timelines claimed by relevant experts according to various sources today. Also, the projected capabilities of these systems are fairly solid for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, as they are at the end of their development cycle. Those of SLS were probably pretty much set in stone at design time and are based largely on a very well-known engine from the Space Shuttle era, and so are also fairly solid. The Big Falcon Rocket is a cutting-edge system reflecting some ideas that might not pan out in the end, some problems that have yet to be fully solved, and a new engine design that will improve from its base over repeated use and refinement. Therefore, BFR’s performance numbers will likely be quite fluid for a while.

Having said all that, the #dearMoon mission for BFR is their next goal after rolling out Commercial Crew and establishing Falcon Heavy with the Air Force. But Yusaku Maezawa’s ride will not likely be its first flight nor its first trip to the Moon. In fact, it should probably launch several robotic missions, and crewed LEO missions, before it can be expected to take a bunch of artists on a Moon tour. Elon announced a projected date for that flight as occurring in 2023, which you should consider to be a very aggressive goal.

SLS has been in development for a long time now, and will begin its flights in 2020, and isn’t currently expected to fly very frequently because of its high cost. Yet, some NASA representatives have said repeatedly that SLS is real and the SpaceX Heavy Lift Vehicle (HLV) is not. They stopped saying that this February when a SpaceX Falcon Heavy lofted a car out to Mars orbit…taking it off of the list of paper rockets that it had been sharing with SLS. Falcon Heavy, with current Block 5 technology, carries nearly as much capacity as the earliest version of SLS will, but not later versions. Its payload fairing is far too small to compete with SLS on the total dimensions of payloads that can be lifted. Also its fuel, rocket-grade kerosene, is not as efficient in space as the liquid hydrogen that SLS uses, so it’s performance drops off for interplanetary missions. Still, it will always be viewed as nearly SLS capable by those who don’t care to look at those other details. That’s important. Also it is still far from dollar for dollar less capable in the eyes of most folks.

BFR is a different bird entirely from Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy (FH), or SLS. In capabilities, BFR will have a slightly larger diameter than SLS, a slightly higher payload capacity than SLS Block 1 and slightly less than SLS Block 1B amd Block 2 as currently designed. Still, they are so close in capability that such a droll comparison descends into an unnecessarily complicated game of hair-splitting when their expected differences in cost and availability are taken into account.

Money is the main enabler for doing things in space, so doing more for less means doing more much more frequently and for a wider list of payloads and industries. This goes for both Commercial and Government projects, but far more for the Commercial ones which also happen to fly far more missions anyway. For both, greater cost means fewer missions and thus slower launch cadence, a higher percentage of overhead costs, less public interest and a greater perception of waste. Depending on who you talk to, SLS will cost between $500M and $1B per launch. Falcon Heavy, by comparison, when launched fully expandable like SLS, costs only $150M per launch. BFR will never be used expendibly, but each unit is projected to cost $335M to build if you want a basis for comparison there. Bottom line…SpaceX thinks that, due to full reusability, they can fly the BFR for an astonishingly low $7M per launch! With reusability, the much smaller Falcon Heavy can’t even come close to that at $90M! Nothing currently flying can!

There exists a powerful triumvirate at work…a mutual back-scratching club between the military procurement industry that builds SLS, certain powerful Congress persons and certain parties within NASA. These people have gotten together and arranged things nicely so that SLS doesn’t have to ever compete in any serious way with Falcon Heavy. So, it might actually survive the $500M to $90M price difference between them.

Currently, both SLS and BFR are paper rockets. So, the one remaining issue between them left to discuss is time. Therefore, let’s now look at their current development and flight timelines.

SpaceX plans begin hop tests of a prototype of BFR next year in 2019. The new engine it will use, the Raptor, burns Methane and has already been in testing. Given the routine schedule slippage of SpaceX projects however, 2020 might be more a reasonable expectation. These hop tests will attract a lot of attention, are necessary to prepare for BFR reusability, and will take place in the shadow of the very busy crewed and uncrewed Falcon 9 (F9), and ramping uncrewed FH launch schedules. The first stages of the Block 5 FH and F9 rockets are supposed to be 10x reusable and this will add credence and authority to the BFR hop tests. Even though BFR won’t be a full rocket nor an orbital launcher, blog articles like this one, written by many others out there besides myself, which compare the cost and capabilities of SLS with SpaceX rockets will receive ever-increasing Google search attention with each orbital hop test! I have already seen this. WordPress provides very detailed reports on it. —9/21/2019 Update: Oops, type-o here, I meant to say BFR’s hopper (now called “Star Hopper”) would be sub-orbital, not BFR/Starship…and the above prediction about blog article hits here with every hop came true BTW—

SLS will fly its first full on test flight in June of 2020. This date has shifted many times as a result of several design and quality control setbacks. This flight is referred to here and elsewhere as EM-1 and it will fly without a serious interplanetary propulsion stage. It will carry the Orion crewed spacecraft, without crew aboard, on a loop around the Moon, and will also deploy 13 CubeSats. I promise that the launch and flight will be important, beneficial, and epic. However, nothing else SLS related will fly in space until then. Remember that; it is an important. The last SLS/Orion related flight was EFT-1 when the Orion capsule went on a short flight aboard a Delta Heavy (another excessively expensive launcher). This flight occurred on December 5th, 2014 . Do you remember it? I had to look up the date on Wikipedia and it seemed to me to be a great deal longer ago. Rockets are Rock Stars, and like Rock Stars they must perform or they are quickly forgotten.

The SLS EM-2 mission cannot launch at all until 2022 because the Interplanetary upper stage (aka. the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS)), and the flying of crew on the Orion capsule, will require launchpad upgrades that are not projected to be completed until then. This mission, called EM-2, will be a Moon loop with a small crew.

The next SLS launch, the uncrewed Europa Clipper mission, is planned for 2024 if it does not get canceled. Not everyone is happy with it and many think the cost of launching it on SLS wil unnecessarily add too much to the mission.

All SLS launches after that through 2030, 9 launches in all, are then earmarked for the planned cislunar space station and to support the use of that station for the in-space construction of an Interplanetary spacecraft to take Orion to Mars and other places in the Solar System. This project is called the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G). The tenth launch of SLS/Orion will ride the LOG to Mars. Between now and then, the above mentioned Interplanetary launcher, the Delta Heavy (half the capacity of Falcon Heavy for $350 M / launch), will be cancelled and unavailable. So when NASA or anyone else wants to launch something out of Earth orbit, like Mars probes and landers, for the next decade, who they gonna call? Why SpaceX of course…or one of their upcoming competitors.

BFR will be on an everramping development and testing schedule leading up to #dearMoon, projected for 2023. Expect this to be the apex demonstration/test flight and for it to go into full service and begin replacing the F9, FH, and anything else that can’t measure up to it. However, I cannot stress enough that this rocket is not mostly a derivative product like Falcon Heavy. It is a totally new and still fluid design with some highly optimistic technology challenges to overcome. The orbiter component of this system is in several important ways a space plane. Such things are very hard to do and have notoriously caused many unforeseen challenges and horrible timeline creep for other companies. Even a shameless SpaceX fan like myself cannot expect SpaceX to hit anywhere near their schedule target. I will be shocked to a heart attack if do.

null

Frequent Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy flights will make it increasingly difficult for the languishing SLS to maintain its support in Congress. When BFR (or something else like it) starts flying, SLS will have only slightly higher lift capacity than BFR, but a staggering price difference. SLS cannot survive any further delays because we can only afford to fly the pig once a year, and BFR will be capable of taking over the SLS mission profile. Every year that SLS doesn’t launch brings it one year closer to the 1:71 cost ratio between it and BFR. That price difference means that even if SLS survives Falcon Heavy, when Big Falcon Rockets fly repeatedly and reliably then the SLS program will fly into a wall. Nobody, not even Congress, will put up with that price difference.

Many future jobs will arise from the constantly expanding future of space exploration that will be empowered by the lower launch prices available through fixed-price Commercial contracts. Many jobs also rely on SLS, but those workers don’t need the Space Launch System to actually launch to get paid from year to year. This acts like an anchor in the mud of human progress. Folks can see more rockets flying from Fixed Price contracting. It brings about more rapid innovation, is more visible, exciting, and gets more done for a wider industry. If you work on the SLS and will retire soon, hang in there. If not, then you should make a move that will benefit you and your family and that will find your established in a more stable situation 5-10 years from now.

Update:Falcon Heavy vs Big Falcon Rocket, Tag Shuffle, and Google Tips and Tricks

•September 19, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Ok, I think I got them all.

I want folks to get what they came here for.

WordPress trends keeps showing folks Googling Big Falcon Rocket and getting my very popular article “Will the Big Falcon Eat the SLS” (conclusion: no, but it will chew off it’s wings), which is an article about Falcon Heavy, not SpaceX’s upcoming behemoth “Big Falcon Rocket” (aka. BFR). I have another article which was called “Will the Bigger Falcon Eat the SLS” (Conclusion: Eventually, yes) that no one ever seems to find via Google, but which contains much more useful, relevant, impactful, and up to date information and which is about BFR (an earlier design version of it anyway).

So. I’ve renamed both articles to clearly point to the appropriate bird and clarified the tags so that folks are more likely to get what they Googled for. I’ve also added tags on all the good articles that feature either rocket.

Update: Oops! Looks like I never actually wrote the promised comparison between BFR and SLS. I’ll do that today. It’ll be fun! I think THAT rocket’s timeline…well, I write it now. Now is a great time. Ya, now. 😉

 

 

 

Also, a Google tip. If you are ever looking for anything with a specific, multi-word name, or a specifically worded quote, then put it in quotes…like this…

Targeted Search

The above will give you search result that are more likely to contain both words together… next to each other. Without the quotes, the results might be cluttered with articles with both words in them, even if separately. For example, the above Google search without the quotes might show you a webpage about falconry that happens to mention what prey is too heavy for the bird to carry…fun information, but maybe not as useful to you if you are looking for the launch date or industry impact of SpaceX’s heavy-lift rocket that sent Starman to the solar orbit of Mars. Using quotes in this case might also give you more useful results if you want to learn more about “Big Falcon Rocket” today and not “Falcon Heavy”…which lots of folks seemed to want to do yesterday because of the Monday’s #dearMoon announcement.

I expect increasing trends on searches for both of these rockets as word continues to spread about them and more people realize the impact that they will have on our culture and other things in our daily lives. I want people to come here for accurate, easy to fathom information about them because, well, I want to inform folks and sell them books…because that is what I do! 😉

 

Falcon Heavy cropped.jpg

I Choose to Go To the Moon! (On Big Falcon Rocket)

•September 18, 2018 • Leave a Comment

These are the words of Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese Billionaire entrepreneur and the man who has fronted the money to help in the development of the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR).

Well, now we know who he is and what he’s made of.

He loves art, and believes in the ability of art to stitch humanity together. He bought all 100 seats on the flight, and will GIVE 6-8 of those seats away to artists of various types.

He is the author of the #dearMoon project, which is what he is calling this trip to space that he has partnered with SpaceX on. The plan says they launch in 2023, in four years. It won’t happen that fast, but the momentum is now in place. Elon Musk says that Yusaka’s down payment was “significant”…which is a big word coming from the mouth of a billionaire.

The best part is that when all of this is finished, humanity will have a cheap Mars rocket and hopefully no more excuses. Fully reusable it will also be by far the cheapest ride to orbit per pound ever devised at $7 million per launch. The cost of developing this rocket is from 5 to 10 billion dollars…chicken feed for such things. Replacement cost of each rocket will be $335 million.

This rocket, the BFR, will be the largest, most powerful spacecraft ever built, 9 meters in diameter and 118 meters tall. Elon Musk said that it is taller than the Statue of Liberty…so I looked up the size and proportioned a Wikipedia drawing of BFR against a photo of the lady from the Liberty Ellis Island website. It is an approximation (I used my thumb) but here is about how the two would look side by side.

More important than the actual size is this rocket’s capacity to send 220,000 lbs of anything to Mars.

Now some of you will say that this is a rich-guy-helping-another-rich-guy-help-build-something-for-other-rich-guys thing. To you I offer the following example of selfish rich guys spending staggering amounts of money on each other.

You be the judge.

 

In the end, this project is nothing short of the starting gun that will launch for good a new space. When a reporter asked Elon about the Boeing CEO’s claim that the first people to go to Mars will ride on a Boeing Rocket. He just smiled and said, “Great! Do it!”.

To that I add to the nay-sayers…Put up or shut-up.

 

Falcon Heavy will not Fly Again This Year: Updated

•September 17, 2018 • Leave a Comment

9/19/2018 Update: Elon said nothing on Monday about this, and the reporters at the event didn’t ask any questions about it (but did do the typical and annoying waste-everyone’s-time-repeating-the-same-questions-just-to-get-attention crap).

Steve Pietrobon, PhD, the author of both of the documents referenced earlier (see below), emailed me back shorty after the #dearMoon announcement broadcast and kindly set me straight. They are not at all official and his company is not in any way part of the launches of SpaceX rockets. He is a guy like me who likes to keep track of this stuff (though he seems to do a better job of it than I do).

Quoth he…

I get a lot my launch dates from the NASASpaceflight.com forum. Here’s the
source for STP-2 launch in March 2019.

https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-second-usaf-mission-december-gps-satellite-launch-target/

“Currently NET March 2019 as well, SpaceX’s third dedicated USAF launch – STP-2
on Falcon Heavy – is being set up primarily to help the USAF certify SpaceX’s
newest heavy-lift rocket for national security launches.”

For Arabsat 6A, Spacenews say its launching in the December 2018-January 2019
timeframe.

https://spacenews.com/arabsat-falcon-heavy-mission-slated-for-december-january-timeframe/

Elon Musk announced at the BFR press conference a few hours ago that the Dragon
2 DM-1 will be launching in December. Since Dragon 2 and Falcon Heavy both use
Pad 39A, it is unlikely that both of these important missions will be launching
at the same time. So that would put Arabsat 6A to January 2019 at the earliest.

My expectation though is that since the USAF has been waiting so long for STP-2
(original launch date was December 2012.
https://spaceflightnow.com/2018/03/01/rideshare-mission-for-u-s-military-confirmed-as-second-falcon-heavy-launch/
) that Arabsat 6A will likely be delayed further to after March 2019. The
Spacenews article is also old (June 2018), when the STP-2 launch was scheduled
to be before Arabsat 6A.

In other words, the manifests I used were built based on news articles that I should not have missed. Also, the conclusions in them are not solid and their predictions don’t seem to be fully confirmed officially by the major players.

Just the same, Wikipedia was right in paying attention to Steve’s afore referenced launch manifests and I confidently stand by my prediction in the title of this article on the following grounds…launch pad availability, Falcon Heavy risks, and CCDev priorities.

When Falcon Heavy debuted in spectacular fashion back in February, Elon Musk himself had serious doubts, saying in effect that if the monster gets far enough away from the pad not to do serious damage when it explodes, he would call that a win. The market for Falcon Heavy is seen by a lot of folks (not me) as being a lot less important to the overall scheme of things than was originally envisioned.

Commercial Crew, however, is absolutely critical to Space Station operations and too much (IMO undeserved) industry doubt still exists for the program.  Crew Dragon must not only beat Boeing to space for one-up-man-ship reasons, but any more delays to either or both programs risks a gap in crew rotations aboard the ISS…serious stuff. In light of these factors, no risk of pad damage to 39A is acceptable .

FH is currently still a risky one-off at this point. The FH launch was a great first, and I look forward to its bright future, but has no serious competitors pressing its schedule and has no pressing, industry-critical launches currently planned beyond STP-2.

I think that these things, combined with the typical and natural schedule creep that always exists with launch facility planning, will result in both FH launches following at least the un-crewed first flight of Crew Dragon, which will end up, sadly, definitely, pushing them both to 2019.

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9/16/2018

I might be the first one to break this news. I might end up sticking my foot in my mouth.

According to two recently released flight manifests, one purporting to be a list of U.S. Military and one purporting to be a list of commercial launches, both of the planned launches of the Falcon Heavy that were planned for 2018 now have launch dates set for early 2019.

According to a document on Wikipedia that was sourced on August 6th and last updated today, the Air Force STP-2 “Ride Share” demonstration launch is currently on schedule for March 2019.

According to a seperate Wikipedia article and a manifest document of commercial flights that was sourced September 13th and last updated today, the Arabsat 6A launch is listed for sometime in the 1st quarter of 2019.

Neither of these documents list any remaining FH flights in 2018. They come from a company called Small World Communications in Australia. The source is not an official representation of SpaceX, the U.S. Air Force, or Arabsat. I have not seen any official announcements or news releases from any of those three. I have emailed Small World Communications for more information. I am guessing that they do comm relays of telemetry for flights.

I know that Elon will probably say something tonight about it. I don’t have a way to PM him.

I’ll release this blog article and tag him and see if he responds.

 

 

Update: Seasonal Wildfires — How to use the NASA Worldview Event Feature #BaldMountainFire #PoleCreekFire

•September 15, 2018 • Leave a Comment

 

Sorry, I just noticed something cool that I’m geeking out about and that you might find useful…

 

 

The above image was taken on today’s pass and is newer than in my previous post, which was from yesterday (September, 14th 2018). I was using NASA Worldview to show the fire and smoke to someone, and they asked if it was possible to see the fires burning. Well, you actually can’t; these images don’t have that fine of resolution and the smoke obscures everything. However, the “Events” feature (see the selection in the upper left hand corner of the image) of Worldview map will place a marker where the fires started and a dot where there are fires actually burning when the photo was taken. Of the events displayed in the screenshot image that I just now captured, the Pole Creek fire is the marker at the lower left, and the Bald Mountain fire (on the map it is called the Coal Hollow Fire) is upper right.

The WorldView satellite takes one photograph each day. By selecting an event in the upper left corner of the image, the display will take you to the starting day of the event. By moving the time slider at the bottom of the image, you can track the fires’ history from day to day. By zooming out, you can see other events listed. Click here to go to NASA Worldview.

I love technology!

 

Seasonal Wildfires #BaldMountainFire #PoleCreekFire

•September 15, 2018 • Leave a Comment

 

 

I stepped out of the house this morning and saw ash falling from the sky.

 

 

Smoke trail from Bald Mountain and Pole Creek fires

Image Credit, NASA Worldview

 

 

I like sleeping with the window open, even in the fall when it’s a bit chilly out. Yesterday morning I woke to the smell of a wildfire somewhere. We learn how to know from the smell if the fire is near or far. This one started down near Provo Utah, I guess about 90 miles away from my place in Evanston as the smoke flies.

 

 

 

 

The ever faithful Wyoming wind shifted pretty early yesterday and the smoke mostly cleared.

 

 

 

 

This morning I woke late. Dallin’s caregiver arrived at 9:00 and the smell of smoke that wafted in made me glad to have slept last night with the windows closed. Julie made haircut appointments for Aaron and I for 10:30 and when I hobbled out to the truck I could see ash blowing around. It wasn’t a lot of ash, just a whole lot more than I’ve come to expect from a fire several mountain ranges away. In addition, it has to cross the Uintahs…some very high mountain terrain. NASA World view shows the stream of smoke stretching corner to corner all the way across the state of Wyoming.

 

 

 

 

Aaron remarked on the way back from haircuts that the ash in the air from an event so far away makes it as if there had been a volcanic eruption rather than a desert brush/forest fire. The thought had crossed my mind as well.

 

 

 

 

We had a fire here on the Fourth of July that cancelled fireworks. That was fine. The wind shifted just as it reached the back fences of homes at the East end of town and blew it back on itself. According to the most recent news reports I’ve seen these fires in Utah this week haven’t eaten any homes yet. Here’s hoping they don’t.

 

 

Fly Me To the Moon and Let Me Launch on #BFR (Big Falcon Rocket)

•September 13, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Last year, SpaceX announced that a pair of wealthy individuals had made a down-payment for a trip to the Moon. Originally, it was to be aboard a modified Crew Dragon launched on a Falcon Heavy, with lessons learned from development plans for Red Dragon, a Mars mission intended to be flown the same way, and at least one actual Commercial Crew flights to the International Space Station. Both the Falcon Heavy and the crew Dragon projects ended up being delayed way too far for a 2018 Lunar tourism mission with that flight hardware.

Well, once NASA partnered with SpaceX on Red Dragon, it was discovered that something about that wasn’t going to work either…something very important that Elon won’t elaborate on. Quite suddenly, all talk of flying the Crew Dragon design on Falcon Heavy to send it outside close Earth orbit were thrown to the wind. Elon said he was going to “cannibalize” both Dragon and Falcon (one can only assume that he meant financially starve those products out) and plans for the massive BFR (Big “Falcon” Rocket) were pushed up. A photo of the 9 meter rocket body mold hit the Internet and property for a new plant at the Port of L.A. was leased for immediate construction of the new rocket.

Our spectacular and long-awaited Falcon Heavy was relegated, mostly, to un-crewed missions for the Air Force and maybe NASA, for the very short-term and Crew Dragon has presumably been down-purposed to LEO only…and maybe just the ISS Commercial Crew contracts. When folks asked if the postponed Moon trip would be planned to fly on BFR or Dragon/Falcon Heavy, Elon said we’d have to see how fast BFR progressed…but his tone said probably BFR.

Now, a big reveal this coming Monday at 6pm for the Moon trip is planned, and the announcement has BFR’s orbitor/lander on the cover, not Dragon.

And…yes…we also get to learn who ponied up the money for the flight. By now, they may even have a BFR orbiter hull or hull segment to show us.

Does anyone here want to bet that more will pay to jump on board that 100 seat behemouth? I think that whatever a flight to the Moon and back on the fully reusable BFR costs, divided by 100, will put it well within the reach of practically any multi-millionaire. I expect to see a sample of Travel Agent Elon on Monday, selling seats for the flight like they were Teslas.

Stay tuned.

 

On This Day in 1961 — President Kennedy’s Famous Moon Speech

•September 12, 2018 • Leave a Comment

We (the U.S.) did it. We did it and it triggered a technology revolution where we led the world for my entire life…and still do.

The time has come to do it again.

If You Are in the Path of Hurricane Florence, Beware! Don’t Mess With Major Hurricanes!

•September 12, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Ok, I know I don’t have to say this to the prudent among you; these words are for the unwise.

Don’t mess around with Category 5 hurricanes! If you live in the Carolinas or near there you must take care to be safe this weekend.

  • Yes, I know that rich folks will be gone from home and will leave their stuff behind for you to steal. However, if you stay to loot you will either likely die or someone else will have to risk their lives to rescue you.
  • Yes, I know that idiots stay behind to loot and might take your stuff. However, if you stay behind to protect your stuff then it might get destroyed anyway and you will likely either die or someone else will have to risk their lives to rescue you.
  • Yes, folks just love to find an opportunity to drink and dance like it’s the end of the world. However, if you stay to hold a storm party it just might be the end of the world for you and those partying with or someone else will have to risk their lives to rescue you.

I could go on and on.

Even if the hurricane is not a cat 4 or cat 5, ALL hurricanes spawn tornadoes of random sizes and in random places and any tornado above about a 2 will shred the building that you are in and kill you.

If you live in a mobile home, the prognosis for any hurricane above a Cat 2 is that it will shred the house.

If you live on an island or peninsula and are in the path of the storm, your house will probably be washed out to sea, best not be in it or on it. There will be nowhere to run.

Don’t be an idiot.

Get out of town; come back after the storm.

The roads are not typically enough to move everyone at once, so stay informed and give yourself plenty of time to get away. Use this website…

https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/graphics_at1.shtml?cone#contents

Be safe.

When Will 9-11 End? #NeverForget

•September 11, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Seventeen years have passed, but our eyes still see smoking towers.

They take our fingernail clippers at the airport, but they can’t take away our fear.

We invaded Afghanistan, but the war there never ends.

We invaded Iraq, and we still don’t know why.

We abandoned Iraq to the Wahhabists, unleashing an old demon upon the world, and the Wahhabists destroyed two countries.

The world defeated the Wahhabists, but ISIL continues to rape, murder and plunder.

We’ve tossed the word “Terrorist” around until it is both narrower and broader than ever before in history, but the terror still doesn’t end.

Many, many multiples of the 9/11 dead have perished and the killers continue to kill the killers and the killing of the innocent lives on.

When will the hate and bloodletting stop so the healing can begin?

When will those deaths in New York, The Pentagon, and that Pennsylvania field mean something substantive?

When will all this pain end?

https://www.c-span.org/video/standalone/?451208-1/president-trump-speaks-flight-93-memorial-shanksville-pennsylvania

https://img.purch.com/h/1400/aHR0cDovL3d3dy5zcGFjZS5jb20vaW1hZ2VzL2kvMDAwLzA3OS8zMjgvb3JpZ2luYWwvd3RjLXNlcHQxMjIwMDEuanBn

 

ComicCon

•September 6, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Looks like I’ll be at FanX/ComicCon in SLC this weekend. It’s very sudden, no panels or booth; it was kind of unplanned.

That doesn’t mean I won’t talk to people and do other kinds of business networking.

Riding The Dangerous Wave of #Kavanaugh Hate

•September 5, 2018 • Leave a Comment

If you type “Trump” into the search tool on the sidebar of this blog, you’ll see that I don’t like our current President. Even though I’m a Conservative, another search on the word “Obama” will show that I have been more severely critical here of Trump than I was of his Democrat predecessor.

In fact, this has been a weird Presidential term for me where I make some of my more rabid Conservative friends sit in the backseat of my focus while I ride upfront with my Liberal friends on an increasing number of political issues because of Trump excesses. In this way at least Donald Trump has been a great unifier. I and other conscientious and concerned Conservatives have been joining hands with Liberals all over the country and singing kumbaya around the campfire of Trump disapproval.

Also, a quick glance through this blog would show you that I rarely discuss politics here because the purpose of this blog is to sell my books and Liberals like to boycott people who don’t agree with them in order to muzzle their voices financially. For this reason, I don’t wear my Conservative views as far out on my sleeve here as I have done on Twitter and Facebook. I only talk about politics here when something has annoyed me so much that I cannot stay silent about it.

Having issued those disclaimers, I have some points to make…

  • There is as yet no evidentiary support revealed for any criminal allegations against Donald Trump. Do I think that a continued probe will eventually find SOMETHING SOMEWHERE in his life to prosecute him for? Probably. One can’t be a pathological liar without doing something illegal at some point.
  • There are no exceptions in the Constitution or the law limiting any of the powers of a President who is under investigation. Why? Because the opponents of any President’s agenda would always use such provisions to slow the Administration down. Nor has any President under investigation for potentially impeachable stuff (and there have been many) ever been disallowed from appointing Supreme Court nominees. To do so now with Trump would be unprecedented in the extreme.
  • Every President who has ever appointed a Supreme Court justice during their first term has appointed someone who might be involved in that President’s impeachment someday. So, yes, the President can and does choose their own potential judge. Since there are no impeachment proceedings in play currently, and per the first bullet point on this list, Trump is no different from any other President in this regard.
  • In the last election, the Democrats nominated a pathological liar with a sordid and possibly prosecutable history too. The Republican scumbag won the election and the Democrat scumbag lost…but Democrats have no room to whine about potentially criminal Presidential nominees when they nominated the likes of Hillary Clinton. If they truly cared about Presidential ethics they wouldn’t have kicked Bernie Sanders to the curb. They, like us Republicans, care more about their pet issues than they do about having good people serving as President…unfortunately. While Bernie is a Democrat, he is also an ethical and FREE THINKING and FREE SPEAKING Democrat who genuinely cares about the people instead of just PRETENDING to care, and there is no room for someone like that on the Democrat ticket in this age where populism takes a backseat to social Liberalism and unpopular pet issues.
  • The timing of this nomination, so close to the midterms, is very dangerous for Democrats. Polls show that only 35% of people don’t want Judge Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. That means that the other 65% either automatically support him or are reasonable people who have not yet decided either way…waiting for actual facts to be fairly presented. Many will come out to vote in the midterms in November based on how fairly they perceive Kavanaugh was treated. Remember, the midterms are mostly influenced by an apathetic lack of VOTER TURNOUT. Not only does too much Kavanaugh abuse risk annoying Moderates, but it also risks activating the Conservative base, who would then promptly rise up and strangle the BLUE WAVE that the Left is hoping for. Pushing the vote on this nominee until after the election could do the same thing. Frankly, so could a vote that doesn’t appoint Kavanaugh. In fact, now that I think about it, if Democrats get too annoying over Judge Kavanaugh they may force their Representatives to have to choose between Kavanaugh confirmation and victory in November.

There…I’ll get off my soapbox now and get back to selling my books and discussing science and space.

Acoustophoretic Printing

•September 4, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I love learning and writing here about technology that has the potential to impact our lives.

While reading an article from the LiveScience RSS feed (near the bottom of the right sidebar on this blog), an unrelated video flew past that I nearly missed. It spoke of acoustophoretic printing.

In a nutshell. The technology uses different amplitudes of sound to dislodge different sized droplets from the nozzle of a 3-D printer to achieve greater control over the droplet size. The effect varies with the different materials used, but it pretty much adds a scientific level of quantity control to measure each droplet…like the difference between a centrifugal pump and a peristaltic pump. The following video discusses, with pictures, the abstract of the a new paper (August 31, 2018) regarding it

And to demonstrate the effect using actual numbers…

Acoustophoretic printing also controls the path of the droplets, to combine them with other droplets with more consistency.

The implications of all of this, in the more scientifically precise areas of food and medicine, are profound in that it continues to expand the usefulness of 3-D printing beyond simple pre-manufacture modeling and moves 3-D printing closer to replacing traditional, more limited ways of making things on the industrial level.

Sounds wonderful!

Available for Purchase on Kindle!

•September 3, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Now a free download for a limited time only!

Jessica and Bobby Ratcliff, child soldiers, orphaned by war, flee to another planet to find peace. But when they arrive they find the enemy there ahead of them. Now, in a wore torn city overrun with insurgents and other refugees, thirteen-year old Jessica must find a life of peace for her and her brother as a local resistance cell tries to suck them back into the fighting…learning along the way the true difference between friend and enemy.

 

And for just a dollar!

When Pauline and her husband experience a deadly gas leak on board their cargo ship on the way to Saturn, she discovers a mysterious stowaway and a lifetime friend she never knew she had.

 

Humanity on Earth is extinct, destroyed by a meteor impact. Some humans escaped and now live on a distant planet. But wait a minute…wasn’t there someone there before? What happened to them and what did their destroyers have to become in order to survive?

This disturbing 600 word flash fiction story explores the necessity of war and the evolution of a conquering race.

 

 

Available for Pre-Order!

You kept asking for it, now here it is! An eBook version of my first full-length novel.

Into the Dark: Escape of the Nomad

Stan McPherson, an out of work astronaut, steals the plans for an Interstellar spacecraft from a defunct NASA and becomes embroiled a deadly game of cloak and dagger being waged between alien superpowers fighting over Earth.

 

 

 

Look for these and other titles on my Amazon page, or the sidebar of this blog.

Magpies In The Dark

•September 3, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I love the way China names their spacecraft.

China seems to be the only thing that the bipolar U.S. Government can agree on. Between human rights abuses, patent infringement, and lack of respect for International accords, China has made themselves personae’ non-gratae with the U.S. Government with respect to technology transfer. This makes it almost impossible for NASA and U.S.-based space companies to partner with them.

The short-lived Space Western series “Firefly” was a story based partly on the premise of the Chinese dominating the exploration of the Solar System and Earth culture in the future. Sometimes it looks like that’s where we’re going, sometimes it doesn’t.

I wish someone would figure out just where humanity is headed with respect to Chinese technological progress. I think it’s going to end up being pretty important some day.

The experience gained from Russian space activities and the goodwill gained from their policy of Perestroika (openness) became the root of the International Space Station project…a significant multinational achievement. Much of that progress has begun to erode with their new hawkishness, but I think it has resulted in a net positive impact for them and the world.

Tiangong, China’s copy of the Russian Mir space station, was lost and deorbited itself in April of this year. But now with the upcoming Chang’e 4, China has stopped following in the footsteps of others and begun an effort to explore the dark-side of the Moon.

Yes, I know it is no more dark on the far-face of Luna than anywhere else on its surface and that it is called the Dark-Side because throughout human history it was unseen by the inhabitants of Earth…until Russia sent a spacecraft there. I’m still going to call it the “dark-side” because it is a way cool name and I’m a science fiction author. OK?

This first step in China’s effort to explore the “dark-side” of the moon was a communications satellite called Queqiao, or Magpie Bridge, to relay communications back and forth from Earth to probes that they plan to send to the far-side. It entered its halo orbit at the L-2 Lagrange point beyond the Moon back in June.

When China sends their lander and rover, the rest of the Chang’e 4 mission, which is scheduled to launch in December, they will be the first to do so. Russians first mapped the dark-side and named most of its features. Apollo astronauts were the first humans to view it directly. It has since been mapped and photographed in detail my several spacecraft, but none have ever landed there usefully. A cubesat launched with Queqiao took photos of the Earth and part of a darkside crater. Also on that cubesat is an Arab deep space experiment. China’s first-time contributions to Earth’s knowledge of space are looking up (no pun intended). They will make history. Even before that, sending the Magpie Bridge to L-2 is a pretty cool thing anyway.

The rate things are going, there will be many following them soon, but still. Queqiao represents a significant logistics foothold on lunar exploration. I foresee other planned dark-side missions by other countries partnering with China to use Queqiao for relay to Earth some day.

Save This Opportunity #SaveOppy #WakeUpOppy

•September 1, 2018 • Leave a Comment

In a nutshell, it’s like this…

The Mars rover, Opportunity, is powered by solar panels. One of the worst dust storms in observed Martian history has been raging for months, blotting out the Sun and causing Opportunity to run out of power. The last time it was heard from was June.

NASA administrators want to declare the rover dead, but they will undertake some measures to try and revive the rover first. They plan to wait until the opacity of the dust reduces to a certain level, then send it occasional wake up commands followed by listening passes and do this over a period of 45 days. After that they will begin a passive listening phase until January when they will declare the rover dead and reassign the team to other projects.

The problem is that there are experts who claim that this plan does not give the rover sufficient opportunity (see what I did there?) to recover from the storm. Earlier this week, social media efforts called #SaveOppy and #WakeUpOppy pushed administrators to extend the active contact phase from 30 days to 45 days. But experts say that when the atmospheric dust storm calms, the dust will settle on the solar panels. After that, there is a period of strong surface winds that they say will blow the dust off. These winds, like the atmospheric dust storms, are regular annual events. This year the surface winds are predicted to run from November through January.

When Opportunity’s sister rover, Spirit, became stuck in the sand back in April of 2009, in a position where its solar panels could not get adequate light during the winter to keep vital components from freezing, NASA made every effort to save the rover. Experts now say that the plan for this crisis with Opportunity doesn’t go near as far as the efforts to recover Spirit. Spirit was declared dead about a year later.

Now these experts, who are risking their careers bucking NASA administration on this issue…are going to the public and asking us to help.

If you use Twitter, please use the hashtags #SaveOppy and #WakeUpOppy to join in on the discussion, Maybe Opportunity is dead, maybe she isn’t, but those people who know her and Mars best say that they can’t be sure if active wake-up calls end in November.

The Mighty Delta II

•August 31, 2018 • Leave a Comment

The Delta II has launched 155 times with only two launch failures. It has been one of Government’s main workhorse launch platforms for 29 years. One of it’s big projects were the GPS fleet.

I talk about it today because this rocket is about to launch on it’s final flight.

The ICESat 2 is scheduled to launch on the last ever Delta II rocket at 8:46 Eastern Time on Sept 15th from Vandenberg into a polar orbit to study sea ice. The satellite is important for measuring climate change, of course, so I don’t mean to under value it. But if you want to watch a space-culture icon fly into history, you should find time to stream the launch and watch it live.

Change is good. Paying $51M per launch to loft a max of 13,400 lbs to Low Earth Orbit is a thing of the past. The newest version of the Falcon 9 lifts 50,300 lbs to LEO for $50M, and while the rest of the industry can’t match that, the average is a lot closer to it than Delta. The Delta rocket is the poster child of over-priced rides to space. But that should keep us from celebrating this magnificent piece of engineering that has carried so much of the workload of our country’s space activities.

I’ll be watching. Will you?

Introducing — My First eBook!

•August 30, 2018 • Comments Off on Introducing — My First eBook!

I have finally done it.

Because of a hiking accident that has kept me home from work with a broken ankle, I’ve had time to take a step in my writing that I’ve been putting off for over four years.

I’ve taken as an experiment, a story that has sat on my hard drive for a while, and used it to learn and apply the tricks of the trade of publishing to the Amazon Kindle.

Invader Space was actually born of a writer photo prompt contest at Cowboy Logic Publishing long ago, so it was low-hanging fruit for this effort.

It is now available to download to your Kindle app or device for $1 on Amazon…

Like I said, this has been in the works for a while, I commissioned the artwork for cover from Sky Glanville clear back in 2014.

If you don’t want to spend $1 on a 600 word short story, that’s fine. The Novella for Another Man’s Terrorist is up for pre-order now too.

Enjoy!

Will the Big Falcon Rocket Eat the SLS?

•May 12, 2018 • Leave a Comment

(This is Part II of the series on SpaceX rockets vs SLS. For Part III, click here)

 

Apparently, something momentous occurred on Friday and I missed it.

I know, I know…but it does happen.

The first Bangladeshi communications satellite was successfully put into orbit by the first Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket. My congratulations to SpaceX and Bangladesh for this monumental achievement.

On June 4th, 2010, SpaceX launched the first of their series of Falcon 9 rockets. From its beginning, it was built to refly. However, since landing and reflying orbital rockets efficiently was a totally new concept, they had to first take some time to learn how to do that.

ORBCOMM-2 First-Stage Landing

Through repeated launches, fiery crashes, landings, refurbishments, design improvements and component additions/improvements, the new Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket is finally manufactured from the ground up for the dedicated purpose of achieving the closest thing to routine space flight that this rocket can do.

Built to fly more than ten times each, with (maybe) a 24 hour turnaround and more than double the initial thrust of the first Falcon 9, this is the final version of that rocket and will be used for all Falcon launches from now on, including Falcon Heavy, going forward. SpaceX will now stop improving this rocket and put all of their research and development work into their new ride, the Big “Falcon” Rocket (BFR), which Elon says he wants to start hop-testing next year.

Block 5 culminates the reusability goals for the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rocket lines, having been built on the knowledge base of 2 years of refurbishing and reflying boosters.

They did this in several ways…more robust internals, heat protection instead of paint, bolting the engines on instead of welding them, self-retracting legs, titanium grid-fins, and better heat-shielding for the engines.

But another thing that folks are talking about is a last major upgrade to the Merlin Engine. All told, this new version of the Falcon 9 supposedly has more than twice the initial thrust of the first-ever Falcon 9. Elon says that it can lift roughly 8% more weight to LEO than the Falcon Full Thrust rockets they’ve been flying for the past two years or so.

Something folks aren’t talking about is what those short turnaround times are going to do to the usual 2 year-plus launch lead times…another key point of competition in the launch services industry. If SpaceX can ever catch-up on the backlog in its launch manifest, they’ll be able to use those short turnarounds to start chopping lead times and saturate the market, and launch reservations at Kennedy Space Center and Vandenberg Air Force Base, with cheap F9 and FH rides.

What about NASA’s Space Launch System? Back in February 2015 I wrote here about how staged improvements to the engines had brought about the Falcon Full Thrust upgrade that would fly SES 9 in April 2016. That article does a little math and speculates that the Falcon Heavy with those same Full Thrust boosters would be a “stone throw away” from the low-end of NASA’s upcoming Space Launch System. Throughout last year and into this year, and especially since the Falcon Heavy test flight, that article has seen much heavier traffic on this blog than anything else I’ve ever written here, due to folks web-searching for information on that rivalry. Even now, every time a Falcon 9 launches or someone important is on the news talking about this stuff, the page gets another flurry of hits. I’ve been using it as kind of a measuring stick for interest in the new space race.

The Falcon Heavy test flight used three Falcon 9 Full Thrust boosters. Wikipedia has these numbers for the Falcon Heavy’s lift capacity to LEO, but I don’t know if it is referring to the Falcon Full Thrust or the new Block 5. It looks an awful lot like the number that I saw when I researched the earlier article on Falcon Heavy Full Thrust…

“63,800 kg (140,700 lb)”

Is this number in wikipedia really based on the Falcon Heavy Full Thrust? Or is it the Mark 5? If it refers to the Falcon Full Thrust, and if that same 8% improvement applies equally to the Falcon Heavy and the Falcon 9, then when the FH flies that demo mission for the U.S. Air Force in October, its lift capacity will be 70,180 kg to Low Earth Orbit. It’s possible SpaceX knows this and is shying away from bragging about it for now to avoid political resistance to that Air Force launch.

Wikipedia still uses the same numbers for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) that I used back in 2015…

“70,000 to 130,000 kg (150,000 to 290,000 lb)”

So when the SLS debuts next year (or so) with the EM-1 mission, with the weakest planned variant of the rocket, it might not be the biggest boy on the block! I’m still waiting for some real experts to verify this for me and I’ll update this article with a clarification when I get several good answers in one direction or another. Even if FH does top out at 64K kg, then the upper-end Falcon is still almost as mighty as the lower-end SLS.

Now, just to clarify, the Falcon Heavy will probably not ever actually carry that maximum-mass payload. Reusing the rocket means saving some fuel so that the boosters can fly to a pad somewhere and land. That number that I just quoted is if they plan to fly the rocket only once, burn every last drop of fuel during the launch, release the second stage, and then abandon the entire first stage to just crash into the ocean…like SLS will do anyway. Also, the larger diameter payload fairing on SLS means it’ll have room at the nose of the rocket to mount much larger spacecraft than Falcon Heavy’s Falcon 9-sized payload fairing can. That makes SLS far more useful for crewed interplanetary travel and especially for launching modules for larger space stations. Lastly, the liquid hydrogen that the SLS’ left-over Space Shuttle engines burn works more efficiently in space than the RP1 kerosene used by the Merlin engines on Falcon, making SLS better suited than Falcon Heavy for interplanetary missions in that respect as well.

But most taxpayers won’t care about any of that. They’ll see the FH and SLS as near-equals at what is starting to boil down to less than 20% of the cost for Falcon Heavy. The public will begin to speculate that SpaceX will have replaced NASA, especially once the Falcon 9 starts flying the upcoming Crew Dragon to the International Space Station. Nothing can be further from the truth. NASA is a space agency, SpaceX is a launch services company. NASA has been providing SpaceX with a lot more technical assistance to get them this far than the other way around. The development of the Dragon spacecraft, and the Falcon 9 technology on which the Falcon Heavy Mark 5 relies, was achieved with a ton of NASA patronage. NASA and SpaceX do not compare in the same category as competitors but truth be told are actually partners in this New Space revolution.

In fact, I think that NASA instigated all of this. I think that they know they’re working themselves out of a job in the field of launch services and spaceflight. I think that they’re doing it on purpose because they know that as long as those things remain tied to Congressional politics they will never go anywhere.

The Falcon Heavy and the SLS don’t compete either, not really…as you saw from the other differences between the two rockets beyond just their respective throw-weights. The SLS won’t even have a decent second stage for it’s first flight or two. Falcon Heavy will likely fly dozens of times before the REAL monster, the Interplanetary version of the SLS, gets off of the paper and starts flying actual missions! So SLS and FH should never have to compete for anything important due mostly to timing. Even if NASA and Boeing can follow through with the idea of flying an extra wimpy SLS Block 1 in between, Falcon Heavy will still be in full operation for many years, and launch more than a dozen times, while SLS is still flying what are essentially R&D launches.

There is some danger to SLS if it doesn’t fly soon though. Falcon Heavy will fly the same or similar mass to the SLS test launch many times before the SLS first test flight even occurs. And every time a Falcon rocket goes up, more folks will hit Google and read this and other articles that say that SLS costs too much money to develop, much less fly, with an adequate and less expensive Commercial alternative available.

What is more likely to happen is that Falcon Heavy is too small to eat the SLS, and the SLS will be developed and flown to slowly to be eaten. A successful Falcon Heavy launch in October will herald the end of the heavy-lifter race, with SpaceX the next winner. SLS will have survived by virtue of having missed the race and being out of its weight class anyway. Sort of like a young grizzly sleeping in a cave as an adult black bear shambles on past the entrance.

The super-heavy lifting contest, on the other hand, starts next year. It’ll probably have more players in it than just SpaceX and NASA, no medium-lift payload fairings or half-baked second-stages, and those rockets won’t burn a drop of kerosene. For now it looks like the young SLS will fly and some sign of an actual development timeline for SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) will be seen by the mid-2020s. We might also see something fly from elsewhere in the world in the heavy or super-heavy lift category.

The contenders for that race are still lining up at the starting line and we’ll talk about them in Part Three of this series…Will the MUCH Bigger Falcon eat the SLS? It will all depend on development times, with the SLS Block 1A and Block 2 the birds to beat.

Stay tuned.

An InSight into NASA Leadership

•May 7, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Early Saturday morning (May, 5th 2018), a United Launch Alliance Atlas V launched NASA’s Mars mission for this year’s Earth/Mars conjunction.

The first interplanetary mission launched from the West coast, this Mars shot demonstrated NASA and ULA’s unique experience in sending payloads to Mars. InSight will land on Mars and take seismic readings to help scientists better understand the composition of Mars below the surface. The Viking landers carried seismic instruments on board, but those experiments weren’t successful. InSight carries a seismic sensor that will use Marsquakes and meteor strikes to map the interior of Mars in the same way that geologists have done with Earthquakes for 150 years. We’ve needed to study that aspect of Mars for a long time, and should have done so sooner. This probe missed the last Mars launch window because the seismic sensor package on board was found to be faulty and could not be repaired in time.

After InSight separated from the Centaur Upper stage of Atlas, a cubesat dispenser mounted on Centaur kicked out two small communications satellites. Named Wall-E and EVA, these experimental Mars fly-by craft will relay InSight’s transmissions back to Earth from the far-side of Mars during planet fall and landing. Collectively called MarCO (Mars Cube One) these inexpensive spacecraft are a proof of concept for the use of cubesats for communications and navigation in Interplanetary Space. If they succeed, then you can expect to see many organizations start flying these cheap probes to accelerate the exploration of our solar system, utilize its resources, and start putting space entrepreneurship into the hands of the world’s millionaires…not just its billionaires.

NASA and JPL prepared and ran this mission and it will reach Mars in October. Currently, only NASA and its partners like ULA can do this kind of work, with so many combined firsts, with this level of confidence in the outcome. This mission further demonstrates NASA’s continued global leadership in Space and Mars exploration. Just because NASA does not currently launch their own people into space, that doesn’t mean that they do not lead. Mars has earned its reputation as the Skeleton Coast of exploration spacecraft, but the folks at NASA have many times earned their reputation as the masters of Mars.

I could name some other examples…and more will fly very soon.

The first test flight of the Space Launch System will happen in the next two years. In spite of the many critics of SLS (myself being among them) NASA’s new ride will push back the envelope, again, as the heaviest lifting launcher in the world.

Under NASA leadership, private companies with internally designed and owned spacecraft and launchers, have been shuttling cargo to and from the International Space Station at a fraction of the cost of using government-owned systems. This year, the same procurement structure (Space Act Agreement Contracts) will be used to begin hauling crew.

NASA had begun serious work on a new International, Lunar orbiting research and construction station…sort of an ISS version 2…which looks like it will use the above named commercial partnering method (under the label “NextSTEP”) from its inception. I think it will also include many habitat and research modules from international and commercial partners as well.

The James Webb Space Telescope, the long awaited first interstellar research probe targeted for a Lagrange point orbit, has begun rattling through it’s “shake-down” testing. Yes, they shook some nuts and bolts loose but hey, that’s what testing is for, right? Better now than on launch day.

On Tuesday, NASA is holding a commercial partners conference at their headquarters in Washington to begin preparations for next cycle of crewed exploration of Luna.

http://spaceref.com/calendar/calendar.html?pid=9694

The list goes on. Stay tuned.

The Daughter of Kepler

•April 14, 2018 • Leave a Comment

TESS will do her father proud.

Kepler, the scientist, was awesome. However I don’t know if he had any children. Kepler…the spacecraft…is/was a spacecraft that was built to discover alien planets. It’s unblinking eye stared at a particular area of the sky continually, watching for the tell-tale wink of faraway planets passing between us and their parent stars. In spite of several technical difficulties it helped to discover roughly 3,758 planets in orbit around 2,808 different stars.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) spacecraft will do the same thing, using lessons learned from Kepler on how to best conduct these studies, but in an area or sky 400 times larger and target specific stellar types particularly close to Earth.

TESS will also be better able to detect Earth-sized planets. Most of the worlds that Kepler found are much larger.

https://www.nasa.gov/content/tess-prelaunch-briefings-and-events

Once a list is made, then several current and future observatories (including the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope) will focus on these areas.

They’ve put TESS on the schedule to launch on April 16th, 2018 on a SpaceX Falcon 9. It will fly to a somewhat challenging 2:1 Moon synchronous orbit where, if they insert it correctly, it should be stable for several decades.

Click here (NASA TV) at 11 am Eastern today (Sunday April 15th) for further details.

 

 

 

 

A Light Over the Ocean

•March 30, 2018 • Leave a Comment

 

“Mommy, what’s that?”

“What’s what sweetheart?”

“Outside in the sky over there.”

“That’s odd…maybe it’s an airplane in trouble.”

“It’s pretty. Maybe it’s a UFO.”

“There are no UFOs dear. Oh, look, it’s on the TV too. It says it’s from a rocket launch…Iridium Next.”

“Cool! Is it going to Mars?”

“I don’t think so. Nobody goes to Mars. Hurry, finish getting ready or we’ll miss our flight.”

“Will there be Internet on the plane, mommy?”

“Probably. I don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s amazing some of things they can do now days.”

“I hope there is.”

“That Iridium thing is probably horribly expensive. There are so many better things to spend money on than NASA shooting people off on spaceships.”

“Mommy, can we fly to Mars instead of going to Grandma’s house?”

“What? I just told you no one goes to Mars.”

“But that man on the TV just said that he is.”

“Really…Oh look at the time! Come on! Come on! Let’s go or we’ll be late.”

“Maybe someday we’ll ride that man’s pretty spaceship to Mars. Maybe it’ll have Internet too.”

“Yes dear.”

 

 

Cover image credit — Javier Mendoza/AP

To Live on Mars

•March 17, 2018 • Leave a Comment

When is a doughnut not a doughnut? When it’s a bagel.

Please understand, I don’t mind so much the actual taste of bagels, they’re OK I guess, but I rarely eat them, but only because they are food and I like food. Doughnuts on the other hand are a craving. If someone hands me a bagel, I’ll eat it…but I wander through life seeking doughnuts.

Bagels are a doughnut tease…a vain and cruel mockery of donuts.

So I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t live on Mars. I know, it’s heresy for a vocal space advocate like myself to admit such a thing, but Mars just would not work out for me.

How do I know? Because I’ve already lived on Mars once before and didn’t like it at all…or rather one of Earth’s closest analogues of Mars.

Back in 2001 I spent part of November and December working at the computer-end of a copper mine expansion project in Chile. The valley on the way to the Escondida Copper Mine (http://www.riotinto.com/copperanddiamonds/escondida-4740.aspx) from Antofagasta, and the area near the mine, looked just like those first Spirit Rover photos of the Mars countryside.

We worked ten days at a time at the mine site and then spent four days off out on the coast. The coastal area resembles most any other seaside tourist attraction, but the geography near the mine…and all along the road to get there…mocked that of the mountains and West Desert area of Utah where I’ve lived most of my life…sans any plant life. Seriously, the graphical overlay labeled “plants” had been stripped away and deleted.

Also, the rocks float. No, they don’t float in the air. Your local landfill shreads tires and recycles them, partly because if you bury a tire it might show up on the surface some 10 years or so later. In the Chilean desert, like on Mars near where the Spirit Rover landed, the freeze-thaw cycle floats rocks to the top so that they lay around on the surface of the trackless sand like thousands of tennis balls on a vast, abandoned court.

The area recieved about a quarter of an inch of rainfall a year, so aside from a small tumble-weed-like plant that one might see occasionally in the bottoms of shallow ravines, all that grew out of that fine sand of the Chilean desert were rocks.

So if a person wanted to fake a Mars landing, and needed a good photo back-drop for it, all they would need during that drought in the mountains and deserts of Chile would be a red filter for their camera.

I missed my family terribly when I was in Chile, but the pictures that I kept on my computer back-drop were recently-captured weather cam shots of the snow covered mountains of Utah. Growing up, I wandered those mountains and smelled the air of all four seasons, so much that I might not even need a calendar.

I’ve listened to the rattle of the wind blowing through the quaking aspen trees in the fall.

I’ve cross-country skied across the top of those same mountains under a full moon, then unrolled a tarp and mummy bag on the snow and slept to the sound of icy winds blowing through the bare trees under winter stars.

I’ve seen the dirt ropes left behind in the early spring by rodents after they’ve stuffed snow tunnels with their diggings.

I’ve witnessed the “purple mountain majesties” that confuses city slickers when they sing about it in “America the Beautiful”. It happens when a late frost touches the first buds of spring, turning the mountainside an iridescent violet under the morning sun.

I’ve swam in a mountain lake, loved on a mountain peak, and worn out footwear walking the trails of riverbanks and high desert plateaus.

My work at the Escondida mine brought me great fulfillment and growth. I enjoy challenging computer programming and support tasks. I also like to travel, and my days off in Antofagasta were all very nice. But when the time came to go home I couldn’t get on that plane fast enough. I returned just before Christmas, and as Christmas’ go that was one of my most memorable.

We know that Mars looks like Death Valley and feels like Antarctica. We won’t know what it smells like because we can’t breath the air. A full lungful would likely saturate a person’s red blood cells and tissues with CO2 and unless someone else is right there with pure O2 to bag them with they’d die and then the rest of us still wouldn’t know what Mars smells like. I suppose someone could gather a sample of Mars air in a bag and then go indoors and open it, but that would probably be irresponsible too.

So for all you city slickers who never see the stars, along with all you other folks rearin’ to go, I’ll continue to fight, here on this blog and elsewhere, for your ride to Mars.

But don’t bother holding the door open for me when you board that spacecraft. I’ll just bow to you and wave. Then, after you launch, I’ll head straight to the mountains and fall asleep looking up at the Red Planet with a smile on my face and my ears full of the rattle of the quakies.

I Attended a Caucus

•March 16, 2018 • Leave a Comment

This week I attended a caucus for the first time. Not knowing anything about such things, I honestly didn’t know what to expect…yet all of my preconceived notions turned out to be totally wrong. It was more of a gathering than a meeting, the format having a little bit of a community flu vaccination type arrangement. The first step of the U.S. election process consisted, at least in this case, of a very small bunch of quiet, mild-mannered, reasonable, grassroots folks, getting together at the local library around tables (one for each precinct) to talk about and name delegates to the county and state Republican Conventions. The small turn-out there surprised me, given the current state of political upheaval that brought me there. However, to be fair there were two official community meetings held elsewhere that same evening, one of which was the local school board discussing conceal-carry by school district staff, which you can imagine had an impact on attendance at the caucus. The number of people present for this half of Uinta County came nowhere near the number of delegates being selected, so they said that all of us could be delegates just for showing up.

When I arrived five minutes before the designated time, the organizers had just arrived also and had began setting up tables and chairs. Once they were ready, they had us all line-up and take turns helping some nice folks find us on a list of declared Republicans so that they could highlight our names as having attended the caucus. That was also when they found out what precinct we lived in in order to get ready for the next step.

(BTW, the images that I’m using in this article didn’t come from MY caucus…I didn’t think to take any pictures…however, it looked just like that! I lifted these images from an article in The Coloradoan about some caucuses in Larimer County. The above image is from a Democratic Caucus in Fort Collins. The cover image is of a Republican Caucus in Loveland.)

Each precinct sat at a separate table and made two lists of names…one of delegates for the Uinta County Republican Convention and one for the Wyoming Republican Convention. We were all put on the list if we would be willing and available to serve as delegates for the conventions. Others who were not present were also suggested by us to be added to the lists.

The nice elderly lady in charge of our table of five, who was a member of the Precinct 1-1 Committee, quietly wrote “First Alternate” next to my name. I asked her what it meant and I think she said that it refers to those who can temporarily hold the credentials of one if the committee members at the convention if they step out for a smoke or something. I am not sure at this writing if this applied to just me or also some of the other folks on the list with me. I gave them my phone number and I’ll ask when they call.

You maybe shouldn’t trust the news media when they say that this level of government is back-filled with fire-eyed, good-ol-boy, party loyalists…for I am none of those things. I mean granted, attendance at this caucus was low, but anyone who has declared a party affiliation while voting (necessary to vote in the Primaries in Wyoming) could just walk in off the street and attend one of these things without an invitation and participate in selecting delegates.

I heard no one even ask for an ID and I saw none provided, but your mileage may vary depending on your location. Evanston is a fairly small town and there were several folks there who knew me from work association, church, and from when I ran for School Board.

I spent a total of an hour and a half of my time and I was only there mostly just to learn how this level of the process works. Now, just for the effort, I am involved in the process as a delegate where I can participate in setting policy preferences and choosing Republican candidates in the great state of Wyoming. I have voted in almost every election since I was old enough, but I now see that I’ve spent over 30 years missing out on a key, very influential step of the voting process. If I had known earlier how easy this was, then I maybe could have had the chance to vote against Donald “Scrooge McDuck” Trump early enough in the process for it to maybe mean a little something…at least to me.

Now that I’ve told you about it, you have no excuse.

Just sayin’.

I guess what I’m really sayin’ here is …

Quit your gripin’.

Get off your butt.

Get involved.

The World Reacts to Falcon Heavy

•February 26, 2018 • Leave a Comment

SpaceX told the world about this rocket many years ago, few people noticed. Many folks who do follow such things predicted that the world would change with this launch…but that was before any of us knew about the “(shrill whistle) Hey, everyone! Look what we can do!” payload.

As I write this, the Starman video was up to 15 Million views on YouTube. Even more crazy was the SpaceX Live hosted webcast of the launch, which was viewed all over the world, was said to have had 4 million concurrent viewers on launch day.

The Falcon Heavy launch occurred three weeks ago and the world has begun to digest it. Quite a lot of talk has been about how an operational Falcon Heavy (which is scheduled to fly two or three more times this year) will inevitably apply new pressure on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS)…currently under development and not scheduled for its first flight until 2020.

Former NASA Deputy Administrator under President Obama, Lori Garver, already a strong advocate for New Space, had this to say almost immediately after the launch in an oped for The Hill, questioning the continued purpose of further funding for SLS…

“The question to be answered in Washington now is why would Congress continue to spend billions of taxpayer dollars a year on a government-made rocket that is unnecessary and obsolete now that the private sector has shown they can do it for a fraction of the cost?”

“It is understandable that government employees, contractors and their elected officials want to keep this expensive rocket development program going. A large share of NASA’s roughly $19 billion budget has been spent on this constituency, and in turn is protected by them. We have come to accept this “tax” on the agency, but It is time for the nation to decide if we want a space program — or a jobs program.” — Lori Garver

http://thehill.com/opinion/technology/372994-spacex-could-save-nasa-and-the-future-of-space-exploration

Many folks smarter than me continue to insist that SLS and Delta IV Heavy, with their liquid hydrogen second stage, are a better and more efficient deep-space solution. However, I doubt the efficiency savings over the kerosene engines on Falcon comes anywhere close to beating the horrific price difference.

The currently published plan is for Falcon Heavy to fly for over a decade before SLS with its superior performance will be available for any mission other than building the Deep Space Gateway and Deep Space Transport. SpaceX expects to fly the rocket two to three times per year.

Between now and 2022 NASA will build the propulsion module for the Deep Space Gateway at the same time as the second SLS rocket that will launch the module onto Lunar orbit. However, NASA should still continue to build and fly its smaller experiments using the launchers that are available, for the sake of the schedule. Is Congress really going to force NASA to postpone all other deep space missions (like Europa Clipper) until then? Either way, folks will still spend all those years watching Falcon Heavy build a launch history flying other missions and will increasingly ask the question that Ms. Garver asked above.

The next launch window to Mars will occur in May/June of this year…a little too soon for a bran spanking new system, but you can bet that SpaceX will try and launch a Falcon Heavy into the next one (mid 2020)…with or without customers. Some level of NASA participation, similar to what they arranged for the now cancelled Red Dragon mission, would help ensure success on that flight, as well as garner confidence from other commercial interests who might have a payload or two to send along.

Eric Berger at ARS Technica did a nice comparison of Falcon Heavy, Delta Heavy, and the Space Launch System. He crunched some throw-weight numbers and came up with this shocker…

“The SLS rocket was originally supposed to launch in 2017, but now the maiden flight of the SLS booster has slipped to 2020. That is understandable; most large aerospace rockets experience delays. However, the cost of a three-year delay is $7.8 billion.”

“That $7.8 billion equates to 86 launches of the reusable Falcon Heavy or 52 of the expendable version. This provides up to 3,000 tons of lift—the equivalent of eight International Space Stations or one heck of a Moon base.”

https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/02/three-years-of-sls-development-could-buy-86-falcon-heavy-launches/

SpaceX has announced first flights of their new BFR (pictured above) in 2020. It will burn methane fuel, lift more than SLS, and likely be fully reusable and far cheaper. Of course, few people believe that SpaceX will actually hit that target, Elon being notorious at “rocket vaporware”, but how far will that timeline actually have to slip for it to compete with SLS for NASA missions?

There were those who interpreted the metaphor of Starman more negatively than I and others did, being put off by the frivolous nature of launching a dude with a sports car into space. To those I would ask this question: If the payload for this test launch had been the typical block of concrete, would you have focused on it, or the capabilities of the breakthrough in cheap lift capability that was tested with it? If the latter, then why not just ignore Starman and do that?

If you still can’t bring yourself to see past Space Tesla, then consider the following…

  • How much does a 2008 model Tesla Roadster weigh?
  • How much spacecraft can one build, that weighs that same amount…if it doesn’t have to do much more to reach Mars than a dummy in a spacesuit driving a Lotus :Glitze: with an all electric powertrain can do?
  • Is the mission fundable at a launch price of somewhere around, say, $150M to LEO? $60M?
  • Can you have it ready by 2020?

It isn’t just SLS that feels the pressure exerted on the industry by this launch. ESA has expressed serious concern with their Arian line of rockets competing against this new capability…

“…breakthrough developments from new space sector players such as reusable launchers and marketing wheezes like sending a car into space are attracting attention and increasing pressure on the public sector.”

“Totally new ideas are needed and Europe must now prove it still possesses that traditional strength to surpass itself and break out beyond existing borders.” — Jan Wörner, ESA

http://blogs.esa.int/janwoerner/2018/02/11/europes-move/

SpaceX accomplishments have begun to be characterized as an expansion of United States prowess in space…with the Falcon Heavy launch sighted as an example…

U.S. Vice President Pence

“And of course, just a couple of weeks ago, the world watched with wonder as the Falcon Heavy blasted off from this very shoreline, and then moments later sent two of its boosters sailing back down to Earth, where they landed side-by-side, intact, less than a mile from where they’d lifted off. Very impressive indeed.”

“The evidence is clear: While the government can blaze new trails into exploring the outer expanse of space, like all frontiers, ultimately that will be settled by the dreams of our people, by the brilliance of our innovators, the energy of entrepreneurs, and the daring of our explorers together.”

“This truth echoes through the history of the Kennedy Space Center, named for a President who challenged the American people to marshal the best of our, in his words, “energies and skills” to “become the world’s leading space-faring nation.”

http://spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=51135

China

“…to put it more bluntly, this time the Americans showed us Chinese with pure power why they are still the strongest country in the world.”

https://qz.com/1209330/spacexs-falcon-heavy-rocket-is-the-envy-of-china-and-europe-why-isnt-nasa-on-board/amp/

Not everyone in this new industry shows off like Elon Musk, others who hold things closer to the vest have been busy building too. They work in comparative secret to prepare their surprises. So this event was not an outlier. Momentum has been building toward it for about a decade. The rising of that rocket through the Florida skies was just one of the first larger bubbles in a pot that has only now started to boil. I doubt it can be stopped by governments anymore, and they seem to have moved off the tracks and instead have lined up to board the train.

Get used to it. Bigelow Aerospace, who has been waiting for over a decade for favorable market and support conditions to release their new space product, inflatable space station modules, finally announced last week that it will orbit the world’s first private space station in 2021 and send another to Lunar orbit in 2022.

Like and Comment. What is your reaction to the launch?

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 to 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 none, 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… https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/rosenstein-mueller-indictment-russia/553601/). 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 Heritage.org)

Feb. 21 update: They just indicted somebody’s lawyer for lying to investigators. Now, I may have said this before somewhere…even so listen up. If the FBI ever questions you about something, or even asks you what you had for breakfast, TELL THE TRUTH! This is why Democrats in Congress want so bad for Trump to be interviewed, because a skilled lier relies on convincing themselves that a lie is actually true, and this creates a situation where the liar in question no longer even knows what the truth is. If Mueller questions Trump under oath TRUMP WILL LIE, probably without even realizing it, and give his opponents an impeachable charge against him.

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.

Why?

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.

So…

  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

http://www.livescience.com/56958-earthquake-strikes-fukushima-japan.html?utm_source=notification

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). https://livestream.com/accounts/362/events/6518620

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…

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1748772335361245&id=1512898795615268

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

image

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

image

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. http://www.history.com/topics/challenger-disaster/videos/engineering-disasters—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

http://www.davidpbrown.co.uk/poetry/john-magee.html

 

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…

http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2015/11/nasa-awards-contracts-deep-space-advanced-propulsion-systems/

http://www.nasa.gov/nextstep

http://www.nasa.gov/press/2015/march/nasa-announces-new-partnerships-with-us-industry-for-key-deep-space-capabilities

NASA Awards ORBITEC Contract for Advanced Propulsion Systems

https://www.reddit.com/r/spaceflight/comments/3u4rwj/nasa_awards_contracts_for_deepspace_advanced/

https://www.rt.com/usa/323188-nasa-contracts-electric-propulsion/
http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2013/mar/HQ_C13-016_MSFC_MAF.html

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 day..it 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

http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/mccain-lambasts-senate-appropriators-for-rd-180-provision

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).

http://yellowhammernews.com/politics-2/john-mccain-really-hates-alabama-but-his-attempts-to-screw-the-state-keep-failing/

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 (http://www.isas.jaxa.jp/e/enterp/missions/nozomi/status_01.shtml). 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)

Thankfulness

•November 28, 2015 • 1 Comment

image

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.