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 Sad State of Our Union

•June 29, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Protests of the violent death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer began right on the tail-end what at the time was thought to be the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. These Black Lives Matter protests, themselves honorable and fully justified, have sometimes gotten out of hand and violated laws, killed people, and damaged property not belonging to the protesters. Most if not all of the violence and lawlessness has been fomented by anarchist and extremist groups, unaffiliated with Black Lives Matter, with objectives unrelated to the police brutality or the death of George Floyd, sometimes backed by foreign adversaries, and with the goal of instigating injury to protesters like the nice folks you see in the photo below.

A crowd of peaceful protesters line dancing. People in cities all over the world have gathered this summer in groups such as this to say “Enough” to race-motivated killings and general police brutality toward people of color by some in law enforcement. Heroes such as these use rule of law to stand for equal protection under the law for all as promised by the supreme law of the United States of America, the U.S. Constitution.

Police, regardless of their own race, political affiliation or reputation have gotten lumped together with scum like Floyd’s killer, Derek Chauvin, effectively ending respect for law and order by much of the population and elevating terrorists, murderers, thieves and vandals to the status of heroes.

The site near the killing of George Floyd memorialized.

Many this year, on both sides of the isle, seem to think that their own personal and/or political interests trump the rights, lives, health, and general well being of their neighbors who just several years ago they actually cared about. Many Conservatives and Liberals, each in their own way, have used the politics of an election year as an excuse to resist the guidelines laid down by experts intent on curtailing loss of life in the worst and most lethal pandemic in the U.S. in modern history, perhaps ever. Why have we stopped caring about killing people?

Where have we come as a nation that we now care so little about one and other?

The memorial of revolutionary soldier and statesman Caesar Rodney in Wilmington Delaware. In Dover, Rodney heard that the Delaware delegation was deadlocked between its other two delegates in the Continental Congress. He rode all night in a thunderstorm, in poor health, to cast the deciding vote for Delaware, turning the tide towards a unanimous vote on the Declaration of Independence. The statue shown here was temporarily removed from the monument on June 12th, 2020 to protect it from threatened vandalism by rioters (https://www.wdel.com/news/wilmingtons-caesar-rodney-and-christopher-columbus-statues-come-down/article_17d3295a-acd0-11ea-aa20-1ffff6f97c7a.html).

This July 4th, let us take a breath, think things through, and remember the things that made this country a world leader in peaceful discourse and the bloodless transfer of power. Let us reject racism in all of its forms on both sides of the political isle. Let us remember the sacrifices of patriots in blood and treasure and join them in standing up and the civil rights of our fellow human beings as much as our own. Let us protect all people of all races, positions, incomes, and religious affiliations.

To quote Rodney King…”People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?”

They Did It!

•May 30, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Long ago, we all wondered what would become of NASA’s human spaceflight program. The Space Shuttle sucked so much money out of the system that no other spaceflight effort could be developed by any NASA partner. Then, upon its cancellation, its replacement languished until it was cancelled also.

After the Commercial Crew contracts were awarded to spaceflight veteran company Boeing and upstart SpaceX, they’re projected launch dates hopscotched back and forth for a while as to who would be first to the ISS…like the respective heights of my eighteen month younger sister and I as we grew.

Boeing dropped the ball, in my opinion, by a lack of willingness to innovate enough…giving SpaceX a nose in the game. This culminated in a less than successful test flight that put them way behind. Both programs were starved by Congress, delaying Commercial Crew and creating a crew scheduling crisis and endangering the IIS program itself as the United States and Russia drifted apart politically with Russia having way too much control over the operations and future of the station.

Launching through a break in a storm system over Florida today, NASA successfully returned human space launch operations to their activities…and did it with a new paradigm that hands off that capability to industry so that human spaceflight will no longer need Congress or Russia to grow on its own initiative.

Tomorrow morning they will dock the Dragon to the station for several weeks and change the direction of human spaceflight forever.

Thank you NASA and SpaceX and safe travels Bob and Doug.

Try Try Again!

•May 30, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Here Comes the Dragon

•May 22, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for.

After the Space Shuttle Columbia accident, then President George W. Bush announced the cancellation of the Space Shuttle program. The spacecraft had been deemed so unsafe that each launch would have to be treated like a “first-launch”, with all of the precautions of a test launch, for the remainder of the life of the program. As this would make that already devastatingly expensive program unsustainable, they planned to fly the remainder of the contracted obligations to the International Space Station (ISS) and then stop flying. It’s replacement, a rocket and capsule system called Constellation, began development at the same time so as to be ready to take over flights to the ISS and also support the crewed exploration of the Moon and Mars.

Astronaut Dale Gardner holding a “For Sale” sign

The end of the Shuttle came during the the Obama administration, but the Shuttle stopped flying before the Constellation program had a suitable replacement ready. Obama cancelled the languishing Constellation and its capsule Orion altogether, along with plans to fly to the Moon and Mars. Congress wouldn’t have it and started their latest endless spaceflight development program…the Space Launch System (SLS), and a new capsule with a very unmemorable name (as clearly evidenced by the fact that I don’t remember it). Except neither were actually new since they were really just the Aries 5 launch system and Orion under other names. So, for nine years, we’ve paid Russia to shuttle our astronauts to and from the station.

About that same time Obama spilled the beans to the public and Congress about something that NASA had started working on called the Commercial Cargo and Commercial Crew Programs. These were planned as a totally new procurement process than the traditional and wasteful Cost-Plus system. Actually, fixed-price contracts like these had been used for years in NASA’s Spin-Off program.

The Enhanced variant of Cygnus is seen approaching the ISS.

They started with cargo, where private companies (under NASA’s tutelage) would develop and fly spacecraft for flying cargo missions to and from the ISS. Then, after a time, crewed spacecraft would start flying also. Congress of course hated this idea and tried to kill it with the death of a thousand budget cuts, trying to slow Commercial Crew so that the horribly expensive SLS could begin flying first and serve that role.

Today, Constellation/SLS still does not fly, but the commercial cargo capability has been successfully operating for over seven years and Commercial Crew has flown two un-crewed test flights. The SpaceX Dragon flew successfully in March of 2019 and Boeing’s somewhat less than fully successful test flight occurred in December 2019.

NASA/JSC/Robert Markowitz – Cropped from NASA Commercial Crew group photo at JSC.jpg
SpaceX Dragon 2 (Crew Dragon) and the astronauts assigned to the first two flights, August 3, 2018. The astronauts are, from left to right: Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover.

Next week it all comes together. Planned for May 27th, NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken will board the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft for the first U.S. crewed launch to orbit since the last Space Shuttle Atlantis flight in mid-2011. This will be the third trip to space for both of them and Hurley flew on that final flight of the Shuttle.

These two men carry with them the hopes and dreams not only of a country tired of paying Russia for taxi service, but also of a world tired of the government monopoly on human spaceflight. With this successful flight, SpaceX will become the first non-government entity capable of putting folks into Earth orbit and one of only three organizations on Earth actively doing so (if you count China). Soon, when they get their act together, Boeing will join that club also, giving Commercial Crew an equal share with government in the space frontier.

A full-scale mockup of Bigelow Aerospace’s Space Station Alpha inside their facility in Nevada.

Both of these companies have already signed agreements with other private entities to soon begin flying people into space outside of NASA missions. Boeing has long partnered with space habitat innovator Bigelow Aerospace for transportation services to and from the private orbital habitats that Bigelow has been building and promoting since 2006. SpaceX has agreed with two space tourism companies to fly a Dragon mission for each of them…one flight would take folks on a brief orbital vacation, the other would take people on a tour of the ISS. SpaceX also has another human launch system under development capable of flights to the Moon and with one such mission already planned.

So, if you have never heard of this stuff until just now, and you find it exciting, then don’t relax just yet. There will be much more to come.

Dock With the ISS

•May 15, 2020 • Leave a Comment

I know. SpaceX’s Commercial Crew capsule docks using automation to dock with the International Space Station. However, it also supposedly includes the option to dock manually and the screen supposedly looks something like this…

I’ve done this several times in Orbiter 2010 and 2016, but I usually botch it. I’ve only botched the SpaceX simulator twice out of eight attempts so far.

Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have entered a routine quarantine in preparation for their test flight of the Dragon crew vehicle in a couple of weeks. Yes, the countdown is on and we all await with anticipation the return of crew flights from U.S. soil.

Check out the simulator when you get a chance. It is easier than the Orbiter 2010 and 2016 simulators. It might be easier than Kerbal Space Program too, but I’ve never tried that one. To go there, click here (https://iss-sim.spacex.com/).

Here are a couple of very useful tips offered by Scott Manely…

The best advise here of course is to take it slow. If you’ve ever watched these dockings on NASA TV they are very slow.

Congressional Space

•May 8, 2020 • Leave a Comment

The U.S. Congress has gotten almost nothing done in almost seven months. From the time that the whistle blower complaint came to light around August of 2019, through to the beginnings of the Covid-19 crisis, the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, of both political parties, have been engaged in little more than positioning for the 2020 election. The impeachment effort was undertaken as a purely partisan political activity…how could it have been anything else? A President, however sleazy and unpopular, would have to actually shoot someone for his own party to vote to remove him from office in an election year…and everyone knew that all along. So the whole point the impeachment was to loosen some the support for vulnerable Senate Republicans up for reelection.

Now, with the Wuhan Virus sweeping the country and the economic crisis that came with it, the news media and Congress and with them the people have simply jumped from one case of target fixation to the other.

What a great opportunity for NASA to wrest control of the space exploration and exploitation agenda.

While NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) program sits on the ground gobbling up tax payer money and slogging through schedule slips, SpaceX, with cheap rockets that fly, has been eating away at the future SLS launch manifest one project at a time. Remember when I said here that the Falcon Heavy could not compete with the SLS because of the small Falcon 9 payload diameter? Well, the United States Air Force likes Falcon Heavy but needs it to be able to carry larger diameter spacecraft, so a wider payload fairing is being developed. Now, don’t get me wrong, design-wise the Falcon Heavy really still doesn’t measure up to the SLS in overall payload size or throw weight, and it never will. However, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush…and in this case it’s two birds that can fly versus one that can’t.

For years, Congress wanted the SLS to fly cargo and crew to the International Space Station, to which NASA pretty much replied, “You look so cute when you say that.” NASA had other plans for low Earth orbit that wouldn’t eat up the whole budget, keep the research schedule slaved to routine Congressional politics, and keep us going in circles for yet another 50 years.

Then there’s Mars. That effort looks more and more like just a PR stunt, otherwise there’d be a multinational research station on the surface of that planet today. The people think that Mars is sexy, and Congress thinks that the SLS is the only rocket that can carry people there. The truth is, SLS with Orion can’t even take people to the surface of the Moon. SLS is still smaller than the Saturn IV and the planned Artemis Moon hardware is larger than that of Apollo. If Moon shots are like running to the corner store and back for ice cream, Mars is a month-long camping trip to a different country. Orion, the spacecraft launched by SLS that they’ve built to carry humans through space, is a bit cramped for the one or two year-long round trip to Mars and back and cannot even land anywhere except Earth’s oceans…SLS/Orion alone were never designed nor intended for crewed missions to the surface of anywhere without building another spacecraft. While large Interplanetary robotic missions could work well with SLS, they also need affordability to even get off of the drawing boards and SLS launches cost a half a billion a shot. Spacecraft also get more expensive as they sit around waiting for a ride that currently has never flown and keeps getting pushed back year after year.

The concept behind the Lunar Orbital platform / Gateway (LOP/G) is short-term (10-15 years) lunar studies while constructing a spacecraft to fly to Mars. Along the way they’d trial the new technology that is needed for the longer trip to the Red Planet to assure their reliability over the period of time that Mars missions would take. I once thought that the LOP/G was sold to Congress as job security for SLS, but SLS is running very late and the Trump Administration’s has mandated that the boots on the ground portion of the Lunar effort happens in front of the program, by 2024…even if they have to fly it without SLS. That stage of the process has been named Artemis. NASA has since worked to use Artemis as an accelerant for the entire Lunar exploration effort and in so doing has moved too fast for the overly polarized, Trump-fixated and dysfunctional Congress to keep up. Currently, the SLS will still fly the human transport portion of the plan…EVERYTHING else is in the process of being speedily contracted out to commercial and International partners. Basically, NASA and numerous space industry players from Old Space and New Space around the world have gotten together to do a Moon Shot with the intent of triggering a new space race, but by the time SLS arrives at the party most of the beer will already be drunk.

The Republican-lead Senate has jumped on the both the Artemis bandwagon along with the effort to use commercial providers as needed to get it all done on time…probably because putting people on the moon would end the second term of the Trump Presidency with a bang that Republicans think they can ride well into the second half of the decade. The Democrat-lead House of Representatives of course wants to take the opposite tack, most likely for the same reason, and is finally trying to exert control over the process. Last week Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), chair of the House Science Committee, lied and said that the delays in the Commercial Crew program are evidence that the fixed-price contracting model of the commercial approach to spaceflight would take longer and cost more than the cost-plus model for getting to the Moon. She says that the Lunar lander should be government-owned like the SLS, built and operated on cost-plus contracts like SLS, and launched on SLS.

“I am troubled that NASA has decided to ignore congressional intent and instead press forward with Human Landing System awards to try to meet an arbitrary 2024 lunar landing deadline.

“As the Apollo program showed us, getting to the Moon and back safely is hard.  The multi-year delays and difficulties experienced by the companies of NASA’s taxpayer-funded Commercial Crew program—a program with the far less ambitious goal of just getting NASA astronauts back to low Earth orbit—make clear to me that we should not be trying to privatize America’s Moon-Mars program, especially when at the end of the day American taxpayers—not the private companies—are going to wind up paying the lion’s share of the costs.  I want our Nation to pursue the inspiring goals of returning to the Moon and then heading to Mars, but we need to do it sensibly and safely while we also protect the interests of the tax paying public.”

Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)

Really, Bernice? NASA’s Orion spacecraft is ready to fly today, but it can’t fly to the Moon or the ISS or anywhere else on SLS right now because paper rockets don’t fly anything anywhere. Not only does anything that has to fly on SLS risk not keeping a schedule…but any endeavor that pays more money to delay actual flight will do exactly that…as they always have. Since most of the expenses are fixed from year to year, a delay on any part of a complex effort that pushes back the schedule delays and adds to the expense of all of it. In fact, it’s a dang freaking good thing that NASA laughed at you losers when you wanted to use Orion to replace the Space Shuttle. Relations with Russia continue to deteriorate, and if it weren’t for the upcoming Commercial Crew operational flights we’d be looking at another two years or more of Soyuz rides just to get crew to OUR space station in low Earth orbit. As for expense, Eddie, if you think that anything built commercially comes anywhere near the cost of things built on the cost-plus system like SLS, then you need to throw away that Democrat calculator thy gave you and get one that does actual math.

As NASA forges ahead with private partnerships in its plan to ride the “Moon by 2024 or bust” wagon all the way to a sustainable Lunar presence going into second half of the decade, Congress remains too dysfunctional to even work together on a full budget. Government can no longer mandate space progress that allows Texas and a small hand full of other states to loot the human spaceflight effort anymore, in large part because the lower cost of commercial ownership and fixed-price contracts means that some day very, very soon space exploration won’t even need help from Government and its shifting political whims.

Thank you, Honorable Ms Johnson, for having partnered with Senate Republicans in demonstrating why Congressional irrelevance is the best thing that ever happened to America’s space program.

Rocket Whiners

•April 25, 2020 • Leave a Comment

This is rich.

Russia’s resident blowhard, Dmitry Rogozin, has been shooting off his mouth again. This time he complained about SpaceX “price dumping”. He’s not the only one, Arianespace has alleged the same thing in the past. I’ve also heard ULA and Boeing fans on social media sing similar notes against SpaceX.

Russian nationalist Rogozin, former Russian envy to NATO and former Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian military-industrial complex, he currently serves as Director General of Roscosmos. Author of the famous “trampoline” Tweet a few years back after the U.S. Congress sanctioned him along with other Russian officials over the invasion of Crimea in 2014, he likes calling himself a troublemaker and is known for his outspoken wit…sometimes without thinking through the consequences.

In detail, the price dumping claim is that because SpaceX charges four times as much for U.S. government launch contracts as they do for commercial launches, that that amounts to a government subsidy that facilitates pricing that undercuts and steals business away from their commercial competition…namely Roscosmos, Arianspace, and United Launch Alliance.

Does SpaceX make more money per launch from government contracts than they do from private sector launches? I don’t know. I mean, I don’t have access to the cost of all the extra paperwork, lobbyists, lawyers, uncompensated design changes, and other losses necessary to participate in the U.S. government procurement system. Having not run those numbers I can’t fact check that part of the claim.

SpaceX allegedly does charge the government four times what they charge the private sector. I’ve seen some of those price comparisons and they basically match up the very public amounts awarded on these government contracts against the advertised base price of a Falcon 9 launch to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) of $62 million, plus estimates for additional costs and services. I’m told that such ball-park figures are necessary for making these comparisons because the exact prices being charged for commercial launches are protected by non-disclosure agreements.

People like Rogozin like to talk about low launch prices like they’re a bad thing. Some folks here in the U.S. still do that as well. These are mainly people who benefit financially from the wasted billions flowing out over the edges of the traditional space launch industry and oozing from the corruption holes in the U.S. government procurement system. Meanwhile, the high cost of access to space stifles innovation and strangles tech advancements, leaving the public with the impression that the whole thing is just a big fat waste of money. Most people here in the U.S. have grown sick of it. Elon Musk went to the Russians and tried to buy human access to Mars, (not for just some rich-guy joy ride but to start an actual business) when he first became wealthy after PayPal went public. He found that the price they wanted to charge was way too high to get anything done profitably. Russian launch prices and arrogance are part of the reason SpaceX exists today.

Roscosmos and Arianspace both still use one-shot rockets, and have been heavily subsidized by their respective governments. So, I don’t see how either of them can honestly accuse SpaceX of living off of an alleged pocket subsidy. I also have to ask…how can SpaceX be overcharging NASA or the United States Air Force in order to undercut their competition on commercial launches, when they severely undercut their competition on government launches as well? Both NASA and the Air Force have said as much publicly and those numbers are very available for all to see. Indeed, the high price and low value in Boeing’s proposal versus SpaceX got them booted out of the Lunar Logistics Services contract competition. Yes, Boeing, one of the very top most prolific and respected spacecraft manufacturers in the world, has been removed from consideration for an upcoming, next generation, envelope stretching NASA project, in part due to their lack of ability to compete with SpaceX pricing on government contracts.

I should note that SpaceX also just finished beating out the vaunted Boeing on both price and performance for NASA’s Commercial Crew program and will start shuttling astronauts from at least three different countries (so far) to the International Space Station this summer, while NASA babysits Boeing through a line by line review of their flight software in preparation for a re-flight of their failed uncrewed test mission.

I should further note that a more than significant percentage of SpaceX business has been commercial launches…many of which are for their own upcoming Starlink Internet constellation. Yes, they fly for NASA, and kicked in the doors of the U.S. Air Force to wrench United Launch Alliance (ULA) out of their exclusive deal, but they certainly don’t live off the government. As of this latest Starlink launch, the 80% reusable Falcon 9 is now the world’s most flown launch vehicle…having passed up the ULA Atlas V. SpaceX plans to launch more payloads into orbit this year than all of Russia.

ULA refused to even put in a bid for an important series of Air Force launches for the new GPS upgrade, once SpaceX was allowed to participate in the bidding. The Air Force insisted that the costs in the bid couldn’t be subsidized from other projects and ULA claimed that their bookkeeping simply didn’t work that way. When asked in a Congressional Armed Services Committee hearing with Tory Bruno of ULA how SpaceX builds rockets at such low cost, Gwen Shotwell, CEO of SpaceX, tossed the question back to Bruno…

“I don’t know how to build a $400 million rocket, I don’t understand how expensive they are…rather than [ask] how am I less expensive than ULA, I don’t understand how ULA is as expensive as they are.”

Gwen Shotwell — CEO of SpaceX

So I’m going to say something similar here. Dmitri, if you’re listening, please tell us all, if you are now able to lower Roscosmos launch prices by 30 percent to face SpaceX competition as you’ve recently said, then why didn’t you do that back when SpaceX and Arianspace first started kicking your butt on new launch contracts, collectively winning over 80% of all new business world wide year after year, largely on pricing? More importantly, where has all that extra money that Roscosmos apparently doesn’t need been going? It certainly hasn’t been spent on modernizing your antiquated fleet or on improving your quality control.

You’re just sore because Roscosmos can’t sell business anymore while you and your rich, corrupt buddies continue to feather your nests off of Russia’s spaceflight industry. You’re going to have to tighten your belts a bit, reinvest, and innovate if your country is going to participate in the next space race. Maybe if you get tired enough of the view behind the lead dog on the team, Russia will do what is necessary to become a great space leader again.

Of course, snide trampoline remarks about your customers don’t help either.

The End of an Era

•April 14, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Back in 2019, NASA’s acting chief of human spaceflight operations, Ken Bowersox, wrote concerning Boeing’s Lunar Gateway Logistics resupply bid…

“Since Boeing’s proposal was the highest priced and the lowest rated under the Mission Suitability factor, while additionally providing a conditional fixed price, I have decided to eliminate Boeing from further award consideration.”

What an epic fall from grace for the once mighty Boeing Defense, Space & Security to have the world’s leading space agency, and Boeing’s long-time space partner NASA, publicly snub them this way. This in spite of the political power that Boeing wields in the U.S. Congress. In addition, NASA’s assessment found that the Boeing proposal also lacked in accuracy (ouch!) and that they resisted providing their software source code.

What has happened? Boeing has lead the spaceflight industry since the first space race to the Moon. NASA many long years ago hired them to build the first stage of the highly successful Saturn V rocket that flew men to the Moon in the 60s and early 70s. They also built the rover that the astronauts drove on the Moon to extend their mission footprint.

For 35 years, Boeing built the Inertial Upper Stage for NASA and the U.S. Air Force. It’s purpose was to expand the mission footprint of the low Earth orbiting Space Shuttle by boosting spacecraft launched by the Shuttles to higher orbits and Interplanetary destinations. Boeing was also one of the contractors that participated in building the Space Shuttle and built several other space plane prototypes as well.

They built the Unity (junction), Destiny (lab), and Bishop (airlock) modules for the International Space Station and have served as the primary maintenance contractor for the station ever since.

They built and operated the highly successful Delta series of launchers from the 1960s until now…currently as part of United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, .

Boeing was the United States participant in an innovative International launch system called Sea Launch that flew thirty-five payloads to space over a course of fifteen years from a mobile, modified off-shore oil drilling platform.

Today, Boeing remains a prolific manufacturer of NASA and commercial orbiting spacecraft. There might not be a company anywhere in the world with as much space experience as Boeing, a point well made back in 2014 when NASA chose them and SpaceX in their final down-select of contractors for NASA’s Commercial Crew contracts to ferry NASA, Jaxa, and Canadian Space Agency crew to and from the International Space Station.

However, Boeing has fallen from glory. With recent problems in the Space Launch System and Starliner projects, combined with a loss of face in the airliner industry because of the 737 Max, their credibility and reputation for competence have been shoved up against the ropes.

Boeing’s deep cost and schedule overruns in their languishing Space Launch System cost-plus contract with NASA has resulted in dramatic mission shrink for that launcher and put even its short-term survival in doubt. The serious software shortcomings demonstrated in their Starliner Commercial Crew system resulted in pretty much an aborted mission and has relegated NASA to the role of software quality baby-sitter for Boeing. Bear in mind, it wasn’t the problems with the flight that were the issue…the errors that occurred were found to be systemic. With U.S. and Russian relations deteriorating, and Congressional resentment against the Commercial Crew program already, NASA doesn’t have any room for schedule delays caused by companies not following their own internal quality control procedures.

NASA’s new lunar initiative, the Lunar Orbiting Platform-Gateway, effectively wallows in Commercial involvement in what is essentially a first step toward expansion of humanity into the Solar System…continuing the commercialization of space and inviting a new tech industry in Earth and Lunar orbit. Participation in the Lunar Gateway Logistics program would have given Boeing an enormous technology and logistics edge in this new commercial space race. However, Boeing lost out and NASA will award the second slot alongside SpaceX to someone else. Instead of maintaining the foot in the door that they have enjoyed with SpaceX in the Commercial Crew program, Boeing will now miss the Moon boat and have to ride along with upcoming contenders Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin in future years.

Cost-plus contracts are rapidly falling out of favor…and Boeing with them. If and when they do come around and compete, any further achievements in Commercial Space for them will now be in SpaceX’s shadow.

Boeing Defense, Space & Security will need to reinvent itself, and quickly, before their falling reputation drags them into obscurity.

Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS)

•April 11, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Worry about catching Covid-19 while gathering with other astronomy geeks to observe the comet.

Worry about cloud cover or light pollution obscuring your view.

Worry about Amazon failing to deliver your new telescope before the show is over.

Worry about the comet breaking up as it swings close to the sun…or maybe don’t worry about that since science might learn more about comets if it does.

The comet Atlas will NOT swing “close” to Earth by any measure of “close” even remotely dangerous. It will swing close to the planet Mercury. Yes, it was discovered by The Atlas Project in Hawaii that’s funded by the NASA Planetary Defense Coordination Office. So what? It’s just an observatory that sees things that move in the sky. The comet is swinging in from the North of the Solar System from us, and will leave out the South end. It will swing no closer to us than we swing near any other major planets.

The comet will not flip the magnetic poles of the Sun, or have any more influence on it than a snowflake has on a blast furnace. Stars eat comets for lunch. The magnetic poles of the Sun flip every solar cycle on their own…about every eleven years…anyway.

Here’s the thing…we astronomy geeks get really excited about these things and the excitable news media and some in the general public mistake our excitement with actual life-and-death concerns.

“The current projections show it brightening greater than the models might indicate and that’s great, but these things are really fussy. It’s dangerous to make grandiose predictions about them.”

Larry Denneau — CO-Pi and Chief software engineer, The Atlas Project

The word “dangerous” here does not mean “imminent volcanic eruption” dangerous. It means “epic scientific embarrassment” dangerous. Ok? It’s like how the lead gunner on your favorite NBA team is “dangerous” at the free-throw line.

So Relax.

Just be glad we have a desperately needed nice thing in the news to worry about. That’s it, breath it in. I know you need it, I certainly do.

Another Job For Falcon Heavy–Maybe

•March 28, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Whenever I write here about Falcon Heavy and NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) I get a flurry of hits on those pages in the days leading up to Falcon Heavy launches because of media coverage. Space enthusiasts seem to love the Falcon Heavy and now SpaceX and NASA have given me something else to write about regarding it.

The epic first flight of Falcon Heavy

NASA’s Lunar Orbiting Gateway (LOP-G), also called Artemis, plans to place a small space station in a huge, looping Lunar orbit to better facilitate studies of the Moon, support a sustainable presence on the Lunar surface, practice long-duration spaceflight outside of Earth’s protective magnetosphere, and construct a vehicle and test technology for a mission to Mars.

At the start of the program, Artemis was also going to serve as job security for SLS, but that ship may have sailed. SLS has been delayed so far back now that it’s roll in this program has been gradually paired back to crew transport only. Cargo-only flights will be needed for LOP-G , but modules and cargo have been relegated to commercial rockets instead of SLS. Consequently, Congress seems to have stopped liking the LOP-G quite as much as they did. The boots-on-the-moon-as-soon-as-possible folks on the science side consider it a distraction and NASA seems to want to take it out of the crewed 2024 landing plan entirely.

Where all this will end up when SpaceX starts flying its Starship and Falcon Super Heavy, the biggest launch system ever, is anybody’s guess…but that’ll have an impact too. Also, the current COVID-19 crisis is spending money like water, slowing down production on everything, and giving folks more down to Earth things to think about.

Should the LOP-G survive all the drama, SpaceX was selected last week as one of the providers of cargo launches under the Gateway Logistics Services program. They will use a new vehicle that they’ve started designing, the Dragon XL (for Extra Large) that will launch on the Falcon Heavy, currently the most powerful rocket in the world, and carry up to 5 metric tons of cargo to the LOP-G per flight. NASA will select two of these providers who will each fly at least two cargo flights to the LOP-G under the contract. NASA wants both providers to build spacecraft that are capable of remaining docked at the LOP-G for up to a year, generate their own power while docked, and self-dispose of themselves at the end of it’s mission.

Normally, when folks talk about the SpaceX Dragon series of orbiters, they think of an Apollo-like capsule, but the Dragon XL isn’t a capsule and will not have the capability to return to the Earth surface like the previous two Dragon designs. It actually looks a lot like the Cygnet Spacecraft that is one of the vehicles transporting cargo to the International Space Station. NASA fills that spacecraft full of trash from the station at the end of its mission so that the cargo carrier becomes a garbage disposal unit, burning up with it on reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

SpaceX has so far been following the spirit of these fixed-price contracts, so you can all expect the Dragon XL to carry stuff to more than just the LOP-G. Several companies have private space station projects in the works and anyone with the need for cargo delivery to them will have the Dragon XL as an option.

Of course, every time it or Falcon Heavy appear on the news, folks will Google them, read this page, and see my books for sale in the sidebar. 😉 —>

NASA Will Lead

•March 21, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Before this spring is out, NASA and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), will begin flying astronauts to the International Space Station, instead of paying the Russian Space Agency (ROSCOSMOS).

NASA will lead again, as they did in the days of the Apollo Moon missions and in the days of the Space Shuttle when the Space Station was built. Right?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Wrong.

Even while President Bush was cancelled the Space Shuttle program after the Columbia disaster while the President Obama implemented the planned cancellation after the Space Station was completed, NASA led. SpaceX grew into the COTs and CCDev programs…that were lead by NASA to begin spinning off space flight to truly independent contractors, first to support the Space Station…but intended to grow a new space industry.

NASA built the Hubble Space Telescope, the greatest robotic space craft humanity has ever devised. NASA became the only organization that ever successfully landed probes on Mars, and everyone who seeks to land on Mars partners with NASA to be successful. Throughout the period after the Space Shuttle NASA astronauts led the world in research aboard the Space Station. The list goes on. For more than fifty years, scores of scientific achievements, both in space and Earth-bound, have relied and still rely on the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration for leadership…far more than any other organization on the globe.

NASA never stopped leading.

You don’t believe me? Check out this list of other things NASA has planned for 2021-2022 besides (maybe) launching an empty capsule around the Moon and paying a high-tech shuttle service to move people to orbit and back.

Some of the above partner with other nations and agencies on their projects, but most of the list are NASA missions. Also, if you clicked the links and read about them, you’d see that SpaceX is only sending five of these missions missions to space. All of these projects are envelope-stretching, cutting edge research. Some of them aid in seriously important climate science, while others bring in data on the cosmos in support of the efforts of scientists the world over.

Do not think that SpaceX or anyone else competes with or in anyway equals NASA. SpaceX will never equal the accomplishments of NASA, even if they work at it for a hundred years. This is what your half a penny per Federal dollar buys…an endless list of science.

Toilet Paper

•March 15, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Yes. I have toilet paper.

My wife takes care of that and we have enough to last the family for another week or so and then I’ll get some coming via Amazon to arrive in time to fill any gaps. The toilet paper manufacturers are still making them and shipping them at regular intervals at regular retail prices…at least they were on Friday…and I’ll just watch and supplement with a package here and there as needed.

We have a few boxes of Kleenex. OK, they’re maybe not “Kleenex” brand…but the point is that they can be used at both ends.

I have a few packages of paper towels that my very frugal wife purchased on sale a few months back. They hold up better than TP when used wet, which actually feels kinda nice on the nether regions and then can just be washed out in the sink after use and tossed in the trash. Wash your hands thoroughly afterwards, front and back, after doing this and before shaking hands with anyone. 😉

We have a lot of old, soft rags that have actually been used that way in the past from time to time and then rinsed out and washed in the washing machine. We can do that forever if we have to.

We also have a lot of old bills and magazines.

Hording is the strategy of the unimaginative.

To those of you who drove from town to town and stripped the shelves of small communities like mine and then stashed it all in your garage to sell later on Amazon at a premium, I hope this emergency is short so that you have to eat all that toilet paper…both literally and figuratively. That is not how humans take care of one and other in a crisis and what goes around comes around.

If you need a roll, stop by and if we have one to spare my wife or I will give you one. We use Kroger Soft and Strong. They feel nice.

Two Companies…One Program

•March 12, 2020 • Comments Off on Two Companies…One Program

Some time ago, NASA down-selected from three would be providers to two for Commercial Crew…the upcoming ability for the U.S. to transport astronauts back and forth to the International Space Station. Some folks would have preferred a down-select to just one…Boeing, who publically announced that if they weren’t selected they’d end development on their spacecraft and lay off all the workers and engineers on the project. The contending products or technologies were the Apollo-like space capsules of Boeing and SpaceX, and Sierra Nevada’s space plane.

Powerful committee leaders in Congress insisted on Boeing as one of the approved contractors in order to protect their failing status quo. They hoped that the burgeoning New Space momentum would be forced to return to the three-way backscratching club between procurement officials, politicians, and contractors that rules the military-style cost-plus contracting paradigm of previous decades. New Space got a partial victory, with New Space king and commercial resupply contractor, SpaceX, being selected alongside the more traditional contractor Boeing. The other New Space company, Sierra Nevada, retained their Space Act Agreement contract for technical cooperation from NASA, but were stripped of Commercial Crew funding due to not being selected to go forward. That did not end their ambitions however, and they did some work on the commercial side with Virgin Galactic’s AstroLaunch and later went on to win a six flight contract for the second phase of NASA’s ISS Commercial resupply program, with their first demonstration flight scheduled for next year.

Experience was one of the reasons listed for Boeing being selected instead of Sierra Nevada for Commercial Crew, but that experience seems to come with a little bit of a diva attitude, too much political power in Washington, and a yearning for the good old days of low-risk access to the obscene quantities of taxpayer money that comes with cost-plus contracts.

Through the years, as the program progressed and SpaceX and Boeing developed their respective spacecraft, Boeing got more into the swing of things by planning future flights with technology partner and space station designer Bigelow Aerospace. Bigelow has two experimental space stations already in orbit and a smaller demonstration “closet” module attached to the ISS. Their business has had to sit in somewhat of a holding pattern as they waited for commercial space to catch up and provide human-lift capability so that they could go forward with their plans for space hotels and what not.

During development, SpaceX and Boeing both struggled through schedule delays, funding shortfalls from Congress, paperwork jungles, extra safety requirements, parachute problems, and costly redesign mandates from NASA. These things combined to lengthen the calendar and increase the costs of the program to SpaceX and Boeing…which, under fixed-price contracting, were not reimbursed by the government. Engineers are paid salaries, and this means that delays cause very real cost overruns. So, Congress cutting back on the yearly outlay of money, causing the schedule to stretch out, also causes costs to go up. They basically tried to starve out the program.

The already higher priced Boeing whined for, and received, more money. SpaceX complained but took it in stride. They had other funding sources to draw on and a long-range plan outside of NASA that depended on the continued progress of their Dragon spacecraft. The very reason that Elon Musk founded the company has always been to settle humans on Mars. NASA’s help and stamp of approval serve merely as a means to that end.

SpaceX aced their un-crewed flight test, but later accidentally destroyed that capsule during a ground test of the built-in escape rockets…which resulted in another schedule slip and a different fuel valve design for that system. SpaceX will launch the much awaited first operational flight of the Commercial Crew Program in the spring of this year (currently scheduled for May 7th, 2020). This year also marks the 20th year of crewed operations aboard the ISS.

Yes. People have lived in space for 20 years on the ISS as of this coming November 2nd.

Not only does it look like SpaceX will be the first commercial enterprise to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station, but they recently announced arrangements for two space tourism flights using the Dragon capsule to carry a hand-full of folks to space. One of these will ride the Dragon on a three day or so cruise out to an orbit roughly twice as high as the ISS…arranged by the Virginia based space tourism company Space Adventures. The other, arranged by the Texas based space station manufacturer Axiom Space, will tour the International Space Station for ten days in the style of what Space Adventures used to do with the Russian Soyuz. So if you have $55 Million burning a hole in your pocket they’ll take you on the vacation of a lifetime.

In addition to that, SpaceX has been working toward #DearMoon, in which they intend to fly eight people to the Moon and back aboard a ginormous, fully reusable rocket that SpaceX has under development to someday replace their Dragon capsule and Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy booster. They just completed their twentieth cargo delivery to the International Space Station and retired their first Dragon capsule design because the new one will be used for both crewed and un-crewed flights to the station.

Boeing partially failed their un-crewed flight test. NASA ended up calling that flight’s problems a “high-profile near miss” because they could of twice resulted in the loss of the spacecraft. Boeing’s Booster, ULA’s overly expensive Atlas V, did its job perfectly as it always does. However, once in orbit a software glitch in the capsule (that should have been discovered during testing on the ground) caused the mission elapsed timer to read 11 or so hours off so the robotics sequence kicked in the wrong maneuvers. A temporary communications glitch complicated efforts by ground crews to detect and correct this problem until the off-schedule maneuvers used up so much fuel that the capsule would never be able to chase down the Space Station. With a stay at the ISS no longer on the calendar, they prepared to de-orbit the capsule early…but then discovered another software glitch that could have caused the spacecraft to be damaged beyond its ability to safely reenter Earth’s atmosphere and land.

The capsule did land safely, but last week the results of the investigation into the flight’s uncovered 61 issues that would need to be addressed before the capsule could fly again. Also, a full end-to-end software review will be performed, with NASA engineers looking over Boeing’s shoulder to make sure they do it right. How all of that goes down in the end will decide whether or not Boeing has to fly another un-crewed test flight…and who gets to pay the extra cost for it.

Meanwhile, all that schedule slippage has forced NASA to have to buy another seat on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft to continue to fill their slots on the station…as political ties between the two countries continue to erode. They also extended SpaceX’s first crewed test flight into a partial full-length mission in order to further fill gaps in the schedule. This may have also pushed the schedule downstream a little bit more to train those astronauts to stay aloft longer.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The non-NASA missions that SpaceX and Boeing have planned follow the spirit of not only the Commercial Crew program, but also of Space Act Agreements. Commercial Crew effectively spins-off crewed spaceflight so that someone other than the governments of large nations have human access to space. Under this paradigm, the company who builds the spacecraft owns it, splits the development costs with NASA, and pursues other work with it to make money from other customers besides just the United States government. However, one cannot help but watch this unfold and think that Boeing still isn’t really into the spirit of this whole fixed-price contracting thing. The Space Launch System program has been going over that same period…even longer if you regard it as an extension of the “cancelled” Constellation program. As it currently sits, that project was recently dubbed 30% over it’s Absolute Baseline Commitment to Congress for their cost-plus contract.

I know that bringing up the SLS is a bit topic stretch for this post, but it is still Boeing and sheds some light on where they are as a mindset. As with their Commercial Crew effort, if Congress suddenly decided to cut off the funds, then Boeing would immediately scrap the project, lay off all the workers, and go home. SpaceX would shrug their shoulders and slog on because their ambitions, like Sierra Nevada’s, are derived from goals that are longer range and much broader than just making money off thr government.

All in all, the Commercial Crew Program has been bruised but not broken. Silly Congressional attempts to starve this program to death and try and use the very expensive SLS/Orion to serve the International Space Station have failed miserably and embarrassed them in the end. When asked why we’re still paying the Russian space agency ROSCosmos to fly U.S., Canadian, and Japanese astronauts to the ISS, you need only point a finger to certain legislators who kept cutting the Commercial Crew budget to make more room for their big, white dodo bird SLS that STILL won’t fly until the end of next year.

And…this just in. The above Answers with Joe video might now be obsolete as the new director of human space flight at NASA, Doug Loverro seems to intend to lop the LOP-G off the front of the program and push it to the back…to match Boeing’s bid details for Artemis.

Interesting times.

Falcon Heavy Launch to 16 Psyche

•March 10, 2020 • Leave a Comment

That’s right, we have a new Falcon Heavy launch to look forward to. SpaceX signed an agreement last week for their first NASA mission, this time to the metallic asteroid and potential proto-planet core called 16 Psyche.

Here on Earth there are many elements that have sunk to the core of the planet where we can’t get to them. NASA and scientists think that Psyche, a near Earth asteroid, used to be the core of an actual planet before that planet was destroyed by a violent impact from which only the core survived. Aside from the scientific value of a close examination of such a body, there is the potential of this rock having a value $700 Quintilian ($700,000,000,000,000,000,000) worth of rare elements like gold.

The spacecraft will not attempt to gather any booty from Psyche, such would be outside the scope of its mission. However, the fact that a cheap rocket like Falcon Heavy can send probes there opens the door of someone else landing something on the asteroid that can send material back. The NASA Psyche mission will map the surface, which could frankly provide support for someone who wants to plan such a mission. The probe will take pictures, for those of us who are only smart enough to appreciate the visuals and maps. The rest of you will get to geek out at the data sent back by the magnetometer and the gamma ray spectrometer. That spectrometer will also tell folks where to find the treasure.

The cost of any such mission would of course be prohibitive as far as simple astroid mining…at least today. Psyche is very far away, and that category of space travel is still not even close to routine enough to be convenient. I would expect that whoever works on the Psyche mission for NASA will have folks knocking on their doors later to build commercial spacecraft and landers capable of exploring the profitability of mining Pyche.

As of now (3/10/2020), Falcon Heavy has flown three missions and has several others on it’s flight manifest. After it’s maiden voyage in which it tossed an early model Tesla Roadster (ya…a car) out to an elliptical orbit between near-Earth and almost the astroid belt, it launched an Arabsat communications satellite and flew a demonstration mission for the U.S. Air Force. Future flights include some more stuff for the USAF as well as a ViaSat-3 Satellite.

The Chinese Virus Felt Round the World–COVID-19

•February 25, 2020 • Leave a Comment

The following post was released on 2/27/2020 and contains information I researched in the days previous to that. If you are reading this a significant period of time after that, then please leave this article seek more up to date information elsewhere.

Also, I am no medical expert by any stretch. I am not sharing my personal knowledge, but am summarizing official information. It you prefer your information straight from the horses mouth (so to speak) and have time to read it all the way through right now, then click here.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an experienced and highly competent and for the most part politically detached source, are saying that while this infection can spread by someone touching contaminated surfaces and then their own mouth, nose or eyes, the virus has spread mainly through the air when someone coughs or sneezes. Up until now, in the U.S. at least, the virus has only spread to people in close contact with an infected person. So, please, for the sake of all of the rest of us, always try to contain your coughs and sneezes. It is also best to sneeze and cough into the clothing of your arm rather than your hands.

Photo by Brandon Nickerson on Pexels.com

Currently, those at greatest risk in the U.S. are healthcare workers. Such are well trained on how not to spread such things and are frequently tested…maybe. As long as they and recent arrivals from risk countries, and those close to them, remain the main focus of the epidemic, the general risk to the population is still considered low. It is not expected to remain that way, but it could. Other illnesses have been stopped short by simple care and containment.

If you know that the epidemic has entered your region, or about to, start wearing a mask in public or anywhere you might encounter ill people (like hospitals) or travelers recently arrived or returned from foreign countries (like airports or areas frequented by business travelers or tourists). If the virus is known to be spreading in your region you might consider just wearing a mask all the time when around anyone else. For the most part, the experts are saying that people who show symptoms are the most contagious, even though there may have been some who have spread it before they themselves became ill with it. Be prepared ahead of time. Once a careless person sneezes in your face it is already too late, you’ll get whatever they’ve got and this virus kills people.

Maybe for the time being you shouldn’t take cold symptoms (Human Rhino Virus) or flue at face value. Put on an appropriate mask then go the your doctor and get tested.

Since President Trump held a press conference yesterday, I should address the political side…especially since it’s an election year. The Left-Wing media and Democrats are stressing how bad it could get in order to make the President appear to not be doing enough. They would do this whether he was doing enough or not. That is to be expected and they wouldn’t be doing their jobs correctly if they gave Trump credit for anything. You should listen to them because they will help you be prepared for the very worse and who knows but that some of their speculation might come true.

The President says that it is all hunky dory because the state of the Stock Market really does (unfairly in this case) impact his reelection chances. He lies too…trying to prevent panic and unnecessary damage caused by people overreacting and make himself look good. It is true though what he says about the career professionals who are the actual folks in charge of these things when he calls them the best in the world…they are. Take solace in that.

They announced today that one person in California contracted the virus and they don’t know where she got it. There really is a global shortage of testing ability for this virus which is to be expected. The process involved with developing a vaccine is behind the curve and will remain that way for too long to help this initial outbreak…after all this is reality, not Star Trek. Quarantine and care are very boring solutions, but they are the best and only defense at this stage. The mortality rate is 2% of those who get sick from this virus, which is largely based on information coming out of China…and they lie too…a lot. 2% is way worse than the cold or flu, but way, way better than some of the other outbreaks that have been in the news during the past several years. So far, the mortality rate in the U.S. is still 0 and we’ve kept it out during part of the time that the ways of fighting it have been developed. So this is a good party to be late to and…like I said before, those in charge of this here in the U.S. really are the best in the world.

Stay safe and stay well.

Update: The strategy that the United States officials to save lives seems to be to slow the spread of the virus in order to prevent it from overwhelming healthcare systems. Wash your hands frequently. If you have any respiratory disease symptoms, then stay home. If it hits your lungs, then go to the hospital and get checked out. If you have any preexisting respiratory or immune system hangup then take any cold symptoms very seriously early because if it is COVID-19 then your loved ones just might be burying you within five weeks if you don’t stay ahead of it.

From a Jack to a King

•February 24, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Do you remember back in the 2016 Republican Primaries, when Donald Trump was the clown in the race? The Republican establishment shot him with every anti-populist hose they had to try and run him off.

Then he started winning.

Some say that Democrats who wanted a clown to run against Hillary Clinton voted for him in open primary states…which all vote early. I ran the numbers and I think that there is an even-money chance that that happened. If any of you have evidence that there was any organized effort in this regard then it probably did happen. Either way, winning these early low-delegate states is a litmus-test of credibility. Trump didn’t need to raise campaign money to keep going, so traditionally Conservative donors (many of whom didn’t trust him) didn’t need to come around. His was an issue of power…political power…of which he started out with none.

As he garnered victories, that changed. Candidates dropped out as donors saved their cash for the general election. Candidates met with Trump, made some kind of deal, and then dropped out. His Republican critics in Congress, Fox News and Conservative talk radio, rolled over one by one and turned into MAGAs (Make America Great Again disciples). His less whacked suggestions gradually gained in credibility and his more whacked ones gradually began to be seen as plausible and then all of them started showing up in state Republican platforms.

You and I go to the store and buy things with money. In the halls of power, power is the currency and with power comes leverage to compromise with foes. The Republican establishment still doesn’t like populism much more than the Democrat establishment does. They still do not like or trust Donald Trump much more than they did before, but he is now their leader against the Democrats and they still prefer him over them. Someday, Donald Trump will lose his power and go back to being a clown, until then every Red State is behind him (Utah not so much) and the published list of goals for his administration to achieve.

It is now 2020 and a different populist has started a revolution within his party. This one is not seen as a clown (at least not as much as Trump) and he’s worked in politics for his whole life, but he has a viewpoint which make a lot of folks very uneasy, one which has it’s roots in Marxism. Many Democrats are Socialists…at least the version of it practiced in Europe and elsewhere which keeps Capitalism but favors stronger worker safety nets and single-payer healthcare…but draw the line at a full-blown dissolution of Capitalism. Even those who favor full on Socialism fear the majority of us who would view such as our own Bulshevik revolution, and what we would do to the Democrat Party if they went that direction.

Even the Left-hand side of the popular news and entertainment media, many of whom are unabashed socialists, have been criticizing Bernie Sanders’ electability and participated in conspiracy theories which damage him in the hopes of slowing down what might now be about to happen.

This weekend, Bernie Sanders won the Nevada Caucuses. He didn’t just win it, he owned it with a roughly 20% lead over Joe Biden. Nevada voters were supposed to provide Joe Biden with a lifeline, the first truly diverse voter sample in the Democrat primary sequence. Instead they shoved his head back underwater again. This morning (2/24/2020) marks a shift. I read several articles in the news media which gave Bernie Sanders campaign advice to try and pull him away from the ledge and make him more electable against Donald Trump, instead of attacking his unelectability. His Socialist Revolution appears to have begun. Nate Silver’s model at 538 is now predicting a 49% chance that Bernie Sanders will have the delegates to secure his nomination. The second-best odds are for a brokered convention.

It’s 2016 all over again…except that if this trend continues, Election Year 2020 will become a no holds barred grass-roots slug-fest between Capitalism and Socialism.

Space Adventures Rising

•February 21, 2020 • Leave a Comment

They’ve brokered the flights of seven privately-funded people to space, but after the Russians said, “No more tourists”, they haven’t flown anyone for over ten years. However, it looks like that hiatus might end next year.

SpaceX has said that they intend to send NASA astronauts on their first dragon ride to the International Space Station this spring. After that Dragon, and its Falcon 9 launcher will be human-certified and ready for regular flights anywhere in orbit for anybody. Space Adventures announced ealiter this week that they’ve made a deal to buy one such flight for their customers. This ain’t no sub-orbital hop like Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are about to start doing either, these folks will spend up to 5 days in orbit after a few weeks of training. They won’t go to the ISS, but they will fly to 1,000 km altitude…a higher orbit than the ISS…for a fantastic view of Earth.

Our planet from 1000 km orbit — Orbiter 2016 Space Flight Simulator (free download)

So, space Adventures gets to have a launch platform again and SpaceX gets help with proof of concept for space tourism and a chance to further deepen their crewed spaceflight launch history in preparation for their planned and future Lunar and Mars launches. We (well, “we” meaning those of us who can swing the tens of millions per seat that this is likely to cost…which isn’t “me” we) get that much closer to an actual chance to toss our actual cookies in actual orbit. Group win!

No one knows for sure where this will lead or if it will even fly on Dragon. In redesigning the Dragon for parachute splash downs instead of propulsive landings, they had to re-angle the seating for the increased loads on the human body…which also dramatically reduced the number of seats and with that the future profitability of the Dragon Capsule as a routine space tourism vehicle. History suggests that this plan could change or even go away. We’ll see.

No room in the Dragon capsule for this…but maybe someday!

We all knew this sort of thing was coming and we’ve watched for it. Some of us have watched, waited, dreamed, and even written about it for half a century. This might not be a total one-off for Dragon and it definitely won’t be for SpaceX. They already have a moon-flyby planned for their new and ginormous Starship currently under construction in Texas (which is inching ever closer to its full assembly and first flight). I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if they have much longer Earth-orbit flights in store for that spacecraft in between now and the the Moon as they run it through its paces and build a flight history for it.

Dear Wyoming State Senator Baldwin regarding your vote against SF0131

•February 16, 2020 • Leave a Comment

The following is my letter to Senator Baldwin, member of the senate Labor, Health and Social Services committee in the Wyoming Legislature. I CCed my own state senator and representative.

To the Honorable Senator Baldwin,

I reside in District (redacted), but I need to let you know some things about the issues surrounding SF0131 about which you might not be informed.

This is not a form letter. I’ve read SF0131 myself and researched this issue in some detail. These words are my own. They are the same words that I intend to echo in my social media presence as soon as I finish typing this letter.

Do you not know that there have been over 61,000,000 abortions in this country since the Roe vs Wade decision? Try and picture 61 million of anything…can you?

Do you not know that over 2,000 unborn fetuses die in abortions every day in the United States?

Do you not know that the cruel means used in these executions exceed all standards currently used for the most hardened criminals on death row?

Do you not know that the current makeup of the Supreme Court is tilted toward the Conservative and that states all over this great nation are at this moment taking sides on the abortion issue?

Do you not know that many of your constituents have been fighting by my side with their voices and “pens” in favor of heartbeat bills and other efforts to curtail this plague in other states during this election season? Your vote is an embarrassment to us!

Do you not know that prior to the 1970s, feminist groups viewed abortion as a form of oppression against women, and that it was only the dramatic lies of two prominent pro-abortion men that turned that view for the purpose of population control?

Do you not know that modern medical advancements have resulted in numerous healthcare professionals coming out and stating that abortion is now only very rarely legitimately needed for preserving the health of the mother?

Why have you sided with the Democrats, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and other New York and California influences against Senator Schuler and your fellow Republican and Conservative constituents here at home on this matter?

Please explain how your constituents can possibly trust you to stand with them on this and other top culture war issues in the future.

Stand outside and look up at the Wyoming sky on the next clear night. Every star that you see is named, and number a little over 4,000. So, each and every one of half of those stars represents a baby that was killed in the womb yesterday. The other half of those stars are the preborn who will die in abortions tomorrow. They all will watch you from above and judge you on your next committee vote regarding SF0131.

Best Regards,

Bill Housley

(address redacted)

NASA/ESA Solar Orbiter

•February 11, 2020 • Leave a Comment

This almost escaped my notice.

Heliospheric science is one of the extremely important activities that NASA does that few usually notice. Some of the things the Sun does can bring danger to astronauts in space, orbiting satellites, and even power grids on the ground. NASA has several satellites in Solar orbit, various Lagrange points, and on Earth to keep closer track of our closest star.

The Sun is a stable, G2V type, yellow dwarf star roughly 4.6 billion years old. It provides full-spectrum lighting to the planets in the solar system and no life would exist on Earth without it. I would name all of the various orbiting observatories studying it, but it is an extensive list…so I’ll just have you click here.

Launched on an Atlas V rocket Sunday night at 11pm ET, the joint NASA/ESA Solar Orbiter project will study the impact of the Sun on the Solar system atmosphere, as well as the Sun’s powerful and dynamic magnetic field. It’s orbit will also allow it to take images and other studies of the Sun’s poles.

These increased solar system studies missions continue to ramp humanity up to the level of knowledge necessary to safely and reliably begin sending humans outside of close Earth orbit. Solar flares from the Sun cause dangerous radiation spikes and electrical interference that the Earth protects us from but endangers spacecraft flying outside of the Earth’s protective magnetic field. A better understanding of the Sun also helps climate science on Earth and Planetary science elsewhere.

Story Accepted!

•February 10, 2020 • Comments Off on Story Accepted!

I actually feel kinda dumb about this.

Here in my neck of the woods there is an annual writer’s symposium called Life The Universe and Everything (LTUE) that helps writers learn the craft from other writers who’ve had success. I’ve attended many times and even served on panels. Writing speculative fiction (Science Fiction and Fantasy), and selling it, is very difficult and so much fun! I just think everyone with an interest in it should get a chance to learn all that they can. That is what LTUE is all about.

Recently, a couple of folks thought they’d start an annual anthology of short fiction, with the proceeds going toward helping students pay discounted admission to attend LTUE. The first book, released in 2019, was the space opera anthology Trace the Stars, which was released during LTUE last year (mid February 2019). The next will be released during LTUE of 2020 and is called A Dragon and Her Girl” with a focus on female protagonists and dragons.

I’m a huge fan of LTUE, and attend whenever circumstances permit. I could have submitted stories to both of those compilations. However, all of this somehow escaped my notice until about two months before the story submission deadline for their third installment, Twighlight Tales, focusing on light horror.

Now available for pre-order at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B083VR42JT/.

I sometimes think of horror stories, but I really don’t enjoy writing in that genre. However, I just happened to have one fun story on my hard disk that I typed up many years ago that fit and had not yet seen print. My teenage son calls the story “kinda creepy”. So I polished it up, pushed it past the noses of some of my test readers to refine it some more, and then sent it in.

That story, Adventures in House Sitting, was accepted into the anthology Twighlight Tales back in November and will be released this week at LTUE. Not only will I get to give back to LTUE for the many years of tutoring and networking that I’ve enjoyed there, but this series of anthologies is rapidly growing its market share and will probably get more circulation than anything else I’ve published to date. Win-win.

Other details should be announced at the release event of A Dragon and Her Girl at LTUE in the Cedar Room of the Provo Marriott Hotel & Conference Center on February 13th, 2020 at 3:00 pm.

https://www.facebook.com/events/2538623926257165/

Don’t think that just because you don’t live near Provo Utah you can’t enjoy LTUE. If writing interests you, then a plane ticket, hotel stay, and the small cost to attend are a pittance compared to the training and contacts that you can secure at this convention.

I’ll see you at the release event on Thursday!

A Good Life — My new book project

•February 8, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Boeing…What? Not Again!

•February 6, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Ok…I guess I don’t get it.

Short one parachute on the pad abort test. Fine, it wasn’t a test of the parachutes. It is just a photographic inspection anyway and it doesn’t need four parachutes.

In the Starliner uncrewed flight test…a simple memory misread in the mission elapsed time handover from the booster to the capsule occured. As a programmer I can understand how that can happen in new code.

But now I hear that there was another software glitch that could have destroyed the capsule, they found and fixed it before reentry, and talked about the flight as if the timer thing was the only problem.

Red Flags.

Add that to needing more money than SpaceX from the start, and then whining for even more money later, and allegedly having more experience with spaceflight than SpaceX that somehow later turned into a “well they already had a capsule to start with and we didn’t” excuse.

I actually do like Boeing, and I thing the Commercial Crew Program needs their flavor of competition involved, but we really need to stop the train, hold the phone, slow down, take a step back, whatever you want to call it and look things over. This rash (can I call it a rash?) of quality issues has started to smell like a systemic quality control problem. No, the 747 Max doesn’t count because it is technically a different organization and team and everything…but still. It seems like they are trying to look like they want to look like they use spaceflight-level quality control when they don’t use spaceflight-level quality control methods.

Let’s not kill any astronauts please. I don’t care if NASA has to pay the Russians again at this point. I don’t even care if they have to buy another Starliner uncrewed test flight. They shouldn’t fly this again until there has been a serious relook not just at their spacecraft and assembly processes but also their quality control culture. Then it should not carry ANY people until they repeat the uncrewed flight, and do it right this time.

Forty-Fifth And First

•January 24, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Yesterday, Donald Trump became the first U.S. President in history to attend the March for Life.

“I want to welcome tens of thousands…tens of thousands of high school and college students who took long bus rides to be here in our nation’s capital.”

Donald Trump, March for Life 2020

Quite a number of folks commented that he was just there to pander to the large crowd, and to claim credit for the recent successes of the Pro-Life movement…well duh!

In his speech at the 2019 March for Life, Ben Shapiro eluded to the practice of politicians exploiting and then preserving, enthusiast fervor to retrieve the benefits of a captive voter block each election cycle…

“We do live in a time when the Democratic Party has embraced Abortion as a sacrament, and (by the way) a time when many in the Republican Party spent years pledging to de-fund Planned Parenthood and then didn’t do it when they were given the power to do so.”

Ben Shapiro, March for Life 2019

However, unlike Democrats and the pandering they inflict on poor minorities year after year, Donald Trump has provided some actual substance to the cause for the Pro-Life folks to chew on.

  • Trump, working with Mitch McConnell and the Republican Majority Senate, has appointed and pushed to confirmation a record number of Conservative judges to Federal appelate courts, as well as two U.S. Supreme Court justices.
  • Last year, his administration passed along new rules that disqualify clinics that perform abortions from receiving Title X funding (a Healthcare Funding program started under Richard Nixon).

He’s done some other stuff in his first term too, we’ll let him brag about the rest in his speech in the above video.

The Democrats in the Impeachment Trial keep saying how important it would be for President Zelinsky of Ukraine if he could solidify his claim of U.S. support and assure the security of his people through the visuals of a meeting with Trump in the White House. Well, the same applies to President Trump personally showing up at the March for Life…whatever his internal motivations might be. Every future Republican President and perhaps, hopefully, even a future pro-life Democrat President, must do at least as much in order to establish their own credibility as warriors for the unborn.

I criticize Trump a lot here, even though I’m a Republican. You might call me a Concerned Conservative. However, I have always sought to be fair and give credit where credit is due. By showing up in person and, frankly, sending Mike Pence to be the first U.S. Vice President to personally attend the March for Life back in 2018 and being the first President to address the March for Life by video in 2019, Donald Trump set a new bar in Washington yesterday.

By doing so, he also further enraged Democrats who seethe at the increasing Conservative bent of the courts and try to strip him of his power and the Republican majority in the next Presidential term to come.

This event and his speech stole some of the news cycle from the Impeachment trial, so it helped him there a little too.

The March for Life

•January 20, 2020 • Leave a Comment

I would like to officially endorse the yearly “March for Life” in Washington D.C.

While my wife and I are not in a financial position to attend this gathering, I would like any who can and who support the pro-life cause to see if they are able to support this effort.

My endorsement of this cause will no doubt upset some of the pro-science followers of this blog and my social media presence. I don’t understand why, since the point at which biologists of every political persuasion and opinion on abortion agree that human life begins is fertilization, and the fact that the birth canal somehow uplifts a glob of tissue to the status of human is indisputably ridiculous.

Women’s March participants in New York City.

This then pushes the breakdown of public opinion off of the scientific table and onto the personal opinion table, and while I respect the opinions of others, my opinion is that abortion is murder. Worse, it is the murder of a child by their mother…the one person in the world with the greatest duty of care over a child. Worse still, that is is most commonly a murder of convenience.

Don’t try to tell me that it is a woman’s right or empowerment issue either. The pro-choice view is perpetuated by MEN who prefer to shirk their responsibility to pregnant women by advocating for the removal of motherhood from their lives. It is the duty of both men and women to perpetuate the species, and since fathers, brothers, husbands and boyfriends don’t have to bear the physical strains and pains of motherhood, their role then is to support the women who do…not to press for the killing her unborn child.

Don’t believe me? Historically the Feminist movement viewed abortion as a form of male oppression of women, until two MEN LIED to the leadership of the National Organization for Women (NOW) to get them to change their policy in favor of legalized abortion. One of these men later admitted that they knowingly lied (by at lease three decimal places) about the number of women deaths from illegal abortions and also totally inverted the actual percentage of popular support for abortion. Then, a vote of only 57% of the NOW leadership then established their current position on legalized abortion that has now stood for roughly 50 years.

Roe vs Wade then indirectly stemmed from that revolution and has been highly criticized by Constitutional scholars through the years as a politically motivated decision based more on activism than Constitutional interpretation. In Roe vs Wade, state anti-abortion laws were ruled violations of the 14th Amendment, a very general purpose provision that can actually apply to anything…

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America

“Equal Protection” is too important a clause to be used as the argument of last resort for the logically bankrupt.

Since the governments of states with predominantly pro-life populations were shackled by this marginally corrupt Roe vs Wade decision, 61 million unborn children have been killed in the United States.

61 million.

That’s written out with all of its zeros as 61,000,000.

It’s roughly 44 times the total number of U.S. military personnel killed in all of it’s wars combined, all the way back through the Revolutionary War.

In a year, the number of abortions in the U.S. exceeds the number of dots on this 720p HD computer screen.

Roughly 2,700 abortions are performed in the U.S. every day. That’s 10x the number of people killed in automobile accidents and more than the number of visible stars in the sky.

If anything else killed people that fast there would be panic in the streets, mass prayer vigils, changes in government, and the news media would talk of nothing else.

Every abortion leaves a person dead, a woman injured, and a man walking away to hurt someone again.

Do something.

To support the March for Life, click below…

https://marchforlife.org/national-march-for-life/

Success!

•January 19, 2020 • Comments Off on Success!

On an iffy weather morning in Florida, SpaceX and NASA performed an inflight abort test of the crew Dragon that will transport astronauts to the International Space Station.

It looked like part of the rocket survived and that the part that did explode survived quite a while first and may have needed to be destroyed by the range safety officer.

This was a great test and sets the stage for the U.S. launching its own people to the ISS again. From the looks of things, it will be SpaceX that flies that first crewed flight, since Boeing’s un-crewed test flight mucked up and never reached the station.

You can watch the test on YouTube in the window below…

This article is just quick click bait. I’ll follow up with more details once the results of this test are analyzed and announced by NASA.

The Penumbral Lunar Eclipse at Slooh

•January 10, 2020 • Leave a Comment

As you may have noticed from my earlier article about the Red Giant star Betelgeuse, I’ve started using the Slooh Observatory images in some of my blog content. I actually joined Slooh after their excellent coverage of the Mercury transit across the sun but I only recently had time to sit down and get to know their website.

Well, they’re at it again with their upcoming coverage of the Panumbral Lunar Eclipse.

Now the northern portion of the continent of Africa will get to see the full eclipse. However, Slooh’s telescopes on top of a volcano in the Canary Islands seem not quite far enough East to catch all of it. They will have to wait a little while for moon-rise in their region (though at that elevation, maybe they get an earlier start on it, I don’t know). Nevertheless, I expect this coverage to be great and the time it happens is optimum if you live in the U.S. and you don’t mind leaving work a little early on a Friday to do something other than outdoor winter recreation…just sayin’. :-/

I expect Slooh to provide more than just a telescope view of the eclipse. Like the Mercury transit, they will probably include interviews with professional astronomers discussing various space-geeky things that regular visitors to this blog should find interesting.

Penumral Lunar Eclipses are not the most spectacular form of eclipse by any stretch (click here for some full solar eclipse fun with my family), but it’s still a fun way to teach astronomy to others and generate interest it space science overall with the usually bright Full Moon darkening and turning red as it gets lit through the Earth’s atmosphere for a little while.

There will be two more of these in various parts of the world this year, one in July and another in November.

If you like Slooh’s coverage of this eclipse, then check out their website at slooh.com. They combine online access to six automated telescopes in the Canarys and Chile with fun classes, quests, and other educational content for a very enriching astronomy experience.

Correction: My mistake. No red moon this time. I’ve replaced the featured image with a screenshot of the actual eclipse.

Are They Methane Pimples or Impact Craters?

•January 8, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Off the coast of California, they’ve found a strange phenomena that they can’t explain.

Further down on the right side bar of the these blog entries, I have a LiveScience RLL feed that I sometimes look through to find topics to write about here, but usually they have a hypothesis to explain weird science that they put there. This time no.

So what do you think it is?

Usually, they say, underground methane vents cause these holes, but here it is not the case. Also, they are quite old.

Check out the articles here->>>https://www.livescience.com/mystery-california-seabed-pockmarks.html

…and here->>> https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/19express/logs/oct12/oct12.html

…and then comment below.

Starlink Launch Puts SpaceX On Top

•January 6, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Today, SpaceX became the world’s largest operator of Earth-orbiting satellites…above NASA, China, Russia…everyone.

Is it a good thing? Not everyone agrees…

When these satellites go into orbit, they go up sixty at a time and form beads of pearls in the sky, mucking up astronomy observations, for months until they move to their respective orbits. Some folks…folks who ordinarily might be fans of SpaceX for other reasons…are not please about this…

I disagreed with that last one, not because the tunnels are a bad idea overall, but because they really don’t do what the satellite coverage does. There are many, real world benefits to humanity to have every inch of the globe accessible to the sum of human knowledge. Yes, there is a lot of fake news an B.S. mixed in there too, but you get my meaning.

SpaceX will soon begin blackening the underside of these refrigerator-sized spacecraft so that they aren’t so spectacular, but that adjustment has turned out to be slow to implement. This launch contains one satellite prepared this way as an experiment. They also give advanced notice to astronomers of their orbital passes so as to help them plan their observations.

Whatever happens, the Starlink network will continue to grow until by far most of the satellites in orbit will be Starlink. None of the regulators in charge of such things seems to want to turn back the clock and prevent SpaceX from continuing it.

I like my cable Internet access, but I don’t always like the speed. I live in a rural area and such places have cabling and routing capacity bottlenecks that polar-orbiting satellites would bypass, so I will be looking into Starlink when it comes available and seeing if it works for my budget.

#Betelgeuse Is Still There…for now.

•January 6, 2020 • Leave a Comment

I so wanted to write about this last week, but I needed some time to push aside my deeply desired “Cool! We might get to see Betelgeuse go supernova!” theme, in favor of “Ok, fine…science knows what they’re talking about when it comes to stellar evolution…even with a star as weird as Betelgeuse”.

Some place it at “100,000 years”, some place it at “1,000 years”, some place it at “face it, your life is just too short to care whichever it is”.

Photo compliments of Slooh Observatory, on Jan. 6th, 2020 at 00:47 UTC

The truth is, scientists can use Spectroscopy to analyze the elemental makeup of Betelgeuse and determine with a reasonable and very well earned degree of confidence that it just hasn’t burned enough fuel yet to collapse and explode. Once it does, that whole process would likely take longer than any of our lifetimes anyway.

Forget that scientists still don’t know for sure how far Betelgeuse is from Earth…and therefore cannot know its absolute magnitude with any degree of certainty.

Forget that scientists still don’t even know exactly how to measure it’s ever-changing size.

Forget that the closer they are able to look at it, the less spherical it appears.

Forget that several of the innovations for understanding stars have been used first on Betelgeuse because it’s measurements are just so danged hard to nail down.

Even with all that, short-lived Red Giant stars go on for 10-12 million years…so a half a percent margin of error (VERY generous even for our very competent stellar cosmologists) adds up to plus or minus 50,000 years!

So yes, Betelgeuse is the dimmest it has been in the hundred something years that we’ve been able to slap a number on its brightness.

But…and it pains me to say this…

So what?

I for one look up at the Constellation Orion at at least twice a day now, once in the night sky and once on my Slooh Observatory account. I watch and wait for Betelgeuse to brighten back up and yet I still hold out hope that it dims further…because dimmer is better if you want to witness an epic explosion. I walk away disappointed to see it still visible.

But as much as I want to, I can’t name a blog article “Betelgeuse Death Watch”.

Yet. 😉

Boeing Starliner Flight Fails to Reach the ISS

•December 20, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Well, this is indeed a post that I didn’t think I’d need to make.

Somewhere, somehow, some of the smartest and most experienced people in spaceflight messed up. One expects this from a new company like SpaceX. Boeing claimed that part of its higher price was because of its experience with these things, yet SpaceX’s Dragon had a successful uncrewed test flight and Boeing’s Starliner will not. The entire Commercial Crew program is already critically behind schedule and this problem will have far reaching consequences for all involved.

Bassically, this morning’s first launch of Boeing’s new spacecraft, the CST-100 Starliner, has resulted in an “Off Nominal Insertion” which is technical jargon for “will not get where it was intended to go” and perhaps may even mean, “will return immediately and involuntarily back to Earth at an unintended time and location”.

There is not a lot of detailed information about this likely anomaly available, but a lot of speculation that the capsule will not reach orbit. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has at least admitted that it will not make it to the International Space Station.

If true, I don’t have to express how devastating this is to Commercial crew and especially to Boeing, who are still struggling through the consequences of problems with their Boeing 737 Max Aircraft. I don’t know how they will avoid having to repeat this test before flying crew and their funding for this has already been strained to the point of needing to go whining to NASA for more money.

More information event on this will be available later in about an hour at 9:00 am EST on the YouTube channel link below. At the very least, SpaceX just took the undisputed lead in the area of ISS flights and perhaps even became NASA’s sole provider of crewed flights for 2020…unless the powers that be decide to keep flying with Russia for another year…which might not even be possible at this late date (and strained state Russian relations).

I have other things to do today, but I will get back to this once there is more information available.

My Son Dallin — Obituary

•December 19, 2019 • Leave a Comment

My son, who I wrote about here a few years back, died of heart failure last week…

At 3:36 Wednesday afternoon (December 18, 2019), Evanston Wyoming resident, Dallin Richard Housley, after several days of increased heart trouble, broke the shackles of his body and set his spirit free to return home to loved ones who’ve gone before.

Known mostly for his cheerful disposition, love, and mischievous sense of humor, scores of people loved him…but none more than his family.

At a young age, Dallin started to show the symptoms of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a degenerative neuromuscular disorder. Over the course of his life, and frequent hospital stays, it gradually took from him his ability to walk and to lift his arms and then slowly took his life. We came close to losing him several times to pneumonia, but his strong immune system, his will to live, and modern medical science always won. It was his heart that finally failed in the end…a common cause of death with Muscular Dystrophy patients.

Dallin and Alicia

The Family thanks the kind efforts of the various medical and support providers that have played a role in all of Dallin’s successes throughout his life, including Shriner’s Hospital in SLC, The Utah Muscular Dystrophy Association, Primary Children’s Hospital, University of Utah Medical Center, and Make-A-Wish Foundation to name a few.

Dallin and Stephanie, just four hours before his death.

Also Evanston Regional Hospital, Bridges, Lincoln Self Reliance, Best Home Health, Compassionate Journey, and Silver Lining…all of Evanston Wyoming.

He is preceded in death by both of his grandparents on his mother’s side…Darrell Edward and Jeana Lee Smith. He leaves behind both of his parents…William Aaron and Julie Kaye Housley, his grandparents on his father’s side…F. Aaron and Marilyn May Housley, and all of his siblings…Alicia Dawn Colvin, Krista Lynn Clement, Stephanie Anne Hanks, and Aaron Kent Housley along with eight nieces and nephews.

“Be Silly”–From left to right…Krista, Dallin, Alicia, Stephanie

Dallin’s Funeral will be held at 11 am on Friday, December 27th at the Evanston South Stake Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

632 Twin Ridge Ave, Evanston Wyoming

https://maps.app.goo.gl/FAZ64g1ehs4BNcn68

Food will be organized and provided by the family’s church congregation.

Dallin will rest at the Evanston Cemetery.

Don’t Fear the Reaper (#freeread on Reddit)

•December 7, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Boeing Commercial Crew Pricimg

•November 19, 2019 • Comments Off on Boeing Commercial Crew Pricimg

Yes, I’ll jump on the band wagon. I took some time to do some research and look around. At first blush, people like me think this looks terrible…then, after pondering a bit, it looks a little better and a little worse.

NASA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audited the Commercial Crew Program and determined that they don’t think either of the providers (Boeing or SpaceX) will achieve “final certification” until “summer of 2020”. Fine, no surprise there. It says that the U.S. crew compliment aboard the International Station (ISS) will likely be reduced to 1 during part of 2020. The table below shows in red where these crew compliment issues may arise.

The report also prices the per-seat cost of each program and compares them to the Russian Soyuz.

  • Soyuz — $80,000,000 per seat
  • Boeing — $90,000,000 per seat
  • SpaceX — $55,000,000 per seat

Now this, higher pricing, reflects in part the two companies’ different business focus. Boeing’s being to make as much money as possible from each launch for themselves and for their ULA-built booster, the Atlas V. SpaceX’s being to widen business opportunity in space overall with lower prices and make themselves the leaders of a rapidly growing industry. The later also intends to use that growth, and the many launch opportunities that it provides, to build the funding, reputation, hardware infrastructure, and knowledge base to someday propel them far enough to put humans on Mars.

In addition, NASA and Boeing have negotiated some extended capabilities to address a perceived schedule gap later in the program which will cost NASA an additional $183 million. The OIG found that not only was that schedule gap incorrect, but that NASA agreed to pay Boeing more than necessary for the correction and didn’t offer SpaceX the same opportunity, even though SpaxeX indicated that it was an option. The report also states that Boeing whined for more money and that it was this whining that prompted the adjustment. All of this is in addition to the higher negotiated contract award for Boeing over SpaceX.

SpaceX said very little publicly about this, just responding that things should not be that way.

Boeing of course had a much stronger reaction, implying that the OIG audit results…

  • Incorrectly represented Boeing’s commitment to the Commercial Crew program.
  • Incorrectly represented the added cost of the mission capability extension (shorter lead time) as a price increase, when in fact the option had been written into the original contract and that that extension is worth the price.
  • Inaccurately averaged the $90 million per seat, saying that that average failed to account for cargo carried up with the crew which effectively amounts to a fifth seat.
  • Failed to account for the fact that nearly all risk has been tested out by now so that future schedule slippage at this point is unlikely.
  • Failed to account for Boeing’s capsule being better than SpaceX’s,  and also their much deeper experience in aerospace and spaceflight…so that makes it ok that their flights are more expensive.
  • Failed to note that SpaceX based their design on a capsule that was already in use and human rated and that Boeing had to develop theirs from scratch on the same schedule.

Boeing called on the spaceflight community to defend them on these points, but the community has mostly reacted the opposite way. They have never accepted Boeing’s higher price for the same service, nor their perceived whining for preferential treatment. Whether or not this criticizing is fair depends much on perspective. One fact that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere with regard to this latest development is that the launcher that is slated to carry Boeing’s crew capsule, ULA’s Atlas V, is significantly more expensive than SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and much of the cost differences between those two providers, as well as any reduced lead time premiums, will probably go to ULA rather than Boeing. Of course, ULA is half-owned by Boeing, so there you go.

The United States Government has treated both SpaceX and Boeing abominably with regards to the Commercial Crew contracts. Congress has never liked the program, seeing it as competition to their precious Space Launch System (also built by Boeing). Congress has downplayed the program, starved it for funds, tried to put SLS on the ISS crew rotation schedule or suggested it as a backup, and tried to down-select Commercial Crew to a single provider. Commercial Crew cuts into the three-way backscratching club in which Congress folk from certain states, along with procurement officials and defence contractors protect one and other’s empires. It’s disgusting. From the earliest days of Commercial Crew until now Congress has cut funding to it in order to drag out the schedule and thereby cause overhead cost overruns…and then whined about schedule slippage and cost overruns and used that as another excuse to continue building that flightless dodo bird, SLS.

Both of these contractors have cost overruns now, but Boeing is a publicly traded corporation that is not structured for as much flexibility as SpaceX. It also traditionally deals with budget shortfalls by going to the Government for more money…it is part of the old culture to which Boeing Defense, Space & Security (BDS) is most accustomed.

All is forgiven if they fly on time and perform. After that, we will see who prices and performs competitively enough to sell future contracts to NASA and any commercial space stations in the works.

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.

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.——————->

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 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.

————————————————————————————————-

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.

——————————————————————————————————————————-

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!